CanadianSME Small Business Magazine - June 2024 Edition

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Indigenous Entrepreneur of the Year

Empowering Canadian Small & Medium Businesses ISSUE NO. 67 JUNE 2024 AllImages,trademarks,servicemarksandlogosreferredtoorappearinginthismagazinearethepropertyoftheirrespectiveowners.
Founder and CEO, Cheekbone Beauty Cosmetics Inc Shippng Partner Bankng Partner Accountng SoftwarePartner Emal Partner Hospitaity Partner
Jenn Harper

Welcome to a flourishing new chapter as June unfurls its vibrant green canvas! At CanadianSME Small Business Magazine, we echo this seasonal rebirth with an edition bursting with fresh perspectives and innovative ideas. This month, we delve into the crucial realms of "Banking, Finance and Insurance" and "Diversity and Inclusion (Indigenous + LGBTQ)," weaving a narrative that reflects both the verdant growth outside our windows and the fertile developments within our pages.

Our June issue is packed with enlightening content designed to inspire and inform. Articles range from "Let’s Talk Carbon Accounting" by Tamara Somers, offering crucial insights into sustainability and ESG, to "Diversity and Inclusion is a Strategy, Not an Exercise," a must-read conversation with Mary Rusterholz of Constant Contact. Additionally, we delve into "Cloud Transparency: A Critical Path to SME Trust and Innovation" by Estelle Azemard and provide practical advice on "Succession Planning for Canadian Business Leaders."

This issue also features interviews with some of the most influential figures in business today, including Naoufel Testaouni of QueerTech, discussing "2SLGBTQIA+ Inclusion in Canadian Tech," and Véronique Dorval of BDC. We explore diverse topics such as the strategic partnership between Morgan Solar and Cisco, and insights from Microsoft Canada's Kree Govender on empowering SMBs with AI.

Highlighting our commitment to celebrating success, we feature Maidene Morris-Dixon, our Business Woman of the Month, and recap the exceptional winners of our CanadianSME Small Business Awards 2023.

Looking ahead, we are excited to host the fifth edition of the CanadianSME Small Business Show 2024, focusing on "Embracing Digital Transformation for Small Businesses." This event, scheduled for June 24, 2024, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, is a pivotal gathering for SMEs ready to navigate the digital transformation landscape. Register now at to be a part of this gathering.

We extend our deepest thanks to you, our dedicated readers, for your continuous support and participation. Your enthusiasm drives our mission to deliver enlightening, challenging, and celebratory content about Canadian entrepreneurship. Dive into this issue, engage with our diverse offerings, and ensure you subscribe at for more empowering stories.

Here's to a month filled with new beginnings, resilience, and limitless possibilities.

Warmest regards, SK

wwwcanadiansmeca info@canadiansmeca canadiansme

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Let’stalkcarbonaccounting-what itis,andwhyit’simportanttoyour business
Setting New Standards in Ticketing: Showpass’s Path with Lucas McCarthy 86 Enhancing Digital
The Experience of Calan Breckon 34 SellStatic: Imam Khalid's Vision for a New Era in Real Estate 36 Stephen Mercer’s Strategic Leadership at RJC Engineers 83 11


Diversity and Inclusion is a Strategy, Not an Exercise

A conversation with Mary Rusterholz

19 89 27 22

Véronique Dorval Discusses the Role of Digital Banking in Empowering Canadian SMEs


Lease, Loan or Cash?

Things to Consider When Acquiring New Equipment for your Business

Empowering SMBs with AI: Insights from Microsoft Canada's Kree Govender Cloud

And Innovation

Transparency: A Critical Path To SME Trust
The Top Banking Trends in the Canadian Financ Market for Small Businesses 32 25
Business Woman of the Month : Maidene Morris-Dixon
The Dynamic Partnership Morgan Solar and Cisco in Office Sustainability 40 92 2SLGBTQIA+ Inclusion in Canadian Tech: A Discussion with QueerTech’s Naoufel Testaouni

Let’stalkcarbon accounting-whatitis, andwhyit’simportant toyourbusiness

Understanding the environmental impact of your business is critical in today’s environment, not only as a result of government and regulatory mandates, but also given increased demand by consumers As such, businesses of all types and sizes need to get their emissions number in orderand carbon accounting is fundamental to success in that area

This is particularly true if you ’ re a small business that provides goods and services to a larger organization, many of whom have a magnifying glass on their entire business operations, ensuring every component of their supply chain is compliant with new requirements

Luckily, Xero is connected to a number of powerful carbon accounting apps that can help get businesses started on this journey. What used to be time-consuming and costprohibitive is now quick and affordable, and readily available to businesses of all kinds.

What is carbon accounting?

Carbon accounting is simply the process of assessing an organization’s overall impact on the environment by calculating its emissions of carbon-based greenhouse gases (GHGs); these emissions are calculated by multiplying business data (e g , employee travel data) by an “emissions factor”, or the average emissions generated by that activity The end result of this - when completed for a business' entire operation - will leave you with your carbon footprint, a term more commonly used

I m a g e C o u r t e s y : d e p o s i t p h o t o s c o m m a g e C o u r t e s y : X e r o 11- CanadianSME-June2024

Understanding your carbon footprint

Up until recently, carbon footprints had been calculated and recorded on large, complex spreadsheets that often left much to be desired - both from a productivity standpoint, as well as in regards to how they impacted behavior following But fortunately, we ’ re now seeing streamlined software solutions, such as Greenly and Sumday, managing this process from start to finish

Through this software solutions, and within your carbon footprint, emissions will be broken down and reported into three scopes:

Scope 1: Direct emissions that occur from sources owned or controlled by the company (e.g., driving a petrol vehicle, powering a diesel generator or operating a fuel-powered forklift).

Scope 2: Indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity.

Scope 3: Indirect emissions that occur as a result of your operations, that are generated by the goods and services in your supply chain (e.g., business flights, third-party delivery services, cloudhosting services or even employee commuting).

I m a g e C o u r t e s y : C a n v a 12- CanadianSME-June2024 Accounting

What methodologies should you align to?

Carbon accounting can certainly be considered complex, but thankfully, global standards have been developed to help ensure how businesses measure carbon emissions is consistent and comparable The most widely used global framework has been developed by the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol; they have developed a corporate standard that provides the methodology and process to follow

Why is this important to your business?

As you likely know, we ’ re seeing a shift towards a low-carbon economy. At its core, carbon accounting is an important step in even small business owners better understanding their business’s environmental impact; it also helps with transparency and communication thereafter, both of which have been put under a microscope in recent years In fact, a company ’ s carbon footprint is increasingly becoming a key indicato for external stakeholders that may be assessing your company as a potential customer, business partner or investor

The time to get ahead of this process is now, so that you not only future-proof your business, but also secure a place in the broader green (and growing) economy.

How can you start carbon accounting?

One of the easiest ways to get started is by using a carbon accounting app from the Xero App Store - these apps provide a secure way to connect to your Xero account, so you can analyze business data and calculate your carbon footprint efficiently Additionally, these apps offer guidance along the way to ensure a smooth way forward through the entire process

About the Author

Tamara is a seasoned ESG leader and changemaker, with global experience spanning multiple continents Tamara joined Xero in 2021 and as GM/VP Sustainability & Impact, she is responsible for managing, monitoring and reporting on Xero's sustainability performance, with a focus on approaching ESG matters through use of whole-of-business initiatives She’s passionate about embedding ESG in businesses as part of core strategy and organisational DNA Prior to joining Xero, Tamara worked in ESG reporting and strategy at Telstra and Glencore, was an Australian diplomat, and worked in strategy consulting with Bain Tamara holds the Competent Boards ESG Designation and a PhD in Arts from Monash University

ImageCourtesy:Canva 13- CanadianSME-June2024 Accounting

If you need to acquire some equipment to help run or grow your business, you have the option to lease, finance or buy it outright with cash But it’s not always clear which route to take An industry expert shares five considerations to help guide your decision

What is the nature of the equipment?

