Made With Local - Shana Russell

Each year the Atlantic Association of Community Business Development Corporations selects a CBDC business from the four Atlantic provinces that is an example of excellence, ‘bar none’. In 2023, Made with Local was the recipient of the Atlantic Business Award of Distinction.

Snacks on grocery store shelves are often filled with ingredients you’ve never heard of, sourced in ways you don’t understand, by companies in places you’ll never visit. A growing Nova Scotia brand is changing that and finding its way around the world at the same time.

“We are committed to doing food differently and raising the bar on sustainable snacking” said Sheena Russell, the founder and CEO of Made with Local.

The company recently moved into its own manufacturing facility in Windsor, Nova Scotia, in the agriculturally rich Annapolis Valley. It’s a big change from the early days when Sheena would make the bars after hours in a friend’s cafe and sell them at the farmer’s markets in Halifax and Dartmouth, while working a full-time job.

Sheena realized “something had to change.” The farmer’s markets had been good to her though. She believes there’s no better way to launch a food brand.

“[You are] across the table from your best customers, constantly collecting their feedback, constantly hearing how they’re responding to new flavours, your pricing, and tweaks to recipes,” she said. “You just get this instant feedback from them that I think is just invaluable as a new founder.”

It was 2014 when Sheena first partnered with a contract bakery. She began working with the Flower Cart Group, a social enterprise that provides employment and training for adults considered to have an intellectual disability.

“It’s a really beautiful program that allowed us to stay true to our values of working with local farmers and food producers to source our ingredients, but then build even more impact by employing adults with these barriers,” Sheena said. “That was the beginning of really entrenching ourselves as a really purpose driven brand.” But things change as a company grows. “Production could never keep up to the demands of the company. The company was growing faster than we could make enough bars,” Sheena said.

Then, she received a phone call. The owners of a building she had always known would be perfect were looking to retire, and they were wondering if she was interested, perfect as the location in Windsor was — with many of her suppliers located nearby — it was still a big leap.

The business was ready though. With the experience, and continued growth, the business case was solid. It was looking like investing into manufacturing would even increase the profitability of the company, not to mention supply complete control.

In keeping with the heart of the business, Russell wanted to make sure all her partners are “value aligned.” This includes lenders. The CBDC’s mission of strengthening communities by supporting rural businesses certainly fit the bill.

“CBDC Hants-Kings was an amazing partner to come on board and really see the vision,” Sheena said. “They’re coming on board and looking at this in terms of quite literally investing in the brand and that tends to have a different level of connection and trust and transparency above and beyond what we would even have, you know, on a simple loan, for example.”

“We’re so grateful to have them as part of the story.”

With the new control the new manufacturing facility provides, and the wonderful team of employees and partners Russell was able to bring together, she can now grow the business in ways she would have never dreamed before. “We can just say yes to so much more,” Russell said. “We can say yes to sending six thousand bars to the Cannes Film Festival with TikTok. We can say yes to festive flavours and seasonal launches. There is just so many more opportunities that we can take advantage of and so many ways that we can dream bigger.”

"We are obsessed with bringing ingredients that have a really rich story and impact in their community to the world in the most delicious little package possible."


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