That's right. It's casual day.
Thanks again for allowing me to come. I'm new to this environment. It's very different for me. I thought maybe for the five minutes allotted I'd give a brief background of my history in exporting, to provide some context and perspective and also maybe some credibility.
I noticed from your mandate that you are to study ways that government can help small and medium-sized enterprises to export, so I'll target my presentation to that end, trusting that mandate extends not only from encouraging or generating interest in exports, but also enabling companies to realize that potential.
Again, I thought the best return on investment of your valuable time is if I give maximum time for questions, as opposed to my jumping up and down saying what I've done.
Please forgive me if this sounds like, “Look what I did.” I'm very blessed and very fortunate. I just want to give you an accurate background of where we're from.
We've been exporting products since 1980. In fact, 100% of our revenues are involved with exporting. We started with maple syrup and then moved to certified organic soybeans, which we moved to Japan and Europe. In 1996, we started moving non-genetically modified soybeans into Europe, first by vessel out of the Great Lakes, but then by containers since 2004.
As part of that, working with the biggest soy milk producer in Europe, we became the first in the world to ship fully traceable, guaranteed non-GMO soybeans to meet the EU standards. Because of that, we were invited to speak at a variety of international conferences on the subject and were able to raise the Canadian flag. Canada, therefore, became the preferred supplying country of this type of soybean in the international food sector, a position that Canada still holds firmly today.
I use that as an example to emphasize to you people that you have the potential to affect that type of stuff. As you already know, there is incredible importance in the value of small to medium-sized enterprise and the exporting values for Canada. We started doing this because a door was open to us in Europe. We were able to step through that door, and we were thankful it worked well.
Because of that, there are elevators, groups of farmers in southwestern Ontario, that are now exporting that would never have exported before. Just to emphasize the potential for small to medium-sized enterprise in the Canadian marketplace, all this is from an office with two people in Sault Ste. Marie, hundreds of miles away from the nearest soybean.
Because of that privileged position, someone—I don't know who it was, actually—put our name forward and we were fortunate to be recognized as the 1999 recipient of the northern region's leadership award for excellence in export development. We were then invited on numerous trade missions, predominantly by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture. With that interest, as well as interests in ministries helping orphans, widows, refugees and human trafficking issues, I've been blessed to travel to 42 different countries to do business there.
In addition to agricultural trade missions, I was involved in the Soo in another export development project. I taught international business at Sault College for their first graduate class and subsequently ran a year-long government-funded program with the graduates of that course, developing export development business plans and reports for local businesses to try to encourage exporting up north. That led to being asked by FedNor to develop and lead a 10- to 14-day trade mission to Ecuador and Chile for forestry experts and professionals, as well as business people, to see if our Canadian forestry expertise had potential.
As a follow-up to that, we started looking at export clubs in Sault Ste. Marie where, in conjunction with FedNor, we started doing export breakfasts. That was a relatively informal time of talking with a wide variety of local businesses that were interested in exporting and didn't know where to go next with that, and they were just asking questions. We just sat around and talked about “I wouldn't do that if I were you”, “This would be a good idea”, or “Be careful of this”, that sort of stuff. It worked well.
In 2006, we received Sault Ste. Marie's Community Capacity Building Award and were also asked by then mayor, John Rowswell, to accompany him and a number of local businesses to Sault Ste. Marie's sister city in Portugal, due to the lack of expertise they had in exporting, and potentially help new export business to develop.
During that trip, I had the distinct privilege of meeting Mr. Terry Sheehan and his lovely wife. They were also on that trade mission.
As well as exporting soybeans, we're now focusing on the next phase of European market development, which is traceability. Traceability moved from—I'm trying to give you the Reader's Digest version—organic non-GMO. The new terminology, the new fascination for the European market place is called sustainability. The trouble is getting a definition of that, but that is defined by increasing yields and decreasing use of chemicals—an oxymoron for most farmers—but it is possible.
We're trying to find even more market share for Canadian soybeans by getting Canadian soybeans a bit more sustainable for the appetite that Europe is expressing with regard to sustainability.
At this point, I'm going to stop embarrassingly tooting my own horn in order to make the most time available for questions.