Whether you need industrial machinery for your shop floor or a multi-purpose photocopier for the office, equipment can be significant expense for your business

The decision to lease the equipment, finance a purchase through a loan or pay cash often comes down to the equipment itself. As you evaluate your acquisition, ask yourself:






15- CanadianSME-June2024

case can be made for leasing if you ect to want to trade in or replace the uipment in a few years – or you simply n’t need it down the road Also, leases can nerally be turned around very quickly, so good options should you need to act fast

e thing I never recommend is to use your erating line to buy equipment,” adds iano, who has seen many owners, who d to acquire equipment quickly, use their erating line of credit to pay for it “That erating line is there specifically as a king capital backup to help you grow your iness We can potentially turn a lease und in a matter of hours – so if speed is portant, you have that option ”

How is your cash flow?

“Inmanyinstances, particularlyintheoffice productsindustry,business ownersdon’twanttoownthe assetbecausethevalueisn’t there,”saysJoeSuriano,Vice President,VendorFinancial Services,CanadaatRCAP Leasing.“Andmore importantly,theirneedswithin thebusinessmightchange.If youbuyaphotocopier,for example,thatphotocopier mightnotfityourbusiness needsinfourtofiveyears.”

An important factor in your decision to lease or buy equipment is the amount of capital you have available –and how you need to use it to fund the operations of your business

“If you spend $500,000 buying a CNC machine that manufactures your key product, and you install that on the floor in your machine shop, that piece of equipment is not immediately generating $500,000 worth of value for your business – but you ’ ve outlaid half a million dollars’ worth of capital,” explains Suriano by way of example. “That is capital you could be injecting into your business for growth.”

Tip: Before deciding to lease, compare the total leasing cost with the total cost of financing the purchase price by way of a loan Remember to include the costs of any loan interest, insurance and taxes that you can expect to pay if you own the asset

This is where leasing becomes attractive, in that you can pay for a piece of equipment over the period of time in which it is adding value for your business The decision to lease or buy, Suriano explains, is “not about taking on too much debt or becoming overloaded in debt – it’s about being properly capitalized so that your assets are generating revenues and profits for your business over time ”


On the flip side, if your business is extremely cash-rich, it can be hard to justify the costs associated with financing “If a business generates surplus cash,” says Suriano, “I would advise a client they should pay cash, so long as they can still achieve all their business growth goals ”

Consider the economic environment

While Suriano would recommend cash-rich businesses use cash to pay for equipment they want to own, external factors – such as the economy and interest rates – could affect this position

“If we think about COVID, we were at historically low interest rates, to the point where it actually didn’t make sense for a cash rich business to pay cash They could park their cash in a guaranteed investment and make more money than what we were charging them from an interest rate perspective – so a lot of businesses did that ”

In today’s environment, where interest rates are not at historic lows –and in fact play a leading role in many business decisions – owners should adapt accordingly And, the type and rates available depend on the size of your business and the kind of asset you ’ re looking to acquire, in addition to your financial situation Understanding the interest rate environment and the economic trends can help owners decide how they want to pay for their acquisition

Tax implications

When it comes to choosing between a lease and a loan for your equipment, there are some tax and accounting implications to consider

For instance, loan repayments are not tax deductible, however the interest paid can be deducted from your taxable income for the period during which you hold the loan Lease payments, meanwhile, are fully tax deductible.

Foraccounting purposes,thereare additional considerations dependingonthe typeofleaseyou have.Ifdepreciation andamortization schedulesare importantfactorsin yourfinancing decision,it’sbestto consultwithan accountantto discussthemove that’srightforyou. ImageCourtesy:Canva Finance

Your business goals

Ultimately, Suriano advises that the decision to buy or lease equipment depends on the goals of your business. If you ’ re looking to grow or expand, for instance, money you may have earmarked for a capital purchase may be better used for other purposes

“Ihaveverydifferentadvicebasedonwhatanownerwantstodowiththeir business,”saysSuriano,notingthatmanybusinessowners,whenasked whattheirgoalsare,don’thaveaclearanswer.“Overmycareer,Ihave coachedalotofdifferentownerstofacethatquestion,becauseitguidesa lotofyourdecisions–notonlyfinancingequipment.”

Thecompanyownstheasset fromDay1

Thereistypicallyflexibility withrespecttotheloan contract Ie,canrepayearly, negotiateadifferentinterest rateoradjustamortization

Maybeeasiertosellthe assetearlierintheprocess shoulditnotmeet expectations

Moremoneyisrequiredup front–taxesmustbepaid attheoutset

Ownerisresponsiblefor maintenanceandrepair fees

Adownpaymentis typicallyrequired,tyingup cash Loancouldoutlivethelife oftheasset

How you will fund a new piece (or fleet) of equipment may change depending on the stage, financial health, and objectives of your business – which will undoubtedly evolve over time Suriano advises owners to keep up a regular dialogue with their advisor so they know what your needs are and can help you be proactive with an acquisition “When your advisor understands the broader scope of your business, they can help you make informed decisions about your purchase ”

It’s also important to keep your business plan up to date so you have a firm handle on all areas of your business, and can make decisions that best address your needs of today and tomorrow

Typicallyfastertosecure Lowermonthlypaymentis easieroncashflow management Usuallynomaintenanceand repairfees

Providestheopportunitytoput moremoneytowardsgrowth activities

Taxesarenotpaidupfront Easytoreplaceortradeinif theequipmenthasashortlife expectancyorregularupdates Nodownpaymentrequired


Lackofflexibilityinthe contract–payingitoffearly ormakinglumpsum paymentsnottypicallyan option

Notallsuppliersprovidea leaseoption(orallow leasingcompaniestodeal directlywiththem)

Oncesetup,ratesare typicallyfixed

TheequipmentIsnotthe propertyofthepurchaser untiltheyhaverepaidthe leaseinfull

Mustpayentireamount upfront,losingtheopportunity tousethesefundstowards othergrowthareas

Workoutthedifferent costofbuyingvsleasing newequipment

publishedonRBC’sMyMoney Mattersblog.

Makethebestdecision foryourbusiness
Buyorlease calculator Thisarticlewasoriginally

In today's interconnected world, diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) in the workplace are more important than ever It's not just good for individual employees it's also good for business

While it may seem difficult for small businesses to focus on DE&I, those who embrace it can be more competitive than other businesses Hiring from a wider pool of talent, and empowering employees to offer creative ideas can help foster an environment where everyone feels valued and supported. That typically leads to higher employee satisfaction and retention, and a more successful business.

We caught up with Mary Rusterholz, Chief People Officer at Constant Contact, to get her thoughts on the value of DE&I and how businesses can make it a priority

Mary is Chief People Officer at Constant Contact, a digital marketing and automation platform that has helped millions of small businesses and nonprofits globally She leverages her extensive human resource management experience to build a forward-looking, scalable and sustainable platform for growth This includes integrating new systems, enhancing existing professional development programs and amplifying the company’s commitment to an inclusive and engaged workforce Prior to joining Constant Contact, Mary served as Chief Human Resources Officer for LightBox, a leading provider of due diligence, risk management, location intelligence and workflow solutions.

Thanks for speaking with us today, Mary. Tell us about how you think about diversity, equity, and inclusion and what those words mean to you as a people leader?

DE&I is very much a strategy It's not just an activity isolated to a specific department like Human Resources (HR); it’s a top-down philosophy that must be woven into the fabric of a company ’ s culture. If you don’t take that approach, it can quickly become an exercise in meeting diversity numbers and quotas, and that is contradictory to the purpose

I firmly believe that embracing diverse perspectives enhances creativity and innovation within any company As a people leader at Constant Contact with a responsibility to help improve our business, I view DE&I as a terrific way to both drive business results and create a diverse company culture

M a r y R u s t e r h o l z
ImageCourtesy:Canva I m a g e C o u r t e s y : C o n s t a n t C o n t a c t

Why is it important to have such a diverse group of employees with good representation, and how do you create that inclusive culture where people feel supported and respected?

