Turn­ing ideas into in­no­va­tion

Busi­ness peo­ple share their suc­cesses

Tri-County Vanguard - - BUSINESS - TINA COMEAU TRICOUNTY VAN­GUARD

Dustin DuPrat got his first pay­check as a labourer at the age of 13 with one of his un­cle’s com­pa­nies.

Grow­ing up in a ru­ral area, he was ei­ther run­ning through a farm­ers’ field or he was on a job site with a ham­mer in his hand.

His farm­ers’ field days are be­hind him but a ham­mer is never far away.

DuPrat was part of a ‘Meet the In­no­va­tors’ panel at a recent event at NSCC Bur­ridge in Yar­mouth called In­no­va­tion Fête, which at­tracted busi­ness peo­ple from through­out the prov­ince where in­no­va­tion in Nova Sco­tia was cel­e­brated and show­cased.

DuPrat is a co-owner of the Yar­mouth de­sign firm Ren­nDuPrat, which does build­ing in­te­rior and ex­te­rior work and also fo­cuses on build­ing “phe­nom­e­nal cus­tom­tai­lored pieces of fur­ni­ture and cab­i­netry,” he said.

“For us in­no­va­tion means a lot,” said DuPrat. “It means ev­ery­thing from de­vel­op­ing patents and in­creas­ing ef­fi­cien­cies to in­vest­ing in au­to­ma­tion that ac­tu­ally helps cap­i­tal­ize our profit.”

The most im­por­tant part of in­no­va­tion, he said, is noth­ing they do is ever to the detri­ment of their em­ploy­ees.

Be­cause when it comes to in­no­va­tion, the tal­ent of peo­ple tops the list.

At Ren­nDuPrat they’ve crosstrained staff on equip­ment that some peo­ple may per­ceive as equip­ment that re­places em­ploy­ees due to au­to­ma­tion, but DuPrat said it’s the op­po­site. He said they in­vest in this equip­ment so their em­ploy­ees’ time can be freed up, al­low­ing them to be more cre­ative when it comes to their work.

“Each and ev­ery one of our em­ploy­ees at Ren­nDuPrat has a skill set that com­pli­ments the other, they’re all widely tal­ented,” he said. “With­out that abil­ity to ex­press their creativ­ity on a reg­u­lar ba­sis not only would they die as peo­ple, as em­ploy­ees, as cre­ative in­di­vid­u­als, but their craft would die and we at Ren­nDuPrat would be do­ing a dis­ser­vice for the in­dus­try and re­ally we would be per­pet­u­at­ing that stereo­type that crafts peo­ple are noth­ing more than gen­eral labour­ers.”

Rather the re­sult, he said, is a busi­ness, just three years old, that is of­fer­ing unique prod­ucts to its cus­tomers.

“We’ve got a busi­ness model and an ex­em­plo­rary prod­uct and ser­vice all be­cause of im­ple­men­ta­tion, in­no­va­tion, in­vest­ment and, more than any­thing, a sim­ple and re­spect­ful the­ory that these peo­ple, these crafts­peo­ple, should be able to do what drives their pas­sion. Ev­ery­day their heart and soul goes into what they do.”

BEER AND BUB­BLES

Heart and soul are some­thing the staff at Box­ing Rock Brew­ing Co. in Shel­burne know all about.

Henry Pe­dro wasn’t al­ways a brewer, nor, grow­ing up in Toronto, did he ever ex­pect to be. When he ven­tured east to find a new home he also went look­ing for a new job.

Not find­ing a job to his lik­ing, he de­cided to make one in­stead.

He got to­gether with a part­ner named Emily Tip­ton who al­ready lived in Shel­burne. They put their heads to­gether and said let’s build some­thing.

The ques­tions, of course, were what and how? A brew­ing com­pany was the an­swer, which they de­signed from the ground up.

Is that in­no­va­tion, Pe­dro said? Prob­a­bly not, since they were mak­ing a prod­uct that had al­ready ex­isted for a very long time.

“In­no­va­tion had hap­pened al­ready, but the way we did it, we thought maybe there would be a bet­ter way to go about it,” he said.

And so they looked at prob­lems that brew­ers face ev­ery day and de­cided to tackle the hard­est one – car­bon­a­tion.

“Putting the bub­bles in the beer is dif­fi­cult. It’s dif­fi­cult to do well. It’s dif­fi­cult to re­peat. It’s dif­fi­cult to get right,” Pe­dro said.

