Flax company’s sales are ‘flour’ing thanks to talented NSCC grad
On a mission to improve the digestive health of local seniors, a Middleton-based company started out grinding flax seeds in a coffee machine. Now, 21 years later, Valley Flax Flour is exporting to health care companies, retail suppliers and livestock markets across Canada.
And the pace is picking up.
“Our newer website and Shopify store have been essential for increasing our sales,” says Howard Selig, owner and general manager of Valley Flax Flour. “And this wouldn’t have been possible without our newest hire, Salene Pyke. She opened us up to marketing opportunities we’ve never tapped into before.”
Salene, a recent NSCC Kingstec graduate, joined the small team full-time in June 2018 as their office manager, and is essential to nearly every aspect of the business.
“Being an office manager allows me to wear many hats, and I love that challenge,” says Salene. “I am leading our marketing and using my own creativity for business presentations and expos. I recently launched a YouTube channel called Take This, Make This to share quick flax flour recipes that will build stronger customer engagement.”
Salene is especially proud of their recent decision to go green.
“In June, we made our manufacturing processes more environmentally friendly,” she says. “We are a plant-based company, so this was simply a way of acting on our values and respecting the environment. The outcome has been rewarding. Customers are identifying with our brand as one that is ethical and sustainable.”
While Salene was completing her academic work-term with Valley Flax Flour, Howard knew within three weeks, that they wanted to hire her.
“I met a Nova Scotia Works employment counsellor at a campus event and learned that there is a valuable wage subsidy program to help small businesses hire post-secondary grads,” explains Salene. “So, we applied for the Graduate to Opportunity program (GTO) to help offset my salary.”
GTO helps small businesses with less than 100 full-time employees, start-ups, social enterprises and non-profits hire recent grads for permanent, full-time jobs in Nova Scotia. The program offers 25% of a grad’s first year salary (35% if the grad is from an identified diversity group) and 12.5% of a grad’s second-year salary to eligible employers in the province.
“This program was essential for us to hire Salene,” says Howard. “We may not have been able to bring her onboard without this support from the government. Programs like this need to be available to employers because one of the most challenging things with a small business is managing overhead costs.”
Over its more than 20 years, Valley Flax Flour has welcomed over 25 students and grads for co-op placements and internships.
“The new skills that come with post-secondary talent are exciting for me to try and pick up,” said Howard. “Their attitude and approach towards life is creative and energetic, and that brings a lot of life to a small business like ours.”
“Being able to live, work and raise a family all in the same community is important to me,” says Salene. “Programs like this obviously make it a little bit easier for graduates to stay in Nova Scotia and make an impact at home.”
To date, over 950 recent graduates are employed across Nova Scotia with the support of GTO funding. If you are a small business, GTO could help you make your next hire. Applications are typically turned around within 5 business days.