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Entrepreneur wants to expand his business to Britain

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As summer turns to fall, few Canadian traditions can match sitting in the backyard with friends around a fire. Brad Carpenter is betting that the Brits would appreciate the practice equally as well. He is the chief executive officer of Burnaby, B.C.-based Solus Decor Inc., a $3-million business that sells fire vessels and water features for home landscapes, plus fireplace surrounds. Pictured is his company’s 36-inch Scupper with Basin model.

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This is a 36-inch water feature with brass dome. Mr. Carpenter has targeted Britain with hopes of expanding his 17-year-old company in Europe, too. Having lived in Britain previously, he is familiar with its corporate setups and accounting. “It’s not that dissimilar to Canada really, albeit there are all the European regulations on top,” he says.

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One of the biggest issues is exposing British consumers to the tradition of gathering outdoors around a fire, which is not a popular thing to do there. To counter that, Mr. Carpenter staged a soft launch at the famed Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in July. “A lot of people looked at it, especially the fire pits, and went, ‘What is it?’ because it really doesn’t exist there,” he says.

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Solus Decor is trying to find partners to showcase its products in Britain. A landscape designer/nursery in Brighton has agreed to take on a couple of units. “We think we’re ahead of the curve,” Mr. Carpenter says. “We want to be first, which is challenging because you’re creating the market and you need to do a lot of education.” Pictured is the Hemi 36 Halva fire vessel.

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Mr. Carpenter’s company also makes fireplace surrounds.

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Regulations also pose a problem. Though his waterfall bowls are fine to sell in Britain – once he’s fitted them with a standard three-pin plug, of course – his gas-powered, free-standing fire vessels must undergo an expensive and time-consuming process to be approved for European sale, costing upward of $60,000 and taking between six and eight months.

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One ray of sunshine for the company may be the pending Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement being negotiated between Canada and the European Union. Mr. Carpenter is hopeful that it will reduce shipping costs, but he is unclear whether it will affect standards and requirements. This model is the Hemi 36-inch with orbital ring.

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