Blair Bullus is a young entrepreneur who is happy to call South Granville home. Attracted by friends and South Granville’s quiet neighbourhood atmosphere, Blair sat down with us to talk about the neighbourhood, starting his own business before he was 30, and the realities of working from home.
SGI: What first attracted you to South Granville?
I had lots of connections here, lots of friends living in the area. I wanted to move from downtown which I found too busy. I liked the quiet streets of South Granville and its proximity to downtown, Kits, and other areas of the city.
SGI: Do you have any memories of South Granville from before you lived here?
I grew up in Dunbar and we used to come here as a family when I was a kid to do our Christmas shopping and to have birthday dinners at Earl's. One of my earliest memories of the area is going to the now-defunct Future Shop at its old location across from Boston Pizza. We were there because a family friend of ours from England really wanted to see if he could buy a cassette of a little-known band, of whom none of us had heard, called the Spice Girls.
SGI: Do you have a favourite place to hang out or go for drinks in the neighbourhood?
My girlfriend and I really like the Marquis. It’s filled with people of our age, it’s affordable, and we like the food.
SGI: What are your favourite South Granville experiences now?
Every Christmas, 21 of us go to the Sushi restaurant on the corner of 14th and Granville. We call it Sushi 21. It’s become sort of a tradition. Christmas time itself is great along South Granville with the street really going all out. From the Stanley Theatre putting on Christmas shows to the restaurants holding Christmas parties and with the stores and community decked out in lights it really has the feeling of the holiday season.
SGI: What do you do for work?
I own Top Tier Foods, a company I started three years ago when I was 27. We use Canadian quinoa, to produce natural, healthy, easy-to-prepare side dishes called Quinoa Quickies that are sold in in grocery stores across Canada and soon into Asia as well.
SGI: Why did you start your business?
I originally wanted to start a healthy restaurant but the start-up costs were probhibitive. I knew I wanted do something around healthy eating and eventually this developed into the idea of a healthy side dish that people could prepare at home. I ate healthy growing up but when I went to university I found it difficult to find things that were both easy to cook and healthy.
SGI: What’s a typical day like for you?
Having moved my office back to our place in Granville my day has changed considerably from what it used to be when I handled everything from production and sales, to distribution and marketing. I now have partnerships that handle distribution and production so I have been able to better allocate my time to areas which grow the business and support sales. Recently we have begun to expand across Canada and even into Hong Kong so time is becoming precious and I am happy to delegate as much as I can to these partners.
My typical day consists of me getting up and often going to one of the three coffee shops that are within a couple blocks of my place. I like to get out into the neighborhood early in the day because working from home can be an isolating experience. I will start catching up on emails right there over coffee and occasionally meet up with a colleague for a meeting.
Much of the rest of my day is spent visiting stores where Quinoa Quickies are sold, or where we feel they would be a good fit. During production times I will be in Port Coquitlam overseeing the packaging of Quinoa Quickies to ensure they are up to our standards.
At night Cathy and I will wander down Granville, sometimes to eat or go for a drink, but more often than not, we end up at McDonald’s for ice cream.
SGI: What advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs?
Do a little bit every day towards your goal. I started out without knowing anything about the food industry but was able to slowly develop an understanding of how I could create a business in this highly competitive industry by just allocating time everyday to the challenge. It is amazing how 30 minutes a day learning a field will compound over a month or a year. As time goes on the challenge becomes less daunting and you're able to concentrate on the tangible aspects that will become the basis for your business.
SGI: How do you kick back?
For me kicking back is sports, either playing competitively or watching.
Probably too much of my time is spent in sports clubs, on the sides of fields, or in front of a TV trying to catch the end of some game. I have to physically remove myself from my apartment if there is work to do while there is some important sporting event on TV. This recent playoff run by the Blue Jays brought my productivity to a crawl thanks to the early Eastern time zone start times. Despite all the distractions I feel that this competitive nature has helped me in business and pushes me to be better.
On South Granville sports is incorporated easily into my life. One of my favorite times every week is a Friday tennis game between some old friends of mine that almost always turns into scotch tasting and has been known to end early in the morning at the Marquis.