During Black History Month, Invest Ottawa took some time to celebrate some of the local Black entrepreneurs from various industries who passed through their ecosystem, whether through the Digital Main Street or Starter Company Plus programs.
Well, May is Asian Heritage Month and, as a result, Invest Ottawa wants to celebrate some of the bold entrepreneurs and community leaders from Ottawa’s Asian community.
In the first article of Invest Ottawa’s Asian Heritage Month series we take a look at five local entrepreneurs who are adding some unique flavour to the food and beverage industry here in Ottawa.
Local graphic designer, Jessica Lim, joined the ranks of Ottawa’s food entrepreneurs in 2018 when she founded Hippie Mylk (spelled ‘mylk’ to differentiate plant‑based milk from animal‑sourced milk). Her company produces plant-based oat milk, an uncomplicated dairy‑free alternative, handcrafted with a base blend of organic Canadian oats, Ontario hemp hearts, and local maple syrup and made without artificial fillers, additives and preservatives.
“We believe that health begins with what you put in your body, and you shouldn’t have to compromise what you are eating just because you lead a busy life”, she explains. “That’s why our handmade oat milk is 100% natural and free from additives, fillers and carrageenan.”
An environmentalist at heart, sustainability is woven into the very fibre of the product. Aside from being made from local whole-food ingredients, Hippie Mylk is packaged in glass mason jars that can be exchanged using their zero-waste glass bottle refill program.
Jessica began her journey of making 100% natural homemade plant‑based milk in 2016 as a passion project out of her small apartment and quickly realized that making milk is both time‑consuming and difficult. Now based out of a commercial kitchen in Ottawa, her company was not only born out of her support for local and ethical plant-based agriculture, but a personal need.
Executive chef, Brian Vallipuram, is the founder of CoBrie Restaurant & Catering, named after his children Cody and Brianna.
The global traveller has over 40 years experience as an executive chef with stops at prestigious White Witch Restaurant at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Rose Hall, Jamaica; Panorama Resort in Panorama, British Columbia; and Grill 41 Restaurant located in the Lord Elgin Hotel here in Ottawa.
With everything he has learned working in kitchens across Europe, North America and the Caribbean, the Sri Lankan-born chef turned entrepreneur has developed a flair for international cuisine that’s all his own.
All of that led to him opening CoBrie Restaurant & Catering, inspired by “creativity, meeting people, international travel and my kids”, he explains.
What sets CoBrie Restaurant & Catering apart is not only their real fusion menu, but their approach to food prep with 90% of their items being prepared from scratch.
Prior to CoBrie, he opened Axcess Restaurant and Catering in Toronto, recognized as one of Toronto’s top ten fine dining restaurants, with his guests including notable celebrities and world leaders, from Prince and Steven Segal to Benjamin Netanyahu.
Christopher Lavelle is the proud owner of Sushi Umi in Wellington West.
The Ottawa native got bit by the restaurant bug very early as a young teppanyaki chef here in the capital before travelling to the United States as an aspiring chef. After travelling to New York to learn different aspects of the sushi business and start a few other businesses, including a produce stand and wholesale distributions company, he returned to Lowell, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, to open his own sushi restaurant.
After his time abroad in both the United States and Asia, he then decided to move back to Ottawa because he felt it was the best place to start a family and opened Sushi Umi in 2009 after seeing the growing popularity for pre-packaged sushi.
Today, the family-run Sushi Umi provides a “fresh only” alternative for the discerning sushi lover, including fresh tuna. Every piece of sushi is made upon order and customers can customize their order to their liking and it’s this level of service that keeps them going a dozen years later.
Jay S. Lim wears many hats. He’s an architect and the founder of local architecture firm 25:8 Architecture + Urban Design. He’s a teacher at Carleton University and Algonquin College teaching both design and building technology. He’s also the founder of the 5:2:8 Creative Coffee Collective, a haven for local coffee enthusiasts.
“The goal of the 5:2:8 Creative Coffee Collective is to bring the craft of coffee to enthusiasts in Ottawa. We wanted to provide variety to coffee lovers and serve as a counter-point to ‘double-doubles’ of big chain coffee stores”, Jay explains.
There’s also a community development mission to the collective, true to his other passions – architecture and urbanism.
“We wanted to revitalize the Centertown neighbourhood by introducing a place that would inspire creativity and become a venue for digital nomads.”
Every week they feature a different micro-roaster from across the globe serving a different coffee from that roaster throughout the week. This means their regular enthusiasts get the opportunity to try new flavours every day.
“It’s like a coffee subscription without the commitment of buying an entire bag.”
“We elevate roasters to the level of artists. We are aiming to bring coffee appreciation to that of wine or fine food. Majority of our coffee enthusiasts drink their coffee black in order to appreciate the flavours of the beans and the craft of the roasters.”
Bhavik Mistry // Beer Snacks International
Bhavik Mistry is the founder of Beer Snacks International which specializes in internationally inspired snacks. Flavours
include Sweet & Spicy Malay Mix (Malasia), Sweet Beer Nuts (Canada), Sichuan Peanuts (China), Jerk Mixed Nuts (Jamaica), Adobo Peanuts (Puerto Rico), and Greek Peanuts.
What sets their snacks apart are the interesting flavours, small batch production, beautiful packaging, and ingredients. All of Beer Snacks International’s products contain vegan ingredients with their spices carefully selected and ground in-house right here in Ottawa.
Bhavik came up with the idea for artisanal snacks while enjoying a Bicycle Craft Beer one evening in 2016. According to Bhavik himself, the company was born out of “simple desire for a delicious snack to enjoy with some delicious craft beer.”
Five years later, what started as a Christmas experiment has grown to a successful and still growing retail operation with its products available in select grocery stores, fine food retailers and breweries across Ontario.
This article is the first in a special Asian History Month series by Invest Ottawa.
About the Author
Kevin Bourne, also known as “KB The Boss” or simply “KB”, is an Ottawa-based media/entertainment entrepreneur, freelance journalist, and media personality.
The former political staffer is quickly becoming a staple in Ottawa and Canada’s cultural landscape as both a commentator and freelancer, appearing nationally on CBC News Network and locally on CTV, CBC Radio, CityNews, and 580 CFRA and having been published in ByBlacks, the Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Business Journal. Doubling as CEO of the PR and content marketing firm SHIFTER Agency Inc. and editor-in-chief at SHIFTER magazine, Kevin has covered some of Canada’s top red carpet events, from the Juno Awards to the Canadian Screen Awards and has interviewed everyone from Kevin Hart to “Fast and the Furious” star Tyrese Gibson. He is currently co-host of The Morning Shift, Ottawa’s daily hip-hop morning radio show on CHUO 89.1FM.
He is also a board member at the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition and the Ottawa Film Office and was recently named to the TEDx Kanata Leadership Committee and Ottawa Life Magazine’s Best of Ottawa: Activists & Changemakers list for 2020.
The Digital Main Street program helps small businesses impacted by COVID-19 to survive the pandemic and thrive in the new economy. Discover how the Future Proof program has helped small businesses thrive at Investottawa.ca.
A special thank you to the Government of Canada and specifically FedDev Ontario for making this program possible and enabling the team at Invest Ottawa to provide critical support to main street businesses when it is needed most.