Women in Business: The brake that balances the gas

Good food, friends and conversation inspire Hee-Haw Horserad!sh

Pam Bavington

Pam Bavington

Pam Bavington is slightly surprised to find herself a successful entrepreneur as half the team that launched a hot local business seeing soaring success in its third year.

A part time physiotherapist, she’s adamantly the conservative half of Oak Bay couple Pam and Graham Bavington.

“I am the brake, he’s the gas. I’m a 9-to-5 and he likes the risk taking,” Pam said. “As a family with this company it works great. The process itself has been really positive.”

Children Sara and Matthew round out the equation, alongside other helpful family members building Hee-Haw HorseRad!sh.

“We’ve grown together as a family, closer with this,” Pam said. “If it’s just one person doing a company they can be away all the time, but even with our daughter and son helping out at farmer’s markets … this is their first job.”

The homespun horseradish adventure began three years ago this month when the couple hosted a dinner party. Frustrated in his search for good horseradish, Graham determined he’d make his own. That night,  a table filled with red wine, red meat and good friends formed the foundation of the Bavingtons’ hot business.

“He said the next day, ‘let’s do a business.’ I said let’s slow down, let’s think about it,” Pam said. “I would never in my wildest dreams have guessed we’d be here now with this business. And I think most of our friends at the dinner table that night wouldn’t have guessed.”

They started with a food scientist to ensure food safety and still develop the fast-moving product in a commercial kitchen in Central Saanich. There they hand-peel horseradish – the first ingredient – and grind amid tears streaming down their faces.

Together they’ve developed Damn Hot HorseRad!sh, Double Damn Hot HorseRad!sh and Sea HorseRad!sh available on shelves at grocers and butchers across the region.

“Looking at the whole experience, the company has brought us together as a family,” Pam said. “The kids, they see how you can take something, an idea, and actually bring it to conception and people can purchase something you made. You come with nothing, it’s an idea you had at the dinner table.”

Sara inspired the most recent high note for the business, insisting they pitch the business when CBC’s Dragons’ Den came to town. “I think it brought her out of her shell. She’s much more extroverted,” Pam said.

Not only did Sara and her dad pitch, they earned the Bavingtons a shot at filming. Then the family made the cut, appearing on the show late last year.

“It was one of the best experiences we’ve ever done. I had so much fun,” Pam said, admitting she was a bit anxious. “You’re waiting and waiting and waiting and it’s like a test you just want to get it over with. You’re so nervous, but once we got down the stairs I looked at the Dragons and they just smiled and it was like the cameras disappeared.”

Confidence was key to successfully selling the business to the Dragons.

“I know that we have a product people like,” Pam said. That confidence is built on working farmers’ markets around the region, talking with customers. “I’ve seen people taste it, they like it. I knew we had a good valuation, good product.

They came away with four offers and did a handshake on the CBC episode then went home.

“We continued on with our product, we didn’t wait,” Pam said.

She’s happy they took the shot on the show, though the business didn’t end up with a Dragon investor.

“Also just for the experience of just going and doing something different. I’m glad that I challenged myself to it and it was a success I think.”