CanadianSME Small Business Magazine - April 2024 Edition

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CANADIANSME Empowering Canadian Small & Medium Businesses ISSUE NO. 65 APRIL 2024 BankingPartner ShippingPartner Accounting SoftwarePartner Email Partner AllImages,trademarks,servicemarksandlogosreferredtoorappearinginthismagazinearethepropertyoftheirrespectiveowners. EXCLUSIVE PAGE: 34 PAGE: 24 PAGE: 16 Crafting Connections:
A Trailblazer of Women's Rights in North America Founder and CEO, Universal Womens Network™ Advancing Indigenous Economic Sovereignty: Insights from Jolain Foster Strategic Insights for Canadian Small Businesses from Xero’s Economist
Monica Kretschmer

As April unfolds, its arrival marks a time of renewal and rejuvenation, inviting us to embrace the vibrant tapestry of spring. This season of transformation whispers promises of new beginnings, encouraging us to look forward with optimism and embrace the changes that lie ahead.

It is with great excitement and a profound sense of duty that we bring to you the April edition of CanadianSME Small Business Magazine. This month, we delve into the dynamic world of E-Commerce in Canada, with a special focus on sustainability—themes that are reshaping the landscape of Canadian business. Amidst evolving digital frontiers and the pressing call for eco-conscious practices, our edition aims to guide, inspire, and equip you for the journey ahead.

In this edition, we are proud to showcase a diverse array of editorials designed to connect, inform, and empower. From "Crafting Connections: Wellington Brewery Makes Every Email Count" in collaboration with Constant Contact, to "Termination Clause Overhaul: Adapting to Evolving Legal Standards" by Williams HR Law LLP, and the insights from Indig Design's Kenny Mak on the transformative power of website design, each piece is curated with your growth in mind. We explore the pioneering sustainable solutions in paper upcycling by Greenii Inc., and take a closer look at how e-commerce is revolutionizing business across Canada. The innovative strides in solar technology by Solaires Entreprises Inc. are sure to inspire.

This issue also features interviews with distinguished business leaders and entrepreneurs, including Tony Geheran from Telus, Louise Southall from Xero, our exclusive accounting software partner, Jolain Foster from Deloitte, David Nagy from eCommerce Canada, and many more, who share their journeys, challenges, and visions for the future.

Our star spotlight this month shines on Monica Kretschmer, Founder and CEO of Universal Womens Network™, whose exemplary work underscores the impact of dedication, perseverance, and collaboration in driving meaningful change.

Furthermore, we are thrilled to announce the fifth edition of the CanadianSME Small Business Show 2024, focusing on "Embracing Digital Transformation for Small Businesses." Scheduled for June 24, 2024, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, this event promises to be a pivotal gathering for SMEs ready to navigate the digital transformation landscape. Don't miss this opportunity to leap forward in the digital age. Register at

In closing, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to you, our dedicated readers, for your ongoing support and engagement. Your enthusiasm fuels our mission to deliver content that enlightens, challenges, and celebrates the spirit of Canadian entrepreneurship. We invite you to immerse yourself in this issue, engage with our diverse content, and subscribe at for a continuous stream of insightful and empowering stories.

Here's to a month filled with innovation, resilience, and boundless opportunities. Warmest regards, ISSN2562-0657(Online)

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IN THIS ISSUE CanadianSME Small Business Magazine 59 Strategic Insights for Canadian Small Businesses from Xero’s Economist Intertwining Indigenous Business with Global Commerce Unwrapit: Transforming Corporate Gifting By Integrating Sustainability 65 24 53 Solar Innovation for a Sustainable Future: A Pioneering Perspective on Solaires Entreprises Inc. 55 The Evolution of ERA: Gary Vegh on Building a Sustainability Tech Giant 39 SOFi Products: Revolutionizing Sustainability with Brandon Leeds Louise Southall Economist and small business specialist at Xero
IN THIS ISSUE Canadiansme Small Business Magazine 31 27 Tony Geheran’s Strategy for TELUS’ Evolution Crafting Connections: Wellington Brewery Makes Every Email Count 16 Pioneering Solutions in Upcycling: 29 The Future Revealed: How E-Commerce Is Changing the Face of Business in Canada
ISSUE Canadiansme Small Business Magazine 43 21 Kari Norman on Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in Canada Business Woman of the MonthMonica Kretschmer Crafting Insightful Digital Impressions: Indig Design’s Kenny Mak on the Power of Website Design Setting the Standard for Biometric Security in Canada with Okta 41 13
Legacy to Innovation: The Transformation Journey of Concept C 19
Mahajan's Solution to Corporate Gifting Woes
Outdoor Retail to eCommerce Revolution: David Nagy's Journey 49 34
Legal Standards
Partner of Nation Building at Deloitte Canada
IN THIS ISSUE Canadiansme Small Business Magazine 46 From
67 From
Overhaul: Adapting
Advancing Indigenous Economic Sovereignty: Insights from Jolain Foster, Managing

Business Woman of the Month

Founder and CEO, Universal Womens Network™

Monica Kretschmer is the Founder and CEO of the Universal Womens Network™, the Women of Inspiration™ Awards and SupportHER™ elevating allies to the conversation to advance women in business She is the host of the Women of Inspiration™ Podcast and the publisher of the UWomen Magazine™ and Women of Inspiration™ Book

Monica is a visionary and trailblazer who believes your story does not define you, it empowers you She refers to her personal story of resilience as the “Seven Year Journey” The 4800 hours of litigation and 22 days trail in family court inspired her to create the Women of Inspiration™ Awards and the Universal Womens Network™

Since launching in 2014, Monica has broken traditional barriers and silos by embracing equity, diversity and inclusion. She has been recognized as one of the 10 Top LinkedIn Voices for Gender Equity in North America, as a Business in Calgary Business Leader, an Alberta Flood Hero by the Premier of Alberta and she has been acknowledged for her work with a UN Women’s Initiative Award

During the pandemic, Monica published the first edition of the Women of Inspiration™ book – Women Driving Change featuring 100 inspiring women from diverse industries The celebration of the book included the launch of graphics trucks travelling across North America with the faces of contributors

13- CanadianSME-April2024 ImageCourtesy:MonicaKretschmer

A Trailblazer of Women's Rights in North America

Women's empowerment, especially in the Canadian business community ecosystem, is a burning issue that is vital to increasing women ’ s participation in the entrepreneurial field One woman entrepreneur who is at the vanguard of the emancipation of female entrepreneurship, advocating for gender quality, and trailblazing to inspiring change by welcoming men to the conversation as SupportHER™ (male allies) is none other than Monica Kretschmer, the founder and CEO of Universal Womens Network™ Inc She has recently been recognized as the Business Woman of the Month for the April edition by CanadianSME Magazine. Her exceptional leadership and unwavering commitment have positioned her as a prominent figure in the gender equality movement in North America

Monica Kretschmer is the driving force behind the Women of Inspiration™ Awards, which celebrates the achievements of women who inspire and motivate across diverse industries. Her company, Universal Womens Network™, is a purpose-driven media platform committed to promoting gender equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) by acknowledging female leaders, male allies, and top companies that champion these values.

A Journey of Innovation: Overcoming Challenges to Achieve Success

Monica Kretschmer's path to becoming a trailblazer in the realm of gender equality is characterized by her unwavering resilience and unwavering determination

With her firsthand experience, she has developed a framework to inspire women and foster their growth

With a focus on unlocking the ripple effect to advance women through recognition, media, learning opportunities, and collaborative alliances, she has transformed Universal Womens Network™ into an influential platform dedicated to promoting progress in workplaces, communities, and networks worldwide Her story is a source of inspiration for many women who are determined to overcome obstacles and reach their highest potential.

Empowering Women: A Global Mission

Universal Womens Network™ is driven by a powerful mission to empower women worldwide With a focus on recognition, media, and education, Monica Kretschmer and her team are making significant strides in advancing the agenda for gender equality With the Women of Inspiration™ Awards, they bring attention to accomplished women in various fields, representing diverse backgrounds, ages, and career stages In addition, the SupportHER™ initiative acknowledges the valuable contributions of male allies in promoting gender equality Working alongside their partners, Universal Womens Network™ is creating a powerful impact that is reshaping workplaces, communities, and societies on a grand scale including International SupportHER™ Day the first Friday in June Annual as workplaces, communities and networks take one action to champion for a woman to succeed

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Championing Change: Collaborating for Impact

Beyond public acknowledgment, Monica Kretschmer aspires to help bring about real transformation in the norms and practices of organizations Universal Womens Network™ is making strides towards gender equality via its strategic alliances with worldwide companies that are dedicated to empowering women. They are paving the way for more inclusive and supportive workplaces for women by actively promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) programs Their joint effort exemplifies the power of unity in overcoming structural obstacles and building a better future for everyone


Finally, the leadership demonstrated by Monica Kretschmer at Universal Womens Network™ serves as a prime example of how commitment, tenacity, and cooperation can bring about significant change. Her designation as the Business Woman of the Month serves as a model for both men and women, serving as a poignant reminder that a more equitable and inclusive world can be constructed for forthcoming generations through collaborative efforts.

Learn more about Universal Womens Network™, Women of Inspiration Awards and how your company can be a visible SupportHER™ by taking a tour of their official website here

The CanadianSME community consists of readers who have high regard for current enterprises and entrepreneurial initiatives Entrepreneurs can remain connected and active with this group by following @canadian sme on X Please click here to subscribe to CanadianSME magazine and stay up to date on all current business trends and developments

I m a g e C o u r t e s y : M o n i c a K r e t s c h m e r Business Woman of the Month

Since its inception in 1985, Wellington Brewery has upheld an unwavering commitment to high-quality craft beer, sustainability, creativity, their customers, and the community

“Connecting with people who want great beer, and really building a community around that, has been a big part of how we’ve grown over the years, ” said Brad McInerney, Marketing Director at Wellington Brewery.

For the last 14 years, Wellington Brewery has relied on Constant Contact to make those connections, ensuring their customers go beyond just sipping and become loyal advocates of their business

Staying relevant in a crowded industry

As one of the first independently owned craft breweries in Ontario, Wellington has always prioritized communication with their customers. But as the craft beer industry began to explode in popularity, they realized they needed to adjust and adapt their marketing efforts to remain relevant


“Our approach to marketing definitely has changed over the years pretty significantly,” explained Brad “Even in the last few years, the focus towards digital and ecommerce has been a huge change ”

Even prior to this shift, Wellington incorporated newsletter marketing into its overall marketing strategy Before transitioning to email, they used to physically print their newsletters So, even as they have evolved their marketing, the foundation of their customer communications has remained consistent.

“It’s interesting to see how things have changed, but they’ve also stayed similar because underpinning that is the idea of building a community around your brand and really treating your customers in a way that could build a much deeper relationship with them. And that’s something we’ve been lucky enough to do.”

Their commitment to email newsletters led them to prioritize growing their email subscriber base, frequently using sign-up forms and special promotions to entice customers or prospects to join their list Developing an engaged list has allowed them to stay top-of-mind for their subscribers, and their audience frequently replies to their emails with comments and questions, as they have built a strong connection with them over time

[Our email list] is definitely a really important focus for building a deeper relationship with the customer If somebody goes and buys one of your products, that’s great, but if you get the opportunity to actually speak to them in more detail, share a bit more about your brand, that’s where you get to build something special ”

To date, Wellington has grown their email list to more than 10,000 subscribers.

Moving beyond email newsletters

With Constant Contact, Wellington has been able to integrate their email campaigns into their overall marketing strategy, including ecommerce, which has had a profound impact on sales

“We’ve seen some great results in Constant Contact, especially since our email campaigns have become a focus for ecommerce ”

To boost their ecommerce sales through their email campaigns, Wellington utilized the Shopify integration within Constant Contact. This integration provides a seamless connection between their online store and email communications, streamlining the purchase process directly from an email Integrating with Shopify has helped the brewery to average more than $2,300 in sales through their weekly email newsletter over the past six months, and to drive 50 times their return on investment with Constant Contact

“Shopify has been by far the most powerful integration and one that we’ve focused on. ”

Ecommerce emails have been so successful that Brad and his team can see an immediate impact on sales after sending an email

We can plan our days based around when we send out our email campaigns We know that day is going to be busier for ecommerce, ” explained Brad. “So we plan our shipping and staffing around those days because we know that it’s a much higher likelihood that’s going to result in more sales than, say, a social media post or something like that

Small Business

Elevating personalization with segmentation

One of Wellington’s primary goals this year is to grow their nonalcoholic beverage portfolio To ensure they can tailor their messaging to this particular audience, they rely on the ability to segment their email lists.

“We’re just starting a new email list that’s going to be customers who are exclusively buying a nonalcoholic product. [With segmentation], we can focus on that messaging a little bit better.”

Carefully dividing their email subscriber list into segments has allowed Wellington to connect with new and unique audiences

Beyond segmenting their audience based on interests, Wellington has taken it further by utilizing their Shopify integration to categorize customers based on their purchase behavior This integration allows them to pinpoint their most loyal customers, reengage those who haven’t made a recent purchase, and address abandoned online shopping carts

With each of their segments tailored to the specific interests, preferences, and purchase history of their audience, they have succeeded in delivering content that connects with their audience on a personal level, drives sales, and increases engagement

Automating Success

The brewery has continued to elevate their email campaigns by introducing automated emails, allowing them to cut down on manual email outreach Each of their automations serves a specific purpose: The welcome series automatically greets new subscribers, sets expectations, and makes subscribers feel important and valued Their hops sparkling water automation (for their nonalcoholic product line) provides new subscribers with a coupon code, igniting their interest and driving immediate conversions. Finally, their abandoned cart automation works to reengage customers to ensure no sale is left behind

By incorporating automation, they have increased their engagement and sales successfully Their abandoned cart automation, in particular, has helped them to achieve an additional $36,000 in orders

“We’ve seen an increase in conversions based around the automation for following up with customers on their carts,” said Brad “So if we haven’t seen a purchase in a few weeks, sending them a discount code [has] been really helpful in terms of driving ecommerce sales ”

Ale’s well that ends well

By adopting new marketing technologies such as automation, segmentation, and ecommerce, Wellington Brewery has experienced remarkable growth With segmented and automated emails, they have made every email count Now, they have the opportunity to meaningfully connect with their customers at the right moment with the right messaging.

“Now we spend a lot less time for a lot more impact.”

This personal touch has not only fostered the strong connections they currently have with their base, but it has helped to increase their sales and overall engagement rates

With the help of Constant Contact, Wellington continues to cultivate a vibrant community of craft beer enthusiasts eager to explore their newly crafted products and brews

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ImageCourtesy:BradMcInerney MarketingDirectorWellingtonBrewery

Termination Clause Overhaul:

Adapting to Evolving Legal Standards

A recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice (“ONSC” or the “Court”), Dufault v The Corporation of the Township of Ignace [Dufault], has raised concerns among Canadian employers, prompting many to update their employment agreements or else face the risk owing significantly more termination pay than they had bargained for In an increasingly employeefriendly legal landscape, the decision reminds employers that if they wish to limit an employee’s termination entitlements to the minimum standards, they must do so with precision and ensure strict compliance with employment standards legislation While the decision poses challenges for businesses, it also offers organizations a golden opportunity to elevate their HR practices.

Navigating the Legal Landscape

In all provinces and territories in Canada (except for Quebec), employees are by default entitled to “reasonable notice” of termination or pay in lieu of notice This right can only be displaced by clear contractual terms limiting an employee’s entitlements upon termination However, if those terms deprive the employee of their minimum entitlements under employment standards legislation, they will be unenforceable, and the employee can then claim the often significantly higher entitlements available under the common law


Understanding the Dufault Decision

In Dufault, the employee signed a fixed-term employment agreement containing termination clauses The Court deemed these clauses unenforceable because they allowed the employer to dismiss the employee without cause “at any time” and at the employer’s “sole discretion”, which violated the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) Specifically, the Court held that such wording contravened the ESA’s prohibitions against dismissing employees at the conclusion of a leave of absence or in reprisal for attempting to exercise their rights

under the ESA

Theterminationclausesalso permittedtheemployerto dismisstheemployeewithout noticeorpayinlieuofnotice “forcause”,whichthe agreementdefinedtoinclude theemployee’sfailureto performservices.TheCourt determinedthatthisstandard didnotmeetthethresholdof “wilfulmisconduct”required undertheESAforanemployee toforfeittheirminimum statutoryentitlements.

