Innovation Stories

Donna Denison | Little Creek Dressing

Donna DenisonAs a child of the 60s, Donna Denison says she’s always been conscious of the importance of taking care of the planet. “I have always felt a really strong connection to the land.” This means her decision to start a home-based business on the family farm so she could spend more time with her young twin daughters was an obvious choice, and one that would prove to be incredibly successful.

Donna bottled her first batch of Little Creek Dressing on her family farm in 1995. Today, the dressing is still made in small batches, with high quality organic ingredients, paired with hand crafted vinegars to create unique artisan flavours. The company’s products are sold online and to major retailers, including Save-On Foods, Marketplace IGA’s, YIG’s and most health food stores in BC.

“We are in approximately 450 stores mostly in BC,” says Donna, “but also in Alberta, a few in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.” The company has eleven employees, including Donna, now semi-retired, and her son Jubi the company’s executive director. Those twin daughters, now all grown up, run the social media and other creative marketing for the company as contractors.

Donna says the whole recent movement towards vegan and vegetarian has definitely helped her business, but being organic also comes with some of its own unique challenges as well, because being organic means a lot more work, and a lot more paperwork.

“The reality in the food business industry is that organic is not easy. But I worked hard at it, which you have to, it’s just the way it is, unless you have a lot of money. But I had no money so I did everything myself and slowly but surely built the business. Sure, there’s a lot of salad dressings out there, but we are the only certified organic salad dressing made in Western Canada and people just love it. You could drink it!”

For anyone thinking of starting a new business, Donna encourages them to get all the help they can, including looking for any government support, or local university resources.

“It’s crucial to take all the help and guidance you can get. I think it really adds a lot of value. I think most small scale food processors, in my opinion, don’t have a lot of money necessarily to invest in it. So, if you can reach those resources, or look for grants, do it! I did everything myself. Well, aside from mom and dad helping out, my dad peeling garlic and my husband growing some of the ingredients, we pretty much did it ourselves.”

But to have a business – a successful business- Donna says the reality is that you have to realize it does take a lot of work. Her advice to anyone starting out is investigate more of the business side of things. “Like margins, distributers, and the cost of all that because it really takes a chunk out of your financial bottom line. I’m the kind of personality that is just going to do it and I’m going to learn along the way.”

When asked if there’s anything that could help her business thrive, Donna says she wishes consumers were more aware of the true value of nurturing their bodies in a conscientious supportive way through a healthy diet, and actually pay for this value by supporting organic farmers and food processors.

“I’m proud that I created a product that has great integrity. My business is about creating wholesome, favourable foods that support healthy eating, living and a healthy planet.
I feel really proud of the fact that I was able to build a business and I’m just so grateful for everything. My community is proud of me! That just makes me feel so much gratitude. I’m just, to be honest, really blown away by all of the support.”

Donna encourages others thinking about taking the plunge to just go for it. “Gratitude and trusting your instincts, you’ve got to have both in the end. You will have challenges, sure, but it’s also about persevering and just pushing on.”