Jens Schuster is a seasoned Travel and Hospitality business leader. He is also an Entrepreneur and the Founder of Bready Mix, a company that produces high quality Keto Certified Bread and Bread mix. Jens is originally from Germany but his family decided to settled in Canada, where he launched Bready Mix Products successfully.
Hello Jens. Thank you for participating in this Q&A session. Please give us an overview of your background and career to date?
Jens: From “up in the air down to earth” or from airlines to grains. I grew up in a quaint cozy town called Limburg in Germany located just between Cologne and Frankfurt. After High School I decided to accept an offer to be trained as a travel agent and postpone pursuing a university degree. I took full advantage of all the privileges that come with the job and the world had become my oyster.
5 years and a bachelor’s degree in international business management later, I joined the largest travel franchise corporation which is partly owned and run by Lufthansa German Airlines. For 12 straight years I experienced continuous precious personal and solid professional growth to an executive leadership position. I disembarked this position end of 2019 as I decided to settle with my wife in Vancouver, Canada.
Originally my intention was to transition to entrepreneurship running my own travel & tech consultancy business. Covid hit the world and by mid 2020 the travel industry was in shambles, and my original plans was in pieces. I realised that the re-bounce of the travel sector would take a multifold longer than anticipated. Thanks to being grounded in Panama City for a few months and the Panamanian long-lasting stay-home order, my wife and I deepened our love for bread. We began experimenting with various ingredients as well as with making it. It morphed into a daily routine of ours. Breadymix as a business idea started proofing and eventually, we “baked it off”.
We assembled a team of manufacturers, health food consultants and distribution & logistic partners from Germany, Canada & the US. In August 2021 we ordered our first container of product to go to market in mid November.
What are the key challenges you have faced in your career as an entrepreneur, and how have you manage them?
Jens: Generally, it’s getting your mindset framed in such a way that recurring surprises and constantly unexpected challenges, are embraced as positive since they are the fertilizer for your growth.
In addition, I underestimated how hard it would strike me being bumped down to a beginner’s level in terms of my product & process competence. As a newcomer to the food industry and CPG world, I had to accept that the mechanics for growth are different, and that I needed to factor in for some time to comprehend first. As for an operational example. We planned our Go-To-Market launch in conjunction with a vendor’s booth at the Vancouver Christmas market. We - that is our products - arrived 7 days late to Santa Claus’ party… It was in the thick of growing disruptions of the global supply chain, and we could not imagine how many interdependencies actually existed and how many processes could fail. Eventually we had a close shave, and this was only due to having tied up the right partnerships prior.
Proactively, yet authentically fostering our business partnerships has been pivotal to mitigating all of our key challenges from day one, regardless of whether it’s within product development, production, logistics or in sales.
Has your entrepreneurial journey been influenced by any past or present business leaders?
Jens: Yes, dozens and counting. They say you should LEARN from the best yet strive to BE the best version of yourself. I truly enjoy my own development and I never want to stop growing. Therefore, my MS notes app on my phone is properly filled with quotes, excerpts, and full stories of various business leaders from across the globe. They reach from my uncle to the countless members of my wife’s family, to Elon Musk. Most influential however, were most probably the encounters during my entire corporate career in the Travel & Hospitality trade. For 20 years, I was blessed to count my immediate customer environment internationally operating entrepreneurs. Enduring in the travel trade you are probably demanded to be amongst the most resilient characters. So, I have always been admiring all those business leaders constantly having to navigate their business, staff, and customers through perpetual disruptors or “force majeure” like natural disasters, terror threats, pandemics, or major technical system failures.
I keep getting heavily inspired by virtual as well as personal encounters with fellow start-up entrepreneurs and I find that there is an abundance of support out there. It just needs you to be authentic and upright.
What’s the origin story behind your startup Bready Mix Products?
Jens: Rooted in Germany and Colombia, at home in Vancouver, Canada. We are proud global citizens – and our company is no different. So, it appears that the story of Breadymix is not only about bread but rather a mixed result of our attitude towards life, culture, trade, and baked goods. We have travelled the world extensively. Wherever on the globe we had spent a longer period time, be it Africa, Asia, or the Americas, I would always miss my German bread, the “taste of Heimat”. As we love sharing our food, we made 8 hi another defining observation. Bread has always proven to be an ideal easy connector between people, cultures, and businesses. So, when we took the decision to settle in Canada in 2019, along came a transformation of our life’s mission and purpose. From day one we have felt utterly privileged to be considered Vancouverites, living in a city of perpetual change and an abundance of inspiration. Yet, a few “pandemic months” in, we started missing one thing: Genuinely healthy, clean, dazzlingly delicious bread. A vision was born: We strive to bake the world a “breader” place! Our goal is to craft the world’s healthiest bread products and enable everybody to make them in German quality on their own. Anywhere and anytime!
