Even after a long week at work, Nicole Mitchell and Zach Biggar don’t cut themselves any slack on Saturday mornings. They wake up early, get out the flour, and start preparing the dough to make 150 bagels—all in one day—for their side-hustle business, Bagels ‘n’ Bites. During the week, the pair work nine-to-five jobs. Mitchell is a recreation program supervisor for the Town of Hay River. Biggar works for the Northwest Territories Power Corporation. They launched their home business in November and, since then, have been inviting Hay Riverites to sign up for orders online. Customers pick up their bagels on Saturday afternoons and enjoy flavours ranging from plain and raisin to cinnamon and jalapeno cheddar. Mitchell says the business is a fun way for the couple to spend time together, though she acknowledges it isn’t easy to manage a home-based business on top of their careers. But as with anything, Mitchell adds, would-be side-hustlers can get the job done. Here, she explains that the key ingredients are organization, time management and practice.
What made you and Zach decide to start Bagels n’ Bites? I’m from Ontario [where everything is fairly accessible] and I realized there’s some things you just can’t get here in Hay River. I’ve been up here for just under four years now and I’ve learned that if I want a specific thing, I have to make it.
So, I made bagels about six months ago for the first time. They turned out really good. Zach, who’s a big bagel fan, said, “You know, you could probably sell these.” A few months later, I made them again two weekends in a row. I was like, “Okay, I see your point.” Zach and I started getting into the business around early November. We started making a bunch of bagel batches and tried different recipes. We were tweaking things until we got what we wanted.
What’s the process like for running the business outside your full-time jobs? We take our bagel orders on Monday morning through Google forms starting at 10 a.m. Once we reach about 150 bagels— about 25 orders of six—we shut it down because that’s how many we can comfortably make in a morning. And then we close the Google form, get all the ingredients we need for the weekend, wake up early on Saturday, and get going.
What has been the biggest learning curve? The first week was a hot mess. We were all over the place. We still got it done and we did a good job with it, but man, we were tired. The next week we got a bit more organized. We got through that weekend a bit more easily and so on and so forth. Now, we wake up and it’s a relaxing, nice kind of morning that we spend together.
What sort of adjustments have you had to make? One challenge is our space. We have a small regular kitchen and a standard oven and a stand mixer… If we ever wanted to do more, we’d need more, but we’re a little limited in what we can do. But we are already looking for a new stove, actually. Like a gas range because it’s a lot more efficient.
What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced on the business end? Initially, there were some hiccups with our e-transfers. Sometimes people will copy and paste our email, but then it doesn’t work with the e-transfer for some reason. There are small things like that. Now we have a confirmation email and are slowly building on things like that. We’re modifying or tweaking our stuff bit by bit.
What advice would you give to others who want to start a side business? Our advice is to look around at the people who currently provide services in your town and see if there’s anyone you can work with to both your benefit. We don’t directly compete with other smaller groups or businesses in town because they are our support. Everyone in the town is a team.
Also, start slow. Don’t dive in all the way. We dove in a bit too quickly at the beginning and had to slow down because we took a few too many orders in the first few weeks. But don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.
It sounds like a lot of work trying to manage full-time jobs and a side hustle. Why is it worth it to you? It’s just so different from both of our jobs, so it’s a nice change. It’s something we want to do and something we personally enjoy. The biggest draw is just doing stuff together. And honestly, it is something that really motivates us. We get up early and it gives us an extra reason to be up and together. It’s been really nice. We talk a lot. We’re really fulfilled by it.