Episode 161
June 6, 2023

Garbage, Grit, and Greens

with Johnathan Bonnell, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Wholly Veggie

About this episode

Joining the show today is Johnathan Bonnell, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Wholly Veggies, a company making it fun and easy to love your veggies with delicious veggie-forward meals and snacks inspired by restaurants around the world! Nothing can truly prepare you for the stress, hard work, and curveballs that come with being an entrepreneur, but as today’s guest has learned, sometimes the challenges that life throws at you can give you the training you need to trust you can make it through anything. Lee talk’s with Johnathan about his upbringing in Canada, some of the financial challenges his family faced growing up, and how his mother losing her job while he was in college shaped his outlook and influenced his path to entrepreneurship. Johnathan also shares how his varied work experience — from working as a garbage man during college to taking on various roles in advertising — influenced his entrepreneurial journey, so be sure to tune in to hear it all!

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In This Episode You’ll Hear About:

[02:56] Johnathan’s upbringing in Canada, the financial difficulties his family experienced, and his early immersion in nature and the concept of sustainability.

[04:30] The devastating news of his mother losing her job while he was in college, its impact on him, and the turning point it represented in Johnathan’s life.

[12:31] Johnathan’s experience working as a garbage man through college and what he learned about the industry.

[17:17] What motivated Johnathan to work in the UK after college and how the recession forced him to move back to Canada.

[23:50] The companies that Johnathan worked for while pursuing his advertising career and the events that gave him a much broader understanding of running a business.

[29:09] How Johnathan and his partner first got the idea for Wholly Veggies and his desire to build a business that would positively impact the world.

[35:24] The research behind Wholly Veggies’ recipes, how their products have evolved over the years, and the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on their business.

[40:42] Johnathan’s advice on when to start talking to an investment bank about helping you fundraise for your business and why it’s so important to find balance as an entrepreneur.

[51:53] The story behind the name ‘Wholly Veggies’, an overview of the rebranding they did in 2021, and what their plans are for 2024.


To Find Out More:

Johnathan Bonnell on LinkedIn
Wholly Veggie
Critical Mass

Sid Lee

Truth, Lies, and Advertising: The Art of Account Planning

Party Land
Lee Greene on LinkedIn

Stairway to CEO

Stairway to CEO on Instagram 


“I never wanted to be in a position where someone else can pull out the rug from underneath me. If anyone's going to do it, it's going to be me. I'd rather go out that way. So that was my first feeling of needing control with my destiny.” [0:05:32]
“There's always someone smarter than you in the room, but I knew I could outwork people.” [0:10:22]
“I knew what work ethic came down to a mental challenge, and how far you're willing to take the pain.” [0:10:27] 

“My job was, I'd have to walk up and down a section of downtown with a bag and a broom and just sweep trash.” [0:13:29]

 “It was terrible as a college kid, on a Friday night finishing your shift at 10pm smelling like garbage.” [0:13:52]

 “We work for a company that is personally responsible for destroying our planet. What if we could find a way to do something more positive? What if we could take all this hard work, all this learning, and apply it to something that can make the world a better place?” [0:30:32]

 “Being a vegetarian product, we were always getting this hate from people about not being fully vegan.” [0:34:40]

 “I really wish it was possible for founders to almost go through a mock investment banking process earlier in your journey, because it really pokes holes [in] all aspects of your business.” [0:41:47]

 “You can burn a lot of time, a lot of energy on the wrong product, [and] discover that too late in your journey.” [0:46:19]

 “Once you start scaling, it's really hard to come back from that, because you're already hitting critical mass with your retailers or distributors.” [0:46:37]
“Find a way to reassess the business from an outsider's perspective, I would say, every six months.” [0:46:55]

Read the transcript

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