Escaping the rat race: Ex-accountant starts Toronto's deKEFIR kefir shoppe

Teresa Chang wanted a change.

I spent seven years as an accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, moving from junior staff to senior associate to manager. I was on my way up to director when I began thinking about how I contribute to people’s lives. A project that saves a client money or CRA hassle is an accomplishment, but I still felt there was something missing.

My friend Valerie Choy, who I’ve known since we were teenagers, had worked in food development before moving into marketing and was also thinking about what else she might like to do with her career. Valerie is passionate about food additives and wanted to work with a natural product. “What about kefir?” she asked. It’s this really tangy, sour dairy product, a bit like yogurt, that both our moms made at home. Valerie pointed out that Torontonians are very multicultural and open-minded when it comes to food. Plus, kefir is really healthy. I thought OK, maybe this has a chance.

We spent a year and half researching before deciding on Toronto’s underground PATH network for our location. I knew it was where conversation takes place, where people meet their friends to chat for 10 minutes. When we opened DeKefir two years ago, we made sure to have in-store seating to foster that culture. Many of our regular customers bring someone new every time they come. I like that we’re introducing people to this healthy snack that tastes awesome. They’ll say, “Are you sure the calorie count is really that low? This tastes too good.” Once we’re sure this location can run on it’s own, we’ll open a second.

(Photo: Daniel Ehrenworth)