During quarantine, Oliver Pau came up with the idea of creating his ideal job in the food industry by combining his passion for food and helping the environment. So he founded Dojo Fresh, a business that offers plant-based options using seitan, a wheat-based protein common in Asian cooking. Although unfamiliar with the industry, Oliver took it one step at a time and learned to comply with regulatory requirements, use social media, and find the proper support. Discover how combining his passions for food and the environment, and the challenges he faced along the way, led to Dojo Fresh on Search and Replace.
More about today’s guest:
- Get to know Oliver Pau at http://www.dojofresh.com.
- Connect with Oliver via his LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.
Explore these related stories:
- Learn more about Oliver Pau and his company, Dojo Fresh.
- James Mayr shares tips on how to get yourself ready for your own change of career.
- Tips for how to build community around your brand.
[00:00:00] Announcer: Support for the following podcast is provided by the user experience specialists at Johns and Taylor. More information follows this episode.
[00:00:10] Joe Taylor Jr.: What if your career path isn’t about following your passion, it’s about following two passions together? I’m Joe Taylor, Jr. This is Search and Replace.
Oliver Pau was more than two decades into a pretty fulfilling career path, which suddenly took a huge detour.
[00:00:32] Oliver Pau: My background is in environmental and business. And I was working with a real estate company and the work that we were doing was buying old industrial properties that had contamination issues. We would go in, clean them up, redevelop it and turn it into something productive for the community.
Right around the pandemic our work finished. We were at the end of the life of the business, so we were each looking for something different to do.
I’m pretty far along in my career, so I’ve been doing environmental work for over 25 years. We were in this uncertain time and one of the things was that I had the fortune of working with really good people, doing really interesting work and something that I found really meaningful.
So in terms of what I wanted in my next job, it was a pretty high bar to hurdle. I wanted to look for an opportunity where I still had the opportunity to learn and grow, but also utilize the skills that I had.
[00:01:35] Joe Taylor Jr.: We don’t always have the luxury of getting an opportunity to think clearly about our next career move. For Oliver, a few events conspired to give him a time and a place to brainstorm some big decisions.
[00:01:47] Oliver Pau: Our son was gonna be a freshman at the University of Toronto. And because of the pandemic, in order for us to go from the US to Canada, we had to quarantine for 14 days. And during those 14 days is when I, kind of, got that idea – which was instead of looking for a job that I wanted, could I create the job that I wanted? So I just sat down thinking about what was my ideal job.
And then what I did was I put together a business plan to see, can I turn this ideal job into a real business for myself? I started by thinking what is something that I really enjoy? Like not necessarily considering my background, but food is something that I’ve always enjoyed.
You know it’s an industry that I’ve always admired, but have always been on the outside looking in. So I thought if there’s an opportunity to work in the food industry, that would be a lot of fun.
I do have these business skills and I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of entrepreneurs. This was a community that really admired because of their dedication and their hard work. So I wanted to see could I use those skills that I had.
And then finally, I just wanted to do something where I had something unique to offer.
[00:03:02] Joe Taylor Jr.: And while Oliver knew he wanted to pursue his passion for helping the environment, he realized he could seize the opportunity to weave a second passion into his career.
[00:03:11] Oliver Pau: At that time, I was trying to eat less meat just as a way to improve my health, and I wasn’t happy with a lot of the options that were in the grocery store. So, I actually started thinking about plant-based options and Asian cooking.
And many people already know about tofu but seitan, which is a wheat-based protein, was another option that was used commonly in Asian cooking. It was something that was delicious and it something that’s relatively new to this area.
So I wanted to see if I could take this traditional ingredient and apply to the way that I eat today, which is I eat everything. I eat all different types of things and all different types of cuisines and it wasn’t necessarily an ingredient solely for Asian food.
[00:03:56] Joe Taylor Jr.: Even with decades of general experience and a host of transferrable skills, Oliver discovered that switching industries is never easy.
[00:04:05] Oliver Pau: It’s really challenging because what I’m doing is I’m starting a new business in an industry that I’m totally unfamiliar with. It is something where I had to learn regulatory requirements. I had to learn about production. I had to learn how to find equipment and supplies and things of that nature.
I had to learn how to build a website and use social media, which I had actually not done much of before this business. And then doing all of that with the uncertainty of do people even want our product?
But what we’ve found was that you just kinda have to take it one step at a time. It’s all about problem solving. And we were fortunate to find the right kind of support.
So we did a lot of research, but eventually found a kitchen that provided support to entrepreneurs. We started off at a market where the customers just really accepted us as a small business and were there to offer us guidance.
[00:05:05] Joe Taylor Jr.: From those beginnings, Oliver’s new company evolved into something that’s supporting himself and his customers in a powerful way.
[00:05:12] Oliver Pau: We’ve formed our business, Dojo Fresh, and we started selling at Farmer’s Markets in May of 21, which was really at the height of the pandemic.
The attendance at farmer’s markets were lower. You were not able to do any sampling of foods at that time, and all I could do was talk to people and show them pictures of what you could do with this product.
It was to the benefit of the community where I think they just understood and wanted to support a small, local business. What we’ve found has been the best part of this whole journey is really being a part of the community and getting that community’s support.
I mean, people are kinder than you think. People are more willing to help than you think. And, you know, that has been really rewarding to know that this community is out there to support each other.
[00:06:03] Joe Taylor Jr.: That’s Oliver Pau, founder of Dojo Fresh. We’ve got more information about Oliver and his plant protein business in our show notes and on our website at searchandreplace.show.
Also on our show notes, some ideas from the editors of Fast Company about how to build community around your brand. Some of their top suggestions, sharing stories about your customers and giving. Opportunities to connect with each other about how you’re helping them solve problems.
Plus, James Mayr at The Muse offers tips on how to get yourself ready for your own change of career. Even if you’re not launching your own business, like Oliver did, James has ideas on how to adjust your resume and talk to people in your network about your new goals.
All that and more on our website at searchandreplace.show.
Search and Replace was produced by Nicole Hubbard with support from Christine Benton, Connie Evans, Amelia Lohmann, April Smith and executive producer Lori Taylor.
Our theme music was composed by Alex ReFire. I’m Joe Taylor, Jr.
[00:07:05] Announcer: This has been a Podcast Taxi radio production.
Support for Search and Replace is provided by Johns and Taylor, user experience specialist serving media and technology companies that want their websites to work.
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