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Ruth Tal, against her parents wishes, quit high school to work full-time at her then part time retail job."Tell me I can't, and I'll just want to do it even more," she says.We didn't ask her to invest anything because we felt like just having her sign on to be a co-owner was good enough for us.” Jennifer completed the trifecta, and the strength of the partnership guided the business to expand to new locations, publish several cookbooks, and launch a line of cold-pressed juices.
Juice for Life, as it was called at its outset, was a one-woman outfit, a travelling juice bar that would pop up at music festivals, markets, and health conferences. And that was how I started my business.” In 1992, the business took the leap from mobile to stationary, with a permanent stall set up in the trendy and bustling Queen West Market. “I'd been doing my own books, but they were a mess.
"I had applied for an OSAP student loan—it was about $10,000. Within very little time, she realized she was already outgrowing the space. I was trying to keep it together, but I started to realize I was in the weeds.
That business is Fresh, a vegetarian restaurant empire with multiple locations in Ruth’s native Toronto, three locations in Moscow, and one in Mexico City.
Fresh expanded its reach with a series of namesake cookbooks, gift cards, and cold-pressed juice cleanses, sold through a complementary ecommerce store.
“When I wrote my first cookbook, Jennifer helped me test the recipes, and we ended up striking this great friendship and mutual respect.
Eventually, Barry and I invited her to be a third partner, as well.
By then, I had a sense that I could keep going in the direction I was going, and just continue to grow. And the only way to have a healthy and successful business is to have a strong organized back of house. I recognized that having someone who could give me feedback and be the backbone of the business, that would be the key to my longevity.” Barry helped her write a business plan as she was preparing to seek funding.
So I didn't go to school, and I used my loan money to start Juice for Life. Ruth offered him a chunk of the business in exchange for being her partner.
"The trick was, as Barry always used to say, ‘Just get it in their mouths, and then we have a customer for life.’ The approach that we had, apart from having the confidence in the food or juice that we created, was the environment.
We really focused on upping our game and levelling the playing field between us and all the other great restaurants by offering service, presentation, music, and seating that was just as great as all the other restaurants in the city.” When Fresh launched their line of cold-pressed juices, it was the first time that they were producing a product that could be sold easily offsite.