Starting a food business, parenting and low carb

Starting a food business, parenting and low carb

Business, motherhood, failures and a keto / low carb lifestyle is what we talk about in this interview series - Konvos! 

Aaron (@a.d.keto) calls himself a weird dad (he's actually an awesome dad!) who follows a keto lifestyle.  

 

I was definitely nervous in this interview but Aaron has a deep knack for getting me comfortable, so I this had a lot of giggles and laughs!

We talk about:

  • the early days of Switch and starting a business
  • the future of Keto meetups
  • the US store launch and shut down (I am still processing and learning from this failure)
  • parental leave in Canada and the US and early days of parenting
  • my current approach to health - low carb and movement
  • getting Aaron on TikTok is my 2020 goal

I hope this sheds some light on the story behind Switch and even more, I hope you’re able to take something away from this “konvo” to help you with your health journey. 

Video Timestamps and Key Takeaways


Show sponsor - Preferred Keyto - Vanilla Collagen 

00:00 - Interview starts

  • Aaron - "I'm a weird dad and I eat a keto diet. If you want to know if that keto product is worth checking out, if you want to learn some easy keto recipes, if you want to see how keto can fit into your weird life like , then start know by subscribing to my channel!
  • Introducing my dear friend Neha Charnalia, the person behind SwitchGrocery and we hung out in Austin together last year at Keto Con
  • Talk to her about Switch, motherhood and entrepreneurship at the same time
  • An overview of the water bottle at 1:45

2:45 - Life before Switch and how Neha started keto

  • Cameo by Lucy, Chief Happiness Officer (a morkie!)
  • Neha was (and still is!) an accountant! Important note: "not all accountants are boring and bean counters!"
  • Neha’s husband, Bryan, introduced her to keto and she initially fought keto for a long time: “There’s no way I’ll give up rice, my background’s Indian.”
  • “I went from ‘No, Bryan, no!’ To now I have a company that sources low-carb, keto-friendly food.”
  • Key takeaway: sticking with a low-carb lifestyle for insulin resistance and find ways to enjoy it!

5:30 - How Switch started

  • In 2016, there were not a lot of low carb options in Canada and the US
  • “I never really grew up being like, ‘Oh I’m gonna start my own business’...but one day I literally sat here, on this chair, looked at Bryan and said, ‘You know, why don’t I just make cauliflower pizza crusts and sell them?’ I went to a cooking class and I sucked at cooking. So I just decided to end up sourcing products from really amazing, great suppliers.”
  • It all started with a slide show
  • Lessons learned early on and receiving tough feedback along the way - a phone call from a supplier (9:10)
  • Key takeaway: be straightforward and don’t overcomplicate things! Keeping things simple has driven a lot of Switch’s business practices, like with our plain, but sexy, brown paper packaging

SwitchGrocery Canada brown paper sustainable packaging

10:00 - A typical day in the life of running SwitchGrocery

SwitchGrocery Canada owner Neha packing orders

  • I highly recommend co working spaces!
  • Early days - self-sufficiency and a lot of doing everything yourself in the first 2 years. I packed and fulfilled every single order! I used to drive the boxes to UPS myself and for frozen products, delivered myself!
  • "We are ending your lease" notice at 9 months pregnant (12:00) and then I made the decision to find a fulfillment partner after our baby was born 
  • Small business decisions of outsourcing fulfillment vs. doing everything yourself
  • Every night - Ensuring every order info is correct and adding personalized touches for each customer as necessary and coordinating with fulfillment centre
  • Regular working days now involve more inventory management, talking with suppliers, new launches, posting on Instagram and Facebook, talking to Customer Friends in our FB group, Switchers, partnerships, accounting
  • Key takeaway: there is a LOT that goes into starting a business that you may not have considered (e.g. deciding on box sizes, label printer, setting up a shopify store, plastic or paper, etc.)!

15:40 - The future of keto meetups

  • Keto Q&A, baking, and celebration meetups
  • The importance of community and real-life meetups with uplifting people on a keto journey. How can a community meet during COVID?
  • Aaron - "one of the best parts of last summer in 2019, was going to dinner with you and Bryan and Autumn and Dave and Chela for KetoCon and I'm worried that that's not going to happen. So I'm concerned because I think community and physical meetups are a big reason of why I stick to this diet."
  • Aaron's feelings after KetoCon: “I just spent 3 days with people that I really admire and love and cherish, and it’s all because I stopped eating bread! It's mind blowing and tough to wrap my head around." "the thing I would get the most out of this is relationships and I'm hopeful that there will be some community event that will happen after we get through this pandemic"
SwitchGrocery Canada keto meetup founder of Good Dee's Deana and Oscar from ihackeddiabetes bakeoff

 

18:30 - SwitchGrocery’s US store launch & shut down

When we turned on the Switch to the US website (there isn't a similar video to turning it off!)


