Driving growth through powerful leadership
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Elizabeth Grant International's line of luxury skincare products now extends to customers around the world. But the company's beginnings stretch back to a young woman's efforts to heal injuries she sustained during the darkest days of the Second World War.
Elizabeth Grant was a Londoner whose face was injured during a German bombing raid on the city. To help heal her skin after the war, she created a cream that produced such remarkable results on her own face that she decided to sell it to other women.
Disenchanted with retirement
After Grant's husband passed away, she ceased production, retired and moved to Canada to be with her two sons and their families. But she soon grew disenchanted with retirement.
That's when she and her daughter-in-law, Marion Witz, decided to relaunch Elizabeth Grant International (EGI) from Witz's Toronto home in 1998. Rather than try to sell in retail stores, the company decided the Shopping Channel was the best venue for its line of skincare products.
"We sold out of stock after our first airing," says Witz, the company's President. "We were thrilled. It was so exciting to see such a positive response to our products and it really gave us confidence in our plan."
The advantage of controlling everything
After about four years, EGI abandoned subcontractors and began manufacturing its products. "We wanted to own everything from production to distribution. This turned out to be one of the best decisions we made," says Witz, whose daughter Margot also works in the business as Vice President of Creative Direction.
"We were able to expand the way we wanted to because we controlled everything. We did our own research and built our own labs, which allowed us to get into more advanced products and formulas."
Initially EGI products were only sold on the Shopping Channel in Canada, but in 2006 the company also began selling on similar networks in the United States and Britain. Distribution in other European countries and Australia followed soon after.
Dealing with growing pains
As the company grew, the operation needed more space. After several moves, the business that began in Witz's basement moved into a 200,000 square-foot building that houses expanded R&D, production and distribution facilities in Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto. The purchase of the building was financed by BDC.
"Every time we moved to a larger space, I thought it would be sufficient for at least a few years, but month after month we found ourselves needing more room," Witz says. "We grow, expand, go through pain, solidify and then repeat the process."