Like many of the communities sprinkled along Kootenay roads, Crawford Bay has been a magnet for creative, free-spirited people who have turned their passions into successful businesses. This includes jewellers, glass blowers, broom makers, weavers and Kootenay Forge, a blacksmithing shop whose wrought-iron fixtures and accessories (think towel racks, wall lamps, curtain rods and candleholders) adorn the interiors of some of Western Canada’s most dazzling and opulent homes.

Coming west from Nova Scotia, Forge founder John Smith hammered out his first creations in 1981. In 2007, Smith sold the forge to his daughter, Gina Medhurst, and her husband Cory. It was the best of times, with eight blacksmiths working full time, orders pouring in from all over North America and the company on track to crack the million-dollar mark in annual sales.

But like many businesses, the fortunes of Kootenay Forge were seriously affected for three years following the economic downturn that began shortly after the stock market crash of 2008.

Feeling stressed about the Forge’s future, the Medhursts reached out to Wendy Morrison of Columbia Basin Trust’s Basin Business Advisors program. “I heard about the program through the local chamber of commerce,” says Gina. “At that point, due to the economic downturn and some pressing personal issues, we essentially went to Wendy and wondered if we should simply declare bankruptcy and walk away from the Forge.”

The Forge was barely keeping its doors open. To keep costs and inventory manageable, they were concentrating on their retail gift shop and had largely abandoned the wholesale part of the business.

Morrison crunched Kootenay Forge’s numbers and came to the conclusion that it was a long way from bankruptcy, but that things had to change.

What happened next was somewhat painful, especially to Smith, who was now back in the family business, helping make products for minimal pay in order to maintain profitability. “She had us go through our entire catalogue of 250 items and take a hard look at which items were making money and which ones weren’t,” says Gina. Coat hooks might be inexpensively priced and immensely popular, but they were low-margin items compared to, say, lamps.

Gina says, “We actually cut the number of items in our catalogue to 85 so that we could add some completely new designs in the future.”

Focusing on the more profitable items made an immediate difference to the Forge’s bottom line. “The gift shop is thriving.”

“Our sales are up almost 70 per cent from 2014, and wholesalers are starting to come back.”

The Medhursts credit much of this success to the advice they received from Morrison. “Wendy was amazing! She was easy to get hold of, remained calm during my small panics, remained professional and checked in regularly with us,” says Gina. “I would definitely advise any struggling business to seek out the Basin Business Advisors program.”