FCC customer BBI pays it forward with pink PPE
For 45 years, New Brunswick’s Bouctouche Bay Industries (BBI) has been manufacturing products for the fishing and aquaculture industries.
As the calendar flipped to 2020, the year wasn’t the only thing that was changing. With financial backing from FCC, Steen Gunderson was one of three businesspeople who had recently begun a management takeover of the company called BBI.
BBI is well known in the oyster aqua farming industry, having developed a revolutionary system for oyster farmers called OysterGro. Some of the manufacturing happens at their injection moulding facility in Saint-Édouard-de-Kent . The new owners had planned to add an expanded custom moulding service in the coming year.
“We were two months into our new ownership journey and a global pandemic hit,” shared Steen who is now the pPresident and CEO. “There was a federal request for us to help when Canada didn’t have enough PPE. We worked with Dalhousie University and designed, engineered and produced our first face shields within 2.5 weeks.”
For Steen and the BBI team, simply making a face shield wasn’t good enough. They wanted something comfortable and customizable. Many people were suffering from “PPE burn” from shields digging into their skin after long hours of use.
“We tried to solve the problems people had with other shields. What does a dentist need that’s different than a nurse? Traditionally shields are made with a foam headband and an elastic, but we went for synthetic products to avoid allergies. We got specific and built a range of products so it’s customizable for the individual and is still safe.”
Since then, the company has sold over 750,000 units across Canada and the United Kingdom (UK). They did get some constructive feedback.
“Beauty and medical staff said ‘it is comfortable, but could you make it more fashionable?’ We had never thought about fashion. Now people were thinking differently about their PPE and asked for pink.”
Once again, BBI delivered and decided to make it a fundraising campaign, donating a dollar from the sale of each pink face shield to the World Health Organization’s Solidarity Fund.
“This product is born out of the COVID situation, so it makes a lot of sense to give back into that. The Pay it Forward Pick Pink Campaign came to be. If it’s a Canadian purchase, the dollar goes to the Canadian chapter. In the UK, it goes to the UK chapter. They have real programs that help real people, including the research and development of vaccines.”
Steen says the campaign will continue as long as the virus is around.
“We made 5,000 to get it started but have the capacity to make hundreds of thousands. We would love to sell 250,000 to make a meaningful gesture to help fight the pandemic.”
“First, it was for the front-line health workers and we achieved class one Health Canada medical device status. Then we realized we could help other workers too. Those at vet clinics, gas stations, hair salons. We now have an online store and a few retail partners as well.”
It’s been a busy first year since Steen and his co-owners took over BBI.
Steen appreciates the partnership BBI has found with FCC. “FCC understands the business that we’re in. It’s very important to have a partner who understands the industry and the potential pitfalls and challenges that come up that are completely out of your control, and there’s no better representation of that than COVID really. I don’t think it was in anyone’s copy book, but wow, trying times for everyone involved.”
Under new ownership, BBI is carrying on the company’s long tradition of adapting to industry needs through innovation and stable business growth. As for PPE, BBI is now in that market to stay. They’re already working on making face masks as comfortable as their face shields.