From Columbia to Kelowna - Celebrating Popcorn & People
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Transforming Food & Lives
Transformation. It’s what Johanna Faccini thrives on. As a chemical engineer and serial entrepreneur in the food industry, she gets excited about trying new things, to learn, to grow, and to transform things into something new or different.
Johanna always wanted to own her own food processing business, so she was thrilled at the opportunity to purchase the Queen B Kettle Korn business in Kelowna in 2017. It was the right time, right price, and she had the technical and business background to get started.
She’s indicated that you can’t get more transformational than popcorn. Take little seeds, give some heat and the right conditions, and they turn into something completely different. It tastes different, smells different, and looks different. It’s a significant change.
And it’s fun! Johanna loves that popcorn is fun food. Even the sound of it popping is fun. It makes people smile and brings happiness while sharing with friends and family. And, it’s gluten free, high in fibre, and is very flexible to work in different flavours.
Columbia to Kelowna
Johanna’s food-related career started in Bogota, Columbia where she went to university to become a chemical engineer. As part of her practicum, she spent six months living in a camp in the jungle at a palm oil plantation, designing, building, and testing new equipment. After graduation, she worked for a French fries and potato chips company where she managed quality control of incoming produce and procedures.
With a passion for teaching, she was hired as an instructor for the agro-industrial engineering program at the university. She taught and supervised students on projects with food processing companies, and oversaw labs on how to process food – jams, jellies, palm oil, fruit dehydration, and the like.
Although she and her husband enjoyed leisure activities like hiking, camping, and fishing, it became too dangerous. In the late 1990s, it was no longer safe to pursue those interests with the increased pressures from the drug cartels, guerillas, and bombings in Columbia. So, they emigrated to Canada.
They landed in Vancouver and Johanna’s husband (a civil engineer) soon found a job opportunity in Kelowna. They fell in love with the area, and settled in to pursue a variety of self-employment ventures over the years, including combining their engineering credentials into a consulting agency.
Over twenty years later, they have a grown daughter and son, a happy life, many friends, and now Johanna is immersed in her fun popcorn business.
Queen B Kettle Korn is a small, but impressive operation. Johanna only needs two to three employees at most times and her first hires were immigrant women. Having been an immigrant herself, Johanna has a deep understanding of their challenges. She also volunteers at Kelowna Community Resources where they have many support programs including some for immigrants.
Each woman has a unique story and situation, and while all appreciate the opportunity for employment, it really is a chance to get settled in their new country. They meet new people, build long term relationships, and get friendly advice on everyday things like how to get a credit card or driver’s license. They value that Johanna has created a safe, flexible, and fun place to work.
With origins in Syria, Honduras, Columbia, and Chile, the ladies share their stories, celebrate their successes, and support each other in their struggles if they wish to share them. They talk a lot about their ethnic food, share recipes, and play music while being productive in Johanna’s business. This supportive culture helps them transform from a place of fear and uncertainty, to one of confidence and inclusion.
Queen B's Future
Naturally, Johanna wants to grow the company, not so much in size, but in improving all aspects of the company. That’s the engineer coming out in her. She still has capacity to increase production and perhaps hire one or two more people. What’s important to her is to grow slow and controlled, yet still maintain the safety and culture of the company.
From transforming tiny kernels of corn, and transforming immigrant women seeking a fresh start, Johanna humbly indicates she is not the queen in Queen B. Her employees who make things happen are the real queens.
Farm Food Drink is very proud and honoured to work with people like Johanna Faccini. Our motto is “Doing good work, for good people, doing good things”. It could have been written specifically for her.
To learn about some of our client projects, check out our website.