When Wade Bradley's father and uncle first launched their small business 20 years ago, they dreamed of bringing quality food smokers to the kitchens of North America. The Bradley Smoker would revolutionize home cooking -- anyone who enjoyed barbecuing would find it easy to make perfect smoked food.
But it cost a lot to produce the precision instrument that would do the job better than any conventional smoker. Few backyard barbecuers would pay $2,500 USD to make smoked salmon, no matter how delicious it was. So, Bradley Smokers turned to the restaurant and hotel market, helping establishments enhance their menus with smoked foods made fresh on the premises.
The family business grew in this relatively small market, but the idea of creating an economical, high quality smoker was never far from mind. And, as Wade got more involved in the business, he got ready to take the plunge.
It wasn't easy. Even if you're piloting a small, relatively agile business, it can be tough to take those first steps to grow your small business. You need to continue to serve current customers, pay the bills, and maintain the overhead, all while doing what amounts to starting up a whole new business -- financial assistance of some sort is often required.
But Wade was determined to achieve the original dream of Bradley Smokers, and two government grants helped him do it. Within a short time of filling out the forms, he received a total of $9,200 from the Canadian federal government. “The government money allowed us to hire someone to help us market the product,” says Wade. “And we expanded our production capabilities by automating part of the manufacturing process.”
With a wage subsidy grant of $7,161, Bradley hired a market researcher. She nailed down where to find the customer base, explored how best to reach them, and determined what marketing tactics would deliver the best response.
Bradley also needed to automate the manufacture of the Bradley Flavour Briquettes, the secret ingredient in Bradley Smokers. These tiny wooden “hockey pucks” extinguish themselves once they've given off all the “good smoke,” before they can pass on the resins, tars, and gases you get from ordinary wood chips.
Although the briquettes catered to the restaurant market, it was enough to have these made by hand with a simple machine. But with a grant for business of $2,039, the company developed a machine that would speed up the process to meet increased demand. Since they flipped the switch on the first prototype, they've added ten more machines and increased production by more than 1,200%.
“It was time. We would have gone ahead and done this anyway,” says Wade. “But getting $9,200 in funding helped us move and grow much more quickly than we could have otherwise.”
Today, Bradley is selling their high quality smokers to aficionados throughout North America. And the dream that got Wade's father and uncle started has finally come true.
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