I truly believe that a diverse group of thinkers can accomplish more than one where everybody thinks in the same ways Diversity in a team leads to richer discussions and more innovative solutions because it brings together varied experiences and viewpoints It also helps ensure that employees have a seat at the table, which empowers them to think beyond their role and consider new ways to help the business

To foster this environment, it’s crucial to continuously seek out diverse candidates and employ inclusive hiring practices Look for opportunities to brand out from traditional hiring and recruiting methods to create a welcoming atmosphere where everyone feels seen and valued. When you can bring together a group with various life experiences, and they understand that their voices matter, that's a powerful thing

DE&I also has clear social and psychological benefits. The evolution of the employee experience has been dramatic, particularly in recent years. Employees want to bring their whole selves to all aspects of their lives, and that includes work. By creating an inclusive environment, employees feel cared for on a personal level, which enhances their engagement and satisfaction. It also makes them more likely to connect with their peers and create communities within the workplace where they can connect with others in similar situations.

Could you talk a bit about our DE&I initiatives at Constant Contact? How do you instill that strategy into your culture?

At Constant Contact, DE&I is integrated into everything from the candidate experience during interviews to our onboarding process I spoke earlier about the importance of diverse hiring practices, and we carry that through onboarding and into the working experience as well


We’ve established 10 employee resource groups, which we call our “Affinity groups, ” from veterans to parents to employees who identify as LGBTQIA+ Those groups are designed to foster a sense of community and give employees another way to connect with each other. They help in understanding and communicating our diverse perspectives through activities like trivia nights, cultural discussions, tea ceremonies and pride festivals It’s so important to not only recognize that we all come from different backgrounds, but to empower each other to own those differences and embrace how they contribute to our larger company culture

I think we do a great job offering these programs to our employees, but it’s equally important that we measure how they are resonating We do that through things like “stay interviews” and regular engagement surveys to continually adapt and improve our initiatives For example, we recently rolled out a new program called “Amplify”, which offers training and mentorship opportunities for historically underrepresented groups at the company That initiative was born out of feedback from our employees asking for more of these types of opportunities We heard them, and we made it happen

Starting with education and community-building through Affinity groups is more effective than merely aiming to meet diversity quotas. We focus on creating genuine opportunities for engagement and learning, and that helps us attract a diverse workforce naturally — including here in Canada, where we are expanding our talent pool to become an employer of choice for a variety of candidates.

We appreciate you taking this time to speak with us about DE&I, Mary. Anything else that you’d like to say about this topic?

The key takeaway for me is that focusing on diversity should be about more than fulfilling a mandate It's about driving engagement and enabling employees to be their best selves, both personally and professionally Nobody is perfect, and there is plenty of opportunity for us to improve But, we are committed to improving and that would be my advice to all business leaders Make DE&I a priority and continuously strive to improve because that is what will keep moving us forward on the path toward equality



For years, Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have faced challenges with cloud adoption, such as hidden costs, restrictive contracts, and a lack of industry regulation This situation has put SMEs at a disadvantage from the outset, limiting their growth, stifling their innovation, and hindering their long-term success In recent months, US hyperscalers pressured by European legislators all announced the suppression of (some) egress fees for cloud customers, signaling a step in the right direction for cloud transparency

However, these partial measures don't go far enough in addressing the deeper issues of hidden costs, technological lock-in, and extraterritorial laws. As SMEs increasingly rely on cloud services to drive their growth and competitiveness, it is essential for the cloud industry to commit to greater transparency, ensuring a fair and open digital ecosystem Here, we’ll look at the important elements to address


One of the most significant challenges Canadian SMEs face with the cloud is unexpected costs These costs arise from complex pricing structures, unexpected charges for data retrieval, and fees for exceeding usage limits Egress fees are particularly troublesome and go beyond simple exit fees Imposed when users want to transfer their data out of a cloud service, these fees can be exorbitant and deter businesses from switching providers or using multi-cloud projects

ImageCourtesy:OVHcloud m a g e C o u r t e s y : O V H c l o u d

To build trust, cloud providers must simplify their pricing models and provide clear, upfront information about all potential costs. More importantly, they need to eliminate all data transfer fees and extend it to multi-cloud migrations.

A direct correlation to egress fees is technological lock-in Many cloud providers use proprietary technologies that make it difficult for users to move their data and applications to other platforms This restricts business flexibility and innovation and forces companies to either stick with a provider despite potential shortcomings, or incur significant costs to migrate to another service

Cloud providers need to adopt open standards and promote interoperability to ensure users can freely choose the best solutions for their needs without being penalized

TechnologicalLock-In: ABarrierToFlexibility I m a g e C o u r t e s y : O V H c o u d 23- CanadianSME-June2024

ExtraterritorialLaws: AThreatToDataSovereignty

The issue of data sovereignty is increasingly important in the global digital landscape Laws like the U S Cloud Act allow federal agencies to access data stored on American servers, regardless of where the data is physically located This poses significant risks for businesses operating internationally, as their sensitive data could be subject to foreign government scrutiny

Transparency in data handling and clear disclosures about where data is stored and how it is protected are essential Providers should be guaranteeing immunity from extraterritorial interferences to reassure users that their data is secure and sovereign

The Need For A Trustworthy Cloud

For SMEs, the cloud should be a place of freedom and trust, where they have control over their data and can make informed choices To achieve this, cloud providers must:

Clarify Pricing Structures: Simplify and make transparent all costs associated with cloud services, including potential hidden fees.

Promote Interoperability: Adopt and support open standards to prevent technological lock-in and facilitate seamless data and application portability



Ensure Data Sovereignty: Provide clear information about data storage locations and protections against extraterritorial access

Enhance Transparency: Regularly update users on changes in terms of service, security policies, and data handling practices

Encouragingly, legislative moves such as the European Data Act, Quebec’s Law 25 and Canada’s Bill C-27 are steps in the right direction, integrating data portability and promoting user control over personal and non-personal data. However, the responsibility also lies on cloud providers to embrace these principles and foster an open and transparent cloud environment, upholding the promise of a secure and open digital future for Canadian SMEs.

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I m a g e C o u r t e s y : O V H c o u d Cloud Technology


Empowering Style:

As the fashion industry evolves with time, and fads come and go, entrepreneurs are emerging who are altering this entire paradigm, bridging the gap between wellness and interiors One such trailblazer is Maidene Morris-Dixon, a woman entrepreneur who has not only redefined style but also championed sustainable fashion and female empowerment Her journey from a thrifting enthusiast to the founder of Curated Style is a testament to her passion and dedication, earning her the title of Canada's Most Stylish Thrifter in 2024 Recognizing her achievements and successful business model, the CanadianSME Business Magazine is proud to honour her as the Business Woman of the Month for this edition This article aims to showcase the contributions and resilience that have propelled Maidene to the pinnacle of success, inspiring others in the process

Exploring the Joys of Thrifting:

Over a decade ago, through a recommendation from a good friend and well-wisher, Maidene was introduced to the realm of sustainable fashion and thrifting What began as a harmless hobby rapidly turned into an ardent devotion to originality and creativity In 2014, Maidene established Stylinhead2toe, fueled by her passion for discovering unique antique pieces This venture established the groundwork for Curated Style, serving as a testament to her rise as an entrepreneur and an individual

I m a g e C o u r t e s y : A l p h e u s A n t h o n y N e w b y

The Power in Collaboration:

Maidene's success essentially lies in her supportive tribe of uplifting and inspiring women Maidene's trajectory is intricately linked with the camaraderie and optimism bestowed upon her by acquaintances, relatives, friends, mentors, and even individuals encountered in thrift stores Mentors such as Zola Jeffers granted access to the film and television industry, whereas a network comprising professionals from the field offered counsel, prospects, and steadfast encouragement. The experience of Maidene highlights the significance of mentorship and collaboration in promoting professional and personal development.

