Picture this: There are just two full-time people in your company, supplying nutritious snack bars to grocery chains across Canada. As a matter of principle, you pay suppliers immediately but often don’t get paid yourself for weeks or months. Made with Local Owner and Founder, Sheena Russell talks about growing a healthy business and how FundThrough factored in.
“Tell us a bit about Made with Local’s background.”
At first, we worked in Halifax farmers’ markets. Then, we started with small grocery deals. Sobeys stores are super supportive of local brands in eastern Canada. In 2016, they put us in 17 Sobeys in Halifax which was huge!
We did the ‘proof of concept’ here in Atlantic Canada. The bars did really well. We learned how all this works. We had the backend setup to expand to all Sobey’s stores throughout Atlantic Canada. Then into Ontario.
We’re now days away from our national launch with Loblaws, which is 450 stores across Canada.
“What does your day-to-day look like now that you’re facing this massive expansion?”
Every day is just so different. As we’re sitting here talking, I’m looking at my three-month old baby in a rocking chair with (teammate) Christine and me. There’s just the two of us in the business. So, we work with many partners, obviously, but we also wear many hats.
Our day usually starts with putting out little fires. Then we segue into setting goals for the week and for the month. Then we start chipping away at this huge project that’s helping us scale while staying true to the values of the company.
“What’s most rewarding about what you do?”
That’s the easiest thing for me to answer because we partner with social enterprises who do all of our production. It’s so rewarding. Yesterday, I had a conversation with one of our bakeries and, because of the way that we’re growing they said “we increased one of our clients from part-time to full-time.” So now this person who’d been employed by this social enterprise, which means he’d had barriers to the mainstream workforce, has just been promoted from working just two days a week to a full-time job. All because of Made with Local’s contract with them and the work that we’re flowing through them.
That happens all the time because we’re growing so fast. These social enterprise partners are pulling people off their waitlist, giving life-changing opportunities to folks who really need the support and stable employment. That’s rare, especially in rural Nova Scotia.
“What challenge were you looking to solve with FundThrough?”
We came to FundThrough because we needed to get paid faster and to ensure that our local honey supplier and our blueberry and cranberry farmers were getting paid ASAP. Because for us, that’s most important.
We’re growing very fast. And in an inventory-heavy business, fast growth means that cash is very valuable. It’s important to have the agility to keep things moving along. And because of the way we run our company, we’re really financing, internally, a lot of our suppliers’ and our production partners’ payrolls.
“How did you find FundThrough and decide it was the right solution for you?”
Made With Local was part of the SheEO network in 2017. Abby Slater, who was also involved with SheEO, was coaching some of us and understood the nature of my business. She said “You need to be factoring. It’s the easiest and safest way to ensure you can keep money flowing through your business.” She recommended that we investigate a factoring service and added, “Full transparency: I’m on the board for FundThrough and think they’re great, but do some research.”
But I’ll be honest. I didn’t do that much shopping around. I started chatting with your team and really liked the service. I thought, this feels good. The service came with a personal recommendation from a person I really trust. I go by my gut on things, and if I trust a person, I’ll follow their lead.
The platform was super intuitive and easy to use. Obviously, you can’t beat getting paid the next day which is awesome! But I also really appreciated the relationship that comes with FundThrough. It’s not some big faceless vast organization. I chat with you all the time. We’re back and forth all the time. It really feels like you’re being taken care of, which you don’t get with banks. I appreciated that.
How, specifically, do you use FundThrough for your business?
Times like now, these ‘load-in’ periods when we’re pushing through tons of new product to new retailers, you need huge amounts of money for ingredients and to pay your production facility. Then it takes a long time to recoup that from the vendors and retailers. So, that’s how, so far, we’ve found factoring useful: during these load-in periods of rapid growth.
“What would happen if you hadn’t found a solution like FundThrough?”
Ugh! I guess we would’ve had to go to the banks, which feels like so much work! You know, you go in and have a meeting, and then you have to do the paperwork. Then you have to wait for this and wait for that.
Usually by the time you realize you need to be factored, it’s already too late. You needed the money yesterday. So, you don’t have the time for the bank. With FundThrough, it all comes together so quickly and the rates are comparable to banks’.
“Are there any measurable benefits since you started using FundThrough? Or is it just that peace-of-mind?”
The speed and agility of factoring is just such a huge win. We’re just able to pay the people that are important to us, our suppliers and production facilities on time. They’re also mom-and-pop organizations and they need the money too. I feel like they shouldn’t have to pay for our decisions of going into Loblaws stores nationally. Although the repercussions will ultimately be very positive, we don’t want the burden of our growth to fall on them.
“What’s your advice to other businesses who were in your situation?”
Consider the effects of having more cash in the bank on your mental health, as an entrepreneur. Money is energy in business. If you have more money in the bank, you are more open to creativity and to bigger ideas.
If you don’t have any money in the bank for your business, you get that ‘scarcity mentality’. If you see scarcity in the bank balance, you’re going to bring that same complex into other parts of your business. So, the benefits of factoring are not just isolated. It’s a holistic thing the permeates your whole business.
It’s not just about having money in the bank. It’s about feeling agile and healthy enough in the business to make smart decisions.