Food Processing and Manufacturing
Shaun Crew, Hemp Oil Canada
Hemp Oil Canada looks for healthy opportunities
When you're in business, you can find opportunity in the most peculiar places. Shaun Crew found it 2,000 kilometers from home, over coffee.
It was 1998. Shaun was the district vice-president of an international freight forwarder and was in Vancouver overseeing a shipment of transformers from Manitoba to India.
Since he had some time to kill before catching a flight back to Winnipeg, Shaun called his cousin and they met for coffee. Their conversation not only changed Shaun's future, it launched a new industry.
“My cousin was involved with venture capital and just came back from a symposium on industrial hemp,” Shaun explains. “He put the bug in my ear that this could be something big.”
Shaun's cousin was right.
“I came back to Winnipeg and started researching industrial hemp and saw its potential in the marketplace. I immediately registered the name Hemp Oil Canada.”
Until then, hemp hadn't been legalized in Canada because of its botanical cousin, marijuana. But unlike pot, industrial hemp contains very little THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical that gives marijuana its narcotic effect.
In March that year, Health Canada removed industrial hemp as a controlled substance. This gave hemp a separate definition from marijuana and cleared the way for commercial production.
For Shaun, the timing was perfect. It was the end of the Crow-subsidized era and farmers were looking for cash crop alternatives. The consumer market was opening up to the idea of hemp, too.
“Consumers began to read nutrition labels. Baby boomers started to learn more about fats, trans fats, saturated fats and the problems associated with obesity in our society. There couldn't have been a better time to introduce the nutritional benefits of hemp to the market.”
Shaun took the plunge and turned his home into the Hemp Oil Canada factory. Orders came flooding in for hemp oil, seeds, lotions, shampoos and conditioners. It wasn't long before capacity became an issue and Shaun was looking to finance a major expansion.
“Other lenders treated me like I was still a start-up,” Shaun says. He then scheduled a meeting with Bonnie Bain from FCC, who he had originally met when he was first starting up the business.
“It was a relief to talk to somebody who understands business, agriculture, rural communities and the importance of all these things. It was just a breath of fresh air.”
Since expanding operations to their present location in Ste. Agathe, just south of Winnipeg, Hemp Oil Canada has established itself as the largest bulk hemp food supplier in the world. Being vertically integrated allows them to contract hemp seed producers from across the prairies, crush and process seed, and then package and ship their products to 15 countries worldwide.
“I support FCC because they've been a huge supporter for me. Our growth has doubled a few times over during the past few years. We now have 14 employees, up from the original five. It's nice to see rural jobs being created so people can stay in those communities.”
Shaun sees his success as only the beginning.
He says it's only a matter time before the big food companies like Kraft, Nabisco or even restaurant chains pick up on the nutritional benefits of hemp. “That's the kind of thing that will really push the growth of this industry.”