Woodstock's rising cheese star revives rural enterprise - Vote for Ontario's finalist in the race for $100,000 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award Grand Prize

WOODSTOCK, ON, May 29, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) announced today that the turning-point project, "Cheese Champs," submitted by local businessman Shep Ysselstein, will represent Ontario in the finals of the 2014 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award (BDC YEA).

Shep's project aims to double the production capacity of his specialty cheese plant, Gunn's Hill Artisan Cheese, in response to enthusiastic market demand for his handmade, premium cheeses. To claim the $100,000 Grand Prize and fund his expansion, Shep needs votes from Canadians coast-to-coast.

When you're one of five brothers on the family dairy farm, either you learn to milk cows or you chart a new path. Shep decided to tap into the market's desire for local cheeses of exceptional quality made by producers consumers can trust. His operation must now expand to keep up with growing demand from consumers and grocery stores across Ontario.

"Our customers are typically baby boomers looking for more flavourful and unique specialty foods," says Shep. "More and more, people are looking for locally made options rather than mass-produced food. The demand is there as the specialty cheese business has enjoyed double-digit growth for a decade."

Shep spent years working with various cheese producers in Canada and Europe to learn his trade. His cheese plant uses the very milk produced by his family's farm. In less than three years, one of Gunn's Hill products has become an award winner, claiming Category Champion at the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix in 2013, and the company has grown to produce 30 tonnes of premium cheeses annually with a team of four. Its products are sold across the province at specialty shops and major grocery chains. While it is currently only licensed to sell cheese in Ontario, the plant has also seen strong interest from consumers and retailers outside the province.

A national expansion is in the long-term plan, but Shep's immediate challenge is to produce enough cheese to meet the demand in Ontario. Gunn's Hill wants to build a 2,000-square-foot addition, divided into three climate-controlled rooms, for curing and aging cheeses. This would double the size of the team, allow the plant to double annual production, and give Gunn's Hill the capacity to age different cheeses longer and produce a new line of higher-end products for discerning cheese aficionados.

"Each of this year's finalists has shared a compelling story about how their business stands at that crucial crossroads where the right mix of vision and action can secure future growth and success," says Michel Bergeron, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Public Affairs at BDC. "With his cheese plant, Shep has demonstrated that family businesses in traditional industries secure their place in the market by providing high-quality products."

"It's important for consumers to see where their food comes from and have options that they know create local jobs and support local producers," says Shep. "Fifty years ago, this county alone had 97 cheese plants. Today, it has four. We need your votes to keep the cheese wheels rolling."

Voting for the 2014 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award contest runs from May 29 to June 12 at noon EST. To support your favourite project, log into the contest website and vote once a day. Follow the contest through updates on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Visit bdc.ca/awards to learn other ways in which BDC recognizes Canadian entrepreneurs. The BDC Young Entrepreneur Award winner and runner-up will be announced on June 18. The runner-up will receive $25,000 in consulting services offered by BDC.

About the BDC Young Entrepreneur Award contest
Created by the Business Development Bank of Canada in 1988, the BDC Young Entrepreneur Award contest pays tribute to remarkable Canadian entrepreneurs between 18 and 35.  This year, nine finalists were selected to compete for a $100,000 Grand Prize. A second prize of $25,000 in consulting services offered by BDC will be awarded to the contest runner-up. For the first time in 2014, a national committee evaluated the quality of the finalist projects and gave each finalist a ranking that will be combined with the public vote. The national committee evaluation was weighted to account for 30% of each project's final ranking and the public vote will account for the remaining 70% of the ranking. www.bdc.ca/yea.

About BDC
Canada's business development bank, BDC puts entrepreneurs first. With almost 2,000 employees and more than 100 business centres across the country, BDC offers financing, subordinate financing, venture capital, securitization and consulting services to more than 28,000 small and medium-sized companies. Their success is vital to Canada's economic prosperity.


SOURCE: Business Development Bank of Canada

For further information: Maria Constantinescu, Senior Advisor, Public Relations, BDC, maria.constantinescu@bdc.ca, (514) 496-7146



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