“I really love Canada and would love to stay, but it’s too hard to get small, innovative businesses to work in Canada,” says Jonnel Sloane. “It’s hard to be an entrepreneur in Canada compared to the US”
Nearly three years after speaking to CityNews about his growing Ottawa business, Jonnel Sloane is selling Farm2Fork for “something in the seven figures.”
The company launched in 2014 is sold to the investment company that owns Mucho Burrito.
Sloane says he and his wife plan to move to Phoenix, Arizona, where he plans to start a similar business, delivering cuts of grass-fed premium beef and sustainable seafood right to the customer’s doorstep.
“I really love Canada and would love to stay, but it’s too hard to get small, innovative businesses working in Canada,” says Sloane. “It’s hard to be an entrepreneur in Canada compared to the US. There you have fewer obstacles. Canada has so many rules and regulations. You can’t micro-manage companies like we do here. It stifles creativity.”
“Consumers here are hungry for something new,” he adds. “The market is constantly evolving. You have to keep your business fresh. Otherwise it will be very difficult.”
Originally from Washington state, Sloane married a girl from Toronto and moved to Ottawa in 2013. A salesman with entrepreneurial imaginations, he began door-to-door selling steaks, roasts, and other meat products here, just as he had successfully done while living in California.
By the end of 2013, Farm2Fork had sales of over $200,000 and doubled the following year. But the operating model – taking door-to-door orders – was too labor intensive. Sloane understood that customers like two things: convenience and cost. Sloane was an early adopter of e-commerce technology, and the goal was to make ordering premium steaks as easy as an impulse purchase at the grocery store, without customers having to sign up for subscriptions. Equally important, he created an attractive website to allay the fear of ordering meat online.
In 2019, he purchased premium, locally grown, grass-fed meat and chicken, sustainable seafood, found custom meat packers in Smith’s Falls and Toronto, giving him access to both the Toronto, Montreal and Nunavut markets, and $2 million in sales today. 2020.
What he could not have foreseen was that he had positioned the company for the soon to arrive global pandemic environment in which sales would go online. Like many, if not most, online retailers, Farm2Fork’s profits soared in 2020 as consumers searched online for options for shopping in brick-and-mortar supermarkets.
“I wanted to be the next M&M’s Foods,” says Sloane. “Food delivery is the wave of the future. Twenty percent of Canadians now order their groceries online. A year ago it was still five percent. You see how it goes.”
At least you can see how Sloane is doing. Once the purchase agreement for Farm2Fork is finalized, he and his wife will move to the United States.
Sloane says he will use the lessons he learned in Bytown for seven years and duplicate his business model in Phoenix, where he believes he sees healthier returns.
“When he gets there in June, we’ll get to work right away,” he says. “In the United States, e-commerce is not considered an addition to the business, it is the business. Retail operations are online. Only now can Canada finally catch up with the US.”
“I think e-commerce should be creative and fun,” he adds. “The most successful e-commerce entrepreneurs are the most creative, with strong brands connecting with customers.”