Imagine your grandma’s kitchen filled with the smells of fresh savoury stews, soups, handmade meatballs, or cool crisp salads with homemade salad dressing, and egg salad sandwiches.
Is your mouth watering? Ours is!
Chokecherry Kitchen is women-owned by prairie city dwellers Tamara Dmyterko (mom) and Kayla Major (daughter). They head the small but mighty team serving up their budget-friendly family favourite recipes by subscription.
After Tamara was laid off from her job due to the pandemic, she took a step back and thought about what to do next. She loved cooking her family’s favourite meals, so she thought, “Why not turn this into a business?”.
“I was a single mom raising three kids,” Tamara remembers, “and found it difficult to cook after a long day at work. In addition, I had a tight budget, and take-out was expensive. I would have loved to have access to a healthy, high-quality and budget-friendly home-cooked meal subscription service like this back then to make life a bit easier.”
Tamara wanted to share her family’s favourite recipes with other Winnipeggers but was unsure where to start. Her oldest daughter, Aasha, knew a friend who started and grew their business successfully with North Forge: Dan Blair, CEO of Bit Space Development.
“So I took the risk and applied. I just went for it!” Tamara laughed, “it’s been such an exciting experience for sure.” Tamara’s youngest daughter Kayla came onboard the business when her mom entered the incubation stage of the Founders Program – Ascent.
Every Table was the first iteration of their subscription meal business, but they discovered a company in California with the same name. “So our family sat down at the kitchen table and brainstormed ideas for a new company name. Cooking with Grandma was such a big part of my childhood that I wanted to give credit to her for my passion,” beamed Kayla. “We eventually agreed upon Chokecherry Kitchen. This name pays homage to Grandma, our prairie beginnings, and the unique chokecherry. We thought it would make us stand out, resonate with the type of customers we want, and be memorable.”
Part of the curated resources available to the North Forge Founders Program entrepreneurs is access to experienced industry mentors carefully matched to a founders’ personality and needs. “Having another woman who has gone through the whole process of starting and running a successful business is important as I can see that someone else can do it,” Kayla explained.
“Having that person that’s in the know and that has worked on her own businesses for several years and has that information at her fingertips is invaluable.
Our mentor, Kellie Damphousse, has a wealth of information., She’s been a great match with us. Kellie Is down-to-earth and easy to chat with. She lets us know if we’re on the right track or not.
We also have different ways of contacting her if we need help, like text, Zoom, email, and phone. These different communication types help us as sometimes meeting face to face on Zoom to explain a process helps us understand better than an email.
I’m 21, and I don’t have a lot of experience running a business,” Kayla shared. “Having Kellie be my guide and teach me different lessons is really nice. It’s great to have somebody who has so much experience, is genuinely there for me, and wants the best for me. She talks with my mom and me like we’re friends. It’s such a great relationship we have.
Kayla joked with her mom that “it’s almost like Kellie is my mentor mom.”
Alongside mentorship, Tamara and Kayla agree that the Founders Program’s biggest strength is access to valuable expert industry-specific resources. “Connecting you with the right kind of lawyer, marketing expert, supply chain company, or angel investor. There are so many different decisions to be made every day, and it can be overwhelming. Having access to resources like these who help point us towards the right path has saved us a lot of time and money.”
“I’ve been just amazed at the level of support and the amount of information available to us. It’s more than being cooperative,” Tamara noted, “The amount of compassion from other business people is incredible. They want to help other small startups get going.”
“Sometimes it’s hard for us to ask questions because we are so busy as there is so much to do in a day. But, we’re getting used to asking lots of questions,” Kayla laughs. “The support is always there when we ask. Each time I think I don’t know how to do this or where to start, someone from the North Forge Founders Program team steps in and shares their expertise. So every day, I am learning a new bit of information to help us grow our business.”
Kayla is working full-time on the business and Tamara has a full-time job during the day to help balance business tasks. They work with their chef, Michael Spence, to build recipes that include family favourites.
They strive to use as many local, seasonal ingredients as possible to support Manitoban makers, bakers, and growers whenever possible. A large selection of their meats are locally raised and processed.
Chokecherry Kitchen’s expansion dreams are as wide as the prairie sunrise. The duo is hoping to be busy enough for Tamara to come into the business full-time alongside Kayla. “We want to keep growing subscriptions, add another location, lease a larger kitchen, be on SkipTheDishes and DoorDash, and a lot more fun things you’ll see in the future. We also want to go national with our healthy and delicious meals eventually,” Tamara said. “There is so much we want to do and North Forge is helping our ideas become reality.”
If you’d like to purchase a meal subscription or gift certificate, check out the Chokecherry Kitchen website.
Do you have an idea that would solve a problem? We would love to hear from you! Contact our Program and Communications Manager, Krista Kowaluk, or apply online, and Krista will contact you to set up a meeting and chat about your business idea. We are excited to hear from you!