A Mill Bay couple create gluten-free salad dressings for local vendors
Paul and Barbara Kleinschmidt, a husband-and-wife team from the Cowichan Valley, did not have formal plans to become self employed and both had full-time jobs. However, Paul’s entrepreneurial spirit and Barbara’s skills as a chef were the perfect combination to launch their own food product company.
Opportunities in the kitchen
Paul and Barbara moved to Mill Bay from Calgary in 2007. When they relocated to the Island, they both started working at a private school – Paul as an IT specialist and Barbara as a chef.
The school has a cafeteria-style lunch area where students, faculty and staff members would frequent to sit and eat.
Paul often visited the cafeteria for lunch and he noticed that the salad dressing pot would often be empty time by the time he arrived.
“I wondered why it was so popular. So, I asked Barb to make the dressing at home,” Paul says.
“I have a gluten intolerance, so she made it gluten-free, and we made the dressing at home for years.”
Captivated by the flavour, Paul insisted that they make more of this tasty dressing and sell it.
“Over the course of about a year of me bothering her, she finally cracked and said go ahead” in making this dressing a possible revenue stream, Paul explains. Soon after, he put on his entrepreneurial hat and got to work.
“I didn’t know anything about the food industry at the time, so did some research,” Paul says.
Stirring up the secret ingredient
To make the dressing gluten-free and vegetarian while maintaining creaminess, protein and a cheesy undertone, Barbara uses nutritional yeast. This ingredient is packed with B vitamins and is considered a complete protein.
Paul then needed to come up with a business name that highlights the star of their products. He did a Google search of slang terms for nutritional yeast.
In the US, nutritional yeast is often referred to as “nooch” or “nuch”. Australians call it “savory yeast flakes” and it’s called “brufax” in New Zealand. “Some call it Hippy Dust but we called it YESHI,” Paul says.
Paul and Barbara officially launched Yeshi Dressing in May 2017 and started working for the business full time. They first entered the James Bay market and started by making 100 bottles in their kitchen.
“We took (the bottles) to the market and sold almost all of them. Then, we attended that market the next week,” Paul says.
“By the end of the summer, we had people coming back to us saying, ‘what’s going to happen when the market is over, where will you sell this?’”
Paul replied honestly with, “We hadn’t thought that far ahead!” It was then that they had to start thinking bigger. Their dressing was a big hit!
As demand grew for Yeshi Dressing, marketing opportunities presented themselves across the province.
“After getting store recommendations from customers, the first store we got into was the Old Farm Market in Duncan,” Paul says.
“And through their network, more and more vendor opportunities opened up.”
In fact, Paul and Barbara soon grew out of their home kitchen and Paul converted their garage into a commercial kitchen. They later needed to expand beyond those walls. In August, the couple and their four employees are moving into a 2,500 square foot space in Cobble Hill to accommodate the continuous expansion of their business.
Now, Yeshi Dressing is sold in 350 locations across Canada.
Their flagship flavours include ginger sesame, original and mild chili. Paul and Barbara have also added smoky chipotle and Cesar is their newest addition to the product line.
Paul and Barbara love Vancouver Island for its climate but there are many other reasons why they made Mill Bay their place of work, rest and play.
“The ability to do things” on the Island really resonates with Paul.
“If you’re in the big city, it takes a along time to go anywhere. When we lived in Calgary, we would never even go to Kananaskis. Now, we are just minutes from the beach, the ocean is always a playground. And hiking and biking are everywhere.”
The couple are also quite fond of the tight-knit community on Vancouver Island. They have met so many amazing people along their entrepreneurial journey and local communities have shown their love for Yeshi Dressing.
In return, Paul and Barbara stay and support local, too.
“Local is one of the most important things for us,” Paul says.
“We support local. We try to source local as much as we can. We employ people who are local and try to bring money into our community.”
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