  

  • Neha - "if someone watching this has had a failure, please message me because I'm still processing what happened"
  • Embarking on a new project while pregnant (with first baby!) and then the challenges of getting products into the US from Canada
  • The sheer impact of COVID 19 in the US versus Canada 
  • "To sell anything you need attention and all the attention right now is going to the news"
  • The complex barriers in US vs. Canada food industry that made it difficult to honour this mission and its benefits for the US store — both for Switch’s US suppliers and Customer Friends
  • Made the difficult decision to officially close down the US store in April 2020
  • Will Switch re-open a US store in the future? 
  • Key takeaway: “To export and import food is a huge effort. To do it when there’s just so much political unrest and changing rules (e.g. NAFTA was being renegotiated).”

Switch’s mission: “you don’t need to get a distributor and wait 7 years to get on a shelf. We find you and our goal is to get you, fast, to customers, even if you made the product yesterday.”

Fatso founder Jill Van Gyn and SwitchGrocery Canada founder NehaSweetMonk founders Nicole Benes and Kelsey Gemmill with SwitchGrocery Canada founder NehaLive Organic founder Jennifer Italiano and SwitchGrocery Canada founder Neha

26:50 Being a new mom (and an entrepreneur at the same time!)

  • Aaron's view - "I remember those days. Okay, I don't remember those days, but I have pictures and videos from those days." "there's no escaping the overwhelming fatigue."
  • Cute baby clothes and prepping the nursery — naivety is the best part about being a first-time parent (28:45 - lots of giggles)
  • Canada’s parental leave if you have a job and pay into EI: 1 year-18 months (29:55). 3 months for maternity, 9 months for parental which either parent can take
  • "it's not the norm for men to take parental leave and it's not the norm for women to go back to work within a few weeks." and this caused some loneliness
  • Aaron gives a shoutout to my son at 31:30
  • Being back to working 3 days after giving birth
  • Aaron - "having twins you automatically had another dad to talk to and also completely jealous of the Canadian system of reasonable maternal and paternal leave"
  • Key takeaway for all new parents: a support group is invaluable!

33:20: Diet and health-related hacks/tips

SwitchGrocery founder Neha health journey and pregnancy

  • What do I weigh now? Is this the way to measure my health right now?
  • Focusing on health vs. weight and being easy and kind to yourself
  • Still struggling with C-section complications
  • Gestational diabetes - Neha - “If anyone has that, please message me cause I learned everything about it!”
  • What would I say to myself right now - during a pandemic, working from home, no regular family and friends supports, parenting/home schooling, worrying about elderly parents - then just do the do! 
  • Key takeaway - Just do the do. Celebrate small wins, don’t pressure yourself to make a plan and stick to it no matter what because it just overwhelms you with pressure and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for everyone! Learning to take things one step at a time is so valuable, and especially celebrating small wins!

“If you can’t set too many lofty goals because you’re at home during coronavirus, and homeschooling, and just stressed with the news and this crazy time, then just do the do. Just go for a walk or just sit down and have a 5-minute meditation, whatever is gonna make you feel better. Sleep an extra half hour.”

“Even if it’s a really small thing that is just gonna make you feel better, don’t worry about the weight. Do something that’s good for you and makes you feel good. Don’t worry about doing it again tomorrow, even. Get the 5 minutes, just do the thing that makes you feel better, just do the do.”

37:50: Pop culture recommendations

  • Discussing Cardi B’s new song
  • TikTok if you need a laugh: “It’s very difficult to make something that makes people think, that makes people laugh, that makes people feel, so I think the people on there are pretty brilliant!”
  • Key takeaway: Let’s get Aaron on TikTok!!
  • Lucy named after a Beatles Song - Lucy in the Sky

More about Aaron, @a.d.keto on instagram

Aaron is one of the kindest human beings I've met on my health journey. He makes people think, laugh, feel! He is a super unique human being and I go to his instagram stories when I need a laugh or some good music! Check him out on IG and YouTube!

If you prefer listening to podcasts (especially during a drive home or while running errands), all of Aaron's Konvos interviews are available as downloadable podcasts! Check out the Konvos podcast series and our Switch episode!