In my last blog I talked about how with COVID-19 many of us may need to pivot our business. And Bridget and Shawn Saulnier and their team at NUVO Network, have done just that.

Let me paint a picture of NUVO before COVID-19. Two years ago they purchased a 150,000 square foot building and with loving care have been busy converting it into offices, co-working space and event facilities. NUVO Network is also the home to television and film studios and as such offers a wide range of services.

As part of these services, they introduced a start-up – NUVO Taste – providing delicious food at events, a grab n go fridge and catering services for the many people who work in the building.

They had just landed two big catering contracts. First they had a contract with a food and beverage supplier to provide white label catering at a local airport. They’d finalized the menus and with more flights happening, business was booming.

Their second exciting project was that they had been contracted to do custom catering for many of the professional athletes coming to Toronto – the visiting athletes coming to play against Toronto team such as the Raptors, Maple Leafs, football and baseball teams.

Along comes COVID-19 and both contracts are halted to a full stop. The airport closed and no sports games were allowed.

The management team at NUVO met daily and explored how they could pivot, with the goal of keeping their four professional chefs on the payroll. “One thing we had in our favour is that we had all the processes in place to explore and evaluate new business ideas.” shares Bridget. In other words, they weren’t starting from scratch and if an idea passed the test, they could leap into action straight away.

Deemed an essential service, with a commercial kitchen in place, they were quick to send out a press release to let the community know that they were open for business and high hygiene standards had been put in place.

To meet their increased demand, the local government opened up a COVID-19 information line, staffed by public health workers to answer questions and handle referrals for assessments. The nurses are working long shifts and to support their health, it was arranged for NUVO Taste to provide individually packaged meals several days a week. This new business sure boosted the spirits at NUVO.

Next through previous contacts, they were approached to help Food for Life, a local food recovery charity that distributes fresh food to a disadvantaged population. These perishable items that are donated by grocery stores and others and rather than being wasted are distributed to families that could benefit.

Prior to the Easter weekend, NUVO Taste received a multitude of frozen turkeys, that were roasted, carved and together with fresh vegetables, turned into turkey soup. The Good Soup Project is in place and nutritious meals are being distributed through local food security programs.

“The soup containers needed to labelled and our entire team at NUVO stepped up and is helping to get that done.” reports Bridget. “There is real pride in what we are doing and a sense that we are making a difference.” she adds.

NUVO Taste is also preparing and providing frozen meals in bulk to local food delivery platforms that are distributing through their established (and exponentially growing) customer base.

But, cautions Bridget, not every new idea works right away. “We put tremendous time and effort into setting up Skip The Dishes, Uber Eats and Door Dash – and the ROI just wasn’t there.” The team decided it wasn’t the best use of their limited resources.

There are several takeaways – pardon the pun – from all that NUVO Network has done. First they already had a decision-making process in place and their management team was familiar in working collaboratively through that process.

Second, they were pro-active in getting word out that they were open and available for business.

Third, the Saulniers are well-known and respected in several circles, and through their corporate philanthropy in the past, were able to facilitate a donation for the Good Soup Project and were top of mind when Food for Life was looking for assistance.

Last but not least, as a start up they are determined not to let their staff go. And it is working. It is a win-win for all involved.

Anne Day

Anne Day

Company of Women

I have had an eclectic career from running non-profit organizations and being editor of a national magazine, to working for government on women’s issues. In 2003 I launched Company of Women, an organization that supports women in business. A prolific blogger, I also write for the Huffington Post, and several other online publications. I am the author of five books on women and entrepreneurship, and co-author of Good Enough. Embrace who you are. Unleash your brilliance. which is available on amazon.ca In June, 2016 I launched Full Circle Publishing offering one-stop services to get your words out into the world.