Margaret Coons, 29, never imagined she’d become an entrepreneur back when she was studying English Literature. Now, she is the founder and CEO of Nuts For Cheese - driven by her mission to demonstrate that her award-winning handcrafted vegan cheese isn’t just a niche plant-based alternative, it’s an upgrade to the everyday culinary experience.
Today, Margaret employs 30 people and her products are sold in 1,600 stores across Canada through chains like Loblaws, Sobeys, Metro, Farm Boy and Whole Foods. In fact, since the pandemic, she has expanded her staff and has successfully executed on her long-term business goal to enter the US market.
A strong beginning
Before launching her business, Margaret worked as a chef in a vegan restaurant in London, Ontario for five years. When she set out on her own, she drew in business and positive attention by providing private catering, appearing on daytime television, and selling her wares at regional farmer’s markets. Then, as demand grew, Margaret increased her production capabilities, outgrowing four manufacturing facilities within five years. Today, Nuts for Cheese operates out of a 20,000 square foot industrial space.
As a food producer, Nuts For Cheese is classified as an essential business, so they could continue to operate during the COVID-19 lockdown. They continued production, supplied customers, and even facilitated a new product launch: Nuts For Butter, in Salted Original and Herb & Garlic flavours. Of course, learning to implement new safety and sanitation protocols and keep employees safe was a key priority for the first months. Margaret was also quick to take advantage of financial relief measures like CEBA.
Adapting and expanding
Due to COVID-19, the 13 trade shows Nut for Cheese had planned to go to during 2020 were cancelled. As a result, Margaret decided to overhaul her company’s marketing strategy. She shifted her focus to digital advertising and marketing approaches as alternatives and has begun to participate in virtual trade shows.
The pandemic also gave Margaret an unexpected benefit - time. She had time to plan and execute on her long-term goal of being able to expand her business in the United States. Now she has a sales representative based in California, and her products can be found in five states (and counting!).
So despite COVID-19 and all the challenges it brings, Nuts for Cheese is flourishing and Margaret plans to continue this great growth trajectory.