The Lives of Small Biz Entrepreneurs: Agata Siczek of Simple Pantry

For anyone who has ever uttered the phrase “I can’t cook!” this one’s for you.

Founded by Agata Siczek, Simple Pantry offers ready-to-cook one-pot meals in a jar. No matter what skill level you’re at, each jar contains simple and nutritious ingredients to be transformed into delicious soups or tasty treats. All you need to do is add one or two additional ingredients. It’s that easy!

A small biz with a mission to ensure everyone can enjoy a homemade meal, Simple Pantry is one of the featured vendors at the next (and season’s last) Leslieville Flea, happening October 14.

We caught up with Agata this week.

SDTC: Describe who you are and your biz.

I’m the owner/creator/foodie of Simple Pantry. Simple Pantry is ready-to-cook one-pot meals in a jar. It’s called Simple Pantry because my products are simple yet sophisticated, and anything you add into it can be easily found in your pantry, such as canned tomatoes. It’s for [those who are] intimidated by cooking or [people who don’t] have time to cook, or just anybody who wants a simple, healthy homemade meal.

When and why did you decide you wanted to work independently or begin a new venture?

I think deep down I’ve always wanted to work independently, but I never had the confidence to take that leap. Whatever I found myself doing professionally, I felt like I never really fit in. I found myself doing what others expected me to do, and it ultimately wasn’t making me happy.

In my twenties, I rediscovered cooking and it quickly became a passion of mine. Soon enough I had the idea that perhaps I could cook professionally, or—at the very least—incorporate cooking into my professional life somehow; however, I struggled with the idea of working in a sweaty restaurant kitchen and making minimum wage. I even went as far as doing stages in a few popular Toronto restaurants and hosted several successful cooking events at the Depanneur. I dabbled with different ideas and projects, and I met a lot of different people that inspired me and influenced who I am today.

As great as these experiences were, it wasn’t leading to something I wanted or something I could formulate into a future. I finally got to the point where I decided I wanted to create something. Whatever that thing was, I wanted it to be simple and easy for others to use. It all came down to my belief that everyone can cook. You don’t need professional training or fancy tools; you just need to know the basic skills, and if you’ve got that, you can work wonders in your kitchen. That’s why I encourage my customers to have fun and be creative with the jar recipes. Add some fresh ingredients to the recipe, or garnish the finished product with something special for a dish that’s sure to impress and be unique.

Where did you work previously or now?

The last ten years, I’ve been working in the corporate world. Currently I’m working full-time for a FinTech company in Etobicoke and part-time on Simple Pantry. With the holidays approaching, most of my weekends are now spent working, side hustling, or getting any R&R I can to start the next week fresh. It’s made me a bit anti-social and I want to work on that.

What was or will be the tipping point for you to turn your side hustle into a full-time reality? 

I suppose the tipping point will be when I have enough jar orders and administrative work to fill my weekdays and sacrificing my weekends just won’t do any more. It’s hard to say, because this is my first year and I’m going through a lot of learning still. I know I have a lot of successes (and I’m sure a few failures) ahead of me. I suppose when that tipping point comes, I’ll just know, and I’ll be pretty proud!

Surrounding myself with other artisans and getting involved with markets like the Leslieville Flea has been a huge inspiration and gets me excited about creating my products every time. I won’t lie, when you have a business or side hustle on your shoulders, there can be some dark days. The best boost I can get is seeing how other artisans in my community are doing it. It’s like a breath of fresh air.

My hope for the future is that I’ll have steady online and retail sales, and I’ll have created a name for myself and Simpe Pantry around the GTA. 

Follow Simple Pantry on Instagram.

The Leslieville Flea is a curated flea market in Toronto’s east end. This popular market attracts entrepreneurs who are making their dream job a reality. Whether it’s a side hustle or a full-time gig, the Leslieville Flea applauds the courage of the small biz entrepreneur! The last outdoor Leslieville Flea for 2018 takes place on October 14 at Ashbridge Estate from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For all the details, go here.

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