Breanne Sich, Mealshare’s vice president of marketing, discusses how she got into the business of helping others.

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Community and collaborations have been the backbone of my networking endeavors since I first moved to Calgary in 2011. It has always been on top of mind, and woven into every initiative I take on, and for a simple reason – I believe that when you show up for other people, they will show up for you.

My journey with Mealshare started back in 2014 when I applied to be a Marketing intern in Calgary. I was currently finishing my BCOMM in Marketing, and my minor in sociology at the University of Calgary. Upon moving to Calgary, I decided I wanted to be out and involved in the community as much as possible – to meet new people, to give back, and to figure out my way around this new, large city. I quickly started volunteering at multiple charities– Big Brothers Big Sisters, Alberta Health Services, Ronald McDonald House, Leftovers Food Rescue, and more, and was working as a server for a large Calgary restaurant group. To say I had free time would have been a lie.

At that point in my life, I was new to the city, new to the not-for-profit seen, and hungry to learn how I could make an impact. I spent hours of my week commuting to and from volunteer activities, linking up with university clubs and teams, and trying to understand how one person could get the most out of a city. I understood the value of putting my time to good use (and yes, I did miss out on some of the “traditional” university experiences one might have, but I don’t regret it) I wanted to create a foundation for myself to build off once I had graduated and was out in the ‘real’ world.

Before I go further, for those of who you aren’t familiar, Mealshare is a social enterprise aimed at ending youth hunger. We partner with local restaurants and local charities in each community that we are in and operate on a simple ‘Buy one, Give one’ model to provide meals to youth in need. It gives the restaurant, and the guest, an opportunity to turn their dining out, into helping out. Joining their program meant I was combining my passions together. I loved the hospitality industry, I loved volunteering, and I was revelling in everything marketing-related.

When I officially got hired on with Mealshare I felt confident and comfortable in my ability to lead as a community leader, and was ready to submerge myself into the meetups, networking events, city pop-ups, and industry trends that I had been so diligently studying and watching from the side-lines. I immediately made a marketing and strategy plan, that barely touched on any financials – unless you are counting time as a form of currency. My plan was intricately laid out so that I would be at multiple events, markets, and meetups for the position – not only because I believed that would help our brand awareness, but because I believed that in order to be a part of the community, you needed to be a part of the community. I wanted to know the people in my industry, I wanted to learn from mentors, I wanted to introduce people to this amazing program and how they could get involved- and selfishly I wanted to make friends.

Breanne Sich

Fast forward to today, Mealshare has provided over 5 million meals to youth in need. We have created a community of partners that work together to make sure kids are getting fed across the globe and are 1200 partner restaurants & counting. I made my way from Community Leader to VP of Marketing for Mealshare, and we grew our team of 4 to a team of 15+.

For the first few months of Mealshare, you can bet that I was at every farmer’s market, food truck event, not-for-profit meet-up, fundraising initiative, restaurant dinner series, and more. The days were long. The workload was piling up. But the network of individuals I was connecting with was outstanding. I am even hesitant to call it networking at that point– it was more than that, it was relationship building. Yes, there were a lot of in-person meetings that could have been phone calls or emails. And there were quite a few meetings that never resulted in much more than a singular introduction, but stemming from all of this, we started to see the Calgary Mealshare program take life. More restaurants were wanting to join our cause. More people were understanding the concept. More volunteers and advocates were reaching out on how to get involved, and Mealshare was starting to get noticed by the chamber of commerce, news stations, and industry leaders around Alberta. And I was meeting the type of people I wanted to be surrounded by – changemakers, community investors, and people who I can call my best friends today. By the end of 2014, Mealshare had about 20-30 restaurants in Western Canada – Calgary leading the charge and had provided close to 10,000 meals.

Not after long, Mealshare and I were getting invited to speak at schools, universities, charitable conferences, marketing conferences, and more. I naturally said yes to everything, and took it on as a valuable experience. As you probably noted, the ripple effect kept happening. You would head to an event, meet more wonderful people who were genuinely interested in what Mealshare and I had to say, and how we could work together to make Calgary a more outstanding city. Simultaneously while this was happening, Mealshare kept growing. Calgary was leading the charge with close to 50 restaurants and tripling our meals provided. More events, more coffee meetings, more connections, more connecting – more impact and more meals provided to kids in need. The process was long, and it was definitely made for an extrovert, but the community of individuals with who you could now interconnect together, introduce to one another, or link up with was so strong and powerful. I felt like I went from knowing zero people in a city of over a million, to really knowing thousands of people in like-minded industries – all who wanted to help make a difference or keep the wheel turning.

Behind the scenes, there was also a lot of support happening from our team – who is still small and mighty, but we were all working hard to get our processes put in place as we continued to scale our program across the country, figure out our branding and terminology, charity partners and payments, and everything in between. Mealshare quickly started leading the charge in charitable marketing as well – showcasing the versatility of the program, the simplicity of the concept, and highlighting the amazing restaurants and partners involved. We kept growing our network of amazing restauranteurs, sponsors, advocates, and the like and quickly hit our millionth meal in November of 2016. At that point, I knew I wanted to continue my career with Mealshare, and transition from being a Community Leader – to being on the Leadership team.

Fast forward to today, Mealshare has provided over 5 million meals to youth in need. We have created a community of partners that work together to make sure kids are getting fed across the globe and are 1200 partner restaurants & counting. I made my way from Community Leader to VP of Marketing for Mealshare, and we grew our team of 4 to a team of 15+. 

I attribute my success to my team’s success. There was never a moment where you couldn’t rely on one another, ask for help, or have them in your corner cheering you on. As hard as I was working, they were doing just the same – but in another market, and in some cases, more. Our partner restaurants always went above and beyond to make our program look good, educate their guests, and volunteer with us. Our charity partners never stopped amazing us with what they could accomplish and achieve and reminded us always that what we are doing matters. 

Our volunteers and advocates showed up for us when we needed help, and kept our momentum going – always, and at every event. Our sponsors have helped us grow immensely – to the point of allowing us to scale up our team, and to scale up our impact across the country.

My other main takeaway for how I feel I made it in this industry would be attributed to showing up for your community, taking the time to meet new people, connecting others together, and appreciating the relationships you have cultivated. Taking the time to reconnect and nurture those relationships to the point they are effortless – you are strong friends, you are excited to hear about what they are up to, and they are a part of your community. It has been an amazing experience through and through and has made me into the leader I am today.