For the family behind Real Earth Bounty Holdings Ltd., putting people first has always been at the chocolate-covered heart of their successful business.
So, when sales plummeted 85% with the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020, the idea that they might have to lay off some of their staff was deeply painful. They’d lost almost all their export business—a whopping 65% of their overall sales—and a huge chunk of their Canadian orders. There was no sugar-coating their financial challenges.
But with the help of both RBC and EDC, they rallied to expand their sales within Canada. That same grit has put them in the enviable position of a potential expansion in 2021: as their international orders slowly return, they’ll implement a plan to enlarge their production facility and grow their export sales beyond pre-pandemic levels.
Based in British Columbia, A.J. Singh owns Real Earth Bounty (REB), a manufacturer of gourmet sweets using dried fruit as the central ingredient. His son, Manny, takes care of the company’s export sales and acts as a senior consultant. From their certified safe quality food (SQF) facility, they produce all-natural treats made from unsweetened Canadian berries and imported goodies, including coffee beans and ginger, covered with Belgian-style milk or dark chocolate, Greek yogurt, or their newest flavour: delectable salted caramel.
But like other successful companies, REB was struck hard by the pandemic, forcing them to turn to their financial institution for help. “We were ready to help the moment they reached out,” remembers Amit Garg, the RBC account manager who has worked with the Singhs for three years.
When the trouble started
Manny and A.J. might have a close-knit and lighthearted relationship, but things were far from easygoing in February 2020. It was almost Valentine’s Day and REB was preparing to load more than 60 pallets of their products onto delivery trucks when the phone rang.
“I got a call from our buyer saying, ‘We’re suspending and cancelling all purchase orders. I know the trucks are outside your door. Do not load the product,’” recalls Manny.
By mid-March, sales were almost non-existent. Sourcing ingredients from abroad became impossible and staff asked to go home because, like many Canadians, they were scared to go to work during a pandemic—a global health crisis that experts were still struggling to understand. “We turned the lights off,” says Manny.
Things were bleak. International buyers had stopped or paused their orders. But that’s not all: much of Real Earth Bounty’s Canadian sales centred on making and packaging goods for other treat brands, which were also being cancelled due to low sales. Stop-orders for bulk treats headed to “pick and mix” sections of grocery stores and popular bulk-store vendors were also given for health and safety reasons.
That’s when the Singhs called Garg at RBC. Garg knew them well and had visited their manufacturing facility more than once. Their professional relationship had become a friendship. Like many of his clients, they knew that Garg would be readily available to provide business and financial advice.
Garg knew the Government of Canada had broadened Export Development Canada’s mandate, allowing EDC to help companies with their Canadian sales. With financial products like the EDC Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) Guarantee, Canada’s trade agency could guarantee new loans or lines of credit for micro- to medium-sized domestic companies through Canadian financial institutions (FIs).
Working together with EDC and RBC, Real Earth Bounty’s credit availability at RBC was increased with the help of the EDC BCAP Guarantee. “EDC’s BCAP Guarantee gave my client the financial relief they needed,” Garg says. “It’s a great option for FIs.”
EDC’s BCAP Guarantee gave my client the financial relief they needed. It’s a great option for FIs.
What was even more impressive: It happened in a timeframe that had never before been possible, Garg recalls. “It was remarkable to see RBC and EDC working so cohesively to bring value to our clients in such a timeline,” he says.
After submitting the standard paperwork via EDC’s online system, the eligibility confirmation came in overnight, far faster than he expected for his clients. For Garg—a long-time account manager—it felt deeply satisfying. RBC’s assistance, combined with the EDC BCAP Guarantee and the federal government’s wage subsidies, were the rays of hope that Real Earth Bounty needed.
The Singhs quickly changed their business model to focus on the domestic market, which the guarantee could now support. It was a smart move: By the end of 2020, their sales were nearly three-quarters of what they’d been at the same time the year before and they were able to avoid laying off any of their staff.
Timely relief for clients as they explore new business models
This was a “big and timely relief for my clients. I would describe it as a lifeline. There’s no other word to describe it better,” says Garg. “Helping our SMEs is so important because they’re the backbone of our country. I highly recommend the BCAP Guarantee. It’s been one of the best products for my clients and others who qualify.”
While the pandemic has been fraught with business setbacks and failures for some, for others, like the Singhs, it forced them to pivot and explore new opportunities with success. It also allowed RBC to partner with EDC to put in place the EDC BCAP Guarantee within incredible timelines and enabled one FI account manager to help two clients-turned-friends get their business back on track, so they can continue to make high-quality confections in growing Canadian and international markets.
And that’s the yogurt-covered, dried cherry on top.
Let your clients know about the EDC BCAP Guarantee
If you haven’t already reached out to your financial institution’s clients, now may be a good time to tell them about EDC’s BCAP Guarantee. It can help them secure the working capital they need to sustain themselves in this difficult time—and even, as Real Earth Bounty did, find new ways to grow their business.