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NSBI helping local businesses become exporters

Jen Laughlin of Schoolhouse Gluten-Free Gourmet and Laurel Broten, president and CEO of NSBI, clink gluten-free brownies in Laughlin’s office.
Jen Laughlin of Schoolhouse Gluten-Free Gourmet and Laurel Broten, president and CEO of NSBI, clink gluten-free brownies in Laughlin’s office. - Josh Healey

Over 300 businesses tapped into the export growth program in 2018

When Jen Laughlin and Aiden Brunn decided to open their gluten-free kitchen, they knew they wanted to live along the South Shore.

They started their businesses, Schoolhouse Gluten-Free Gourmet, after Aiden was diagnosed with Celiac disease 10 years ago and, as their name suggests, have set up in a historic schoolhouse next to the ocean.

But don’t mistake their cozy rural roots: thanks to help from Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI), Jen and Aidan said they’re exporting their baked products from coast to coast.

Jen said that since applying to NSBI’s growth export program in 2017, Schoolhouse Gluten-Free Gourmet’s revenue has grown 25 per cent thanks to an improved website and online store.

“Now, we can actually ship our products across all of Canada,” she explained, adding that 80 per cent of their business is wholesale.

“We really changed the way we communicate with customers.”

In fact, as per data provided through NSBI’s export growth program, some 300 local companies also received funding for their businesses in 2018.

The total value of goods exported by Nova Scotian companies totalled $5.4 billion on the international market.

Simply put, NSBI president and CEO Laurel Broten said the world is hungry for Canadian – and specifically Nova Scotian – products.

“We have great businesses who have wonderful stories and the world is really clamouring for that,” she said.

She explained that there’s a real opportunity for small businesses to market to larger audiences through things like social media and other e-commerce platforms.

In fact, people can work from rural locations and still access global markets.

“The world is your oyster, in that sense, because of your ability to connect instantly,” said Broten.

Schoolhouse Gluten-Free Gourmet was just one of Broten’s recent stops on a tour around the South Shore to connect with partnered businesses.

Through her meetings, she said she had the sense that there was an energy from the region’s business community.

She pointed to NSBI’s work and things like the Ivany report’s rural call to economics arms as factors in helping small businesses grow over the last few years.

Given over 1,000 provincial businesses shipped goods internationally in 2018, Broten indicated the numbers are reflective of a provincial shift.

“Canada has a very strong brand so there’s a very strong demand for our products,” she said, adding that NSBI has regional workers who guide businesses each step of the way.

“We’re here to help them.”

@joshrjhealey / joshua.rj.healey@gmail.com

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