Tara Haddad – Dotcom Magazine Interview
As the CEO of Modern Meat, Tara Haddad has helped to bring plant-based meat to a wider audience. Modern Meat is focused on bringing plant-based meats to the mainstream, and their products are non-GMO, soy-free, preservative-free, and gluten-free. As a public company, Modern Meat is reaching a larger swath of the Canadian market than ever before through local retailers.
Tara Haddad has an extensive background in business and in the sciences. She was a biology major in college and had originally thought of going into the medical field, but decided she wanted to take a different path. She started her entrepreneurial journey with a Math and English learning center called Aspire Learning Center. Starting the business while she was still in college, Haddad was able to absorb a great deal about running her own business and managing a workforce.
Later, Haddad studied to become a CPA and worked at Ernst & Young for some time. Her expertise lay in taxes and risk management. When she started a family, she decided that she needed more career flexibility. She became a real estate agent and a consultant in accounting and finance.
Modern Meat was created because Tara Haddad has a personal passion for healthy cooking and preserving the environment through promoting a plant-based diet. The company sells a wide variety of meat substitutes including “crab” cakes, burgers and ‘meat’ crumble. No matter what kind of recipe a home chef is interested in making with animal-based meat, Modern Meat can help to make this recipe more environmentally friendly.
Haddad is a leader in the Canadian business community and will continue to make exciting contributions in the field of plant-based meat alternatives.
Let’s start by telling us about your business.
Modern Meat is a public company focused on bringing plant-based meat alternatives to the Canadian public. Our company got its start in 2019, and we have had to make some significant changes to our business due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Where we had focused on providing plant-based meats to a restaurant market before COVID, we are now packaging and selling our products to home consumers throughout the country.
Please tell us how you make sure your customers will become raving fans of your company?
We have the best-tasting products that are the most versatile and easiest to prepare. We focus not only on beef alternatives but also on poultry and seafood. We also have a line of condiments. Customers with dietary sensitivities like gluten allergies and problems with soy foods can safely eat our products. Many natural food lovers have told us that they have difficulty finding plant-based meats that avoid including soy and gluten.
Please tell us the one thing that separates your business from the competition?
Our focus on fresh and healthy ingredients while avoiding some problematic foods has been the number one thing setting us apart. We have also pledged to keep our products free of all GMOs, because we know that our customer base is concerned about the impact of these untested food additives.
And to finish this section, please tell us what is the one major key to your company’s success?
Convenience and taste are our two biggest selling points. People who want to use plant-based meat substitutes are generally not looking for ways to reinvent the wheel when it comes to cooking and eating their favorite foods. They would largely prefer to have an ingredient be easily adapted into an existing recipe. Our products are perfect for this.
For our readers just starting to build a company, what advice can you give entrepreneurs just starting out with a new venture?
Always be flexible when you are planning a new business. If your business model has a little give in it, you will be able to stand up against the challenges that will inevitably occur. For example, Modern Meat had a rocky transition as the COVID pandemic was shuttering restaurants. We had to quickly pivot to producing foods for the grocery store and at-home sales market. This was one of the biggest challenges I have faced in my business experience, but I am grateful that we came out the other side with our business intact.
For entrepreneurs seeking to build a business as successful as yours, what one big piece of advice can you give them when times get a little challenging?
Don’t forget to look toward other businesses as an inspiration. If you have discovered that a competitor is doing something exciting, analyze their choices and decide whether they will be right for you as well. This is not to say that you should simply copy what your competitors are doing, because you want to be making exciting innovations to stay ahead. At the same time, you need to be aware of the business climate where you are working.
In today’s fast-changing business environment, how do you stay abreast of things?
The business world does move incredibly quickly, and it is easy to get out of touch. It’s especially difficult today during the pandemic since I am working from home and raising a family at the same time. There simply aren’t the kind of business mixers and meetings that we would have been able to attend in previous years. You need to rely on your contact network for news on how the business community is doing. I would also recommend subscribing to your local business newspaper or magazine, whether in print or online. These subscriptions are generally worth it.
What is your “Why”? In one sentence, why do you get up in the morning?
My ultimate “why” is my family. As a mother, my kids are everything to me. I am constantly seeking out entrepreneurial activities because I want them to be happy and secure. I also want to show my kids a great example of how hard work can pay off.
What is the most important thing one has to do to be a great leader?
I believe that leadership requires innovation. If you don’t have new ideas, it’s hard to get your business off the ground. If you take an honest look at your business, you’ll find that there are many other companies doing the same thing. If you do have a unique idea, by all means run with it. If your idea is not unique, focus on making customer service and satisfaction your number one priority. If you have happy customers, you will attract business away from the competition even if they did start in your field before you did.
Describe how important your customers are to your business?
We rely on our customers completely. I can’t imagine that any business worth its salt would answer in any other way, especially if they were focused on selling a high-quality product to the consumer. We are always looking for new ways to make our customers happy, including offering our products by online order so that people who don’t have a local supermarket selling our products can also enjoy them.
Describe a positive way that technology can make the world a better place?
Technology has given us the ability to preserve the environment. Solar and wind power are going to help reduce carbon emissions and keep our planet safe from the effects of global warming. Plant-based meats like ours will reduce people’s dependence on the polluting and often cruel business of factory farming.
Technology also helps us connect with other people. This has been even more important during the pandemic when we can’t see our loved ones as much as we would have liked. The holidays have been difficult for a lot of people, but technology has helped to bring people closer together.
Tell us how something positive to motivate our readers?
I saw this quote online and I loved it. “The secret of success is to do the common things uncommonly well.” This applies to our business philosophy at Modern Meat. I also like the quote “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Instead of wishing things were better, get in there and do it yourself. If you don’t take action and advocate for yourself, you’ll never get anywhere in the business world or in life in general.
Tell us how you start your day to get ready?
I frequently work at home, so my workday can be chaotic. I am managing my kids’ online schoolwork, my own work, and the everyday responsibilities of running a home. Luckily, I do have help, but I often feel overwhelmed. I drink a lot of coffee and try to work out when I get the chance, that keeps me sane.
One of the most positive changes that I have made recently in my daily routine is adding meditation to my day. I try to spend five minutes when I get up and five minutes when I go to bed on meditation.
Describe how you handle rejection and setback?
The way that I handle rejection and setbacks is by working twice as hard. A lot of people will spend time feeling sorry for themselves and delay getting back to work, but I feel this is a self-defeating philosophy. You need to get right back in the game and focus on avoiding the mistakes that put you behind. You also have to avoid taking business setbacks personally. I, like many people, have difficulty separating my personal life from my working life, so it's hard to be objective about this.
Describe what your hiring philosophy is?
I believe in hiring people who are passionate about their jobs. For example, I like to hire people who are vegetarians and vegans to work in our company, as well as people who eat less meat for environmental reasons. I think that these employees have a better chance of relating to our customer base and teaching others about the benefits of going plant-based.
Describe how you keep your sanity in a competitive business environment?
This is a tough question. The way that helps me the most to stay sane is by taking frequent breaks to be with my family. I also have hobbies that I participate in by myself, these really clear my head. I enjoy being active, but sometimes it’s necessary to simply dial it back and spend the day playing games or watching movies with the kids.