Manitoba

Mother-daughter team grow much more than their muesli business

A home-made muesli recipe has blossomed into a growing family business that's just as much about personal growth as it is profitability.

A home-made muesli recipe has blossomed into a family business that's just as much about personal growth

Susan and SuLi Burak show off their booth at the South Osborne Farmers' Market, where they sell their prairie-themed Muesli every second Wednesday. (Cory Funk)

It's more than just a business when you see a mother-daughter team slinging muesli at South Osborne Farmers' Market on Wednesday afternoons. 

SuLi Burak, 19, has Down Syndrome. Her mom, Susan Burak, wanted her to learn skills that come with running a business, like dealing with money and people. They call their business SuLi's Muesli. 

"If she never rides a bike or reads a text book or makes speeches, that's OK," Susan said. "But if she is happy and can get along well with people, that is our goal in parenting her. This market venture is just one more step in our desire to do that for her."

SuLi is bullish on her mom, too. "She's a nice mom," SuLi told CBC News. "She helps me every day." 
 

'A family business'

Muesli has been described as un-toasted granola, made with raw rolled oats and other rolled grains. The idea for a muesli business came from Susan's twin sister, Sally Nelson, who earned raves from family members for her home-made recipe.

Sallly always wanted to see how her muesli would do in the wider market, and her business dream jived well with Susan's parenting plan.

"I was looking for ways for SuLi to interact with the community, which I think is good for the community and I think is good for her," Susan said. "We were not finding that sort of thing available, so we decided to create it ourselves."

Together, the three women now run the enterprise, selling their prairie-themed muesli every second Wednesday at the South Osborne Farmers' Market. 

Susan and her husband, JP Burak, adopted SuLi when they were living and working in Malaysia. She was 19-months-old at the time. 

"She became our forever daughter at that point in our lives," she said. "It's been a journey, but I'm so glad that we made that choice."

SuLi holds a bag of the finished product. (Submitted by Sally Nelson)

Sweet success

SuLi's Muesli has only set up shop at the market four times since the summer began but the trio is already seeing growth.

"We're really happy with the sales," Susan said. "We're going to have to see how far we can take this." 

They've had some invitations to set up at other markets, and SuLi's been steadily building her money and people skills, Susan said.  

SuLi does a lot of the packaging and labelling, and, as she works her way towards a raise, she's saving up to visit her brother in British Columbia.  

"We're teaching her the values of using her head, being thoughtful about what she's doing … and being cheerful with a great attitude," Susan said. "That's what we're seeing." 

While SuLi helps sell muesli at the market, she does a lot of the back-end work as well. (Submitted by Sally Nelson)

SuLi has five other siblings who also chip in with the muesli business. 

While the company's name might suggest that SuLi's the head honcho, she's got a few rungs to climb yet before she reaches the top of the corporate ladder.

"What do we call auntie Sally?" Susan asked SuLi. 

"Boss," SuLi replied, giggling. 

About the Author

Cory Funk

Associate Producer

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Cory cut his teeth as a business and politics reporter in Halifax before moving home to join CBC Manitoba's current affairs team. He's also lived, worked and studied in Ottawa and St. John's. You can email him at cory.funk@cbc.ca or message him on Twitter @CoryJFunk.