startGBC is celebrating the 2021 Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) global programming this November. We celebrate our George Brown College entrepreneurs all year long, but in the spirit of this special feature for GEW, we present a power duo of Alumni Entrepreneurs. For this month’s Spotlight – we are proud to introduce – Karen Barbalat and Alexandre Herber. Alex and Karen are the Co-Founders of Boundless Bars – superfood nutrition bars made with 7 Organic ingredients and amazing EcoPackaging.
About Karen & Alex
Karen Barbalat: Chef, Certified Nutrition Manager and Food Entrepreneur. Karen has spent years perfecting her culinary craft and skills while being involved in multiple food start-ups. The mastering of Boundless Bars’ Original recipe is the result of Karen’s love of food, fitness and nutrition. She started with some friends and a dream and together they would form Boundless Bars Inc.
Alexandre Herber: Growing up, dinner time was always spent with family. My mum was a chef back in Ireland and my father was from France – so food and meal times were obviously a big deal at my house. When deciding what I wanted to study in tertiary education, I knew that ingenuity and creativity were my strong suits and started out studying industrial design, however, it never fully sat right with me. George Brown College is where I found my true calling and passion, Culinary Arts and Food Sciences. Learning the basics and equipping myself with a post-graduate in nutrition management, I knew I wanted to get into the development of new and healthier food products. During my final year of study, I was fortunate enough to appear on an episode of CBC’s Marketplace regarding food processing and manufacturing. Learning the truth about products I was buying off my local grocery store’s shelves – I knew I would not be the only person to want change. After graduation, I had worked line cook jobs and banquet chef positions furthering my knowledge of the hospitality industry and Canadian foodservice. My ultimate break came when I became the Lead Product Developer at an airline provisioning company. In January of 2020, as airlines began feeling the beginnings of the soon-to-be Covid-19 Global Pandemic, I lost my job and found myself struggling to find work. That was when Karen and I began talking more in-depth about what would now become Boundless Bars. Finally, as I have realized, my product developer education and proved that I can do this. Any future brands I work on will always build upon what I have learned, accomplished and ultimately what I would actually want to eat.
Karen has over 16 years of culinary, food production and development experience. She is a certified Red Seal Chef and Nutrition Manager with the CSNM (Canadian Society of Nutrition Management), completed at George Brown College – Chef School.
Alex graduated from George Brown College in Culinary Management and Food & Nutrition Management – Post Graduate Diploma programs
What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
Karen: Entrepreneurship stems from being an unrelenting problem solver, trying to solve my own problems. Like any other authentic company, Boundless Bars was created to solve a pain point for individuals. Additionally, I’m also dedicated to exploring and developing a better future with a mission to substantially and positively impact the future of work, health, food, and philanthropy.
Alex: My change of circumstances made me see what I actually wanted to do; create better, less processed foods for Canadians.
Why did you create your business?
Karen: We’re on a mission to bring something to the consumer packaged goods market that resonates with a new generation of consumers who care about the quality of food they put into their bodies that also considers the environment. 100% compostable or BUST – only the best environmental solution possible for single use packaging!
Alex: It allowed me to reach my personal goals and create the job that I have always been working towards. Also, the need to work during the lockdown was a motivator in seeking out this opportunity to start something new.
What successes have you enjoyed so far with building your company?
Karen: We’ve enjoyed success on our e-commerce platform where you can find our products at www.boundlessbars.com, we ship boxes direct to consumer, Ontario wide! We are in specialty grocery stores, coffee shops and gyms around Toronto and the GTA as well. We are not only good for you, but good for the planet and society in a number of ways too, which I consider business success. With compostable packaging and 1% of our profits being sent directly to the Amazon Rainforest via ICFCanada to aid in global conservation and the protection of indigenous peoples who live there.
Alex: I think every day is a success – every day that you spend chasing your dreams is another day’s compounded interest of working towards your goals. I will say though, seeing your product on a few grocery store shelves though – that does feel pretty cool.
What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
“Be unapologetic in the pursuit of your vision, take calculated risks, and be persistent.” – Karen Barbalat
“Just do it, ask questions, build your network, talk to people and immerse yourself into whatever it is that you want to do – you’ll find your path. Trust your gut and know that bad days happen, learn from them and keep going.” – Alex Herber