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This article was published 24/9/2016 (242 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
To say Adriana De Luca and Michelle Lalonde are on a roll would be an understatement.
In the last two weeks, the Winnipeg entrepreneurs have seen their company — Tiber River Naturals — move into a new manufacturing facility that’s more than five times bigger that their old one, seen it named one of Canada’s 500 fastest-growing companies and seen themselves named as finalists for this year’s Women Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, which will be announced next month in Winnipeg.
"It’s been fantastic," an elated Lalonde said in an interview Monday, noting they found out they’d make the entrepreneur’s short list on the same day — last Thursday — that Profit Magazine’s 2016 Top 500 list was announced.
As previously reported, Tiber River Naturals was one of 10 Manitoba companies named to this year’s Profit 500 list, with five-year sales growth of 144 per cent. That gave it a placing of 354 on the list.
Lalonde said much of that growth was due an explosion in direct-home and online sales over the last three years as the company sought to expand sales across Canada through the establishment of a network of home-based sales representatives who sell its products directly to Canadians by hosting home parties and by marketing and selling the products on their own websites.
Lalonde said the company’s direct-sales division has seen its sales grow by 178 per cent last year and by 410 per cent the year before. That’s what created the need for a much bigger production facility, she added.
The new 11,000-square-foot plant at 326 Saulteaux Cres., which they moved into Sept. 9, is a big step up from the 1,900-square-foot facility the company had on Keewatin Street.
"We’re still obviously tweaking things and getting some more new equipment and stuff like that," Lalonde said. "But product is being made and being shipped, and it’s great!"
A bigger production plant has also meant a bigger staff. Lalonde said about 10 new hires in the past three months have boosted the company’s overall employment to about 60 workers, and she expects that number to swell to between 70 and 80 by the end of next May, which is when firm’s current fiscal year ends.
Tiber River Naturals is a vertically integrated operation that manufactures all of the personal care and home-cleaning products it sells. The all-natural products, which include things such as soaps, lip balms, bath and body washes, home cleaners and yoga-mat and hockey-bag sprays, are all made from fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs. That makes them safe for both people and the environment, Lalonde said.
In addition to its people products, the company will be launching a new line of all-natural pet products in the near future.
De Luca, who founded Tiber River in 1999, and Lalonde, who became a co-owner in 2005, went back to the future when they decided four years ago to grow sales outside Winnipeg through a direct-sales model, rather than through franchising. Lalonde noted that’s how De Luca got the company started — by hosting home parties and selling directly to consumers.
The company’s direct-sales division now boasts 390 home-based sales consultants. They’re in every province and territory except Quebec and the Northwest Territories, and Lalonde said they expect that number to balloon to between 800 and 1,000 by the end of next May.
Although the company still maintains two retail stores in Winnipeg, on Academy Road and Kenaston Boulevard, Lalonde said there are no plans to add any more.
"Direct-sales companies generally don’t have retail stores. So the direct-sales division is the future of our company."
She said the company also still produces private-label products for a few longtime corporate customers, which include several local spas. That won’t change, either, she added.
She said once it establishes a firm footing in Canada, Tiber River plans is to expand into the massive U.S. market. That hopefully will happen in the next three years, she added.