1305 Wellington Street West. Inside, a safe, inclusive, welcoming space “built on community and friendship.” Little Jo Berry’s (LJB), a vegan bakery run by Jo Masterson and team, is in its fourth year. Jo’s small business is a big Ottawa pillar; Jo themself a game-changer. LJB has coffee, meals, and sweets. Now, they have a new treat for us: A podcast called Business Baby, showcasing the people behind our favourite local shops and brands.
“Well, that’s business, baby”
Jo got into podcasts “because a lot of my prep shifts are solo work. Having podcasts on felt like having pals around.” They realized that connection with others “to keep the flow and conversation going” could continue.
“Well, that’s business, baby,” is something Jo said regularly to roommate Jesse Dangerously. When the time came to name their new community project, “Business Baby” fit perfectly. Jo’s design partner Sage Mosurinjohn created the logo in LJB pink. Jesse’s music and engineering skills brought the recording to life. LJB’s front-of-house manager and creator of Ray’s Reviews Raymond Gauthier adds his production talents, and Jo’s theatre background, love of comedy and improv complete a perfect blend of gifted individuals. Episode one aired February 1, 2021. Within days, it had hundreds of listeners.
“I want to have open and vulnerable conversations with the people who shape our community. I’m trying to curate an honest space where we can connect and actually be seen outside of just our businesses. These are really hard and isolating times for everyone, entrepreneurs included. This is an intimate chance, once a week, to hear more about your pals,” says Jo. In other words: real, deep chats.
“New ideas are everywhere,” Jo says. “I always get a lot of advice and ideas from talking to other business owners. So even in having these conversations, I’m still learning. My shop is five years old in March and I still have so much to learn and try. So I want to share my experiences, but also learn from my business peers.”
One of Jo’s local business icons is Bread By Us owner Jess Carpinone. Jo looks up to their staff safety and workers’ rights “because they protect their community and advocate for those in need,” and appreciates that “you can be a successful business owner at the same time.”
Another icon is Top Shelf Preserves. Jo says Sara Pishva’s incredible work ethic, devotion to others, and honesty make them a role model. Indeed, she was “one of the first people who taught me it was actually really tough to cry and be vulnerable.”
Top Shelf is featured in the March 8 episode of Business Baby, and Bread By Us is coming soon, so stay tuned.
Contributing to the conversation
“As a non-binary, queer business owner myself, I’m hoping I can put whatever I’ve learned back into my community. I don’t think entrepreneurship has been accessible for these communities. From toxic kitchen environments to bias around loans and funding—especially for the BIPOC community—there’s so much work to be done and important conversations to be had publicly. I think talking to other business owners and sharing our journeys will help new business owners navigate and grow,” Jo says.
Often, talking to others leads to a greater understanding of both them and ourselves. Jo advocates conversations to check in, be there, learn, and give back. They’re also a proponent of active listening and loving your community. Indeed, Jo remarks, “We become really used to consuming local and small business and not always honouring the work that goes into being a local business. It’s really, really hard work and you are constantly sacrificing and adapting. I think folks will appreciate their favourite businesses even more.”
We become really used to consuming local and small business and not always honouring the work that goes into being a local business. It’s really, really hard work and you are constantly sacrificing and adapting. I think folks will appreciate their favourite businesses even more.
Safety, successes, failures, and mentoring
One pressing challenge the Business Baby podcast addresses is boundaries. “I like to say no. I know my capacity, I know my staff’s capacity, and I would rather advocate for that than a few extra sales. When you protect yourself and your staff, it sets the tone of respect and patience around your brand. When you have those boundaries in place, it attracts the right people to your business. Especially in these times, we need to put ourselves first and check in with our needs,” says Jo.
Jo also wants us to change how we look at failure and success, saying they were “really afraid to fail or make a mistake. Small business is loaded with mistakes. Doesn’t matter how prepared you think you are, you will never get everything right. That’s how you learn and grow and adapt into a better business. I think if it becomes normalized to be okay with mistakes and having patience and understanding with local shops, it will help our community, including customers, to grow together.”
In addition to Jo’s “local heroes” mentioned above, some exciting LJB news, including their fifth birthday, new merchandise, and new collaborations are coming soon to Business Baby. So tune in. In the meantime, Jo says: “Believe in your ideas and your work. What you make and do is valuable. Make sure you’re feeling like you are being shown that.”