We are passionate about sharing, particularly our bread and our culture. This “connectitude” makes us grow and add purpose to our lives.
What makes Bready Mix Products unique when compared to other products in a similar category?
Jens: In short, we call it CHEQ. This stands for our core attributes, the unique combination of USPs: Convenience, Heritage, Education and Quality.
Convenience – Making a bread with any of our Bready Mixes is a child’s play and as convenient, easy, and fast as it gets.
Heritage – We have “baked in” German (bread) culture into our products, and you can taste it. Education – Our intention is to support the education of two things we believe are decisive for all of us in live. First: Learn to live a healthy live, #foodismedicine. Second: Learn to share with your fellow humans, #BreadyToShare. Regarding the first we therefore joined the organisation and label “Food Created by Doctors & Chefs” and the movement “projecthealthyhuman” right from the get-go. As for what pertains #BreadyToShare, we want to showcase how essential and fulfilling it is to share, so we keep bonding with and supporting different local initiatives. Just recently we initiated a project together with the organisation “MamasForMamas”.
Quality – All our bread mix products are made of premium quality and hence we graduated to being the first and only bread mix that is Keto-Certified, High in protein and contains 100% clean ingredients.
What’s the story behind your recipe for creating Bready Mix Products?
Jens: It all boils down to partnerships. This is the secret and pillar for our growth and to success. All our partners today are literally baked in our product recipes. It is our declared strategy to keep integrating new partners and their expertise. We support the shared economy concept as much as we can, and we hence commit to perpetually adapt our future recipes as human health, diets and local needs evolve.
So far, how much demand have you garnered for Bready Mix Products? Additionally, what marketing strategy have you used to date when promoting your products?
Jens: We literally splashed into the market in November 2021. Our first exposure was the Christmas Market in Vancouver, which gave us a showroom, a vendor hut for 42 days straight, of which it rained 41 (not quite, but almost!). Even though we were empty-handed due to supply chain disruptions in our first week of operation, we managed to meet our sales targets and build the foundation of today’s local & loyal customer base in Greater Vancouver. We went live with our DTC sales just before the holidays and succeeded to set up a dozen of retail stores with our products. For DTC we sort to provide entertaining educational organic content, as well as partnership content, centred around #foodismedicine via our social channels.
Simultaneously we will continue to attend farmer’s markets and use product demo activities in stores to further raise brand awareness and listen carefully to our customers sentiments. For B2B we have mapped out a plan to attend a few leading CPG and food trade shows to further source new opportunities, distribute new sample products, and grow personal relationships to regional and national distributors throughout the year.
How would you describe the ideal target market for Bready Mix Products?
Jens: Broadly speaking our ideal target market is health-conscious bread and bun lovers, who enjoy making their own fresh and 100% clean food at home. They join our conviction that food can serve as medicine. Segmenting it more specifically, we cater to fellow humans who either suffer from nutrition and metabolic disorders i.e., diseases like diabetes or who pursue diets like KETO, Low-Carb, Ideal Protein or Vegan. Apart from that we also count numerous European product affiliated folks amongst our customers who trust and seek the German bread quality. Finally, there are the lost German compatriots roaming around Greater Vancouver who frantically seeks a “taste of Heimat”. Lol… All mentioned groups appreciate the high convenience we bring about, allowing for a fast and convenient preparation whenever they want it. We have found that they shop their food supplies in bakeries, groceries or specialty stores who carry a prominent selection of “healthier-for-you-products”. Either in-store or online.
What advice do you have for new and aspiring entrepreneurs trying to launch/grow their business?
Jens: Jumping into a new business venture, I would focus on the following Big 5 + 1.
1. Network and start building your customer community from day one
2. Embrace constant change. Invariably be ready to learn from others and from your mistakes, adapt fast
3. Unapologetically live your best You.
4. Proactively seek partnerships, so to balance your blind spots and augment your skillsets. When establishing a partnership remember to give first.
5. Practice resilience. There will be moments of doubts coming, trickling of faith in you and your product or service. Be mindful that you are the one who turns the tables as you can always change your attitude. In gloomy moments, instantly seek proximity of fellow humans or do things which make you feel good!
+ 1: Have fun in what you do!!! It lifts you up to peak performance!
Before concluding the interview, is there anything else you would like to add?
Jens: I would like to take the opportunity and give a shout out to all the parents out there! Your love truly makes the world go round!
Thank you Jens for participating in this Q&A session, we wish you all the best.
Jen: Thanks so much for having me!
This interview was originally published in Issue 11 of The Business Anecdote magazine. You can read it at https://www.thebusinessanecdote.com/the-business-anecdote-issue-11