I had the opportunity to interview Morgan Mackinnon, Chief Baller at Dip & Balls, for one of the Christmas Music 4 Local Business features this past week. What struck me most about Dip & Balls, located in Halifax area, is just how authentic the brand has stayed to the original vision and to the personality behind the business.
And authenticity is just one part of what makes Dip & Balls’ story such a cool and inspiring one. Keep reading to see how a delicious local cheeseball and dip business came to be, and how creativity, friendship and a good sense of humour have been the perfect recipe for success!
Can you tell me a little bit about Dip & Balls and how you got started?
Dip & Balls started with my balls. In my family, everyone has a food specialty; something they bring to family get togethers or give as gifts around the holidays. One year I decided to try my hand at making cheeseballs for everyone. Needless to say they were very well received and have since become a pre-turkey, holiday staple.
Friends also quickly caught on and started requesting items for potlucks and some paid me to make them cheeseballs to give as gifts for the holidays. I jokingly started calling my pretend business ‘Dip & Balls’.
My good friend and now business partner, Mila Milojevic is the queen of dips. She’s forever experimenting and refining new crowd-pleasing recipes. In early 2018, I wasn’t feeling creatively fulfilled from my day job and I was antsy for a new challenge. I called Mila and told her I wanted to try making Dip & Balls into a real business. Feeling similarly inspired by a new challenge, Mila agreed to be my business partner.
We had two guiding rules: 1. Have fun. 2. Remember that our product doesn’t have to be for everyone.
Ultimately we wanted to make products for people like us: young-at-heart professionals who love food and don’t always have the time to make something that will knock the socks off their book club, potluck, or party guests.
By the time we decided to have a go at Dip & Balls, the name was well known within our friend circles. It also fit within our guiding rules, so we decided to make it official. We hosted a large focus group with friends, family and some critics where we tested out 12 recipes. We gave out fake cash and asked attendees to invest in the dips they’d want to take home. The initial Dip & Balls product line was decided!
We used the things we enjoyed, and Mila’s love of puns, as inspiration to name each product. Our wonderful friend and graphic designer, Jillian Caldwell did our branding and Dip & Balls was officially born.
Now we have the ‘cheesiest’ products in every sense of the word. Definitely not for the lactose intolerant, although we hope to have some options for them in the future. For now, cheese is where we live.
And we’re proud to say that our products are as much of a conversation starter as they are a meal starter. Looking ahead, Dip & Balls is at a bit of a crossroads. We’re exploring opportunities to scale up our production which would allow us to offer our products at regular locations.
What do you love about being a small business in Halifax?
The response from the community has been nothing but fantastic. The local Makers community is really top notch and has been incredibly supportive. We’ve had local businesses like the Trainyard General Store offer us popup shop opportunities.
When we started out, we were really surprised by how welcoming the small business community is in Nova Scotia. Even the government administrators who handle business registration and more have gone out of their way to help us.
For example, when we went to register Dip & Balls as a business we were initially denied. The letter said our business name ‘wasn’t specific enough’ and that we should consider adding ‘creations’ or another clarifying word to the name. I whipped out my computer and the letter of a lifetime was drafted.
Thank goodness the woman who reviewed our letter had a good sense of humour. She responded back to say our name was approved and that she thought it was in fact a ‘whimsical’ selection.
What has been the biggest challenge running a business in the midst of a pandemic?
Momentum was probably our biggest challenge during the pandemic. Turns out that pandemics aren’t great for made to order party snacks, so we took some time off from Dip & Balls during the pandemic.
We felt that people had bigger things to think about. And part of it was that we largely communicate through social media. We didn’t want to bog down people’s feeds with Dip & Balls promotions. The other thing is that commercial kitchens were largely shut down and therefore producing our products was a challenge.
Can you share one big thing you’ve learned in 2020 as Chief Baller at Dip & Balls?
I think 2020 helped to put things in perspective. I feel for all the small businesses that have taken a hit this year. It’s hard enough to be a small business owner; challenges like we’re facing today are multiplied many times over for small businesses.
What are some ways that the community can support Dip & Balls right now?
Supporting local business in general shows support for us. Local businesses give us venues, supplies, support, and many small business owners and operators are our best customers. We’ve been particularly supported by businesses in Downtown Dartmouth and don’t want to see any of them have to shut their doors.
If you want to check out our products or get in touch visit DipAndBalls.ca. The last day for 2020 orders is December 17!
If you haven’t seen the Christmas Music 4 Local Business music video featuring Dip & Balls, check it out here! And, Dip & Balls is also doing a giveaway until starting today until December 18th for all your holiday cheeseball and dip needs. Check out the music video on Dip & Balls’ Instagram (@dipandballs) to join in for a chance to win!