BDO interviews BBVA Finalist C.R. Plastic Products

December 13, 2016

Sustainably chic

It was a passion for protecting the environment that prompted the creation of C.R. Plastic Products Inc., a Stratford-based furniture company that specializes in creating innovative and sustainable outdoor furniture. Evolving from a basement startup company in 1994, C.R. Plastic Products (CRP) have redefined the meaning of cottage comfort and can now be found on porches, patios and outdoor spaces around the world.

President and co-founder Jamie Bailey has always been as passionate about creating beautiful furniture as he is about preserving and protecting the environment, and believed that many consumers would likely share in the desire of owning sustainably-built products.

After years of woodworking, he came across a piece of extruded plastic lumber and realized that the environmentally-friendly material had all the aesthetic appeal of natural wood, with twice the durability. Using this material, he set out to grow his furniture company which would fuse style with sustainability.

We chatted with Bailey to learn how CRP got its start and about the struggles and successes it has enjoyed along the way. 

How did you get C.R. Plastic Products off the ground?

I started in a basement with $10,000. I built about 100 chairs, all grey, and took them to Florida to sell at small flea markets and various stores where I thought they might do well. I also attended a trade show in Toronto and received a lot of publicity around the recycled nature of the beautiful and comfortable Adirondack chairs.

What are some milestones that stand out to you?

There are a few. One was the day that Chuck Krauss (a customer in Florida) flew to Stratford to visit the factory. After seeing that we had no extruders (machines to process plastic), we went to an auction and purchased three so we could start producing our own material. Chuck is still a shareholder today and takes great pride in having helped the company get started. Another was pitching the company on Dragons’ Den. It resulted in huge publicity for the company, although we eventually turned down the Dragons’ offer, choosing to partner with a local investor instead. A final milestone was purchasing a 39 acre, 300K sq-ft factory in Stratford. This will enable the company to grow for many years to come.

What have been some of your greatest challenges and how did you overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges has been access to financing. That’s why we went on Dragons Den. We overcame it by hiring a professional management team (finance, sales & marketing, operations) who have been able to create and execute a business plan, thereby gaining the bank’s confidence. Since then, the bank has been solidly behind each level of expansion, including providing a mortgage for the purchase of the factory. Another challenge has been finding enough workers to allow production to keep up with demand. We are overcoming this by creating an attractive corporate culture with competitive wages and benefits.

Why have you decided to stay local and operate out of Stratford?

Both myself and Trudie (co-founder) are from Stratford and it means a lot to keep the business here. I’ve lived in Stratford for many years, and it brings me a sense of pride knowing that we have been able to create jobs and grow the company in this great city. We are now Stratford’s largest private employer and hope to continue to grow.

Why do you think your products resonate so well with Canadians and customers around the world?

A lot of it has to do with the superior quality and longevity of the product and the fact that people have a heightened awareness of climate change and the environmental issues facing our world today. Purchasing “green” products is a powerful concept across the furniture industry right now. People are also investing more money in their “outdoor room” resulting in the continued growth of the outdoor furniture category. We offer a wide range of outdoor plastic furniture that has a designer feel and it's built with vastly superior material compared to traditional outdoor furniture.

What sets you apart from other companies?

There are many advantages to buying recycled plastic furniture. With so many competitors entering the marketplace, we remain committed to building our products with style, superior quality, structural integrity, and UV fade protection so they’ll not only last, but look great for years. Our products are made from 7/8” thick material and feature a natural woodgrain finish that is durable and impervious to water. Our furniture is also maintenance-free and we guarantee it will never rot, crack or splinter. Because they’re made from extruded materials, our products also have minimal cut points. The result is smooth, rounded slats with no awkward pinch points. Once you sit down in our Adirondack chair you won’t want to get up!

How would you describe your vision for the future?

Our vision is to become the largest producer of recycled outdoor furniture in North America. We see a beautiful outdoor design centre in Stratford where homeowners can come and get ideas for creating stunning outdoor living spaces. We also see further vertical integration back into the sorting and washing of recycled plastic material in order to divert more plastic away from landfills.

How will you sustain growth for the long-term?

We will maintain sound conservative financial disciplines in order to generate cash flow for future growth. This growth will come from a combination of expanding current products to new geographic areas in the Western U.S. and Europe and developing exclusive products for mass merchants like Home Hardware.

Lastly, how do you define success?

To us, success means seeing customers who are so excited to have our products, they become ambassadors and tell their friends and family to buy them.