Hawktree Solutions providing the federal government with goggles, masks and hand sanitizer
It was a hawk living in a tall tree above Rob and Sarah Fraser’s Ottawa street that inspired the name for their new medical products company.
Rob saw it as the perfect symbol for the company they were planning to create.
“I liked the imagery of the bird looking down and watching everything that was going on in the community, like it was overseeing the community,” said Rob.
And so, 11 years ago, Hawktree Solutions was born.
Rob was the director of business development for a not-for-profit organization when he and Sarah decided to start their own health and safety product business.
Helped by an early foothold with the Canadian Red Cross, Rob re-vamped the Red Cross first aid training program for the organization’s major corporate clients—Loblaws, Starbucks, CN Rail and Air Canada among them—and the 3,500 community training partners licensed by the Red Cross to deliver first aid training.
At the core of Hawktree’s business is a requirement that organizations delivering Red Cross programs also use specific approved products, including first aid kits, CPR devices and gloves. The company sources those products.
Hawktree markets the personal protective equipment (PPE) under the Red Cross brand, and a portion of the revenue goes back to the Red Cross.
A little history
Several years before the COVID-19 pandemic, Rob had sold a small piece of the company to a large medical supply manufacturer in China to give Hawktree the ability to access reliable, good quality product, including PPE.
At the same time, Rob also brought on, as a shareholder, a first aid product development expert, Jaimie Pierson. He helped Hawktree create a new full range of Red Cross-branded first aid, disaster preparedness and PPE products.
“On our side, medical products we bring into Canada have to be reviewed by medical experts within the Red Cross,” said Rob. “So we have two levels of oversight, which is very important to our client base. We have also had our medical device licence with Health Canada for 10 years, so we were very well positioned to help with the pandemic response.”
Hawktree’s contract with the Government of Canada, initiated through the call out to suppliers, included the provision of more than 500,000 pairs of goggles and millions of masks, as well as around 400,000 bottles of Quebec-made hand sanitizer.
“The response was very effective,” added Rob, “and from our viewpoint, the federal government has done a very good job from the product end. They have responded quickly in a tough, challenging situation.”
The company is also providing millions of pieces of PPE to multiple provincial governments, hospitals, corporations and municipalities across the country.
Hawktree has an international joint venture linked with the Mexican Red Cross, and projects with the Finnish Red Cross and the Lebanese Red Crescent, all essentially replicas of the company’s relationship with the Canadian Red Cross.
In common with many Canadian companies in the PPE business, Hawktree experienced the early weeks of the pandemic as a string of days with little sleep, phone calls to China in the wee hours of the morning and general stress-inducing uncertainty.
“It was tough on all our staff,” added Rob. “The most stressful aspects were the logistics of getting product out of China while having to deal with skyrocketing prices. Getting the product at a reasonable price point was a big challenge. At the same time, I was getting calls from chief executive officers and chief operating officers of hospitals desperate for PPE. People were coming in sick, and frontline staff didn’t have protective material.
“So, yes, it was a hard time for a while, but we all feel privileged to have been able to help out.”
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