Consequently, as the Court found the termination clauses in the employee’s fixed term contract invalid, the employer was obligated to pay out the balance of the remaining term to the employee, amounting to 101 weeks of the employee’s base salary and benefits.

Impact and Opportunity for Canadian Employers

This Dufault decision has significant implications for many organizations across Ontario and potentially beyond These organizations now face the task of reviewing and revising their employment agreements to ensure they reflect the current state of the law However, as the saying goes, “When one door closes, another one opens ” While the decision presents challenges for businesses, it also provides an opportunity for proactive measures to minimize the risk of future challenges to their employment agreements In addition to revising their employment agreements, Canadian organizations can use this moment to revamp their workplace policies, incentive compensation plans, and other pertinent documents By doing so, they can minimize risk, enhance transparency regarding termination entitlements, and take their employment practices to the next level

CanadianSME Magazine will be hosting a webinar, in partnership with Williams HR Law LLP, on the Dufault decision on May 6th at 1 pm ET, where we will delve into the implications of this new Dufault decision and offer practical strategies for employers to implement legally enforceable employment agreements and seize the opportunity to level up their workplace policies

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Principal Designer at Indig Design

In an era where digital presence reigns supreme, small businesses are forced to navigate a landscape where first impressions are crucial In hindsight, a well-made website offers small business owners a dynamic digital storefront It serves as a powerful marketing tool to showcase products or services, foster engagement, and build credibility Additionally, it enhances visibility in search engine results to attract qualified leads

In this interview, we explore Kenny Mak's expertise, one of the visionaries behind Indig Design, to uncover the transformative power of website design. From captivating aesthetics to seamless user experiences, Mak illuminates the indispensable role that crafting insightful digital impressions plays in the success of small businesses.

Read along as we unravel the intricate web of digital impressions and discover how superior website design can propel businesses to new heights in the digital realm

Let’s take a look back at where it all started. What inspired you to get into website design? What is your favourite aspect of your role?

Early in my career, I was a sales professional and the company ’ s marketing materials were ineffective Their budget didn’t allow for anything new, and I was desperate

So I grabbed the bull by the horns and designed what I felt they needed: a new branding identity logo, product brochures, job site signage, and so on This led to designing a new company website, and the next thing I knew, I was being asked by others for my creative services

From a young age, my musical interest spawned my creativity, and my love for working with people led me to discover my passion for creative design and the beginning of a creative services company Jeannette (Jeannette Sinclair, co-owner) and I teamed up. With her background of creative thought and traditional knowledge, we created Indig Design with the goal of infusing our design work with traditional values, relationships, respect, compassion, generosity, kindness and many other ways of being, all to serve our customers

What essential components do you believe every small business needs to captivate and interact with its audience effectively?

In today's digital landscape, having an engaging online presence is paramount for organizations looking to captivate and interact effectively with their audience When it comes to website design, there are several key components that can make a significant difference in attracting and retaining customers:

User-Friendly Navigation: Ensuring that visitors can easily navigate through your website is crucial A clear and intuitive menu structure, along with strategically placed call-to-action buttons, can guide users to the information they seek without any hassle

Compelling Visuals: High-quality images and videos can instantly capture the attention of your audience Visual content that aligns with your brand identity not only makes your website aesthetically pleasing but also helps convey your message more effectively

Responsive Design: With the increasing use of mobile devices, having a responsive website design is nonnegotiable. A responsive design ensures that your website looks and functions seamlessly across all devices, providing a consistent user experience

Strong Branding: Your website should cohesively reflect your brand identity Consistent use of colours, fonts, and imagery that align with your brand can help establish brand recognition and build trust with your audience

Compelling Content: Engaging and informative content is key to keeping visitors on your website Whether it's through blog articles, product descriptions, or client testimonials, providing valuable content can help establish your authority in your industry.

Contact Information: Make it easy for visitors to get in touch with you by prominently displaying your contact information Including a contact form, phone number, and address can help build credibility and encourage customer interaction

By incorporating these essential website design components, you can have a captivating online presence that effectively engages with your audience, ultimately driving growth and success

Drawing from your experience, what are some common pitfalls small businesses face when designing or maintaining their websites, and how can they avoid them?

All businesses often encounter various challenges when designing or maintaining their own websites Some common pitfalls include:

Overlooking Mobile Optimization: Many organizations fail to ensure their websites are mobile-friendly, leading to a poor user experience for visitors using smartphones or tablets To avoid this, invest in an experienced and knowledgeable website developer who understands responsive design that adapts to different screen sizes

Neglecting SEO: Without proper search engine optimization (SEO) strategies, a website may struggle to rank well in search engine results, making it harder for potential customers to find To improve visibility, focus on optimizing content, using relevant keywords, and obtaining backlinks

Complicated Navigation: Complex navigation structures can confuse visitors and lead them to abandon the website Simplify your navigation for easy access to information

Lack of Regular Updates: Outdated content or broken links portray a lack of professionalism and can deter customers. Organizations should regularly update content, check for broken links, and ensure all information is current to maintain credibility Indig Design offers value-added and affordable maintenance packages to ensure your website is up to date

Ignoring Website Security: Failing to prioritize website security leaves your website vulnerable to cyber threats and compromises customer trust Implement security measures such as SSL certificates, regular backups, and strong passwords to safeguard sensitive data

By avoiding these common pitfalls and prioritizing website design and maintenance, you can create a positive online presence, attract more customers, and drive business growth.

With the increasing importance of mobile devices, how can small businesses ensure that their website is mobile-friendly and provides a seamless experience across different devices?

In the age of mobile dominance, businesses aiming for online success must prioritize mobile-friendly websites to meet the changing user demands The first step toward achieving this goal involves adopting a responsive web design This approach

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guarantees that the website adapts effortlessly to various screen sizes and devices, offering a seamless experience for all visitors

Moreover, optimizing website speed is crucial for retaining mobile users Businesses can achieve this by compressing images, leveraging browser caching, and minimizing server response times A fast-loading website not only enhances user experience but also positively impacts search engine rankings.

In addition, simplifying navigation and streamlining content are key strategies for improving mobile usability Businesses should focus on concise and engaging content, strategically placed call-to-action buttons, and easy-to-use menus to ensure a hasslefree browsing experience on mobile devices

Embracing the mobile-first approach is no longer an option but a necessity for all organizations looking to thrive in today's competitive digital landscape By prioritizing mobile friendliness and ensuring a seamless experience across different devices, your organization can enhance user satisfaction, drive engagement, and ultimately boost its online presence

How does the design of a website influence audiences’ perceptions and trust of a small business? Further, what strategies can businesses implement to build credibility and trust through their website design?

The design of a website plays a pivotal role in shaping how audiences perceive and trust your business in today's digital landscape A well-designed website not only enhances the visual appeal but also conveys credibility and professionalism to visitors In contrast, a poorly designed website can deter potential customers and erode their trust

The layout, colour scheme, typography, and overall user experience of a website can significantly influence how audiences perceive your brand. A cluttered layout or outdated design may signal a lack of attention to detail or a lack of investment in the business, leading potential customers to question the reliability of the products or services offered

To build credibility and trust through website design, your organization can implement several key strategies:

Responsive Design: Ensure your website is userfriendly and accessible across various devices, including smartphones and tablets A mobileresponsive design demonstrates your commitment to providing a seamless experience for all users

Clear Brand Identity: Consistent branding elements such as logos, colour schemes, and messaging help reinforce brand identity and establish a cohesive brand image This consistency builds recognition and trust among visitors

High-Quality Imagery: Use high-resolution images that are relevant to the business and visually appealing Quality imagery can enhance the professionalism of the website and create a positive impression on visitors

Easy Navigation: Intuitive navigation with clear menus and a logical structure makes it easier for visitors to find the information they need A userfriendly interface instills confidence in your business and encourages visitors to explore further

Social Proof: Incorporate testimonials, reviews, and case studies to showcase positive feedback from satisfied customers Social proof helps build trust by demonstrating the value and quality of the products or services offered

Security Measures: Use secure payment options and privacy policies to reassure visitors about the security of their personal information Demonstrating a commitment to data security can help alleviate concerns and build trust with potential customers

The design of your website is a powerful tool for your organization to shape audience perceptions and foster trust. By implementing strategies prioritizing user experience, brand consistency, and credibility, businesses can create a positive online presence that resonates with visitors and enhances their trust in the brand.

Small Business

Strategic Insights for Canadian Sm

XIn an interview with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine, Louise Southall, an economist and small business specialist at Xero, shared valuable insights on the state of the Canadian Small Business Economy, drawing from the latest findings in Xero’s Small Business Insights Report She highlighted the resilience and adaptability required by Canadian small businesses to navigate current economic challenges, emphasizing the crucial role of technology and automation in streamlining operations and fostering growth. Louise’s expert analysis sheds light on strategic approaches for small businesses to overcome the hurdles of declining sales and prolonged payment times, advocating for a proactive embrace of digital tools and customer-centric strategies to ensure sustainability and success in the evolving economic landscape

Louise Southall is Xero’s Economist Louise joined Xero in mid-2020 as part of the Xero Small Business Insights (XSBI) team The XSBI program uses anonymized and aggregated data from the Xero platform to inform decision-makers about the latest trends in the small business economy in order to support small businesses

She has almost 30 years of experience in economics and business advocacy working with multiple business organizations, councils, government agencies and charities. Her work has covered a broad range of economic and business-related policy issues, membership projects and thought-leadership research. She has a Masters of Economics from Macquarie University and a Bachelor of Economics (hons) from the University of Newcastle.


Based on the latest findings from Xero’s Small Business Insights Report, what are the key indicators for the current state of the Canadian Small Business Economy?

The latest Xero Small Business Insights data for Canada shows that the Canadian small business economy continues to struggle Small businesses experienced a challenging combination of declining sales and rising payment times during the three months to September 2023

Sales have been lower than the same month in the previous year for six consecutive months (i e April – September) and fell an average of 5 0% y/y in the three months to September

After spending the first six months of 2023 broadly trending lower, payment times ticked up again in the three months to September, with time to be paid rising to an average of 29 7 days for this quarter The one piece of good news is that they did not unwind all the gains and still remain quicker than they averaged in the three months to March 2023.

XSBI data to December 2023 will be released at the end of April.

What major factors are currently influencing the downturn in small business sales in Canada? From your analysis, are these challenges unique to Canada, or are they part of a broader global trend?

The major factor dragging sales lower is the current squeeze on household budgets

Multiple interest rate increases by the Bank of Canada over the last couple of years, while needed to reduce inflation, also mean households don’t have a lot leftover to spend in small businesses The data also shows a clear discrepancy between Canada’s nominal GDP growth and the XSBI results, indicating that what little consumer spending is occurring is not being directed toward small businesses.

This is something we are seeing not just in Canada, but in all the markets where XSBI tracks small business sales performance


Given the slow growth in small business sales in Canada, especially in comparison to other countries within the XSBI program, what is your perspective on the economic outlook for these businesses?

Canadian small businesses, like many households, will be hoping that the Bank of Canada starts cutting interest rates soon, which should eventually encourage households to start spending again However, while the Bank of Canada has hinted at potential rate cuts in the Spring, it’s important to keep in mind that it can take up to 18 months before the full impact of any cuts flows through to small businesses Until then, it’s important that all Canadians do what they can to support their local small businesses – including shopping with them and making sure they pay any invoices on time

In view of the ongoing economic challenges, how can Canadian small businesses strategically navigate these turbulent conditions?

There are plenty of steps small businesses can take to navigate the current conditions Under challenging economic conditions, it’s critical that small businesses use every lever at their disposal to attract and retain an increasingly scarce customer base. This includes rewarding loyal customers with specials or discounts and using the close relationship they have with their customers to make sure they are offering the right mix of goods and services They can also take steps to improve the chances of being paid on time, such as adding a “ pay now ” button to invoices, accepting a wide range of payment options and issuing invoice reminders

Small businesses can also look to leverage technology to lift productivity and automate as many day-to-day tasks as possible, making it easier for business owners to focus on strategic business decisions and profitdriving operations

With the introduction of innovative tools like Just Ask Xero (JAX), how do you see technology and automation playing a role in helping small businesses manage their operations more efficiently? How important is the adoption of digital tools for the future success of small businesses, especially in challenging economic times?

Technology is a game-changer for small business owners as it allows them to automate many tasks – some of which can be time-consuming and repetitive It also allows them to have a more complete, real-time picture of their business, including all the inflows and outflows Tech adoption then frees up the owner, and their advisor, to think about their business more strategically

Xerorecentlyannouncedtherolloutof anewGenAI-poweredbusiness companioncalledJustAskXero(JAX) thatbusinessownerswillbeableto leveragetoautomaticallygenerate accountingtasksusingtextprompts andvoicecommands.Ourgoalisto pushtheboundariesoftechnology furthertomakeiteveneasierforsmall businessestomanagetheir bookkeeping.

Importantly, digitalization is something that needs to be ongoing, as innovations – like JAX – are constantly being released to make running a small business easier

Small Business

PioneeringSustainable SolutionsinPaperUpcycling: Greenii Inc.

People always think recycling papers are the best way, however recycling process has its own drawbacks because the process involves deinking, bleaching, carbon emissions At Greenii Inc We introduce upcycling of paper waste into bags rather than recycling

Given the prevailing situation of heightened environmental awareness, it is becoming more difficult for businesses to innovate sustainably.

At the forefront of this movement is Purushothaman Cannane's Greenii Inc., which promotes economic progress while tackling urgent ecological issues. In fact, Purush founded Greenii Inc out of a strong commitment to environmental sustainability in response to Canada's prohibition on single-use plastics. The company has shown a commitment to minimizing paper waste, conserving trees, and addressing pollution since its establishment in July 2019

Their creative techniques and quick-fix approach turn newsprints, magazines, and flyers into paper bags without using chemicals or pulping, providing a really environmentally friendly alternative

So what’s Greenii Inc all about, really? A commitment to environmental stewardship and social responsibility is fundamental to Greenii Inc ' s foundation The organization promotes diversity and inclusion by partnering with local employment initiatives to hire immigrant, refugee, and newcomer women, creating work possibilities

So far, Greenii Inc has trained and empowered 15 immigrant employees, promoting community participation and empowerment.


Greenii Inc.'s performance is evaluated not just based on financial metrics but also on its concrete environmental impact. By adopting a triple-bottom-line strategy, including the environment, society, and economic gain, they have successfully preserved over 100 trees, manufactured 1,50,000 newsprint paper bags, and substantially mitigated pollution. Through the process of upcycling paper trash, it has been possible to effectively conserve water, energy, and resources while simultaneously introducing a new product category known as upcycled paper bags. For every 1 metric ton of papers upcycled, we save 17 mature trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 3 cubic yards of landfill space, and 380 gallons of oil, 165 gallons of gasoline, 250 pounds of carbon dioxide.

"In a gentle way, you can shake the world."
- Mahatma Gandhi

That being said, there have been difficulties along the way toward sustainability Greenii Inc has challenges in expanding its manufacturing capacity and enhancing customer and community knowledge about the significance of upcycling However, they demonstrate resilience by using technology to improve productivity and collaborating with educational institutions to create inventive approaches Greenii Inc built the World’s first semiautomatic assembly line and process that can produce 500 paper bags which is 10X faster than manual process In his advice to upcoming small businesses, Purush stresses the need to prioritize sustainability over profit, reduce single-use products, and promote a circular economy By adopting these principles and promoting environmentally responsible practices, companies have the potential to not only achieve economic success but also positively impact the environment and society as a whole. It’s a Win-Win situation for the People-Planet.

To learn more about their upcoming projects and products, visit Greenii’s website here

The CanadianSME community consists of readers who have high regard for current enterprises and entrepreneurial initiatives. Entrepreneurs can remain connected and active with this group by following @canadian sme on X. Please click here to subscribe to CanadianSME magazine and stay up to date on all current business trends and developments.

