Innovating a new healthy market and running her own business, all while raising five children - she did it all, and inspired others to do the same along the way!
Let’s go back to 1981. Thirty-seven years ago, before the powerful movements of #thefutureisfemale and #girlboss. Before health food and green drinks and fermented foods had a revival. Before fats were healthy, margarine was evil, and “foodies” existed.
In 1981, there was a woman named Janet Jacks, and she opened a small health food store in Hamilton, Ontario. Of course, those of you who are familiar with Goodness Me!’s history will know that Janet is our founder and that the first small health food store was the first step in the massive journey upon which we continue to embark today. But we wouldn’t be here with our nine locations, our online store, our hundreds of employees and tens of thousands of customers, without one woman: Janet Jacks.
The spark to open a new business existed in Janet before Goodness Me! was even thought about. In fact, it was the early 1970s when she first became passionate about healthy living, but at the time, there weren’t any resources or places available for her to access more information or the products she wanted. This was the same time that she and her husband were considering opening a business. It took years of research and dedication, but in 1981, they finally combined their desire to own a business with the passion Janet had for health, and the first Goodness Me! was born.
This was a powerful milestone for so many reasons. Back then, the health food industry hadn’t yet boomed. The healthy products and teachings that Janet was searching for were not yet mainstream or popular. She was going against the tide, contradicting popular opinion, and fighting to make herself heard. Her conviction to help her family, and the people of Hamilton, live longer, healthier, happier lives kept her going—and kept the business strong, as well.
Janet and her husband Scott opened Goodness Me! together. Scott was a banker and stayed at his day-job while Janet ran Goodness Me!. In fact, Janet often told Scott that she would work at the business for a year, and then would go back to teaching. Well, it’s 39 years later and she hasn’t gone back to teaching yet (at least not in the school system—but she does teach at our locations!)
But back to Janet running Goodness Me! in that first year. In the early days, this was no easy feat. In fact, Janet was the only employee in that first year. She baked, ordered, priced products, ran cash, stocked shelves, talked to and educated customers, and made sure all aspects of the business were running smoothly. All the while, she had three small children to care for and was still searching for health answers for her own family and her husband’s diabetes. Janet was determined that neither the customers of their little store nor her family would suffer, and her passion for both parts of her life kept her going. She adapted to situations on a daily basis, changing plans, and going with whatever flow came her way. She tells stories of closing the store after a long day, going home to have supper with her kids and Scott, and then packing up the kids and going back to the store so she and Scott could clean, do administrative tasks, and prepare for the next day. Janet was a full-time baker, shelf-stocker, cashier, educator, business owner, mother, wife, and all-around passionate woman. She truly was the definition of #girlboss before this was even a thing.
Juggling a busy family and work-life wasn’t the only challenge in the first year of Goodness Me!. Back then, it was harder to find quality healthy foods than it is today, and Janet and Scott struggled to find companies and producers to fit their standards. But Janet didn’t give up. She tells a story of trying to find a bread baker who could make the real, healthy bread she wanted to sell at Goodness Me!. She called all the bakeries in the city, starting with the letter “A” in the phone book, and told them what she wanted. All of them told her it couldn’t be done. It wasn’t until she found a baker in the “V” section who said he would try. Janet bought all of his failings and experiments as he strived to bake the bread that she was looking for—and he eventually succeeded. He was able to produce a healthy loaf of bread baked fresh and in the quantities that Goodness Me! needed. This is just one example of how Janet would not stop until she found the best of the best for her customers—and her family. This passion for sourcing the best products with the best ingredients from passionate people—it is still the foundation of Goodness Me! today. Janet’s passion lives on in all of the employees who help to select and choose which products fit our standards and which do not. And sometimes, we go through a lot of “no’s” before we find a “YES!” but it’s always worth it to find a quality product with ingredients we can trust.
Things didn’t get necessarily easier after the first year, either—though they did get more exciting. The small store was starting to get more popular. At the time, Goodness Me! only had two shopping carts and customers would wait their turn to use them to do their full grocery shop. Though the customers were always understanding and willing to wait, it was a growing (but welcome) problem. The business doubled in size after the first year, and the first location of Goodness Me! expanded and moved to bigger locations multiple times before finally settling into the location it’s at today (1000 Upper Gage Ave.). All the while, Janet remained at the forefront of the business. She and Scott had 3 more kids, and the business kept growing as well. Her children all have fond memories of helping out in the early years whenever or however they could, and all tell stories of watching their mother help customers, shop the store with them, and do what she could to help answer anyone’s questions.
As the business grew, Janet also faced some people who doubted her. They couldn’t believe that natural remedies and real food could be the keys to a healthy life, and doubted everything Goodness Me! stood for. Janet simply ignored them, though, because she knew what she was doing was worthwhile and working. 39 years later, food and health trends have started to catch up to what Janet already knew: living longer, healthier, happier lives started with real, whole food, and natural remedies.
During this time of growth, Janet also started to realize her love and passion for teaching. Prior to Goodness Me!, she had been a schoolteacher. This love became reborn as she spent more and more time educating customers about healthy living and real, whole foods. She started doing classes at Goodness Me! and in the community to help even more people discover the power of food. Customers would join her for cooking and baking workshops or seminars on a myriad of health topics and walk away feeling enlightened, educated, and ready to make the changes they needed to make their lives healthier.
This effect hasn’t faded with time, either. Today, education remains one of the cornerstones of Goodness Me!’s business. Each location comes equipped with a full classroom for health seminars, workshops, cooking classes, and Lifewatchers, Goodness Me!’s ten-week healthy living program. Janet has also written Discover the Power of Food, which encompasses her philosophy for healthy living and healthy eating — along with over 100 easy and delicious recipes. Still today, Janet and her daughter Emily record and release a weekly podcast called Honest to Goodness, all about living healthy and the struggles that come with that. Janet herself still teaches classes and enjoys being at various stores helping customers, answering questions, and sharing her knowledge so others can learn and grow in their health journeys.
Goodness Me! has grown rapidly over the years, but our foundation and our mission has stayed the same: to help people live longer, healthier, happier lives… starting with real food. Janet’s passion for this over the years has been contagious, and each and every staff member who belongs to the Goodness Me! family upholds this promise in small and large ways each day. Whether through our product selection, our education classes, our healthy eatery, helpful Healthy Living Advisors and staff members, or recipes and resources, we are constantly striving to help you and our communities live well—and like Janet, we don’t plan on stopping until we find the best ways to do that.
When asked what advice she would give to people who want to follow their dreams, or to people who might strive to go against the odds, just like she did, Janet gave a heartfelt answer:
“Choose something that you love and that benefits others, so there is a heartfelt reason to do what you do. Don’t do it for money – love will be missing. Find your life purpose. Be prepared to work hard, to go the distance, to decide to survive the challenges, to give up other things for a time (maybe a long time!), to invest in your purpose and passion. Love your work, believe in what you do. Do it with excellence. Don’t cut corners. Be willing to go without yourself to live out your dream. Run your business with integrity so you have no regrets.”This is not only advice but also the code by which we live at Goodness Me! Janet is the trailblazer, the fearless entrepreneur, the passionate #girlboss who started Goodness Me! 39 years ago and she is the inspiration behind why we do what we do. And we think that’s worth celebrating.