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Koop_Friesen_2.jpg

Emerging Entrepreneur Winners: Larry Koop and Ken Friesen Co-Owners, Alliance Concrete Pumps Inc.

A common approach to doing business has helped cement an international relationship for Ken Friesen and Larry Koop, co-owners of Alliance Concrete Pumps Inc. in Aldergrove. The two entrepreneurs have parlayed lessons learned growing up on farms in the Fraser Valley into a solid relationship with Jun Jin Heavy Industry Co. Ltd. of Seoul, South Korea, serving as manufacturer in North America of Jun Jin's truck-mounted concrete boom pumps. "Our relationship with the Koreans is as good as any relationship you could have in business," says Friesen, who founded the company in 2002. Their South Korean partners "have definitely encouraged us to think bigger and push harder and become a much stronger player in our market," notes Friesen. Alliance has grown annual sales of Jun Jin concrete pump trucks - the kind whose articulated nozzles can reach deep into building sites to deliver concrete to formwork - to more than $50 million over the past five years. The trucks are now in seven provinces from B.C. to New Brunswick, as well as 28 states in the U.S. Alliance also operates a parts distribution company in Pennsylvania. Friesen estimates that Jun Jin, the third-largest manufacturer of the trucks in the world, now has upwards of 10 per cent of the market in Canada and the U.S. "When customers are happy dealing with us, they're talking to other players in the industry, and that's been working for us," Friesen says, claiming a customer retention rate of 96 per cent. "We recognize the importance of being a desirable company to do business with," Koop says, adding that customers trust Alliance. "They're spending big money, and part of the value is that there's continuing service and parts availability." When word came in 2002 of an opportunity to distribute Jun Jin's pumps in North America, Friesen formed Alliance and stepped up. He was familiar with the trucks and was confident of their appeal. Hiring Mike Enns, who had previously represented the line, Alliance began cultivating the market for the equipment. Koop and a group of silent investors put their money behind the fledgling company soon after. Koop brought management expertise to the business. A former general contractor, he was a veteran builder of commercial and industrial properties through Bennico Builders Ltd., which he operated between 1985 and the mid-1990s. In 1989 he entered the ready-mix concrete business with three other partners to form Magnum Concrete Inc., which led to a number of concrete-related ventures. His achievements were noted in 2004 when the B.C. Ready-Mixed Concrete Association (of which he's a past president) recognized him for outstanding contributions to the industry. Still, both Friesen and Koop play down the move to become Jun Jin distributors. It was, they say, pretty well a logical extension of the work they had already been doing, but the venture would allow them to use their skills in a new way. "We were familiar with the Jun Jin pumps, so that was where the opportunity was and that was who we made the deal with," Friesen says. But the opening of a new 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Aldergrove in October 2006 and additions to its management team highlight Alliance's preparations for significant growth. Production capacity has grown to 12 trucks a month, and Alliance is slowly appointing people to its management team who can continue what Friesen and Koop have started. A VP of business development was appointed last year, for example, and earlier this year a chief financial officer was brought on board to improve financial management. The preparations are a sign of where Alliance's relationship with Jun Jin is heading. "They're very aggressive in what they want to do. The sky's the limit with those guys. There's no, 'Let's just have a business plan here to sell 100 pumps a year and that's going to be good enough,'" Friesen says. Runners-up Tracy Gray and Suzanne Mick The province's largest retailer of premium B.C. wines is the brainchild of Kelowna's Tracy Gray and Suzanne Mick, who met while working at Mission Hill Family Estate. They watched B.C.'s wine industry grow, and in 2003 opened a store showcasing local wines. Discover Wines Ltd. has become an important venue for wineries meeting the Vintners Quality Alliance standard. A range of giftware and wine accessories, as well as wine education and purchasing programs, have solidified Discover's status as a destination for wine aficionados. Joyce Groote Joyce Groote never expected a career in footwear, but her next-door neighbour Anne Rosenberg needed advice. Rosenberg, founder of Holey Soles Holdings Ltd., had recently taken over the manufacture of its popular perforated, injection-moulded shoes, and Groote was no stranger to small start-ups. Groote and her husband Rick Walter stepped in as shareholders, and within months they acquired full ownership and Groote became president. More than half of Holey Soles' $11.5 million in annual sales are now outside Canada, supported by three Chinese manufacturers that produce 20,000 pairs of the footwear daily. Winners:

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