Women in Whitehorse – Part 3

From the river to the mountains, Whitehorse is a picturesque place. However, it’s the people that make Whitehorse truly breathtaking. Beauty is found in Yukoners weaving their unique skills and talents into the tapestry of the north. Below is the third in a three part series about some particularly extraordinary women of Whitehorse.

Larra Daley is the pioneering force behind the Cultured Fine Cheese shop in Horwood’s Mall. Though the shop has just recently integrated itself into a quintessential part of Whitehorse, Daley’s own Yukon journey began in the summer of 1996.

Starting from her home in Toronto, Daley and her cousin bought a Greyhound bus pass to spend the summer of 1996 road tripping their way across Canada. Victoria was their planned final destination. But, great adventures often come from spur of the moment decisions. And in a moment passing through Prince George, British Columbia, Daley and her cousin decided to change their plan and spend a couple days up North, in the Yukon.

Their combined, newfound love for Whitehorse was so great that they stayed until they could no longer pound their tent pegs into the frozen ground.

Like salmon swimming upstream, Daley and her cousin were eventually able to find their way back North. For Daley, 12 years of waxing and waning thoughts about the North would pass – until she received a job she applied for in Whitehorse and was finally able to permanently move to the Yukon.

Daley worked in the Yukon government for 7 years, before deciding to quit to open her own cheese shop. It’s was a choice Daley affectionately refers to as, ‘the most terrifying decision of her life.’

She quit her government job to become an entrepreneur; she left security to put all of her effort into the risk of starting Cultured Fine Cheese.

Almost two years after the leap into her own business, Daley laughs and says she works twice as hard for half the pay. Yet, she’s excited to go to work every day where she has creative freedom and gets to tackle interesting and engaging problems.

Looking back on the conception of the Cultured Fine Cheese, Daley admits she’s been obsessed with food. When contemplating starting their own business, Daley was brainstorming ideas with her husband, Stephan Biedermann. Somewhere in the conversation, Biedermann suggested a cheese shop. Daley, who’d originally been contemplating a business in the crafts sector, was surprised at the idea. A self-proclaimed player of devil’s advocate, Daley simply couldn’t find a lot of holes in the idea of a specialty cheese shop. And thus was the framework of the Cultured Fine Cheese shop began.

This summer will be the shop’s second birthday. According to Daley, if you asked her what she what she thought she’d be doing several years ago, this was never even a remote possibility. The idea of crafting daily emails to various cheese suppliers was completely off her radar. Yet, Daley credits Biedermann to her success for giving her the confidence to try to make her dreams a reality.

As easy as it is to romanticize the concept of running a local cheese shop, Daley admits the reality of it can be a rude awakening. The hardest part, she says, is separating her personal life from her shop life. This seemed particularly true, as we were meeting an area that simultaneously served as her office and dining room table. In her kitchen, her fridge was home to approximately 10 different types of cheese. And, Daley pointed out, there’s one more unexpected hardship that comes from managing your own cheese shop: the heart-stopping fear every time there’s a power outage.

Nevertheless, Daley feels Whitehorse is the perfect place for her business. Being a small city, a specialty cheese shop was still something new to offer the community. From Daley’s perspective, there’s also a strong community of people who like to buy local.

Now the job feels like a natural fit, as Daley slowly perfects the art of running Cultured Fine Cheese. The shop is ultimately a place of immense pride, as she’s nurtured it from idea to reality.

Looking towards the future, Daley says she doesn’t want the shop to grow too big too fast. Though it’s a tiny space in their busiest month – December – it is a perfect size in the off-season. Her advice to anyone contemplating starting their own business is the same advice Biedermann gave her when she really needed to hear it: The only failure is not to try.

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