Hard work and slow growth a key part of success story.
What the Parenteau's were proposing was a company that manufactured chocolates. What scared the banks away was the couple had no previous experience running a business, and didn't know the first thing about making chocolate.
So, what made the couple decide to start up a business they knew nothing about? The first part of the inspiration came from the farm they bought in Langham, Sask. in 1987.
"It had a few Saskatoon berries on it, and I saw some potential there," Rodney said.
The next bit of inspiration came at a cousin's wedding where chocolates were served.
"That's when it kind of took off. I said 'If you can have just ordinary chocolates, why can't you have Saskatoon berry chocolates,'" said Rodney.
Rodney got some information about making chocolates from people who made them at home using imitation chocolate wafers but, while it was a start, it wasn't exactly what he had in mind. He planned to use real chocolate and to use techniques used by real chocolatiers. He found it difficult, however, to uncover their secrets.
"There are very few people who know how to make chocolates," he said. "And if there is, they won't help you ... it's a trade that takes years and years to learn."
The company's first product was their Saskatoon-filled chocolates. They did some taste testing at craft shows, and eventually settled on balancing the Saskatoon berry cream filing with a semi-sweet dark Belgian chocolate. The company now also sells chocolates filled with blueberries, chokecherries and raspberries. There is also a line of jams, a line of honey blended products, and an assortment of teas, syrups and hot and cold cider products.
The next item will be a Saskatoon berry liqueur. Because the product will contain alcohol, Rodney anticipates there will be a few more steps in the process to have it approved. He expects the liqueur will be on the market within the next two to four years.
While the company has been operating successfully for more than a decade, that doesn't mean things have always gone smoothly.
"It's a learning curve," Rodney said. "You make a lot of mistakes. The only thing that kept us going is we stayed small for many, many years and didn't expand too fast. Because some of the mistakes I made, if I'd have been bigger, I wouldn't be around today. So that's how we learned. You know, you have to be careful that you don't expand too fast."
The Saskatchewan government also helped out by paying some of the company's marketing costs.
Rodney's advice to other potential entrepreneurs? Make sure you have the money you'll need to get your business off the ground. If you can, find someone with experience in the field you're thinking of entering who can give you some advice. Don't give up. And be prepared for some hard work.
"You've got to be very aggressive and determined that you're going to succeed. Even though there's many hard times, that can't put you down. Just keep on plugging along and with luck and a lot of hard work, you'll make it. But you've got to be willing to put in many, many weekends and long days. And you've got to sacrifice a lot."
For more information about Parenteau's Gourmet Foods visit the company Web site at www.parenteaus.com.
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|Title Annotation:||Heart and Soul|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2005|
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