Lori Joyce is the founder and CEO of Vancouver-based premium ice cream brand Betterwith Foods Inc. She also co-founded the bakery franchise Cupcakes.
My parents were farmers. I grew up on an apple orchard with more than 500 apple trees. My first job was picking up apples off the ground. I have vivid memories of that time, which really shaped me today, including the importance of hard work. I learned how to hustle by going with my dad every weekend to sell the apples from the back of the truck. There were no farmers’ markets back then so my dad, in his broken English, would go to grocery stores and sell. There was no way he would come home until all of the apples were sold.
I worked part-time in retail clothing stores during university and really enjoyed it. When I finished university, I went into retail full-time, starting with working in wholesale clothing as a sales rep for various brands.
Working in retail taught me a lot of important sales skills, like cold calling − a skill I think has been lost. As a business owner, I think it’s vital. Hustling is an underrated skill. Whether you’re an athlete or an entrepreneur, it’s a competition. You have to look at it that way.
I started Cupcakes with a friend of mine, Heather White, in 2002. Years earlier, we were both working for the same company and were in New York shortly after 9/11 happened. It was really intense. I took Heather to get a cupcake at Magnolia Bakery in New York. I loved American desserts. On our way back to our hotel room, in the cab, after I ate three cupcakes, Heather said we should open up a cupcake bakery. I told her it was ridiculous since neither one of us baked. Three months later, I saw an empty retail space and told Heather, “This is the perfect space for a cupcake store.” Two months later, we opened the first Cupcakes location.
Cupcakes was a phenomenal experience. It also prepared me for Betterwith today. The most important thing is that I discovered what I wasn’t good at. I’m a poor manager. I would credit myself as being a visionary and being a leader, but that doesn’t make you a good manager. I definitely relied on Heather for managing the team. She was amazing at that.
What I learned from starting Cupcakes is that you can really do whatever you focus on. You can achieve it. I still can’t make cupcakes. It wasn’t about that. It’s about building a brand and creating an experience. I learned I’m a lot more creative than I give myself credit for. One thing I’m good at is creating things that customers want. Heather and I didn’t invent cupcakes, but we invented a brand that became an experience.
I never went into the ice cream business so I would make my ice cream. My strength is creating a brand. I focus all of my energy on building and marketing that brand and having it stand for something. That’s what we did with Cupcakes, too.
I stepped out of Cupcakes to focus on Betterwith in 2013. I wanted to create a brand with premium ingredients and milk that’s single-source and traceable. Understanding and knowing where your food comes from is the primary purpose of Betterwith and it all comes from my childhood and how I was raised. When I was a kid, my milk source came from our own cow. It was the healthiest thing my parents could have done for me.
As a business owner and a leader, I had to learn trust. I hire people that I feel that I can trust. That’s the number one quality that I look for. In most cases in my businesses, I’m not the expert. I’m not the baker, the ice cream maker of the distributor, so I put a lot of value into trusting others.
A lot of people strongly suggested that I don’t do this. My dad understands. I think it would make my mom’s day if I had a stable government job instead. But I’m an entrepreneur. I think it’s more stubbornness than confidence that led me to go for it. Plus, I love ice cream.
This interview has been edited and condensed.