Vancouver Dealership Evolving
into Larger Global Entity
By Carlos David Mogollón
WC&P Executive Editor
Still a relative fledgling business, Eau Canada Inc.established in 1996is now only a small part of a larger effort, focused not just on residential water treatment but pool water care, testing products, water vending machines, beverage carbonation systems, international export and Third World disaster assistance.
It's part of a newly evolved parent company, WaterOnNet Corp., that's not only going online to make its push to tie together these disparate leanings comprised of four subsidiaries-Eau Canada, Enviro-Science Laboratories, Home Beverage Supply and International Water Products-but preparing to go public by the end of the year as well.
"Of the four, two are in place and two others are in the process of being activated-the last two. We started with the first of these companies, Eau Canada, which actually entered into business about four years ago," said Frank R. Varseveld, WaterOnNet president and CEO.
Varseveld launched Eau Canada with three partners. The sole other remaining member of that quartet is Arjun Rawla, CWS-V, general manager of Eau Canada, who has eight years in water treatment. The company name plays on the French origins of the country (translating to "Water Canada") as well as the national anthem, "Oh Canada."
From tiny seeds...
After 21 years in the forestry business, he and a couple of partners decided to venture into the world of water treatment. His last position was as business development director for Crown Forest Industries (now TimberWest) of Vancouver, where he was introduced to water improvement for industrial applications in wood products such as pulp paper mills.
"As a water quality products dealer, we were pretty much a run-of-the-mill water purifier/filtration company-whole house systems, reverse osmosis, carbon filters and the like," Varseveld said. "We did consumer products as well as custom designed systems for commercial jobs such as restaurants and some industrial applications."
Eau Canada also designed a system for special needs in developing countries after being contacted by the Pentecostal Church to assist with a boys orphanage in Honduras.
"This was immediately after Hurricane Mitch," said Varseveld. "We designed and built a unit in a week and, to test it, used water from the Fraser River. It gets a lot of industrial and municipal waste and is comparable to many rivers in the Third World. After the unit passed Canada's drinking water guidelines, we shipped it off."
The system was pallet-mounted and included chlorination, dechlorination and filtration in a mechanical process with no electrical parts to meet the needs of the remote area where it was to be used.
At that point, the business was roughly 60 percent residential and 40 percent commercial and institutional.
...big trees do grow
Vander Zalm's business, Home Beverage Supply, dealt in carbonation systems and various flavor mixtures, including nutritional drinks. The objective of the merger was to jointly develop a national franchise network for marketing water purification and specialty beverage products nationwide, as well as to get the company listed on stock exchanges.
"We started manufacturing a water purifier dispenser, a compact unit that goes into convenience stores for dispensing water into consumer containers as well as apartment complexes as a source of purified water anytime," Varseveld said. "It's a standalone unit for inside use. The key point is, it's compact-a third smaller than units you see outside a supermarket. Convenience stores don't use large models since they take up too much space."
Eau Canada continued to build its consumer and industrial business, with a bit faster growth in the latter. As a result of an ad in a newspaper, it then got an opportunity late last year to acquire a business that had 10 years experience in water protection, Enviro-Science Laboratories, whose founder wanted to retire.
Doubling their size
Polydex, Vareseveld notes, is
used in "dugouts" and reservoirs for potable water and wastewater
treatment and is approved by Health Canada for those purposes. It's also
used in agriculture for control of noxious gases and odors in animal waste
Blue Magic is used for pools and spas in place of chlorine to control algae and bacteria. It requires less attention because it doesn't evaporate or precipitate, he added. A computerized pool management system-one each for consumer and commercial use-also helps reduce guesswork in maintaining pools. He even claims customers say the water feels softer as a result of its use.
Vareseveld said Enviro-Science is now 60 percent of the overall business and plans are to use an expanded dealer network of Eau Canada (to be developed over the next year) to market its Blue Magic line across the country. Still, he sees Polydex, because of its global applications in horticulture, agriculture, municipal water and wastewater, as the most important product to the company in the future.
"We envision establishing dealers across Canada and in major population centers around the world for all of our products," he said.
Expanding through export
"He's the guy that's jumping all around the world making connections for us," Vareseveld said. "Things are happening in Europe, India, Korea and Mexico; and we've got inquiries from a number of other places. That's eventually going to be the company builder allowing us to go overseas."
Stanley, who has 20 years experience in water treatment, workis with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as relief entities and international health agencies, promoting the unit developed and honed in Honduras.
"We're anticipating very solid growth in what we're doing," Varseveld said. "In consumer products, probably not too much will be happening in the next year; whereas, in the Enviro-Science line, we see a number of things taking place. We're right now building a marketing organization and will be increasing our staff substantially."
Max Leal is presently the sales manager who coordinates the group's sales program.
Much of that effort will be through WaterOnNet.com, the initial version of which is to be initially uploaded onto the Internet in September (the company currently is listed under www.algicide.com) with product catalogs, related articles and e-commerce functions.
Board of directors member Rob Hutchison, a co-founder of eCharge Corp. (a Seattle business that has pioneered online e-credit and e-phone applications), figures prominently into WaterOnNet's strategy as technical advisor.
Going public is the tool that will leverage all of these strengths for the future by opening the company up to outside investment and access to capital for rapid expansion, according to Varseveld.
"It's exciting," Varseveld said. "Our main challengeas a leader for our groupis to keep our efforts properly focused. There are so many opportunities for us right now. I'm sure every day someone comes up with a new idea for a product or market for us. The challenge, like I say, is to stay focused on where we can get the best returns."
Residential water treatment
will remain a significant component of that, but it's taken a second position
to national franchising and international export for now.