Just before the COVID-19 Pandemic occurred, Chef Josh Keepfer had recently finished the Starter Company Plus program offered through the Peterborough & the Kawarthas Business Advisory Centre with funding from the Ontario Government. The program is designed to provide business training for entrepreneurs, aged 18 and over in the City and County of Peterborough who are launching a business or expanding an existing business that has been operating for five years or less. Josh’s business, Kitchen Farmacy was founded on the idea that consumers could feel good knowing that everything they are eating, whether it be at local farmers’ market, pop up restaurant, events or catering was hand picked within 40km of Peterborough and consciously prepared based on what is in season.
While his business model started out primarily as catering for events and direct-to-consumer sales at local markets, that quickly changed in March when emergency orders changed the face of business due to COVID-19. When asked what motivated him to retool his business during COVID-19, Josh’s answer was simple “the drive was fear, massive fear. It was that drive that helped us stay focused.” As a start up business with two young children, failure wasn’t an option. “We needed to jump.” And so they did.
Kitchen Farmacy continued to cater with deliveries direct to consumers doors and launched a Farm-To-Table Fresh Meals to Go program with free delivery for a minimum $50 order on Sundays and Wednesdays in the Peterborough and Lakefield areas which has been selling out.
Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development Entrepreneurship Officer Madeleine Hurrell hosted Josh Keepfer for a #CoffeeTalks session on April 29th, and he had some great tips to share with other local businesses.
When asked what advice Josh would give to fellow start-up businesses working through COVID-19, he had this to say:
Stay true. Stay busy. Keep at it.”
When asked how he was able to get the word out about the new meals-to-go program and catering delivery service, Josh suggested:
Reach out to friends, and ask them to help you get the word out. Use Facebook ads – $50-60 a week can get you a lot of attention, and we’ve been really successful using them.”
In a time of change and constant pressure, it is easy for businesses to lose their way or get off track when they have to pivot to survive. When asked what his advice was for businesses feeling the pressure to change, Josh didn’t hesitate to say:
You have to have good core values – knowing what you stand for is so important and you have to ask yourself “How can we adapt? How can we stay true?” For us, it’s knowing that all of our produce comes from within 40kms of the Peterborough area.”
A new addition to the suite of offerings from Kitchen Farmacy are Josh’s live cooking videos. When asked how this idea came about, Josh said:
It’s what you have to do now! You have to put yourself out there. People really feel that they are a part of us now, that they know us, and know the farmers we get our produce from because of it.”
To learn more about Kitchen Farmacy, check out their story