Delicious, local and direct to your door — shopping for food has never been better. Enter Best of Calgary Foods — the name says it all. A top-drawer food delivery service that brings 24 of Calgary’s culinary legends and artisan foods together under one umbrella and delivers them straight to your door. Best of Calgary Foods provides a tasty, time-saving amalgamation of the city’s best edible offerings that is revolutionizing how foodies shop.
What we have created together is truly remarkable and even trail-blazing – we are the first owner-operated delivery company in Calgary, have over 60% female entrepreneur participation, cultural diversity and the revenues all remain in our city.
Good start, right? The story of our inception is even more compelling. It answers the question of why we embarked on this journey together. And why now?
The beginning of 2020 was nothing like this generation has ever seen before in our fine city – a global pandemic doubled-down by a severe downturn in the economy. Small business was hit hard and it only looked like it was going to get worse.
Back track a few years, some members of our collective were at a farmer’s market together that struggled valiantly until it eventually closed. We had made friends there and promised to keep in touch. One of the members had the idea of going on-line with our businesses. But life happened, we all got busy in our new locations and we never seemed to get around to it. However, the seed was planted in the back of our minds and it stayed there until it was awoken by the perfect storm.
Now, fast-forward to the beginning of 2020 – lock downs, small businesses forced to close, customers were scared to leave their homes, job losses, economy tanking. A terrible new reality. It was clear that small businesses had to do something before they became another unfortunate statistic.
And indeed, we tried all sorts of things to keep our small businesses afloat – curbside delivery, driving around the city with their own deliveries, hiring expensive couriers. This seemed to work alright for the short-term, but it also revealed other unforeseen implications to what we were all doing. One, we were 24 companies on the road using up a whole lot of gas, increasing the carbon footprint. Two, many of our shared customers were paying delivery fees two and three times over with each delivery from each company. And three, we were now trying to be couriers in addition to trying to run our businesses. This took us away from our places of business at the most critical time in our history and when we were most needed in our shops.
Some of us even tried third-party delivery companies, distributors and wholesalers. The results were a mixed bag of small successes, major disappointments, and down-right highway robbery. Most of our companies could not afford the fees and commission, or at least not in any way that was sustainable to our businesses. And it was even more than that, none of the companies that we were engaged with were actually from Calgary, which meant that all of those revenues were not only leaving our own companies but leaving our city at a time when it so desperately needed to stay here.
Some of us were even online or trying to get online quickly. While this helped, the problem here is that as one company in a vast forest of the internet, you are but one tree. It’s plenty hard to find you.
So we gathered up our best foodie friends, who gathered up their best foodie friends and soon we were no longer just single trees blowing in the wind but our very own little forest. And our story of small businesses struggling for survival became a story of self-determination and self-empowerment.
And the story doesn’t stop there, we are already helping other small businesses in other cities pull together their own collectives, so they can realize the same level of self-actualization that we have. We will also be including other small businesses in Calgary as guest members, so that we can continue to help others like us survive this storm. We want to help lift as we rise.
Who knows how far we will be able to take this? Maybe we’ll just be able to help a small group of businesses take the first steps toward self-determination like we did ourselves. Or maybe with a little support, we’ll be able to gain enough momentum to help spark a whole movement. But wouldn’t it be great, if we could say that it all started with 24 small business mavericks in Calgary who dared to dream? Time will tell.
We hope you’ll join us on our journey. We are honoured by your support of our small businesses, and offer a deeply felt thank you.
Please keeping reading the stories from the individual members of our collective below. We’ve all certainly got a tale to tell.
“The past few months has really been hard for small business. They are predicting that 1 in 4 businesses will not make it this year. Some Calgary businesses over 30 years old are already closing. Now they are predicting even higher double-digit unemployment in Alberta. This collective represents the best of what Calgary has to offer. We are going to need the support of the communities that we have supported over the years with fundraisers and donations. We will get through this together.”
“Being a small business owner is not for the faint of heart. Who could have predicted what this year would have looked like? This year, our mettle has really been tested. During the pandemic, two grocery chains tried to take over our supply lines because our small one was intact, and their commercial one was broken. Never did we imagine that we would be in such a David and Goliath situation like this. We have deep gratitude to our entire supply chain for their hard-won loyalty to our brand. As hard as this trial was, we did learn one important thing. Alone, small businesses can be vulnerable. Together, we can be strong. Thrilled to be a part of this collective. Thanks for supporting local small business.”
“We’re big on environment, and we love being a part of this amazing culinary group in Calgary. True to our brand, we love the fact that we’re reducing the carbon footprint while bringing you the best foods in the city. Instead of having 24 companies running around delivering all over the city, it gets condensed down to one delivery. That’s a win-win-win in our books. Proud to be a part of it all.”
“During this pandemic, small business took a really big hit. Our Farmer’s Market faired much better than others in the city that had vendors leaving overnight. Many small businesses that would normally have only a few customers in their store at a time were not allowed to stay open, but the multi-national chains across the street had lines ups in the hundreds. It was like witnessing a modern version of Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat cake.” Small business was starving. Thanks for supporting this collective of small businesses.”
“We are constantly asked by our customers where they can get our products in Calgary. We looked into a second location in the city but the costs for setting up another store were just astronomical. It was simply beyond our reach. This collective offers us the opportunity to join forces with a group of other small business owners that we have long admired. Now, we can expand our reach into every corner of Calgary and help our business grow.”
“You know the old saying, “If you want something done right, sometimes you’ve just got to do it yourself?” We take great pride in our products, and we’d like to think our customers would agree that it shows. We’ve been approached endless times over the years by distributors that want to carry our products. We tried it a couple of times but the result was always disappointing. They did not take the level of care with our products that they claimed they would, and eventually our products suffered. With this collective, we are the ones that can say how our products are handled – with the same level of care in which they were created. Thanks for your continued support.”
