Juanita Corbett and her husband Pat are co-founders of B.C.-based Canadian Natural Oils, a company that produces products from cold-pressed rosehips oil. Rich in Vitamin C, rosehips oil has been prized for centuries for its ability to heal skin that has been burned, or damaged by sun and aging.
When did you start thinking about exporting as part of your business?
We started selling my rosehips oil in Canada year-round at our Hills Health Ranch. So many people wanted to buy it that I decided to look into selling my product elsewhere. In 2004, I went to a business show sponsored by the immigrant social services group S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Society in Burnaby. I didn’t realize how valuable my product was and that people really wanted to export my products. It was stunning to the point of overwhelming me.
What was your export journey like to get to where you are today?
It was not a difficult road because of my good experience with Mr. Choi [agent-distributor] from Korea. He was happy to walk me through all the legal paperwork and the process to get my product to South Korea and Japan. That is where he first took my rosehips oil.
Could you share a specific story that you consider a critical moment in your export journey?
Yes, it’s a story that is happening now. When an A-list actor really likes your rosehips oil, it settled something in my mind that I have something really great. It’s because of the quality that Canada represents to the world. They know that if it comes from Canada—with pristine air, land and water—it must be pretty good.
What is the biggest difference between selling in Canada and selling in another country?
To export you have to have someone you can trust.
How has exporting changed the way you have market and sell your products in Canada?
I think when people realize the product is so good that it is being sold in other countries that gives a big boost. It also gives you validity and tells you that it is not just Canadians that want your product. When the crash came during the 2008 recession, I didn’t cut corners. I continued to do exactly what I have always done.
What is the Number 1 thing that SME exporters need to know about exporting and trade?
I can’t say it enough: You need to pick your exporter or distributor carefully. I met 300 people at the Burnaby S.U.C.C.E.S.S. event and I talked to every one of them. The only one of the 300 that I felt had my best interests in mind was Mr. Choi. Take your time, and really check out the company and person you want to deal with. You need to trust them.
How has the trading world changed since you started your company?
When I started 19 years ago, there really was no competition; I was the only one in Canada producing wild cold-pressed rosehips. Now there are competitors in places like Chile and South Africa. But when you say you are from Canada, that really means something. With online trading, I can’t believe how easy it is now for someone, say in Dubai, to text to me and say I want to buy your oil. It’s so easy today for someone to send you questions and for you to talk to them as if they are right there.