Flexing its mighty Island mussels

PEI Mussel King President Esther Dockendorff would rather be behind the scenes of her mussel growing and shipping business, but lately she's gotten a lot of requests to share the secrets of her company's long-standing success.

PEI Mussel King is a family owned and operated business that has continuously operated since 1978. It exports to countries in Asia, the Middle East and across the U.S.; not surprisingly, they were the Island's 2015 Exporter of the Year. 

Needless to say, business is booming for Mussel King, the Island business started by her late father Russell Dockendorff. While Russell Dockendorff helped make PEI the largest producer of North America's cultured mussels, Esther and her team took it a step further. 

Esther Dockendorff remembers the first shipment of mussels that left the island for Calgary, her dad getting the kids to help get the 180 kg shipment to the airport on time, and help stop a leaking container, is now overseeing the growing and shipping of the premium fresh and frozen Prince Edward Island Blue mussels in shell to far flung growing markets in the Persian Gulf, Japan, Europe, Israel, Egypt and China.

Their customers have grown, but so have their products. A key to their ongoing success is innovation and adaptability.

With the support of the provincial government, Mussel King has stepped from the low-margin commodity market to the production of more lucrative value-added products like “Mussels in Minutes.”

Dockendorff has some advice for aspiring Island entrepreneurs before you approach government with an idea – make sure it is well hatched and be prepared to work hard.

"Government is not a cash cow, you’ve got to have ideas that make sense and you’ve got to be able to make money. Don’t go to government if it doesn’t make sense,” she said. “It’s Islanders’ money and we’re putting it to work for Islanders."

This government is very supportive and Premier MacLauchlan is “very driven for business success,” she said.

"We approached government with our ideas and a solid business plan and we were very happy they supported us.”

She thinks there are many PEI success stories waiting to happen.

“For the small population we have PEI does wonderful things, we must have more geniuses per capita than anywhere else. We need to do a better job of advertising all we can do.”

Prince Edward Island is the Mighty Island - we may be small, but we make big things happen.
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