Paul Antoniadis made his first sale on the shop floor when he was two years old. His parents ran a men’s clothing store in northern Minnesota, known for its brutal winters. There was a snowstorm outside the shop, distracting his father for a few minutes. When he returned, his toddler had stepped in to take his place and was showing a couple a silk tie, finely crafted with wool interlining. How could any customer resist?
“I still love it,” Antoniadis says about his life in retail. “You can say it’s the only thing I know.”
Stints at Walmart and Best Buy gave Antoniadis his eye for trends, his ability to turn them into products at lightning speed and his knack for building efficient supply chains. “I took the best of the people I worked with and tucked that into who I am,” he says, his voice full of gratitude.
Today, Antoniadis is the CEO and partner of Good Natured Products Inc., a Vancouver manufacturer of environmentally friendly products and packaging. At last count, they had 385 items in their lineup that are priced to compete with those of their petroleum-based competitors. To an outsider, it feels as if they do everything: biodegradable coffee cups, dessert containers, stretch wrap, recycling bins, take-out boxes and cups to hold your pens and pencils, to name just a few. The products are good for the planet and good for the people who put their food into them.
His team is incredibly passionate—some about the environment, some about health and wellness. “If we want to make a difference, the way we’re going to do it is to create better everyday products,” Antoniadis says. “The more petroleum products we can remove, the better we’re doing. It’s the quiet good. There’s nothing better than the quiet good.”
Good Natured doubled their business in 2018. They did it again in 2019. At the beginning of 2020, they were on track to acquire an Ontario packaging company—Shepherd Thermoforming & Packaging Inc. in Brampton—so they could get into the manufacturing side of their business. But things changed when the pandemic plunged the world’s economy into uncertainty. Hospitality-related businesses like restaurants, hotels and stadiums, which account for an important share of packaging sales in Canada and abroad, were devastated.
Even so, Good Natured still wanted to acquire the Ontario company. But to make that happen as smoothly as possible, they needed more working capital. So they approached their financial institution, Comerica Bank, for a loan.
Getting more cash flow
Not only has COVID changed how Canadians live and connect, it’s also affected the risk levels that financial institutions will accept. Many businesses that looked like safe bets six months ago are no longer able to get the financing they need.
In the case of Good Natured, the EDC Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) Guarantee gave Comerica the assurance to provide the cash flow necessary to keep the business running during its acquisition of Shepherd Thermoforming. “[The BCAP Guarantee] allowed us to get the working capital necessary to continue driving product and packaging sales,” says Don Holmstrom, Good Natured’s CFO. Without the guarantee, Comerica wouldn’t have been able to give Good Natured the full amount of credit they needed.
“COVID created a more challenging environment for debt providers,” says Dave Samra, vice president at Comerica. “EDC’s BCAP Guarantee helped us provide additional capital to companies in a time of economic uncertainty and in many cases we’ve been able to provide more dollars than usual, given the support of EDC’s BCAP Guarantee.”
Samra has used the guarantee with numerous other clients since it was launched in April and has many more prospects in the pipeline. With the guarantee, he can offer his clients better terms and access to more credit. “Our relationship with Good Natured is a long-standing one,” he says. “It’s been really gratifying to help them through this.”
A financial alternative
It was the drop in demand from the hospitality sector that qualified Good Natured for the EDC BCAP Guarantee. Interestingly, if it had turned out that they didn’t qualify for the guarantee, they may have qualified for financial help through EDC’s Export Guarantee Program (EGP).
Why? Because the acquisition of Shepherd Thermoforming meant Good Natured would be making personal protective equipment (PPE) to help meet the federal government’s call for this critical gear. This could have qualified them for the EGP if they had needed working capital to adapt their business model to meet the new demand for PPE.
Everyone was caught off guard by the COVID crisis. But the BCAP Guarantee gave our bank the confidence it needed to provide us with financing during a crucial time.
But Antoniadis doesn’t expect PPE to be a big part of their long-term business. “We’re not building a business around COVID,” he says. “We want COVID to disappear. We look at this as our contribution to the fight.”
He’s optimistic that Good Natured will do well in 2020. Their stocks are climbing. The hospitality sector is severely bruised, but slowly getting back on its feet. And Good Natured benefited from the explosive growth in the grocery sector when everything else was shut down. Staff have started to return to the office, thanks to strict protocols and flexible work hours. Anyone who wants to work from home is welcome to do so. And they’re feeling lots of support from the financial community.
“Everyone was caught off guard by the COVID crisis,” says Antoniadis. “The EDC BCAP Guarantee gave our bank the confidence it needed to provide us with financing during a crucial time.”