Entrepreneur of the Week: How Flourish Pancakes Founder, Andrew Maida, Built a Breakfast Empire
Born from a sweet tooth and Andrew Maida’s courage to forge his own path, Flourish Pancakes, a protein infused pancake mix alternative, is the cultivation of Maida’s resilience and strength through adversity.
The Toronto native was 21 years old when he refused to enter his family’s business and decided to create his own future. He left his family home and embarked on a journey that led to precarious housing and lots of toaster waffles smothered in Nutella.
As he hustled to make ends meet, the quick breakfast option became his go-to. It soon became clear that the sugar-filled breakfast might have been delicious, but it was not nutritious.
Tired of feeling sluggish and constantly hungry, Maida reached out to his brother, Peter, a chef who had the capabilities to create a breakfast option that wasn’t frozen and from a box.
After many trial and errors, they came up with the perfect pancake recipe: high in protein, high in fibre and high in flavour, but minus the sugar—literally, zero grams of sugar.
Their superfood breakfast was an at-home staple that the two brothers kept between themselves until other family members had a taste and it became not-so-secret.
Recently backed by Dragon Den’s, Arlene Dickinson, Flourish Pancakes has gone on to serve over one million pancakes across Canada.
As the brand continues to grow, Maida is committed to applying his entrepreneurial mindset and competitive spirit to all aspects of the business.
“What I didn’t realize when I first started out is that there is so much more to compete against than just increasing revenue, profit, new accounts, or total investment capital,” he said. “Now I realize that the kind of competition I’m interested in is competing to have the happiest employees, the best career opportunities for my team, or the best product for my customers.”
Flourish Pancakes is on track to do $10-million per year, so Maida’s bet on himself has definitely paid off.
For this week’s Entrepreneur of the Week Spotlight, Bay Street Bull spoke with Flourish Pancakes Founder, Andrew Maida, about overcoming obstacles, taking risks and the future of healthy eating.
You have an incredible story. Tell us about your journey and what it has taught you.
Thank you! My journey has been an interesting one to say the least. In hindsight, I can truly say that everything worked out exactly the way it was meant to. Growing up in Toronto, I always felt inspired by living in such a big city, where opportunities are endless. I can’t say that I’ve always known what I wanted to do, but one thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to carve my own path and be my own person.
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family with super hard working (and very strict!) parents, who did their very best to provide my brother and I with all of the opportunities possible. Ultimately, though, they had a certain path in mind for me that my heart wasn’t in. At the time, this caused friction between us to the point where we weren’t getting along—which was hard because I didn’t want to disappoint them—but I also wanted to ensure I was staying true to myself.
I experienced some of the most difficult years of my life during that time and looking back, I know that things had to happen the way that they did in order for me to be where I am now. Finding strength in the face of adversity only makes you stronger. Not only is that true in business, but the sentiment rings true for anything life may throw at you.
What within your journey informs and influences your decisions as an entrepreneur the most?
As an entrepreneur, there are always setbacks and obstacles to overcome along the way. My personal and entrepreneurial journey has taught me confidence and resilience. I used to be scared to take risks or would feel insecure that I wouldn’t know all the right answers. The confidence to know that I’ll soon figure it out influences most of my entrepreneurial decisions. An entrepreneur has to be able to see all the risks, but still take them.
As a young professional who has reached an incredible amount of success despite setbacks. What drives you in your career to overcome obstacles?
A major driving force in my life to overcome obstacles is my competitive nature. I’ve always thrived in competitive environments and thoroughly enjoy challenges, so as I got older I found a way to channel that into something healthy and positive. Instead of competing with others around me, I started focusing only on competing with myself.
My friends, fellow entrepreneurs and my team all live by this saying, “Compete only with yesterday.” Which means that, in order to be the best version of yourself, you have to hold yourself accountable. You have to try your hardest to do better and be a better person than you were the day before. Once I started living by this, I started seeing greater results and more traction in my personal and professional career. Every entrepreneur is competitive and it’s the innate drive and desire to succeed that ultimately makes you successful.
However, what I didn’t realize when I first started out is that there is so much more to compete against than just increasing revenue, profit, new accounts, or total investment capital. Now I realize that the kind of competition i’m interested in is competing to have the happiest employees, the best career opportunities for my team, or the best product for my customers.
