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OMG: local candy kings sign huge deal for U.S. distribution

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Arlene Dickinson (centre), CEO of Venture Communications, flanked by her OMG's partners Larry Finnson (left) and Chris Emery (right).

MARYANA DICKINSON Enlarge Image

Arlene Dickinson (centre), CEO of Venture Communications, flanked by her OMG's partners Larry Finnson (left) and Chris Emery (right).

WINNIPEG'S kings of candy are expanding south of the border.

Larry Finnson and Chris Emery, best known as the creators of Clodhoppers before selling the company in 2006, have signed a deal with Sam's Club in the U.S. to distribute their newest confectionary treat -- OMG's.

The American chain of membership-only retail warehouse clubs -- are similar to Costco, but owned by Walmart -- have 619 stores.

"They called us," Finnson said. "This is big. It takes us up another level."

The plan is to have OMG's -- milk- and dark-chocolate graham clusters mixed with diced almonds and crunchy toffee bits -- in Sam's Club stores in March and, more importantly, in the mouths of up to one million of its customers shortly after as part of a gigantic sampling program.

OMG's Candy operates a 12,000-square-foot plant in St. James and is preparing to ramp up production from 450 kilograms of candy an hour to 675 kg per hour. There are 15 employees.

The duo launched OMG's last year and quickly found distribution agreements with many of Canada's biggest retailers, including Sobeys, Safeway, Loblaw, Shoppers Drug Mart, Rexall, 7-Eleven, Petro-Canada and Esso.

Next year, Finnson said he and Emery have an aggressive goal of being "everywhere" in Canada.

He said the pair's decade of experience with Clodhoppers has helped them get out of the gate faster with OMG's.

"We're 300 per cent faster than Clodhoppers in terms of sales revenue," he said.

Of course, it didn't hurt appearing on CBC's popular venture capitalism TV show, Dragon's Den. You'd be hard-pressed to find somebody happier about the Sam's Club deal than Arlene Dickinson, one of the show's "dragons."

She invested $250,000 for a 50 per cent stake of the company last year.

"Together, we want to build a $100-million brand. Our goal is building this internationally. It will be more than just a candy," she said. "It's about building a company that can have scale to it. We have big dreams."

Dickinson sits on the board and helps with the company's financial structure while Emery and Finnson handle the day-to-day roles.

"I'm pleased so far, very pleased," she said. "It's one of the biggest investments I've made in terms of the (money) and where it's gone."

Dickinson was in town recently to give the keynote address at the 2013 Gratitude Gala at the Fairmont hotel. The annual event, which is put on by the Canadian Centre for Refugee Employment, honours organizations, employers and individuals who foster workplace diversity, improve living conditions for new Canadians and create opportunities for refugees living in Manitoba.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 4, 2013 A4

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