Alida Burke: Co-Founder of Growcer Inc.

Not many people know this, but before starting Parcelly, I was working for the Inuit Circumpolar Council (Canada) - a non-profit organization representing the rights and interests of Inuit. Working for this NGO opened up my eyes to many things - food insecurity in Northern Canada being one of them. When I was a student at the Telfer School of Management, Alida's business - The Growcer - was a household name. If you're involved in the student body, chances are you've heard of and been inspired by this social enterprise that aims to provide fresh food to communities up North, in a super cool way! I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to interview Alida and proud to share her story with you today.

Dasha
Co-Founder, Parcelly

Name: Alida Burke

Business Name: The Growcer Inc.  

Website:  www.thegrowcer.ca

Tell us about your business.

The Growcer is a social enterprise that aims to empower northern and remote communities with nutritious and affordable foods. We manufacture plug-and-play hydroponic systems built specifically to grow food in remote and northern environments in retrofitted shipping containers.

Our approach is to promote self-determination, food sovereignty and advancing social and economic outcomes, including health, educational attainment, and local economic development through the system – all of which are significant challenges in northern and Indigenous communities.

What was the biggest obstacle in building your business and how did you overcome it?

The biggest obstacle was the initial upfront capital cost of starting our company. It was a chicken and egg scenario where to start selling our system, we first needed to make an initial investment to be able to start manufacturing. However, to do so we needed funding from our first sale! It took some time and a lot of work to get there, but we found other opportunities like different grants, supports through uOttawa like the Startup Garage program and other opportunities to help fund the initial startup cost.

What motivates you? What are some ways you stay motivated?

For me, the draw has always been the cause and end goal of our company, which was empowering communities and other Canadians in establishing their own sustainable food sources. If ever I feel unmotivated, reminding myself of that impact is usually able to get me back on track.

If ever I feel unmotivated, reminding myself of that impact is usually able to get me back on track.

Alida Burke

What made you resilient to the fear of failure?

Since beginning the company a few years ago, we have failed – multiple times. But by being able to work through them and coming out the other side, we learned a lot more and it made us work harder to try to achieve our end goal. An interesting quote I heard recently is “the greatest antidote to fear is competence” which I think is definitely something we followed - we learned and we grew to better address the challenges we were to face down the road. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the failures we had and it makes the successes that much better.

We wouldn’t be where we are today without the failures we had and it makes the successes that much better.

What is an important lesson you’ve learned through running your own company?

I think a big aspect was learning a lot about myself. I realized I could do more than I previously thought I could and in areas that I never pictured myself in (like manufacturing!).  Specifically, by surrounding myself with people with a diverse set of skills and the mentality of problem-solving, I was able to learn the hang of things I had never done before pretty quickly.

What is the best part about running your own business?

Being able to work with like-minded and extremely talented individuals and being able to learn something new every day!

If you could go back in time and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

Take more risks! While it could potentially mean failure, there are so many possibilities for rewards you never imagined.

Take more risks! While it could potentially mean failure, there are so many possibilities for rewards you never imagined.

Describe your daily routine from the moment you wake up.

The first step is always a cup of coffee and breakfast. From there, I usually check social media and the news for any updates. Then, it’s straight off to wherever I need to be that morning. During the day, I’ll usually either have class or am working on Growcer-related tasks and once I’m back home I’ll catch up on some school work, decompress with Netflix or a good book and plan for the next day. 

Alida Burke

What’s your favourite day of the week? Why?

Wednesday, since it’s halfway through the week you can reflect and what you’ve accomplished, what you still need to do and look forward to the next week!

What is your go-to pick-me-up?

Any sort of latte/cappuccino does the trick.

What is your favourite app?

Spotify is my staple – I can’t leave the house without bringing my headphones along.

What is a quote you live by?

Nothing that's worthwhile is ever easy.

Nothing that's worthwhile is ever easy.

Feel free to mention anything else pertaining to entrepreneurship, your “path to success”, etc.

I think the biggest thing is to always try to take advantage of any sort of opportunity that comes your way, no matter if you think you are ready or not. Chances are, you’ll be more ready than you think you are.

A huge thank you to Alida for sharing her story and making such a positive impact on our world through her hard work and determination!  Your can stay up to date on all thing Growcer through their blog - https://thegrowcer.ca/blog.

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