Back in September, Andrew sat down with Jen and Aidan to talk about how it feels to look back on 10 years of Schoolhouse. Here’s part two of that interview, where the dynamic duo talk about raising their twin daughters Sadie and Asha; and how they manage to keep everything running smoothly while continuing to grow, innovate and inspire!
So, let me open with this – how on earth do you manage to raise twins while running a successful business?
Jen: My advice to anyone having twins or even those who plan to have two children (ie. if you had one and then decide you’re going to have two) is that you need BOTH partners helping out, both partners in the mix – right from the get-go. That way, there’s at least one parent per child (unless you have more than two; the more kids you have the more help you’ll need). You also need to learn to be gentle with yourself. You need to realize that you may have to set aside goals to get through the first little bit. The goal in the beginning is to survive.
Aidan: Exactly. It is important to lower your expectations, because your goals will end up being something like: I’m going to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water today. I’m going to shower at some point. I’m going to make sure that one of us actually makes a meal. And the truth is, while most nights we weren’t able to sit down for dinner together as a family; we still made sure that everyone individually ate a proper meal. That is really what it all comes down to.
Jen: Add a business to the equation, or any job/career for that matter, and it’s a matter of prioritizing what NEEDS to get done that day. It’s likely that nothing else beyond that will get done. And that’ll be the first year. But as your children start to get older, you’ll in turn start to find more time to get more done. It’s a matter of setting achievable, realistic daily goals that don’t stretch you too thin. Or, if it comes down to it, you hire a caregiver or someone to help take care of the children (in cases where you have a high-powered job that doesn’t allow for any wiggle room whatsoever).
Now that the twins are getting older, how does your day-to-day look? How do you manage online orders, market orders, and retail partner connections all across the Maritimes?
On top of that, how does it feel knowing that customers can access Schoolhouse in so many places now? Gosh, you can even get Schoolhouse products at the Halifax Stanfield airport before a flight!
Aidan: It is pretty amazing to be able to find our products in so many different spots all across the Maritimes! As an example, there’s no better feeling than leaving or coming back home after a long flight and having access to something gluten-free at the airport – it’s a game changer!
Jen: It was one of our goals from the beginning, and we’re so happy to see it becoming a reality!
Aidan: Honestly, we’ve been so focused on moving full-steam ahead, while also trying to be present, that we haven’t had a lot of time to look back on everything that has happened along the way. When we actually stop for a moment and reflect back on it all… you know, it’s pretty awesome. And then, to have also raised twins in the process. It was a lot of sleep deprivation, which is normal when starting a business, but twins made it an entirely new dynamic. I would actually love to look at a graph, a bar chart of the past 5 years… oh, we’re getting sleep, oh and then we had twins, back to no sleep. In fact, the first two years, it was easily two years of no sleep whatsoever.
Jen: It’s a different type of no sleep. At the very beginning before the girls came into our lives, you would have prayed for the kind of sleep we were getting. Sure, we’d work 20 hour days, but then it was quiet. You would accomplish things. You would get to sleep straight for 12 hours. At the time we kinda complained about it, but after you have children, you’re like “actually, that was pretty great.”
Children are just punishing, right… it’s just a punishing schedule. Oh, you only had 3 hours of sleep last night? Well, guess what. We’re going to go again for another 12 hours and maybe you’ll be lucky to get 3 hours again tonight. It’s a whole different level of sleep deprivation.
We got lucky, though. In the sense that we knew we wanted to have children. We got past the initial craziness of the Schoolhouse starting up. So, we were able to create systems. There was a year or so where we focused on putting systems and processes into place and then found the right staff. We were able to get to a place where we knew what was happening. We knew what we needed to sell. We knew what our contracts were. We knew where we wanted to move forward from there. We really got our hand on the rudder before we got pregnant.
Aidan: That’s so true!
Jen: So, in reality, that was really helpful. We could actually step back. We had systems in place, so that when we actually had the children, we were able to get help from family who then helped us run the business. We thought at first, we’ll have one baby and then we’ll just put the baby on our back and just keep going. We’re like, oh… that’s not going to happen. We’re having twins. Perhaps we really should consider taking a mat leave. Which, to be honest, was still only 5 months.
Aidan: Yeah, 5-6 months.
Jen: Still, I was like, we have to take some time. I think it’ll be impossible if we don’t. So, we decided to pull back, and we just barely survived.
Aidan: We just jammed along, tickety-boo, kept the train on the tracks as best as we could.
Wow, what a journey you’ve both been on! It’s a testament to how successful and beloved the business has become. 10 years later, customers from near and far are familiar with Schoolhouse.
With such a strong lineup of products ranging from the award-winning muffins to the incredibly popular vegan, gluten-free donuts – what is next? What can you tell us about new, innovative products that are currently in production?
Aidan: I’ll be honest, it all comes down to finding the time to focus on creating new products. I have so many lists, ideas, recipes… I even have a book full of stuff that I want to make. This past year, we’ve been able to put time back into becoming inspired again. We have more time to focus on our specific roles, which in turn has allowed me to find time to create weekly specials, to get that going again. Especially when it comes to coming up with new donut flavours, recipes to post on the blog. It’s allowed me to open that book again!
And I plan on opening that book again this fall. As some of you may have noticed, we introduced the new pumpkin base for our donut a few weeks back in line with Thanksgiving/Halloween, and the reception has been great! I’m also working on a killer version of a vegan power, superfood breakfast bar/cookie which sits somewhere between our granola, in terms of the ingredients, but it’s something you could eat anytime of day – super nutrient dense!
A few more ideas that I have been working on are:
- A whole wheat bun;
- A vegan bread/bun;
- Cake Specials:
- In particular, a salted caramel version of the Holy Cow! Cake with coconut cream , which would be vegan, as well!
- More new vegan, gluten-free donut flavours:
- One we’ve been playing around with… a Boston Cream variation that we know some folks have been asking for!
- New Christmas product packages and holiday specials;
- And so much more!
That’s it for Part 2, folks! I had a fabulous time sitting down with Jen and Aidan; I hope you’ve enjoyed following along, too! Keep it locked to the Schoolhouse blog for behind-the-scenes stories, recipes, stories/profiles on some of our favourite local businesses and so much more.
Thanks for being a friend of the Schoolhouse – until next time!
In health and happiness,