You know you've succeeded as a company when you can stage your own trade show.
cellar•tek of Kelowna is a fast-rising player in the winery and brewery supply industry in Canada, growing as quickly as the local wine industry itself.
Starting as a two-person, part-time company being run out of the founders' homes, cellar•tek now has a large warehouse in Kelowna, a second location in the Niagara region of Ontario, and is already looking at expanding their building due to the demand.
Now, the company is celebrating a 10 year anniversary with its own trade exhibition in both Penticton, BC and St. Catharines, Ontario.
"We were thinking, what could we do that's special for our anniversary," says director of marketing Peter Glockner. "We tried an open house at our warehouse in Kelowna, but it's kind of tight, and we wanted to do something special. So we thought, let's do our own trade exhibition!"
The Okanagan trade exhibition will be held at the Okanagan College campus in Penticton, while the Niagara exhibition will be held at Club Roma in St. Catharines. There are already 14 suppliers booked for booths, including Stelvin, Diemme, Liverani, Laffort and Innerstave with speakers scheduled to give technical seminars and tastings throughout the day.
"We are not trying to compete with the big annual tradeshow in Penticton," says Glockner. "It's more like an open house on steroids!
"It was basically us saying for our 10th anniversary let's celebrate the relationship we've had with our customers and our suppliers, and at the same time we can expose our customers to the products we represent."
cellar•tek has grown so quickly they required a new marketing coordinator. Tugce Oezatilgan's first job: Organizing the trade exhibition.
"I was thrilled to work on this coming in," she says. "It is a good chance to get exposure to who our suppliers are, what our products are, and get the info directly from the suppliers.
"It will also be a great chance to meet and to mingle with people in the industry," she adds. "It's going to be relaxed and fun, because that's who we are."
Founder and director of technical sales Randy Jones still remembers the conversation that led to his launching cellar•tek. He ranViking Refrigeration at the time, and was at Saturna Island Vineyard talking to owner Rebecca Page.
"She was looking through a Rolodex trying to find the company where she'd bought a pump, and she told me there's nobody selling these locally," Jones says. "You have to go to California or New York to get one. So I said if I started a company that supplied these pumps would you buy one from me?
"And she said, 'Absolutely'! That was the seed that later grew into cellar•tek."
In July of 2004 Jones and his original partner officially launched the company at the annual Penticton Oenology & Viticulture Conference. They worked out of their homes at first, keeping products stocked in their garage. Their first sale was a complete crush pad for Twisted Tree winery (now Moon Curser), but Jones says it was when Peter Glockner joined as marketing director company that the company really took off as a full-time enterprise.
"Before that we had other incomes, and suddenly it's like, no, this is a real business, we have bills to pay and people to feed," Jones says. "And then (director of sales) Perry Maxfield joined us and that was like the final piece of the puzzle."
Maxfield had worked in business development for a refrigeration and HVAC supply company for 23 years, but he could see the opportunity with the new venture run by his friend Jones.
"They had done the right things early," Maxfield says. "When they went to trade shows in Europe to build their product lines they chose to represent the higher quality products, and they were very smart to add screwcaps to the mix. Barely anyone else had them, and when they landed that product the business just took off."
Asked the reason for the company's success, Jones says it was a combination of having the right products with the right people at the right time.
"We are very lucky because we were able to find tremendous people who are working here in our company," he says. "But the other thing is we hit a sweet spot in the growing wine culture of the Okanagan.
We jumped in in 2004 as a supplier that was actually based in BC, has with people on the ground, and products in stock. We weren't just taking orders for companies elsewhere. We live here, we work here, and we care about the relationships with our clients."
The BC tradeshow will be held in Penticton on Wednesday, March 26, at the Okanagan College campus. The Niagara tradeshow will be held in St Catharines at Club Roma on April 3. Hours are from 9 to 4, and admission is free and everyone in the wine and cider industries are invited to attend.