Many entrepreneurs will tell you that what they are doing now is not what they initially set out to do. Making major career changes, even mid-career or late-career, can often lead to more satisfying and successful outcomes. That’s what our series The Pivot is all about. Every month, we talk to founders, business leaders, and entrepreneurs about how and why they changed course and found success in an entirely different industry. Here we talk to Bodhi Valentine, the founder of Vancouver-based Burgerland Smash Up.
In 2015, I moved from my hometown of Vancouver to St. Louis, Mo., to work for a company that was developing a smart thermostat. That job took me all over the United States and I became obsessed with trying all the regional burgers. In Oklahoma, they make a cheeseburger with fried onions that made me cringe when I first tried it. In Missouri, I was introduced to the guberburger, which is dressed with peanut butter and pickles.
When I was in the United States, I made more money than I ever had in my life, but I felt miserable and exhausted. After two years, in 2017, I moved back to Vancouver and started doing freelance marketing and web design. When the pandemic started, I saw that everyone was baking bread and making cookies. I thought to myself: “What is my bread? What are my cookies? People were making meal kits, so I thought, “How about a burger kit?” I wanted to specialize in flattened burgers, the original technique for cooking burgers that is currently having a renaissance.
Before long, opportunities presented themselves to me. In February 2021, I rented a kitchen space near Strathcona Park so I could test recipes. I partnered with local suppliers, who helped me source organic, grass-fed beef with the perfect fat ratio and grind.
we launch burgerland smash in May of that year. We offered three burger kits: Classic American Cheese, Oklahoma Fried Onion and Cheese, and California Up-and-Down, which is my take on the In-N-Out burger. Kits are $40 and include everything you need to make four burgers at home. In our first month, we only sold 150 kits, but received a lot of positive feedback.
I rented a trailer, and that summer and fall I did pop-ups at breweries and Keefer Yard, a beer garden with tents and a miniature golf course. Things built from there. I started out serving burgers at the Main Street Brewery seven days a week, and also took over their small kitchen, where we made regional sausages: chorizo, bratwurst, wieners, and hot dogs. I hired a butcher and we were butchering, grinding and stuffing our own meat and cooking it in a tiny oven. It was much more difficult than I expected. In March, both my butcher and I contracted Covid, so I temporarily closed the sausage brand. Fortunately, the burger trailer was still doing brisk business. We were making $30,000 a month, including $10,000 to $15,000 in revenue just from Uber Eats and Door Dash orders.
I recently bought a new food truck and was able to go back to the little Main Street kitchen with our butcher. We are back and running.