PORT HOOD: As president of Galloping Cows Fine Foods, Joanne Schmidt knows a thing or two about success in the business world, and that entrepreneurial spirit was complimented recently as she was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Network (EDN).
“It was a real sense of accomplishment, and I guess it was timely in a way,” Schmidt said. “It was time to talk about the road we’ve been on with this injury. Things like this happen to people, and they happen to people with businesses too.
“It’s important to remember that people with disabilities contribute in a lot of ways,” she said.
Schmidt’s business success has been well-documented, as Galloping Cows is a brand that started on Justin Road in Port Hood but has reached all the way into the aisles of Sobeys, Foodland, and Co-op – and even further than that. The jams and spreads that are a hallmark of Galloping Cows have been included in ‘swag bags’ for numerous celebrity award shows, including the Academy Awards.
What’s not so well-known is that, for the last 11 years, Schmidt has suffered with a brain injury resulting from a car accident in the Whycocomagh area.
“I wanted to keep it to myself because I had a few bad experiences in business with it right after the accident, and that kind of left a bad taste in my mouth,” she said.
“It was a multi-vehicle accident, and the kids were with me,” she said. “It was a nice normal day. We had gone to a gift store, and we were stopped in traffic. Another car came up behind us, didn’t see us, and rammed us. My seat broke upon impact.
“I had a lot of great doctors over the years,” she said, noting the physicians and nurses at Inverness Consolidated Memorial Hospital couldn’t have treated her better.
She had doctor visits outside the area as well, but she said local health care personnel were always wonderful to her.
“It took a village for me.”
After the accident, Schmidt and her family – husband Ron and kids Courtney and Frank — were left mulling over what to do with the business. They consulted with a number of doctors and business people, and no one was giving them especially positive news. Shutting the business down was on everyone’s mind, even though the business was the Schmidts’ only source of income. The business had been in operating for 12 years before the accident.
“Only one person told us that you have to keep going,” Ron said. “He told us that you have to have something to get out of bed in the morning.”
Similar advice came from professionals at the brain rehab centre. Doctors there told Joanne to keep her brain engaged as a form of therapy, as it would help both the healing and appraising the extent of the damage.
Having her family help run Galloping Cows was a major help. Both Ron and their children were ready to lend elbow grease, and the same could be said of her parents, Annie and A.J. Beaton. Joanne’s injury resulted in a slight remodeling or responsibilities, making for a better business all around, Joanne said.
Only a couple years after Joanne’s accident did Galloping Cows manage a major achievement. A phone call in early September brought with it news that a major distributor was ready to sell their product.
“It was a funny story,” Ron said. “Courtney was screaming, ‘Mom, Sobeys is calling.”
Courtney said she, her brother Frank, and a few of their cousins were in the shop when the call came through. It was the day before school started, she reminisced, and the kids were helping out with a few little things. Joanne joked that, with the number of young voices in the background, she had to explain to the Sobeys agent that there was no child labour in the production centre.
Having the product used in swag bags was another big step for Galloping Cows. The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) was the first award show to feature the Galloping Cows product. After that, Galloping Cows jams and spreads were enjoyed by celebs at the Golden Globes. Then came the Oscars.
With their product appearing at the Academy Awards, the Schmidts decided to attend the show, something they hadn’t done at TIFF or the Golden Globes. It was a great marketing opportunity, even though the trip was hard on Joanne. Loud music and glaring lights don’t do great things for migraine sufferers.
Having the opportunity to visit the show was a great memory, Joanne said. Also a great memory was the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Network awards ceremony that took place on April 11. Receiving her award was something she truly appreciates, she said, adding that she’s happy to spread the word about how people can succeed even though they suffer from brain injuries.
For anyone looking to find out more about Galloping Cows products, please visit gallopingcows.com.