Albertan innovators to watch in 2013: February edition

As the rest of the world continues to view Alberta as a giant oil well, hidden deep in the cities of Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray and Lethbridge are some of the most ingenious and sharpest business minds in Canada. It is not often that we recognize products that may be in various retail outlets as being products with roots to Alberta. However, one such product, which has recently hit the shelves of many liquor stores in Alberta and several restaurants in the City of Edmonton, is CAFVINO.

Cafvino proudly claims to be the first wine to be successfully infused with coffee and made available to customers in Canada. It is delicious. The product is the brainchild of several Columbian students who figured out a formula that blended the sweet flavours of Columbian red wine with a muskier Columbian coffee bean. Ingrid Schifer de Dennis, the principal of Schifer Imports Ltd., is the lady behind the scenes who has spent nearly six years trying to get this product to Canada. When asked about the journey that led her to where she is today, she lets out a chuckle and dismisses the notion that she has even come close to reaching an end-goal.  She makes it clear that her company does “…not plan to rest until Cafvino is in every Province and on menus across Canada.” Some may look at the ambitions of this young and energetic entrepreneur and recognize that she has a tall task ahead of her, but like most successful entrepreneurs, Ingrid seems unmoved by this challenge.

It is fascinating to meet driven people who seem fearless about both their own capabilities and the capabilities of the products they sell. Ingrid reminisces about how she has always been one to find a product, recognize the demand and find a way to create the supply. “While attending grade four in Fort McMurray, I used to sketch pictures during the evenings at home and put them on display in class. A lot of the kids would really like the pictures and eventually a few kids offered me money to custom sketch pictures for them.” Ingrid immediately became the go-to person for custom sketches in school and earned a few bucks as a result.

She has since held several employment positions as a salesperson and has won awards in this field, one of the awards coincidentally led to her being sent on a trip to France where she claims she “…came to discover the world to be full of products which have not made their way to Canada.” When she arrived back in Edmonton she developed a desire to import products, which she felt would benefit the Canadian market. Having roots to Columbia, Ingrid made a visit to Medellin and found Cafvino. She understood the product, realized how it was missing from the Canadian market and literally developed a supply chain that would ultimately deliver the product to St. Albert, Alberta. Ingrid believes that while she faced many challenges in having a product manufactured and packaged and exported from Columbia, it was the ease of dealing with the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission that helped her ultimately succeed in bringing Cafvino to Alberta.

Schifer Imports will be looking at expanding the list of products to be imported from South America in 2013, the details of these products remain “hush hush” but if Cafvino is the benchmark that has been set, we should be excited.

Nitin Bhatia is a writer for The Spectator Tribune

Follow us on Twitter @SpectatorTrib