What is your story?
Diane: I was born and raised in Vancouver but also being Chinese, I grew up exposed to all types of cultures. Food was an especially important part of my life. After graduating from highschool, I left for the Island to study geography, this was also the time I went vegan! After two years of university, I realized that this wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do and decided to pursue my passion for cooking and baking! I enrolled in a culinary school in Vancouver called Northwest Culinary Academy and truly loved my time there. I travelled and worked in the restaurant industry for the next two years (which was when I met Mitch!) and soon after, we started Flourgirl Baking together.
Mitch: I grew up farther east of Vancouver, specifically Maple Ridge. I was working at a lot of local mills and processing plants installing heavy machinery and welding. It wasn’t until around a year and a half after I graduated highschool that I went vegan and started cooking a lot at home. I was always inspired by watching chefs cooks and eventually left my career in the metal industry to go pursue my passion for food. I moved into a tiny one room apartment downtown and began work at my first restaurant where I would end up meeting Diane! We had a lot in common and next thing you know, we were living together!
What inspired you to start Flourgirl?
Diane: Honestly, it all kinda happened overnight! Mitch tells the story the best so I’ll let him have a go at it ;)
Mitch: It was in our tiny apartment together where we did all of our cooking. Diane having been to culinary school was constantly showing me new things in the kitchen. I was always impressed with her ability to convert an old recipe that was typically non vegan into something vegan and better than the original. It was one cloudy morning when I had asked Diane if she had ever tried making cinnamon buns vegan. I had a nostalgic craving from my childhood for these dirty cream cheese icing covered cinnamon buns - always best a day old and reheated in the microwave. Diane of course saw this as a challenge and did her best to remake the buns, but vegan. I was blown away when I tasted them for the first time. It was like being transported back in time. I knew right then and there that we had to pursue this and after a few confirming opinions from friends and family, we were off!
What does a typical day look like?
Diane: A typical day starts at 3am for us. That’s when we get up and have breakfast and head to the kitchen for 4am. We’ll prep for the day’s orders and roll out tons of dough and sprinkle on heaps of cinnamon sugar. Usually, the buns are out of the oven, cooled, and iced by 8am. One of us will take the deliveries out while the other preps for the next day (making dough, etc). Then, usually I head to UBC for class (yes, I did end up going back to school!) After class, we’ll head home, have dinner and try to get to bed by 9pm to rest for the next day!
You own Flourgirl together- what’s your biggest challenge working and living with your partner?
Diane: Honestly, I thought it would be harder than it actually is! We have tons in common so we get along super well. Plus, we’re both vegan, love eating/trying new foods, exploring and travelling but also know when to slow down and have a lazy night in. We think extremely similarly so it makes working and living together easy peasy :)
Mitch: Let’s be real, not everyone is at their best when that alarm goes off at three am. We’ve had our fair share of hard days not to mention the relentless feeling of fatigue chipping away at you. The repetitive early mornings and constant drive for perfection can make you want to lash out at everyone around you. Knowing each other so well, we can tell when the other might be feeling the pressure or in need of a break. Being each others support network has been huge for us. Because we are together we are constantly looking out for each others well being and always in communication with how we are handling things, when shit is getting rough, we’ve got each others backs. At the end of the day being able to come home and look at what we’ve accomplished together is a feeling that goes unmatched. Overcoming those hard days make the good ones that much sweeter.
Where do you get inspiration for all your amazing flavours?
Most of the time, we’re just bouncing ideas off of each other until one of them is actually possible to make haha. We both love to experiment with flavours, when we find something we think works, we launch it! We have made some amazing creations, but we’ve also made some that don’t do so well! That’s all a part of it for us, we aren’t afraid to make mistakes and if we do, we learn. Most of the time we are drawing on our past to think up new creations. Nostalgia played a huge role in how we started and is one of the key drivers behind most of our flavours.
What’s next for Flourgirl?
Flourgirl was always just the beginning for us! We really wanted to test the market (and ourselves!) to see if our product could hold up! We’ve made it this far and are looking to open our own space, that’s all we will say for now! ;)
What was one of your most rewarding experiences as a founder so far?
Mitch: Showing all the non-vegans how tasty vegan baking can really be, haha. We both love proving people wrong however this was really more for us. We were both terrified of starting this up but seeing hours of blood, sweat, and tears pay off is extremely rewarding. It’s been a busy year and we don’t plan on slowing down any time soon.
Diane: I think going to all the markets and meeting our customers and hearing their stories is really rewarding! We’re not just a vegan company, we’re also nut-free, we have soy-free and gluten-free options and we try our best to leave the smallest footprint on our environment. For me, I find it rewarding to hear that people appreciate this :)
Best piece of advice to others that are wanting to start their own business?
Diane: Test the market!! And don’t be afraid to change things up if you have to. Listen to the feedback that others give you and be able to adapt to that!
Mitch: Put in the hours! If you want to be successful you are going to have to make some sacrifices, missing out on the weekend with your friends, or skipping the happy hour beer to tackle the needs of your business is huge.
We hope you enjoyed this mini interview! We would love to know your thoughts on it. Connect with Diane and Mitch at @flourgirlbaking. Stay tuned for more...