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January 28, 2019

DVine Labs

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From Humble Beginnings, DVine Labs Broadening its Business Horizons

What started as a small, personal endeavour to try and quit smoking, soon took advantage of a boom in the popularity of electronic cigarettes and has now morphed into a multi-million-dollar manufacturing and packaging/bottling firm that has clients throughout North America across a wide array of sectors.

DVine Labs, now based in Lindsay, Ontario, started when its future president Mike Meathrel was looking for a way to cut back his smoking habit and was advised to investigate e-cigarettes as a healthier option. Upon discovering the less-than-hygienic way many of the liquids used to carry the nicotine were made, he decided to make some himself, ensuring the process was sanitary and the quality of the product excellent.

“I was smoking a pack and a half of cigarettes a day but once I tried an e-cigarette, I knew within two days I would never smoke again. But the downfall was where do I find the products to go into the e-cigarettes and how was it being made? I found I was basically walking into an old building that was not sterile, not clean, to buy the products. I don’t know if I was more disgusted at the thought of going back to smoking or buying this product that was not being made in a sterile fashion,” he explained.

“I decided I was going to make it myself and it wasn’t long before friends who had switched to electronic cigarettes were saying they would buy my products. So, it was as simple as that. I knew my daughters Melissa and Danielle always needed money for school and their cars and to go out with their friends. So, they came into the business. The girls would make the product after school. I was travelling all over Ontario and Canada and I would stop into the vape stores and get them to sell our product, which is essentially the juice that goes into the e-cigarettes.”

There is still nicotine being delivered into the lungs and eventually the bloodstream of users, but e-cigarettes are still significantly healthier that smoking regular cigarettes because there are no harmful additives as there are in commercially produced tobacco products.

“If you talk to most medical facilities they will say that it is up to 95 per cent safer than smoking. The Canadian government won’t use any number like 95 per cent yet, but they will use the term harm reduction. There are no carcinogens, no carbon dioxide, no pesticides. It’s is generally recognized as being much safer.”

As the popularity of the products being created, first out of Meathrel’s home grew exponentially, other companies producing similar products but looking for a more efficient, cost effective and verifiably safer process started coming more and more to DVine, who eventually acquired first one, and then a handful of small properties in Port Perry. After nearly four years, late in 2017 the company moved into a 100,000 square foot facility in Lindsay, using 30,000 of that square footage for themselves and leasing out the remainder to local companies.

“I told my daughter Danielle, who is now the company’s vice president, [Melissa has gone on to a career in forensic accounting] that her mom and I would put money into the business at first to get it started for her and her sister. We will own it and the plan was always for me to leave my corporate job and run it anyways. We started with basically zero outside employees and now we’re at 34.”

Meathrel worked as a business development specialist in the high-tech sector and travelled extensively using his experience to not only build DVine labs as a business entity, but also his sales acumen to build up an ever-increasing and ever-diverse group of clients.

“Eventually we developed a huge competitive advantage because of the process we created which differentiated us right out of the gate. We have a clean room that we operate in. We operate to an ISO standard. Even though our industry is not regulated, we operate as if we are regulated,” he said, explaining that one of the big draws for other companies is that DVine can test the safety and quality of all products they make.

“We actually purchased our own, very expensive gas chromatography equipment and mass spectrometer so we can run all the products through them and tell clients what’s in them. If there are known compounds that can be harmful, we monitor those thresholds and if it’s in the product, we don’t make it.”

At present, the biggest revenue stream for DVine has become contract packaging. The proven safety, versatility and efficiency of the company has meant it has become pretty much a one-stop shop for other companies looking to make, package and market specialty liquids.

“We manufacture for well over 100 brands in Canada. And that is how people have picked up on what we do. Other companies picked up on what we have built because it makes more sense to come to us than try to replicate what we have done on their own. Which means we have many opportunities in other areas besides e-liquids,” he said.

“We have our own art and media department, so we do all the labelling. We do all the mixing, we fill the bottles, we package it and track everything we ship. We also do all the record keeping and ensure the products meet all government and ISO standards. It’s been pretty amazing because this literally was something that started in a garage, moved to the basement, moved to the back of a retail store and then eventually moved into this huge building in Lindsay all within four years.”

A growing amount of DVine’s business is coming from south of the border, so the company recently opened a sales and manufacturing facility in South Carolina to more readily serve the huge U.S. market. Meathrel said there is no chance that the company will even leave its home in Lindsay no matter how big it gets.

“This building and this community is the best thing that’s ever happened to us. We are never leaving Lindsay. We love our facility and our employees are keen to stay here too,” he said.

“We buy as much locally as we can, and we use local companies and local contractors, like rental companies, plumbers, electricians, HVAC people. The local economic development folks have been amazing, and they understand what we need as we continue to grow. People, in general, have been very supportive of is.”

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