Kelson & Kelson Ltd began business in Saint John in 1964 under Rupert Kelson Jr. The company’s roots are modest; it began with house painting and crack filling.

“My father started with about $500 in his pocket,” notes Terry Kelson, Rupert’s son and company president since 1991. “He started painting and crack filling houses and eventually grew the company by moving into commercial and industrial work.”

From residential house painters to industrial contractors serving clients coast to coast, Kelson & Kelson is an outstanding example of New Brunswick’s entrepreneurial spirit.

In time for BDC Small Business Week, ONB spoke to Terry Kelson to learn more.

ONB: Tell us more about Kelson & Kelson and what you do.

New Brunswick Small Business Kelson and Kelson Kelson: Our team now provides industrial painting services, specializing in industrial flooring, lead abatement, industrial coating, dry-ice blasting, and sandblasting. We do work for clients in the petroleum, nuclear, pulp & paper, mining, and food & beverage industries.

It was our industrial work that most appealed to me, so that’s the direction I steered us towards. Under my father we were doing sandblasting and coating, I was doing it myself in some cases. I liked that work, and I knew that’s where the money would be.

Tell us a bit about the relationship between your team and ONB.

I’ll give a clear example of how ONB supports small businesses likes us.

We had an opportunity to do work for a major client that involved purchasing a waterjet system. It was expensive, but it was worth it. We contacted ONB, as well as ACOA, and said we wanted to purchase this equipment and that we had work already lined up for it. We were happy to put up some of our own funds to secure this equipment, but we were hoping for additional funding.

Both organizations supported it. Our ONB rep Mike Rouse has been unbelievable on this file, and your support has taken us to the next level. We not only secured the water jetting work, but we gained additional credibility within the industry. This essentially doubled the size of our company over the last four years in terms of both headcount and sales.

I can’t stress enough how huge this was for us. It was a major investment for us, and thanks to support from ONB and ACOA we made it happen. We’ve put more people to work thanks to this project. Honestly, it’s one of the smartest moves we’ve ever made.

What is your best advice for small business owners looking to succeed in New Brunswick?

Do your research. It’s as simple as being sure of your market and knowing there is a real demand for what you’re offering. Just because something is new and shiny doesn’t mean it will necessarily be the best fit for your business.

We have realized that no matter how big or small your business is if your plan makes sense groups like ONB can help you. They’re not going to just throw money around — you must know you’re on solid ground. If you have done your due diligence and your business plan is solid the support is here.

Entrepreneurship can be scary and it’s not easy. You need a thick skin and be ready to put in some hours. But it’s also very rewarding. Being able to employ people here, that’s immensely gratifying. To give people a job so they can support their families, that’s really what it’s all about.

Learn more about the company at

ONB helps existing businesses in New Brunswick reach the next level of success. Whether you’re a startup, an established company, or an export-focused business, we’ll help you find the new markets, resources, and talents you need to grow. Contact us today.

Written by Jason Boies