Small Business

TheFutureRevealed: HowE-CommerceIsChangingtheFaceofBusinessinCanada

In Canada's thriving marketplace, where the vibrant energy of online transactions resonates, innovative entrepreneurs are leveraging the potential of e-commerce to revolutionize conventional business models Just as the market research analyst would observe, the world of e-commerce is ripe with opportunities for innovation and expansion as more consumers embrace digital transactions In this ever-changing landscape, businesses must adapt to succeed, navigating the shifting currents of consumer demand and technological advancements.

With the ever-changing landscape of the global e-commerce industry, Canadian businesses have a great opportunity to stay ahead of the game by capitalizing on emerging trends Recent statistics indicate that ecommerce sales in Canada are expected to experience significant growth, reaching $108 5 billion by 2024 This projection represents a substantial increase from the $63 billion recorded in 2019 The rapid growth trajectory highlights the crucial role of e-commerce in Canada's economy and emphasizes the importance of businesses staying informed about changing market dynamics

In this ever-changing landscape, various e-commerce trends are causing significant disruptions to traditional business models and fundamentally changing the industry Here, we explore some of the key trends that are reshaping the e-commerce ecosystem in Canada:


Developing a Zero-Party Data Strategy:

As data privacy policies loom, Canadian businesses are adopting the zero-party data strategy to protect consumer privacy and gain valuable insights With the guidance of a seasoned professional, businesses can gather valuable insights from consumers, allowing them to tailor their approach and establish stronger bonds with their desired demographic.


Integration of Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR):

AR and VR technologies are transforming the ecommerce experience by providing captivating product interactions Businesses in Canada are utilizing these technologies to empower customers to visualize products in real-world settings, which boosts purchasing confidence and drives sales



Personalization Powered by AI:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing how e-commerce businesses in Canada provide personalized experiences to their customers. Through the analysis of extensive data, AI algorithms have the ability to predict consumer preferences and behaviour This empowers businesses to provide personalized recommendations and simplify the purchasing process


Exploring the realm of social selling and influencer marketing:

With the advent of social commerce, Canadian businesses now have a wealth of new opportunities at their fingertips With a keen understanding of consumer behaviour and market trends, companies can effectively utilize social media platforms to connect with a wide range of active consumers Leveraging influencer marketing and creating engaging live shopping experiences can lead to increased sales.


CRM Focused on Community:

CRM systems are now placing a greater emphasis on fostering community and promoting engagement Creating a strong connection with customers is crucial for Canadian e-commerce businesses to build brand loyalty and encourage repeat purchases


Architecture for Headless E-Commerce:

Canadian businesses are increasingly embracing headless e-commerce architecture due to its flexibility and scalability Through the separation of the front-end and back-end of their ecommerce platforms, companies can provide smooth experiences across various devices and channels


Enhancing Voice and Visual Search Optimization:

With the growing reliance on voice and visual search technologies, Canadian businesses are actively improving their e-commerce platforms to make them more discoverable and accessible By staying up-to-date with these emerging search trends, companies can reach new audiences and increase conversions


Marketing Automation:

Automation has been playing a crucial role in e-commerce operations in Canada for quite some time now Through the automation of marketing tasks like email campaigns and customer segmentation, businesses can enhance efficiency and boost conversion rates


Embracing Sustainability:

Canadian e-commerce businesses are adopting sustainable practices to meet the growing demand for environmentally conscious products and services By implementing sustainable packaging, reducing carbon emissions, and endorsing ethical supply chains, businesses have the opportunity to appeal to environmentally aware consumers and set themselves apart in the competitive market.


Fast and Free Delivery:

In Canada's highly competitive e-commerce industry, providing fast and cost-efficient delivery choices is crucial for ensuring customer happiness. By providing expedited and free shipping, businesses can elevate the overall shopping experience and foster customer loyalty.

Ultimately, the e-commerce scene in Canada is experiencing a significant shift, fueled by advancements in technology and evolving consumer tastes By embracing these emerging trends and adapting their strategies accordingly, Canadian businesses can position themselves for sustained growth and success in the digital age, just like a marketing coordinator would do

The CanadianSME community consists of readers who have high regard for current enterprises and entrepreneurial initiatives Entrepreneurs can remain connected and active with this group by following @canadian sme on X Please click here to subscribe to CanadianSME magazine and stay up to date on all current business trends and developments


Tony Geheran’s

Strategy for TELUS’ Evolution

Executive Vice-President and Chief Operations Officer at TELUS

Tony Geheran, TELUS’ Chief Operations Officer, shared valuable insights with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine on his journey leading the Customer Technology Excellence (CTE) team, emphasizing the importance of customer-centric innovation and sustainable practices Drawing from decades of experience across various roles at TELUS, Tony highlights the significance of listening to diverse perspectives and fostering a culture of experimentation and continuous improvement Under his leadership, TELUS embarked on a transformative initiative to connect over three million homes and businesses to TELUS PureFibre, underscoring the company's commitment to enhancing digital connectivity while maintaining a focus on sustainability. Tony elaborates on TELUS' efforts to balance technological advancements with environmental stewardship, such as achieving net carbon neutrality by 2030 and introducing energy-saving measures across its operations. Furthermore, he discusses the pivotal role of the PureFibre network in enabling smart cities and the potential for real estate development, which aligns with TELUS' vision for a more connected and efficient future. Tony also addresses how TELUS is bolstering customer trust through advancements in cybersecurity, AI, and privacy, including the adoption of a voluntary AI code of conduct and the achievement of the ISO 31700-1 Privacy by Design certification Looking ahead, Tony envisions continued growth and innovation in the telecommunications industry, with TELUS leading the way through diversification and a steadfast commitment to delivering exceptional customer experiences

As TELUS’ Chief Operations Officer, Tony Geheran leads Customer Technology Excellence (CTE), a team dedicated to enriching people’s lives through the power of technology. Together, they steward TELUS’ digital transformation and manage every aspect of our network infrastructure, elevating customer trust through resilient services and seamless experiences. CTE also drives TELUS’ leadership in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and privacy, ensuring a responsible and human-centered approach to innovation that helps make the future friendlier for all.

Tony has held sev


TELUS in 2001 Most recently, he was Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Officer of Customer Service Excellence, responsible for elevating our Mobility and Home Solutions customer experience

Tony has a wealth of experience in the telecommunications industry, having previously led several teams in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland

Tony is a graduate of the Cranfield School of Management with a Diploma in Professional Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. He holds a Professional Certificate in Business Administration from Open University and received his Professional Qualifications in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering while serving in the Royal Navy. He proudly supports the Vancouver General Hospital and University of British Columbia hospital foundations.

Can you share how your various roles at TELUS have shaped your approach to leading the Customer Technology Excellence team?

A common thread throughout my various roles over the past two decades has been never losing sight of why we ’ re here We’re a technology business, yes, but it’s the experiences and outcomes we enable for our customers that matter most.

Over the years, I’ve learned that the best ideas dont always come from the top and that it’s important to be approachable, listen to people and give their ideas a chance I’ve grown immensely as a leader by surrounding myself with good people and being open to different perspectives

I’ve also instilled a culture of challenging the status quo and not falling into “business as usual” thinking For example, in 2013, I led a program to find an innovative way to connect fibre-optic internet (TELUS PureFibre) directly to people’s homes It wasn’t something wed done before at scale, and we knew that what got us to that point wouldnt get us to where we needed to go Embracing experimentation, fast failure and continuous improvement, the team went on to connect over three million homes and businesses to TELUS PureFibre, transforming the way Canadians live, work and connect Many aspects of how our team operates today can be traced back to this program

How does TELUS balance technological innovation with environmental sustainability in its operations?

Sustainability is embedded in everything we do at TELUS - it’s just good business We’ve committed to being net carbon neutral by 2030 and we are walking the talk as the first company in Canada to issue a sustainability-linked bond tied to achieving our GHG reduction targets

TELUS overall emissions are down more than 40 percent since 2010, helped by our investments in expanding TELUS PureFibre, which is up to 85 percent more energy efficient than our legacy copper network. It’s also enabling us to recycle millions of pounds of copper, contributing to the circular economy by transforming retired cables into a sellable raw material product through urban mining

I believe sustainability and innovation can go hand-in-hand, particularly when you think about the possibilities enabled by GenAI For example, using intelligent techniques we ’ re now able to reduce or completely shut down radio frequencies in our wireless networks when they’re not in use, reducing energy consumption with no impact on the customer experience. Similarly, by training the HVAC systems at our data centres, we ’ re enabling energyefficient temperature control, reducing cooling energy consumption by as much as 20 per cent

What impact has the PureFibre deployment had on TELUS' vision for smart cities and real estate?

Our PureFibre expansion is opening up really exciting opportunities in real estate With the decreasing reliance on copper, which requires a lot of space, many central offices in the heart of every town and city that we operate in will become redundant, enabling us to redevelop these sites with partners into affordable rental housing In parallel, these offices will be transformed into data hubs close to our customers, providing access to super low latency Edge connectivity, which will be key to the reliability and resiliency of smart city applications like traffic and energy management.

TELUS invests significantly in 5G and Edge computing facilities at postsecondary institutions across Canada, accelerating innovation in growth areas such as autonomous vehicles and healthcare We’re also exploring how IoT and compute capabilities in greenhouses can make food production more scalable, while reducing cost and footprint This is all a by-product of our generational investments in PureFibre


In what ways is TELUS enhancing customer trust through advancements in cybersecurity, AI, and privacy?

Our journey with AI, which began over five years ago, is rooted in our social purpose and guided by a principle of doing good, ensuring we remain grounded in our responsibility to the communities we serve and are a part of We strive for a humanized AI experience, considering the impact on people at all times This includes maintaining transparency about how our technology works and ensuring there's always a human element in our oversight processes

Realizing the true potential of AI lies in its responsible use, and TELUS is leading the way in this regard. In September 2023, we became the first and only telecom company in Canada to sign a voluntary AI code of conduct introduced by the federal government. We were also the first company globally to secure the ISO 31700-1 Privacy by Design certification for our Data for Good program - an initiative offering high-quality, strongly de-identified data to researchers focusing on public good. Then there’s the TELUS Wise program, through which we offer free digital literacy resources, including a responsible AI workshop for youth developed in partnership with CIFAR/Destination AI.


Based on your experience, how do you foresee the telecommunications industry evolving, and what is TELUS' strategy for maintaining its leadership position?

In our highly competitive and rapidly changing industry, differentiation and diversification, combined with a relentless focus on the customer, are the keys to staying relevant in the long term At TELUS we ’ re continually looking for ways to deliver value to customers beyond traditional telecommunications services like mobility, internet and TV Enabled by TELUS PureFibre, we now offer next-generation technologies like smart home security, automation and energy management, which improves customer experiences and stickiness

This natural evolution of our products and services is also helping fuel growth elsewhere in the business Over the past 15 years, weve applied our core strengths in data management and customer experience to new areas like Health Agriculture & Consumer Goods, which offer significant potential for digital solutions to help solve some of the most pressing challenges facing society

We're always thinking about what our customers will need in the future and how we can best serve them – as I see it, the sky’s the limit

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Advancing Ind Economic Sove Insights from Jolain Foster

Jolain Foster, Managing Partner of Nation Building at Deloitte Canada, provides CanadianSME Small Business Magazine with insightful perspectives on fostering economic sovereignty for Indigenous Nations and the crucial steps toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities Economic sovereignty, as Jolain outlines, involves granting Indigenous Nations the power and resources to build self-sufficient infrastructures, education systems, and employment opportunities, paralleling the quality of life enjoyed by many Canadians. Through Deloitte Canada's Nation Building practice, Jolain and her team aim to empower Indigenous Peoples and Nations towards economic empowerment and selfgovernance by developing solutions in areas like jurisdiction, governance, and economic development. Jolain stresses the importance of reconciliation as a process of building respectful relationships, involving active listening, reparations, and tangible actions toward societal change. She emphasizes the role of corporate Canada in advancing reconciliation by encouraging Indigenous participation in the economy and supporting Indigenous sovereignty and economic development aspirations Jolain's personal journey, from witnessing the poverty amidst natural wealth in her Gitxsan Nation to leading transformational change, fuels her dedication to eliminating poverty through improved governance and economic opportunities for Indigenous communities Offering advice to young Indigenous individuals, Jolain encourages active community participation, volunteering, and a relentless pursuit of one's passions and purposes, highlighting that adversity can ultimately become a significant strength

As the Managing Partner of Nation Building, Jolain leads a multidisciplinary team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous professionals dedicated to building strong connections between Indigenous communities, non-Indigenous governments, and corporate Canada that will forge new pathways to economic empowerment. Jolain is Gitxsan and Wet'suet'en and belongs to Wilps Niisto. For more than two decades, she has been working with Indigenous Peoples across Canada in various private sector firms, educational institutions, and First Nation organizations With experience that ranges from leadership, strategic planning, governance, and operations to Indigenous engagement and financial management, Jolain is a natural facilitator

Managing Partner of Nation Building at Deloitte Canada
34- CanadianSME-April2024

How do you define economic sovereignty for Indigenous Nations, and how has this shaped your work with Nation Building?

Even today, Indigenous Peoples and Nations continue to face systemic barriers which impact the ability to meaningfully participate in the labour market, regain financial autonomy, pursue opportunities for economic development to grow independent wealth, and live an equal quality of life that many Canadians are accustomed to

Economic sovereignty for Indigenous Nations means having decision-making powers and access to funding to develop adequate infrastructure, health care, education, employment opportunities, and child and family services

Our goal with the Nation Building practice is to bring together leaders and change-makers across corporate Canada and the public sector to support Indigenous Peoples and Nations on their journey to economic empowerment and selfgovernance As a firm, we want to support First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities in developing innovative solutions focusing on the jurisdiction, governance, economic development, natural resources, and community infrastructure to ensure Indigenous Peoples and Nations have a leading role in the economy, propelling Indigenous businesses forward while advancing reconciliation efforts

What key steps should be taken to further reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities?

Reconciliation is an ongoing journey of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships with Indigenous communities A critical part of this process involves repairing damaged trust by listening and learning, providing individual and collective reparations, and following through with concrete actions that demonstrate real societal change. We must be deliberate in our actions to restore trust and repair relationships with Indigenous Peoples and Nations as it's through these relationships that we can drive transformational change both socially and economically

The possibilities for reconciliation across corporate Canada are endless if we work together Indigenous participation in our economy is fundamental to advance reconciliation and help Indigenous Peoples and Nations achieve sovereignty and economic development aspirations Ensuring that they have a leading role in the economy is the most impactful way forward for economic, business, and social reconciliation

By 2030, Indigenous workers will make up 7 per cent of the labour force, yet they are systematically underrepresented in Canadian businesses. Governments, businesses, and all Canadians can help fundamentally transform our economy and society by taking targeted action to address labour market barriers for underrepresented groups

How can corporate Canada support Nations and Peoples in their sovereignty and economic development aspirations?

Businesses that want to encourage Indigenous participation and support Nations and Peoples in their sovereignty and economic development aspirations can do it through Indigenous partnerships, reconciliation efforts, and adapting Indigenous solutions

Through our new Indigenous-led practice, we want to help businesses with navigating inter-Nation dynamics Partnering with Indigenous Peoples and Nations or requiring consent, buy-in, and/or social licence for major projects on traditional Indigenous territories is key Navigating complex governance constructs between different Nations presents unique challenges and opportunities, meaningful and effective engagement creates mutually beneficial outcomes

To advance the reconciliation journey, understanding customs specific to Indigenous Peoples and Nations with whom they are working, creating approaches and strategies that are authentic, or finding innovative ways to provide value beyond compliance is important.

Businesses also have the opportunity to innovate business models to reach environmental, social, and governance targets by drawing on centuries-old approaches and solutions to manage land sustainably by working with Indigenous Peoples and Nations to develop these


What ignited your life’s purpose? What are some of the challenges you faced as an Indigenous female?

