Six weeks ago was the last time I updated you and quite honestly it feels like today is the first day in a long time I have a few minutes to myself to reflect.
We are now fully into our production on making our disposable face masks in Canada and every day continues to have a win, but also many challenges. But mask by mask, lessons learned, we are really making progress. Early next week we will finish our first million masks made domestically!
In March when we shut down for COVID, it was just me sitting in our office wondering where I go from here. Today we employ 20 people as our mask machine factory now runs 24/7 Monday to Friday and 16 hours on Saturday and Sunday.
What does all that mean? In means, we as a Company, get to keep doing amazing things. It means, welcoming hard-working and inspiring people who are helping to make and sell our masks. For me personally, it means endless hours away from my family as I am here usually 16-20 hours Monday to Sunday to make sure we make this happen!
So, you make it in Canada, Eh? You need to raise your prices? What!?!
We make our masks in Canada. We make it right here, specifically in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. Thought it is made in Canada; I still believe it should still be priced accordingly. Not everyone agrees.
One day, one of our raw material suppliers in Canada calls me. He says, “you need to increase your selling prices on your Made in Canada masks or I can’t sell to you my raw material.”
I was confused. I told him, while our costs in Canada are higher than in China or abroad, why should I overcharge my end customers. We sell to hospitals, public health groups, municipalities, dentists, and many non-medical related businesses. We want them to buy a Made in Canada product where possible, so we need to price it accordingly to given them access.
He says, your going to make other domestic mask manufacturers in Canada angry. He goes on to say, the big guys quietly (and quickly) signed deals with different levels of government to retrofit their factories and those governments agreed to prices that are 4-5x, sometimes 10x the price Oliberte is charging. And those big customers are buying their raw materials from him.
Basically, he is not going to risk selling to me (a small business) and upset his “key customers.” You would know all their names as many have been in the news for retrofitting their factories to make masks as a backdrop for “candid” photo shoots for certain politicians.
These sorts of conversations just drive me bonkers. Here we are, doing everything possible – with no handouts, we had no choice so we pivoted, we bought all the machinery needed. We are making it right here in Canada. We have been hiring at a time when unemployment rates are at their highest – we are a REAL small business, with masks made in Canada and priced fairly. But now some suppliers will not sell to us because our own government made bad deals.
I guess we are just not that pretty in pictures. Basically, we are being pushed out of the ball from different sides. We do not follow the norm and we are not supposed to be able to make this happen – but we did and do. It doesn’t look good when politicians are boosting about their shiny designer dress and it turns out our no-name brand is the exact same thing – literally same materials and quality – just our dress is a lot easier on the wallet for the taxpayers that said governments are suppose to represent.
I cannot wait for Made in Canada. Oh, you are Made in Canada, awesome, but China’s prices are now cheaper. I am okay with China now. I meant I want made with something starting with the letter C – Made in China, Made in Canada – really, just Made in Cheap.
It is so funny how I can get calls from one person telling me that my prices are too low, but then other calls that my prices are too high.
We have been trying to work with one of the larger dental groups in Canada, but it just has not transpired. One day at the height of the pandemic when everyone was cornered into paying astronomically high prices on masks, the main buyer made an interesting comment. He says to me, “My Company and I personally am so sick of China and how they are screwing us over, I can’t wait until you are making them in Canada – it’s so important. We’re going to be buying Made in Canada for sure!”
So fast forward 6 weeks later, we start making it in Canada, I send him our prices which are quite competitive (and he knows that). We chat and I naively assumed based on his previous passionate conversation that I have him hook, line and sinker. He comes back to me and says, “you know, China is really dropping their prices, I think I’m going to stick with China.”
So, I said, “what about what you said before – that it is important for Made in Canada and not to rely so much on China. I said remember how upset you were on the phone about China and how you said they are ‘screwing us over.’ What happened to that?” He says “Yeah, Made in Canada is nice, but now China’s prices are cheaper – I just need it Cheap so I’m okay with Made in China now”
Too Cheap, Too Expensive, Too This, Too That. It is Okay. We keep going.
At the end of the day, no matter what I or we do, we will not be for everyone. Our prices will be high for some, low for others. Some care if it is made in Canada, some do not. We will be too big of a business for some and too small of a business for others. But we are here, ready, working and trying to help where and if needed.
So much so that we recently received our approval to make ASTM Level 1, 2 and 3 medical masks in our facility and those will be available online by mid to late September.
In the end, we are doing what I believe is what Oliberté and we always do. Do the best we can with the time and limited resources we have available – we are not for everyone, but available to anyone.
As always, thank you. Stay Safe,