By Matthew Behrens
Smiths Falls entrepreneur Prim Singh has devised the perfect recipe for culinary success with an automated wonton maker that is revolutionizing production of the popular Asian cuisine appetizer. Following two appearances on CBC’s Dragon’s Den and a new distribution contract with Sysco food services, Singh’s trademark Wonton Crunch snacks are primed for a global market.
To meet growing demand for this Smiths Falls-produced product – featuring Butter Chicken, Coriander Pork, Chicken Bruschetta, Jalapeno Cream Cheese, Buffalo Chicken “Wing Ton”, and Caramel Apple Crunch flavours – Singh has moved the company from the Gallipeau Centre in Smiths Falls to the former downtown Canadian Tire outlet on Front Street.
With more than twice the space of his former location, Singh will be able to double, if not triple, his output this year with plans to secure a provincial food safety certification that will enable Wonton Crunch to distribute across Canada and the United States.
A former Trinidad and Tobago restaurateur who grew up eating wontons – Singh says they’re incredibly popular across the Caribbean – he moved to Smiths Falls 29 years ago, looking for a change and a good location for fishing and hunting. After working two decades at Hershey, he took three years off for technical study, eventually opening a computer shop in his basement. To cover tuition and monthly bills, he and his family sold homemade, hand-wrapped wontons to local stores, in the process discovering a huge potential market.
But making wontons by hand can be painstakingly slow, with the family spending up to 10 hours a day making four per minute. The only way to grow a profitable wonton business, Singh concluded, was through automation. When he shared his unprecedented vision of a wonton machine over Christmas dinner, his family responded with loving support and a slight amount of skepticism. Nevertheless, he immediately began a seven-year, self-taught inventor’s journey that led to the creation of Grace’s Goose, named for his wife who, upon learning it would likely cost $20,000, told Prim, “You’re so passionate about this, just go for it.”
While an additional $80,000 was invested to perfect Grace’s Goose, Prim studied every single episode of Dragon’s Den, concocting the right pitch to secure an investor and take his company to the next level. He and his two children – Dean and Farrah – comprised one of the 187,000 applications the show received in 2014. Following auditions, Wonton Crunch became one of 70 on-air contestants before joining the rarified company of 18 winning businesses.
Their national TV appearance generated huge interest in the company, and while Wonton Crunch originally received an offer from Dragon’s Den investor and Boston Pizza owner Jim Treliving, Singh eventually backed out, since a key condition would have required moving to BC. “I love Smiths Falls,” Singh says. “We have roots here. This is our home, and we wanted to stay here.”
But there were no hard feelings, as an encore Dragon’s Den appearance last fall celebrated Wonton Crunch’s success as a family business that’s sold over 5 million wontons.
Photo: Prim Singh shows off Grace’s Goose in the new location in Smiths Falls.
First published in the February issue of Hometown News.