In the business world, reason always trumps passion.

Doesn’t matter how much you love your new business idea or invention, so many factors must be carefully  assessed before any financial plunge:  The market, the competition, availability of capital and investor interest,  strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

But isn’t the final key to a successful startup also about passion?

How can the entrepreneur work 24/7, against seemingly insurmountable odds, with no paycheque for months on end … without passion?

How could successful entrepreneur Bob Holm have created the Strawman All-Natural Bison Farm and Mother’s Market (Edmonton’s first two-day-a-week indoor farmer’s market) without passion?

Holm may look like a pint-sized biker, but he’s a bright, self-educated, experienced businessman. Having foreseen the global crash of 2008, he converted his considerable St. Albert real estate holdings into cash during the halcyon business days of 2007.

Along the way, he had what you might call an epiphany. Always interested in healthy eating and gardening, a close relative came down with serious cancer. They dived into the research, rejected conventional oncology, and chose alternative treatments based on holistic nutrition principles.

Said relative made an astounding recovery and has since remained cancer-free.

Holm found his passion.

“My wife and I bought a farm outside St. Albert in 2010 for ourselves and our three boys (then 15, 21 and 23), to grow our own food as naturally as possible.”

But Holm couldn’t help but apply sound business principles to the project. The 500-acre farm came with a heated, 16,000 square foot indoor riding arena – an invaluable space for a year-round greenhouse operation.

Today, the farm has a 150-to-200 bison herd, the two-year-olds butchered, processed and then sold through their own Strawman brand.  In winter, Holm grows barley in the greenhouse, weekly cuttings supplying fodder for the bison. Greenhouse lettuce production is ramping up to a potential 10,000 hydroponically grown lettuce plants, harvested every 30 days.

Along the way, Holm kept reading and researching.  He’s convinced locally grown, nutrition-rich food production will be “the next big business.”

So where did the idea for Mother’s Market – the very original Saturday/Sunday indoor market on 109 Street a few blocks north of Jasper Avenue – come from?

“Demand,” says Bob. “We started selling our bison meat at the 104 Street Downtown Market. There was crazy demand. The first day, we sold 300 cuts.” 

But when the market moved indoors for the winter, there was no room at the inn. Both the Downtown Market (for winter) and the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market had multi-year vendor waiting lists for bison producer/vendors.

The entrepreneurial impulse coupled up with Holm’s passion.

 “I went back to the farm, sat down at my computer and 21 hours later had a website and a business plan: A 52-week-a-year indoor market with healthy, nutritious food, free of wine and rain and snow and as stress-free as possible for the vendors.  Calgary has several such markets and they’re doing well.  Downtown because of its growing population and way more to come … and being downtown is fun.”

Mother’s Market, in the well-known Mother’s Music two-story building at 109 Street and 103 Avenue, is now 14 months old. Up until Christmas, Mother’s Music vendors’ space was 85% full.  But with the January/February lull, many part-time vendors left. Three-days-a-week was scaled back to two. “Vendors didn’t want to work three days.”

The market remains a busy place on Saturdays and Sundays.  The second-floor business plan has been adjusted. The spacious, well-laid out upstairs,  with a magnificent walk-out patio and its own entrance, is being converted into the Salt Room Bistro for evenings, a bakery/deli for breakfast and lunch, and a flexible event/meeting space that can use up two large halls and the patio.

The dreamer/visionary in Holm has to reconcile with the businessman. “I want Mother’s Market to be a health centre, an artists’ centre, a food centre.   We’re only a year into a five-year business plan.  Nothing comes easily,” he says, “But ultimately Mother’s Market has to be a viable business -   otherwise I’ll move on.

"This is a wonderful place for the city. It needs to be finished, and I’m the guy to do it because I’m 120% behind the project.”


A short history of Mother’s Market

Originally Gordon Price’s Mother’s Music building, now leased to Mother’s Market

Opened May 2014, as a Friday-Saturday-Sunday indoor farmer’s market with artisan handicrafts.

Early 2015, scaled back to Saturday-Sundays,  9-5 p.m. and 10-5 p.m..

Anchor vendors: Foremsky’s Meats, Irving Farm Fresh, SunWorks, Wild Tangerine Urban Cuisine,  Col Lee Honey, Going Nuts, Strawman Bison, Albian Fish, Uzel Olives, Gull Valley Greenhouses.

Late summer, 2015 – Opening of re-purposed second floor, as Salt Room Bistro & Patio,  bakery/coffee shop,  meeting/convention/catered event space.