Embracing the Purpose:

Devoting her journey to a road of self-discovery and empowerment, Maidene found her real purpose at the age of 50 She credits it to a supernatural intervention that guided her away from corporate life Her advice to others seeking to redefine their paths later in life is simple yet profound: define it on your terms, dream big, work hard, stay faithful, and surround yourself with love and support Maidene's story serves as a reminder that it's never too late to pursue your passion and make a difference

Prevailing Over Obstacles and Seizing Opportunities:

Her recent visit to Ghana in 2022 opened her eyes to both intricate challenges and opportunities regarding thrifting So, from space design in Ghana to television and film styling, Maidene has overcome numerous obstacles with composure and resolve In every circumstance, from overcoming technical obstacles to traversing unorthodox sourcing strategies, Maidene's resilience and adaptability have been crucial to her success. She maintains a receptive attitude towards forthcoming prospects and undertakings, such as possible engagements in daytime television, modelling, and support for body positivity and equality in the fashion industry

A Vision for the Future:

With her vision for Curated Style, Maidene aims to foster inclusion, empowerment, and progress while she makes waves in the fashion and design world Her work goes well beyond just style; it is a celebration of distinctive characteristics, authenticity, and selfexpression The company focuses on empowering women and young girls, advocating for sustainable fashion while embracing diversity.

Ultimately, Maidene Morris-Dixon's path from thrifting fanatic to Curated Style creator is evidence of the transforming potential of passion, community, and purpose. Maidene will undoubtedly have an ongoing influence on the fashion industry and beyond for many years to come as long as she keeps motivating and empowering people.

To explore more about her enduring impact and innovative spirit, visit her website at Join Maidene in her mission to inspire and empower, shaping a vibrant future for fashion and beyond.

CanadianSME Magazine is a valuable treasure trove of entrepreneurial knowledge Click here to subscribe to our monthly editions for updates on Canadian businesses. Follow our handle @canadian sme on X to stay up to date on all current business trends and developments

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Business Woman of the Month

In a recent interview with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine, Kree Govender, SMB Area Lead at Microsoft Canada, discussed the unique dynamics of AI integration for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) Kree emphasized the agility of SMBs in adopting new technologies, likening them to "agile speedboats" compared to the "cruise ships" of larger enterprises He pointed out that while SMBs can swiftly adapt and implement AI, they face challenges such as limited access to data and financial constraints, which can hinder the full utilization of AI technologies. Microsoft’s approach includes close collaboration with SMBs to tailor AI solutions that are not only accessible and impactful but also scalable This strategy ensures that the AI integration addresses the specific needs and strengthens the unique capabilities of SMBs, enabling them to achieve a competitive edge and drive innovation effectively

Empowering SMBs with AI: Insights from Microsoft Canada's Kree Govender

SMB Area Lead at Microsoft Canada

A dynamic, senior leader with a proven track record in delivering results and building high performance teams I lead by setting a mission, communicating my values, creating clarity through synthesizing the complex and generating energy with and for my team. A passion for people, leadership is interwoven into my DNA and I pride myself on creating a culture of performance, collaboration and excellence, underpinned by strong ethics.

How do you assess the unique challenges and opportunities that SMBs encounter when integrating AI technologies, particularly in contrast to larger enterprises, based on your extensive experience in sales strategy and leadership at Microsoft Canada?

At Microsoft, we understand that SMBs are like the agile speedboats of the business sea, zipping around the cruise ships of larger enterprises. When it comes to integrating AI, we recognize that SMBs can quickly pivot and implement new tech, turning AI into their secret sauce for success Unlike the titanic enterprises that need to navigate through layers of bureaucracy, SMBs can make a beeline for innovation AI can enable disruption as well as be an equity tool for these SMBs SMBs often have limited access to data, skills, and financial resources, which can hinder their ability to fully leverage AI Every dollar they put towards AI needs to be repurposed from other initiatives ROI is an absolute imperative We assess their unique challenges and opportunities through a kaleidoscope of industry insights, customer feedback, infused with AI The key to successful AI integration for SMBs lies in understanding their unique ecosystem and providing solutions that are accessible, scalable, and impactful Microsoft's approach involves close collaboration with SMBs to ensure that AI technologies are designed and deployed in a way that addresses their specific challenges and capitalizes on their strengths


The recent Microsoft survey highlights a significant shift in SMB attitudes towards AI adoption. What strategies is Microsoft Canada implementing to support this transition and address concerns related to skilling and security?

A recent study revealed a significant shift in SMB attitudes towards AI, with 78% of Canadian SMBs looking to adopt AI Microsoft Canada is implementing a multifaceted strategy that emphasizes education, transparency, and collaboration We're enhancing skilling initiatives to ensure businesses are equipped to harness AI's potential, fostering a culture of continuous learning and innovation Security is paramount; we ' re bolstering our efforts to protect data integrity and build trust Our approach is to demystify AI, sharing success stories and practical applications that resonate with SMBs, showcasing how AI can solve real-world challenges and drive growth We're committed to a responsible AI journey, aligning with national efforts like the $2 4 billion federal investment in AI innovation, to position Canada at the forefront of AI leadership while safeguarding ethical standards and public trust. We’re on a mission to transform trepidation into triumph for SMBs Think of it as a double-double: two parts enablement, one part security, and a dash of partners for scale Use this link to kickstart your SMB AI journey https://aka ms/SMB OnePage AI

With AI poised to revolutionize business operations, what are the key areas within SMB operations where you see AI having the most immediate impact?

AI technologies are poised to make a significant impact on SMB operations, particularly in areas where efficiency and decisionmaking can be enhanced

Customer Experience: AI can personalize interactions and improve customer service, leading to increased satisfaction and loyalty

Operational Efficiency:

Automation of routine tasks can streamline operations, reduce errors, and free up staff to focus on more strategic work.

Data Analysis and Insights: AI can process large volumes of disparate data across several sources to provide actionable insights, helping SMBs make informed decisions quickly

Sales and Marketing: AI-driven tools can optimize marketing campaigns and lead generation, improving the effectiveness of sales strategies

Cybersecurity: With the increasing threat landscape, AI can provide advanced threat detection and response capabilities to protect SMBs from cyber attacks.

These areas align with the priorities of growth, cost savings, and talent retention, as AI can help SMBs scale their operations while managing resources effectively

ImageCourtesy:Canva Artificial Intelligence

Could you share insights on how Microsoft Canada’s products are tailored to meet the unique needs of SMBs, particularly in enhancing productivity and operational efficiency?

Microsoft Copilot empowers SMBs by integrating the power of large language models with organizational data to enhance productivity and operational efficiency Here's how:

Seamless Integration: Copilot integrates with Microsoft 365 apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Teams, ensuring SMBs can leverage AI without major disruptions

Enhanced Data Insights: Copilot automates data analysis, generates insights, and creates visualizations, enabling informed decisionmaking.

Streamlined Communication: In Teams and Outlook, Copilot drafts emails, summarizes threads, and generates meeting summaries, improving communication efficiency.

Efficient Document Creation: In Word and PowerPoint, Copilot drafts, edits, and designs documents and presentations quickly, ensuring high-quality materials, and is is crossing the barrier between applications where, e g excel is drafting email content based on data in excel

Task Automation: Copilot automates scheduling, data entry, and project management, allowing SMBs to focus on strategic initiatives

Affordable and Accessible: SMBs can unlock Copilot for less than the price of a cup of coffee per day) Saving conservatively 12mins/day delivers a staggering 4hrs/month of productivity benefit!

