A BYTE of Business

Amy O’Rourke’s business was financially successful from the outset — so successful, she folded it in less than a year. She will talk about her experience at Baked Café on November 20.

As founder of Cozy Foods, O’Rourke prepared and delivered home-style frozen meals to time-strapped customers in Whitehorse .

Cozy Foods founder Amy O’Rourke will talk about entrepreneurship at a BYTE ConneX event this week

She even supplied such “mom” foods as mac-and-cheese, chicken potpie and bison stew to Dawson City residents with a hankering for comfort and convenience.

O’Rourke describes herself as a professional person with an active lifestyle and a “vibrant” social life — the kind of person who could use a service such as Cozy Foods, which didn’t then exist in the Yukon .

With the help of a now defunct self-employment program administered by YG and däna Näye Ventures, she developed and began to implement her business plan, operating from a rented commercial kitchen.

“ It went really, really well,” she says. “I couldn’t have asked for a better pickup from the community. It was very popular.

“ I didn’t have my own retail space, but I had a freezer set up in a clothing store there .

“ They said one of their most popular items was my food that they were selling.”

Unfortunately, the day-to-day grind of cooking professionally wasn’t to her taste.

“ I enjoyed the business part of it, the branding, the business development, the marketing. I enjoyed all of that a lot more than I did the cooking itself,” she explains.

“ The primary reason I walked away was because of a lifestyle choice. It takes a very specific personality to have a balanced lifestyle and be an entrepreneur, and I think it was throwing me off-balance a bit.”

Far from being disillusioned, however, O’Rourke considers her initial outing as an entrepreneur “one of the most positive experiences” she’s ever had.

“ I have absolutely no regrets about my year running Cozy Foods.”

O’Rourke says her day job with the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon draws on many of the skills she developed as a businessperson. She also runs a catering service on the side, and supplies frozen meals to construction sites.

“ I can say with great certainty that I’ll start other businesses in my life,” she says. “I don’t know if it will ever be a full-time endeavour for me, but I really see the value of pursuing a new project and learning as you go. I don’t even think it’s relevant whether or not they succeed; it’s just a great experience to have.”

O’Rourke will be sharing her business experiences at a ConneX event organized by Bringing Youth Towards Equality (BYTE) this week.

Other young (under 35) entrepreneurs speaking at the event will be Tom Bamford of Arctic Automation, Clara Stick of ClimateClothing, and Larissa Lychenko of Pale Pony Prints.

The talk is a forerunner to a three-day conference BYTE will host next May for would-be entrepreneurs aged 18-25 from across the territory.

The idea for the Yukon Upstarts conference originated with YG’s regional economic development branch, according to conference coordinator Adria Collins.

“ There will be some people who are just simply interested, who want to learn those skills that entrepreneurs need,” Collins says.

“ And there will be some who are already kind of in the process. They may come with an idea that’s already partly hashed out, and they can learn how to further develop that idea and implement it . ”

As an inducement, attendees will get to pitch business ideas to a Dragon’s Den type of panel, individually or as part of a team, with a prize package of resources and services worth about $10,000 to help the winners start their own business.

The BYTE ConneX talks will take place Thursday, November 20 at Baked Café, beginning at 6:00 p.m.

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