After winning the fight against breast cancer and undergoing a double mastectomy, Myrna Selzler was introduced to a mostly vegan diet and never looked back. She soon discovered an opportunity to develop a meat substitute that was both tastier and healthier than the brands available on the market. That’s when Selzler launched BABz: a nutritious and keto-friendly plant-based meat alternative. After working with export advisor Amber Piché, Selzer expanded distribution across Canada. Now, she has her sights set on entering U.S. markets.

Myrna & Martin

A lifelong entrepreneur and creative cook, Myrna Selzler turned her delicious seed and grain flatbread mix into a business opportunity. Her story began in 2017, when Selzler was diagnosed with breast cancer. After multiple tests and an unsuccessful lumpectomy, she underwent a double mastectomy to put cancer behind her for good.

While recovering from surgery, Selzler’s friends introduced her to veganism, and she never looked back. But her new diet full of nutritious and delicious meals also had a downside: unsightly meat substitutes stuffed with sodium and unhealthy additives. A short while later, she stumbled across a solution to the problem.

“One day, I gave a sample of my flatbread mix to my Pilates instructor, who said, ‘Oh my goodness. This would make a good burger,’” Selzler recalls. “A lightbulb went off.”

Suddenly, BABz was born. The versatile meat substitute brought plant-based eating to a whole new level for being completely shelf-stable (meaning no refrigeration required), easy to prepare, and appetizing.

Onwards and upwards

After meeting Martin McDermott, a Red Seal chef and former whole food processor, Selzler rented production space in two commercial kitchens in West Kelowna. Eventually, as new products came into the lineup, the facilities failed to meet BABz’ projected growth and it was time to move.

“We didn’t have the equipment we needed and couldn’t store ingredients at the other facilities,” says Selzler. “So, we found an old pizza store in West Kelowna in the back of the mall and started renting it.” Equipped with the new production facility, business started to take off.

“That rapid growth wouldn’t have been possible without the connections I’ve built since BABz launched in 2020. One of the most fruitful relationships was the one I made working with my export advisor, Amber Piché,” reflects Selzler.

The pair met at a networking event and quickly got to work developing the BABz brand and confirming its viability in the local market. Using Piché’s connections and experience, they expanded distribution to over 120 stores across Canada. Now, Selzler is planning an expansion into the United States’ I-5 corridor reaching from Seattle to San Diego, with the help of the Export Navigator program.

A chance encounter

Through the program, Selzler attended Natural Products Expo West, the leading trade show in the natural and organic health products industry. As she scoped out the competition there, Selzler found that there was nothing like BABz available.

“It’s the last day of Expo West, and I’m exhausted. With a beer in hand, I start walking down aisles looking for somewhere to sit when an older gentleman asks where I got my beer. I noticed he had chairs, so I jumped at the opportunity to sit down and tell him,” Selzler laughs.

“It turns out he was a food broker who deals with the second largest organization in the United States, and he was interested in my product. It’s quite amazing how these connections come about.”

Beyond industry connections that empower her to bring BABz to new markets, Selzler also secured two employment grants to bring on two new team members.

“Amber is very well connected. She’s always reaching out with information about programs and grants that I didn’t know existed,” says Selzler.

“But what I appreciate the most is that, even though I’m only a start-up, Amber and Export Navigator take me and my business seriously. With them, I don’t feel so lost. I have a safety net and a resource I can call on to help unravel the knot of wool.”

Amber Piché