Security and Compliance: Microsoft ensures Copilot adheres to robust security and compliance standards, crucial for SMBs with limited IT resources.

Copilot is aimed at setting SMBs up for success, enabling them to leverage AI to meet unique business and growth needs

Looking forward, what emerging trends or innovations do you believe will further influence the adoption of AI among SMBs in Canada?

As I peer into the crystal ball of AI's future, it's clear that SMBs are in for a treat The AI landscape is evolving faster than a chameleon on a disco floor, and SMBs are poised to dance to the rhythm of innovation

AI Democratization: AI is no longer just for the tech giants With user-friendly tools and platforms, even the smallest businesses can harness its power AI is an equity tool

Hyper-Personalization: AI will enable SMBs to offer personalized experiences that rival the big brands Think of it as having a digital concierge for every customer, making interactions smoother and more delightful..

Affordable AI Solutions: As AI technology becomes more cost-effective, it’s like having a high-tech assistant at a fraction of the price. SMBs will be able to get more bang for their buck and considering the relative size of SMBs, they are able to assimilate the change across the entire organisation

ImageCourtesy:Canva Artificial Intelligence

Succession Planning Tips for Canadian Business Leaders:

Business leadership is perhaps the most important aspect of any business, and maintaining it astutely is crucial for its health This is why proper succession planning is a good practice and a critical step to keeping in todays competitive business environment If businesses fail to plan the training of future middle and upper-level executives, there will be serious skills shortages This is why succession planning, using strategic techniques to guarantee organizational performance in the long run, should be an immediate and top priority for company executives in Canada to solve these difficulties

Strategic Roadmapping and Its Significance

The foundation of every effective succession plan is a well-thought-out strategic roadmap that will lead the organization to its desired future state This plan should lay out the steps to take in order to achieve these objectives, painting a picture of where things are now and where they need to go. Setting milestones and monitoring progress requires establishing short-term and long-term goals and identifying who is responsible for achieving each With this methodical plan, companies can fill leadership voids before they exist and coordinate their people development initiatives with their overarching company goals

Determining Competencies and Determining Job Roles

Establishing precise and unambiguous job descriptions that align with organizational objectives is fundamental to successful succession planning By comprehensively outlining the responsibilities of every pivotal role, business organizations can precisely align personnel with positions, pinpoint skill deficiencies, and ascertain forthcoming training requirements Plus, workforce projections and demographic analysis can assist in identifying potential risk areas and forecasting forthcoming leadership needs


It is equally critical to identify the essential skills for every position. Developing a thorough talent pool requires reviewing data, prior work performance, licenses, and other credentials. By developing these competencies, organizations may better train people for increasing responsibilities, evaluate performance, and set clear performance objectives. This improves the leadership pipeline as a whole while also helping individuals grow.

Training Leaders of Tomorrow

A holistic strategy for staff development is needed to yield astute business leadership for the future. Mentorship programs, cross-training, lunch-and-learns, and job shadowing are all great ways to foster growth Companies should choose people who can roll with the punches, aren't afraid of new information, and can adjust to various situations and leadership styles Succession planning solutions and technologies may help find and assess future leaders so they can get the help they need to thrive

Investing in leadership development helps businesses foster a culture of career advancement, which keeps people engaged and committed Doing so can improve employee retention and guarantee a continuous supply of competent leaders prepared to assume greater roles

Creating Benchmarks and Measurements

Setting specific standards and benchmarks to evaluate a succession planning programs performance is essential. Managers and employees alike might benefit from conducting regular satisfaction surveys to gauge their level of contentment with new hiring and opportunities for professional growth Important measures of program effectiveness include the time it takes to fill jobs, the proportion of openings filled internally, and the retention rate of important personnel

Securing buy-in and minimizing opposition to change requires the leadership to be committed to the succession plan and held responsible for growing their subordinates Continuous organizational development is driven by a well-executed succession planning process, which improves productivity and outcomes and shows a dedication to investing in workers' futures

CanadianSME Magazine is a valuable treasure trove of entrepreneurial knowledge. Click here to subscribe to our monthly editions for updates on Canadian businesses. Follow our handle @canadian sme on X to stay current on all current business trends and developments.

I m a g e C o u r t e s y : C a n v a Succession Planning

in the Canadian Financial Market for Small Businesses

As 2024 unfolds with its multitude of challenges, small businesses in Canada are poised to face considerable changes in the banking system With fast technological improvements and tighter regulatory environments, banks are adapting to accommodate the particular demands of small company owners Here are the key themes influencing small business banking in Canada this year. This article is all about learning about the upcoming trends within the banking landscape of Canada

Improvement in the Customer Journey to Help Small Businesses

In 2024, the emphasis will be greater on tailored client journeys Small businesses often have financial objectives, such as increasing operations, controlling cash flow, or enhancing credit Banks are increasingly adopting digital technologies to engage consumers and help them monitor and accomplish their objectives

As such, banks in Canada could hone their strategies by prioritizing client journeys and offering a variety of individualized resources (such as tools, products, and trackers) Adapting to small companies' unique requirements requires changing from generic, one-size-fits-all solutions to tailored, client-specific ones Banks can improve client satisfaction and loyalty by understanding corporate objectives and providing solutions that match them

I m a g e C o u r t e s y : C a n v a 32- CanadianSME-June2024

Proactive Regulatory Response within the Banking Scene

The regulatory environment for Canadian banks is becoming more complicated owing to interrelated issues such as cybersecurity hazards, financial crime, and market volatility These issues are compelling banks to invest extensively in risk management and operational resilience to weather future shocks This provides small companies with more certainty that their banking relationships are strong and dependable

In fact, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) has issued new rules that expand banks' supervisory obligations This proactive strategy guarantees that banks not only comply with regulations but also provide safe and dependable services to their small business customers. As banks adapt to regulatory changes, small companies may anticipate more secure and resilient banking relationships

Enhanced Growth of Open Banking Within

the Canadian Financial Scene

Interestingly enough, open banking is poised to transform the banking experience for small companies by 2024 The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) implementation of the "Personal Financial Digital Rights" regulation is an important step in this direction This law requires financial institutions to provide customers and permit third parties access to their financial information, promoting more openness and competitiveness

Open banking provides small businesses with improved access to their financial data and more opportunities for financial management Banks will invest in data access methods and collaborations to offer more tailored services By harnessing client data, banks can deliver more relevant and fast financial solutions to small companies, allowing them to manage their finances better and make educated choices.

Climate Change Strategies for Banking Operations

As the debate over climate change grows, Canadian banks are taking substantial measures to address environmental, social, and governance (ESG) concerns. Small companies should expect their banking partners to focus more on environmentally friendly products and solutions by 2024 Banks are planning to comply with the OSFI's B-15 guideline for climate risk management and are tracking progress toward emission reduction objectives

This change brings new possibilities and new problems for smaller businesses As a result of their increased attention to climate change, banks will offer more goods and services that promote sustainable business practices Using these services, small companies can reduce their negative effects on the environment and satisfy the increasing demand from customers for ecofriendly products and procedures

At the end of the day, the financial environment for small businesses in Canada is expected to change considerably by 2024 From improved client journeys, proactive regulatory responses to the expansion of open banking, and an emphasis on initiatives to combat climate change can result in a more personalized, secure, and environmentally friendly banking experience for small businesses

CanadianSME Magazine is a valuable treasure trove of entrepreneurial knowledge. Click here to subscribe to our monthly editions for updates on Canadian businesses. Follow our handle @canadian sme on X to stay current on all current business trends and developments.

