Gravelbourg’s Val Michaud has entrepreneurship in her blood. She started her first business—a hair salon—at the tender age of 19. “I have always felt like I was a bit of an odd duck,” says Michaud. “Owning a business just came naturally to me.” For 25 years, Val styled hair in Gravelbourg until one day a new opportunity appeared in her community. Years earlier, a local business began producing table mustard for consumers. In 2011, the mustard company was for sale and Michaud saw her next venture. “I needed a change from my hairstyling business, and there it was—mustard,” recalls Michaud.
She purchased the original company’s recipes and began adding her own flair to Gravelbourg Mustard. “I reformulated two of the original recipes and began experimenting with my own ideas,” says Michaud. Over the new six years, she sold her gourmet mustards at local trade shows and through retailers in Western Canada while promoting the unique and delicious flavour mustard can bring to the kitchen. “I still had my hair salon while I grew Gravelbourg Mustard, and then I had to decide to fully commit to the mustard company in order to take it to the next level,” says Michaud.
Commit she did. Michaud, still her company’s only staff member, dragged herself through a rebranding process and built a new website. She created thirteen products, began targeting the food service industry, and perhaps the bravest decision of all—she auditioned for CBC’s famed business show Dragons’ Den. Michaud had her first audition in May in Regina, and two weeks later, got a call offering her a spot on the show. “I went to Toronto and made my pitch to the Dragons. It was totally out of my comfort zone. As soon as I stepped behind my table and started my demonstration, it felt easy. It was like I was at my booth in a show,” says Michaud. “The filming lasted about 45 minutes, and you don’t get any ‘do-overs’.”
Michaud struck a deal with Manjit Minhas, getting $100,000 for 45% of her company. “The deal is still in the works,” says Michaud. “Once you agree, then the due diligence part begins between myself and Minhas.” Just appearing on Dragons’ Den has provided Gravelbourg Mustard with national exposure. Since the episode aired, Michaud has had many calls from interested buyers from across the country. If the agreement with Manjit Minhas completes, Michaud will invest the funds into product co-packaging and distribution, with help from the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre in Saskatoon. Exporting is also on the table, as Canadian-made products have such an excellent reputation in the global marketplace. “The Asian market holds a lot of opportunity because Canadian products are known for their quality,” says Michaud.
Michaud’s passion for her company and for her home province grows with each milestone achievement. Promoting the mustard industry and value-added processing is part of Gravelbourg Mustard’s DNA. “I am not only dedicated to my work, but also to Saskatchewan,” says Michaud. “I love telling people that 75-80% of the mustard grown in Canada is grown here, and Saskatchewan supplies 40-50% of the mustard in the world.” Gravelbourg Mustard is a shining example of the opportunities to be found in the Saskatchewan agriculture industry. “We grow the food here. Why are we exporting it elsewhere to be processed, and then buying it back as consumers,” asks Michaud. “We have the talents, skills and resources to do it all here from growing, to product development, to export. Local value-added processing just makes sense.”
She also has some advice for Saskatchewan entrepreneurs, especially those just starting out. “Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone,” advises Michaud. “Dragons’ Den was something I would have never dreamed of doing, but I knew I had to try.” Michaud fought through the discomfort, and came out the other side with a deal that can take her business dramatically forward. “You’re never going to know if it will work if you don’t take the chance,” she says.
Try Val’s Cranberry Mustard Martini:
3 parts Strongbow apple cider
½ tsp. honey
¼ tsp. Gravelbourg Cranberry Mustard
Simply stir and serve.