CPA-Owned Business Pivots to Help Stop the Spread of COVID-19

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The effects of COVID-19 have tested supply chains across the world and dramatically changed the demand for certain goods and services. Hand sanitizer was one of the first global shortages as consumers and businesses clambered to stock up.

Weeks into the outbreak, it’s still nearly impossible to find the purifying liquid but local businesses are adapting their production lines to change that. Patent 5 Distillery – a craft distillery and tasting room in Winnipeg’s Exchange District—is one of them. 

“We’re trying to scale up to help fill the need but it’s a completely manual process,” says Brock Coutts, CPA, CMA co-owner of Patent 5 Distillery.

There has been a learning curve for the business, which typically specializes in distilling gin, vodka and whiskey, to temporarily switch production to hand sanitizer. Like so many beginnings, theirs started on Google. 

“Yes, we did have to Google it,” Coutts said with a laugh. “The World Health Organization published a standard on how to make hand sanitizer using high proof alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and glycerin. From there we calculated how it applied to our percent alcohol and we were off and running.” 

The next challenge was procuring hydrogen peroxide and glycerin, two compounds that are not typically used in the making of liquor, and therefore not readily available.  

“Unfortunately, right now those compounds are in high demand. My wife was calling pharmacies, I was gathering what I could, and it literally was a bottle here and a bottle there. So far, we’ve been able to produce twenty 20-litre batches,” says Coutts. We have had many individuals and organizations step with donations of products and bottles to help us meet demand.

All the hand sanitizer product that Patent 5 has made is donated to front line workers and those working with Manitoba’s vulnerable population. Some organizations have driven in from as far away as Brandon, Manitoba to pick up a few bottles.

The demand continues to grow and since the business was never conceived as a hand sanitizer producer, the logistics have been time consuming. 

“Today, I have my whole household helping. My three kids are rinsing and labeling bottles and my wife and I are manually bottling using funnels. Other than the distillation process, which we have the equipment for, the rest is done by hand,” explains Coutts. 

As a business owner, Coutts knows that as important an endeavour as this is, it can’t go on forever. “Our revenue from this is zero. Our tasting room has been closed since last Monday [March 16, 2020] as we do our part to flatten the COVID-19 curve.”

Coutts isn’t without a plan, however.

“We hope that we can sell some sanitizer to the Government of Manitoba and use the proceeds to purchase more materials so we can continue to donate to those in Manitoba with an urgent need,” says Coutts. 

The company is also looking to set up an online marketplace where they could process orders. Their traditional products, vodka and gin can still be purchased on the Manitoba Liquor Mart website and have recently been added to the distributor’s home delivery service.

As for what you can do to help? 

“One thing we need is bottles for hand sanitizer. They are very difficult to find. If anyone has access to bottles between 60 and 250 millilitres with a cap, or sealed bottles of glycerin that would be a huge help to us,” Coutts adds. “Either glass or plastic bottles work, although because of the high alcohol content not all plastic is safe to use.” 

Patent 5’s hand sanitizer formulation was recently approved by Health Canada. If you know where the company can procure bottles, please contact info@patent5.ca

Do you know any CPA-led businesses, CPA members, candidates or students who are helping the community during this challenging time? We want to hear and share their story. Please contact us at fyi@cpamb.ca.