Jasmine Baker has become Toronto’s go-to source in food and entertainment. She put creative events on the map in the city managing Toronto’s biggest landmarks like The Drake Hotel, The TIFF Bell Lightbox, Lobby and NSC Gallery. She now feeds tens of thousands of people at exclusive gatherings, celebrations and some of Canada’s largest music festivals like Field Trip, Boots & Hearts and WayHome Music & Arts, as the owner and operator of For the Love of Food!
Jasmine breaks down creative boundaries each and every day with her admirable work ethic, unwavering can-do attitude, and palpable commitment to food and people. If you’re looking for a breath of inspiration to leave the comfort cult behind and start a brand new journey as the leader of your personal and professional life, look no further.
Jasmine Baker is our October #TRUBOSS!
BT: Jasmine, prior to achieving entrepreneurial success, you had a fantastic run at The Drake Hotel as a the Director of Sales + Marketing. Did you ever have any trepidation about leaving it all behind to start your own venture and how did you know that it was the ‘right time’ to do so?
JB: This was a tough one. I had my dream job and a dream team but I knew I needed to grow in a different way and in order to do so, I would need to leave the “comforts of home”. The idea of leaving was incredibly scary, but I’ve always believed that nothing good comes easy. In the end it was the support of Jeff Stober, Bill Simpson and my wonderful Drake family that prepared me for this next step. They believed in me, so I took a leap and believed in myself. I can’t say I ever knew it was right but I knew I had to go for it.
BT: How much did you know about starting your own business when you launched For the Love of Food?
JB: I knew very little when I first started, I was very green. Thankfully Event Production requires very little upfront financial capital or development. It’s all about your knowledge, experience, creativity, reputation and relationships.
The one thing I knew from opening and running restaurants at a young age was to know what you don’t know and to invest in surrounding yourself with people talented people. People who’s skills sets compliment your own. What most people would invest in marketing, PR and or software systems, I invested in people. I hired some of the most talented people I knew: Tammi Taylor, Wynn Theriault & Shauna McConnell. Each of these dynamic women are incredibly talented, wicked smart and just crazy enough to join me on this wild ride. It isn’t common to spend money on building a team right out of the gate but I was confident the work would come and I wanted to have a rock solid team on the ready when it did.
BT: You, Wynn and Shauna have become the go-to’s for creating memorable food, beverage and hospitality experiences for a variety of functions. I’m amazed that your team of three can feed 40,000 people at music festivals like Wayhome, Field Trip and Boots & Hearts! Kudos to you all!! What would you attribute your success to?
JB: Haha, that’s great, thank you! Well first it takes a lot more then just the 3 of us to make it all happen – they say it takes a village and it does! We have the best suppliers in the biz who will literally do anything for us and we have been fortunate enough to attract some incredible talents over the past few years. Essentially I attribute our success to the strength of our relationships with incredible partners/suppliers and to the talent of all the amazing people we work with. We work with the best in the biz and together we get to do some pretty amazing things.
BT: Mistakes are bound to happen and it’s important that we look at mistakes as teachers because we can always learn something invaluable from each and every one of them. Can you recall a valuable mistake you made at the beginning of your career that taught you a valuable lesson in running your own business?
JB: I use to underestimate the time it takes to produce events. I would go in with a very clear idea of how much time it would take and how many staff would be needed to produce an event BUT then when it came time to discuss our proposal with our client, I would let them talk me down. I would reduce labour and the fee based on promises that they would take on some of the work or that it wouldn’t be as involved I thought it would be. This happened a few times in the first two years. It would always result in me having to bring more staff on and pay more out of my own pocket to insure we executed to our standard (failure or half ass was never an option, regardless of how little the pay or great the investment on my part would be). These were expensive, yet valuable lessons. Through this I learned how to better communicate the work scope & what was required to achieve success. I learned that I know what it takes to do this work well and with that came the confidence to be able to show my clients the difference. No client wants you to have to have to dig into your own pocket or for you to do a lesser job because you aren’t set up for success. Your first task as an expert in any field will be to help your clients to understand what’s required for you to be able to do the job well.
BT: You’ve done a lot of traveling as an event specialist and culinary enthusiast – having toured Europe to taste the finer things in life! What has traveling taught you about food that you would not have known otherwise?
JB: Wow, sooo may things!
- That breaking bread is an art form and an age old tradition that should always be celebrated.
- The best food is made with love and simple ingredients.
- Everything tastes better with good quality butter and wine.
- You can taste the difference, a loved and cared for earth makes.
- Local food is the best food, anywhere in the world.
BT: Of all the incredible foods you’ve had in your career/lifetime, which would you say is your favourite – one that you dream of indulging on the hangriest of days?
JB: I’m sure you expected this… but I don’t have just one! It depends on the day, time of year, and my location in the world, but the one must have element is – it HAS to be made with love. Give me simple, honest food made with love and I am yours for life. I guess at the root of it, I’m a pretty simple gal 😉
BT: There isn’t a secret sauce to success but many successful women do have habits that stand out from others. What habits would you say contribute to your success?
JB: I am still searching for the secrets… BUT I would say something that has contributed greatly to our success is that we do everything through the spirit of hospitality. It’s not enough to simply create memorable hospitality experiences for the guests, we have to do it for our staff, our volunteers, our partners, our suppliers and our clients. To us hospitality is the art of anticipating someone’s needs before they even realize they have them. We aim to do this across the board.
BT: Who is your favourite female #Truboss and why?
JB: I have 3!
Barbara Hershenhorn – President, Party Barbara Co
Barbara is one of the most dynamic event producers I know. She trail-blazed this industry for all of us. I admire her creativity, elegance and follow through. She does everything so beautifully and she is someone I have always looked up to.
Angela Zaltsman – Principal, A to Z Event Management
Angela is a dear friend and someone I worked with over 20 years ago. She gave me my first management job, she pushed me hard and she set a standard that I love trying to reach. She’s an incredible role model, business woman and friend. She taught me the value of relationships and that your reputation is your greatest asset.
Debra Goldblatt – President, Rockit Promotions
I have watched Deb grow her business from a 1 woman show to a dynamic team of PR professionals over the last 15 years. She taught me the value of “we” and the power in celebrating your squad, colleagues and peers. She is a gracious and fierce leader who stands behind her team and is confident enough to give her competition compliments along the way.
BT: What kind of advice can you offer aspiring female entrepreneurs who are looking for a little push to launch their own business?
JB: Think big! The thing you want should and will be scary. Listen to and trust your instincts. Do your research. Do work you can be proud of, never pass off garbage as the “best you could do”. Anticipate the needs of your clients. Don’t be late, be early. Be kind and be appreciative. Share positivity, distinguish negativity. Value & protect your relationships. Maintain your integrity. Celebrate the achievements of others.
BT: At the end of the day, what kind of legacy do you want to leave behind as a self starter in the culinary world?
JB: I want to see people being paid fairly for the great work they are doing and for everyone to get out of a “fast food” mentality. Nothing good comes easy…or cheap. I hope that through the experiences and events that we help to create that more and more people will learn to value food and the incredible talents that are making it. We live in a world that still under pays and overworks hospitality professionals. We are losing great talent every day because of this. While we may not be the reason this is corrected, I hope we are at least a meaningful part of the movement that takes us past this. #LoveThyCook #LoveThyButcher #LoveThyGrower #LoveThyF&BManager #LoveThyDishwasher
BT: If your audience could use one word to describe you and For the Love of Food, what word would you want them to use?
“A person who lives life in the constant pursuit of great food, drink and open-minded adventure.”