If you’re a farmer, baker, butcher or any other kind of small-scale food producer, Cole Jones understands the challenges you face. Making your product is a full-time job, but you still have to squeeze in time for attracting customers, taking orders, making deliveries and a host of other business management tasks.
“Multinational food brands have a massive team of salespeople and distributors, a network of warehouses and trucks, and specialized software systems to track it all,” Jones says.
Now small operations can too, thanks to Local Line. “Effectively what we’re doing as a company is creating a supply chain application for local food suppliers,” Jones explains.
The Kitchener, Ontario business offers a suite of online services, including order taking, inventory management and invoicing. Their network of carriers can handle logistics and distribution — even for perishable foods. Local Line can even build websites and create marketing materials for their customers, providing a total one-stop shop.
After three years of successful operations, Jones was ready to scale up. For help, he turned to Bioenterprise, a national agri-tech accelerator.
Through Bioenterprise’s Seed Fund, Local Line received $30,000 to prototype, build and scale their food hub platform. But those dollars were just the beginning. The team at Bioenterprise helped assess markets, connected Jones to potential partners and customers, scrutinized the company’s business model and helped Jones perfect his investment pitch. “I felt like when we were working with Bioenterprise, our team doubled,” he says.
Meanwhile, a further $30,000 through Bioenterprise’s Accelerating Innovation Research (AIR) program helped Local Line develop new software that enables suppliers to ship special orders directly to customers, cutting delivery times from two weeks to two days.
Local Line also took advantage of Bioenterprise’s New Graduate Employment & Mentorship program to hire a salesperson and a front-end developer, both subsidized and mentored by Bioenterprise.
Thanks in large part to that support, Local Line’s revenues almost tripled last year, the number of employees doubled and order volumes skyrocketed. But perhaps the company’s biggest coup was cementing a partnership with Flanagan Foodservice, one of Canada’s major food distributors. Teaming up with Local Line makes it easy for Flanagan to meet the growing demand local food without the headache of dealing with dozens of small-scale suppliers and having to ship their products.
Now, as Local Line expands beyond the Ontario market, Bioenterprise’s offices in British Colombia and Nova Scotia are stepping up to help — and you can bet Jones is taking full advantage. “They have all these programs and support and connections,” he says. “They’re built in a way to support businesses exactly like ours.”