Angela Quinton, Down to Earth Labs (formerly Sandberg Labs), Lethbridge, AB
Last year, our company, Lethbridge, Alberta-based Down to Earth Labs (formerly Sandberg Labs), was selected as the winner of a $100,000 grant through the ‘The Challenge’ contest sponsored by TELUS and the Globe and Mail. Along with the grant came a lot of great publicity and the opportunity to make new connections with lots of great business people. I’d like to tell you about the difference this experience has made to us.
We purchased Sandberg Labs in January 2010. As an agricultural testing lab, we test soil, water, plant tissue, animal feed and compost. We give farmers and agronomists the information they need to maximize their yields and minimize their environmental impact (by not over-fertilizing). Sandberg Labs was 25 years old when we bought it. None of the processes had been upgraded in that time and most of the equipment was older than we were! Modern-day chemistry is quite different than it was 20 or 30 years ago. We purchased this business with the understanding that we needed to upgrade in order to maximize efficiency in the lab and make use of more environmentally-friendly methods. On top of all this, in the three years before we purchased the business, all of our competitors had left town to go service the oil patch. Demand for our services was high and we did not have the means to meet it.
We had basically spent every last dime doing upgrades before we heard about the about ‘The Challenge’ contest, but it still wasn’t enough to push us to the next level with our upgrades. We were somewhat discouraged – we had worked so hard for 18 months but it was not quite enough. When we heard about the contest, we were sceptical, what chance did we have to win? However, we felt that it was worth a try so over a weekend my husband Justin and I hashed out our entry and then turned it over to our 15-year-old to correct the writing and grammar!
The day we were told we had won the contest is one that we’ll never forget. All of a sudden, everything changed for us. We sat down with our staff to come up with an action plan. We wanted to maximize every dollar. Each person felt a renewed sense of energy and excitement. We had so much fun last winter (usually our slow time) trying to get everything in place for this spring, and for the most part, we have succeeded. We purchased several pieces of key equipment and as a result, our results are faster, more accurate and more environmentally-friendly. Staff morale and profits are way up and we are looking forward to an amazing growing season ahead of us. Last week we launched a new name and brand – Down to Earth Labs, Inc. – thing we thought would take us much longer to do.
I am so glad we entered ‘The Challenge’ contest – it has truly changed our lives!
(Contest not available in Quebec.)
‘The Challenge’ is your chance to win a $100,000 small business grant!
Explain the biggest challenge your business faces today and how a $100,000 grant would help you overcome it. A panel of business experts will review every entry, and if the most compelling is yours, you’ll win $100,000 courtesy of TELUS. Plus, your company will be profiled in the pages of the Report on Business. TELUS and CYBF are promoting this exciting contest to inspire and support entrepreneurs across the country.
Contest closes for entries on May 28, 2012. Enter today at www.globeandmail.com/thechallenge