Business Name: Grains & Goods Bakery
Founder: Roland Jensch
In ten words or less, what’s so special about your products?
Everything we bake is handmade, using mostly organic, high quality ingredients.
Intriguing. Tell us more.
My grandfather used to be a master baker back in Germany, where quality bread is very much part of the culture. Recipes and traditions change from region to region. When I grew up, I learned a lot from him about bread, and it’s been a passion of mine ever since. I met my wife in Germany, in Cologne, where she was living. She grew up in Toronto, and after we got married, we decided to move back to Canada, were we got the chance to take over the hobby farm that’s been in her family since the 1980s.
Your products taste amazing. Where do you get your flavour inspiration from?
The bread I bake is based on traditional German recipes. It wasn’t easy to find the bread I liked when we moved over here, so I started baking on the side, just for my family.
I often use rye flour to create more exciting and darker bread with a unique flavour. I also use grains I grown in collaboration with Fat Chance Farmstead, like heritage wheat that’s then stone-ground here at the farm. Our ingredients are high quality, organic wherever possible – we only use organic grains and flours, organic butter and eggs. We don’t compromise.
I bake a mixture of sourdough and yeasted breads. Everything I make is properly fermented, which is essential to create flavour; that’s the core idea. We also make little cakes, and treats. We constantly add new items. Authentic Montreal style bagels and really good croissants are what we’re working on next.
Many people dream about starting a food or drinks business. How did you launch yours? What's the story behind your business?
I started baking on a tiny scale for family and friends at home. It just grew from there, organically and via word of mouth. My first commercial client was a farmer who asked if I’d like to provide the bread for his CSA boxes during the summer, around 32 loaves a week. And that’s when I realized that this had the potential to be more than a hobby.
Did you launch your business from home or from a food production facility?
For a while, I wanted to build a bakery on the farm, but then we found a fantastic place that became available and was perfect for our needs, a place that was already set up as a commercial kitchen. It was somebody from Frontenac Business Services who made the connection. It took a while to negotiate everything, but in the end, we arrived at a perfect deal for everybody involved.
When you first launched your business, how did you pay for everything? How much did it cost to launch your own food business?
The total cost to launch this business was about $40,000. About 1⁄3 came from personal savings, another third came from family, and the final third was a loan from Frontenac Business Services. It’s a lot of money, but sometimes you have to believe in yourself. And so far, the business has exceeded all of our expectations. After just six months, we’re at a point I had hoped to reach after three years. It has been amazing so far.
Did you receive any help from Frontenac Business Services?
Frontenac Business Services has been very supportive, from making connections and introductions to helping us with our finances. The team is excellent to work with.
Where are you now? Where is your business going?
When we first took over our commercial kitchen, we weren’t planning to use it as a retail location. But the building is located right in the middle of the village, and it has a storefront, so we thought why not open it up for a few days and see where it goes.
We opened in the beginning of January, and even with temperatures of -20 outside, we had people lining up for 20 minutes to get fresh bread. So we changed the business from delivery to a proper bakery with a store, and that’s our focus now.
The people around here are interested in good, local food. There’s a mix of people who have always been locals, people who moved here during COVID, cottagers and weekenders. Many of them seem to love great baked goods.
What's so special about doing business in Frontenac?
The openness and friendliness of the people. When we first opened, we had so many people offer help and support. That was special to me.
And then, my commute is five minutes. We have young kids, and having that time and flexibility is incredible. Where else can you find this kind of balance?
Finally, do you have a checklist that you could share your top three tips to keep in mind when starting a food business? Things you wished you would have known yourself.
Number one, make sure that you have a really good product. That’s the most essential part of getting it right.
Second, believe in yourself. If you’re planning too small, you’ll have to do the work twice. On the other hand not everything has to be state-of-the-art equipment. Being able to improvise is a great skill.
And finally, make sure your products and store look great. It makes a massive difference to how people perceive you and your products.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.