Todd Perrin enters reality show for money, exposure and opportunity to compete

Into the Fire

Newfoundland entrepreneur enters reality show for money, exposure and opportunity to compete

Todd Perrin, a 40-year-old Newfoundland entrepreneur, is the only contestant east of Montreal participating in the Top Chef Canada competition. Launching April 11, the Food Network Canada series will test the abilities of 16 chefs as they vie for the title of Top Chef Canada.

Whether he makes it to the finals or not, Perrin can likely expect an increase in traffic at his business, The Chef’s Inn. Participants of the U.S. version of the show have reported business increases of up to 300 per cent as a result of their prime time exposure.

Atlantic Business recently spoke to Perrin about his strategy for the program, as well as the risk he takes in being away from his business during the competition.

ABM: How did you come to be on Top Chef Canada? TP: I completed the application form and was fortunate to be asked to complete a live audition which was successful enough to get me into the group of chefs that are competing for the grand prize.

ABM: What does the competition entail? TP: It consists of a couple of challenges each week which lead to the ultimate elimination of a competing Chef until there is one of us left standing. Each week we complete a quick fire challenge, followed up by the elimination challenge for that week.

ABM: What’s in it for you? TP: Being involved is a great opportunity for me to test my mettle against some of my peers. It’s a chance to see how I stack up against the other chefs in Canada and to take myself out of my comfort zone in my own kitchen and see how I do. Not to mention the lure of the $100,000 prize plus the $30,000 GE Monogram kitchen.

ABM: How do you intend to wow the judges? TP: I hope that my cooking can speak for itself. I do simple food that focuses on using the freshest ingredients and I think that executed correctly it can be a winning formula on any given day.

ABM: Who will take care of your business while you’re competing? TP: My business is truly a family business and I am very lucky to have a great amount of support from both my mom and dad who look after things for me there. …Without my folks, The Chef’s Inn could not exist. I get to do much of the “glamourous” side of the biz, but there is no doubt that my folks do all of the heavy lifting.

ABM: What’s your signature dish? TP: Always for me it is the last one! As chefs we are judged by every plate of food that we lay in front of people and you can serve 100 great plates but if 101 is not up to snuff, you feel as though you’ve failed. TCC is a condensed version of what chefs do every day with the added pressure that if your dish fails to impress – you pack your knives and go home!

Keeping it real

Todd Perrin isn’t the only Atlantic Canadian business owner discovering the benefits of reality TV. Two entrepreneurs, one from Nova Scotia and another from PEI, recently achieved success on CBC’s Dragon’s Den.

Barb Stegemann, CEO, The 7 Virtues Halifax, Nova Scotia The pitch: A socially conscious business that makes money selling high end perfumes while offering Afghan farmers a viable alternative to opium production. The ask: $75,000 for 15% of her company. The result: exactly what she asked for, making her the first Atlantic Canadian woman to slay the dragons.

John Rowe and Justin Rowe, President and VP Sales, Island Abbey Foods Charlottetown, PEI The pitch: Island Abbey Foods has developed the world’s first solid honey product. The company had $650,000 in sales in its first year and multiple products in the market (non-sticky solid tablets of pure honey as well as lozenges and candy). The ask: $1 million for 20% of the company. The result: $600,000 in cash and a $400,000 line of credit in exchange for 35% of the company.

Times advises go-go to Fogo (Island, that is)

The names roll off the tongue: Koh Samui. Milan. Oahu. Fogo?

That’s not a typo. Newfoundland’s Fogo Island has been named one of 41 “places to go in 2011” by the New York Times. Fogo is 22nd on the list, sandwiched between the seemingly more exotic locations of Tallinn (capital of the Baltic nation of Estonia) and Singapore.

“A remote island off the coast of Newfoundland with a dwindling population of 3,000 residents might not strike you as an important cultural enclave,” the Times notes. “But it soon could be, thanks to a local resident, Zita Cobb and a Norwegian architect, Todd Saunders. They teamed up to create a series of innovative artists’ studios in former saltbox houses and deconsecrated churches that perch over the North Atlantic and rugged pristine landscapes.”

Cobb (a former JDS Uniphase executive who retired young, at the height of the tech boom) has, in recent years, funneled her time and energy into the Shorefast Foundation.

Shorefast has embarked on an ambitious plan to transform Fogo Island through social entrepreneurship — using entrepreneurial methods to create positive change.

The foundation says it hopes to make Fogo Island a leading geo-tourism destination “built upon the intrinsic physical, creative and cultural assets of this elemental, powerfully remote place.”

Shorefast’s initiatives include a program to bring established international contemporary artists to Fogo Island and nearby Change Islands. The artists will live in refurbished homes and work in avant-garde studios dotting the region.

A five-star inn designed by Saunders — who is from nearby Gander, but now lives and works in Norway — is scheduled to open in 2012. (Saunders has been honoured as one of the world’s top architects under 40.)

A micro-finance fund has been set up to support the growth of locally-owned businesses. And festivals and celebrations of local art and culture are prominent on the calendar.

Shorefast’s plans will not be hurt by getting noticed in what is arguably the most famous newspaper in the world. The Times boasts a print circulation north of 1.35 million on Sundays. And, of course, that figure does not include the countless people clicking their way through the online version of the paper worldwide.