I grew up in Kispiox, B C , a member of the Gitxsan Nation, whose unceded territory is nestled in the middle of the most beautiful mountains, rivers, and boreal forests My Gitxsan name is Nagwit Sen and I belong to the House of Niist’o Growing up my three siblings and I were raised by a single mother I experienced poverty all around me, even though my Nation was rich with natural resources like forestry, water, fish, and critical minerals

Corporations came and went, extracting and developing resources with no benefit coming back to the Gitxsan in the form of employment, procurement, or royalties. The Gitxsan Nation and our peoples experience some of Canada’s highest levels of suicide, unemployment, poverty, and children in care There are many reasons for this a complex history between governments and my Nation that continues to impact our governance systems, culture, and economy

The Gitxsan have a hereditary system that has been in place since time immemorial and continues to this day Today our traditional governance system is deeply impacted because of the federal government’s Indian Act, intended to erase us as people through actions that devastated our culture, livelihood, spirit, health, and laws - forcing our people off our traditional territory and the traumatic impact of residential schools on our families, to name just two

All this ignited my passion for leading transformational change anywhere I work not just for my Nation, but for all Nations who share the same history of destruction My life’s purpose is working to eliminate poverty through improved governance and operations to create a new path for economic wealth for First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Peoples and Nations

It’s important to me that I make an impact that matters, in our communities and in our country, and I believe collaboration is key to build a stronger Canada

Today, I’m honoured to be serving as Managing Partner, Nation Building, a role that enables me to continue my personal journey and pave a new path for Deloitte Canada’s role in Truth and Reconciliation I believe this is an incredible opportunity to support Indigenous Peoples and Nations in Nation building, creating new pathways for economic empowerment and reinforcing selfgovernment - and I hope that non-Indigenous clients and corporate Canada are as motivated as I am, and will join us in our journey to building a stronger Canada, together

What advice do you have for young Indigenous individuals aiming to make a difference in their communities?

I am inspired by my fellow Indigenous women and men and the next generation of Indigenous youth who have the opportunity to play an integral role in Canada’s economy and contribute to the strength and leadership of their communities and nations in the face of diverse challenges.

My advice to the younger generation is to take on new professional and personal experiences wholeheartedly Those experiences will allow you to discover where your passions truly lie If you are passionate about your culture, learning your language and traditions, or want to make an impact in your community to make it a better place to live – start by participating and volunteering in your community

Our communities need volunteers to help with priorities such as youth programs, health care, elder programs, office administration, community events, and more Learning how your Nation and community is governed and operates plays a huge role in making a difference. By volunteering, gaining employment experience, and pursuing education and training programs, you will establish a better understanding of who you are and more importantly, who you want to become

Lastly, do not seek the perfect answer, condition, situation, or path Start somewhere and be persistent in finding your purpose and knowing your value, make modifications where necessary, and continue to move forward Your past does not define you and your adversity will eventually become your most significant strength


David Bassin

Senior Vice-president - Operations,

In an insightful interview with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine, David Bassin, Senior Vice President - Operations at TELUS Health, unveiled the strategic vision propelling the company into the retirement and pension management space, intricately woven into its broader mission to transform healthcare experiences David emphasized that financial wellbeing is an integral component of overall health, highlighting TELUS Health's dedication to creating a holistic approach to employee wellbeing by integrating physical, mental, and financial health services. With over 50 years of experience in benefits administration and a deep commitment to innovation, underscored by recognition as an 'Overall Leader' in nextgeneration benefits administration by NelsonHall, TELUS Health is at the forefront of redefining health and wellness in the workplace. The company's future-focused strategy, leveraging AI and digital tools, aims to streamline benefits administration and enhance user experiences, underscoring a unified platform for health that supports individuals through all life's critical moments This vision not only strengthens TELUS Health's leadership in the healthcare industry but also promises to pioneer a future where technology and wellbeing converge for the betterment of employees across North America

is Redefining Employee Well-being

David is a results-oriented senior executive with more than two decades of experience driving results in software, strategy, finance, corporate development, M&A, transformation, general management and operations

As Senior Vice-president of Operations at TELUS Health, David leads the operations delivery of solutions for employers and clinicians and healthcare professionals across a team of 4,000 team members. With a consistent customers-first focus, David takes a collaborative approach in leveraging the breadth of TELUS Health offerings to solve his clients’ toughest challenges.

David holds an MBA from Ivey Business School at Western University, and an Honours Bachelor of Science in Information Systems from the University of Toronto. David also actively participates in both corporate and not-for-profit boards.

David, can you share the strategic vision behind TELUS Health venturing into retirement and pension management space, and how it aligns with your overall mission in healthcare?

The vision of TELUS Health is to reimagine the way health is delivered and experienced. Our work in health and welfare, retirement and benefits administration furthers that vision within employer-provided healthcare, where financial wellbeing for employees is just as important as their physical and mental wellbeing Our experience has found that financial wellbeing is about more than simply having money in the bank but rather, it means that employees feel in control of their finances, are able to handle a financial setback, and are on track to achieve their life goals

We’re no newcomer to the space, leveraging over 50 years of experience in retirement and benefits administration, along with 15 years of direct expertise in healthcare The services offered by TELUS Health are specifically designed to create better participant interaction and utilization for our


clients, helping their employees achieve a more secure financial future during retirement, and contribute to a more holistic sense of health and wellbeing

The NelsonHall ranking is a significant accolade. How does this recognition as an 'Overall Leader' in next-generation benefits administration influence TELUS Health's approach towards innovation and service improvement?

Being named once again as an Overall Leader by NelsonHall not only acknowledges the dedication of our team at TELUS Health, but also reinforces our commitment to continuously improving our services The NEAT analysis is a significant external endorsement from a trusted third-party organization and is further proof of our consistent record of success, and pushes us to ensure that our clients continue to receive industry-leading benefits administration services

With TELUS Health's recent achievements, what are the key initiatives or technologies you ' re implementing to maintain and enhance your leadership position in the healthcare industry?

With our world-leading network and innovative health technology combined with our foundation in social purpose, TELUS Health is building the healthiest workplaces and communities on the planet Providing employers with the latest services across the full spectrum of physical, mental and financial health allows them to support their employees all over the world with personalized experiences so they can proactively manage their own health and wellbeing For us, this unified approach is crucial to empowering people at the most critical moments in their lives: when a child arrives, buying a house, starting a pension plan, if a partner gets ill, during a crisis, and retirement.

In practice, this means integrating our benefits offerings for physical, mental and financial health into a single platform, with products designed to fit all client needs, scaling to complex implementations and plan administration We are also committed to the continuous development of platform and product innovations for optimum digitalization - including the use of AI-driven proprietary chatbots and similar tools - that reflect a deep understanding of current market needs But most importantly, we believe in a holistic approach for employers, offering total health and wellbeing solutions for their workforces, that combine benefits administration, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and absence management.

Given TELUS Health's holistic approach to employee well-being, could you elaborate on how integrating physical, mental, and financial health services into a single platform benefits employers and their workforce?

We believe that by prioritizing employee wellbeing, organizations across North America will succeed in increasing morale and decreasing stress in the workforce This will contribute to improved overall productivity and reduced labor expenses in the long term.

Our integrated approach also means that our clients have access to our global team of experts, possessing extensive knowledge across the physical, mental and financial health and wellbeing spectrum We are leveraging the power of technology to continue giving employers the tools they need to keep their workforce healthy, productive and engaged

Looking towards the future, what upcoming projects or innovations at TELUS Health should clients and the healthcare industry anticipate, especially in the context of leveraging AI and digital tools for health and benefits administration?

Just as we have done in the past, our priority remains focused on improving access to health support and personalizing the user experience We will continue to leverage AI technology to streamline the benefits administration process so that AI can handle routine information collection processes, like change of addresses and adjustments in beneficiaries, plus answer frequently asked questions, while giving human case managers and care navigators more time to thoughtfully address more complex situations where human-to-human contact is key That way, we can help ensure that the expertise of those professionals is focused on the most impactful outcome

Health Technologies

Co-Founder at SOFi Products

Brandon Leeds, co-founder of SOFi Products, shared with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine the story of turning a frustrating experience with a soggy paper straw into an innovative business focused on sustainability Growing up in Miami Beach, Brandon's love for the ocean and his ecoconscious upbringing, shared with his friend Jordan, propelled them towards creating SOFi Products. Their mission was to address the greenwashing prevalent in the sustainable products space by developing truly biodegradable and compostable items that don't require special facilities to degrade Overcoming challenges such as making sustainable products economically viable, Brandon and Jordan introduced the SOFi Hot Cup, an all-in-one plastic-free cup with a patent-pending locking mechanism, eliminating the need for a plastic lid. This design innovation not only represents a step forward in sustainability but also makes eco-friendly options more accessible to businesses by offering cost, space, and freight savings Looking ahead, SOFi Products aims to combat greenwashing practices and expand its market presence, focusing on replacing traditional single-use cups and lids with their groundbreaking solutions across North America.

Brandon Leeds is the Co-Founder of SOFi Products - an innovative manufacturer of sustainable paper products for the foodservice industry

Your journey from growing up in Miami Beach to co-founding SOFi Products with a focus on sustainability is inspiring. Could you share more about the journey of co-founding SOFi with Jordan, especially how your childhood experiences and your love for the ocean influenced your decision to start a business in the sustainable products space?

It all started with a soggy paper straw and a milkshake In early 2019, Jordan was drinking a milkshake with a paper straw and was unable to finish his drink before the straw unraveled

Jordan and I have always been pretty eco-conscious and entrepreneurial since we were young. We always were thinking of news ideas and looking for an idea to start a business together. Creating the best paper straw seemed like the perfect challenge

Over the following 12 months, we analyzed the manufacturing process and materials, looking for ways to make improvements Ultimately, we completely reinvented the manufacturing process for paper straws and created a straw that does not get soggy, fall-apart or taste like paper

It was always strange to us that people were continuing to put a paper straw in a plastic lid/cup This is where the idea for an all-in-one plastic-free cup came to life

ImageCourtesy:BrandonLeeds ImageCourtesy:SOFiProducts

Brandon, SOFi Products stands out for its commitment to creating truly sustainable, single-use products. Can you elaborate on what sets your biodegradable and compostable products apart from others in the market, and why was it important for you to ensure they degrade without needing a special facility?

The sustainable products space is filled with an overwhelming amount of greenwashing We want to create products that actually decompose in a reasonable amount of time (less than 180 days) regardless of how they are disposed of

There are a tremendous amount of products that look like plastic and feel like plastic touting ecofriendliness (biodegradable/compostable) Yet, most people do not know that these products need to go to an industrial composting facility Otherwise, these products are the same as plastic

Educating people on how to make the correct sustainable purchasing decisions is at the heart of SOFi and a driving force for us to create plastic-free products

With a market flooded with products claiming to be eco-friendly, SOFi's 100% plastic-free approach is commendable. What challenges did you face in achieving this, and how do you ensure that your products, including the groundbreaking SOFi Hot Cup, remain entirely plastic-free throughout their lifecycle?

Sustainability has always been associated with being expensive and inaccessible to most It has been part of our mission to make sustainability more accessible to businesses

However, finding ways to make sustainable products economical and cost-beneficial has been a challenge. Solving this, requires finding unique ways to give benefits to our customers; like eliminating the lid By eliminating the lid, we can provide tremendous cost savings, space savings and freight savings to our customers Making sustainability more accessible

The SOFi Hot Cup's innovative design that eliminates the need for a plastic lid is quite a breakthrough. Can you walk us through the design process for this patent-pending locking mechanism?

Throughout the 4 years of development for the hot cup, we were able to keep a tight feedback loop with a select group of businesses and QSR chains

Having this tight feedback loop allowed us to make important changes as a result of real customer feedback Putting the cup through real-world testing helped us to identify the correct problems and come up with solutions that would get us to a final real-world product

Hundreds of small product iterations led to the final product of the SOFi Hot Cup.

Looking ahead, what are the next steps for SOFi Paper Products in terms of product development and market expansion?

With the recent launch of our hot cup, we are focused on replacing as many cups and lids as possible in North America Our goal is to raise awareness about the greenwashing practices within the eco-friendly products space and offer solutions that are actually a step in the right direction

40- CanadianSME-April2024

Setting the Standard for BiometricSecurity inCanadawithOkta

In a compelling interview with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine, Dan, the Senior Vice President & Canadian Country Manager at Okta, shares his journey of leading Okta's growth and expansion in Canada. With over two decades of experience in bringing new technologies to market, Dan's passion for innovation and his empathetic leadership style have been instrumental in Okta's success. The interview delves into Okta's 10th annual Businesses at Work Report, highlighting the digital landscape's seismic shifts and the insights gleaned from app choices over the years Dan discusses the key findings of the report, notably the disparity in passwordless authentication adoption and Canada's leading role in biometric authentications globally Despite some areas where Canadian companies lag, such as the average number of deployed apps per company, there's optimism for the future, especially with the rise of design software and the shift to hybrid work Looking ahead, Dan emphasizes Okta Canada's commitment to enhancing identity protection, focusing on advancing passwordless authentication and increasing biometric utilization among Canadian organizations This interview not only showcases Okta's strategic vision but also Dan's dedication to building up Canada's technology landscape and making a significant impact.

As the SVP & Canadian Country Manager at Okta, Dan’s priority is to lead the growth in the country while expanding Okta’s reach in both the commercial and enterprise markets. Dan has a passion for investing in and building up Canada

Throughout his career he has worked with large companies to lead successful expansion in the Canadian market With over two decades of experience, he has had the opportunity to realize his passion for bringing new technologies to market and for making a difference

As a technologist, Dan’s a firm believer in the power of innovation He understands its criticality in keeping Okta a step ahead, and as one of the best ways to delight customers.Dan delivers results by focusing on a positive change management approach. He strives to lead his teams with empathy. He understands that people come first, and the success of an organization is dependent on the wellbeing of its workforce

Tell us about Okta’s 10th Businesses at Work Report and the motivation behind this annual report?

For the first few years of this decade, the digital landscape has seen seismic shifts, from the proliferation of remote work to the rise of artificial intelligence Businesses have had to pivot rapidly to stay afloat Our app choices can serve as powerful indicators of our current priorities, whether in business or in broader cultural contexts That's why Okta has published an annual Businesses at Work Report for the past ten years – recognizing the valuable insights these choices provide over time

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Now, in 2024, it feels like the dust is finally settling after the whirlwind of changes from the past few years With that comes the opportunity for companies to refocus their efforts, whether that’s on enhancing security measures or streamlining operations As the tech world continues to evolve, the need for timely insights into shifting trends and strategies becomes increasingly paramount This is where our annual Businesses at Work Report comes in – offering a window into the digital strategies employed by successful companies

What are the key findings of the report? How do Canadian companies currently position themselves amidst the latest business trends, and how does this compare with our global counterparts?

When looking at our report findings, one aspect that stood out was the disparity between Canadian companies and their global counterparts in the adoption of passwordless authentication The data shows that companies here in Canada are lagging behind with the fewest authentications per account on average, leaving their apps and data at higher risk As security threats continue to evolve, it’ll be key for organizations to embrace new and more secure solutions to help safeguard their businesses

However, despite this lag, Canada leads the world in the adoption of biometric authentications, with a 26% utilization rate That means that our country is not just keeping pace when it comes to biometric authentications, we ’ re setting the standard

Our report also revealed a few interesting insights into Canada's workplace app usage landscape. While overall app usage saw a 6% increase mirroring the 5% growth in the U.S, Canada still trails behind when comparing the average number of deployed apps per company. Notably, the U.S. deployed 105 apps compared to Canada's 66.

What software trends do you foresee shaping the Canadian landscape in 2024?

It's likely that the ongoing shift to hybrid work and its effects on apps and data, alongside the rise of generative AI, will continue to influence how businesses handle the digital landscape This year, we saw that design software was not only trending around the world, but it emerged as the fastest-growing category in Canada, experiencing a noteworthy 23% year-over-year growth This popularity was across the board, impacting Fortune 500 companies government to nonprofit organizations In 2024, we predict more brands will continue to place greater importance on the value of design, tapping into more accessible apps like Canva and Miro to help streamline their processes.

Given the insights from the report, what's next for Okta Canada as it continues to enhance identity protection?

