Thursday, August 24, 2006

Interview with Rod McCulloch

NovaScotian Crystal

Canada is not known for its crystal. Why did you choose this market?

Crystal has never been produced in Canada. NovaScotian Crystal is the dream of Denis Ryan (remember Ryan's Fancy?). Being Irish, Denis wanted to take some crystal, as gifts, when he went to Japan on a cultural mission. He could find no Canadian crystal. At the same time the major crystal companies in the world were moving from "hand made" to "machine made" crystal and were letting all their craftsmen go. These two events came together and Denis convinced some of these Irish craftsmen to come to Canada to start up NovaScotian Crystal and thereby keep their "craft" alive. So it was purely an emotional thing (and I guess they all thought they could make a lot of money in Canada.)

What was your greatest challenge in building this business?

The original business plan called for doing the same as the other manufacturers. (i.e. "We will out-Waterford, Waterford"). As we began to realize where we fit, we realized we could not go head-to-head with the big guys. They had the "Brand", the volume, and they had the lower costs. Being new with no "Brand", we could not affect the retail price of our crystal, relative to the competition. So we could not raise our prices to pick up those higher costs of being hand made. This also meant we could not afford to give away any of the margin to other retailers. Hence, all of a sudden we realized that we had to sell directly to the consumer - ONE CUSTOMER AT A TIME! This has been a long struggle.

You offer an unusual guarantee. What is it?

Somewhere along the line we concluded that we wanted our customers to use and enjoy our crystal - rather than put it in the dining room hutch and be afraid to use it. Why spend $80 for a beautiful wine glass and then not use it? We also felt that most people did not break their crystal when they used it - they were just afraid they would (for $80). So we give a twelve month full guarantee for our crystal, even if you received it as a gift. We don't care why it is damaged, broken etc. We will replace it, and we will ship it anywhere in the world to the customer. [This guarantee costs about .03% of sales, AND it really makes our customers feel safe about using and enjoying our crystal.]

You created a unique scotch glass. What special features did you design into this product?

Our design process involved three accomplished single malt scotch drinkers, four different single malts, and four different sizes and shapes of glasses. We made the scotch drinkers "nose", taste and record their reactions to each single malt and glass. With these responses, our master craftsmen went to work and began the "creating" process. After a number of iterations we came up with the glass that really works with single malts. The key elements are: a) the right volume - too big and you lose the "nose", b) wider at the bottom so more aroma escapes, c) narrower as it rises to concentrate the aroma, d) flare out at the top, so the far side of the glass doesn't hit your nose when you drink (a problem for us large nosed folks), e) the flare also places the single malt on the right part of your tongue for the maximum effect.

Is your business plan working for you?

Sure, we are getting there. Getting customers "one at a time" when you are also the manufacturer is a tough go. As a manufacturer we have high fixed costs (think about laying off a bunch of Irish craftsmen, sending them back to Ireland and then expecting to see them back when you need them). Having said that, we are growing; our Corporate business is growing really well, our Direct (internet) business is growing AND we made a profit last year. Over and above that, we are now opening a showroom in Calgary in September.

Rod McCulloch is President & CEO of NovaScotian Crystal

George Torok, host
Business In Motion

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