RUM wins big Accretion through friendly takeovers

Rocky Mountain Liquor, operated by Corner Brook native Peter Byrne, has been named the second-fastest growing company in Alberta for companies with annual sales more than $25 million. In 2007, the company owned 16 liquor retail stores; today it has 33. From 2007 to 2009, total liabilities and shareholder equity grew from $505,000 to over $16 million. The share price, too, has doubled in value: from .20 two years ago to .35 today.

Byrne credits the “jack rabbit start” to chairman of the board, Frank Coleman. In 2007, Coleman purchased Byrne’s company, Andersons Liquor, with $2 million cash and shares in Humber Capital Corporation. The trade gave Byrne 70 per cent ownership of Humber Capital, making the move a reverse takeover. In December 2008, Coleman resigned as Humber Capital’s CEO, becoming chair of the board. Andersons operates as a subsidiary of Humber Capital.

The strategy since then has been to grow in size and shareholder value.

The first is accomplished via friendly takeovers. Alberta’s liquor stores were privatized in 1993 (government gets the tax revenue while the private sector operates the retail outlets). As a result, many retail outlets are — according to Byrne – mom and pop operations with no exit strategy. “We offer them a way out,” says Byrne.

Realizing the first objective leads to the second: one store on its own isn’t worth as much as when it’s part of a group. The difference in the pre-purchase price and the post-purchase price automatically creates shareholder value. “We’re now worth more than 10 times EBITDA,” asserts Byrne.

“We financed our growth with borrowing, and planned to do an equity raise after two years. We’re somewhere near the end of that growth cycle.”

With plans in place for four growth cycles, and a possible 400 acquisition targets in view, Rocky Mountain Liquor may yet be named Alberta’s fastest growing company of the decade.

Rocky Mountain Liquor trades on the TSX Venture exchange (RUM).

Support cities, save the world

The latest issue of Corporate Knights magazine posits an interesting theory: that cities are more sustainable and environmentally friendly than rural societies. Quoting the U.N.-HABITAT report State of the World’s cities (2010/1011), the magazine claims that cities are more energy efficient than agrarian communities. “They could even reverse the impact of climate change by reducing per capita emissions.”

The magazine also quotes from Doug Saunders’s book, Arrival City: “When villagers migrate to the city, their family size drops, on average, by at least one child per family, often below the steady population rate of 2.1 children. Without massive rural-to-urban migration, the world’s population would be growing at a far faster pace.”

The article concludes that living in a sustainable world will require bigger cities, and more of them.

In ranking the sustainability of cities across Canada, Corporate Knights assesses the country’s urban strengths and weaknesses. Seventeen cities were included in the survey: the most populous centres in each province and territory and the 10 most populous cities in the country. Iqaluit and St. John’s did not take part.

Just how sustainable are the Maritime cities, according to the study? Halifax, Atlantic Canada’s largest metropolis, scored in the top half of cities in the mid-size range. Most of its scores range from 6.3 to 7.1 out of a possible 10, but its total average score was only 6.2 — dragged down by a 4.3 in the Infrastructure and Built Environment category. The city was judged to be particularly weak in terms of its low population density (0.2) and lack of local food production and access (2.4).

Saint John stands out as one of only two cities with a city council whose membership reflects the percentage of visible minorities in the municipal population. Charlottetown’s weakest score is in the Ecological Integrity category (for its lack of green space [1.7] and greenhouse gas emission reduction [1.5]).

WPO coming to Atlantic Canada

If you’re an Atlantic Canadian businesswoman overseeing a multimillion-dollar company, Ann Worth wants to talk to you.

Worth — of Worth Consulting Group on P.E.I. — is on a recruitment drive for WPO (the Women Presidents’ Organization). She’s coordinating the launch of the organization’s Atlantic Canada chapter, and will be hosting information sessions in each of the four provinces starting in March.

WPO members are women entrepreneurs with minimum annual revenue of $1 million for service-based companies and $2 million for manufacturing companies.

According to Tanya Priske, lead project manager with the Centre for Women in Business at Mount Saint Vincent University, WPO’s mandate is “to improve business conditions for women entrepreneurs and promote their acceptance and advancement in all industries. Members learn to grow their businesses to the next level; accomplished women entrepreneurs find support, empowerment, inspiration and the precious ability to tap into the wisdom of their peers.”

Membership can also impact the bottom line: a recent survey of WPO members showed that 68 per cent of members do business with each other.  Nearly two-thirds report that their companies have grown since they joined WPO and 32 per cent of those women presidents pay themselves more than $300,000 a year.

WPO has 90 active chapters worldwide and 112 members in Canadian chapters located in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. Worldwide WPO membership has aggregate annual revenue of $14.5 billion. In Canada, the average member revenue is $12 million with aggregate revenue of $1 billion. The aggregate number of employees in Canada is 11,000.

The Atlantic Canada WPO chapter won’t have a physical location. Depending on what the facilitator and members decide, meetings may move from province to province, with some meetings potentially held via teleconference.

Each chapter requires a minimum of 10 participants; Worth hopes to recruit up to 20. Membership costs $1,650 a year.

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