Minding your business: The power of the group


Minding your business: The power of the group
Joining forces can spell success

By Hilary Davidson
First published in Chatelaine’s April 2003 ssue.
© Hilary Davidson

Competitive edge
Sandra Purdy saw a business opportunity–a chance to be the first to sell saskatoon berries in grocery stores–but she knew she couldn’t do it alone. Since she’d founded her Keeler, Sask.-based company Prairie Berries in 1993, it had been growing steadily by providing the sweet-tasting fruit to hotel kitchens and restaurants. But Purdy’s orchard couldn’t produce enough berries for grocery stores in Western Canada. Her solution? To convince other growers–her competition–to go into business with her.

To identify potential partners, Purdy set out specific criteria. Her top priority was to ensure that the berries they produced would meet a common high standard, and since there was no grading system for saskatoon berries, she created one. “We’d once bought 6,000 pounds of berries from a grower, only to discover they were disgusting,” says Purdy. “If consumers get a bad product, it hurts all growers because [the consumer] might never buy another saskatoon berry.” Purdy’s partners had to sign contracts guaranteeing they would sell a certain percentage of their berries to Federated Co-operatives Ltd., the company that would purchase the berries for co-op retail stores. Also, Purdy approached growers in different regions to ensure geographic diversity, which would minimize the impact of crop failures on the new venture.

Purdy found six growers to work with and the group signed a deal with Federated to bring their frozen berries into 463 stores from B.C. to Manitoba. This has guaranteed a market for all of the growers involved–and has led Purdy to expand Prairie Berries’ operations, as some partner orchards have hired it to harvest and process their berries. As Purdy says, “The other growers are part of our success and we’re part of theirs.”

Resource of the month
It’s time for business owners to apply for the annual Rotman Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. Sponsored by the Rotman School of Management and the BMO Financial Group, the awards include categories for startup, innovation, export and more. Go to or call 1/800/354-3303.
Words from the wise
Career guru Barbara Moses’s latest book, What Next? The Complete Guide to Taking Control of Your Working Life (DK), will be available in May.

On career crises
“People usually don’t wake up one day and find themselves in a career crisis. Often it’s something they’ve drifted into over time. For example, a nurse who loves working with patients might be promoted into an administrative position. Look back at what you were doing when you were younger and starting out to decide what you really want to do.”

On taking charge of your career
“When people ask themselves ‘What next?’ they often go into problem-solving mode and focus on options. A new mom going back to work might think ‘Should I work part time or telecommute?’ Instead, she needs to focus on what needs and values she wants to satisfy. What skills does she have? You can’t have it all at the same time, so you have to set priorities.”

• Competitive edge
• Resource of the month
• Words from the wise
• Take a turn for the better
• Getting started
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