With a forward-facing attitude and cutting-edge product, it’s surprising to discover the story of Coulson Ice Blast reaches all the way back to the tumultuous days of the 1940s. Fresh from distinguished service in World War II, Cliff Coulson returned to his roots in British Columbia to resume his everyday life. Logging had provided Cliff with gainful employment prior to the war and it was an industry he would slip back into, leading to the formation of Coulson Forest Products Ltd. in 1960.
Helmed by Cliff’s son, Wayne Coulson, the modest logging company embarked on an aggressive growth strategy, moving into industries as diverse as aviation, lumber manufacturing and even video games. Today, with Wayne’s sons Britton and Foster occupying leadership positions, The Coulson Group has continued to diversify with new businesses; businesses like Coulson Ice Blast, where Foster operates as Vice President.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
For over 29 years, the aviation arm of the Coulson Group has operated a diverse fleet of fixed and rotary wing aircraft. Searching for greener ways to maintain and beautify these planes, the Coulson Group took over the intellectual property of an ice blasting company that had recently gone out of business. Ice blasting holds many benefits for the environment, cutting down on paint chip waste with almost zero chemical by-products. Years of painstaking research and development saw this ice blasting product smartly refined to create Coulson Ice Blast.
“The Coulson Group operates a fleet of aircraft and works in aerial firefighting,” Foster explained.
“Port of our fleet includes a World War II-era water bomber that needed paint removed in order to be returned to its historic colours. This flying tanker is based on Sproat Lake. If you’ve been lucky enough to visit, you’d know this lake is pristine and traditional methods of depainting would result in a large amount of chemicals ending up in the lake.
“As a result, the Coulson Group bought the ice blasting IP and began using it for our immediate needs. After a few years of research and development, we brought a highly improved version of the technology to life as Coulson Ice Blast. The initial success of the technology and company are proof the need existed within the blasting industry.”
The Coulson Difference
Dry ice blasting has been around for decades. The method works in similar fashion to sand blasting, sodablasting and plastic bead blasting. It cleans surfaces using a media accelerated in a pressurized air stream. Dry ice blasting is advantageous because it’s nonabrasive, non-conductive, non-flammable and non-toxic. Foster Coulson and his team of engineers took this process and improved upon it, injecting a dollop of innovation into a market that had long since grown stale.
“The ice blasting industry hadn’t seen any innovation in the last 40 years,” he explained.
“Our company came in with new technology; carrying out the blasting with H20 ice. This refinement offers lower operating costs, increased environmental benefits through water conservation, as well as negligible airborne contaminants.
“The successful launch and sales growth of the IS90+ in 2018 really pushed Coulson Ice Blast to the next level. We had a 400 per cent growth rate over 2017 and that has proved all our other efforts valid.”
On February 21, at a packed Vancouver Convention Centre, Coulson Ice Blast scooped Best Innovation Award honours at the 16th Annual Small Business BC Awards. Foster pitched the business to our panel of esteemed judges, earning rave reviews for the innovative nature of the product. It was a process that proved helpful to this rapidly growing business.
“It really helped us get eyes on our project and the application process enabled us to look back on what it took to get to where we are today,” said Foster.
“That reflection will continue to inform our future as a company. We’ve got big plans for the future, too! We’ll continue to innovate and expand on our product line and services. Our customer feedback will help to inform that future too. Customer is king, always, and as their needs change, our products will change with them.”
A Word of Advice
Having already achieved massive success, it would be remiss to allow Foster to depart without securing some advice for the next generation of entrepreneurs.
“We’re lucky to live here in British Columbia. Our province is quickly becoming an entrepreneurs’ dream, with countless resources available for development and growth. Make sure to take advantage of these resources, network, get out there and talk to people, find a way.”