In today's ever-evolving digital landscape, cybersecurity is more important than ever Looking ahead for Okta Canada, our focus remains on staying ahead of the curve in identity protection With hackers getting smarter and using more sophisticated tactics, our goal is to raise the bar for the adoption of passwordless authentication in Canada This isn't just about staying in step with global trends; it's about empowering our customers to tackle their digital challenges head-on

We know that passwordless authentication brings users one step toward frictionless access, but that adding biometrics offers an even higher level of security. In this year ’ s report, Canada is leading its global counterparts with a 26% biometric utilization rate This means that Canadians are leaning into their physical characteristics such as fingerprints or facial features, instead of relying on their memory (or a sticky note taped to a monitor) when it comes to protecting their personal information and data It's a positive shift we ’ re committed to helping more organizations adopt as the year progresses

ImageCourtesy:Canva Biometric Security

Kari Norman

on Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in Canada

Economist, Desjardins

In an insightful discussion with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine, Kari Norman, an Economist at Desjardins Group, sheds light on the gender disparities in Canadian entrepreneurship Drawing from Desjardins' report for International Women's Day, Kari highlights that the majority of small- and medium-sized businesses in Canada are still predominantly maleowned, with women entrepreneurs facing significant hurdles, particularly in securing financing Despite Canada's better-thanaverage rates of early-stage female entrepreneurship, especially in Quebec, there remains a vast untapped potential among women, especially within minority groups. Kari emphasizes the crucial role of financial institutions and policymakers in fostering a more inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem. By implementing measures such as diversity-focused executive training and gender-sensitive policy-making, alongside addressing the specific challenges faced by Indigenous, racialized, and disabled women entrepreneurs, Canada can make strides towards closing the gender pay gap and bolstering women ' s participation in the workforce Kari's recommendations for increasing women ' s presence in STEM fields and ensuring their fair share of jobs in the digital and green transitions are particularly pertinent for shaping a more equitable future in entrepreneurship and beyond

Kari Norman is an Economist with Desjardins Group, based in Toronto Since joining the team a year ago, she has been actively contributing to thought leadership and in-depth analyses of the Canadian economy, housing market and public policy Prior to joining Desjardins, Kari has worked with the Canadian Association of Business Economics, Clayton Research Associates, the C.D. Howe Institute and Royal Bank Economics.

Based on Desjardins' recent report for International Women's Day, you ' ve highlighted that entrepreneurship in Canada remains predominantly male. Can you share some key statistics that illustrate this imbalance, and what factors do you believe contribute to the slower progress in encouraging women to pursue entrepreneurship compared to Canada's international peers?

a) Key Stats

i) The share of majority male-owned small- and mediumsized businesses in Canada was 69% in 2020, up from 66% in 2011

ii) Studies have found that business financing is a larger hurdle for women than for men

According to HEC, “68% of projects presented by men obtained financing, compared to 32% for those same projects presented in the same manner by women ”

iii) Other studies have found that it’s not so much obtaining financing thats the issue, but rather financing amounts

According to the Canadian government’s recently established Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH), the average amount of financing authorized for men-owned businesses is 150% higher

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b) What factors contribute to slower progress in encouraging women to pursue entrepreneurship compared to Canada's international peers?

i) A recent OECD report shows that Canada has better-thanaverage early-stage entrepreneurship rates for women In Quebec, more startups (businesses younger than one year) were owned by women than by men in 2021 (65% vs 35%) In all, recent trends in women entrepreneurship point to advances, but also to a large untapped potential or “missing entrepreneurs ”

ii) Policymakers should pay particular attention to fostering entrepreneurship among minority groups Research by WEKH suggests that systemic challenges for women entrepreneurs are particularly acute for Indigenous women, racialized women and women with disabilities But on a more positive note, women make up a higher proportion of SME entrepreneurs in South Asian, Black and Chinese communities than in the general population

What steps can organizations, financial institutions, and policymakers take to address and remove the biases in business financing?

a) For the financial sector:

i) Companies could encourage and help business and private equity clients by building gender-diverse executive teams and boards

ii) For example, Desjardins offers a training path to executive leadership to all its women business clients, and Desjardins Capital trains cohorts of women to sit on the boards of SME clients. Goldman Sachs requires companies planning an initial public offering (IPO) to have at least two diverse board members, one of which must be a woman

b) For policymakers:

i) Provide funding for women entrepreneurs through programs such as EDC’s Women in Trade, BDC’s Woman Entrepreneur and BDC’s Women in Technology Venture Fund

ii) Strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem, including by documenting barriers to women entrepreneurship with a sensitivity to intersectionality As noted by the WEKH, Indigenous women face barriers related to geographic isolation and systemic racism, while access to financing and borrowing costs remain especially difficult for Black women entrepreneurs

How do you believe increasing the number of women entrepreneurs can contribute to narrowing the gender pay gap in Canada?

a) The lack of women entrepreneurs is a significant component behind Canada’s gender pay gap Gender gaps are estimated to cause an average income loss of 15% in the OECD, of which 40% is attributable to entrepreneurship gaps

b) Increasing the number of women entrepreneurs would help close this gap and would also increase women in the workforce

ImageCourtesy:Canva Women Empowerment

Considering the challenges women face in entrepreneurship and the STEM fields, what specific measures or programs would you recommend strengthening the entrepreneurial ecosystem for women in Canada?

a) Some 16% of female university students graduate in STEM fields vs 41% of male university students in Canada According to the OECD, women “ may be less well-placed to seize the opportunities associated with the green and digital transitions as they tend to specialize less in scientific knowledge than men ”

b) It’s concerning that just two years after graduation, there’s a perceptible gender gap in median employment income in STEM occupations, especially for master’s graduates

c) Policymakers should monitor progress in terms of women ’ s presence in STEM fields, including occupations linked to the digital and green transitions

Looking ahead, what are your key policy recommendations for fostering a more inclusive entrepreneurial environment in Canada? How can we better support women ' s participation in the labour force, particularly in overcoming the ' mommy tax' and increasing representation in STEM fields?

a) Eliminate bias at all levels to remove barriers Specific to the entrepreneurial environment in Canada, policymakers can apply a gender lens to all policies, provide funding for women entrepreneurs through programs like BDCs woman entrepreneur Further, they can strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem, including by documenting barriers to women entrepreneurship with a sensitivity to intersectionality

b) Offer flexibility Organizations should think of workplace flexibility both temporal and locational as a key vector to narrowing the gender gap

c) Provide eldercare and childcare programs that are efficient and affordable A more equitable division of this labour between men and women would help So would a lower cost of full participation in the labour market (such as working full time or taking on more senior roles), as low-cost universal childcare programs do.

d) Ensure women get their fair share of digital and green transition jobs. Looking to the future, policymakers should ensure that gender gaps are not perpetuated but also that we ’ re not inadvertently creating new ones in sectors that are bound to see strong growth Increasing women ’ s share of STEM jobs, notably in engineering, will be key to their inclusion in green transition industries and digital transformation occupations

ImageCourtesy:Canva Women Empowerment

Maude Lambert and Marie-Christine Martel Co-Owners of Concept C

Maude Lambert and Marie-Christine Martel, in an insightful interview with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine, traced the remarkable evolution of Chatelaine Salon, founded in 1969 by Maude's mother, into the innovative Concept C Following her mother's passing in 2008, Maude, driven by her entrepreneurial spirit and forward-thinking approach, transformed the salon into a thriving online and physical retail entity The rebranding to Concept C in 2018 marked the beginning of an era of expansion, with the first branch opening in Trois-Rivières in 2019 and the headquarters moving to Quebec City in 2023 to better meet customer demand Their strategic focus on being accomplices in their clients' lives, ensuring every moment is one of confidence and comfort, has been pivotal Leveraging TikTok, Concept C has embraced authenticity to build brand awareness and connect with a new clientele, emphasizing personalized service and respect for customers' budgets. Celebrating Francophonie and fostering a sense of community remain central to their identity as they explore future opportunities, including product line expansions and enhancing the web experience through a new loyalty program and other innovations.

FromLegacy toInnovation: TheTransformation Journeyof ConceptC

Concept C initially started back in 1969, with the creation of Chatelaine Salon, opened by coowner Maude’s mother, which she took on in 2009, rebranding and moving location as Concept Chatelaine, no located in downtown Victoriaville Maude, Pascal and MC launch Concept C’s website in November 2018, expanding to a branch in Trois-Rivieres, with our business growing even more rapidly during the pandemic We finally get to open our Salon Concept C in Trois-Rivieres in February 2021 and move operations to a bigger space in October 2022 to meet our growing demand Most recently, our newest branch opened in Quebec City with plans on expanding further!

Can you take us through the journey of transforming Chatelaine Salon from its inception in 1969 by Maude's mother to the rebranded and expansion of Concept C? How did your business vision and mission evolve with this transition and subsequent expansions, especially with the opening of new branches including the recent one in Quebec City?

Maude's mother passed away in 2008 from cancer It was after this that Maude decided to take over the salon and bring it to another level Being an entrepreneur at heart as well as forwardthinking, the idea of launching online appealed to her

ImageCourtesy:Canva ImageCourtesy:MaudeLambertandMarie-ChristineMartel

In November 2018, with her partner Pascal and her friend Maude, the Concept was relaunched under the name Concept C The office is located above the salon, and the inventory is in the basement (we ship from a 12 X 8 room ) As it became too small, we decided to open our first branch in Trois-Rivières in 2019 The shipping will also be located there in the backstore The pandemic hits, and the website explodes Sales quadruple and propel Concept C forward at full speed

For the first time, the team takes a step back to do strategic planning Our vision, mission, and values are now defined

We want to be accomplices so that every moment of life becomes a moment where I feel confident and comfortable in my own skin.

We want to make our client's lives easier in their quest to always find the best hair products and advice tailored to their needs in one place

From honesty to respect, through rigour, and above all humour, this is what we want Concept C to project

It is with this strategy that we decide to establish our headquarters and shipping center in the beautiful city of Quebec in October 2023

We are now able to accelerate the process and respond effectively to demand. From day 1, we knew that we wanted to open our next branch in Quebec. People love online shopping, but nothing compares to be able to come and experience it. Testing irons and products, smelling the scents. By answering our missions, our second branch opened its doors in July 2023.

TikTok has emerged as a powerful platform for brand building and community engagement. How does Concept C utilize TikTok to raise brand awareness and what impact has your content creation strategy had on the business? How do you maintain authenticity while reaching a wide audience on such a dynamic platform?

Authenticity has always been what sets us apart on social media. TikTok is a platform that demands even more authenticity Real things are said, and there's no beating around the bush! We are creators of our own company, and we are not paid to talk about products We genuinely speak about what we want and like We enjoy being free birds

Being on TikTok is a must for a business, and it has allowed us to renew ourselves, step out of our comfort zone, and reach a new clientele


Engaging with your audience on social media platforms, particularly TikTok, has been a significant part of your strategy. What has been your experience with consumers and your community on these platforms?

Advising and conversing with our customers has always been at the core of our priorities We wanted our customers to receive the same personalized service as they would in-store

We tackle the most sensitive subject head-on: money We have a desire to respect everyone ' s budget and ensure they purchase what is necessary for their kit That's why we create content like 'Petite vs Grosse Sacoche' and 'Dupes'

This allows us to be closer to them and better meet their needs and requests We see the impact during events at our branches; they come in large numbers and are happy to meet us!

With the importance of Francophonie Month highlighted in your content creation, how do you approach celebrating this community through your business and social media channels? What does creating content for the Francophone community mean to you and how has it shaped Concept C’s identity?

We are Francophones, for us it was essential to create a strong sense of community and belonging in Quebec before breaking into the English-speaking market. These are our roots and we are proud of them

Reflecting on your journey and the lessons learned, what future opportunities do you see for Concept C? Additionally, with the upcoming launch of your loyalty program, how do you envision enhancing customer experience and engagement?

Are there any other innovations or expansions on the horizon?

there are no limits We always aimed high A pt C product line? New hes? We are considering ssibilities.

dition to the loyalty am, we are working to ize the web experience t it is as simple, fast, ficient as possible. her it's for navigation, s, or customer service. ImageCourtesy:ConceptC

Women Empowerment

From Outdoor Retail to eCommerce Revolution:

Founder at eCommerce Canada

David Nagy, in his interview with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine, illuminates the journey and motivation behind founding eCommerce Canada With a rich background in digital commerce and a track record of success with, David leveraged his extensive experience to create a platform aimed at empowering small to medium-sized businesses to excel online. His transition from environmental consulting to developing a pioneering Environmental Management Software solution, shaped by his expertise in ecotoxicology and chemistry, highlights a visionary approach to tackling environmental compliance Through eCommerce Canada, David has been instrumental in translating complex strategies into actionable insights, helping businesses navigate the digital landscape with greater ease and impact His story is a testament to the power of adaptability, keen market observation, and a relentless drive to provide value, setting a remarkable example for entrepreneurs aiming to make a significant impact in the digital and eCommerce domains

David Nagy founded eCommerce Canada with a clear objective – to empower small and medium-sized businesses in Canada to thrive online. With over 15 years of hands-on experience, David’s entrepreneurial prowess reached its peak with, cofounded in 2009, ascending swiftly to become one of Canada’s fastest-growing businesses by 2012. His diverse project portfolio includes notable collaborations with entities like Virgin Mobile, HBO Comedy, General Motors, Rocky Mountain Soap Company, Livify, and more

David’s adaptability and keen observation skills shine through as he translates best-in-class strategies into a practical playbook providing businesses with the tools they need to navigate the digital landscape Beyond business, David seamlessly transitions into roles as a mentor, consultant, thought leader, and keynote speaker for esteemed organizations like Canada Post and Global Affairs Canada. His passion lies in collaborating with fellow entrepreneurs who are dedicated to pushing boundaries.


David, from co-founding, which became one of Canada's fastest-growing businesses, to founding eCommerce Canada, you ' ve had a significant impact on the digital and eCommerce landscape. Could you share the key lessons learned during your journey and how they shaped your vision for eCommerce Canada?

Thank you for giving me the chance to reflect on my journey and the invaluable lessons I've learned along the way From co-founding LiveOutThere com to leading eCommerce Canada, each step has been a profound learning experience that has shaped my approach to entrepreneurship

One lesson that has truly resonated with me is the importance of differentiation The market is ever-changing, and standing out is crucial There's often a misconception that sheer passion and hard work alone will guarantee success. However, true differentiation requires a deeper understanding of the market landscape and a willingness to pivot and evolve in response to feedback I've seen firsthand how understanding customers' unique needs and adapting accordingly can make all the difference For instance, at LiveOutThere com, we didn't just offer outdoor gear; we curated products and experiences tailored to our customers' lifestyles, setting us apart from competitors At eCommerce Canada, we emphasize the need for our clients to carve out their unique value propositions and continuously innovate to stay ahead of the curve

Another key lesson has been the significance of understanding capital management in navigating the challenges of scaling a business As I've experienced firsthand, effective capital management is not just about balancing the books; it's about making strategic decisions that fuel growth while mitigating risks It's about knowing when to invest in technology, marketing, or talent acquisition and when to exercise restraint

Lastly, effective communication and delegation, fundamental to leadership, profoundly resonate with me. I've learned that recognizing my limitations and trusting others to handle specific tasks is not a sign of weakness but strength. At eCommerce Canada, we prioritize open communication channels and empower our team members to take ownership of their roles. So, my advice for business owners is to examine their strengths and weaknesses, know when to ask for help, and learn to delegate tasks effectively because you can’t do it all alone.

What do you believe are the most common challenges eCommerce entrepreneurs face today, and how does eCommerce Canada support them in overcoming these challenges?

Running an ecommerce business is tough You're bombarded with information from all directions, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed. One of the most common hurdles entrepreneurs encounter is the inability to prioritize effectively There's this constant fear of missing out on the latest trend or feeling like you ' re not doing enough, so it's easy to lose sight of what truly matters This can lead to a lack of familiarity with critical metrics, such as profit margins and customer acquisition costs, which hinder informed decisionmaking

ImageCourtesy:Canva eCommerce

To address this challenge, we take a holistic approach We empower entrepreneurs to cut through the noise and focus on what truly drives profitability We emphasize the importance of understanding key metrics and distinguishing between good and bad practices By providing entrepreneurs with the tools and guidance to analyze their data effectively, we enable them to make informed decisions that align with their business goals.

