The COVID-19 crisis has turned our world upside-down in historical ways, bringing a storm of adversity to small businesses in Calgary. Many of these businesses are now in a critical fight for survival and the future is uncertain. Although tentative “re-entry” measures have been announced by the Alberta government, Family Fun Calgary would like to take the opportunity to introduce and interview some of the local businesses in our city. Let’s get to know each other! You never know what YYC Small Business Profile might become your new favourite.
Our first YYC Small Business Profile is Bryan Hawley at Calgary Dry Ice. I heard of Calgary Dry Ice when Bryan sent out an amazing dry ice promotion for families. I thought it would be of interest to the Family Fun Calgary readers, and that was an understatement! The promotion exploded and we decided to get to know Bryan a little bit through our first Family Fun Calgary Small Business Feature. So, now, we’re introducing, Calgary Dry Ice!
Bryan, tell us a bit about your business.
We produce and sell dry ice in Calgary and have been in business for 15 years. We only have 2 employees, including me, and we’re located at 416 51 Ave SE, Calgary.
What was the inspiration for starting this venture?
I started a dry ice blasting company called Scrub Zero in 2005, which is an industrial cleaning process. We had to procure large amounts of dry ice from Edmonton and have it trucked to Calgary. By 2015, we had obtained commercial space with a great landlord, and it made economic sense to invest in the equipment to make our own dry ice.
By then I knew the dry ice market pretty well and saw an opportunity to also sell it here in Calgary, as we were the only local producer. At that point we only sold in wholesale quantities (500 lb containers); I experimented with the retail dry ice market last Halloween and it was crazy for a couple of days. It was around that time I decided to rebrand the company as Calgary Dry Ice to reflect that side of the business.
For a long time, I’ve felt that the dry ice market was underdeveloped in Canada. In the USA, for example, you can buy it in the grocery stores. It has since become my mission to grow awareness of what dry ice is to the general public, as well as increase its accessibility at an affordable price.
What has been your biggest regret? Your greatest pride or success?
If there was a mistake, it was slogging it out so long with the dry ice blasting company. It was just too difficult to grow as a stand-alone business. It’s a service that’s too niche and I wasn’t able to grow it beyond a certain point. Dry ice is a much better opportunity, for me anyway. More fun, too!
What would a typical day look like for you normally?
I try to spend an hour or so with my wife and our 6-month-old girl at home in the mornings. Then I head to the shop and take care of the day-to-day details of running a business.
What about now?
It hasn’t changed a lot, as most of my wholesale customers continue to need their dry ice, although my numbers are down. However, we have now increased our retail presence, with an added delivery service.
How have you adapted to the COVID-19 crisis and how can the community support you at this time?
On Easter Sunday, I put out a Facebook video inviting families to order a free bag of delivered dry ice for science experiments. It went viral 5 days later, very much due to the Family Fun Calgary website posting the promotion. As I had no employees at the time, I took care of over 500 deliveries out of my car in 2 weeks! (Editor’s note: Wow! Thanks, Bryan!) It was nuts, but a lot of fun. I was very fortunate to have the help of my landlord (Al, owner of AK Contracting) to help me with these deliveries. I wanted to do this for the community, as I saw an opportunity to help families with homeschooling and/or bored kids stuck at home.
From a business perspective, I saw a captive audience sitting at home that didn’t necessarily know about dry ice or, especially, about my little company. My hope was that this dry ice giveaway could increase awareness of both and I would come out of the pandemic with some community goodwill and a larger customer base.
It’s unfortunate I had to cut off requests after 5 days. I’ve since come up with a new promotion, bought a cargo van, and hired a student to help with the free deliveries. It’ll be more sustainable now that I’m properly set up for it! (Bryan’s promotion is 10 lbs of dry ice for $20, with free delivery. Ditch the computer and make science a hands-on learning experience. Seriously, it’s so much fun!)
As for community support, I ask my customers to keep posting your videos/pictures and tell your friends and neighbours if you enjoyed our dry ice! And I love the kids’ thank you posters that are left for me on the coolers! Even though the dry ice isn’t free anymore, please keep them coming! I’m posting them on the wall at our location!
Thanks, Bryan, for telling us a little bit more about your business and we wish you the best of luck in the future. Find Calgary Dry Ice online HERE.
Introducing YYC Small Business Profiles is a Family Fun Calgary series that will contain a random selection of businesses chosen at the discretion of the editor for interest, connections, and curiosity.
Looking for more tips on how to keep your kids occupied during the COVID-19 crisis? Find our best ideas, activities and inspiration here!