Shopping for groceries isn’t always the most exciting activity; it can even prove to be the complete opposite – a hindering and tedious process. Peter van Stolk, CEO of Be Fresh (befresh.ca), made it his goal to change people’s attitude towards food and its acquisition.
van Stolk launched his relationship with the food and beverage industry when he founded Jones Soda in 1987. Later, van Stolk joined Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery (spud.ca) as CEO. As van Stolk’s interest in this industry continued to develop, he finally landed on a business idea to innovate people’s approach to groceries.
Be Fresh: Helping make intentional decisions about food
It all starts with decisions, van Stolk explains, “We make decisions every day. We make decisions about what we buy and we make decisions about what we eat. Those decisions have implications. When we choose to support our local farmers, we’re supporting our local economy. When we choose to eat healthy foods, we’re supporting our bodies.”
But it doesn’t end there. While food is critical, Stolk also believes in creating an innovative way for customers to make healthy decisions while shopping.
“When you enter a Be Fresh location, you’re entering a place where people feel comfortable. Comfortable enough to sit down and have a coffee. It’s a unique experience.” He continues, “It’s also about convenience. You can do all of your shopping online, or from a kiosk on-location, meaning that if something isn’t on the shelf, you can push a button and see it appearing there regularly in a few days.”
With six locations in Vancouver – four markets and two cafes – Be Fresh offers a wide array of events in addition to the mainstay of its business, grocery shopping. By night, the community can attend events like book and poetry readings. On weekends, a local farmer’s market takes place.
“We want people to be able to sit down and socialize. When you walk in, the music isn’t just elevator music, it’s kind of upbeat and funky, for example. That’s community,” says van Stolk.
On creating a community online
With an emphasis on creating a supportive community at their cafes and markets, Be Fresh needed an online home that reflected their values and allowed people to learn more about their story. When it came to choosing a domain name and creating a website, van Stolk knew what his company needed.
“Domain names have to be relevant, quick, and easy to spell,” says van Stolk. “Having a .CA is relevant to us as Canadians, and having a concise domain name attached to it makes it a domain I’m very happy to have.”
Their website – high on visual appeal – displays a feed of their active Instagram account – featuring many of the delicious and healthy food options that they offer at their locations.
Reflecting the strong community focus, the website also has information on new and featured foods and a space where you can learn more about their local artisan vendors. For Canadians that seek out local, quality, fresh products, a .CA domain is a perfect way to declare that your business is local, and proudly Canadian.
With an innovative approach, solid team, and fueled by lifelong passion, van Stolk plans for Be Fresh to be the first of many companies to change people’s approach to food and community.
When asked if he had anything to share with fellow entrepreneurs, he indicated that “learning to ride the rollercoaster” and remaining flexible and adaptable were key features in his approach to business.
This article was produced with the support of StartUp Canada to profile Canadian businesses.