I think it would be fair to say people are pretty tired of face masks at this point and would like to forget about them for good. While others realize the face mask isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Over this past year, several businesses made the pivot into PPE. So many companies have surfaced; in fact, new associations have formed to lobby the government and set new standards for manufactures across Canada. To this end, PPE is a big business in Canada, and everybody wants a piece. But if it were easy, everyone would do it; just ask the company Crown Mutual Group.
Crown Mutual was founded in 2002 as a licensed and bonded Accounts Receivable Management company providing both invoice factoring and leasing solutions and currently working with emerging industries involving fintech and blockchain technology. It is headed up by Ray Serion, who has a background in financial services and payment/remittance technologies focusing on underserved small to medium enterprises both in Canada and SE Asia. Crown Mutual’s recent endeavours include providing financial solutions to a public company in the US, in developing areas and economic opportunity zones regions.
That was until COVID 19 hit, and everything stopped.
There wasn’t much choice for most people but to wait out the consequence of the pandemic shutting down our economy. However, it was time to get to work on new opportunities brought about quickly and quite unexpectedly around the shortage of personal protective equipment for others. There’s no doubt the buzzword outside of “COVID 19” was “PPE.”
This sudden interruption is when a group of entrepreneurs took stock of what they had going for them and created an opportunity for a positive among many negatives. They applied for rapid licencing and registration in both Canada and the US and with quick thinking, allowing them to make a critical first step into a pivot of creating a Made in Canada PPE company.
After the pandemic set in, what the economy would do was anyone’s guess. And like many others, Crown Mutual was forced to stop and revaluate our company strengths and disadvantages in current times. However, unlike many others, we were in a unique position to pivot by refocusing our capabilities into a slightly different model.
That’s when fate intervened, and opportunity knocked.
It all started in April 2020 when the Crown Mutual office received a call about a manufacturer in Kelowna requiring some equipment leasing assistance. The manufacture had a government bid to produce 10 million face masks. They had to deliver over the following months, and they needed our services to source and leased the necessary machinery to do it.
The Kelowna group was in a tight spot, as the first attempt to purchase the manufacturing equipment from China was a bust. The original equipment sourced was purchased through the eCommerce website Alibaba.
The devices were obsolete and impossible to assemble due to the language barrier and the companies lack of general experience with manufacturing. Non the less, they did have the financial support of the government secured, which gave us the security we needed to qualify them for leasing terms.
Crown Mutual’s primary partner for leasing BC Capital, specializes in financing SME companies that might not qualify for traditional leasing.
As it would come to light, PPE is in that category of risk. The Banks consider it an unproven investment for any conventional lender. Our specialty is centred around leasing industrial equipment to large-scale operations and typically involved physical machinery.
We were inspired to pivot our professional focus into an all-out play at becoming Canadian manufacture of surgical face masks through our discovery of the PPE business.
Founder Ray Serion is instrumental in pulling together a group of colleagues that could collectively support a new business model of servicing PPE companies; thus, Crown Mutual Group of companies was born.
Co-Founder Alex Liu owns and operates a successful construction company in the lower mainland. He is a Beijing-born businessman with a background in electrical engineering. Alex’s connections overseas run deep, and he has resources that reach into manufacturing. Alex would have the resources to become the primary investor in the company holding a majority stake in the new venture.
Daniel Song is also a Chinese Canadian PPE entrepreneur and a chartered accountant by trade. He merged his existing PPE brand with CMG and added to the scope and reach of the company goals for success.
Sean McKay is a creative director of all things marketing. He would be responsible for building the brand, packaging, and web-related work to position the company as an authority in the market.
Together, this team would have the ability to move quickly and work hard together in cooperation on this exciting undertaking. It was time to move, and we all had our work cut out for us.
As the group soon discovered, this idea was a bonified phenomenon across the country, as dozens of PPE companies suddenly appeared or were formed, seemingly overnight.
And this being the start of a global pandemic, one would think the more, the merrier; however, that was not the case. The market soon became flooded with products. Some of it was from hard-working Canadians that started producing hand sanitizer and face shields and masks. Still, most of it was from overseas and was counterfeit or illegally smuggled into the country.
In short progression, Crown Mutual Group was registered Health Canada and the FDA and fully qualified to handle PPE. CMG is certified to import state-of-the-art PPE machines and lease them to interested clients as per our business model. And that is what they did. The first client Breath Medica Group successfully received eight new machines and, with our teams, immediate assistance could get their operation off the ground.
What happened next was pure synergy as the group endeavoured to jump in feet first and compete for a newly issued government RFQ for 10 million face masks.
A flurry of activity transpired amongst the group over the weeks and months, including importing more machines and other equipment arriving in Canada.
Although the group put their best foot forward with submitting a comprehensive and competitive quote for a federal RPQ, they would not be successful with winning any of it. It was a new reality and a jumping-off point to begin organizing and establishing their very own PPE manufacturing facility.
Through cunning efforts and trials and error, the group took it on the chin and got to work creating the company from the ground up. With each group member doing what they do best and committing to getting it done, they pressed on and planned for success.
What transpired next can only be described as hard work, as long hours were put in to establish all aspects of the company. Fast forward to now, Crown Mutual Group is producing nearly a million medical-grade face masks a month from a facility in Delta, British Columbia.
The group has already donated millions of face masks to underserved organizations, including supporting the Vancouver Autism Society, Toronto’s Our Daily Bread Food Banks and a valiant effort to bring relief to the region of St. Vincent in the Bamahas where a volcano erupted in April.
It would seem, not winning the bid opened up more doors for connecting with other Canadian PPE companies and the many people across the country who also put themselves out there and overlooked when it came to federal procurement opportunities.
Crown Mutual Group has since aligned with a newly formed association called CAPPEM. (Canadian Association of PPE manufacturers.) The association’s mandate reads; The Canadian Association of PPE Manufacturers is dedicated to protecting Canadians with the best possible PPE manufactured in Canada by Canadian-owned and operated companies.
Crown Mutual Mutual Group decided to dig in for the long-term. They are proud to earn the respect of their industry peers and the confidence of those who have used and loved their Canadian-made PPE.
Crown Mutual Group is excited to connect Canadians with a brand of mask that instills trust and consumer confidence.
“We know folks are tired of the pandemic and wearing a face covering. However, we also know it’s important to keep wearing one even after vaccination occurs. We want people to know that there is a Canadian-made option to buy medical-grade protection.” – Says Spokesman Sean McKay.
In partnership with Saskatchewan distributor Apollo Management Group, Crown Mutual Group has taken the initiative with a PSA message that promotes vaccination and reminds the public to stay vigilant. The group hopes the message of We’re all most out of the woods!” will resonate with people young and old, and Canadians can get through this last mile safe and sound.
We’re thrilled to announce that in cooperation with uniPHARM Wholesale Drugs, Crown Mutual Medical Masks will be accessible through your community drug stores throughout the lower mainland.
“Our motto is, Ask for us by name and know us from the comfort and breathability of our face masks. ”
As for the road ahead and all the thankless hours of work to survive this unknown industry?! McKay says, “There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing!”