'You can find our products in every Canadian province': Company with Island roots growing

A company with Island roots is getting ready for its biggest product shipment to date. Made with Local will see its products distributed to Bulk Barn stores across Canada.

Made With Local started in 2012

Sheena Russell is one of the co-founders of Made with Local, a Maritime company that will soon have its products distributed nationally through Bulk Barn. (Submitted by Sheena Russell)

A company with Island roots is getting ready for its biggest product shipment to date.

Made with Local, a Nova Scotia-based company, already has its oats and food bars sold in multiple provinces and at more than 50 Sobeys stores in Atlantic Canada, including three on the Island.

And with a new deal in place, Bulk Barn and its 230 stores across the country will be added to the list this July.

What began with co-founders Sheena Russell and Kathy Cooper-MacDonald at the Halifax Seaport Farmer's Market in 2012 has grown into a company that employs over 20 people. 

"I never, ever thought that I would be running a business let alone a food business, it was never really on my radar," said Russell, who is from Fort Augustus, P.E.I. "But here we are."

'Conditional deliciousness'

Russell said she and Cooper-MacDonald decided to start making Real Food Bars when nothing on the market was satisfying their needs.

"Everything was kind of good for being a protein bar, sort of a conditional deliciousness, not just straight-up really good," said Russell.

The Real Food Bars are made with Maritime ingredients. (Made with Local/Facebook)

The two began using Maritime ingredients to make the bars and sold them at farmer's markets in Halifax and Dartmouth on Saturdays.

Russell said they would split up to cover more ground, and had help from their husbands selling their wares each weekend.

"We kind of divided and conquered," she said. "It was a full-team effort."

Farmer's markets to Sobeys

Russell said that the first retail store they got Made with Local products into was Pete's Frootique, now Pete's Fine Foods, in Halifax. 

In the summer of 2015 their instant oatmeal products Loaded Oats started being sold in Sobeys and in the summer of 2016 the bars were also on the grocers' shelves.

The Loaded Oats instant oatmeal pouches made it to the shelves of Sobeys stores in the summer of 2015. (Made with Local/Facebook)

Russell said the pair were working full-time jobs while baking on Mondays, packaging on Tuesdays, making wholesale deliveries on Fridays and selling at farmer's markets on Saturdays, so they needed to find some help.

They partnered with Prescott Group, a Halifax organization that helps adults with intellectual disabilities find employment, to help with their packaging.

'A beautiful option'

Made with Local became too big for Prescott Group to handle their demand, but Russell and Cooper-MacDonald wanted to continue partnering with organizations that had a social impact.

The company's food bars are now made and packaged in New Minas, N.S., by the Flowercart Group, an organization that employs adults with barriers to mainstream employment. 

Dartmouth Adult Services Centre, a group the helps people with intellectual disabilities find work, produces the Loaded Oats products.

The bars are being produced by the Flowercart Group, an organization that employs adults with barriers to mainstream employment. (Made with Local)

"Our entire company is run in partnership with these organizations," Russell said.

Made with Local has 12 employees at the Flowercart.

The company employs 10 people with the Dartmouth Adult Services Centre, but Russell said that number is expected to climb as high as 50 or 60 as a result of the deal with Bulk Barn.

"It feels amazing for us, it feels really good for them, it's just a really beautiful option for us to be realizing at this stage of our growth," Russell said.

"It's pretty special."

With files from Laura Chapin