I m a g e C o u r t e s y : C a n v a 33- CanadianSME-June2024 Banking Trends

In the era of digitalization dominating the Canadian business landscape, the significance of maintaining a strong online presence through effective SEO strategies cannot be overstated This is why understanding and implementing productive digital marketing strategies, coupled with a comprehensive knowledge of SEO, are crucial for optimizing business websites To fulfil this demand within the Canadian business realm, one organization under the able leadership of Calan Breckon a paragon of proficiency and ingenuity Calan began his enterprise in 2020 and has experienced a remarkable metamorphosis into a highly regarded SEO consultant His trajectory, characterized by noteworthy accomplishments and an unwavering dedication to his clientele, provides invaluable perspectives on efficacious approaches to Internet expansion.

SEO Specialist & Consultant, The Business Gay Podcast

Mastering SEO Strategy With Finnese

The foundation of Calan Breckon's SEO consulting methodology is precision and clarity By collaborating closely with clients, he assists them in developing comprehensive SEO strategies that are specifically tailored to their businesses' requirements This entails a rigorous procedure of keyword planning, which guarantees the targeting of appropriate terms to enhance visibility on search engines Content strategy development is an area of expertise for Breckon, in which he assists organizations in creating engaging content that generates organic traffic and connects with their target audience.

Among Calan's many offerings are email list and podcast creation As a matter of fact, he believes creating and maintaining an email list is crucial to the survival of any business in today’s digital age He also takes advantage of the rising popularity of podcasts by helping customers establish and expand their own, which increases brand awareness and engagement Having been behind the creation of two popular LGBTQ+ podcasts, Calan now uses the power of podcasting to support businesses with their SEO Believe it or not, there is a right way and a wrong way to set up a podcast when it comes to the benefits of SEO and podcasting

I m a g e C o u r t e s y : C a a n B e c k o n m a g e C o u r t e s y : C a l a n B e c k o n

Calan Beckon’s Achievements and Milestones

It is worth noting that there are defining moments in Calan's business path demonstrating his skill and perseverance In 2023, he became a Certified Diverse Supplier and finished the CGLCC OUT for Business mentoring program Shortly after, he sold out of his first business venture to his then-business partners Included in this endeavour was the popular podcast "Gay Men Going Deeper," which is all about personal development, mental health and sexuality for gay men, which was getting over 70,000 monthly downloads at the time of his leaving

Calan also established "The Business Gay" podcast in 2023 to highlight LGBTQ+ businesses and supporters and still hosts this podcast today In his first episode, he highlighted American businesswoman Amy Porterfield's multi-seven-figure company successes Porterfield's "Online Marketing Made Easy" podcast is a #1 marketing podcast and one of her top five episodes is Calan's interview with her where he talks about being curious as an entrepreneur. Calan is constantly working to positively impact the LGBTQ+ community which has included being an advisory board member for the QueerTech Quonference that was held in Montreal this past November, as well as hosting a first-of-itskind access to venture capital event this past April in Vancouver to help connect the LGBTQ+ entrepreneurship community with much-needed access to VCs and capital within the Canadian ecosystem

Calan Beckon's Goals for the Future

Calan is about to embark on a new journey as the Co-Founder and COO of The Bow, a new free queer streaming platform Together with Founder and CEO, Matthew McLaughlin, the pair aim to create a home for quality content created by queer people, for queer people

Calan also hopes to help foster and create a fund to help support the OUT for Business CGLCC mentoring program to help see yearly funding vested back into the program in order to support each graduating entrepreneur with their first bit of seed funding, helping to strengthen the LGBTQ+ entrepreneurial ecosystem His conviction in developing authentic connections is the foundation of his success and the philosophy that will surely propel his career ahead

Check out Calan Beckon’s official website by clicking here.

CanadianSME Magazine is a valuable treasure trove of entrepreneurial knowledge Click here to subscribe to our monthly editions for updates on Canadian businesses Follow our handle @canadian sme on X to stay current on all current business trends and developments

I m a g e C o u r t e s y : C a a n B e c k o n SEO Strategies

Imam Khalid, CEO of SellStatic, shared with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine his journey from witnessing his father’s real estate struggles to revolutionizing the industry with innovative technology

Born from personal experience and a desire to address the inefficiencies observed in his father's career, Imam launched SellStatic to empower realtors with tools that significantly enhance their sales capabilities By integrating cutting-edge technologies like AI, SellStatic is not merely an automation tool but a comprehensive platform that transforms how realtors engage with their business The company ' s goal is to lower the astonishing statistic that over half of Canadian real estate agents make zero sales in a year With SellStatic, Imam aims to provide realtors with a robust set of tools that ensure efficiency and effectiveness in their sales processes, truly redefining the real estate landscape.

Imam is an ambitious 21-year-old who launched SellStatic during his penultimate year at York University Equipped with his experience working in some of the biggest startups in Canada, along with his double degree in Computer Science and Business, Imam launched a real estate technology startup in hopes of revolutionizing the real estate selling experience as we know it

Imam developed his passion for entrepreneurship by competing in startup competitions and winning multiple awards, including the B.E.S.T StartUp Experience Accelerator Award given by the Lassonde School of Engineering. In less than a year, the company has grown to over 20 employees all of whom are young professionals, eager to utilize their skills in software development, marketing, and sales to advance the real estate industry

CEO of SellStatic
m a g e C o u r t e s y : S e l l S t a t i c

Can you sharethe moment or experience that ignited your passion for revolutionizing the real estateindustry with SellStatic?

My fathercame to this country as an immigrant, working various jobs until he broke into the real estate field Growing up, I saw him working early mornings and staying up late, often yelling over the phone with clients I witnessedthe struggles where some months we had a lot of freedom, but other times we were really struggling as a family Combining my passion for real estate and tech, I decided to tackle this issue and learn more about what realtors do Currently, there are over 130,000 active real estate agents in Canada, and in 2023, 52% of them made zero sales

Learning more about the daily life of a realtor really motivated me to help solve this and get realtors to start closingmore sales

As a youngentrepreneur balancing university studies and a startup, how have you managed the challenges of launching and scaling SellStatic while pursuing a double degree?

I often see being in school as the biggest competitive advantage I have over other startup owners Being a studentand running a fast-growing startupattracts a lot of attention and brings in numerous opportunities where everyone wants to get involved This has helped us grow a full-time team of over 30 young innovators helping build something new With that being said, it comes with major challenges, especially when we need to balance exam season with customer demands and growth. We tackled this problem by creating a very transparent environment where everyone in the company has access to my detailed calendar This allows us to see where we need support and help, and where we need to jump in and support as founders

SellStatic has grown quicklyto over 20 employees. What key strategies have you employed in building a team that aligns with your visionand the startup's fast-paced environment?

Being a realtor tech company can sound very appealing to many people,but we quickly established a no free ride zone Some days we receive hundreds of applicants for the business We look for talented young individuals who are here for more than just a title and money We seek change-makers and people who are ready to make a massivedifference in the community To ensure alignment with our vision,we emphasize our core valuesduring the hiringprocess.

We conduct comprehensive interviews focusing on both technical skills and cultural fit Our onboarding processincludes in-depth trainingon our mission and goals, ensuring every team member understands their role in our success

Additionally, we foster an environment of continuous learning and innovation We encourage team membersto take ownership of projects and provide them with opportunities to grow withinthe company Regular team meetings, open communication channels, and a collaborative work culture help maintain alignment and ensure everyoneis working towardscommon objectives

I m a g e C o u r t e s y : S e l S t a t c Real Estate

Finally, we prioritize transparency and inclusivity. By maintaining open communication and regularly sharingour progress and challenges, we create a cohesive team that is motivated and aligned with our startup’s fast-paced environment This approach has been instrumental in building a dedicated and passionate team committed to driving SellStatic forward

With SellStatic rapidly gaining traction in the real estate market, could you detail the core technological innovations that differentiate your platform from others in the industry?

