Founded in 2010 by Sharon Quann (President) and Reid Barnett (CEO), BioSpa (Quann) Cosmeceuticals Inc. is Atlantic Canada’s only manufacturer of a full-service fully integrated professional skincare line based on natural ingredients for esthetician clinics and home use.
Sharon Quann was 18 when she arrived in P.E.I. from New Brunswick to work in a beauty salon. “My Dad drove me over the bridge, and I never left.” By the age of 20, she’d launched a Summerside holistic beauty clinic and has been entrepreneurial ever since. “It was meant to be. A friend was closing a business and had equipment to sell. My clinic’s name — Mystical Touch – suddenly came to me.” Sharon studied at the German institute of renowned naturopath Dr. Rudolf Hauschka and vowed to create her own product line – with natural ingredients for skin health and wellbeing – in Prince Edward Island.
She connected with seasoned industry professional Reid Barnett to envision a unique skincare line addressing existing gaps in the sector. The two became a dynamic business team. Reid creates formulations, manufactures product, and manages operations. “There’s a huge opportunity in skincare. People are concerned with wellness, not just cosmetics.” Their strengths are complementary. “The lab’s on one side, and Sharon’s on the other. She’s creative and intuitive; I’m the pragmatic scientist. We develop products and see results in the clinic.”
There was slow progress early on with door-to-door sales and esthetician training. “We had to do everything ourselves,” says Sharon. “I’m a single mom and had to work.” Federal and provincial support, plus assistance from the NRC and BioFoodTech to develop bioactive ingredients and extraction technology, have propelled BioSpa to a new level. It also participates in the P.E.I. BioAlliance Emergence incubator program for startups pursuing commercialization. “Regis Duffy and others are mentors,” says Sharon. “What an amazing gift for a young company.” Maritime Beauty Supply is promoting regional distribution and, with growth doubling annually, there are plans to expand throughout Canada.
“Fine P.E.I. Skincare” is prominently featured on all products with various ingredients locally sourced. “It’s the essence of our brand reflecting the Island,” says Sharon. “People across the country are intrigued by the P.E.I. connection. Something pulls them here.”
In 2015, Chef Norman Zeledon opened The Galley on the Summerside waterfront, the first year-round gourmet food truck in the Maritimes. It showcases top-quality produce from P.E.I. farmers and fishers — enhanced by Chef Norman’s global culinary experience — with the motto “from the streets to your door.”
As an immigrant, Chef Norman Zeledon understands the risk taking and resilience of a successful entrepreneur. The sixth generation of Nicaragua’s largest organic coffee producer, he and his family fled the communist regime. “My parents would do anything for us and saw our future in Canada.” Living as a refugee in Alberta by way of Costa Rica, Norman trained as a red seal chef, married his high-school sweetheart and traveled the world with her, cooking his way through Asia, Europe and Central America. A chance vacation decision brought them to P.E.I. where they promptly purchased a home.
As executive chef of Annie’s Table in New London, Norman played a leading role in its international acclaim. An unexpected opportunity to purchase it brought him face-to-face with his future. “I’d have to put my heart and soul into it, and realized the vision wasn’t mine. I wanted to own a mobile food truck and cook amazing food.” During P.E.I.’s worst winter on record, Norman built a chef’s kitchen into a refurbished chip truck with his wife Diane and friends George and Marlene Dowdle. He wrote his business plan. “Without risk, you won’t get anywhere. I lost sleep worrying if locals would embrace me, but if I didn’t try, it wouldn’t happen.”
His relationship with clients has been central to his success. “There’s no better reward than watching my customers take their first bite and discussing new foods and flavours. You couldn’t do that cooking in the back of a restaurant.” During the winter, he introduced 50 soups from 20 countries, using Facebook to boost his customer base. Locals leave bags of vegetables at his door “for you to make something.”
He’s entrepreneurial for the Island, as well. His menu promotes local ingredients reimagined as global fusion cuisine — with a healthy dose of salsa music. “I’m not just selling a product; I’m selling the Island and our producers. P.E.I. has the best food in the world. If I won the lottery, I’d still do what I’m doing.”
When the Canadian Forces Base Summerside closure was announced in 1989, it meant the loss of over 1000 jobs and millions in wages for the local economy. But the community rallied — and turned a major loss into a major gain.
The people of Summerside determined the former air force base should be developed on the pillars of Aerospace and Training — and that is what happened. The property has been known as Slemon Park since 1992 and it is the home of the Atlantic Police Academy, the Summerside Airport and the Aerospace industry on PEI. The 1000 government jobs lost with the closure of CFB Summerside have been replaced with over 1000 jobs in Aerospace and other industries. As Slemon Park Corporation president, Shawn McCarvill puts it: “The aerospace industry didn’t exist 26 years ago and now it’s the 4th largest industry on Prince Edward Island.”
Shawn is a very proud Islander and proud of the success story that Summerside has become since that 1989 announcement. Originally from Kinkora, he graduated from UPEI in 1980, worked in Africa, Newfoundland and Ottawa, becoming a Chartered Accountant along the way, and then had the opportunity to return to PEI in 1985 to work as CFO for the Murphy Group of companies in Charlottetown. Shawn was the CFO for Slemon Park Corporation between 1991 and 1995 and returned in 2008 to become president of the corporation.
Shawn says his greatest accomplishment is raising his family here. “Living on PEI allows your family to flourish. We have a culture that values education and community. The quality of life, the strength of the education system, and the lifestyle we have enjoyed have enabled all 5 of our children to find success.”
Regarding Summerside in general, Shawn says “We have a beautiful ocean-side city, people with a can-do attitude and unlimited possibilities. When talking about possibilities, Slemon Park is a possibility realized.”
Sean is from Summerside and graduated from UPEI with a BA in Political Studies. If you’d asked him a decade ago, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”, he likely wouldn’t have said “An entrepreneur in Summerside”. He spent several years surveying the country: Fort MacMurray, Calgary, Moose Jaw, London, St. John’s, and Saint John. Working jobs in construction, carpentry and sales, he’d also eyed a career as a lawyer and even wrote the LSAT.
Caley, Sean’s wife, said “Why don’t you start your own barber shop?” Seems there was great wisdom in these words. To Sean, the idea combined several things he’d become passionate about: working with his hands, constant interaction with other people and running a business. He quickly identified Summerside, his hometown, as a place with a barbershop gap and wasted no time rectifying the situation, immediately enrolling in Barber School.
Asked why he chose Summerside in particular, Sean replies “I wanted to be in control of my life. My family has two entrepreneurs and a two-and-a-half-year-old. That doesn’t always work in bigger centres, but it works here.” Caley, Sean’s wife, is a photographer and the owner of Caley Joy Photography.
After living in so many places, Sean was quickly reminded of Summerside’s advantages when he came back. “We love the traffic, the pace of life, and knowing everyone at the grocery store and on the street. We can fill our work schedules and still have time for family.” Sean chose Downtown Summerside for his business because he knew he’d stand out and be warmly embraced. “You can create a nice spot, be instantly recognized, push things further and have an impact on the community. I see Summerside as a place I will never leave.”
To anyone considering Summerside as a place to live and do business, Sean has this to say: “We’re becoming more diverse all the time. It makes us stronger and more tightly-knit. People see the possibilities here and want to be part of it. That’s why I’m here!”