A Vancouver Island business is celebrating two finalist positions in the 2021 Small Business BC Awards.
Justo’s Craft Dips is a finalist in categories Best Youth Entrepreneur and Premier’s People’s Choice. The Victoria-based vegan craft dip company was born in the spring of 2019 and launched operations at the end of that year, on the edge of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I started creating different types of sauces and different types of dips and I ended up bringing them to all different types of parties and potlucks,” said 24-year-old Justin Kopetzki, CEO and co-owner. “People really started enjoying them … it transformed over time into a little Instagram page where I would go out and deliver to friends and friends of friends.”
From there, Kopetzki and co-owners Eric Taccogna and Adam Conlin – all under 25 – started using a commercial kitchen and selling the dips at farmers markets. With funding from Futurpreneur Canada – a non-profit that provides financing and mentoring to new entrepreneurs – the trio ordered jars.
About a year and a half later, the dips are sold in about 40 stores around Vancouver Island.
“It’s definitely been a little crazy, starting a business throughout COVID,” Kopetzki said. “But it’s been pretty cool to see that kind of support from the community.”
The dips are packed in reusable glass jars and made almost entirely from Canadian products, two commitments forged within the company’s focus on sustainability and community. The dips come in flavours like ‘Truffle’d Up Hummus’ and Mango Jalapeno Salsa.
They’re now planning to expand business into Vancouver.
“It’s been kind of a whirlwind of a year and half to figure out how to run a business,” Kopetzki said. “I guess confidently winging it is how we described it.”
For every jar purchased, one serving is donated to local shelters and community kitchens.
“Establishing a super positive and happy culture within our employees has been a huge thing for us,” he said. “Really (we’re) just trying to like shine positivity throughout our entire business practices. If we succeed, the community succeeds, because you know, there will be more and more donations that will go out to the people who need it most.”
Now, out of more than 900 nominees for the Small Business BC Awards, the company is one of 20 to make it as a finalist – twice – thanks to votes from the public.
“I think it really shows true to how supportive and how amazing the people who do know us are and they’ve really gone to bat for us to be in this position that we’re in,” he said.
Winners receive $1,500, a short video shot by a professional crew, and access to Small Business BC services. Winners will be announced over the course of a three-day virtual gala from May 4 to May 6.