Four potential social enterprises — three businesses and one non-profit — pitched to an audience of about 75 on June 10, the final step in the 10-week Local Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program (LEAP), a Kootenay Employment Services-Simon Fraser University partnership.
Once the pitches were finished, the audience voted, with Ilana Cameron’s Honeybird Coffee Roasters taking the top spot, over Jesse Willicome’s Hearth and Coathook boutique hostel, Melissa Flint’s natural ecosystem design and Clayton Fenrick’s value-added expansion to the Harvest Share program. (Click here for more on the other ideas.)
Cameron won an iPad donated by Telus, a Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce membership, $500 from Regional District of Central Kootenay Area B — director Tanya Wall surprised the audience with a $2,000 donation to share — and the proceeds of the event’s ticket sales, which she’ll put toward a $1,500 portable roaster, allowing her to meet individuals’ demands and test new roasts as she starts up the business.w
“You can start small and scale up,” Cameron said the next day. “I’m focusing on direct retail, and maybe coffee shops.”
The roaster, which roasts about five pounds an hour, is a new product and isn’t available until August, so Cameron won’t be selling her locally roasted beans immediately. But with training and practice, she may be able to sell at the Creston Valley Farmers’ Market around Christmas, roasting beans — seeds, actually — while customers look on.
“In the world, it’s a gradual trend toward people wanting to know more about food and how things are made,” she said.
That’s precisely what Cameron likes to do, especially in the case of coffee.
“When I go to a new town, I seek out a roaster, and get coffee from the local roaster,” she said.
A chance discovery in Victoria sparked her interest in bringing fair trade roasts to Creston.
“It was sweet, it was layered, it was nutty, it was floral,” Cameron said. “I’d love to have that coffee in our community.”
Once she has the art and science of roasting well in hand, Cameron hopes to open a shop — following in the footsteps of her parents, Brent and Maureen, who had a health food store in Creston when she was a child — where customers can come in and create and roast their own blends, offering a “seed to cup” experience.
“That will be the vision: Where coffee is roasted, and people can come in and buy it,” she said. “I don’t want to be elitist. I want to be a community roaster.”
And Creston, she said, is the perfect place to do it just that.
“Creston is becoming more of a food culture,” she said. “We’re proud of the fact we’re a farming community. Having a coffee culture is part of that scene.”