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Cancrete's Can-Do Attitude

Building a brand one water bowl at a time

So often innovation is the result of need, which is what led Shaun and Janet Heldt to start Cancrete more than 25 years ago. As cattle owners, they needed water bowls, as did their customers, so they formed Cancrete and purchased concrete waterers from third parties to use and to sell. Unfortunately, they were frustrated with the lack of quality. Concrete was supposed to hold up better than plastic waterers, but even those couldn’t withstand the cold Canadian winters. They knew there had to be something better, even if it meant building it themselves.

So often innovation is the result of need, which is what led Shaun and Janet Heldt to start Cancrete more than 25 years ago. As cattle owners, they needed water bowls, as did their customers, so they formed Cancrete and purchased concrete waterers from third parties to use and to sell. Unfortunately, they were frustrated with the lack of quality. Concrete was supposed to hold up better than plastic waterers, but even those couldn’t withstand the cold Canadian winters. They knew there had to be something better, even if it meant building it themselves.

Over the next 10 years Shaun spent significant amounts of time and money working with some of the largest feedlots in Canada and the northern United States on container design, as well as with engineers on research and development of parts and materials. There are regions that can experience up to 21 freeze/thaw cycles in a single day, so eliminating the deterioration and maintenance associated with this type of climate change was critical.

 

"We don't have to make phone calls anymore. Now, the phone rings for us. All the new owners have to do is take it over from here."
- Shaun Heldt

 

“We offer a 10-year warranty on our tanks, so we had to make sure they were going to hold up in order for me to sleep well at night,” Shaun said. “I sleep really well now at night.” In fact, he said out of the more than 60,000 waterers they’ve sold, only 16 have ever had to be replaced. This is also due in part to the protective coating they add to all of their waterers. Once again, Shaun recognized the need for more than just a latex coating like existing watering bowls had, and he worked with a leading industrial coating manufacturer to provide an epoxy coating for added protection and appearance.

Even the design of the water bowls themselves was important to Shaun. He said if anyone should know what makes a good waterer, it would be a feedlot owner who has more than 120,000 head of cattle and uses more than 700 watering bowls. “This proved to be a fantastic source of information for us, and we feel we have the features cattlemen want,” he said. Today Cancrete has 11 different models going up to 3300 pounds for the largest animals, which many zoos and wildlife parks now use because their rhinos and hippos can’t destroy them.

Creating a quality product was only half the battle for the Heldt’s. The real work came in the form of getting their name out to potential customers. “We’ve spent the better part of our lives developing name recognition,” Shaun said. “If nobody knows who you are, then you’re not selling anything. People like to buy what other people have.” The best way to generate name recognition in the Ag industry is to attend trade shows, and Shaun appears at about 50 every year.

All of that face time has paid off. Cancrete sells up to 5,000 waterers per year and pours concrete daily at its four-building, 7-acre manufacturing site in York, NE, which opened nine years ago. As the company grew, a majority of its waterers were being shipped to the U.S. The tanks were heavy, so shipping was expensive. York was centrally located and tanks were easily trucked throughout the Midwest cattle country. Materials, such as sand, gravel, and cement powder were also more readily available, and Shaun said he has employees from the Heartland who have the hardest of work ethics.

While Shaun is marketing their products at trade shows and overseeing the plant in York, Janet oversees all of the inventory control, purchasing, and billing from their Canadian office but still spends about half her time in York. The couple has been married for 43 years, and said now that they’re 60-years-old, they want to spend more time with their three children and four grandchildren.

 

"We're looking for someone who has fresh ideas, excitement, and can come on board and carry this business for the next 20 years."
- Shaun Heldt

 

“We’re just getting older,” Janet said. “We’ve put our heart and soul into this, and it’s time to pull back.” Shaun isn’t sure he’ll ever completely retire and would like to continue to contribute in some way to growing the business, but agrees with his wife that it’s time to slow down, not speed up. “We’re looking for someone who has fresh ideas, excitement, and can come on board and carry this business for the next 20 years,” he said.

The Heldt’s hired The Firm Business Brokerage to find that ideal buyer after being disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm from another broker. “The Firm showed a genuine interest to work as a team, and that’s why we chose them,” Janet said. She and Shaun have built their entire business and personal life around team work, and it’s proven to be the key to their success.

Thanks to Shaun and Janet’s years of dedication, Cancrete is in a position to really grow, and, they hope, diversify to take it even further than they have. “The sky is the limit when you think about products for Ag businesses,” Janet said. “But there’s also opportunities in other areas.” Some of her ideas include garden planters, stepping stones, or other yard and patio supplies. “If the price of cattle goes down and sales slow down for waterers, then you have other strategic products you can sell,” she added.

Orders at Cancrete continue to go up, and Shaun said sales have increased dramatically the last three to four years, and continue to do so. “We don’t have to make phone calls anymore, now the phone rings for us,” he said. “All the new owners have to do is take it over from here.”  

 

The Firm Deal Review

Industry: Ag manufacturing

Locations: Ontario, Canada and York, Nebraska

Market: In over 600+ retailers

Transition: Seller is willing to stay on for up to two years

Annual Profit: $401,986

Status: Pending Sale

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