Mathieu Laframboise walks into the Sobeys on Manning Road in Tecumseh. He and his team from Certa Opportune are normally frequent guests at the grocery stores, supplying them with point-of-sale and point-of-purchase displays, fixtures, and other marketing materials. However, today is different. Certa Opportune had to take a hard right at the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic. They switched gears to focus on something that, at this moment, means more to the grocery store employees than most could know – personal protective equipment (PPE).
Since its founding in 2013 by Laframboise, Certa Opportune, as a large-scale printer, has been a local leader in the world of standard and custom signage. Their work can be seen across Ontario in grocery stores like Metro, Food Basics, Foodland, Sobeys, and FreshCo.
Originally based in Toronto, Laframboise partnered with Greg Donais in 2016 and opened up shop in Windsor in 2018. With teams of installers across the province, most of Certa Opportune‘s work is in Ontario. However, they have branched out to do jobs in British Columbia, Manitoba, and had started into Quebec not long before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
As the COVID-19 crisis worsened in Ontario, government measures to stop the spread of the disease affected businesses far and wide.
“We’re a business and as a business owner, you want to make sure you keep feeding your people. We had to be creative in terms of keeping our doors open and keeping the business moving,” explains Laframboise. To keep their people busy, Certa Opportune dove headlong into the world of personal protective equipment.
“We do face shields, we were one of the first on the market,” he states. “We got this design from [Advoque CEO Jason Azevedo] in California, he’s a well-known designer. From the design, we figured out how to fabricate it and we started fabricating a ton of those.”
His employees learned new skills as Certa Opportune reinvented how they did things.
“We had to turn around and switch gears,” says Laframboise. “We’re a B2B business and, overnight, when COVID hit and construction sites were being shut down due to COVID, we had to turn around and switch gears. Basically, we went from a B2B business to a B2C.”
Since the beginning of the crisis, Certa Opportune has fabricated roughly 65,000 face shields for Metro and Jean Coutu stores and corporate in Ontario and Quebec and roughly another 20,000 for The Beer Store in Ontario.
Certa Opportune has also started selling their PPE products directly to front-line workers. “Straight on, nurses and doctors were contacting us individually and buying, from their own money, face shields so they could continue operating at the beginning of the crisis,” says Laframboise.
“It’s putting people at ease,” he explains. “We’ve been getting some great comments, some great feedback from doctors and nurses.”
Certa Opportune also started fabricating grocery store sneeze guards for FreshCo, Sobeys, Loblaws, and Foodland. Laframboise figures his team covered about 300 stores in a matter of four days. He is happy to see the positive effect his company’s PPE products are having on the employees of these grocery stores.
“I remember going to Sobeys, the one in Tecumseh on Manning Road,” he recalls. “We were there to install the [plexiglass] in the pharmacy section and one of the employees came to us and she was really impressed by the face shield. She wanted to have one and, as a matter of fact, I had a few in the back of my truck, so I gave her one and she was in tears. I didn’t charge her, I gave it to her, and then she went on and came back to the office and bought 20 more for her friends.
“Every time I go to Sobeys, I see them wearing them. I’m very pleased with that.”
Certa Opportune is a prime example of an adaptable business, thinking on its feet, for the betterment of their customers, their employees, and the public.