WEC 25TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL
This spotlight is part of a series in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Women’s Enterprise Centre! Our impact would not be possible without our volunteers, partners and clients so we’re sharing the stories of some of the women who have played a part in our success. Sign up for our eNews to receive the featured story of the month.
The WEC Connection
Tara Black has been in the WEC community since 2005 as a loan client, advisory client, a participant in the Peerspark program and now she gives back as a volunteer mentor. Her experience and generosity of her time to support women entrepreneurs is much needed in our community.
“In addition to her business success, [Tara] is an exemplary role model as a community leader and volunteer. I have witnessed this in the success of women business owners who have been mentored by her. Her willingness to share her knowledge and expertise with other women entrepreneurs is inspiring.”– Dawn McCooey, Tara’s Business Advisor and WEC Entrepreneur in Residence
Tara is a change-maker. Her strategic perspective and commitment to uplifting others are empowering many women entrepreneurs to succeed. Throughout her professional career, she has displayed great promise in building a successful business and supporting fellow women business owners. As a Women’s Enterprise Centre volunteer mentor, she has helped many women build a confident and growth mindset.
About Tara Black – Origin Gluten-Free Bakery Ltd.
Tara Black is the co-owner of Origin Gluten-Free Bakery Ltd in Victoria, alongside Marion Scott. Tara trained as a chef and pastry chef and worked in the hospitality business for 24 years. Most of her career has been spent in management and creating menus, and now her focus is on growing her business in a sustainable model that ensures a rich family life.
The inspiration to start the business came from Tara and Marion’s desire to provide nutritious and quality food to their community. They watched their friends with dietary restrictions struggle to find tasty wheat-free baked goods. Passionate about food and about helping their friends, the duo decided to jump on the opportunity and do something about the lack of breads, cakes and cookies for people with celiac disease.
They started off slowly with a stall at the market in Bastion Square as a way to test the local market and get a better idea of how people would react to gluten-free baked goods.
The response was overwhelmingly positive! Six months later, they opened their first gluten-free bakery in Victoria. That’s when they connected with Women’s Enterprise Centre for a start-up loan to fund their dream. As their business grew, they opened their second store in Colwood on Vancouver Island.
From client to mentor
Today she mentors other women business owners in starting and running successful businesses. As a valued client and supporter of Women’s Enterprise Centre (WEC), she has always come forward to volunteer her time to support others in a collaborative and inclusive environment.
One of her recent mentees is Alice Ward Cameron, Owner of Alice’s Fresh Pasta in Powell River.
“My mentorship experience was highly personalized. Tara showed her wisdom gained from years in the industry, something that cannot be learned in school. She found ways around problems that I saw as insurmountable. She gave me tools, which I now use on an ongoing basis to ensure my business is profitable.
Tara is an incredible volunteer – and has been the perfect mentor for me. I have experienced first-hand her willingness to share her knowledge, experience and support which has helped me with personal and professional development.”– Tara’s Mentee, Alice Ward Cameron, Alice’s Fresh Pasta, Powell River
Tara continues to mentor other women looking to become entrepreneurs because she believes knowledge is meant to be shared. Women face many obstacles in entrepreneurship and most don’t pursue or succeed at their dreams because of societal pressures and lack of support. Tara believes that supporting and encouraging other women is the easiest way to help them discover their potential and learn from each other.
Tara and Marion’s love for human connection and authenticity is also reflected in their work with the Origin Community Health Network. This initiative showcases a diverse amount of services available from various members of the health community throughout the Capitol Region. It provides a community gathering point for businesses and fosters an atmosphere of collaboration, learning, mentoring and championing.
To recognize their efforts, they have been awarded:
- “Top 10 Businesses to Watch” by Douglas Magazine in 2011
- “Best New Business on the Westshore” by The Westshore Chamber of Commerce in 2014.
- “Best Employer” award at the 12th Annual Small Business BC Awards in 2014/2015
Q&A: Tara’s Journey
Q. What’s the biggest lesson you learned when starting your business?
A. Never underestimate your operating costs when applying for financing! Always apply for more money than you think you’ll need. We budgeted for the least amount of money we thought we would need to operate the business, and then applied for more financing beyond that to compensate for all the unseen things that could cost us or jeopardize our operating cash-flow.
Q. What personal lessons have you learned as an entrepreneur?
A. We have such a great team at Origin bakery. We trust in our team who share the same vision of providing nutritious food options to our customers. We also realize how important it is to promote informed choices within the local community. To facilitate this we launched the Origin Community Health Network to showcase a diverse amount of services available from various members of the health community throughout the Capitol Region.
Q. How did you get where you are today? How different is your business from when you started?
A. I think I got to where I am today by always looking to potential and possibility, while also staying connected to why I chose to do this business in the first place. I know I’m an ideas person, I’m always thinking of what could be possible. But I also want to make sure that I don’t chase a possibility if it shows potential serious threat to what we have built. In business you have to always be willing to take risks, while tempering it by protecting your current reality.
The business has grown a lot since we started. We opened a couple of shops using different concepts and closed them too. Now we have a café that is a completely different concept than we have worked with before, so I’m always learning new things. We also have an online store which has made a world of difference during this pandemic and only has room to grow bigger. I’m excited for all of the changes we have gone through and have yet to grow through.
Q. Why do you feel it’s important to mentor other women?
A. In no way do I think I have answers, but I have a lot of experience. I believe that the experience we gain and the lessons we learn should be shared with everyone. Mentoring has taught me how much more there is for me to learn while helping other people learn from my mistakes. I really like talking with others about the differences of their businesses and seeing how we can all shift our perspectives by listening to each other. I chose to mentor in order to give back to a community that I’m still taking so much from.
Q. If you could do it all over again, what would you tell yourself when you were just starting your business?
A. Truthfully I don’t think I would say anything different than I did back then. I believed that we could provide a really valuable service and that there was an unknown demand for it. So I ran with the potential and I choose to keep doing that. We have evolved to where we are now and in some ways with each new decision you find you are constantly restarting your business. That is the fun part (for me).
Q. What do you think the BC business community will be like in 10 years?
A. In 10 years from now I will be a little bit wiser and will likely have a different perspective again. I trust that so long as there are curious people out there striving to developing their communities, whether in person or online, the BC business community will be vibrant. The inspiration that we have seen through this pandemic shows how resilient we can be, even when set back without warning. Those of us that go into participating in business like challenges and we have been presented with a lot of them over the last couple of years. I think this makes us stronger and forces our creativity.
Video created by Western Economic Diversification Canada