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Ysselstein 'Gunn-ing' for BCD award

By Stephen Pierce, Woodstock Sentinel-Review

Shep Ysselstein, owner and operater of Gunn's Hill Artisan Cheese in Norwich Township, says he is concerned about the impact the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement will have on his business now that Europe will have increased access to the Canadian cheese sector. (CODI WILSON, QMI Agency)

Shep Ysselstein, owner and operater of Gunn's Hill Artisan Cheese in Norwich Township, says he is concerned about the impact the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement will have on his business now that Europe will have increased access to the Canadian cheese sector. (CODI WILSON, QMI Agency)

NORWICH TOWNSHIP - 

When Shep Ysselstein opened Gunn's Hill Artisan Cheese in August 2011, he never dreamed his business would take off so quickly.

In just three short years, demand for his company's cheese has exploded, leading to a shortage of space in which to age it and putting limitations on both the quantity and quality of the product.

"Things have been growing quite quickly, thanks to a lot of local support here, and so we're running out of space to cure our cheeses," said Ysselstein. "We're basically going full out right now, and we're starting to push our capacity."

Fortunately for Ysselstein, he has a unique opportunity to give his business exactly what it needs - room to grow.

Ysselstein is currently under consideration for the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) Young Entrepreneur Award for 2014, and the $100,000 that comes along with it, needing to beat out eight other finalists to claim the top prize.

Each young entrepreneur has submitted a plan for what they would do with the $100,000 prize in order to grow their respective businesses, and the best plan will be selected by a combination of BDC judges and a public vote.

"To apply we basically had to propose a project that would kind of take our business to the next level. There's a bunch of other very interesting projects in different places across the country, but obviously we're hoping we'll come out in first place," Ysselstein said with laugh.

Ysselstein's plan is a 185-square-metre (2,000 square-foot) addition to the existing operation on Gunn's Hill Road that would give the business the extra space it needs to flourish.

"All cheese has to be aged a certain period of time before it can be sold," said Ysselstein. "Our project that we proposed to them would be to increase our aging space so we could have more cheese to cure and, in the end, sell."

According to Ysselstein the extra capacity would not only increase production and potentially double his workforce, it would also allow the business to enter into new markets by introducing older, more flavourful cheeses.

One day. Ysselstein hopes to be able to cure cheeses for up to three or four years, allowing them age to delicious maturity before putting them up for sale.

The 31-year-old entrepreneur said the $100,000 prize would be a huge boost for his business, but also said winning the award would mean a lot to him on a personal level.

"Whenever you win an award it's a big honour. It's good feeling," he said. "Especially with something like this where you know there are people out there voting for you and you know they believe in your project and you have a connection with them."

To vote for BDC's 2014 Young Entrepreneur Award, log onto www.bdc.ca/yea. Voting is open until June 12.


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