“We work hard to ensure our produce is the highest quality possible from using natural biological controls to pests, energy efficient technologies, recycled water, natural pollination with bees and carbon dioxide capture to feed our plants. It’s about sustainability and our promise to support the environment while putting fresh, healthy food on the table for our families. Thanks for supporting us little guys.”
“During Covid-19, we noticed a trend of customers migrating towards trusted food brands. With so much uncertainty right now, now more than ever customers need to feel confident in their sources of food. Proud to be included among other trusted brands.”
“There’s something really satisfying about sitting down to a meal that you prepared with ingredients you produced yourself. We know what went into raising that delicious lamb and we can say it to a customer with confidence– a whole lot of hard work! Right now, we need to be supporting our producers, making sure the food supply chain remains viable. That means buying local, not imported product. We’re so proud of this collective. You know exactly who is making your food and how. That’s something special and worth fighting for.”
“Calgary is my home, and I’ve never been more proud. We have weathered fires, floods, drought, recession and now Covid-19. How did we get through all of this? Community. Helping each other. That’s exactly what we are doing with this collective. Making sure to take care of each other. With your support, we can survive this and more.”
“As a small business owner, you have to wear many hats. But you simply cannot do it all and remain successful. You can easily spread yourself too thin, and then sooner or later things start to unravel. We are the purveyors of fine cheeses. We believe in culinary excellence and need to focus our energies there. And that is what this collective allows us to do – focus on our cheese business instead of running around the city trying to be a courier too. And we couldn’t be in better company than with this group of fellow culinary artisans.”
“Like any small business, we’ve had our share of challenges. Did you know nearly 60% of food businesses close in the first year, and 80% before the fifth? Elated that we’ve made it through with flying colours. And happy to be a part of such an amazing group of small businesses that have also weathered the test of time.”
“We’ve been in the Calgary community for over 30 years. We don’t just make small batch soups from scratch, we make happiness in a bowl. As a small business, we’ve really worked hard on getting our products out there for you to enjoy. But what customers do not realize is that the average commission delivery services take is 25% of the bill price, which covers any profit and some food costs. It is simply not sustainable for us independents. Nor do I choose to markup the product in lieu of the high handling costs. With our collective, we get a fair shake at the delivery and administration costs and can pass those savings on to the customer. We are our own financiers - no middlemen. And that helps me keep my business running and making you the finest soups imaginable.”
“We have been approached by every food delivery service imaginable. We have worked for decades on creating a brand worthy of our discerning customers loyalty. We chose not to pursue those delivery services because they did not fit with what we wanted for our brand. With Best of Calgary Foods, we are proud to be a part of this group of extraordinary culinary artisans.”
“We were one of the many, who had the very unfortunate experience of being cheated by a local specialty grocer. We lost $55,000. Hard lesson to learn. After that experience, we realized that we needed to be able to sell directly to our customers. We couldn’t completely rely on the wholesale model that resells our products. However, we didn’t have the time or funds to develop a direct-to-customer delivery service ourselves – we have a farm to run! This collective helps us do exactly that. We couldn’t be happier with the calibre of small businesses that we are joining.”
“It makes real difference being able to look the person who makes your food in the eye. We aren’t just making some random product that sits on a 200 ft shelf in a mega-store. We are culinary craftsmen, who make everything by hand. And we need the support of our great city to continue to do what we do best. Thank you for supporting local.”
“This collective of small businesses is remarkable. We have created the only delivery service that is fully owner-operated. Together, we are a group of industry mavericks blazing a trail for other small businesses to follow and take back their power. Isn’t that pioneer, fire-in-your belly mentality just so "Calgary"? We are already reaching out to other small businesses in other cities across the country to help them start their own collective. This is the beginning of a new movement in small business self-determination and self-empowerment, and it all started in our fine city! Rise up!”
“I have great respect for our group of small businesses and their longevity. Most of our companies have been in operation for decades. Some would call them institutions. Thank you for your continued support. Let’s keep going.”
“The past few months of self-isolation have really taught us how to limit exposure to keep our families safe. Home delivery of food emerged as an important part of mitigating that risk. However, with so many companies offering home delivery, the risk with each point of contact would grow. With this collective, we offer your family the highest quality foods from 24 culinary legends in the city - all condensed into one delivery. Instead of worrying about the many points of contact we have with the outside world, we can focus on having a little more Hygge in our homes instead.”
"There are so many heritage foods represented in this collective.
Danish, French, Norwegian, Dutch, Italian, Greek, Ukrainian and us,
Mexican. All hand-crafted, authentic international foods made with love
from all of us to you. That’s something to be proud of.”"
“As small business owners, we struggle with getting our products out in the marketplace to be seen and tried by the public. We are certainly the underdogs when compared to the big box stores, who have the lion’s share of the marketplace. We also have the option of delivery companies, but that model is very expensive for not only the small business owner, but the consumer as well. With this collective, we are taking our power back, cutting through the systems in place and going direct to the consumer with self-distribution. Here, we control the margins, marketing and delivery, allowing the small businesses to have a say in every aspect of the chain. We are all strong believers in the importance of shopping local, and building businesses that keep, hire and spend in the communities we live in and love. Thank you for supporting us.”
“Our whole brand is based on “it takes a village.” How could we pass up an opportunity to work with such an incredible group like this? Proud to be a part of this amazing culinary village.”
“At Wild Tea, we are incredibly proud to be part of this collective. As a 100% women owned and operated company, Covid has taught us to be resourceful and collaborate. The entrepreneurs of Calgary are incredibly proud and resourceful, and through platforms like this, we will rise together.”