The entire CAL Business Solutions team took a field trip to visit one of our newest clients, Crown Maple. We were treated to a private tour of the production and distribution facilities, followed by maple syrup tasting and a gourmet lunch. It is not all the time that we find such “sweet” clients, perfect for a company outing, and our team made the most of it.
Crown Maple began syrup production two years ago and produced 8,000 gallons in the spring of 2011. This season they produced 55,000 gallons. In October 2012 they opened an elegant visitors’ center, café, and retail shop. These have proved to be a success; they have had up to 300 visitors a day during sap running season with sold out tours.
The size of a maple syrup producer is based on the number of “taps”. A large tree over 18” in circumference can have 3 taps. The largest producers in Quebec have 180-200,000 taps. Crown Maple currently has 32,000 taps and has the potential for 450,000 taps. If they achieve their aggressive business plan they will be the largest maple syrup producer in the world. That would be a huge boon for the Hudson Valley.
An Infrastructure For Growth
Unlike some new companies with basic startup, Crown Maple has gone first class right from the very beginning. A NY Times article commented that Crown Maple is “building what several experts say is the largest maple syrup production facility in North America…. and easily the industry’s nicest sugarhouse”. The 27,000 square foot facility has “a cathedral-style entrance, gleaming stainless steel production machines set against walls sheathed in New York State granite”. I agree, the facility is absolutely gorgeous in every detail. But it is not just beautiful; they have set up an infrastructure ready to handle their growth.
Crown Maple uses a state of the art filtration system that is common in the wine industry but a first for anyone in the syrup industry. Their Reverse Osmosis machine, which removes the water from the sap, processes 6,000 gallons an hour and is one of only three in the world of that magnitude.
Another area where Crown Maple is planning for growth is in their business software systems. They have chosen Microsoft Dynamics. They recently implemented Microsoft Dynamics CRM and will soon start to implement Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM
Microsoft Dynamics CRM with Mobile CRM functionality allows the two remote salespersons to check inventory and enter orders from the field. It also provides reporting and pipeline management visibility to the owners.
Microsoft Dynamics GP
Microsoft Dynamics GP, as their ERP system, will replace the current QuickBooks software which is currently supplemented by countless manual processes and excel worksheets.
Microsoft Dynamics GP, which will be installed by CAL Business Solutions, will run their financials, distribution, and manufacturing processes and integrate with their existing retail POS system. It will be their “ultimate record keeping system”, providing accurate reporting to the management team and eliminating their manual processes.
For example: when the NY Times article was published, Crown Maple experienced a sudden flood of online orders. Each of these had to be manually downloaded from the website, then manually re-entered into QuickBooks. Dynamics GP will eliminate this duplicate data entry, and also allow them to automate their shipping processes.
During the ERP software selection process, Scott Willis, Controller, reviewed Netsuite and Sage. He felt NetSuite was cost prohibitive compared to Dynamics GP which was “a cost effective, stable product that is good for our size company.” A key selling point was the SalesPad add on tools, presented by CAL Business Solutions, which will streamline the distribution processes.
Crown Maple chose to work with CAL Business Solutions after interviewing multiple Sage partners. But when George Mackiewicz from CAL presented Dynamics GP with SalesPad, and showed such a sincere personal interest in their business, the search was over.
Crown Maple will expand into multiple revenue streams. After all, the maple syrup business, like all agricultural businesses, is dependent on so many variables outside their control – especially Mother Nature. It is risky to have a product that is only produced for 2 months out of the year. Crown maple has plenty of options and creative ideas for additional revenue streams, including tourism. Crown Maple sees Madava Farms as a tourist destination for New York City day trips and even international tour groups. Visitors can hike, stroll the grounds (including fruit orchards and organic gardens), tour the production facility, and do syrup tasting in an elegant room paneled in tapped maple. And don’t forget the café, with gourmet sandwiches, salads, desserts and coffees (with maple sugar of course).
But for right now, they are going strong and are only worried about selling out of their product too fast! Crown Maple syrup is already appearing in dishes at the nation’s best restaurants and was served to the President at the inaugural lunch, (in the sauce for the apple pie and in the butternut squash purée.) The syrup is sold in their retail store (onsite and online) and at West Elm, Dean & DeLuca, and some Whole Foods stores. It is already being shipped internationally to Germany and Lebanon.
Crown Maple has plans to grow – big! CAL Business Solutions with Microsoft Dynamics plans to help take them there.
CAL Business Solutions is looking forward to making a two part video case study tracking the benefits of the Microsoft Dynamics GP implementation. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, take a trip up to Crown Maple yourself, any Saturday or Sunday, for a tour and tasting in a beautiful setting. www.crownmaple.com
By Anya Ciecierski, CAL Business Solutions, Connecticut Microsoft Dynamics GP partner