ARCHIVED - A Borealis Forest in the back yard
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Aroma Borealis Herb Shop Inc
April 26, 2007— Ottawa, Ontario; Whitehorse, Yukon
The Yukon's abundant Borealis forest is home to an enterprising young manufacturing company making inroads to international herbal and aromatherapy markets.
Bev Gray, a skilled herbalist and aromatherapist living in Whitehorse, Yukon, had a simple original idea - use the natural indigenous plants of the borealis forest eco-system that is her back yard as ingredients to create the freshest, most natural herbal products on the globe.
Now, Aroma Borealis Herb Shop Inc. is successfully designing, manufacturing and distributing products that are satisfying the demands of one of today's hottest consumer markets: natural health, wellness and beauty care products.
However, successfully introducing a new class of consumer products to the marketplace on a national and global scale does not just happen with an idea. There are enormous challenges, made even more difficult by a remote location.
"From early on, I believed we had an opportunity," remembers Gray. "But, we faced many obstacles and were short on resources to help us with business systems, research, and market knowledge. It was difficult to find knowledge-based services that could help us."
What Gray discovered was available, was the National Research Council Canada's Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP). The NRC-IRAP initiative is a key component of a countrywide innovation system linking a diverse network of institutions, organizations, and programs to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SME's) exploit technology and develop innovation in a competitive, knowledge-based economy.
In 2003, she approached Josée Belisle, an Innovation and Network Advisor (INA) for the NRC-IRAP program. "Aroma Borealis was growing so fast they were having difficulty keeping up with it," said Belisle. "They had customers and were well organized, but to do business on the scale they envisioned, they needed resources and advice for business and marketing. An audit on the business identified a number of program resources where NRC-IRAP could help."
One was the development of a Business Advisory Board (BAB). This business council program engaged multiple business advisors to help the company to enter national and international marketplaces and to develop and facilitate clear objectives. The council helped develop a foundation of solid business basics.
In a pilot project developed by Belisle, the company was able to hire a Senior Business Advisor, and share that cost with other businesses. The Youth Program also enabled them to hire a recent business graduate from Ryerson who developed a full marketing plan, including a new branding campaign and a successful eCommerce website.
"We are thrilled with the caliber of people and advice NRC-IRAP programs connected us with," recalls Gray. "We received tremendous insight into business and production processes, executing a list of 90 recommendations. As I look back it seems like a lot, but the entire program was so well executed, it never overwhelmed us."
In the four years since NRC-IRAP's involvement, Aroma Borealis looks back over a number of milestones. With over 200 products selling in over 75 stores and markets across Canada and the world, they have tripled revenues. They recently received a site license from the Natural Health Products Directorate, one of only a handful of Canadian micro-herb businesses to receive NHPD licensing. In 2005, they received the 2005 Gold Alive Award of Excellence for the Best Aromatherapy Product in Canada. In October 2006, Gray received the Yukon's 2006 Business Person of the Year from the Yukon Chamber of Commerce.
Presently, Aroma Borealis is actively pursuing new market opportunities including a large distribution retailer that would give them penetration into international high-end markets internationally. If it all works out, Gray envisions a Borealis Herbal School and a Wellness and Healing Center dedicated to Borealis education and traditional healing methods.
"NRC-IRAP is such a great tool for small innovative companies that need to see their ideas through to fruition," remarks Gray. "It would have been difficult to be where we are now without NRC-IRAP's valuable support and expertise."
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