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How to Reach Your Potential: An Interview with James Tjan

· Reach Your Potential

James Tjan is taking part in "How to Reach Your Potential," an interview series featuring leaders who inspire Alex Rascanu and whose insights can help you reach your potential.
[Also check out our interviews with Trina Boos and Hamza Khan.]

James Tjan bio photo

Meet James

James Tjan is the Founder and CEO of Mindful Snacks, a provider of healthy snacks and
beverages servicing some of the most notable companies in Ontario and the East Coast,
including Google, LinkedIn, eBay, and many more. The company is based in Mississauga and
recently celebrated its fifth year milestone.
Tjan founded Mindful Snacks following four successful years with Freshii, first as Director of
Operations, and later as Vice President, Purchasing and Product Innovation, where he
managed over $10 million in global purchasing annually.
In his time with Freshii, he led menu development and franchising, and oversaw the rebranding
of the company, helping it to grow from 8 to 50 locations in cities in Canada, the US, Austria and
Dubai, with pre-sales of 300 franchises that will open over the next decade.
James graduated from Ryerson University’s Hospitality program in 2003 and lives in Toronto
with his wife, Alice. When he’s not out strategizing on building his business, he can be found
trying new restaurant destinations in the city with his closest friends and family, or finding time to
create new culinary dishes at home.

James Tjan at the Mindful Snacks warehouse

Alex: What is your life’s purpose?
James: To live the fullest life possible. To have experienced cancer at the age of 21, and to have lost
the ability to walk and feed myself on my own during that time was extremely frightening, but it
served to remind me each day to never take things in life for granted. Be thankful for everything
that has been given to me and to give back to the community whenever possible.

Alex: What are the three things you’re most passionate about?
James: 1. Food – exploring new cuisines, ingredients and the latest upcoming restaurants.
2. Travel – checking our exotic destinations and learning about different cultures.
3. Music – I grew up playing the piano and trumpet, and I really enjoy listening to jazz

Alex: How do you stay healthy? What’s your main health-related goal?
James: My goal is to strive to remain healthy, both physically and mentally, so that I never need to look
back or worry that cancer may be a possibility again.
I wish I had more time to hit the gym or get more exercise. The reality is that when you run a
startup business that is fairly young, it can take up a lot of your time. However, I can’t say I sit in
a chair all day. The business requires for me to get pretty physical ensuring operations is
running smoothly in the warehouse, shipments are ready to move out, unloading skids of
products from our vendors and distributors and constantly meeting with new clients or suppliers
to ensure the business is growing and running smoothly. This requires a lot of energy and I’m
grateful that I’m healthy enough with a very high metabolism.
My wife and I live a busy lifestyle as entrepreneurs so coming home from work and preparing a
healthy meal can also be challenging. However, we try to use as many resources as we can to
eat healthy. We subscribe to a fantastic food service called HelloFresh that delivers freshly
prepared ingredients with a recipe card for fully proportioned meals weekly. It’s very convenient
and best of all, it’s healthy.

Alex: How do you build wealth? What’s your main financial goal?
James: During my early childhood, my parents really set a good example and always reminded me, my
brother and my sister to save and put money aside. I’m lucky to have started at an early age
and I continue to do this. Building a new business can be one of life’s most challenging
experiences and ensuring you have enough cash flow will either make or break you. Taking
some of these values that my parents instilled in me has made me more disciplined in my
personal spending and savings.

Financially, on the business side, my goal is to continue to grow the company and eventually
expand across the country. We have had tremendous growth in the last 6-12 months at Mindful
Snacks. Being the Founder and CEO of the company, the success of the business will ultimately
dictate the capacity of how much time I can spend doing the things I’m most passionate about.

Being wealthy can only bring so much happiness in life. As long as I can incorporate food,
travel and music into my daily life, I am satisfied.

Alex: How do you balance work and family life?
James: As my wife works in the business with me, it can sometimes be tough trying to separate work
from personal time. We dedicate many hours to work each day, but we try and our best to not
talk about work once we are home. Early on when the business just launched, we would
typically be at the office 7 days a week. Today, we ensure we take one full day on the weekend
for ourselves.

Alex: How do you enjoy spending time with family and friends?
James: Being able to spend time with family and friends over a great meal and wine, or traveling to a
new destination and just kicking back and relaxing are my all time favourites. That’s probably
when I’m most relaxed and able to enjoy myself.

Alex: What has been the most fulfilling role you’ve ever had, or the most fulfilling project
you’ve been involved with so far?

James: I would have to say now being a Founder and CEO of your own company is the most fulfilling role I’ve had thus far. There are ups and downs in growing a business and several moving parts
that I have to manage on any given day. However, working with an amazing team and seeing
where we can take the company is exciting. We just hit our 5-year anniversary and looking
back to how Mindful Snacks started and where we are today is one of the most fulfilling
experiences to date.

Alex: What’s one career planning lesson that has made a significant difference in your life?
James: Volunteer work can really help to promote real life values and experiences that can be applied
later in life and to any job. An example is when I had wanted to work in a kitchen as a cook but
I didn’t have any chef accreditation or culinary training. All I knew was that I loved to cook and
knew if I was given the chance, I could prove to be really good. I offered to volunteer over 250
hours to my university’s international conference center during my school years and continued
to do so until the executive chef offered me a paid position. I learned so many new
experiences and techniques over the next 3 years and if it wasn’t for that chef who provided me
with an opportunity to prove myself, who knows if I would have continued to be in the hospitality

Alex: What would you like your legacy to be?
James: I hope the people who I have met throughout my life felt, in some small way, that I was able to
inspire them or help them when they were in need, and that they too, will also do the same at
some point in their life. In regards to my love for great food, I hope I will always be

remembered for sharing great meals with wonderful people together. To me, it can’t get better
than that.

Alex: Thank you for taking part in this interview! Your candor and insights are much appreciated!

Did you find one or more of James' insights helpful? Are there any ideas or resources that came to mind as you read the interview? Know someone we should interview?
We encourage you to share your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below. Alternatively, feel free to send us an email using our contact us form.

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