EO Q&A: Business Growth from the Ground Up

Article by:

Angela Santiago
EO Edmonton
Angela Santiago - EO Edmonton

Running a successful business brings with it plenty of challenges, especially if your company revolves around a single product or service. For Angela Santiago, an EO Edmonton member and CEO of The Little Potato Company, maximizing passion, staying productive and setting boundaries goes a long way toward generating business growth from the ground up.

What would people be surprised to learn about potatoes?

AS: “Potatoes were first discovered and appreciated in South America. They were so loved that they were nicknamed the ‘truffles of the earth’ and considered to be a small delicacy vegetable. Sadly, as they expanded through Europe and North America, potatoes became big, ugly and bland. But, initially, they were small, delicious and versatile like our creamer variety today. Another thing not many people may know is that it takes an average of seven to nine years to get a new potato to market once we find one we think is good enough to become a ‘Little Potato’ creamer.”

To what do you attribute your success in a highly competitive industry?

AS: “I credit two important and unique aspects of our market for our success in the niche, competitive segment of creamer potatoes. First, everyone is familiar with potatoes in general, so there was no education needed. Second, potatoes had become boring. They were due for a refresh. Introducing creamer potatoes to North America seemed like a natural evolution for a forgotten favorite. We all enjoy making new food discoveries, especially if it’s something that’s delicious, nutritious, convenient and quick to prepare. Creamer potatoes are all that and more.”

What are the pros and cons of building a business around a single product?

AS: “The big advantage for us, and our customers, is that we get to become really great at one thing, rather than just good at many. We’re more focused and specialized than others who are selling a range of vegetables or products. We have a team of passionate potato professionals who are focused on getting creamer potatoes to market: selecting, breeding, growing, harvesting, washing, packaging, shipping, merchandising and everyone else behind the scenes. It’s all about getting delicious creamers to produce sections, kitchens and plates. The risk when you’re starting out is choosing the wrong product or service as a single focus. We built The Little Potato Company around a product everyone loves.”

You work with family members in the day-to-day operations of your business. What’s the secret to maintaining a successful working relationship with family?

AS: “We noticed that work could become a go-to subject when our family united, and especially so when my husband and I were working together. The risk, of course, is that when you have a business together, the commonality can become more about your shared company than your family, and we didn’t want that to happen. So, we put parameters around when we would talk about business. We limited business talk to weekdays, with emergency exceptions. If something came up on a weekend, we had to mutually agree to an exception before starting a business conversation. That created an effective and respectful barrier. More broadly, we all agreed that our homes were sacred ground for family, and that when you’re home, that’s where your energy should be spent.”

How do you stay productive in a largely seasonal industry?

AS: “Our business isn’t as traditionally seasonal as you might think. People enjoy creamer potatoes every day of the year. Of course, potatoes grow seasonally, so to ensure a 12-month supply, we had to understand the different climates in North America and identify which offer the right conditions for creamers. Our team always gets excited about planting and harvesting, the same way people with home gardens do. Growing potatoes, like any vegetable, is a passion. We’ve developed systems and made significant investments to ensure we can transition from crop to crop seamlessly, while providing reliable distribution and support to our customers. Most recently, we invested in our team and infrastructure by expanding our field production, distribution centers and other facilities to support our ongoing success. We’re currently planning more infrastructure investment in the U.S. in the near future.”

To learn more about Angela’s entrepreneurial journey, contact her at angela@littlepotatoes.com.

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