Local brand Nonna Pia's Balsamic Reductions continued the lightning-quick growth it's enjoyed since first appearing on the hit reality series Dragons' Den by inking a deal last month with Canadian business magnate Jimmy Pattison.
Since securing a $100,000 investment from former Dragon David Chilton in Season 9 of the CBC show, the Whistler couple of Natasha and Norm Strim have expanded their line of balsamic vinegars into thousands of stores across North America. In 2015, Chilton invested another quarter-million dollars into the company — the largest reinvestment in Dragons' Den history — helping Nonna Pia's get onto the shelves of major U.S. chains such as Safeway, Whole Foods and Kroger. The Strims have since doubled the size of their Function Junction production facility, added a CFO, and, with an eye towards building on the momentum of the past few years, went looking for another investor to add to the team.
"Because we've had such a good partner in David, we really wanted our next investor to be a strategic partner as well and one that we could communicate with and who could add value and grow the business," Natasha explained.
Knowing that Pattison was already a Nonna Pia's fan, the Strims decided to cold-call the billionaire investor and philanthropist.
"We knew that when Jimmy sends gift baskets to dignitaries, he was using our product," added Natasha.
It didn't take long after meeting with Pattison for the Strims to realize he was the right fit.
"He just sat down and said, 'It's really important you do what's right for you. Don't push, think about it, and make the right decision. It's got to be good for you and us and it's got to be the right relationship.' So that really went a long way with me,'" Natasha relayed.
While she couldn't reveal the details of the deal, Natasha said the Pattison Group came onboard for a minority share of the company, with the Strims maintaining their majority stake. Nonna Pia's will now fall under the Pattison Group's Ocean Brands, Canada's second-largest seafood company.
Natasha said it's a partnership that will be mutually beneficial to both sides, with the Strims taking advantage of the Pattison Group's long list of retail connections, and Ocean Brands' building on Nonna Pia's inroads into the crowded U.S. market.
"The idea now is to just have two partners, not dilute our company anymore, and grow together as a team," she added.
While celebrating closing the deal last month at Pattison's downtown Vancouver office, the Strims learned he wasn't the only high-powered supporter of the Nonna Pia's brand.
"(Pattison) said he had another meeting to get to and then he looked at Norm and I and said he had someone he wanted us to meet. So we went into his office, and it was Al Gore," Natasha said.
"It was pretty cool to present our product and our story to the ex-Vice President of the United States."
Now, with Nonna Pia's continued evolution, Natasha said it's only a matter of time before they'll have to consider their next step south of the border.
"I think we're looking at 12 to 18 months before we get to a point where we either have to open a second facility or have our product co-packed, which is when someone else makes it for you," she explained. "It's an interesting question with everything happening with Donald Trump, (threatening to) stop NAFTA or putting in place an agreement that if products are made in the States, he'll cut down on taxes ... so having our next facility down in the States is the next strategic move for us. "
For more information, visit www.nonnapias.com.