<img height="1" width="1" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=806477592798641&ev=PageView&noscript=1"/>

How peer groups are propelling businesses forward

2.5 min read

When Fumi Tsukamoto was looking for information and advice on scaling-up her food processing business, she joined an FCC peer group for food and beverage entrepreneurs.

Tsukamoto is co-owner and chief executive officer of Toronto’s plant-based Japanese food company Abokichi. In her quest for knowledge about the food sector and growing her business, Tsukamoto says the various perspectives of other participants was an invaluable part of the FCC peer group experience.

“It was good to have someone who knows the industry,” she says, referencing other participants who’ve experienced major supply chain challenges, such as a war-induced global shortage of sunflower oil, an important ingredient in her company’s products.

“I can only build with actions, and I need information to act. Other viewpoints don’t come from being by yourself. They come from other people.”

FCC launched food and beverage peer groups in November 2021 to bring together individuals who were looking to grow, expand or diversify their business in this ever-changing environment. Groups are also facilitated by highly regarded experts in the industry. The goal is to create a confidential forum that allows members to speak openly about the challenges they face as business owners and share their collective knowledge and expertise with one another, fostering problem-solving and strategy implementation to advance their business.

Open sharing, no competition

Encouraging the sharing of different experiences and points of view is a core element of the program, and FCC’s capacity as a national organization means the program can ensure participants are matched with group members who can lend their own experiences, without the competition pressures often associated with more localized professional connections.

Mentorship surpasses product differences

In Tsukamoto’s case, asking basic questions about the structure of other businesses and gross margins was particularly insightful.

Taylor Chapman, co-owner and operating partner of Good Spirit Kombucha in Regina, agrees with Tsukamoto, adding it was the parallels between vastly different types of companies that surprised her most.

“Just because someone is baking meat pies doesn’t mean their experience can’t relate to a vegan kombucha brewery,” Chapman says.

Chapman’s company has grown significantly since ramping up production in 2019 and now sells to major grocers across the province. She hopes sharing her experiences in scaling up was valuable to other participants, particularly given that her company was the only participant with an active, large-grocer distribution deal.

From meat pies to dried kelp snack companies, the most valuable take-away for her was a reminder to focus on “the bigger picture.”

“It’s easy to lose sight on what you’re working towards. The other participants help you again see what you’re building, what you’re growing,” Chapman says. She also reiterates the importance of keeping an open mind.

“Any time you have an opportunity to interact with a peer or mentor is helpful. It’s definitely valuable to have others in your space who have gone through what you’re going through.”

Participants wanted

The FCC Peer Group program is regularly recruiting for peer group participants.

Article by: Matt McIntosh

Read next
The power of out-of-the-box thinking

CBC Radio’s Terry O’Reilly shares how counter-intuitive thinking and choosing the road less travelled can lead to interesting results.