This week, we want to introduce our member Carol Rybinski. As well as being one of our valued members, Carol is a former member of the advisory group for our Rural Women’s Business Centre and now sits on our Board of Directors as an active advocate for PEIBWA.
Name of Business: Tyne Valley Teas Café and West Country Cottages
What kind of work did you do in the past and what inspired you to start your own business?
My mother owned a thriving B&B in Montreal, and I was always drawn to the idea of hospitality and making great food for visitors. We also always had a huge garden, and grew veggies, flowers and herbs. At University in Montreal, living on my own in a wonderful foodie city with farmers markets in the neighborhood, I learned to cook with a wide variety of fresh, local ingredients and ethnic flavors. When my husband and I made the decision to move to PEI, we were so excited about the availability of local seafood, beef, poultry and veggies. I loved the idea of opening a Café but didn't think I could do that. My plan was to open a B&B, but as time went by, and as much as we loved the dairy bars, burgers and fries all summer long, it just wasn't cutting it. So, I decided to take a huge leap of faith toward my need for a fun, relaxed place to eat fresh healthy foods. It took a few years to get to that point, and after many renovations, I opened the Café in 2016.
How long have you owned your business?
I opened July 1st, 2016.
What have your challenges been? How did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge was my absolute lack of experience in business and the restaurant industry. The first two or three years were really all about me learning - online and in person, through seminars and courses offered by local associations. I learned through my own mistakes too - when you're off the beaten path, you must market, market, market. I also sought expert advice from bookkeepers and accountants. I went to every online and in person business training courses I could to learn human resources management, bookkeeping, accounting, social media marketing, inventory management, and pricing. The P.E.I Business Women's Association and the CBDC have been vital to me accessing information and learning these skills.
What have your successes been?
I've found a niche in healthy meals, and special events. I've had fun catering for many bands at the Rock the Boat Music Festival, a film company, and have recently gotten into Wedding Cakes and Wedding Cupcakes, where I can really play and be creative.
Any unexpected surprises?
I've been happy to see that folks love the tea leaf and tarot card reading on the days they are offered. That's been fun. More and more people are coming to the café for vegan and gluten free options, and take-out picnics.
What services does your business provide?
We offer breakfast and brunch, and light lunches in the restaurant. Take-out is available too. We also do Fancy Afternoon Teas by reservation and can turn that into a Fancy Afternoon Picnic. We cater lunches and suppers as well as weddings. This year we are partnering with other tourism operators to offer picnics-to-go with their experiences.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
How we stand apart at the Teas Cafe is that we don't deep fry anything and our desserts are made from scratch. We serve wonderful eggs and bacon breakfasts - including a whopping breakfast poutine with roasted potatoes. We also have lots for fresh salads, healthy bowls and wraps. We have a good selection of both gluten free and vegan menu items, which have become very popular. In our small village of Tyne Valley there are four restaurants, but we all manage to offer great food and experiences in our specialty. We don't have to compete, as we all offer something different, and I think we turn Tyne Valley into a hub to come visit.
What areas do you serve?
Our restaurant is open seasonally from May to October, though we can cater year-round. We have guests who visit from Stratford and Charlottetown to Summerside and Tignish. It's a beautiful place to visit - and well worth a scenic drive!
How can people contact you?