What started as a project to help diabetic relatives has turned into a growing craft beverage company based in the Saint John region.
Cinnamon Savoie is the founder of CocoLemon, a business that began with an idea, turned into a passion, and is now expanding across Atlantic Canada, thanks to some help from Envision Saint John: The Regional Growth Agency’s Impact Loan.
“The very first time I thought about selling a beverage product was when I was with my sister, she’s diabetic and so is my father and brother. Three out of the five in my family are diabetic,” Savoie explained.
“My sister was complaining about how hard it is to find low sugar beverages, and although there are a lot of options out there, she cannot consume artificial sweeteners.”
With the seed planted, Savoie got to work. She was looking for a change from her nine to five career at a software company and saw an ad for vendors at the Cedarcrest Winter Market in Saint John.
“I thought it would be fun to work a market on the side and recipe test lemonade,” she said.
“At the end of the market season I started to build up some regulars and they asked me where they could buy my product after the market closed. I didn’t really set out for it to become full-time, I just wanted to help find different recipes and different beverages that might work for my family.”
Savoie quickly saw the potential beyond her market lemonade-stand and began pursuing resources in her community that would allow her to meet demand.
Realizing that more research was needed, she enrolled in the MBA program at the University of Fredericton, and while completing her MBA, Savoie applied to take part in the Venture Validation Program (Start-up Accelerator), which is now offered at ConnexionWorks.
“Starting a business is not just your idea, but working through the process, developing a business plan, and really trying to understand if there’s a market for your product before you invest a ton of money into something that might not work out,” she said.
While completing her courses, Savoie learned about the Impact Loan, which is offered through Envision Saint John: The Regional Growth Agency. Designed for small and medium-sized businesses in urban Atlantic Canada, the Impact Loan is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to reach their goals more quickly and take their business to the next level.
Less than a year after CoCoLemon’s official launch, Savoie’s products are in 85 stores across New Brunswick, and there are only plans for growth in the future.
The Impact Loan assisted Savoie in marketing her product and provided the funding that she needed to get started. She was able to use the money to hire a designer and help jump-start production.
Beyond the financial support, the connections made through programming in her community have helped contribute to CoCoLemon’s success.
“I really think that it’s important for people to understand there’s a ton of resources and support out there. I know that I’ve spoken with people that have really great ideas, but they just don’t know where to start,” Savoie explained.
“I recommend that they reach out to their local economic development agency (Envision Saint John) to find the resources available. There’s mentoring, support, loans – there’s so many resources available – all it takes is one call.”
One call that can lead to a thriving business in the Saint John region and beyond. In the short-term CocoLemon is planning to expand into Nova Scotia and other Maritime provinces. Looking ahead she has goals to partner with some larger retailers and expand throughout Canada.
“A lot of people are really understanding the importance of supporting local and there’s really great opportunities out there,” Savoie said. “I hope people can take advantage of it.”
To learn more about the Impact Loan and programs available to entrepreneurs in the Saint John region, contact Envision Saint John at firstname.lastname@example.org or 658-2877.