Victoria Entrepreneur Wins Big in BDC Contest

Toni Desrosiers, Abeego | BCBusiness
Victoria-based entrepreneur Toni Desrosiers launched her sustainable food-wrap company, Abeego, in 2008.

Toni Desrosiers wins $25,000 worth of consultancy services for her business selling sustainable food wrap

Toni Desrosiers understands that a small business doesn’t become a big business overnight. But, after taking second prize in the Business Development Bank of Canada 2014 Young Entrepreneur Award last week—and its prize of $25,000 worth of consultancy services—the Victoria-based inventor of Abeego, a sustainable alternative to plastic food wrap, can feel confident the seeds of growth have taken hold.

Abeego—linen sheets covered in a beeswax and a jojoba oil blend—began in 2008. Desrosiers was watching the rising concern about BPAs in plastic, and it dawned on her that plastic food wrap had only been used for about half a century.

She took to her kitchen to try and come up with a sustainable, reusable alternative and, 18 months later, had a product she felt comfortable selling to friends and family, as well as at pop-up farmers markets.     

Last year, she sold 21,000 units, and she is projecting a 40 per cent increase by the end of 2014.

“I started with $1,200, and the business has basically funded the business,” she says. “It has always been profitable.”

Profitable enough for her to employ two permanent staff, plus four temporary workers during her summer busy season, and allow her to work at the company full-time while her husband stays home to care for their one-year-old daughter.

She has a new invention in the wings—under wraps for now—and a plan to apply to Dragons’ Den next year.

The BDC award—and its prize—has come at a key time, Desrosiers says. “We are at a point where we are growing really fast, and we need to be strategic,” she says.

A number of potential investors have approached the company, she says, and help vetting those offers and creating an investor package will be invaluable. She is also hoping for advice on securing further financing through a bank, something that has so far proved difficult, due to Abeego’s niche position and lack of capital assets.

“Our biggest challenge is brand awareness and marketing,” Desrosiers says. “We have spent six years responding to the market—every stockist that we have right now, called us.”

Those calls have included what she describes as “major players” that they simply don’t have the capacity to handle, because the company lacks the capital to support such rapid growth. Finding a partner to aid in a major expansion is, she says, definitely of interest.

“But,” she cautions, “it has to be with someone who gets us, and gets our sustainability model.”