I’m an extreme chocolate lover and I’m really excited to share Saskatoon’s best, not-so-secret, healthy for the entire family, and oh so delicious chocolate creators; Those Girls at the Market. If you’ve ever been to the Farmers Market in past years, you’ve probably sampled and purchased their chocolate. They have their go-to flavors and are always coming up with new creations. Julianna and Ying are part of a relatively new, and extremely successful business venture, so let’s learn more about these sisters and what they’re up to today.
Describe your business: As backwards as it sounds, we have backgrounds in health and fitness (but we LOVE chocolate.) After diving deep into the benefits of raw cacao (the main ingredient in high quality chocolate), we decided to tackle our sweet tooth by creating a chocolate bar that's equally as nutritious as it is delicious! We focus on raw, organic, dark chocolates that are sweetened with only a touch of pure maple syrup. All of our creations are made from ethically & sustainably sourced ingredients. Everything is vegan-friendly, and free from: dairy/lactose, gluten, nuts, soy, white refined sugars, and artificial anything. Just pure, chocolatey goodness that the whole family can enjoy!
What drives you to do what you do? What motivates you? The short answer is: Chocolate. It doesn't take a lot of motivation to wake up everyday knowing you get to spend the day making, eating, and sharing something so delicious and nourishing! The longer answer is probably growing up around entrepreneurial parents. Our parents immigrated to Canada in the late 1980's and we grew up watching them build their lives from very little by working hard and dedicating their lives to changing the course of generations of poverty and struggle. Seeing the sacrifices our parents made allows us to wake up with a lot of gratitude and seize the opportunity to make a difference not only in our lives but in the lives of people around us!
What has surprised you most when owning your own business? Starting your own business from the ground up is an education and a half in itself! I have no educational background in business (I graduated with a bachelors of science in kinesiology) and even after nearly seven years of running a business I still feel like I'm learning every day. Not only are we constantly learning about business itself- owning a business has pushed us to learn more about communication, boundaries, and how important it is to seek clarity in what kind of life you want to live. I never imagined that running a business could be such a spiritually fulfilling endeavour.
What was it like when you first started? When we first started our business it was very low-key. We never set the intention to build a long-term business, rather we set out to have fun selling our handmade goodies at our local farmers' market for the summer while we were still students. We sold out the first day, we sold out the second day, and by the end of the summer, we had to start seriously considering what to do with our little summer project.
What is something people don’t know about your business? The original purpose of starting our business was to bring us, two sisters, back together after going through some tough times. I, Julianna, had moved to Halifax to attend university and spent nearly three years away from home. During this time, our father passed away and the sudden event turned our family's world upside down. Having our family together again was something we felt we really needed to heal. The twist was that Julianna was undergoing a scholarship program that required her to dedicate her summers to fulfilling summer programs- and the last summer program left was enterprise & entrepreneurship. The only way to keep the scholarship was creating a proposal based around starting a new business while Julianna spent the summer back at home. The proposal to start a chocolate business was rejected multiple times but after being persistent, it was eventually approved and Those Girls at the Market was born in the summer of 2014.
What would your customers say they love most about doing business with you? It's very personal. We make an effort to learn the names and stories of all of our regular customers and it's not uncommon for us to share some tears & laughter. We've talked about everything from our pets to our personal health struggles. Our business connects us to the people in our community face-to-face and eye-to-eye, and that is something really meaningful to us.
What are some odd requests you've had from clients? We've had some very odd chocolate requests, but we often follow through because you never know if something is going to be really good until you try it! Although we'll admit some things just didn't work- like a "roasted tomato & quinoa" chocolate bar. It was as awful as it sounds.
How do you motivate and encourage each other? Yourself? We're both slightly addicted to personal growth & self-help. We are constantly reading new books, listening to podcasts, taking new courses, and making new plans. Whenever we feel we are in a rut, we're pretty open about it with each other and we've learned to "ride the waves" of the ocean- there are ups and downs- they are equally as important and they both come and go.
Where do you see your business in the next years? Now that we've opened up our own storefront (about a year and a half ago), we're pretty excited about growth. We've invested in larger equipment and are constantly making things more efficient, allowing us to make more chocolate than ever before. On top of that, having our own space has allowed us to play a lot more with our creativity and introduce new and exciting flavours for every occasion & season. We see ourselves eventually hiring staff to help us expand our reach- but crossing that bridge has been a challenging thing to face!
What are your greatest challenges? Outsourcing and stepping back. As the creators of our product and the faces behind our business, it's difficult to hand over the day-to-day tasks because we've been doing them from the very beginning and it takes a lot of trust to put those tasks in the hands of someone else. It's been a conversation we've been having for years now and we still haven't gotten there, but now that we are growing and we need to allocate our time & energy working "on" the business instead of deeply "in" the business, it's a challenge we're going to have to face very soon.
What is something most people don’t know about you? We have two families! We were actually adopted into a Canadian family when Ying was two years old and I was just three months. About five years later, we reconnected with our biological parents and have lived with two families ever since.
What do you love most about your town/city? It's gorgeous and amazing! Saskatoon is the perfect size- it's big enough to have everything you need and small enough to have a strong sense of community. It also has a river running through the heart of it, making it an awesome place to live in the summer! You can go canoeing or kayaking, or go for a long jog along the river and cross the bridges as you please. The food here is amazing and you cannot beat the prairie sky sunsets!
Why do you think it is important for people to support local? Supporting local isn't just a slogan- it's a way of life that makes a very big impact on the lives of our friends, families, and neighbours. It literally puts nourishing food on the table, puts a child through school, and allows someone in your community to live their dream doing something they love. When people choose to spend money on supporting a local business, they're voting with their dollars for a stronger tomorrow. As a local business ourselves, we have a strong conviction to carry our community as we climb- that means giving back to charitable causes or organizations that make our city a safer, stronger, more vibrant place to be.
What are your favorite restaurants? Oh boy- we have so many! We adore Primal Restaurant for date night (hello oysters & fine wine!). We love Hearth and their wild-foraged ingredients show-casing Saskatchewan bounty. We frequent Leyda's Cafe for their gluten-free options and delectable coconut creme brûlée! UNA and Thirteen Pies are go-to pizza stops and we have to mention Asian Hut if you're looking for a hot bowl of phô. October and Ko have the BEST ramen though, and Sushi Raku is hand's down the finest sushi in town! Hopefully, that's enough to get you started, but just drop us a line if you need more recommendations!
What are your favorite things to do locally? We go for walks along the river almost every single day! We also love going for coffee or tea (or food, clearly...) with friends or helping a fellow small business owner get caught up on big projects. We're pretty lucky to be surrounded by so many talented local producers and getting to learn more about their craft is both educational and extremely fun & fulfilling for us. If anybody wants to get more connected to involved in the local foodie scene, shopping at The Little Market Box (our sister shop) is a great place to start- you're almost surely going to run into a local producer who is dropping off their products or tossing around ideas for something new on the burner!
Those Girls at the Market
Address: 812 - 16th Street W Saskatoon SK S7M 5Y4