Armed with a $450,000 Federal government grant cheque, paid for land and a comprehensive business plan, Steve Atkinson, president of Taste of BC Aquafarms was at his wits end with the lack of support for his fish farm from chartered banks credit unions. No one would take a chance on a new venture that hoped to change salmon . By chance, he stopped by the local Community Futures office and dropped off his business plan. He had previously financed a much earlier stage of his business (with a Community Futures loan) and paid off that loan. Keith Orieux, business analyst, caught the vision and Taste of BC found the support needed to put the plan in motion. Keith built a syndicate with several other CF offices and Taste of BC was on the way to becoming the first land-based salmon farm in North America to successfully raise salmon to market size in a commercial scale facility.
Over the next decade, Taste of BC faced many ups and downs. It was, after all, breaking ground that had never been broken before. Along the way, Community Futures Central Island was a constant support. Some loans were repaid, new loans obtained, each with flexibility that allowed Taste of BC to gradually move toward its goal. Jolynn Green and her team, including Raf Korkowski and Kelly McBride, followed Keith and stood by the Atkinsons . At one critical juncture, that could have been the end of Taste of BC, Kelly said to Steve, “We are in for a penny and we are in for a pound.” Once again the unique relationship that Community Futures has with clients saved the day. Steve says, “Community Futures has been much more than a lender to us, they truly have been our partners and some of our greatest supporters. I have always maintained that your banker is never your friend, but Community Futures has been, and is our friend!”
Having now succeeded in becoming the first to successfully prove salmon can be raised on land at a commercial level, in June, Taste of BC entered into a merger with Florida’s Blue Star Foods Company. Soon, on the strength of the acquisition of Taste of BC, the company will be listed on the Nasdaq. Plans are underway to expand, with Taste of BC to become one of the world’s leaders in land-based salmon farming. Between now and 2028, Taste of BC is projected to build 20 new salmon farms in British Columbia, with a projected investment of $400 Million.
Atkinson says, “Without the support of Community Futures Central Island, we simply would not have gotten our business off the ground. They were able to lend to us based on a very different criteria than the banks would. They saw our vision and trusted that we would be able to carry it out. We have now paid off our loans in full. We have the foundation that enables us to literally change the way salmon farming is conducted. We will produce millions of meals of great tasting, healthy salmon raised in a truly sustainable manner. Thanks Community Futures!”
When Red Seal Chef Raeanna Layfield lost her job due to the pandemic she pivoted quickly and gracefully into a business that is her life’s passion which people in our community have quickly become passionate about too! Foraging With You gives forest foraging tours where you can learn to safely identify and harvest wild edible plants like spring lettuces, fiddlehead, nettles, mushrooms and more.
She teaches people on the tours the steps in harvesting, processing, and cooking these foraged and nutritionally dense ingredients. You can join a community tour or do a one on one in your own backyard. Raeanna also recently started kids’ classes which have been immediately popular. You can also find Raeanna at Farmers Markets on the weekends selling her wild foods and explaining to customers how to cook with them.
“Harvesting, processing, and eating, are seasonal if not daily tasks. Let's make them worthwhile with quality and superb taste” saya Raeanna. “This business was started to bring health and vitality to all through food. And most important, to give you your own food security and food culture back.”
Reanna joined the Community Futures Self Employment Program in February 2020; as her classes are exclusively outdoors she has been able to make it all COVID-19 friendly. She is extremely grateful for the program and grateful for being able to access social media and marketing experts through CF which has been extremely beneficial for her.
People in the Fraser Valley have totally embraced this business and have so enjoyed wandering through the forest with Raeanna, connecting with nature and learning about the wonderful food that exists there for us.
What started as a small locally owned bakery, offering fresh baked European artisan breads and delicious baked goods, with a modest storefront and limited exposure beyond the community, Lac La Hache Bakery was a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.
Although much of the bakery’s growth has been an ongoing commitment with the support of Community Futures Cariboo Chilcotin over the past few years, owners Frank and Yvette Betz have proven in the past year that no matter what they are faced with, they will continue to push forward and grow their business.
With the loss of business many restaurants have faced, when the COVID-19 pandemic arose, Frank and Yvette knew this was going to impact the bottom line. This was when they were approached by a manager of a newly established grocery chain within the community of 100 Mile House. There was a demand for fresh baked breads, where other suppliers were unable to meet the full needs due to the interruptions of the pandemic. You could already find Lac La Hache Bakery products on the shelves of Safeway, Save-On Foods and some smaller supermarkets and specialty shops throughout the lower province, but this request would also find their products on the shelves of the FreshCo in 100 Mile House.
With the uncertainty of COVID-19, Frank and Yvette sat down with their staff and held a meeting, a skill they gained from their more recent business coaching supported by CFDC. They offered their staff the opportunity to choose to stay employed and the compassion in understanding if they chose to be laid off. With their open lines of communication, and support they provided, each of their staff chose to stay and continue to work. With this security, Frank and Yvette agreed to the commitment on keeping the shelves stocked, not only to their prior retailers, but made the move to expand into others. It didn’t take long for the word to spread throughout the other regional FreshCo stores that there was a new wholesaler that was able to keep up with the demand. Today you will not only find the Lac La Hache Bakery bread at the FreshCo in 100 Mile House and Williams Lake, but in the South Okanagan. Although the impact of the downturn of the food service industry was felt, by some permanent closures of a few restaurants, the Lac La Hache Bakery continues to show steady revenue growth monthly.
Throughout their ongoing successful growth, Frank and Yvette have remained supportive of the community that supports them. They provide weekly donations of bread to the local food bank, participate in annual fundraising for the Hospice and Palliative Care Society, support the local elementary school and volunteer fire department to name a few.
Yvette says what they have accomplished wouldn’t have been possible without the ongoing support they receive through Community Futures Cariboo Chilcotin. We at Community Futures felt they have always had this potential; they just needed the support to unbury the gem.