Another significant challenge entrepreneurs face is the intense competition in the digital marketplace. With a low barrier to entry, it's harder than ever to stand out and capture consumers ' attention. As mentioned, differentiation is key to success in such a crowded landscape. At eCommerce Canada, we work closely with entrepreneurs to help them define their vision, purpose, and target audience. By fostering an authentic offering that resonates with consumers and aligns with their values, we help entrepreneurs carve out their niche and build a loyal customer base.

Additionally, we recognize the importance of communitybuilding and remarketing strategies in fostering customer loyalty and advocacy Consumers today are increasingly committed to purchasing from brands that align with their values Entrepreneurs can strengthen their brand identity and drive long-term success by cultivating a strong community around their brand and engaging in meaningful dialogue with customers

At eCommerce Canada, we support entrepreneurs in overcoming these challenges by providing them with the tools, guidance, and resources they need to succeed in the digital marketplace

eCommerce Canada aims to support the growth of Canadian eCommerce businesses, which generate over $100B in sales annually. Can you elaborate on the specific tools, advice, and services eCommerce Canada provides to foster this ecosystem and help entrepreneurs thrive?

Running an ecommerce business in Canada is like embarking on a wild adventure –thrilling, but often overwhelming At eCommerce Canada, we ' re here to be your trusted guides, helping you navigate the twists and turns of the digital landscape and reach new heights of success

So, what do we bring to the table? Well, picture this: you ' re gearing up for a mountain climb Before you even think about reaching the summit, you need to know where you ' re starting from and where you want to go That's where our business health check comes in We roll up our sleeves and get to work, digging deep to understand your current state, your market position, and your audience We want to know what makes you tick, what sets you apart, and where you want to go from here.

We're not in the business of one-size-fits-all solutions We believe in customizing our approach to fit your unique needs and goals Just like a good doctor wouldn't prescribe the same treatment to every patient, we don't believe in cookie-cutter strategies We take the time to diagnose your business's strengths and weaknesses, so we can craft a roadmap tailored specifically to you

Now, let's talk tools Sure, tools are important, but they're just the means to an end It's like having a fancy climbing harness – it's useless if you don't know how to use it Thats why we focus on equipping you with the right tools for the job, whether it's analytics software, marketing platforms, or customer relationship management systems But we don't stop there We empower you to wield these tools effectively to confidently scale new heights.

ImageCourtesy:Canva eCommerce

And remember, success in ecommerce isn't just about reaching the summit – its about enjoying the journey along the way Whether you ' re aiming to build a legacy or looking for short-term gains, we'll be by your side every step of the way, cheering you on and helping you navigate the switchbacks of entrepreneurship

In a market where many feel overshadowed by global giants, how does eCommerce Canada empower local businesses to carve out their niche and become profitable?

In today's market, it's easy for local businesses to feel overshadowed by global giants. At eCommerce Canada, we ' re committed to helping these businesses stand out and succeed.

At the heart of our approach lies the commitment to equipping businesses of all sizes with the tools, knowledge, and resources needed to succeed. We understand the significance of identifying key metrics and market dynamics to make informed decisions. Through competitive analysis and market education, we enable businesses to gain strategic insights into consumer behaviour, industry trends, and competitor strategies.

Our proprietary intelligence platform, Aperture, empowers businesses with actionable data Aperture provides access to comprehensive consumer and business data, offering invaluable insights into market demographics and consumer preferences With this wealth of information at their fingertips, businesses can refine their marketing efforts, target the right audience, and optimize their online presence

Additionally, we advocate for a localized approach to ecommerce, emphasizing the importance of thinking globally while acting locally Instead of trying to compete with big players on a global scale, we help our clients focus on their local community By understanding and catering to local needs and preferences, businesses can cultivate a loyal customer base and drive profitability

In essence, eCommerce Canada serves as a catalyst for local businesses, providing them with the tools, knowledge, and support necessary to thrive in a competitive market environment. Through our holistic approach to ecommerce, we empower businesses to harness their unique strengths, capitalize on market opportunities, and ultimately achieve sustainable growth and profitability

Given the competitive nature of eCommerce and your observation that often everyone except the business owner seems to be making money, what advice would you offer to aspiring eCommerce entrepreneurs looking to navigate this complex landscape successfully and keep more profits for themselves?

In the fiercely competitive world of ecommerce, it often feels like everyone is making money except for the business owner. However, there are ways for aspiring ecommerce entrepreneurs to navigate this complex landscape successfully and keep more profits for themselves

First and foremost, focus on saving money As a business owner, you have control over your costs, unlike fluctuations in revenue due to market shifts and competition So, be diligent about managing your expenses and avoid unnecessary spending

When it comes to marketing, be smart about where you invest your money Don't fall for influencer tricks or flashy trends that promise quick success Instead, focus on strategies that offer a solid return on investment and align with your business goals.

It's also essential to prioritize profitability before growth While it's tempting to expand quickly, especially in the fastpaced world of ecommerce, it's crucial to ensure that your business is making money before you scale up

Lastly, be prepared for opportunities when they arise Just like climbers waiting for the perfect conditions to summit Mount Everest, be ready to seize opportunities when the market aligns in your favour This means having a clear plan, adequate resources, and the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances


Solar Innovation for a Sustainable Future:

A Pioneering Perspective on Solaires Entreprises Inc.

A fundamental aspect of Solaires' guiding principles is a dedication to innovation, diversity, collaboration, and respect. By adopting an open and inclusive culture, the organization fosters an atmosphere conducive to the growth and development of varied talents, hence propelling the advancement of their innovative solar technology solutions

In the pursuit of a more environmentally friendly and enduring future, renewable energy emerges as a promising prospect. However, in order to achieve global climate objectives, there is a pressing need for a substantial acceleration in clean energy innovation Solaires Entreprises Inc is a prominent participant in this undertaking, pushing the boundaries of solar energy with innovative photovoltaic solutions

Solaires is a leading company in the field of solar technology, driven by its objective to enhance the accessibility of solar energy while simultaneously reducing the environmental impact on our world The organization's aim involves the creation of innovative and economically viable technological solutions to tackle significant deficiencies in solar energy collection, therefore driving global progress toward a more environmentally friendly and resilient future

ImageCourtesy:SolairesEntreprises 53- CanadianSME-April2024

Not only that, Solaires' base technology, Solar Ink™, is an innovative technique that utilizes perovskite solar cells This state-of-the-art technology has exceptional benefits, such as enhanced stability, increased adaptability, and improved cost-efficiency in comparison to traditional silicon solar cells. Solaires employs a manufacturing method that is both sustainable and scalable, therefore facilitating the widespread use of their perovskite technology and contributing to the development of a more sustainable energy environment. In the spring of 2023, Solaires launched their latest innovationphotovoltaic modules (PVModules) with their Solar InkTM as a key component Their PVModules are capable of harvesting wasted indoor light, in order to power battery-driven devices like wireless keyboards, smart door locks, IoT devices and more. With a high power indoor energy conversion efficiency of 35%, these modules have the capability of changing how consumers charge their devices, by eliminating the need for single use batteries “With the inauguration of our PVModules pilot line in December of 2023, we’re elated to start commercializing our technology geared towards mass production, so we can ensure a clean and equitable energy source for everyone”CEO & Co-Founder, Fabian de la Fuente.


Perovskites are regarded as the prospective advancements in solar technology, and Solaires takes pride in spearheading the integration of this revolutionary technology into the broader domain Solaires'PVModules not only expedite the rate of energy innovation but also establish a sustainable trajectory for the planet, leading to a cleaner and more radiant future What’s more, Solaires exemplifies the essence of innovation and cooperation, propelled by a heterogeneous and skilled group of scientists, engineers, and clean energy enthusiasts from all over the world Their commitment to developing the next generation of solar cells is driven by their combined experience and cultural diversity, establishing them as a pioneering force in the pursuit of a sustainable energy future

For more information, visit their website here.

The CanadianSME community consists of readers who have high regard for current enterprises and entrepreneurial initiatives. Entrepreneurs can remain connected and active with this group by following @canadian sme on X. Please click here to subscribe to CanadianSME magazine and stay up to date on all current business trends and developments

Small Business

Co-Founder of ERA Environmental Management Solutions



Gary Vegh, Co-Founder of ERA Environmental Management Solutions, Inc , shared his journey with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine from an initial environmental consulting firm to pioneering one of North America's first Environmental Management Software solutions Inspired by a deep-rooted family tradition of entrepreneurship and recognizing the burgeoning need for advanced environmental reporting mechanisms amidst stricter regulations, Gary, alongside Sarah Sajedi, ventured into developing a software solution aimed at simplifying environmental compliance for businesses. Their background in ecotoxicology and chemistry was instrumental in designing a software capable of addressing the intricate demands of environmental regulations and sustainability practices across various industries ERA's transition to a software-as-aservice model not only offered financial stability but also positioned the company as a significant player in environmental management, enabling businesses to navigate the complexities of compliance with unparalleled ease and efficiency This journey reflects a commitment to leveraging

technology for environmental sustainability, transforming how businesses interact with and report on their environmental impact.

Gary Vegh has over twenty-nine years of experience in the compliance and environmental sustainability fields, with expertise as a consultant, a software solution architect, and an entrepreneur He is a recognized speaker advising on sustainability and supply chain issues and advanced compliance strategies He works closely with environmental executives from the manufacturing industry and Fortune 500 companies to develop new tools and strategies to improve their environmental footprints, including cradle-to-cradle waste management, battery recycling, and parts provenance tracking He also oversees partnership projects with major international OEMs, particularly in the automotive industry, to help design environmental management solutions for new facilities and operations

Gary is currently a PhD candidate at Concordia University’s Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, holds a Master’s Degree in Environmental Toxicology from the same university, and is an active member of the Society of Toxicology, the American Coatings Association, the Chemical Institute of Canada, and the Supplier’s Partnership for the Environment.


Gary, could you share the story behind the inception of ERA Environmental Management Solutions? What inspired you and Sarah Sajedi to transition from environmental consulting to developing one of North America’s first Environmental Management Software solutions, and how did your background in ecotoxicology and chemistry shape this vision?

Sarah and I started ERA Environmental Consulting, Inc as a consulting firm working primarily with the wood furniture industry We quickly realized the business potential of a software solution when we were tasked with helping clients adjust to the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990, which introduced industry-specific regulations and required manufacturers to obtain operating permits, keep detailed records, and produce environmental reports in regular fashion We foresaw the difficulty EHS managers would have compiling large volumes of data (to satisfy these regulations) either manually or using Excel spreadsheets, so we began development on an environmental management system that could perform environmental accounting and reporting for them

Part of the motivation to transition to software as a service was also financial Due to the nature of consulting work, Sarah and I spent a lot of time chasing projects, even after wrapping up a successful collaboration with a satisfied client The work was not continuous With a software solution, we not only received an initial fee for the license but we were also guaranteed a recurring, annual payment from returning clients, part of which we allocated to improving the system We gained financial stability while clients benefitted from being able to carry over their data from previous years and from new capabilities and platform upgrades implemented free of charge, as we have never versioned our software. A win-win scenario.

My background was most pertinent to our vision for ERA as software in that it helped us branch out of our industry niche Chemistry, for the most part, builds up from the molecular level We applied this concept to our software design by operating at the smallest increment, meaning we could service any manufacturer as long as they worked with chemicals, regardless of whether they were producing home furniture, ships, medicine tablets, etc Moreover, my knowledge of ecotoxicology covered the methods that regulatory agencies, such as the EPA, were using to study wildlife interaction with pollutants and how these could affect human health and natural environments This knowledge gave me a good understanding of the motivation behind certain environmental regulations and the options available to manufacturers wishing to abide by them

With decades of experience consulting for the automotive industry on environmental sustainability, how have you seen the industry's approach to environmental management evolve?

I remember attending a Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) meeting in Mexico City back in 2014 where Steve Devito, the Chief of the TRI’s Data Quality and Analysis Branch, used the automotive sector as an example of sustainability done right. Production volumes had increased in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, but the industry’s net emissions had started to level off, and even decrease, as a result of the industry’s newly implemented sustainable practices pollution prevention, waste minimization, chemical replacement, etc This presentation was one of the many instances over the last 20 years where I have seen the industry evolve in the right direction Automakers are increasingly proactive in reducing pollutant releases and managing waste, not only in their products, but also across processes in their production lines They are finding new ways to recover solvents from their painting and coating operations, recouping excess metal parts for their suppliers to reprocess, and switching to more reusable containers (called totes), and these are just a few examples Some manufacturers are also extending their commitment to sustainability and environmental management to their entire supply chains by passing on rigorous product and sourcing standards to their suppliers, sometimes willingly, rather than motivated by governmental regulation

ImageCourtesy:Canva Small Business

Now that the automotive sector is switching from internal combustion engines (ICE) to electric vehicles (EVs), that proactive outlook is targeting the critical minerals present in EV batteries The industry’s biggest players, in conjunction with the US and Canadian governments, are prioritizing local (i e North American) and sustainable sourcing that diminishes the impact of mining these minerals on the environment and places stringent requirements on suppliers to, among other important objectives, completely avoid the use of conflict minerals.

Being awarded the Shining Star Award by the Suppliers Partnership for the Environment in 2021 highlights your significant contributions to advancing environmental sustainability. Can you discuss some of the initiatives you’ve led or supported that you ' re most proud of, and how they’ve impacted the industry?

The recognition I received from the Suppliers Partnership (SP) was partly motivated by my constant presence and participation in quarterly meetings and thematic discussion groups One of these was the “Responsible Battery Work Group”, which promotes information exchange on EV batteries, end-of-life (EOL) management, and the electrification of the automotive industry. I brought ERAs knowledge of EV battery chemistry and traceability to the table, which I believe contributed to SP members’ positive reception to a circular economy discussion Given the volume of chemicals and minerals required to produce the tens of millions of EVs automakers plan to produce in the coming years, a circular economy system is crucial to the reuse of chemicals in new batteries and the reduction of chemical contamination in the surrounding environment Such a system would only be possible through the implementation of a battery passport that documents the movement of the battery and its components along the supply chain This is where ERA’s expertise shone and where I find myself doing a lot of important work, both in the creation of a traceability software solution at work and in the development of a local and sustainable battery production framework at school (PhD at Concordia University’s Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering).

I am also proud of the good work Sarah Sajedi, John Bradburn, the ERA team, and I have done to further the reuse of waste materials, particularly in packaging. We have devoted an ample amount of time to creating case studies aimed at finding waste another home, guided by the tenet that “waste is just another form of material that is out of place”. Our hope is suppliers refer to these waste minimization documents prior to shipping products to automotive companies; while the shift to reusable containers is a great step in the right direction, there is still a lot of work to be done in mitigating packaging waste

Since ERA began servicing the automotive industry and expanding into other sectors, how has the company’s software evolved to meet the growing and changing needs of environmental sustainability and compliance?

At ERA, we have been hard at work improving our sustainability module and compliance reports Originally, clients approached sustainability as a sort of black box, not knowing where to start or where to draw the line They were overwhelmed by the fact that sustainability touches so many facets of their businesses and, depending on the manufacturer, carries over to their suppliers and employees, over which they exert little control Their approach entailed compiling any data they had immediate access to (usually Scope 1 emissions) and preparing databacked Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) reports for shareholders and regulators Now, sustainability has evolved to encompass a far greater quantity and variety of requirements, from third-party audits to supporting documentation (for example,

Small Business

a certification attesting to a critical mineral’s responsible sourcing) We designed our new model to align with this trend, emphasizing environmental accounting, collecting data on various sustainability metrics (Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, utilities, renewable energy credits, etc ), and building reporting functionalities for external organizations, such as the CDP We give our users a clear starting point while allowing for the flexibility to adapt to their specific requirements

This way, we have assisted automakers in the pursuit of their high-level sustainability goals (such as reaching net zero emissions and waste) for some time, and working with them has actually brought us into other sectors implementing sustainability initiatives, such as aviation Our aim is to create a sustainability model that applies across the board to other industries, which have their own compliance needs

Looking to the future, how do you envision the role of technology and software like ERA’s in advancing environmental management and sustainability practices?

