When she first launched Abeego, Toni Desrosiers was met with skepticism — people couldn’t imagine giving up plastic wrap. She persevered through the challenge of creating a new market, and now the award-winning entrepreneur can boast years of explosive growth, and her reusable beeswax wrap can be found in more than 1,500 stores, 40 countries and hundreds of thousands of kitchens worldwide.

 

 

By Karen van Kampen

 


 

In 2008, when Toni Desrosiers launched Abeego with the first beeswax food wrap, “people literally laughed in my face,” she says. “They thought it was just ridiculous.” It was too hard to imagine replacing trusted plastic wrap with a reusable, all-natural alternative. 

“We all have an intimate relationship with plastic wrap, even if we don’t realize it,” says Toni. “It’s something that’s been passed down from your mother. Nobody questions it because it’s been so habitual for the last three generations.” 

Eleven years later, with food waste and the plastic environmental crisis looming, Abeego is successfully taking on the multi-billion-dollar plastic wrap market with its mission to “keep food alive.” 

The average household throws out 40% of its fresh food, “and it’s no fault of theirs,” says Toni. “It’s simply because people don’t understand how to keep food alive once it’s been picked, pulled or plucked. With Abeego, you get to eat the food that you buy,” explains Toni. “You eat it all.” 

Fresh food has always been an integral part of Toni’s life. Growing up in Olds, Alberta, Toni was given her own garden plot to tend where she grew strawberries and peas. Her mother was an herbalist who made tinctures, teas and natural remedies. 

At 24, Toni moved to Mexico, living in small beachside communities in a camper van with only the necessities. Toni shopped locally at small butchers and tortilla shops and fruterias. The experience “taught me to be fully aware of my surroundings, as risk and opportunity are around every corner,” she says. 

The following year Toni returned to Canada, enrolling in a holistic nutrition program at Ottawa’s Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. Completing the two-year program in six months, she graduated in 2005 at the top of her class. Her next move was to Victoria, B.C. where she took a job at Lifestyle Markets. Working at the natural food store helped Toni realize that fresh food is the best supplement for good health. 

An entrepreneur at heart, Toni says “I was always thinking about what business I could create that would solve a different problem.” Her big idea came after asking herself, “If nature was going to wrap food in my kitchen, what would it look like?” Toni knew that plastic wrap wasn’t the answer. “There isn’t a single peel, skin or rind in the natural world that is air tight and transparent,” she says. Toni set out to make an all natural, reusable, breathable food wrap to keep food fresh. 

 

“We all have an intimate relationship with plastic wrap, even if we don’t realize it,” says Toni. “It’s something that’s been passed down from your mother. Nobody questions it because it’s been so habitual for the last three generations.” 

 

After extensive experimentation, Toni invented a formula of beeswax, tree resin and jojoba oil that created a sealable barrier akin to plastic wrap while also keeping food fresh. In 2008, Abeego was born in Toni’s kitchen.

Offering advice to other inventors, Toni says, “You might have an idea that’s going to change the world. But if the market is not ready for your idea, it might take either a really long time and a ton of work — and if you believe in it, keep going — or it might never go anywhere.” 

Despite initial customer skepticism, Toni never gave up. In fact, meeting customers face-to-face proved to be one of her most valuable marketing experiences. Toni quickly realized that she couldn’t position Abeego as an alternative to plastic wrap. 

“Immediately I could see people put up their defensive guard,” she says. “They felt attacked, guilty, afraid.” So Toni created a positive marketing message by focusing on how people could make a lasting change. 

Starting a business is very challenging, says Toni, especially when you are creating an entirely new category. “It took a lot of storytelling, convincing, and trust from people who were willing to give it a shot,” she says. 

Around three years ago, customers began adopting a more open, environmentally conscious mindset. At the same time, competitors entered the market. “At first I was terrified,” says Toni. But Abeego was ready. With systems in place to scale quickly, they could easily handle the volume of new customers. 

“When you set yourself specific boundaries and then give yourself the freedom to build within those boundaries, you build something sustainable and scalable,” Toni says. 

Abeego has had 100% year-over-year growth for the past two years, and is on target to double again in 2019. Its reusable beeswax wrap can be found in more than 1,500 stores, 40 countries and hundreds of thousands of kitchens worldwide. The success has been recognized: Toni was the 2018 winner of the TELUS Trailblazer Award, granted to an entrepreneur who has identified and captured a new market while setting standards for originality, quality and successful management. 

For Toni, the journey is more rewarding than the destination. Looking back, she says, “I’d tell my younger self to enjoy the doing, because just trying to get to the end goal is thankless. It’s just too hard. You have to enjoy the things that you’re doing along the way, regardless of the outcome.”


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