Inniskillin Changemaker: Aja Horsley
“It’s obvious why we need to take care of our communities and the environment – because none of us will be around if we don’t work together to create a more sustainable lineup of companies across Canada.”
In partnership with Inniskillin, Canada’s first estate winery, Startup Canada is celebrating and spotlighting leading entrepreneurial changemakers and disruptors across Canada. Startup Canada was pleased to sit down with Aja Horsley, CEO of Drizzle Honey to learn about their journey and the impact of their work.
With a background in Environmental Science and Urban Agriculture development, Aja has led research projects and startups with her passion for sustainable food production. She is currently the CEO of Drizzle Honey, a honey products company sold across North America that focuses on changing how the world uses honey. Aja is enthusiastic about bringing innovation to market and bolstering female entrepreneurship.
SC: In one sentence, what does being an entrepreneurial changemaker mean to you?
AH: It means creating new products in a space that requires innovation. Being a changemaker is really about innovation and making sure you are bringing something to market that hasn’t been there before.
SC: Tell us about your entrepreneurial venture(s) – what do you do? What role has it played in your life?
AH: Simply put, we make honey – but Drizzle is so much more than a honey products company. We like to say we are the new generation of honey and that’s because of our focus on sustainability and our focus on innovation. We are a Certified B Corporation which means we meet the highest certifiable standards of social and environmental impact. So Drizzle Honey has a bee friendly, environmental aspect to it but we also have the innovative, functional health part of our products. We are also female founded and run which is another incredibly important part of our business.
In terms of the role it has played in my life, it has taken over completely – my business is my life now. The lines of work-life balance have been blurred but since I am passionate about my work, I’m okay with that.
SC: What motivated you to become an entrepreneur?
AH: My passion for agriculture. When I was doing honey industry research, I noticed that there were a lot of beekeepers at the time going bankrupt because of fake honey on the market. I also knew that Canadian honey was a beautiful, super high quality product and that the beekeepers here really needed support in getting their product to market. So I started Drizzle knowing it was this really beautifully branded, high quality product that would hopefully get more people buying local. It was all really to make an impact in the agriculture industry.
SC: What are you most proud of related to your venture(s)?
AH: Our B-Corp Certification is a big one for me! It was a really stringent process that took two years to secure. There are only about 3,500 businesses around the world that meet these standards based on social and environmental impact. There are a ton of aspects to the certification and I am really proud of how hard we worked to get it.
SC: Tell us about your biggest hurdle – what was it and how did you persevere through it?
AH: My biggest hurdle was being pregnant and having a child right in the middle of running my high-growth startup. We have existed as a company for just four years and my son is 14 months old, so for two of those years I was really on maternity leave. It was definitely a hurdle. Being a female founder who wanted a great career but also really wanted to start a family was a huge decision to make because you do need to take time off from your business.
It sounds like a strange hurdle to overcome, but I think it is a really important topic to talk about as a lot of women do worry about it. When I was establishing the company I knew this was something I needed to plan for and that I wasn’t going to be present for certain growth periods of the business.
SC: What has your biggest learning been along the way?
AH: I would say hiring people – people smarter than you – sooner than you think you will need them. You can get stuck in working in the business versus on the business. So hire people to do other parts of the business that will help it grow and know you can’t do it all yourself.
SC: What drives your motivation when things get tough?
AH: 100% my staff. I really value my staff and I work hard to keep them happy. Every time things get tough I think to myself ‘I don’t want to lose a staff member and I want to see them happy’ and that makes me push through adversity. So really just making sure the team feels taken care of and that they want to keep working hard for the company.
SC: Where can people go to learn more about your journey and organization?
AH: They can go to our website www.drizzlehoney.com or we are available on all social media channels at @drizzle_honey.
SC: What is your ideal vision for Canada’s entrepreneurship community over the next 20 years?
AH: I would really like to see the community focus on exporting. Canada has a really amazing group of startups and entrepreneurs and we have access to incredible resources. So I think getting those incredible, high quality products out to the rest of the world will be very important over the next 20 years.
SC: What do you think today’s entrepreneurs should be focused on for a better, brighter future?
AH: Sustainability is important. Sustainability comes down to the ‘three P’s’: people, planet and profit. I think it is fairly obvious why we need to take care of our communities and the environment – because none of us will be around if we don’t work together to create a more sustainable lineup of companies across Canada.
Are you an avid supporter of Canada’s entrepreneurship community? Share Aja’s story or showcase your OWN entrepreneurial changemaker across social platforms with the hashtag #CheersToTheChangemakers!