People love throwing the title "AI" into their company names and expect that to be enough to create change At SellStatic, we go beyond buzzwords to deliver real value When onboarding our initial list of 250 realtors, our goal is to understand each realtor's problemand how we can help solve specificcases to create change

Our automated image generation is a standout feature, leveraging advanced AI algorithms to produce high-quality images tailored for real estate listings This technology not only saves time but also ensures consistency and professional standards across all listings By automating this process, realtors can focus more on client interactions and closing deals rather than spending time on manualtasks.

Additionally, our platformintegrates data analytics to provide actionable insights for realtors.By analyzing market trends, customer preferences, and performance metrics, we equip realtors with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions. This datadriven approach helps them to better target potentialbuyers and optimizetheir sales strategies.

m a g e C o u r t e s y : S e l l S t a t i c Real Estate

We also prioritize user experience, ensuring our platform is intuitive and easy to use Our userfriendly interface, combined with powerful backend technology, allows realtors to seamlessly navigate the platformand utilize its full range of featureswithout a steep learning curve

Moreover, SellStatic incorporates CRM functionalities to help realtorsmanage their client relationships more effectively.

By focusing on these core technological innovations, SellStatic not only differentiates itselffrom other platforms but also provides realtors with the tools they need to thrive in a competitive market

Looking ahead, what are the next big steps for SellStatic in both the short-termand long-term, especially with upcoming projectslike the app development and your participation at Collision conference?

Looking forward, we are currently aiming to raise our pre-seed roundand expand massively across provinces and the GTA Our short-term goal is to use our automated marketing featureto create a very fast-paced tool for realtors,helping them save time Ultimately, we aim to build a platform that is a realtor's right hand for all their needs Our full-scale software will help realtors create significant change

In the short term, our focus is on the successful launch and continuous improvement of our platform This will offer realtors a seamless, onthe-go experience, allowing them to manage listings, communicate with clients, and access market insights from their smartphones By making these tools accessible anytime and anywhere,we aim to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of real estate professionals

Our participation at the Collision conference is another significant milestone. This event provides a platform to showcase our innovations to a global audience, connect with potential investors, and form strategic partnerships We plan to use this opportunity to gather feedback,refine our offerings, and stay at the forefront of industry trends

Long-term, our vision for SellStatic is to become an indispensable tool in the real estateindustry, known for driving productivity and success for realtors. We are committed to continuous innovation, integrating advanced technologies like machine learning and predictive analytics to further enhance our platform's capabilities. Our goal is to provide realtors with insights that anticipate market shifts and client needs,helping them stay ahead of the competition.

We also plan to expand our reach beyond Canada, targeting international markets where our technology can provide substantial value By tailoringour solutions to meet the unique needs of realtors in different regions, we aim to create a global community of empowered real estate professionals

Additionally, we are exploring partnerships with educational institutions to offer training programs and certifications throughour platform By equipping realtorswith the knowledge and skills they need to excel,we can contribute to the overall professionalism and success of the industry

By focusing on these strategic initiatives, SellStatic is poised to make a lasting impacton the real estate market,driving significant changeand helping realtorsachieve their full potential.

Real Estate

John Paul Morgan, President & Chief Technology Officer of Morgan Solar and Justin Cohen, Senior Information Technologist and Leader of Innovation Labs at Cisco, spoke with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine about their innovative collaboration between Morgan Solar and Cisco, which started with Morgan Solar's victory in Cisco’s Fast Future Innovation Awards. This partnership has birthed a pilot project aiming to integrate solar energy into office collaboration spaces through cutting-edge technology Morgan Solar’s Energy Blinds and Cisco’s Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) technology work together to harness and distribute solar energy efficiently within office spaces, thus powering essential equipment and optimizing energy use based on room occupancy and meeting schedules. This solution not only addresses emissions reduction and energy efficiency in the commercial sector but also aligns with the growing need for sustainable business practices in light of Canada’s commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 The project reflects a significant step forward in utilizing renewable energy technologies to reduce the carbon footprint of office buildings, potentially transforming energy management in commercial properties across the country

John Paul Morgan

President & CTO at Morgan Solar Inc.

John Paul Morgan founded Morgan Solar in 2007 to find a way to make solar energy significantly less expensive John Paul had previously been an inventor of fibre optic technology solutions with JDS Uniphase, a Magnetic Resonance Imaging researcher for the University of Toronto and the Catholic University of Chile, and a manager overseeing hundreds of staff and logistics for international aid projects in a conflict zone in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

John Paul earned a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering Science and a Master’s degree in Applied Science from the University of Toronto, specializing in optics, condensed matter, and solar electricity.

John Paul served as a Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Appointee to the Board of Governors at the University of Toronto and has done extensive volunteering for organizations like Doctors Without Borders and Habitat for Humanity

Justin Cohen

Senior Information Technologist and Leader of Innovation Labsat Cisco

Justin Cohen is a Senior Information Technologist and Leader of Innovation Labs at Cisco in Canada, renowned for his expertise in designing and implementing advanced technology solutions. With a robust background in technology architecture, Justin excels in developing high-availability technology infrastructures from the ground up.

At the forefront of innovation, Justin focuses on transforming complex customer challenges into opportunities for technological advancement, significantly contributing to industry leadership He has developed groundbreaking architectures for scaled AI and ML projects, and integrating hardware and software for technology innovation.

Justin's proficiency extends to systems design, managing cross-functional IT teams, and directing implementation teams to meet industry needs His experience spans enterprise, service provider, and technology partner companies, showcasing his versatility and broad expertise

A proponent of design thinking and big-picture solutions, Justin is skilled in engineering and operating proof of concept facilities using a variety of advanced technologies. He advocates for automation, security and leveraging orchestration and collaboration tools.In collaboration with the Digital Impact Office and Country Digital Acceleration teams, Justin is committed to turning innovative ideas into real-world solutions, using technology to revolutionize industries and foster an inclusive future for all

Through his leadership, Innovation Labs have become synonymous with creativity and technological progress Justin is dedicated to using technology for social good and economic growth, striving to address global challenges and create a more inclusive and sustainable future for all

How did this partnership between Morgan Solar and Cisco come about, and what's the goal of this project?

This initiative was born from Morgan Solars winning submission in Cisco’s Fast Future Innovation Awards in 2022, a program grounded in the belief that innovation thrives through partnership. Through this awards program and funding from Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration program, Cisco dedicates its resources, expertise and scale to help solve the challenges faced by Canadian businesses This project offers an opportunity for businesses to think differently about their sustainability journey, unlocking innovative approaches that can be used in commercial office spaces to help achieve sustainability goals through technology

Can you describe the collaborative technology that Cisco and Morgan Solar have developed for this pilot project, and how it integrates solar energy into office collaboration spaces?

The Cisco-Morgan Solar Project is a pilot project that harnesses solar energy to power meeting and collaboration spaces To start, the concept leverages Morgan Solar’s Energy Blinds which capture clean, solar energy in a direct current (DC) microgrid Then Ciscos Power-overEthernet (PoE) switch helps to distribute energy within the room to power the required equipment - whether it be lights, collaboration technology or laptops Cisco’s Webex platform is also integrated and uses meeting data to intelligently inform how to best use the energy within the room to maximize energy generation and minimize energy consumption For example, if a meeting has not been scheduled and the room is not in use, the system will automatically revert the solar blinds to the optimal position to capture solar energy

ImageCourtesy:Canva Sustainability

What are the impacts of implementing this solar energy solution in office buildings, particularly regarding emissions reduction and energy efficiency?

According to the Canadian Green Building Council, residential, commercial, and institutional buildings contribute to nearly one-fifth (17%) of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, a figure exacerbated by the additional emissions from building materials and construction, bringing the total closer to 30%. This makes the building sector Canada’s third-highest carbon emitter and there is a clear need to think about how we create spaces and buildings that will contribute to a more sustainable future for all

Beyond solar energy generation for immediate use, the system stores excess solar energy to use later when needed or for use during peak times when energy from the grid may be more expensive

Beyond sustainability considerations, the pilot project intends to support tangible business value, including cost savings and enhanced productivity It may also help lower the cost path towards U S Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification in older buildings

With this project, we hope we can encourage organizations to think about their sustainability journey differently and implement unique solutions to help address sustainability challenges.

