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Brief Cases: Real food from real people

Everybody wants to have food that’s more natural, food that they know is better for them. Yet one of the biggest reasons we don’t is because of lack of accessibility, or that we just plain don’t know where to find it.

Enter Levi Lawrence, co-owner of Real Food Connections, and owner of the blog NBfoodgeek.ca. His goal is simple: make good food available to those who don’t have it readily available to them already.

Growing up on a farm, Lawrence was always around fresh, healthy food. He eventually joined the restaurant business as a chef.

“Doing that, I saw a problem: that most restaurants have poor accessibility to good food. They don’t have those connections with farmers that allow them to get the kind of healthy, organic food that people re wanting more and more of now,” Lawrence said.

“So, I decided to do something about it. I decided to start a business that would connect the food people want with the people who want it. Hence the name, Real Food Connections.”

All it takes is an idea and lots of drive, and Lawrence has both.

“I started the business online with my wife at first,” Lawrence said. “Most of my business was, and still is, household consumers, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.”

Lawrence’s difficulty is one that a lot of businesses wish they had, but when faced with it, it’s also the thing that causes a lot of business to crumble under the pressure.

“We didn’t anticipate the kind of demand that we got,” Lawrence said. “We were forced to expand before we could afford it, twice. A lot of people think slow growth is always what kills businesses, but growth that’s too fast is just as dangerous.”

Instead of buckling under the weight of his client base, Lawrence instead found ways to both accommodate it and flourish at the same time.

“We took on my parents as business partners,” Lawrence said. “They’ve helped out a lot, and we’ve been leveling out over the past six months. We also have the storefront now, although about 40 per cent of our business still comes in online. We now know over 130 food producers across New Brunswick.”

Lawrence’s mission isn’t just one of business, though. He’s also an educator.
“There’s lots of education on the Real Food Connections website, as well as my blog,” Lawrence said. “I also travel to different places as a public speaker. My long-term goal is to one day see organic food become not only accessible, but convenient. And I feel like part of that begins with educating people on the subject.”

It’s true that Lawrence now both runs a successful business and champions a noble cause, but he’s had to do plenty of learning along the way. He recommends young entrepreneurs to seek mentorship and learn your limits.

“Ask for feedback from other businesspeople. [Also], don’t ever over-commit yourself, because you can’t do it all, so don’t even try,” Lawrence said.

“And most importantly, listen. If you don’t like what you hear, then listen anyway!”

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