I had one of the best times interviewing with Naman on his YouTube channel, Epic, where I got to reflect on this very question. Really hope you get to know Switch and all of the people behind this more!
Video Timestamps and Key Takeaways
0:00 Interview starts
0:22 How SwitchGrocery started
- Neha is originally an accountant (and worked in the industry for 13 years!)
- The 2 catalysts that started Switch:
- Neha’s personal health - gaining weight, impacts on health, insulin resistance (book reco: Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung! Learn more about Dr. Jason Fung in this blog post)
- The issue of not having food products that taste good AND encompass different lifestyles and/or dietary restrictions easily available
- Neha's original idea was to make a food product but she realized she isn’t a cook!
“You read about it in books where...to be an entrepreneur you have to solve a problem and that’s what happened to me.”
- Key takeaway: there’s always a silver lining! “That was the problem I saw...which was: why does it take so long, if I made a [food] product, for it to get to market?”
5:13 The Switch business model
- What is a “marketplace model”?
- How we find AMAZING suppliers that cater to very specific diets and lifestyles
- The rigorous selection process about the products we carry - from ingredients, taste, and what Neha calls, “The Magic”
- Telling our suppliers’ stories is a huge part of our business model (check out our Meet the Supplier blog posts to learn about e.g. Burlap & Barrel’s sustainability or Origin Vanilla’s fair wages for farmers!)
- Key takeaway: we have a lot of suppliers coming to us now and have to be more selective about the products we carry to better service our Customer Friends (check out our Supplier page for more info)
8:59 Our special Switch family (or community?)
- Neha’s views on a Switch “community” vs. a Switch “family”: “I think people want to be seen and heard and felt and acknowledged.”
- The personal touch of small businesses: “I [wrote thank you cards with product tips and tricks] genuinely because I was like, you took your hard-earned money and you spent it in my store...It still blows my mind.”
- The role of social media in community-building
- Key takeaway: being part of the Switch community means more than a transaction - “You don’t have to shop with us to get some knowledge or get, you know, anything from us.”
12:11 How Switch is making the planet a better place to live
- What steps is SwitchGrocery/Neha taking to achieve this?
- The sustainability of Amazon and big-box retailers vs. small businesses
- Neha’s conflicts with packing and fulfilling orders in the early days of Switch: “I remember I told my husband at the time, I said, I want to shut down Switch because I just feel like all I’m doing is contributing more waste to the planet.”
- Research on how e-commerce stores can reduce their carbon footprint and how Switch aligns its business practices and supplier partnerships with that
- Plastic vs. brown paper packaging for preventing breaks
- Key takeaway from Neha’s husband, Bryan: “What are you gonna do if you shut it down? You can’t change an industry from the outside. You can only change it from the inside. That still has stuck in my head because what we do now is...we make our box sizes smaller, like as small as possible. So Amazon will ship very large boxes.”
16:53 Challenges and lessons learned as an entrepreneur
- Self-awareness with personal finances and being smart about how to invest the money you do have: “If you’re starting a business, step back and look at your money. How much money do you have in the bank? Especially [in] the food industry...you need money to buy inventory...to manufacture.”
- Ads vs. organic growth
- Making business mistakes out of preconceived ideas and/or fear
- Pregnancy and being a first-time mom while being an entrepreneur: “I underestimated pregnancy, I underestimated birth, I underestimated post-partum.”
- Key takeaway: having a support system (both from personal friends and family as well as society) is the most special thing!
- Neha: “I, you know, try very hard to spend time with my son because I feel like I missed a lot of those early moments, but I’m also accepting it and hoping that one day he’s proud.”
27:10 What lies ahead for Neha and SwitchGrocery?
- Slow and steady growth, staying focused on Canada
- Continuing to do better and right by our customers
- “Finding suppliers is hard during COVID, so, if a food company is watching this and you have an awesome product, contact me!”
More about Epic
Epic and the powerhouse behind it, Naman, are narrating the stories of businesses that are working towards making this planet a better place to live through sustainable solutions and/or positively impacting daily human lives. Naman interviews people and business owners for his YouTube channel to elevate their stories and he also has a "Build Your Own Epic" series which provides insight on how aspiring entrepreneurs and individuals can action their own sustainability missions!