Sometimes there really is nothing better than a walk on Martinique Beach to open your mind and figure out your life’s purpose. At least that’s what happened to Emma Kiley, the owner of the increasingly popular Uprooted Café and Market in Musquodoboit Harbour.
“It was October 3rd or 4th in 2014,” Kiley told the Cooperator. “I’d moved home from Ireland the previous year, and was living in my grandparents’ basement, wondering whether I should go to grad school, what I should do with my life. And I knew that I wanted to live here on the Shore. Where did that take me?”
She found the answer after a walk with a friend on Martinique Beach on Thanksgiving weekend. “My friend had been thinking about the same stuff. I woke up the next morning, and I knew what I wanted my life to look like, and I started writing it all down. I knew this building was available, and I called my Mom and said I was going to open a grocery store. It really was one of those light-bulb-going-off moments. I stayed in bed all day planning.”
And planning she did, thanks in part to the advice and encouragement she got from a new boyfriend, and now her partner, Ryan Murphy. She met Murphy soon after her epiphany at the beach. “I was in the middle of writing my business plan. And He already owned his own business. I think I told him on the first date what I wanted to do. I had a name picked out early; that was one of the first things I thought about.”
Murphy didn’t want to work on her website, but the two started dating in December. He was getting ready to take a workplace education course, and suggested that she sign up too.
“The class was through the Cole Harbour Business Association. We didn’t tell anyone we were dating. It was perfect timing for me, all about writing a business plan, negotiating things like rent. I put a ton of work into my business plan. Some people get others to write their business plans. But I learned so much writing my own plan”
Kiley credits her success to her relationship with Murphy. “He definitely helped me get to the point where I could open the business. I don’t know if I would have believed in myself as much without him. And he was someone who’d gone through a start-up himself.”
Even with all her additional schooling and a detailed business plan, Kiley says she was still unprepared for how things unfolded.
“When I started, I thought the grocery market would be more of the business. I thought I might sell 3 sandwiches a day And I thought I was going to do it all. I was so naïve! I knew I would be working every day, but it was still a lot more work than you think. One thing I learned quickly was not to overestimate how much work you can do.”
For the first two years, Kiley closed every Wednesday, giving her time to drive a car towing a trailer around to the Valley gathering up fresh produce, and eventually dairy products and frozen meat. And starting this summer, in large part due to customer demand, she decided to stay open 7 days a week.
Kiley and Murphy now live within walking distance of Uprooted. Murphy holds a casual business networking meeting (Rootstalk) every Friday morning at 10 AM. “We both want to make the Eastern Shore a better place,” Kiley said. “We both wanted to live here, and make our work here.”