Carmanah University is now in session.
Victoria-based Carmanah Technologies, which designs and manufactures solar-powered lighting and illumination technology, has cracked open the books for a series of courses, seminars and meetings this week to shed a little more light on the company's story.
It's all about educating Carmanah's global network of product distributors about the company's products while sharing some Canadian culture as well they were all treated to a Salmon Kings hockey game Wednesday night.
"They thought they were coming for a bit of a vacation... well, we're putting them to work," said Mimi Drabit, Carmanah's business development manager.
Twenty-two distributors from 15 countries have met with the company's top engineers to learn about the technology behind Carmanah's lighting products.
"It really is like going back to school," she said.
The week-long conference, normally held during trade shows around the world, is back in Victoria so the distributors can see Carmanah's new facilities and get a sense of the support network behind the products.
According to Carmanah CEO, Art Aylesworth, the support network is key.
"We sometimes forget these distributors are part of modest-sized businesses in their country, part of a two- or three-man show and they come here and realize they have support, they have depth," he said. "That gives them confidence which means they sell better which means more business."
Aylesworth said the distributors will also get a better understanding of what kind of company they are dealing with.
"People don't always appreciate they are onto something good," he said. "So you bring them here, introduce them to the smartest people you've got in engineering who look after their interests and it gets them all charged up again."
It seems to have worked.
"We're here to see the new technology they have come up with," said Mark Fitter of Mobilis, a company based in Aix en Provence in the south of France that manufactures buoys using Carmanah lights.
"People are always asking for better and bigger things, so it's nice to come over here and see what the products for the future are. And right now things are looking very good."
Fitter said the northern European market has been strong and Carmanah's commitment to improving the range of its lights will fuel the growth.
The same holds true in Asia, according to David Koh of Singapore-based Kemsa which sells buoys, floats and lights in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Maldives.
"The Carmanah products are very popular, they are selling like crazy," he said.
Koh was also a fan of the Carmanah University concept, noting the behind-the-scenes look at manufacturing and design can only help him sell.
Distributors are not the only ones getting a look at what's behind the curtain at Carmanah. Victoria's "little secret" is a secret no longer.
"Yeah, it seems that way," said Aylesworth with a nod to the recent cover of B.C. Business magazine. The cover features his picture as the eye-grabber, the result of being named Earnst & Young Entrepreneur of the Yar award for the Pacific region.
"It can't be a bad thing, it gives people more reason to wonder what it's all about," he said. "It gives us pure exposure, and third-party credibility in that somebody at Ernst & Young has done their homework and the blush it gives us is you're real and you're doing things properly."