And so some­times a beer is too fizzy. Or it’s too flat. The an­swer to more con­sis­tent car­boniza­tion ex­isted. They just needed to find it.

“We know what we’re shoot­ing for, we know what we need, we know that it has to be at a cer­tain pres­sure and we know it has to be at a cer­tain tem­per­a­ture. How are we go­ing to fig­ure this out?” With help from Guy Tip­ton they even­tu­ally found the so­lu­tion through the au­to­ma­tion route.

The first de­vice was crude – “Imag­ine a lit­tle steel box that looked like a beaver had chewed holes in it, with things hang­ing off of it and electronics at­tached to it with duct tape in­side of Tup­per­ware,” Pe­dro said. Not only did it work, but, he said, “It was bloody awe­some!”

“This thing ac­tu­ally did the job it was sup­posed to do, it got car­bon­a­tion lev­els that were darn near per­fect.”

The even­tual re­sult was a de­vice called the Fiz­zWizz that is now sold to brew­ers all over the world.

“I’m re­ally proud of this be­cause this is our in­no­va­tion. We helped other brew­ers get their beer right,” Pe­dro said, adding there is al­ways go­ing to be a prob­lem to solve in a brew­ery.

And at Box­ing Rock not only are they up for the chal­lenge, they wel­come it.

TRAPPED IN AN IDEA

It’s sort of the same type of place Scott Dauphine found him­self in years ago. The Yar­mouth County res­i­dent was look­ing for an ex­ist­ing busi­ness to tap into – one that was al­ready up and run­ning and had all the sys­tems and per­son­nel in place. But it didn’t hap­pen.

So in­stead of turn­ing to an ex­ist­ing busi­ness, he turned to an ex­ist­ing in­dus­try.

And where is there a big in­dus­try in At­lantic Canada? He needed to look no fur­ther than the lob­ster in­dus­try. And, he de­cided, why not in­tro­duce some­thing dif­fer­ent to the in­dus­try.

“Now we have a prod­uct – the plas­tic lob­ster trap,” he said, ex­plain­ing it’s been two-and-and-ahalf years in the mak­ing and they’ve gone through all of the stages that a busi­ness would – find­ing and start­ing a com­pany, seek­ing out great men­tors, ex­plor­ing pro­cesses, com­ing up with pro­to­typ­ing, etc.

The re­sult is a plas­tic lob­ster trap cre­ated by the Lob­ster Trap Com­pany that, af­ter much work, Dauphine hopes to start tak­ing or­ders for and man­u­fac­tur­ing next year. A sell­ing point will be the longevity of the trap with its pro­jected life span of at least 10 years.

But it’s taken a lot of work to get here.

“When we built our first pro­to­type we were is­sued an ex­per­i­men­tal li­cence from DFO where we could fish the traps but we weren’t al­lowed to keep the lob­ster,” he said. “We set up an ex­per­i­ment to fish the traps and that was re­ally a turn­ing point for my­self. When we pulled the traps up and they had lob­ster in them.” It was an un­be­liev­able feel­ing. They went back to the wharf. They had a trap. They had lob­ster. Now what?

“I said this is just the be­gin­ning,” he re­called, say­ing while it worked for them they were not fish­er­men. And that’s where the real work be­gan – get­ting in­put from their po­ten­tial cus­tomers who told them: We need this. We don’t need that. This will work. That won’t work.

“The ex­per­tise is ac­tu­ally in the cus­tomer,” said Dauphine dur­ing the panel dis­cus­sion. Af­ter all, in­no­va­tion doesn’t al­ways hap­pen by your­self.

“My ad­vice to any en­trepreneur is keep an open mind, move with your prod­uct and lis­ten to your cus­tomer be­cause they’re go­ing to de­cide where you’re go­ing to go.”

CARLA ALLEN PHOTO

Dustin DuPrat at his Ren­nDuPrat lo­ca­tion in Yar­mouth where past tra­di­tions com­pli­ment fu­ture in­no­va­tions.

BOX­ING ROCK WEB­SITE

Box­ing Rock Brew­ing Com­pany brew­ers Emily Tip­ton and Henry Pe­dro.

TINA COMEAU

Scott Dauphine of the Lob­ster Trap Com­pany ex­plains fea­tures of their plas­tic lob­ster trap at a busi­ness in­no­va­tion event at NSCC Bur­ridge.

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