Local tea house and pastry shop builds circularity into their business with the help of Seeding Our Food Future
Christelle Martin started her career working for a petrochemical company following her legal education. Upon personal reflection one day, Christelle realized that her career did not align with her values. She wanted to be able to create something that didn’t exist before and to see her accomplishments. As a result, Christelle decided to go to pastry school. Immigrating to Canada from France in 2017, she began working at bakeries. Christelle aspired to establish her own space that aligned with her values, so she started Ambiances Gourmandes in 2019 – a tea house and pastry shop. Wanting support to build her business, she participated in Innovation Guelph programming including: Rhyze Ventures; Startup; and the Business Accelerator Program - Gear Up. She received guidance on entrepreneurship in Canada, mentorship on a wide range of business skills, connections to other local businesses, and support with developing a transactional e-commerce online store.
Learning about Seeding Our Food Future (SOFF) from the Rhyze Ventures program, Christelle applied knowing that this would be the perfect next step to continue developing Ambiances Gourmandes. With the funding and support from SOFF, Christelle purchased a new dishwasher, saving her employees time and allowing her to limit water and energy consumption. Employees will now have more time to spend interacting with customers, building a community, and telling them about local products sold in the retail section of the shop. Christelle believes that everyone from suppliers to employees and consumers should be treated fairly. As she’s now saving money and time, she can continue ensuring that she is charging consumers a fair price for the best quality seasonal products. She is also working toward paying her employees a living wage. To further support the local community, Christelle has created new collaborations with Althaea Herb Farm and the Elora Farmer’s Market to start offering more Guelph-Wellington products at Ambiances Gourmandes. She will also be using A Friendlier Company’s innovative reusable packing when Ambiances Gourmandes begins doing take-out orders.
For Christelle, circularity means that everyone is doing what they reasonably can to help build a sustainable future. To see impact, each individual must make changes now. When talking about this concept in the context of her business, Christelle uses the analogy of a hummingbird trying to put out a forest fire. As her story goes, when a fire breaks out in the forest, all the animals get scared and anxious. Meanwhile, the small hummingbird collects water drop by drop to put the fire out. While at first the other animals make fun, thinking that it is an impossible goal, they soon understand that if they each contribute in their own way, they can extinguish the fire together. Like the hummingbird, Christelle aims to be a leader in showing others sustainable ways to create a better future by increasing access to nutritious foods, developing circular collaborations, and increasing economic value. Going forward, she sees Ambiances Gourmandes growing the circular food economy in Guelph-Wellington by utilizing unsellable fruits and vegetables to create value-added products that can be sold in the shop.
Photo courtesy of Christelle Martin from Ambiances Gourmandes.