You might say delicious food runs Melanie Mulherin’s family. Her grandfather owned the neighbourhood grocery store, while her grandmother’s joy was hosting dinner parties. Melanie then fell in love and married a chef, but ultimately it was her mother-in-law who taught her the art of preserving food and set her on the path of entrepreneurship.

Melanie started experimenting in her home kitchen on Salt Spring Island, creating delectable jams, jellies, and preserves. She felt she had something special on her hands, and her family agreed, so she established herself at the local farmers’ market pairing savoury, spicy and sweet jams with cheese and charcuterie. It didn’t take long for her reputation to build and demand to increase. It was then Melanie knew her business had real growth potential.

No platter left behind

SaltSpring Kitchen Co. has grown slowly and steadily since 2012. The company moved into a commercial kitchen space, and now employs 10 full-time and two part-time staff, including Administration Manager Kelly Waters. “Our goal is to be on every cheese and charcuterie platter in North America,” shares Kelly.

With a bold vision and a firm belief in their products, the next step for the business is to start exporting outside of their existing markets. “Our biggest challenge was not knowing where to start,” Kelly explains. “We needed to learn what the rules and regulations are, who to contact, and what the labeling changes would be.”

Fortunately, in a supportive community like Salt Spring Island, fellow business owners are connected and share best practices. It was their friends at Salt Spring Sea Salt who recommended the Export Navigator program. Kelly, Melanie, and the SaltSpring Kitchen Co. team were paired with export advisor, Oriana Brueggemann, who had an immediate impact. “Oriana helped get us into the Trade Accelerator Program (TAP), advised us on a grant with Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC, and let us know about a variety of educational webinars,” recalls Kelly. “She provided lots of reassurance that we are on the right track.”

Putting the pieces together

 With Oriana’s support, the team has achieved many milestones, including the development of an export plan which led them to connect with the Trade Commissioner for Washington State. They have also made contacts with government agencies, a lawyer who specializes in food and beverage companies, a business tax advisor, and with two lending agencies. SaltSpring Kitchen Co. is planning to start exporting to gift and speciality food stores across the American Pacific Northwest in early 2023.

Export Navigator supported Saltspring Kitchen Co. in working effectively towards their vision. “All of these points have given us confidence that we can export,” says Kelly, “and Oriana’s support and positivity have been welcomed throughout the process.”

Kelly has seen firsthand the impact that Export Navigator can have on a small business with big dreams. She recommends anyone with a vision of exporting to join Export Navigator. “There are so many resources available and it’s a free service. There is nothing to lose, and lots to gain!”

 

Oriana Brueggemann