The sustainability management of the future will require software that can be used in conjunction with Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (to manage that data) Moving the boundary line beyond the factory to include suppliers transforms what has traditionally been considered a “supply chain” into a “supply web”, drastically increasing the quantity of data and the need for accountability Manufacturers will likely turn to software providers who can collect data across the entire web as fast and accurately as possible, maybe even in real-time (at the factory level) Producing reports that point to sustainability issues with certainty, from a leak skewing overall water consumption to a lack of clarity about a mineral’s source, will also be a priority

As automakers become more and more proactive, client and supplier buy-in spreads along the supply web, and the demand for advanced software tools grows over time, it is my hope that ERA will have a more important role to play in the software technology industry

Gary, drawing from your vast experience in environmental sustainability and entrepreneurship, what advice would you offer to aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking to make a significant impact in the environmental sector?

I believe the first step for entrepreneurs looking to become active members of the environmental and sustainability industry should be to learn about the specific area or field they are interested in working in (for example, the EHS software) Beyond knowing how the sector operates, this preliminary research provides better insight into the challenges it is faced with, the roadblocks that can happen along the way, and, therefore, the opportunities for improvement Study what has been done before and talk to industry experts about what is being

done now, on a day-to-day basis; this exercise will give you plenty of ideas as to what is possible in the future in some cases, the answer is right there! One case in point is how some of the first vehicles (stagecoaches) were battery powered or hybrids, but the infrastructure was not there to support them, unlike with oil and gas; we are coming full-circle in the 21st century, electrifying the auto sector and thinking of ways to distribute this development throughout the entire supply web, doing our best to avoid the “chicken and egg ” problem electric vehicles encountered in the past The same can be said for single use plastic water bottles, considering the big push to replace them with reusable and glass containers, which actually predate plastic by centuries

Another piece of advice I would give young entrepreneurs is to remember that sometimes the “solution” to a personal or industry problem can be quite simple, and that straightforward changes can also have a huge environmental impact. Don’t shy away from pursuing an idea you worry might be “too small”.
Small Business

Unwrapit: Transforming Corporate Gifting

As the realm of corporate gifting evolves with changing times and technology, where tangible gifts typically take center stage, one gift company is revolutionizing the status quo by incorporating sustainability into its approach Unwrapit fully embraces the belief that there is no alternative to our planet and understands the importance of combining gift-giving with environmental consciousness

The corporate gifting market, with a valuation of almost $250 billion and a consistent growth trajectory, has traditionally been dependent on tangible products However, Unwrapit disrupts this conventional approach by providing a customized digital gifting experience that promotes brand interaction while minimizing waste and emissions linked to traditional gift-giving methods

Evidently, sustainability is at the core of Unwrapit's goal, as shown by its participation in 1% for the Planet and B Corporation accreditation The company demonstrates leadership by integrating sustainable practices into its operations, therefore promoting the adoption of circular solutions and environmentally aware procedures

Beyond empty words, Unwrapit has made environmentalism an integral part of their offering They enable businesses in Canada to easily link their gifting strategy with their environmental ideals by supporting digital and experiential gift-giving Unwrapit offers companies the opportunity to bypass the traditional method of acquiring tangible presents, resulting in a decrease in emissions associated with manufacturing, packaging, and shipping


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"We're proud to offer this unique alternative to traditional gifting and incentives This is an industry that's stuck to a "tried and true" approach for many years and we see from the success of our campaigns that recipients are ready for a new way Gifting is time-consuming and difficult. We make it seamless for our customers and our commitment to sustainability is evident throughout our business model and the product itself We are always thrilled when we hear the end recipients in a gift campaign see the value in this approach, enjoying their gift and the more sustainably minded way it was given "Linsay Moran, Co-Founder

However, the implementation of sustainable practices has encountered several obstacles Although Unwrapit maintains a strong dedication to sustainability, convincing others in the business realm to adopt change may be challenging Moreover, they demonstrate resilience by acknowledging the need for education and advocacy to promote a transition towards more environmentally friendly activities As Unwrapit expands, its influence extends to several sectors, encouraging stronger relationships between companies and their stakeholders Through the provision of a platform that places emphasis on sustainability and innovation, they not only contribute to the advancement of environmental consciousness but also enable companies to effectuate measurable change

What’s more, Unwrapit provides significant insights for small businesses that want to incorporate sustainability into their operations. Businesses can lay the road for long-term change by partnering with existing sustainable groups and incorporating sustainability into their corporate culture from the start. Check out their website for a detailed insight into their operations; click here.

The CanadianSME community consists of readers who have high regard for current enterprises and entrepreneurial initiatives Entrepreneurs can remain connected and active with this group by following @canadian sme on X Please click here to subscribe to CanadianSME magazine and stay up to date on all current business trends and developments

Small Business


Founder and CEO of greenre™

Keith Loiselle, in his enlightening interview with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine, delves into the origins and aspirations behind greenre™, illustrating his and his cofounder's journey from environmental consulting to innovating in the ecoconscious consumer products space. Drawing from over two decades of experience in consumer products, branding, marketing, and licensing, Keith's transition into developing greenre™ was fueled by a keen sense of environmental responsibility and a desire to make a tangible impact His approach, deeply influenced by his expertise in sustainability and supply chain management, aimed to introduce products that significantly lessen environmental burdens through innovative use of recycled materials, bio-fibers, and biopolymers, striving towards the goals of a circular economy Keith's passion for not just creating ecofriendly products but also engaging

FromConsultingtoEco-Innovation: Thegreenre™Storyby Keith Loiselle

in meaningful collaborations with organizations like the Arbor Day Foundation and the United Nations showcases his commitment to fostering a global change Through partnerships with industry giants such as Mattel and Marvel, greenre™ sets an exemplary model of how licensing collaborations can align with and amplify sustainability objectives, setting a new standard for environmentally responsible consumer products

Keith Loiselle, a resilient entrepreneur and founder of greenre Brand, is dedicated to crafting eco-conscious consumer products through both our private brand and partnerships with leading entertainment licensors such as Mattel, Marvel, Lucas Films, and Warner Bros Drawing on over 20 years of experience in consumer products, branding, marketing, and licensing, Keith has honed his expertise in sustainability, innovation, supply chain management, and P&L oversight. His overarching mission is to design and manufacture environmentally friendly products that alleviate environmental pressures, employing recycled materials, bio-fibers, natural resources, and cutting-edge biopolymers while championing circular economy objectives. As a social enterprise, greenre Brand collaborates with esteemed organizations like the Arbor Day Foundation, the United Nations, and Products of Change, participating in tree planting initiatives, raising awareness, and fostering positive change. Keith is deeply passionate about delivering exceptional products, building impactful brands, and creating memorable experiences that not only delight consumers but also contribute to the well-being of the planet

In his role as CEO of greenre™, a Canadian-based environmentally conscious consumer products company, Keith Loiselle leads the charge in producing licensed and proprietary branded products with a steadfast commitment to sustainability Under Keith's guidance, greenre™ specializes in crafting coloring and activity materials, stationery, and more, catering to diverse age groups while prioritizing environmental stewardship Keith's leadership is characterized by a dedication to incorporating recycled materials, bio-fibers, and eco-alternatives into greenre ' s product lines Beyond product innovation, Keith spearheads collaborative initiatives with global organizations like the United Nations, exemplified by greenre ' s participation in the Climate Ambition Accelerator Program. Through strategic partnerships with renowned brands such as Disney and Marvel, Keith endeavors to advance sustainable practices and foster positive change within the consumer products industry.

Keith, could you share the story behind your decision to found greenre™ and what motivated you to focus specifically on eco-conscious consumer products?

Certainly, after coming back into manufacturing in the North American market, I really wanted to explore doing a true green line within our product ranges I had spent a decade manufacturing previously with Disney, Marvel, Nickelodeon and other major brands, bringing in globally shipping containers of millions upon millions of units of products

Having children now, I could see the waste and not unsee it I attended the Zero Waste Summit in British Columbia and virtually attended the Walmart Sustainability Summit just weeks after that What I had noticed was that not only was our green products line great, but we were having the same discussions, challenges, and insights as those presenting at the events These were environmental academics and those in sustainability at PepsiCo for example

In a lot of ways, as it pertains to our product, we were far out front in research, commercialization, and new iterations At that point, I had a meeting with our team, shareholders, and board and stated we are now just greenre™ It is not a line; it is our true brand going forward for all our products and operations Frankly, I was scared to do it, and I felt it was right in all my being.

With over 20 years of experience in consumer products, branding, marketing, and licensing, how did you identify sustainability as the cornerstone of your business? Your partnerships with leading entertainment licensors like Mattel, Marvel, Lucas Films, and Warner Bros are quite remarkable. How do these collaborations contribute to greenre ' s mission of producing environmentally friendly products, and how do you ensure these partnerships align with your sustainability goals?

Thank you It hasn’t been a balance We needed to ensure we were able to communicate on our products our mission, environmental value, and proper claims With our bottom-up approach to sustainability in making environmentally conscious decisions to minimize planetary pressures, we needed to be transparent in our goals The goals are that we prioritize and strive to do better today and tomorrow Our products are not perfect and change needs to happen over time with a growing understanding of what is the best path forward on a wide range of components Frankly, that path may change and outside of selling plants with the roots between your fingers, no consumer products can be ideal in these consumer categories Having said that, our product is far advanced and leading in our space environmentally Having our major studios partners give us the right to have substantial cobranding, has allowed us to have strong messaging to this effect.


On the front of collaboration, we have had the pleasure to work with for example Walt Disney and have real discussions for approaches for consumer goods at turning points in their organizations sustainable journey. Early in 2021 we worked with Christian Del Maestro the Senior Manager, Environmental Sustainability He had just created the first Walt Disney Company Product Sustainability Goals Tool Kit for partner manufacturers Soon after they hired Yalmaz Siddiqui as VP of Global Sustainability for the Walt Disney organization. We were excited engage him and we also were able to echo our efforts, mission and share trade details on our commercialization rollout in first to market efforts This integral timing strengthened our resolve in our rollouts on ongoing integrations of production and innovations to our product lines

What were the challenges and opportunities you ' ve encountered in sourcing and utilizing recycled materials, and how they have influenced your product design and development process?

As we had officially opened our office doors in March 2020, Covid had created seemingly insurmountable challenges in our business and sustainable journey The continued related ripples have been far-reaching from closures, essentials only, container costs, dismantled supply chain, port strikes and the ongoing macroeconomic issues This has created resilience amongst our organization

Despite this we have been able to innovate, nationally and internationally commercialize and advance several iterations of our eco-products and build quality ranges Supply of recycled materials at 100%, have been tight at times and created delays in some orders The materials themselves at these recycled levels need different manufacturing treatments to achieve the expected result consumers are used to with virgin materials. Early versions of our products had seen some shape and strength differences that today we are seeing superior results.

Understanding all the sources, quality, and component direction our company wants to take with our bottom-up approach to the environmental consciousness, had been fruitful under the mentioned strains Capitalization with growth investment has been limited since the decline of fund allocation in the investment markets since Q4 2021 This has left gaps in our own ambitions to allocate consistent resources to areas of furthering growth Primarily in specific areas of post-consumer material innovation, scientific biopolymers internal research and fast-tracking refined carbon scope accounting among other areas of sustainable interests

In collaborating with organizations like the Arbor Day Foundation, the United Nations, and Products of Change, which initiatives are you most proud of, and how have they expanded greenre™'s environmental impact?

I think we have made great partnership decisions early in the company. Arbor Day Foundation is a founding reforestation organization dating back 1972 and is the oldest and largest tree planting organization globally Most other organizations roll-up to them in one way or another This is essentially working directly, and our efforts have been able to allow for focus on our carbon goals and our circular allocation to specific trees used in our products

ImageCourtesy:greenre™ Entrepreneurship

The United Nations has been a special relationship We not only became a member of the United Nations Compact but we were invited to participate in the cohort of the United Nations Climate Ambitions Accelerator Program. This 6month program had other members of our group like retailer Canada Goose and Nav Canada It was a great feeling seeing our figures fall into place and discussing with prestigious groups are similar journeys

One proud takeaway for us was seeing how we were calculating our raw materials. The figures were exciting because for the most our raw product and packaging make-up was 100% recycled The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) databases at the time was limited in the information we needed to pull greenhouse gas accounting requirements. Essentially in our product, we were doing something new, and the data needed was not there to pull from. We had to find a work around and really allowed us to sense our secret sauce and as a business solving real problems in our niche

What advice would you offer to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to make a positive environmental impact through their businesses?

I have said this before in other settings and it may seem to fall flat as being inspirational It is plainly to try and be authentic about what and how you are trying If you try today and have this mindset of always trying, you will start to see paths to further your success in your environmental journey Have your staff share in this mine set, and you will see the shaping opportunities if they are on your checklists to consider, and it will compound Economics is very important, and it is better to have "trying" environmentally conscious successful businesses rather than business "trying" and financially failing

Worry not too much about being perfect It is about not being careless Like you would in your own home You would not throw garbage on your living floor A lot of perfection has gone into plans that have backfired Layer on new things, adopt new processes and assimilate consideration for the planet Available alternative options are becoming more readily available at matching pricing for lots of supplies, products, or services.

ImageCourtesy:greenre™ Entrepreneurship


The paths of Lesley Hampton, a fashion designer, and Mallory Yawnghwe, the visionary founder and CEO of Indigenous Box, intersect in a unique fusion of cultural influence and entrepreneurial prowess These influential Indigenous women carry with them a vigor that transcends the realms of commerce and couture; they embody a profound mode of cultural narration and conservation.

In the chilly November of 2023, they convened in Winnipeg, Manitoba, during a TikTok Accelerator for Indigenous Creators gathering Hampton, actively engaged in the initiative, and Yawnghwe, who steered a compelling panel on the resonance of Indigenous storytelling and TikToks role in dismantling media barriers for Indigenous voices

The stories of Hampton and Yawnghwe symbolize a larger shift among Indigenous entrepreneurs and creators who are seizing control of their stories and carving out a definition of triumph on their own terms They’re dismantling archaic stereotypes, opening new doors, and most vitally, lighting the way for their communities to envision and transgress limits

Hampton’s design ethos is a heartfelt ode to her Anishinaabe and Mohawk lineages, harmoniously woven with modern design principles Her global upbringing led to a profound reconnection with her Indigenous identity upon her return to Canadian soil at 18

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“My aim is to channel a constructive narrative through the medium of fashion,” shares Hampton. “This is channelled through my brand which champions mental health awareness, celebrates all body types, and insists on genuine Indigenous representation.”

Her dedication is mirrored in her diverse model selection, challenging the status quo of the fashion realm The impact is evident: her designs have graced the Golden Globes Red Carpet, made waves at Indigenous Fashion Week in Toronto and strutted the runways at London Fashion Week. She also brought her vision to the Toronto Raptors for their Indigenous Heritage Month Campaign, collaborating with fellow Indigenous creatives

Mallory Yawnghwe’s Indigenous Box is a beacon of Indigenous entrepreneurial spirit, merging commerce with cultural influence Situated near the Edmonton International Airport, Mallory aspires to transform Edmonton into a central hub for Indigenous businesses and supply networks, fuelling the broader Indigenous economic landscape

Reflecting a near $50 billion contribution to Canada’s GDP by Indigenous entities in 2020, as reported by Statistics Canada, Indigenous Box is an integral part of this economic fabric, linking over 300 Indigenous suppliers with clientele across 27 nations

“Our parcels find their way across the globe from homemade soaps to beads crafted in grandmothers’ living rooms, these artisanal works are showcased in boutiques from Paris to New Zealand,” Mallory emphasizes, underscoring the international footprint of Indigenous artisanship


Hampton and Yawnghwe’s endeavors reach far beyond their individual business accomplishments They are paving avenues for coming generations of Indigenous women, showcasing that it’s feasible to cherish one ’ s story while making substantial progress in contemporary society Their achievements offer a beacon of aspiration and a deep sense of pride for Indigenous communities, evidencing the potency of determination, imagination, and a profound bond with ancestral roots.

