Great ideas can come from unexpected places. Just ask Dionne Baker. A year after her ten-year-old daughter suggested they turn their rooibos tea into frozen treats, Baker was on her way to the 2013 Fancy Food Show in New York City, loaded with a batch of prototype TeaPops.
Judging by the line-ups for her booth, she should have brought more. “The Agri-Food Trade Commissioner [said] they had never seen anything like it,” she recalls. Baker returned home to Victoria, B.C. and launched DeeBee’s Organics.
These aren’t your average popsicles. With a PhD in medical sciences, Baker is passionate about what we put in our bodies. You won’t find any chemicals, refined sugar or artificial flavours in her certified organic TeaPops — which include unique offerings like chocolate fudge peppermint tea and raspberry citrus green tea. Ditto for her expanded line-up of FruitPops and the most recent addition, shelf-stable freeze-at-home Super Fruit Freezies, made from all-natural fruit purées and juices with no added sugar.
Baker is the first to acknowledge that having a great idea and commercializing it are two very different things. The fledgling company faced questions that ranged from how to perfect the flavour profile to who their target market really was and how to ship frozen products across the continent.
“That’s where getting consultants in and having expert advice is just unbelievably helpful,” Baker says.
Much of that advice came from the specialists at Bioenterprise. The agri-tech business accelerator provided financial advice, market analysis and more. They also helped Baker connect with potential investors and prepare her pitch for a successful $1.5 million investment round.
With those kinds of results, you can bet she’ll be turning to Bioenterprise for help with the next round of investment as well. She’ll also be getting their support on optimizing production, procurement, logistics and other aspects of her growing operation. “It’s such an amazing group of people,” she says.
Today, Baker oversees six full-time employees in Deebee’s Victoria facility. Meanwhile, their products can be found in more than 2,000 stores across North America, including heavyweights like Loblaw’s, Sobeys, Whole Foods, Safeway and Costco. And having recently landed Walmart USA, Baker expects sales to at least double in 2018 to more than $4 million.
Baker credits that success to a great team, great advice and a healthy dose of tenacity. “People said we couldn’t create these products without adding extra junk to them,” she says. “I said, you don’t think so? Just watch me…and we did!”