As a family-owned, second generation company entering its 40th year in business, Paradise Island Foods is a shining example of how a company can still remain true to who they are while yielding a healthy Return on Investment (ROI). “Our dad started the legacy, and we’ve carried it on and grown while staying committed to our core values,” says Len Thomson, President and CEO of Paradise Island Foods.
The company, which Len’s father started in 1978, has been serving Western Canada high quality dairy products using environmentally conscious production and distribution methods. They’re proud to be one of the first dairies in Canada to be HACCP recognized, which is a global food safety program through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). They’re also one of the first cheese plants in Canada to achieve level 3 (the highest tier) from the Safe Quality Foods (SQF) – a new global safety initiative that supersedes the CFIA standard. “We’re proud of this achievement, demonstrating our commitment to quality assurance, food safety and the environment,” says Len.
He further adds, “We pride ourselves on our high quality cheese, which we’re committed to producing naturally without accelerated enzymes for aging or ingredients like modified milk ingredients or calcium chloride.” Len notes that this takes more time and effort but he believes it’s worth it to deliver a cleaner product that has better flavour. “To reduce our carbon footprint, we’ve invested in hybrid, refrigeration trailers, and we’ve recently replaced our plant refrigeration for further energy savings,” he states.
While Len remains steadfast in his dedication to his company’s core values of producing quality natural products at an accessible price while operating from a place of environmental responsibility, his company still continues to see healthy financial returns after many years.
“My advice to a young entrepreneur just starting out is to keep your business plan aligned with your values and to always seek out advice from others who share your values,” says Len.
“We identified our core values from the get-go, stayed true to them and looked for the help and resources to ensure we could continue on that path.” For instance, Len has worked with industry partners (e.g., suppliers, consulted with customers) and reached out to external professionals for advice (e.g., third party consultants) to gain their perspective and insight. Len further adds that there are a lot of support programs through the provincial and federal governments and urges new entrepreneurs to consider government funding.
Paradise Island Foods has been able to diversify by marketing their products across three categories (retail, food service and industrial customers), and has experienced significant growth over the years, which continues unabated. Len is growing the business regionally in the Ontario market, as well as introducing new products to their roster.
Consequently, he really values the support CWB has provided to him as his company has continued to grow. “With growth, you become more reliant on your lender,” says Len. “And we’ve had tremendous support from CWB every step of the way.”
As a client for the past six years, Len has found CWB to be a much better fit for him than the large lenders. “Our local CWB branch manager was genuinely interested in our business and in supporting us – very much demonstrating relationship style banking,” says Len. “And at the same time, their rates are very competitive with the bigger banks, so I recommend them all the time to colleagues and friends.”
Len notes that CWB has been solutions-focused in all of their dealings with him. This has been tremendously helpful as he is a unique client, being in the perishable food industry. “We have a significant amount of capital invested in inventory and traditional lenders generally wouldn’t lend to the levels of inventory we have,” says Len. “But that’s a big part of our growth plan – we naturally age our cheese, so we have a lot of inventory tied up for long periods of time.”
CWB has been flexible and creative in findings ways to support Len’s business and find customized banking solutions that work for him. “We’ll continue to work closely with CWB, as they’ve really worked outside of the box to accommodate us with respect to further growth,” he adds.
Good communication and a high degree of transparency from a business bank are important to Len. And because of the level of personalized service, Len not only has all of his corporate business with CWB but his personal banking as well. “We’re extremely happy with the partnership we have with CWB,” says Len. “They don’t just want your business, they appreciate it too.”
Interested in learning more about what CWB can do for you and your business? Contact us today!