Joni Lien loved to bake as a kid. She even made the family dinners. Joni’s favourite memories of childhood were of noisy, family meals at her Grandmother’s table. She loved to watch the adults chat and her Grandmother’s pride in what she had made for dinner. You would think that it makes sense that Joni would then start a meal preparation business. But that did not come until later.
Joni was born in Winnipeg and worked in Adult Corrections early in her career. She gained a Master’s in Social Work and specialised in crisis/suicide prevention. When Joni was on maternity leave with her first daughter, she decided to leave her job. She moved with her husband to Ontario and instead of returning to work she opened a small counselling practice. Joni enjoyed her counselling work but when a friend came to her with a new business idea she realised that she wanted to help people in a different way. Joni closed her counselling practice and ‘SupperWorks’ was born.
SupperWorks is a meal preparation business that takes the grind out of making family dinners. SupperWorks does the meal planning, grocery shopping and the time consuming preparation that families find difficult. When her friend suggested the business idea, Joni jumped at it. She knew it was a good one. Despite her early love of cooking, Joni had not been enjoying cooking for her family. She was spending money on food the kids would not eat and increasingly eating out due to a busy lifestyle. Joni knew that many families had the same issues and that there was a market for SupperWorks.
However, Joni had not run a full business before. It was a constant learning curve having to discover new aspects of the business including pricing, marketing, contracting for leaseholds, etc. She loved every minute! Joni says much pride came from the fact that ‘It was mine. All mine.’ And Joni got to cook again. She loved the process of developing new menu ideas that could be enjoyed by whole families. She got to spend her time trying things out, making mistakes and creating something new. Joni had come home to her biggest passion – food.
And Joni was still helping people. She was offering families a very valuable and much needed service to help them with their time constrained schedules and most importantly, their health. Her clients told her things like ‘You’ve saved my marriage!’ and ‘My son isn’t just eating Kraft Dinner anymore. He will try stuff’, and ‘I’m losing weight as I now know about portion control’. She was making a difference.
Joni was also right about the market potential for Supperworks. Joni and the Supperworks team developed a franchise model that has expanded to 12 cities in Ontario. There are even multiple franchise offerings in Ottawa and Toronto. And Joni is still cooking. The business model Joni has created means that she can still spend her time doing what she loves to do. She plans the menus, supports the business owners and still owns one SupperWorks location in Oakville. Over the years, Joni has learned to hire people to do the things that she does not like to do. She fully believes that in order to make a business grow, we must spend time doing the things we enjoy, which tends to be the things we’re really good at.
One of the biggest challenges that Joni faced in developing SupperWorks was the time away from her family. Joni sometimes worried about her growing daughters not having enough of her time and attention. But overall, she saw her kids were doing well and were developing independence. The time the family spent together really mattered. Joni’s growth as an entrepreneur was also important for her daughters. They watched how she dealt with customers, listened to her talk enthusiastically about her work and participated in the business wherever they could.
In pursuing her own dreams, Joni introduced her daughters to a whole new way of thinking. Her oldest daughter is finishing university now and thinking about her options. Entrepreneurship is one of them. ‘My daughter is aware of a world of possibilities out there. I think I’ve helped that.’ Joni says. And what better legacy could a mother provide for her children?
SupperWorks continues to grow and expand. Joni is now creating a whole new line of dinners for one for singles living alone. She is actively looking for franchisees outside of Ontario to bring the model across the country. But for Joni, family still comes first. Her biggest dream for the future is for her family to be ‘healthy and happy’ as ‘these are not things we can take for granted.’
And in creating SupperWorks, Joni is also helping other families experience better health and more happiness.