Katie Heath co-founded Crimson Cider in an 1850’s stone farmhouse on a picturesque 24-acre rural lot in Prince Edward County, Ontario, where she planted an apple orchard.
It was shortly after the female entrepreneur had finished building a new production facility for her craft cider company that the pandemic struck.
The pandemic put her agri-food business at risk, threatening to derail her plans to expand the farm-to-table enterprise and bring a halt to her dreams as an entrepreneur.
“All of a sudden, our business went from having income to nothing, zero, overnight. We were worried,” said Ms. Heath. “There were days we thought: how are we going to pay our bills?”
Crimson Cider received support just in time from FedDev Ontario / Government of Canada / Community Futures in the form of an investment from the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF), a local fund backed by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.
The RRRF investment helped keep the lights on, allowing Crimson Cider to weather their toughest season ever.
“The support definitely helped us pay the bills. It got us through a tough part of the year. It was like a light at the end of a tunnel,” said Ms. Heath.
“It feels like the whole community pulled together to help each other through this. We are very grateful for the support we received.”
The pandemic tested the spirit of the business owner, but she emerged from the initial wave a more resilient entrepreneur, and she is building back better.
Ms. Heath trained to become a cider maker, but that’s not the only skills she’s needed to get through this and recover.
“I have a post-grad in marketing. With the support we received, we were able to keep going, and start to turn more to digital channels and online marketing, which opened up new opportunities for us and has allowed Crimson Cider to grow,” she said.
After seeing revenues drop to zero, Crimson Cider has had its best season ever with the help of more online marketing and digital sales.
“We have more than doubled our sales. We also have increased the number of year-round full-time employees,” she added.
The RRRF support saved Crimson Cider and allowed the female entrepreneur to weather the first wave of the pandemic.