October 31, 2018
With a number of multinational manufacturers like Kellogg’s in Bay of Quinte, it can be easy to overlook small business manufactures like Mrs B’s Country Candy. But that is one of the amazing things about manufacturing: having a strong cluster in the region (and all the services who support them) allows for many more manufacturers to populate.
Mrs B’s Country Candy (locally known as Mrs B’s) is a food production facility; although a more fitting term would be artisanal manufacturer. Making high-quality belgian chocolate and handmade gelato, Mrs B’s products are now sold in 11 different locations around Ontario. The original storefront, located in Brighton in the Bay of Quinte, was started 20 years ago (in 1999), and is also a popular tourist attraction.
Manufacturers Need a Short, Dependable Supply Chain
For food processing facilities prioritising locally sourced ingredients, Bay of Quinte’s central location (right next to the 401) makes it easy to access Canadian suppliers and distributors.
Lorie Boychuk, owner of Mrs B’s, sources ingredients direct from Canadian manufacturers – most within a day of trucking from the Bay of Quinte.
“We’re only 5 minutes from the 401, and we’re so central; we’ve got Montreal to the east, and Toronto to the west.
Our equipment usually comes from Montreal; there’s a real hotbed of chocolate there, and most of our chocolate suppliers are in Toronto. Our ice-cream, maple syrup, and fudge comes from all-over regional Ontario.
Because we work directly with our suppliers, we have a great relationship and we know we can depend on them for what we need.”
Local food shows also provide opportunities for industry professionals to network and further improve their supply chain – and Mrs B’s has used them to source new suppliers.
“We’ve found new suppliers for ingredients, like nuts and sugars, by attending food shows. We have a wholesale person, out of Peterborough, and they help us find all kinds of unusual ingredients.”
Affordable Land and A Supportive Business Community
While commercial property prices are rising throughout Canada, Bay of Quinte offers more affordable land than major cities. Not only do manufacturers save on upfront costs, but cheaper taxes also provide ongoing savings.
Boychuk decided to produce chocolate in Bay of Quinte, not just because it was a cheaper location, but because the region’s ongoing development and supportive community.
“Property in the Bay of Quinte is cheaper than bigger locations, and when we started there were low interest loans available for businesses. We’re in downtown Brighton, and the taxes are cheaper here than in the city – and it’s such a great town, full of cafes, free parking…a great place to spend the day.”
Brighton’s ability to attract tourists, and availability of space, made it easy for Mrs. B’s to create retail space on the front of their food processing facility.
I’ve been operating here almost 20 years, and when I first started, they were working hard to build up downtown Brighton, so I invested in it; not just my business, but in the people there too. The downtown is so vibrant now. Most of the businesses are run by entrepreneurial women, who are working together and trying to help each other.”
In Bay of Quinte, small food processing facilities can access government support and funding at all levels: municipal, provincial and federal.
For Mrs B’s, regional support services, such as the Quinte Economic Development Commission (QEDC) helped with direct business advice and tradeshow marketing; while financial support came from provincial and federal funds.
“Chris and Vicki at QEDC take care of us as much as they can – it helps us get our name out there.
Great Employee Retention
Manufacturers, such as Beclawat Manufacturing, in Bay of Quinte have reported good employee retention; and Mrs B’s is no exception.
Most staff are “very long-term employees”, but even the turnover rate for part-time staff is relatively low.
“Students usually start working with us in grade 10, and they stay with us till they graduate university – so they’re with us for several years.
When we’re looking to hire, we advertise through Career Edge and word of mouth, and we get resumes right away. We don’t need anyone with experience and everyone wants to work in chocolate, it’s fun.”
Mrs B’s offers a supportive training environment to help eager staff learn the ropes across multiple roles.
“We like to teach, so we do most of our training in house. We train people up to do more than one thing, it could be managing the store, or making chocolate. And for food safety and safe food handling, that’s done externally, but we’ll send anyone who needs it.
We’re very artisan and hands-on, we don’t use a lot of big machines, so we can design and get creative with what we’re producing. It’s great if you want want to learn to be a chocolatier – there are courses in Montreal too – but we offer a really hands-on teaching experience.”
To see ways you can improve employee retention, or to learn more about funding opportunities for your business contact the QEDC.
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