Len and Kevin Thomson thought they’d made the perfect acquisition when they bought Bothwell Cheese.
The brothers already owned Paradise Island Foods, a thriving business on Vancouver Island that packages and sells cheese for sale in B.C. grocery stores, restaurants and other commercial establishments.
In Bothwell, they were buying a cheesemaker with a national brand and reputation for quality.
What’s more, the company had capacity in its southern Manitoba factory to meet all of its own and Paradise Island Foods’ needs, with lots of room remaining for future growth. That meant the brothers would no longer have to buy cheese from a supplier in Alberta, who was also a competitor.
“The plan was all based on scaling up Bothwell’s production, developing the Bothwell brand and supplying Paradise Island Foods,” Len says.
They secured financing from BDC and another lender, beat out two competing bidders and closed the deal in 2010. It wasn’t until they started to gear up production at Bothwell that the surprises began.
“We found we’d bought an old car,” Kevin, 49, says with a laugh.
“Tired iron,” Len, 50, adds. “We scaled up very quickly, and we very quickly learned the equipment in place was not going to keep up to the volume we wanted to produce.”