The Greater Goods.
It’s not just the name of Bernard Verkaaik’s business, but the way he strives to live his life every day: all for the greater good.
"I like helping people who have ideas. Helping them make their dreams come true, bringing them into reality."
Verkaaik is a natural connector — in work and in life — and he wholeheartedly believes success should be shared. So he started a business to reflect this.
“It’s really nice to see people flourish,” said Verkaaik. “I like helping people who have ideas. Helping them make their dreams come true, bringing them into reality.”Originally from a small town in the south of The Netherlands, Verkaaik learned the basics of business at a young age. He graduated university with a commerce degree and worked for a large retailer and then an advertising agency, but something was missing. He found The Netherlands to be overpopulated and over regulated for the kind of life he wanted to live.
“It’s a beautiful country with lots of history… But on a Sunday morning, if you want to go for a walk and be by yourself in nature, guess what? You will meet 500 other people who are thinking the same,” Verkaaik laughed.
So in 2001, Verkaaik made the move to Canada.
One winter just before the holidays, he happened to sit next to a leader in the ingredient broker industry at a Christmas concert. In natural Verkaaik fashion, he struck up a conversation, and in that moment his eyes were opened to the food brokerage industry — a business he would soon fall madly in love with.
Verkaaik spent the next 15 years learning the ins and outs of the business, organizing industry-wide seminars on commodity market trends and leading customer training and innovation.
“I really started to understand how it all works, who is buying from who, and why people are using certain ingredients,” said Verkaaik. “Understanding the whole process.”
Little did he know, he was building the foundation for his own business endeavor.
"Collingwood was a very conscious decision. I had no business in Collingwood, but I really liked the lifestyle"In 2017, Verkaaik experienced a shift. Although he was comfortable in his current role, he had developed a deeper awareness that he wanted more — he wanted to have a bigger impact, and he wanted to help people. Around the same time, Verkaaik felt called to move somewhere more aligned with who he was becoming and the type of life he wanted to live.
“Collingwood was a very conscious decision. I had no business in Collingwood, but I really liked the lifestyle,” he said. “Also at the time I had the mind to start my own business, so I was looking for a really great place to live, first.”
And the business quickly followed.
Over the years, he noticed a recurring theme: large brands were dominating the industry, making it difficult for smaller, healthier alternatives to get into restaurants and onto grocery store shelves. Verkaaik was determined to rectify this, so he quit his job and started a food consultancy agency to make healthy alternatives more accessible to Canadians. He called it The Greater Goods.
“The system is not supporting these smaller brands,” said Verkaaik. “Look what is happening right now, people need healthy alternatives and affordability. Times are changing but nobody is taking the initiative, so that is why I started my company.”
Verkaaik applies the knowledge he gained working for some of the largest players in the industry to help smaller, independent brands lower their operating costs and get their product into the hands of the consumer — faster, and for a fair price.
“All the things that are necessary to be successful,” Verkaaik said.
"Everyday I am looking at creating a better model to support these startups"The mission of The Greater Goods is to help companies through any roadblock, no matter what stage they are at. From building out an idea, to brand development, product sourcing, manufacturing, and even landing domestic or export contracts, Verkaaik and his team are determined to help young companies thrive. Following the onset of COVID-19, the business shifted further to focus specifically on startups and helping them experience explosive growth.
Now, three years in, Verkaaik is in the process of opening an office back in The Netherlands to support food innovation in Europe as well.
“Everyday I am looking at creating a better model to support these startups,” said Verkaaik.
Humbly, he said he owes a lot of his success to the Foundry.
Verkaaik claimed a desk at the coworking space a year and a half ago, and he quickly began developing relationships with the other members.
“The Foundry and the connections I made here really feels like a working community where we share our clients so we can help them get their needs met,” said Verkaaik.
With help from Kai Hulshof, digital marketing director at Canopy Media, Verkaaik expanded his online presence to reach small businesses all over North America. He enlisted Carl Michener at OutWrite Communications to help articulate his offer, and he has referred several of his younger clients to Carly Gouweloos and her creative studio, caleidoscope.
“Both Collingwood and the Foundry are perfect environments where people really collaborate and work together to support each other — in business and in life,” Verkaaik said. “I think I am really drawn to it, because those are also the principles of my company. I really want to work together and share the successes that we have.”
When he is not helping connect companies with the services and support they need, he is connecting people in the community.
Verkaaik loves spending time outside and participates in just about everything Collingwood and the surrounding area has to offer, from snowshoeing and skiing to kayaking and hiking. Every Sunday, Verkaaik gathers with a group of friends to jump in the bay, all year long.
After a delicious dinner — likely filled with an array of healthy alternatives — Verkaaik settles in at the end of every day for an evening meditation.
“It really makes me feel grounded and helps me close off my busy day,” he smiled.