When it comes to using dairy-free milk alternatives, it can be frustrating trying to find a brand that not only tastes good, but that doesn’t include strange ingredients you’ve never heard of. That’s just what Megan Wallace felt when she created NutMeg Mylk, plant-based milks made from organic ingredients with none of the gums, chemicals and preservatives found in the store-bought variety. Did we mention they taste AMAZING?
We sat down with Megan to talk about how her business began, what steps she took to get NutMeg Mylk off the ground, the importance of being resourceful as an entrepreneur and more.
Tell us about NutMeg Mylk and how it got started!
Dairy has never agreed with me and I was tired of drinking store-bought almond milk. Not only did I not like the taste, but I didn’t like that I couldn’t pronounce anything on the ingredients list and didn’t see the point in drinking something so processed. I decided to experiment with making almond milk on my own! At that point, I had read a little bit about how to make nut milks from Pinterest.
My sister-in-law is a holistic nutritionist and held a workshop in March 2017 on how to make nut milks. I decided to attend to support her and to learn how to make them myself. I was so inspired afterwards, especially because the milks tasted so good that I could drink them straight from the glass!
I immediately began making my own at home, experimenting with different nuts and superfood combinations and giving them to family and friends to try. I launched NutMeg Mylk six weeks after the workshop, in April 2017 at the Fall for Local market in Vancouver.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
I didn’t! I always grew up with the idea of climbing the corporate ladder. My background is in communications, with a focus on marketing. I first worked in sports marketing before moving on to real estate marketing, where I stayed for 2.5 years. While working my corporate job, I was just really unhappy and kept wanting to escape and travel.
I realized I loved the creative side of my job, working on the marketing and branding, but wasn’t passionate about real estate sales. I spoke with friends who said to me, “how can you foster that desired feeling of travel and escape in your everyday life?” To me, that meant having freedom and flexibility. At that point, I didn’t know anyone in my life who had their own business, so I didn’t even know that was an option.
What were the first few steps you took to get NutMeg Mylk off the ground?
I totally winged it! I’m a decisive person, so right from the start I really committed to seeing this all the way through. My advice to new entrepreneurs is that you can’t simply dip your toe into entrepreneurship, you have to be willing to give 100 percent. That commitment is what will get you success.
I didn’t write a full business plan, but I’m a big list maker. The first things I did were come up with a name, get an Instagram handle, then get a URL for my website. After that, I learned things as I went along, specifically things I had no experience with like Vancouver Coastal Health department regulations, labelling requirements etc.
For the bottles, I knew I wanted them to look like classic, old-school milk bottles. I used Google to look up local Canadian and international packaging options before eventually landing on one in Montreal. I used to make the mylks out of my kitchen but now we have a commercial space where production happens.
That’s another piece of advice I have: Be resourceful! There was so much I didn’t know at the beginning, but we all have the tools to solve our problems, so long as we’re persistent and willing to find the answers.
How did you deal with any challenges you faced in the early stages?
There were constant hurdles everyday. But with every hurdle, there was also a win, whether it was a new idea that would pop into my head, a new opportunity or sale. These wins would help put me back on the path.
I’m a big believer in the universe, synchronicity and things happening for a reason. So whenever I would hit a brick wall and think to myself, “why am I doing this?”, these small wins would remind me that I am on the right path, I just need to keep going. Everyone faces that creeping sense of self-doubt, it’s just a matter of pushing past it and staying strong.
When did you realize NutMeg Mylk was doing well enough to support you full time?
I was side-hustling at my corporate job for six months before leaving to focus on NutMeg Mylk full-time. I did the math to decide how much I would need to sell to match my corporate salary, because I didn’t want to compromise my lifestyle. I had a goal to quit in February of 2018 and ended up quitting in September 2017.
What was the first flavour combination you tried?
A brazil nut vanilla, now known as the Tahiti! It’s hard for me to pick a favourite mylk, but that’s definitely one I love and always have in my fridge.
Regarding stockists, were you approached or did you reach out to them?
A bit of both! Around the time before we launched in April 2017, I had been taking orders from people who messaged me on Instagram, but hadn’t officially shared the business with the world. At the end of August, I sat down and re-wrapped my head around what I was doing and that’s when stockists started to reach out to me.
I initially designed NutMeg Mylk to be a direct-to-consumer model and had 1-litre bottles, but retailers and customers pushed back on that 1L size. They wanted 500ml instead, so we went with that. We actually just got into Whole Foods this past August, we reached out to them via email.
There was so much that went into that process that I didn’t expect and there were lots of little hoops to jump through. Things like learning a bunch of new acronyms, getting my mylks shipped to Montreal to be photographed first. Once again, I had to be really resourceful and learn how to do each of these things correctly.
When you didn’t know something in the early days of the business, where would you go for answers?
When I didn’t know something, I would either Google or reach out to other people in my industry. The food industry is great in that way, pretty much everyone is willing to share knowledge with you. On my end, I would happily share all my contacts with them, too! The more you’re willing to give away, the more that comes back to you.
Has there been anything that has surprised you about being an entrepreneur?
Definitely how hard it is. It’s really hard. I remember listening to all these business podcasts where people would describe how difficult it is and I’d be like, how hard could it really be? But it was only after I began to really grow and had to deal with cashflow that it sunk in how challenging it is.
Even now, I feel the pressure of success living or dying by me. I’ve realized I can make the business as successful as I want, depending on the work I put in. If I’m not putting in the work, I’d probably flatline. Now, I know as long as I’m constantly doing things like outreach, promotion, marketing and sales, I can expect momentum and growth.
How did you develop the discipline to do all that work and handle that constant pressure?
I’m still working on it! I knew I didn’t start this business to not have a life, I became an entrepreneur so I could have flexibility and do what I love. But it’s been an ongoing process for sure. When we partnered with The Juicery Co., that’s when I realized I could quit my corporate job. Money was coming in and I was in a comfortable place.
But when they closed down their business, I realized how significant an account that was for us and I remember thinking, how is this going to work without them? That’s when it hit me that I wasn’t doing enough outreach and had to step it up.
How do you deal with self-doubt?
I really like journaling, so that helps me a lot! I also stop and analyze what I’m actually afraid of and where that fear is coming from. When self-doubt hits, it’s important to sit and process it for a second, then let it go. One of the worst things you can do is hold on to that fear and let it take over you.
For me, being physically active is also really helpful. I’ll often go for a yoga class or for a run. Maybe it’s the endorphins and the excitement, but physical activity really helps replace the feeling of doubt. I also recommend listing all your upcoming business goals, like dream clients/stockists/collaborations, and focus on what you should be doing to reach those goals.
I think there’s often this perception, especially from social media, that things are going super perfectly all the time. But there are days when I don’t feel successful and things are really hard. But I’m also learning to take a moment to soak in our wins. When we got into Whole Foods, I was like “I really need to stop and celebrate this!”.
The times I feel the most successful are definitely when I see other people holding our mylks, when they tag us on Instagram with them or when I see them in a cafe. It feels amazing.
What’s next for you and your business?
I’m going on a trip to Thailand soon! I’m kind of terrified to leave my business behind, but it’ll be good to step back and take a break, it’s been a really busy 4.5 months! Further ahead, I really want to pull myself out of production and focus more on marketing, sales, events and growth.
I also have a lot of new product ideas, so I’m excited to pick one and see it through. I’d love to come up with products using the pulp of our nut mylks, since they’re super healthy, delicious and full of fibre. It would also be amazing to take NutMeg cross country. Oh, and we have a seasonal nut mylk coming out soon called the NutNog, I’m really excited to share that with everyone!