Natasha: It’s been a while since we last talked to you guys. You’ve expanded, new headquarters, new collaborations – where do you want to start?
James: Well in 2014 we had just made our way onto Sunterra’s shelves and it was a super exciting time. My very first job was at Sunterra, I started there on my 14th birthday. Now we’re two years older and partnering with your team in new ways, we do the bacon flavour for pork month in June which is a lot of fun, our stand up freezers are doing very well and new opportunities have come by you showcasing us on social media and us sharing the love back on our channels. When we interact with the team at Sunterra there are so many really great people that want to see us succeed. It really feels like Sunterra is a family run business rather than some big retailer that just happens to sell groceries. I think we’re seeing shifts in how people are buying products, so we’re always trying to put our best foot forward. One of the biggest things in the last year is we’re now a certified B Corporation.
Natasha: Cool. Tell me about that.
James: Yeah, we got excited about it cause it was what we were already doing, and moving to get to the certification really showed us how important it is to measure the work we do. We do lots in the community and within our team that we didn’t really track, and that had to be done to qualify. It was a rigorous process, but it’s interesting now because we’ve become pioneers in a way. There are less than 100 B Corps in Canada, only nine in Calgary and only three frozen dessert ones in the world.
Natasha: So what does B certification mean to a customer?
James: I would say that 90 per cent of people have no clue what it is. The investment on our side to attain a certification that no one knows about, that’s actually what B Corp is. It’s not about doing things that checks off some box of oh, you’re gluten free or you’re made local. It’s doing business for the force of good and aligning a triple bottom line where people and purpose come before profit.
Natasha: You showed me an internal water recycling system and other new machinery downstairs, has the product changed at all?
James: We’re always challenging ourselves to source better ingredients and be smarter in the process. We have a saying here: Kaizen. It’s a Japanese word that means constant improvement and it’s about challenging ourselves every day to not be complacent. Because the product we create today that’s great, tomorrow is only good.
Natasha: Speaking of new things, do you have some new flavours for us?
James: We’re launching two new flavours in Sunterra: white peach iced tea sorbetto and Fiasco Squeeze raspberry lemon beer sorbetto. Fiasco Squeeze came to life after years of telling the guys at Village Brewery we needed to do something together. So we did, under our Love This City umbrella and this one might be the most fun because it’s a full circle. The raspberries and lemons that go into the beer are sourced by us and Village has created a great lemon berry helles beer which is like a Munich lager, a great summer beer. Cheers. [Bottles clink as we try the beer. It’s dee-licous, in case you were wondering.] So we took the same raspberries and lemons to create a raspberry lemon sorbetto and then we put beer inside that. It’s super fun.
Natasha: You support a lot of other businesses and people in the community. I saw Rosso coffee served downstairs and you have Grizzly Paw soda and Village beer on tap for employees. And then there’s Do Good in Your Hood. Let’s talk about that.
James: Two years ago I became an ambassador for the United Way as a Do Gooder and we had just finished some really great work in the community during the flood. It’s become such an integral part of our company and we’re finding ourselves getting more involved with causes that are important to our employees. One of them is breakfast club. We show up at an underprivileged school and serve breakfast every Wednesday. It’s great, it’s through the Boys & Girls Club and they had asked us to cut a cheque and I said that wasn’t really how we roll so we come here at six in the morning, cook breakfast for 60 kids and we roll up to the school and serve it. We also do dinner service at the Drop-In Centre once or twice a month and that’s another really rewarding one. I think a lot of people that don’t do something like that normally don’t really realize how great the people there are. And we get to go as a team. It’s great and it’s super easy, we just put out a calendar invite and we go. And more people need to do it, because it’s so easy to do.
Natasha: You guys have dealt with some adversity of your own recently. When did the electrical fire happen?
James: December 19, 2015. 7:38 a.m. [Big sigh] I got a call saying there was a fire. I live in Bridgeland so it’s like a five-minute drive but it felt like five days. When I arrived on site, knowing what I know from the last fire experience, we were very fortunate. Our fire suppression had limited the fire to the front café, but smoke and water had gone throughout the facility. They told us it would be six to eight months till we reopened and as of May we’ll be proud to be re-opened in only four months. You can never prepare for significant life events, all you can do is make decisions as they happen to either let it defeat you or let it define you. It’s become something like a badge of honour for everyone here that, you know, we made it to the other side and we have lots to celebrate this year. Nothing’s going to hold us down.