In your mission you say that Flourish is designed to fit into your life allowing consumers to choose both health and delicious food. How is Flourish Pancakes re-defining healthy eating with its products.
Flourish is redefining healthy eating because we allow people to still indulge in their favourite treats, guilt free. Our mission is to improve eating habits by creating healthy food that tastes delicious. We’re working to break down barriers for health food products across the market.
There is a stigma about healthy eating and healthy alternatives. In what ways do you want Flourish Pancakes to change and innovate the market?
There is an opposing relationship in the mind of most consumers where taste and nutrition are inversely correlated. The tastier something is, the less nutritious it must be. We want to change that. Our goal is to create products that surprise and enlighten people. We strive to showcase our nutritious ingredients front and centre and surprise consumers with how good it tastes. This starts with reinventing classic products that consumers already enjoy, knowing that they aren’t the greatest for them. Pancakes were a great starting point because most see them as a Sunday-morning treat full of empty calories—well, not anymore!
What was a pivotal moment for you and how did it change your course?
Losing my relationship with my dad over our family business and my unwillingness to work there was a huge loss for me at the time. In the long run, it was an incredible gain. Having a fall-back makes everything so easy and I believe that if I still had that fallback today, and if I stayed complacent, I would never be in a position to have such a positive impact on grocery and Canadian consumers. I believe that I would have grown up spoiled, unaware of the real work, stress, and uncertainty that comes with entrepreneurship. At the time it was the lowest point in my life—the worst thing that had ever happened to me. Now, I see that losing the family business was a greater gift than getting it.
What mentoring relationships have helped you to build your brand to where it is today?
Mentors are very important to my journey thus far. In fact, we actually have a mentorship program built into our culture at work so that all of our employees can experience the value that comes with it. I encourage our team to find someone to mentor them, and to find a mentee. The goal is to have many mentors, who all are Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) in their field and bring more years of experience to the table.
My mother is my primary mentor; she teaches me to approach with love and compassion first—a cornerstone of our brand messaging. Arlene Dickinson, my mentor and investor, brings years of marketing and business strategy to the table. She teaches me how to create a brand that will last well beyond me. And, I have built a great relationship with Tony Pampena, a family friend and tax executive at a big-five firm, who always keeps my wild entrepreneurial optimism grounded in fact and financials.
Without mentors, I’d be lost. It’s as simple as that.
What advice would give to young entrepreneurs who have a great idea but are facing adversity and do not know where to start?
My advice would be to first reflect about why you’re choosing an entrepreneurial path especially when facing personal adversity. Entrepreneurship is not easy, and coupled with personal stressors, it can get very hard. If your passion blinds you to the risk ahead – go for it. You might be crazy enough to make it work!
Choosing to move forward, I’d say find ways to start small. If you have an idea for the next big tech company, how could you offer your service without writing a line of code? If it’s a revolutionary food company, try starting out of your kitchen with unbranded packaging. And lastly, find a mentor. People are nicer than you think so don’t be afraid to reach out via LinkedIn. I’m also always available to anyone who’d like to chat!
What is one lesson you believe every successful entrepreneur must learn?
It’s a basic one but, when you’re an entrepreneur you become your own boss. I mean that in the least glamorous way possible. If you’re dreaming of entrepreneurship for time off, cars, boats and vacation homes—it’s not for you. Truly successful entrepreneurs manage themselves and others, getting a 10, 100 or 1000 person boat to row in the same direction.
What defines success for you?
For me, success is to continuously affect the lives of others around me in a positive way. I’ve learned to appreciate daily wins like positive feedback from customers via email or at events. I also feel successful when I see that my team is excited to come to work everyday knowing that they’re working for a mission-based company that truly cares about them.
Where do you want to see Flourish Pancakes in say five years? Do you plan to add to your product line?
I see Flourish being a leader for positive change across North America. Creating great products is just one way that we plan to help our communities. We plan to have nutrition events and other educational gathers so that our entire community can flourish.
In the short term, we plan to add a Gluten-free & Vegan protein pancake mix to our line. We definitely have great innovation plans in the pipeline. In short, we plan to innovate across multiple touchpoints of the grocery store from bakery to on-the-go to frozen foods.