1. Tell us about yourself/ your business.
My name is Keven Taylor; I am currently 34 years old. I was born and raised in Sydney, Nova Scotia and currently reside in the area. I graduated from Sydney Academy in 2004 and have a Bachelor of Community Studies Degree from Cape Breton University.
I have worked in the Food & Beverage industry for most of my adult life and have many passions outside of work such as sports and volunteering in the community. Some of the volunteer work I have done in the community includes being the Head Coach of the Sydney Academy JV Boys Basketball team for several years as well as a mentor through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. I am currently the Founder and President of Island Sauce Company Limited otherwise known as Island Sauce Co.
2. What was your path to your current position/ business?
As I previously mentioned, I worked in the Food & Beverage industry for most of my adult life, so it was only natural to continue on that path as an entrepreneur. It was always a dream of mine to run my own business, and after helping establish professional basketball in the community while working with the Cape Breton Highlanders Pro Basketball Team, I felt it was time to try and make my entrepreneur dreams come true.
I was always intrigued by some other local businesses that came before me such as East Coast Lifestyle, Breton Brewing, and Nova Scotia Spirit Co. I knew I wanted to do something like that, and after doing some market research and identifying an opportunity in the sauce and food condiment industry, I started my journey with Island Sauce Co.
3. How long has your business been operating in CB?
How long has my business been operating in Cape Breton is a tricky question.
I originally registered Island Sauce Co. in May 2017 and followed that up by incorporating the business in October 2017. My journey from then to now was extremely hard, and took a tremendous amount of hard work, determination and more than anything, belief in myself and my vision for Island Sauce Company. It is impossible to properly articulate everything I have been through over the last 3 years to be in the position we are in now, but I will do my best to summarize the journey to this point.
From May to October of 2017 was spent developing our products, securing some funding and finding a facility to produce our products. I was able to secure a small business loan through CBDC and secured a co-packing facility just outside of Halifax. In October 2017, we launched our products and began generating revue. To be honest, we never had close to enough funding to properly launch the business, nor did I have the proper structure to succeed long term. By early 2018 we were almost out of money, but to make matters worse, the company that was manufacturing our products decided to get out of the co-packing business. For the time being, this was the end of Island Sauce Co, but my journey was just getting started.
What followed was two years of trials and tribulations. The biggest hurdle I had to overcome was that there were no other facilities in our region that could properly manufacture our products, the second hurdle was securing funding to somehow keep the dream alive.
I continued to work full-time while also working to bring the company back to life.
In the Spring of 2019, I was fortunate enough to secure the lease for the concessions building at Open Hearth Park in Sydney and proceeded to open our seasonal take-out food shop, The Island Sauce Co. Snack Shack. This allowed me to finally generate some revenue in the company again.
Finally, in early 2020 we were able to secure a facility that was able to manufacture our products right here in Nova Scotia. Once we had our facility in place, we were then able to secure funding through Futureprenuer, BDC, and the Sydney Credit Union.
Finally, we were back in business.
Our products are currently sold in grocery stores through Cape Breton and Mainland Nova Scotia, and we also run the Island Sauce Co. Snack Shack and Island Sauce Co. Catering.
4. What inspired you to operate a business in Cape Breton/ Unama’ki?
There were several things that inspired me to build a successful business in Cape Breton / Unama’ki. First and foremost, I wanted to build a better life for myself and my family, but secondly, I wanted to inspire and be a leader for others in the community.
I’m just a regular guy from a lower/middle income family that was born and raised here in Cape Breton. If I am able to start and grow a successful business right here in Cape Breton, it will only go to show that anyone can do it. I hope to give back as much as I can to our community, be a good corporate citizen, and hopefully be a role model for younger generations of Cape Breton entrepreneurs.
5. What was your “ah-ha” moment when you knew you had the right idea?
The ah-ha moment when I knew I had the right idea came not long after my first meeting with our now Company Chef, Nathan Susin. Nathan is one of the best young chefs in Canada and I knew he was the final piece to bring this dream to reality. I had previously identified an opportunity in the sauce and food condiment industry and knew there were being needs unfulfilled in that market. Once Nathan agreed to come on as a minority shareholder and help develop the products as the company chef, I knew we had the right recipe and team for success.
6. What did you study in school? How has it helped you in your journey?
I studied community studies at Cape Breton University and that experience has helped in many ways while shaping my career. The overall depth and diversity of my education, as well as my work experience in many different fields as a young adult helped prepare me for my journey as an entrepreneur.
7. If there was one thing you could have done differently early in your career, what would it be?
If I could have done one thing differently, I would have started my journey as an entrepreneur sooner.
8. What is your advice to a ‘shiny new’ business owner or entrepreneur?
To be successful, you must be willing to do things today that others won’t do, in order to have things tomorrow others won’t have.
9. What advice would you offer aspiring business owners or entrepreneurs who want to stay on the Island?
My advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs who want to stay in Cape Breton is that everything can be done and it can be done right here in Cape Breton. We are as smart and as great as any other people, from any other place. It starts with belief and the will to follow your dreams. After that, anything is possible.
10. Where do you see the future of your business headed?
I believe this is just the beginning for Island Sauce Company.
We believe we will continue to grow our sauce and food condiment business throughout Nova Scotia as well as establish our food service and catering business throughout Cape Breton. Furthermore, we believe we are going to continue to grow and become one of the top sauce and food condiment companies in all of Canada. The sky is the limit for our business and we are just getting started.