Percheron Plastic Inc. hasn’t been shy about its intentions to diversify beyond distribution and manufacturing plastic tanks since its humble beginnings in 2016.
If it wasn’t heard before, its latest deals broadcast the message loud and clear.
In spring 2018, the plastic tank and material handling manufacturer entered an agreement to acquire Trojan Classroom Furniture, a Bobcaygeon-based furniture manufacturing company specially designed for early childhood learning centres and classrooms. Last October, Percheron Plastic founders, Matt Tanguay and Eric Quane, moved the furniture business to Peterborough which now boasts sales of over a million dollars annually.
The previous year, they acquired a paraffin wax business and also moved it to Peterborough where they now sell FDA-approved multi-use paraffin wax products to national distributors, Newell Brands and Home Hardware, and online through Amazon, which has been a tremendous success for the company.
The decision to house both businesses in Peterborough was a no-brainer for Tanguay and Quane.
“We enjoy Peterborough and we like the community and the labour force. There are plenty of incentives for growth and for entrepreneurs looking to get started,” says Tanguay.
Percheron Plastic has developed a large customer base across North America, supplying a full range of plastic storage tanks for potable water or industrial use using the highest quality of plastic for industries such as agricultural, chemicals and additives, cider and spirits, food and beverage and water treatment.
“When we first ventured out, we started with what we knew,” says Tanguay, who had 20 years of experience manufacturing polyethylene plastic tanks prior to starting Percheron Plastic with Quane, who comes from a fitness and manufacturing background. “Now, we’re continuously focused on looking ahead for new opportunities.”
A classic product with over 100 years of achievement, the company’s Paraffin Wax is available in granulated form or easy to break bars. There are many uses for the non-scented product in multiple fields and industries, primarily for candles, plastics and rubber, crayons, and as a layer of coating to guard from environmental moisture.
While the company continues to build and look for opportunities, both organically and through acquisitions, innovation remains one of its main principles so it can create value down the road for other products it has been working on.
The most notable example is the creation of Firestraw®, a fire starter made from straw and wax. In 2018, Percheron Plastic added the non-toxic fire starter to its product line.
“We had different ideas of what we could do with paraffin wax and fire starters was one of them,” says Tanguay. “We wanted something that was innovative and not like anything else that was on the market.”
Firestraw comes bundled for campfires or fireplaces and has a clean burn that lasts for 5 to 7 minutes. The secret is the thin coating of the high-quality paraffin wax, causing the flame to burn longer and become more sustainable through the weather and outdoor elements.
While Firestraw was in the early stages of production, Tanguay and Quane realized they needed an extra boost to get their product to market. The business partners approached Community Futures for funding through its Eastern Ontario Development Plan, and the staff in the Peterborough office helped them work out their business plan.
“When we approached Community Futures, we had a good idea of what we needed but they really helped us put together a comprehensive plan as part of getting funding. By focusing on our business plan and next steps, we were able to get grant money through the Eastern Ontario Development Plan and a loan to help develop and manufacturer Firestraw as well as any costs related to manufacturing, marketing, labour costs, and product development,” says Tanguay.
Firestraw is available in several stores and Percheron Plastic is actively working with engineers to ramp up production to meet the volume and price point required by its existing distributors and growing online sales.
The company employs nine full-time employees and have plans to increase staff. Part of the company’s future strategy is to automate its manufacturing process so it can compete on a global scale with larger manufacturers in the United States and China.
Percheron Plastic is clearly making a mark in the Peterborough entrepreneurial landscape. In 2018, it was declared the Goods and Services category winner in the Bears’ Lair Entrepreneurial Competition Final Pitch, which gave it “street credibility” says Tanguay. In April, Percheron Plastic became a semi-finalist in Ignite 100, an innovation challenge hosted by Community Futures Peterborough open to all existing business in the Peterborough region to compete for significant funding opportunities that support business expansion and growth.
For aspiring entrepreneurs, Tanguay offers this insightful and transformative piece of advice: “As your business grows, get used to operating outside of your comfort zone, whether it’s working with new staff, delegating, or approaching new suppliers or banks. Get used to asking for money; as your business develops, there’ll always be a need for more capital.
“This is where Community Futures really excel. They understand that entrepreneurs don’t have a lot of experience with this. When we go to Community Futures, we have a lot of questions and they provide a lot of options to help us. They also have a huge network, so if the solution isn’t with them, they’ll point you in the right direction.”
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