The Business

Mark and Lisa Townsend have a unique retirement plan. While sitting around a campfire one night, discussing their future, the couple decided to leverage Mark’s long standing-interest in spirits and Lisa’s educational background in agriculture to open their own distillery. “We’re the kind of couple that’s [..] got to keep busy,” says Lisa. In 2020, the Townsends opened up Silver Fox Distillery in Arthur, Ontario specializing in moonshine and liqueurs. The distillery also produces vodka, gin, and barrel-aged whisky.

All of the grains, as well as most of the botanicals, used in the production of Silver Fox spirits are sourced within 50 kilometers of the distillery. Any of the spent grain leftover after production is donated back to the farmers, who use it as a high protein feed for their animals. In their first three years of business, the distillery has won 33 awards, including back-to-back Grand National Champion at the U.S. Open for Spirits. Silver Fox is the first distillery in Canada to win this prestigious award, and the first distillery in the world to win the award two years in a row.

The Challenge

While the Townsends clearly know how to distill a top-notch product, inventory and tracking have always been substantial operational challenges for the business. “With liquor, there is a lot of paperwork involved,” notes Lisa “we have to keep track of our production, our inventory in store, our inventory online, and our warehouse inventory.”

Every ounce of alcohol the distillery produces must be weighed, and four different types of taxes must be paid on spirits sold. The math is complicated and the business is required to file five government financial reports each month. Lisa says she was tackling all of the tracking and calculating manually in a notebook, and writing down batch numbers on each bottle by hand. The process was time consuming, tedious, and stressful. Most importantly, it left a great deal of room for human error.

The Solution

Eager to find a way to streamline Silver Fox’s operations, the Townsends were thrilled when they discovered Digital Main Street’s Digital Transformation Grant (DTG) Program. The DTG initiative provides brick-and-mortar small businesses with a digital assessment, online training, and a $2,500 grant to implement their Digital Transformation Plan.

After a straight-forward application process and approved funding, the Townsends onboarded an inventory software called Purtrak, which specializes in supporting distilleries like Silver Fox. Next, they began to migrate their existing product data into the program and set up systems to precisely and efficiently track new spirits as they are distilled and bottled for sale.

Key Deliverables

  • Applied for and received a Digital Main Street DTG in October 2022
  • Researched and selected specialized inventory software for distilleries
  • Purchased a one-year subscription to PureTrack software
  • Inputted current warehouse stock into software
  • Set-up systems to effectively track production of new bottles
  • Reconciled software reports with values from past financial statements

The Impact

Moving from a manual tracking system to a digital one has been game changing for the Townsends and Silver Fox.

  • Increased productivity. Lisa used to spend a good portion of her day gathering data for month-end reports. “Now I can just go in and say I need a CRA report for our warehouse products, and it does it all, which is awesome. It’s saving us tons of hours.”
  • Increased precision. The Townsends are also less worried about handling a potential audit, highlighting that, “it’s going to be easier to bring up forms on the computer and show [auditors] exactly what we’ve been doing.”

Next Steps

With a modern tracking system in place to free up time, and a host of prestigious awards to their name, Lisa and Mark are excited to turn their attention towards sales and marketing. “We’re focused on [increasing] our online sales,” adds Lisa “and we want to increase production, get our product into restaurants, bars, and the LCBO.”  The Townsends are grateful for their experience with the DTG program as “it [allowed] us to expand quicker and get [our] name out there. It’s really worth getting online.”


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