Nicole Haney is the founder of Boho Bars, a London business making a range of whole food energy bars that are gluten and dairy free and some that are fully vegan. As a runner she found it difficult to find an energy bar that didn’t taste like cardboard and didn’t have sneaky ingredients. So she set about creating her own at home with no additives, no refined sugar, tasted good and had clean ingredients.
Living an average life
She took batches of them to her friends and colleagues at Western, Ivey Business School where she worked in various roles. ”People loved them!” After a decade in the corporate world and a “bit of a meltdown” when she turned 30, Nicole accepted that she wasn’t happy and wanted to find something more fulfilling as a career.
“I was living the average life. I had lived in London my whole life, gone to university, got a job, got married, bought a house. When I turned 30 something switched in my brain and I started asking myself if this is what I wanted for the next 30 years. The answer was no!”
Taking the plunge
With rave reviews from friends and colleagues about her energy bars, some inspiration from the entrepreneurial spirit at Ivey Business School, and a whole lot of courage, she took the plunge, quit her job and started her business from scratch.
With no baking experience, no suppliers and terrified, Nicole pursued her dream. In hindsight she admits that “perhaps I entered into it naively. I knew it would be long hours but I didn’t realise the stress I would be putting myself under and how hard it would be.”
First stop was to get her food handlers certificate and it was at this point that she realised she needed to have a commercial kitchen space so she started working from the community centre kitchen in Ilderton once or twice a week.
Rapid business growth
Nicole quickly outgrew this kitchen and in the Summer of 2016 got a space at Western Fair Farmers Market in London, Ontario. She installed some ovens and used the area for both baking and retail. During this period she experienced an overwhelming response, hired another person and quickly reached capacity again.
In the Spring of 2017 Nicole moved production again to a 1700 sq ft space behind Booch on Dundas. It’s from here that she runs her business and production takes place for both Boho Bars and products for Boho Bake Shop.
Today Boho Bars are stocked in cafes, health food stores and yoga studios all over London with 50 retail partners in South West Ontario. Next stop is the GTA! Boho Bars are perfect for pre or post workout when you need a clean energy boost to keep you going.
Creativity and adaptability
Nicole was always creative as a child and loves running her own business because it gives her the opportunity to create new products and generate new ideas. She also really enjoys the business side of things including strategy, marketing and managing her team.
Like most entrepreneurs there are aspects of managing her business that she dislikes. “I constantly feel like I’m jumping off a cliff! The business has taken on a life of it’s own which is great but can be overwhelming at times.”
Nicole constantly focusses on her business, critically striving to refine and improve. “I really think as an entrepreneur you have to be adaptable. There are so many things that I tried that didn’t work but I just look at things critically and see what’s working and what’s not. If something is not working I change it.”
Boho Bars Rebranding
In late 2017 Nicole decided to rebrand Boho Bars. She was experiencing some pushback from retailers who loved her product but didn’t love the packaging. Feedback from a highly respected foodie and retailer gave her the push she needed. “He loved the product and said they tasted fantastic but told me the packaging left something to be desired so he couldn’t put it on the shelves.”
“My packaging needed to reflect the quality of the product so I started to work with London branding firm Carve and I knew that they would do an amazing job.”
I chatted to Jason Recker, Creative Director of Carve about working with Nicole and developing the new branding for Boho Bars.
“It’s always exciting to work with clients like Nicole who have a great vision of what they want their brand to be. Even though they had a tight budget to work with she understood the importance and the value of investing in her brand for success.
She wanted the Boho Bars logo and branding to have a west coast vibe and we did our best to bring that to life. The colours used in the logo are warm watercolour blues reflective of an ocean palette while the individual packaging has clean and energetic hues that reflect each of the flavours.
Overall the branding needed to present this premium product as a healthy, whole food alternative compared to other bars out there and look cool too! We love how it all turned out and it presents well on social media. Seems like a win-win!”
Nicole’s top tips for business success
- Have a high quality product – this is the first step. Otherwise people won’t come back.
- Adaptability and being able to pivot – be critical and find ways for things to work for your business.
- Motivation, drive and ambition plus a whole lot of passion. I truly believe in my product and what I’m doing. This keeps me going through the difficult times.
Go to Boho Whole Food Bars website for more product information about ingredients, vegan options, store locations and wholesale. Or follow on Instagram @bohobars.