Ages: Both 31
Why they’re 2016 Top 40s:
The high-school sweethearts own and manage one of the fastest-growing organic food retail businesses in Calgary.
Erin and Matt Paulson met at a skating party on her 16th birthday and, quite literally, things progressed organically from there.
From their first date, they were inseparable – so much so, they decided to start a business their first summer together. They used $10,000 Matt had saved from lifeguarding and $10,000 Erin had received from an inheritance to purchase 36,000 organic plants to grow strawberries to sell at farmers’ markets. They did their first planting on his 17th birthday.
“My parents wanted us to sign a dating prenup. We never did,” says Erin.
“Which was good advice,” says Matt. “But we turned out fine.”
Fifteen years later, the couple is married with three sons. They expanded that initial berry stall into Blush Lane Organic Market with a partner in 2004, selling produce from Western Canada at the Calgary Farmers’ Market. When it was announced that the market at Currie Barracks would close, they made the leap to their first brick-and-mortar store in 2008. Today, Blush Lane has four retail locations, including a newly opened store in Bridgeland, with another set to open in Marda Loop in 2017.
Matt works as the company’s chief operating officer and owner, Erin as director of human resources and position manager. They’re focused on selling organic produce from smaller growers who would not typically be represented in a conventional grocery store.
Their mode of operation has always remained the same: “We’ve always taken a second before making a major decision and asked ourselves, can we live with the consequences, no matter what? There have been many times in our working lives where we have taken great leaps of faith,” says Matt.
The Paulsons say the key to their work-life balance is constant communication. “We’re working really closely together and we have to be comfortable with that,” says Erin. “People say you shouldn’t talk business all the time, but that is actually our lives. It’s what we’re passionate about – kids and business.”
They work out together at the gym. They share calendars and keep their desks side-by-side in the office. And, they’re raising their kids in the family business. But, Erin and Matt laugh, they’ll talk to their sons about signing that prenup if they go into business as teenagers. – Christina Frangou