Lacombe entrepreneur digs up potato message idea

By Mary-ann barr

Advocate staff

A Lacombe man has made voice and digital messaging oh-so-yesterday with the help of a bag of potatoes.

Since Wayne Rempel launched TaterGrams Canada about a week ago, business has been baking — much to his surprise.

It’s a pretty simple online enterprise. People can send a special message, written on a russet potato, to someone they may, or may not, have eyes for.

One day Rempel was helping a friend research online how to work from home and stay in pyjamas all day.

“Me being a bit of a smart ass said, ‘Google funny, strange or weird home-based business.’”

That’s when he came across a potato messaging business in the United States, but he didn’t pay much attention to it.

Later when he did look at it, he wanted to send a potato message in Canada.

It turned out there was no Canadian business doing it, and further research revealed the U.S. business was doing about $225,000 in business annually.

“I thought,’Seriously?’”

Rempel proceeded to set up TaterGrams Canada, more for fun than anything, knowing that anyone who received a potato with a message written on it would probably laugh. He really wasn’t expecting it to do much. “Maybe take the wife out for dinner at the end of the month.”

But business has been brisk — he and his wife Carmell have been busy in the evening preparing the TaterGram orders. They’ve done about 90 so far.

“You’re one hot potato” is the most popular message, with added glitter or hearts. Another popular one is “You’re my best spud”. Everyone wants the add-on googly eyes, Rempel said.

Most orders are coming from Western Canada and Ontario. A couple went to New Brunswick where the main crop happens to be potatoes.

Rempel, 46, is not quitting his day jobs. He’s a car salesman, and a city councillor there. “Right now I’m pretty happy where I am. A lot of this may just be from the national (media) exposure.”

He gets the potatoes fresh directly from a local producer, Scholing’s Produce. The TaterGrams go out in bubble wrap envelopes, or if a customer wants to upgrade, in a little box. Carmell does most of the writing on the potatoes “because she’s a better speller than I am.”

“All my family and friends know that any meal with potatoes is a perfect meal. As a kid, as a grown-up, potatoes have been one of my favourite vegetables. So this actually is natural. If I have any reject potatoes I just can’t use, I eat them. Nothing like a good old mashed potato.”

barr@bprda.wpengine.com

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