How a local snack business used sweet strategies to survive the pandemic
In 2018, Lilian Umurungi-Jung found herself frozen in the grocery store, hungry and pregnant.
“I noticed that there was a lack of snacks that considered the dietary restrictions and needs of women during pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, and beyond,” she says. “Reading labels and deciphering if snack products were good or bad was time consuming and took all the fun out of eating for two!”
She started snack prepping with advice from her gynecologist, who singled out nuts as a very healthy food to eat during pregnancy. Little did she know they would become the primary ingredients in the early success of her business, MUMGRY.
Today, MUMGRY is a Canadian food brand dedicated to “taking the guesswork out of snacking for everyone, especially mums.” Umurungi-Jung believes snacking should be healthy, simple, and convenient, whether you’re eating for one or more.
However, the entrepreneur’s journey has been anything but simple.
When the pandemic hit, MUMGRY had to shift its business focus to selling online — and fast. “The pandemic brought us into the digital world in what felt like overnight,” Umurungi-Jung explains. Before March, they had met customers at weekend markets and tastings — ever since, their customers have been engaging with them almost exclusively through social media.
In addition to offering a free delivery program to support online sales, they went from “being a cash-based business to accepting only digital payments,” which eliminated the need for handling money in favour of contactless payments, helping MUMGRY thrive. It’s no surprise, seeing that 54% of Canadians said using contactless payment methods is among the most important safety measures for stores to follow.
This was revealed in a recent study published by Visa Canada, which also found that 18% of Canadians have already been shopping almost exclusively at local retailers since the onset of the pandemic in March. Nonetheless, one-third of Canadian small business owners feel unsupported by their community during the pandemic.
Visa has a long-standing history of working with and supporting entrepreneurs and local merchants in Canada. In response to the pandemic downturn and in order to help provide the support small businesses desperately needed, Visa launched a campaign aimed at bolstering small businesses across Canada by promoting them and providing the necessary resources to “go digital.”
Knowing that every recommendation can make a big difference, whether it be word of mouth or online, Visa is asking Canadians to share their favourite Canadian small businesses on social media. Post using the hashtag #MySmallBizReco to share a small business you love — like MUMGRY — and do your part in supporting our economic recovery.
“The Canadian economy will not bounce back until small businesses bounce back,” said Stacey Madge, country manager and president of Visa Canada. “Small businesses are the heart of local communities, and they have shown tremendous resilience since the onset of COVID-19.”
She continued, “While the road ahead remains uncertain, today we are focused on building simple and effective tools that support digital enablement to help small business owners not only survive, but also thrive.”
Supporting small businesses like MUMGRY is integral to your local economy and community. They’re likely to be closer to where you live, so you can walk or bike to a family-owned shop instead of driving to a mall or superstore.
There’s also something special about being a regular at your neighbourhood haunts and building relationships with business owners. When the staff know you personally, they can recommend products that suit your needs.
For example, Umurungi-Jung suggests the pistachio chocolate almond butter for first-time customers.
While the MUMGRY team is incredibly grateful for the support of their partners, retailers, and customers, Umurungi-Jung admits that the transition was difficult. “Everything is not the same as it was when we first started, and we’ve learned to accept that,” she says.
In recognition of all the people working to keep the general public safe during the pandemic, Umurungi-Jung and her team started #MUMGRYMonday. Anyone can use the hashtag to nominate a frontline worker, grocer, or changemaker in their community to get a free MUMGRY order delivered to their door.
“Through this ongoing initiative, we’ve met new parents, nurses, grocers, and hosted a trivia night on behalf of a local charity organization called Justice for Girls which promotes equality, freedom from violence, and the health and wellness of teenage girls who live in poverty,” she says.
If you find a small business you want to support but can’t physically visit, consider shopping online. This way, you can still get that one-of-a-kind product without having to leave your bubble or go on a long road trip. Many small businesses are offering deals right now to incentivize their customers during the pandemic, so keep your eyes peeled for coupons and newsletters from your favourite brands.
As a lifelong Vancouver resident and now-business owner, Umurungi-Jung believes small businesses are essential to a city’s identity.
“When people visit a town for the first time they take in the scenery, consume the food, and shop for local goods to take home,” she says. “To see MUMGRY next to awesome brands that we admire and in neighbourhoods that we love to visit is a dream come true.”
To learn more about the #MySmallBizReco campaign and how Visa is supporting small businesses, check out the Visa website.