Talking to Dr. Dionne Laslo-Baker, PhD in Medical Science and CEO of DeeBee’s Organics, you can hear the enthusiasm in her voice. “This business is really my third baby,” says Laslo-Baker. “This product was created in my kitchen, now I’m watching it take its first steps, and soon it will run.”
The product is DeeBee’s Organic TeaPops, a healthy twist on traditional frozen desserts. These frozen treats are free of refined sugars, gluten, dairy, and genetically modified ingredients, but that doesn’t mean they skip out on the flavour. “They’re guilt free – in fact they’re really good for you,” says Laslo-Baker. Now who wouldn’t want to try one?
Trained as a maternal fetal toxicologist, Dr. Laslo-Baker has spent much of her career studying the effects of drugs and chemicals in our environment on the development of fetal and child health. This expertise has been a valuable asset in developing a healthy alternative to current pre-packaged dessert options.
Letting the experts do the testing
The idea for TeaPops was inspired by Laslo-Bakers two sons. “The boys are very involved in the business. I take them everywhere I can,” says Laslo-Baker. “They’re actually learning a lot, and I’m learning from them!”
It seemed only natural then, to have the boys help her in the fun part of the business: product development. When she began developing recipes and testing out different formulas her boys and their friends were her primary focus groups. Children would come to the house to play, and Laslo-Baker would offer them TeaPops, ask for their opinion, and then tweak the recipes where necessary.
“Children are always honest if they like something or not, and it was great to get the immediate feedback,” says Laslo-Baker. Soon her kitchen was swimming with children asking for her TeaPops.
Since then DeeBee’s has hired a trained chef and food scientist as their Product Manager who works on product testing and quality assurance, but her children still get a chance taste new recipes first.
Finding the right partners
DeeBee’s Organics’ have undergone a massive expansion since the product’s official launch in 2013. Initially sold by two specialty retailers in Victoria, TeaPops are now a staple in retailers across North America, including Whole Foods. The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch even listed them among “five foods you’ll soon be eating,” saying they tie in well with a growing interest in tea and healthy treats for children.
For DeeBee’s to continue to expand and maintain the integrity of their product, it was important to find partners they could trust. The first hurdle for DeeBee’s was finding a certified organic manufacturer who could produce the quantities they needed without compromising flavour, quality ingredients and philosophy. After testing one manufacturer and finding that they weren’t achieving the best possible taste, it was actually Laslo-Baker’s son who said “Well Mom, if you change the manufacturer it might cost you money now, but your customers will be happier in the long run, and then they’ll buy more TeaPops.”
Now with a new manufacturer, DeeBee’s sends their Product Manager down to oversee any new product testing and ensure quality control. The amount of care and attention to detail in their product certainly makes DeeBee’s unique to the frozen dessert world.
Financial partners are also important to DeeBee’s. The company up to now has been entirely self-funded by Laslo-Baker and her husband. With plans to expand further into the US, DeeBee’s needed to produce advance inventory to fulfill orders which requires a lot of working capital. Export Development Canada (EDC) has been working with DeeBee’s bank to find creative working capital solutions that meet their specific needs, and help them grow internationally.
“DeeBee’s is a great example of how we can support a small business as they grow,” said EDC Account Manager, Heather Stokes. “When you hear about a great product like this, you want to make sure it’s a success. We’re really happy to be able to provide that extra support so they can go the distance.”
“EDC and the team in Vancouver have provided us with invaluable advice,” says Laslo-Baker. “We have met so many people in the industry, and have relied on so much incredible counsel. That has been a huge driver for the business so far.”
DeeBee’s continues to see interest in their TeaPops and for Laslo-Baker this is just the beginning. “We have had a lot of interest already from foreign markets,” said Laslo-Baker.
“Being a PhD scientist I tend to research everything extensively, so we’re really considering our options right now. I’m looking forward to seeing our results and how we can start some global conversations about food.”
Keep an eye out for DeeBee’s TeaPops coming to a store near you!