The strides that Lesley Hampton and Mallory Yawnghwe are making stand as a testament to the transformative power of business when interlaced with community, heritage, and inclusivity, rewriting stories and sculpting a more just future

Global Commerce

In his interview with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine, Vinayak Mahajan, the visionary CEO & Founder of GiftAFeeling Inc., delves into the pivotal moments and motivations behind founding his company Starting as a 17-year-old international student facing significant challenges, Vinayak's journey to the top echelons of the entrepreneurial world is marked by a blend of innovation, resilience, and a passion for making a difference His early triumph in the Master the Mainframe World Coding Championship and subsequent experiences at leading Canadian banks revealed the inefficiencies in corporate gifting, sparking the idea for GiftAFeeling Inc This venture, rooted in extensive research and a commitment to sustainability, aims to revolutionize the gifting industry by providing meaningful, researchbased gifts and promotional products. Today, GiftAFeeling Inc. stands as a testament to Vinayak's belief in solving real-world problems through innovation, boasting a stellar customer satisfaction rate and serving some of the biggest brands in Canada.

Vinayak Mahajan's

Solution to Corporate Gifting Woes

Vinayak moved to Canada as a 17-year-old international student; with a torn knee ligament; after missing a flight in Amsterdam; and with no friends or family in the entire country It was only 3 months into him learning computer science, which he was studying at Georgian College (Barrie), that he secured the 2nd position all over Canada and achieved top 20 global ranking in Master the Mainframe World Coding Championship This championship got him an opportunity to intern at the Royal Bank of Canada where he then accepted a full-time position While making it big in the tech industry for about 5 years, Vinayak founded The Shared Secrets Lab (TSSL) - a distinctive research lab focusing on gift-giving psychology in the corporate gifts, promotional items, and branded merchandise domain. Soon after, he also founded GiftAFeeling Inc. which within the first year of existence was nominated "Startup Business of the Year", while Vinayak was nominated "Young Entrepreneur of the Year" by CanadianSME National Business Awards.

Today, Vinayak is a TEDx Speaker, #1 Global Bestselling Author, Founder & CEO of GiftAFeeling Inc , and a highly recognized thought leader in the gifting industry around the world He has been published in Exceptional People Magazine, Business Digest Magazine, has been seen on CNBC, Wall Street Select, USA Today, LA Business Podcast, and has made live TV appearances on Ticker News

GiftAFeeling, now a leading Canadian multinational supplier of corporate gifts, promotional products, branded merchandise, and company swag, serves a global clientele in countries like Canada, USA, UK, Germany, Sweden, India, the Netherlands, and more. And The Shared Secrets Lab (TSSL), now a child company of GiftAFeeling, ranks as the world's #1 R&D lab in giftgiving psychology.


GiftAFeeling takes pride in its consistent 98%+ customer satisfaction rating, earned from serving thousands of clients, including prominent names like Amazon, Honda, Manulife, CBC, Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Maple Leafs, McDonalds, 8 of Canada’s top 10 universities including University of Toronto, SickKids, RBC, CIBC, KPMG, UHN (University Health Network), Hilton, Tim Tam, Telus, and many more.

Its distinction in the industry has also been recognized GiftAFeeling was named one of Canada’s top 5 e-commerce businesses

Vinayak, starting as a 17-year-old international student with significant challenges, to becoming the CEO & Founder of GiftAFeeling Inc., your journey is nothing short of remarkable. Securing the 2nd position in Canada and achieving a top 20 global ranking in the Master the Mainframe World Coding Championship was a significant early achievement for you. How did this experience and the subsequent internship at the Royal Bank of Canada influence your career path and decision to enter the entrepreneurial world?

This championship got me an opportunity to interview and later intern at RBC where I later accepted a full-time position; followed by working at TD Bank as an IT Innovation team lead During all these jobs, I observed gift-giving being a big part of a company ’ s culture Companies give gifts and promotional products to customers, employees, trade partners, etc for many reasons including building trust, and loyalty, attracting and retaining employees, rewards, and recognition on occasions like year-end parties, trade shows, and product launches It was a tech conference where I noticed people tossing out gifts, promotional products, and giveaways on their way out either in garbage bins or in the trunk of their cars The more I observed, the more I learned how big this problem was According to a study by PPAI, 63% of gifts and promotional products are given away, 23% are thrown away, and less than 10% acquire the desired results

More than $30B is wasted every year on unwanted gifts & giveaways Moreover, promotional products and corporate gifts together make a 75-billion-dollar industry in Canada and the USA Moreover, studies show that more than 20 billion dollars were wasted by individuals in 2021 in unwanted gifts This adds up to multiple billion dollars that these companies waste in poor gifts Furthermore, research has proven that poor gifts can hurt relationships; thus, they’re still failing their purpose ultimately This was my inspiration to find a solution to help both individuals and organizations find the perfect gifts - not only to help them build stronger relationships but also to help save the environment by decreasing landfill I worked with researchers, and professors, SME’s, and founded The Shared Secrets Lab to simply educating individuals and organizations in gift-giving via blogs, publications, podcasts, etc,. And soon, we grew to become the #1 R&D lab in the world in gifts and giveaways research

Finally, with the feedback from our audience, blog readers, and clients, I founded GiftAFeeling Inc , an e-commerce platform where both individuals and organizations can purchase researchbased gifts and promotional giveaway products Today, we have worked with over 10,000 customers in Canada, including individuals looking for gifts for their family and some of the biggest brands like Honda, Tim Tam, Toronto Blue Jays, CIBC, Telus, University of Toronto, etc , who have bought their promotional products and corporate gifts from us With the gifting recommendations based on research performed in our Shared Secrets Lab, now a child company of GiftAFeeling Inc., we have accomplished an impressive success rate of 98.44% customer satisfaction in the industry. Moreover, in the supply chain business line, GiftAFeeling Inc was also a one-of-a-kind promotional products supplier company in Canada that fulfilled bulk promotional products orders within 24 hours!


Could you share the pivotal moments that propelled you from a computer science student to a leading entrepreneur in the gifting industry?

After completely being submerged in the organized and structured world of technology working at RBC and TD banks, switching to entrepreneurship was a slow process I always believed in getting my basics right, similar to how I strengthened my coding skills when I started; I needed a mindset shift to think like a businessperson Thus, my first step was reading books like - “Marketing Management by Phillip Kotler” “SPIN selling”, etc And then I just put the books aside and observed the world around me - how things are being marketed on billboards, banners, online, and on TV I also read case studies of brands, people who’ve done big in business, etc After doing this for a few months, one thing that really stuck with me is “solving problems - entrepreneurship is not about becoming a millionaire, but it’s about how you make people’s lives easier by providing them a practical solution to their biggest problems And I had done it before by solving problems using technology for the bank The challenge, however, was what problem to solve As I looked around, I constantly kept getting ideas of what I could turn into a problem-solving business So, I picked up a pen and paper and started to write about the biggest problems that I had faced in the past and if a third person could come and give a hand; that third person would be the service provider, the entrepreneur It was after a couple of days that I figured that the biggest challenge I had faced was choosing a gift for a retiree colleague when I worked for RBC And as I surfed the internet, I found two things - false perceptions and research papers There were many websites with no authenticity ranking on Google for keywords like - “Best gifts”, “Perfect gifts”, and “Top 10 gifts for mom, dad, brother, sister, friend, etc ” , and on the other hand, there were complex research papers from psychologists around the world However, there wasn’t any interlink - nothing to bridge these two extremes, the theory and the trustable practicality Also, as I was still working for the banks, I figured how big of a problem this was not only for individuals looking for gifts for friends and family but also for SMBs as well as large corporations So, we diversified our research from B2C to also do B2B research helping corporations find promotional products and corporate gifts that people would love and not toss out.

As a result, I decided to build this bridge and started looking for researchers and psychologists in the industry who were conducting research on gift-giving As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and everything switched online, I started to spare some time to research online and connect with some psychologists researching these topics Soon, a few psychologists and I gained some momentum and got to the root cause of this question“What to gift” Our goals were the same - solving this problem and helping people, so we started off educating people on these through various means including Zoom conferences, writing blogs as well as utilizing all social media platforms Although my other mates were fully focused on sharing just the content, I kept debating if we had really solved the problem Eventually, this is what everyone else has been doing - educating through blogs and then ordering from Amazon I had been through this before when buying a gift for a retiring colleague where there wasn’t any interface between the content consumption and the practical application Thus, I decided to create a platform to bridge this gap between learning and buying and this was the beginning of “The Shared Secrets Lab (TSSL)”. Finally, with the feedback from our audience, blog readers, and clients, I founded GiftAFeeling Inc , an e-commerce platform where both individuals and organizations can purchase research-based gifts and promotional giveaway products

GiftAFeeling prides itself on a 98%+ customer satisfaction rating and serving prominent clients worldwide. What key principles or strategies have you implemented in GiftAFeeling to achieve such high levels of customer satisfaction and recognition in the industry?

For companies dissatisfied with ordinary and vaguely branded promotional products and corporate gifts due to lack of expert advice, limited product selection, and poor imprinting options; GiftAFeeling brings unique branding solutions that help them stand out and build stronger relationships with their customers, trade partners, and employees We do this in three steps:

69- CanadianSME-April2024 Entrepreneurship

A) Firstly, what sets us apart is our strategic partnership with premier retail brands such as Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, Puma, Hugo Boss, Skull Candy, Bugatti, Swiss Force, North Face, Yeti, Contigo, Bubba, Thermos, Otterbox, Carhartt, Stanley, Carhartt, Cutter & Buck, Arctic Zone, Columbia, Field & Co, FlexFit, Camelbck, and more. This association and our vast inventory access to most of the top-tier retail brands means we can brand nearly any product you can envision at an affordable price

B) Secondly, we offer one of the biggest ranges of product options in the industry with more than 100,000+ products that our customers can pick and customize Moreover, GiftAFeeling takes pride in offering some of the most unique imprinting methods in the world which provide subtle and innovatively branded products Some of the imprinting methods we offer are Textured 3D Emblems, Metallic patches, 3D Subsurface Engraving, 3D PVC patches, Embroidered patches, Perma-TWILL & Texture-TWILL patches, Genuine as well as Faux Leather patches, Genuine as well as Faux Chenille patches, Domed Emblems, Beveled Emblems, embossing, debasing, laser engraving, sandblasting, laser etching, DIGIprint patches, UV DTF, VividPrint, Foil Stamping, Digital Print Inkjet, inFusion, HXD, HD360, Deep Etch with Colour Fills, Pad Printing, Screen Printing, Sublimation, DTG & DTF, Heat Appliqué, Twill, etc These creative capabilities have made us one of the leading Canadian multinational suppliers of corporate gifts, promotional products, branded merchandise, and company swag serving a global clientele, including countries like Canada, USA, UK, Germany, Sweden, India, Netherlands, and more

C) And lastly, our research lab, The Shared Secrets Lab which also ranks as the worlds #1 R&D lab in gift-giving psychology, focuses on corporate gifts, promotional items, and branded merchandise With research performed by industry thought leaders and experts in psychology (SMEs), TSSL helps organizations find products that people will keep and not toss out Thus, making sure that not only promotional campaigns get the desired visibility, impressions, and better brand recall, but also decrease the environmental footprint of these products along with saving organizations from spending a fortune!

Founding The Shared Secrets Lab (TSSL) before GiftAFeeling Inc. indicates a deep interest in giftgiving psychology. Can you share some groundbreaking insights or trends from TSSL’s research that have influenced the corporate gifts and promotional items industry?

Our most outstanding contribution to the industry and also what sets us apart, especially the promotional products and corporate gifts industry, is the practical application of all the research we have conducted in gift-giving psychology The Shared Secrets Lab (TSSL) consists of top psychologists, researchers, professors, thought leaders and subject matter experts (SME’s) from all around the globe doing deeper research in gift-giving psychology for both B2B and B2C domains Moreover, we have worked with top Canadian institutions like the University of Toronto, McMaster University, the University of British Columbia, the University of Western Ontario, etc to perform studies and research not only on psychology, but also on certain important demographics like geographical segmentation, ethnicity, language, age, gender, and many more, to learn and apply how gift-giving ideas vary in a different audience All this research, studies, surveys, psychological evaluations, results, and data is managed in our massive database of customer attributes which are used to train our Machine Learning and AI models. These models are used by our sales team using software on their desktop to recommend products to customers for their promotional giveaway or corporate gifts campaigns, based on their target audience’s location, gender, geographical area, etc For instance, based on research, we can recommend what a 20–25-year-old, 60% female and 40% male audience living in Vancouver and working in the Pharmacy industry would like as a gift or giveaway so that they actually love the product and use it for a longer time

In today's day and age, merely giving away promotional giveaways or gifts isn't enough As the majority of brands, including local and small businesses, are leaving their promotional merchandise and gifts in their consumer ' s offices and homes, it is becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to stay on top of their prospects minds In fact, the number of impressions a given-away product or a corporate gift used to get has dropped significantly in the last few years As a result, a majority of giveaway promotional products and gifts that are shared in Canada (worth 15 Billion dollars a year) and USA (worth 50 Billion dollars


a year) are disliked and end up in landfills, completely failing their purpose This is where our research helps individuals and organizations (our customers) not only increase the cost-efficiency of their promotional merchandise and corporate gifting campaigns but also helps them build stronger and longer relationships with their target audience. Not only do we make sure that our products get the desired visibility, impressions, and better brand recall value, but also decrease the environmental footprint of promotional products along with saving organizations from spending a fortune on these

Moreover, the AI software we have developed can be used by our competitors, trade partners, customers, etc to get ideas and give recommendations Today, these services are leveraged by more than 10,000 individuals and organizations in Canada And this is also one of the attributes that makes The Shared Secrets Lab, child company of GiftAFeeling Inc a global thought leader and the #1 global R&D company in gifts and promotional giveaways

With GiftAFeeling being named one of Canada’s top 5 e-commerce businesses and your recognition as a thought leader in the gifting industry, what advice would you offer to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to make their mark in this domain?

When it comes to e-commerce, merely having an ecommerce website is not enough in today’s day and age Things like automation, unmatchable customer support, using machine learning and AI to solve bigger problems, and cyber security become the new norms. Figuring out a way to differentiate your business model while providing the best value to your customers in a way that’s easiest for them is what I would say should be an entrepreneur’s most important job For instance, what makes our website different from the biggest industry leaders like 4imprint is our proprietary online product customization and personalization tool While on our competitors’ websites, the virtual proof of a customized product is emailed manually by their graphics team after the order is placed, GiftAFeeling allows customers from around the globe to customize, personalize, and preview the final customized product, all before placing the order

The personalization tool is adaptable enough to apply to any type of product The use of this software makes us to get orders for thousands of completely different shapes, sizes, colours, materials, and types of products all in one place

Moreover, for bulk orders, the integration of our website through our automated supply chain process lets us provide real-time inventory to our customers, such that the out-of-stock products or variants will automatically be hidden on the website until they are back in stock This is a major problem, especially in the promotional products industry as not all the suppliers keep inventory in large quantities of millions of different products For us, our ecommerce platform has real-time integrations with our suppliers all across Canada, not only for keeping product inventory but also for production times for different imprinting methods like screen-printing, sublimation, DTF, embroidery, patching, etc This allows us to display the most current production time for bulk custom orders on our website

Another major advantage of GiftAFeeling com being an e-commerce business VS the competitor’s brick-andmortar store is 24X7 availability Our customer support is active 24X7 with increased staff during the holiday season to manage the high demand; whereas, our competitors stop taking orders in mid-November, going to such steep extents that they sometimes close the stores down due to the high workload of ongoing orders

A big portion of the promotional products and customized gifts market in the USA and Canada is shared by small local stores, a lot of which were on the verge of going out of business due to the COVID 19 pandemic. GiftAFeeling, a company that was bootstrapped during the pandemic, had partnered with these local vendors (and still continue to do so) to fulfill the orders, creating both business opportunities and employment GiftAFeeling’s highly scalable e-commerce business plan covers the entire Canadian market in terms of customer geographical area, but also automates the backend supply chain with these local vendors all across Canada creating a win-win-win situation for all A lot of these local businesses include family run businesses, sublimation and printing businesses, manufacturers of wooden products, etc, During the pandemic, we saved 4 such family run businesses including a personalized wood carving store in London, ON, from going out of business.

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