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the challenge revisited

Christian, Walter and Zenon Klopick at Tenderloin Meat & Sausage in Winnipeg.JOHN WOODS/The Globe and Mail

In business, just as in sports or in life, winning is never guaranteed.

So when Walter Klopick and his two sons came up short in the Small Business Challenge contest two years ago, finishing as semi-finalists and missing out on the grand prize, they decided to stay the course that they had mapped out for Winnipeg's Tenderloin Meat & Sausage Inc.

"I said whether I get this $100,000 or not, we're going ahead with the plans that we have," Mr. Klopick said of the contest, which is sponsored by The Globe and Mail and Telus Corp. "A little bit slower, maybe, but $100,000 is not even 10 per cent of what I'm expecting to spend."

At that time, Mr. Klopick had already overseen two expansions of the premises, for a grand total of 3,500 square feet. He also was negotiating the purchase of a car lot across the street.

"Our plans are to build a brand new building of approximately 8,000 to 9,000 square feet," he said recently. "I'm in the midst of interviewing potential builders. … We're likely to start this year." The land under the current building can then be used as a parking lot for the new facility.

Although Mr. Klopick essentially retired four years ago, turning the day-to-day running of the company over to his sons, Christian and Zenon, he still drops by at least one day a week and has hired a bookkeeper so he can stay on top of things. For a 17-employee company that he estimates has grown by about 11 to 15 per cent annually for much of the past 17 years, Mr. Klopick admits the expansion is long overdue, but he was reluctant to leave the area where Tenderloin Meats originally made its mark.

"We've gained a reputation certainly in these last 29 years here in this location," he said. "That's why we're moving across the street from us."

Tenderloin has built up that reputation through both its retail and wholesale efforts – it sells to more than 40 stores across Manitoba and more than 300 walk-in customers a day. Many drop by for Tenderloin's award-winning kolbassa sausage, which accounts for as much as 40 per cent of annual revenue, which he declined to disclose (it stood at $2.5-million for the 2011 financial year).

Two years ago, one of the Challenge contest judges suggested that Tenderloin look to market its kolbassa across North America, but Mr. Klopick says that's not as easy as it sounds.

"In the meat industry you can't do that unless you're federally inspected," he said of a process that requires strict adherence to building construction and sanitation standards under the auspices of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. "We could probably, if we were federally inspected, sell right across Canada, but never think there's [not] another hoop you have to jump through to get into the U.S.

"But certainly there's a few options that we're going to look into when we build the new building – that we can ship across provincial borders at least."

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