FastStart "saved my life" says youth entrepreneur – the founder of Amuse Coffee Co., Peterborough's trendy coffee boutique
The owner of Amuse Coffee Co., the new, elegant and trendy coffee boutique in Peterborough’s student quarter – one of the recent FastStart entrepreneurship success stories – credits the help she received from the FastStart entrepreneurial training partnership with “saving her life”.
Lindsay Brock, who suffers from anorexia, says the support she received from the FastStart program went far beyond business and marketing support.
Brock credits FastStart’s entrepreneurship coordinator, Rose Terry, with also providing her with the support and encouragement needed to take the steps to launch her own business in Peterborough.
FastStart is Peterborough’s youth entrepreneurship training partnership between Trent University, Fleming College and the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster.
During an interview, she disclosed that she has suffered from anorexia for many years, and says she was hospitalized as part of a failed treatment attempt at Toronto General Hospital’s eating disorder clinic. The treatment failed, she says, because the model for treating eating disorders in Canada is all wrong.
Forcing people to eat simply does not work, she says.
After two years of unemployment while she battled the life threatening eating disorder, Brock says she took matters into her own hands, and decided to treat her disorder by following her dream – to own a coffee boutique.
“In my mind, it was either start the business I’d dreamed of for years, or die.”
Statistics support the serious health reality behind this statement. Half a million people in Canada suffer from an eating disorder and 1500 of them die each year.
Fed up with forced weight gain treatment modalities, Brock changed her focus and threw herself into every workshop offered in the community on entrepreneurship and business planning that she could find. And she successfully applied for start up funding from the Community Future Development Corporation (CFDC).
Throughout the process, she was guided by Terry, who is also Entrepreneurship Coordinator at the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster.
“Lindsay was such an eager participant in our programming,” says Terry. “She took the advice of her mentors, coaches and of our Knowledge Partners seriously, and has been a great client of the Innovation Cluster.”
Terry helped Brock with her business plan and connected her to Innovation Cluster mentors and subject matter advisers and experts.
“She is a lot more open and outgoing now than she was initially,” says Terry.
Since opening in August, Amuse Coffee Co. has developed a regular clientele of university students, professors and retirees, all eager to taste and savour the café’s Fair Trade Organic whole bean coffee, espressos, loose tea and French-inspired pastries and to soak up the Parisian-inspired ambience. A liquor license is in the offing.
Brock, sometimes tired out by her anorexia but nonetheless thrilled by her success, is becoming an outspoken critic of existing treatment models for eating disorders, and wants to raise awareness in Peterborough, which she believes could benefit from a drop-in centre modelled on Sheena’s Place in Toronto.
Sheena’s Place groups are run on the underlying philosophy that individuals suffering from eating disorders are the experts of their own experience, and accept that a one-size-fits-all solution is unworkable and unrealistic.
Brock is so serious about the growing drive to change the treatment protocols for eating disorders that she donates the entire proceeds of the sale of her Purple Ribbon coffee to an activist group, the National Institute of Eating Disorders, or NIED.
The group, headed by the mother of an anorexic, is pushing the government for change. In an Open Letter to Parents and Loved Ones with Eating Disorders, the group says it is not a disorder but a chronic serious illness. This illness, the group claims, is not going to go away.
“As more families are willing to share their pain, it is clear that whatever the triggers, Eating Disorders numbers are getting worse, with onsets as early as five years old and mortality rates as high as 20 per cent – more than any other mental disease.”
Brock still struggles, and firmly believes that no-one ever recovers from an eating disorder. Instead, those afflicted learn, as she has done, to manage it.
Meanwhile, with the help of her husband and business partner, Joe Hay, Amuse keeps her going and gives her a reason to get up in the morning. Hay is a professional musician and also has a background in the restaurant business. He is now an indispensable part of the cafe and an honest support for his wife’s outspokenness on anorexia.
“Someone has to talk about it,” he says. He also selects the music for the café, depending, he quips, “on how caffeinated we are.”
The coffee boutique dream has been with Lindsay since her teens. She has always worked with beverages, and at one point managed the David’s Tea shop in Lansdowne Place. “I learned a lot from reading invoices and watching how the order was done,” she says now. “So when it came time to write my business plan and make my forecasts, I was well prepared.”
Meanwhile, Brock wants people to understand that having an eating disorder is not a choice, that no community is untouched by the disease, and that with the understanding support of people like FastStart’s Rose Terry, sufferers can live useful and functional lives.