Written by Jim Barber
Originally published by Quintevation.com
A passion for food and a desire to operate their own business led to sisters Victoria and Paula Watts to forming a unique entrepreneurial endeavour that combines the best of their tradition-inspired recipes with a multifaceted sales platform which sees their creations being enjoyed far and wide, as well as by discriminating palates within the Bay of Quinte Region.
The success of the business has been impressive and has encouraged an ambitious expansion program that will see Pasta Tavola able to spread its delicious wares far and wide, as well as becoming an even more popular ‘go to’ locale for impeccable food choices for individuals and families with discriminating palates.
“We now have a much larger processing facility. We have added nearly 1,000 square feet of space so that we can increase our capacity and productivity. We had been working at capacity for a while and really needed to make the jump to push the business to the next level. A priority was to find the right machinery for our needs. Now that we have done that, it will allow for more output and more efficiency, so that we can push more product out. We also upgraded our refrigeration; we now have a nice sized walk-in fridge and freezers which, again, increases our efficiency and improves our processes,” Victora Watts explained.
“Being in our new facility, with upgraded machinery and refrigeration has allowed us to fine tune our food manufacturing processes. When we set up the production facility, we wanted to lay that foundation for future growth, which would also allow us to pursue certain food certifications that would be necessary to help us reach new markets. Ultimately, the goal of all of this planning and work is to lower the costs for our retailers and the final end user, thus allowing us to reach more people.
“We are excited about our potential as this next stage does give us more capacity to absorb more sales growth. The biggest lesson we have learned through all this is that while everybody wants to grow, that growth needs to be well thought out and done in stages, strategically.”
Pasta Tavola opened its doors more than six years ago at 109 Front St. in Belleville, and has developed a burgeoning clientele of both walk-in, restaurant, catering and retail clients – the latter of which continues to grow throughout many regions of the province.
“We learned how to make good food with simple ingredients, often from our gardens, like our mother and Nonna, so that was our inspiration. We have both lived in big cities and had a sense of what we wanted to bring to a community and fresh food was really important to us. So we opened a little outlet and basically started making fresh pasta and trays for restaurants and catering or to take home. Around year two or three we started developing customers in Kingston and then Ottawa and into some of the grocery stores,” said Watts.
The recipes for the pasta dishes and uncooked pasta varieties continue to be inspired by the family dinner table (hence the business name, with the word tavola meaning table), with a fundamental belief in the importance of fresh, local, natural ingredients and flavourful concoctions.
“Our products are really high quality, hand crafted and just delicious. We are well above the industry standard in terms of things like filling to pasta ratio. And these aren’t our Nonna’s recipes per se, but they are inspired by her and by our mother and that wonderful food you would get at Italian family gatherings. At times we would talk to our mother and aunts and ask how certain things were made, or what special ingredients went into a certain dish but, for the most part, the recipes are of our own creation,” she said.
The expansion also included a complete revamp of Pasta Tavola’s website – a crucial step to go along with the increased productivity.
“I have a newfound respect for people who build websites because that was about three months of intense work just developing content. It was important for us to really get the right messaging out and to really tell the story of who we are and what we do. A lot of people don’t know everything that we do. We have our shop and that’s what is visible to our community but there was the entire wholesale component, where we’re partnering with Metro and Sobeys and Whole Foods and all these specialty grocery stores outside of Belleville. We needed potential retail customers and our area consumers to have all the information about what we do so that both areas of the business can grow,” Watt explained, adding that Pasta Tavola has brought in a sales professional to help source out new clients and build the wholesale aspect of the business even more.
“It allows us as the owners to not always necessarily be in the business. It allows us the chance to do other things that will develop the business. We are really focussed on growing the wholesale side of the business, so we hired someone to help us do that because we want to keep moving our markets east, towards Ottawa, but we also want a co-ordinated approach to broadening our market west.
Victoria said she always had an appreciation for the hard work, dedication and risk-taking nature of entrepreneurs. It’s a respect that has only deepened since starting Pasta Tavola.
“Sometimes you feel alone doing a small business and I just appreciate the positivity and optimism of so many of the entrepreneurs in this area, as well as from the QuinteVation people. It’s recognition of the fact that being an entrepreneur is a hard road to follow. Small businesses are really the backbone of community economies. And for us, we see this business as more than just a way for my sister and I to be successful. We also want it to be successful for our employees who have lives and families and hopes and dreams too. We support them. They rely on us to be successful and we don’t take that responsibility lightly,” she said, adding that she and Paula are always looking for new and exciting ways to grow the business, and are not content to rest on their laurels.
“We are always looking at innovative ways to get better. I think we have some exciting new things on the horizon. We’re always looking at research and development and there’s always something happening, so we’re very excited about what the future holds for us.”