Initial trials show that each window can generate up to 50W of green energy. How does this power production influence the operational capabilities of the pilot room, and what potential does this have for scaling in larger office environments?

We’ve deployed the first proof-of-concept at Ciscos Toronto Innovation Centre and initial results show production of up to 50W per window of green energy, which is enough to effectively run the room ’ s required equipment and devices By storing excess solar energy, we ’ re also creating capacity to use energy when needed - not just when it is generated If expanded across office spaces, the solution could enable greater energy efficiency and on-site energy generation than rooftop solar alone

Cisco Canada employees have also responded very positively to the meeting experience provided in the pilot room Anecdotally, we ’ re finding staff are interested in booking the meeting room once they know they are selecting a room that is using solar energy to power their meeting needs It’s a great outcome that has signaled that employees like to be part of doing something good.

Why is this solution so critical for this moment in time?

The Government of Canada has committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 We know that everyone has a part to play to create a more sustainable future To help get there, businesses will need to think creatively about how we can reach this goal

The Cisco-Morgan Solar Project offers companies the opportunity to think differently about their sustainability journey by presenting new ideas that can be used in commercial office spaces – a sector contributing significantly to Canada’s carbon footprint

m a g e C o u r t e s y : C a n v a Sustainability


On the evening of June 7th, 2024, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre became the backdrop for an evening dedicated to recognizing and celebrating the heart of Canada's economy the small business sector, for the 5th Annual CanadianSME Small Business Awards. Presented by Google Canada, this prestigious event marked a milestone in celebrating the remarkable achievements of small business owners nationwide SK Uddin, the visionary Editor and founder of CanadianSME Small Business Magazine, kicked off the ceremony hosted by the exceptionally talented Tony Chapman, creator and host of the globally renowned podcast Chatter that Matters Together, they welcomed a diverse group of business luminaries, dignitaries, and entrepreneurs who gathered to honour the resilience and success of the Canadian SMB community

The evening was enriched by presenting 29 coveted awards, including the Editor's Choice Awards and the newly introduced Champions of Small Business Hall of Fame, celebrating those who have significantly impacted their fields Special messages from Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario, along with the presence of Minister Rechie Valdez and Nina Tangri, further highlighted the government's support and recognition of the small business sector's vital role in driving economic growth

We express our sincerest gratitude to our sponsors, particularly Google Canada, for their pivotal role in making this celebration possible Their support, along with contributions from RBC, our exclusive banking partner; UPS, our exclusive shipping partner; Xero, our exclusive accounting software partner; Constant Contact, our exclusive email partner; and IHG Hotels & Resorts, our exclusive hospitality partner, who are also sponsors for different categories We would also like to extend our deepest gratitude to HP and Samsung, our category sponsors, for the awards

Tony Chapman

Host/Speaker | Chatter that Matters Podcast | Storyteller

The 5th Annual CanadianSME Small Business Awards was a memorable evening, brilliantly hosted by Tony Chapman, a marketing luminary and host of the acclaimed Chatter that Matters podcast Celebrating this year ' s theme, "Innovate and Connect: Empowering Small Businesses for a Digital Tomorrow," Tony guided us through an inspiring celebration of innovation and diversity in Canada's small business sector The event also honoured Pride Month, highlighting our ongoing commitment to inclusion and equality

Reflecting on the highlights of the 5th Annual CanadianSME Small Business Awards, the evening commenced with an esteemed introduction of SK Uddin, the founder and editor of CanadianSME Small Business Magazine As the visionary behind this remarkable gathering, SK took the stage to deliver the opening remarks, setting the tone for a night dedicated to celebrating the spirit and achievements of Canada's small business community His words not only welcomed the distinguished guests but also underscored the importance of innovation and collaboration in driving business success SK's leadership and dedication to the small business sector were palpable, perfectly kicking off an event filled with inspiration and forward-thinking

Doug Ford PremierofOntario

At the 5th Annual CanadianSME Small Business Awards, we were privileged to feature a virtual message from Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario As a committed leader and accomplished businessman, Premier Ford's dedication to public service is deeply rooted in his family’s legacy of serving Ontarians across generations Although he could not attend in person, his presence was strongly felt through his inspiring words

Perrin Beatty, PC, OC, CEO of Canadian Chamber of Commerce

In a moment of high honour and recognition, the 5th Annual CanadianSME Small Business Awards proudly presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Perrin Beatty, PC, OC, CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce This prestigious award was bestowed in tribute to Mr. Beatty’s outstanding contributions and exemplary leadership, which have significantly shaped the business landscape in Canada

Although Mr Beatty could not attend the ceremony in person, the spirit of his achievements filled the room In a special moment that connected Mr Beatty with the gathered audience, a video was played in which he expressed his heartfelt gratitude and shared insights into his inspiring journey His message resonated deeply, highlighting his contributions' profound impact on current and future generations of entrepreneurs

Hon.Rechie Valdez

Minister of Small Business

The 5th Annual CanadianSME Small Business Awards was filled with enthusiasm with the presence of Minister Rechie Valdez, the Minister of Small Business for Canada and Member of Parliament for Mississauga Streetsville took the stage Renowned for her advocacy and entrepreneurial spirit, Minister Valdez has been a key figure in championing diversity within the Canadian business community Her presence was met with a resounding round of applause, underscoring the audience's respect and appreciation for her efforts to amplify diverse voices and foster a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem

Certificates to Sponsors

During a special segment of the 5th Annual CanadianSME Small Business Awards, SK Uddin, the Founder of CanadianSME, and the Honorable Minister Rechie Valdez, Minister of Small Business, had the privilege of presenting certificates of appreciation to our esteemed partners. This ceremony recognized the invaluable support and commitment each partner has contributed to the success of the small business community in Canada.

Google, our esteemed presenting sponsor, was represented by Natasha Walji, Managing Director at Google. Ms Walji graciously accepted the certificate, underscoring Google's pivotal role in fostering digital innovation among Canadian SMEs.

RBC, our exclusive banking partner, was represented by Don Ludlow, Vice President of Small Business, Business Financial Services Strategy, and Partnerships. Mr. Ludlow came forward to receive the honour, highlighting RBC’s dedicated support of small businesses' financial growth and stability nationwide.

Xero, our trusted accounting software partner, was also honoured during this segment Soukaina Mkhanter, Senior Partnerships and Product Marketer at Xero celebrated their essential contributions to providing toptier accounting solutions to small businesses

UPS, our exclusive shipping partner, saw Jennifer Kai, a Key Account Executive from Richmond Hill, step up to accept the accolade. Her presence emphasized UPS Canada’s critical role in empowering SMEs through robust logistics solutions.

IHG Business Edge, our hospitality partner, was represented by Tarandeep Singh, Regional VP Commercial, Marketing & Revenue Management. Mr. Singh’s receipt of the certificate underscored IHG's role in enhancing hospitality experiences for the business community.

Constant Contact, recognized as our email partner, was represented by Scott Cunningham, Vice President International. Mr Cunningham's acceptance of the certificate highlighted the importance of effective communication strategies facilitated by Constant Contact for growing businesses

HP, our category sponsor, was represented by Kristin Zibert, Channel Director, Personal Systems at HP Canada. Ms Ziber proudly accepted the certificate, celebrating HP’s commitment to providing cutting-edge technological solutions to the SME sector

At the 5th Annual CanadianSME Small Business Awards, we were thrilled to introduce the Champions of Small Business Hall of Fame, recognizing individuals who have significantly shaped our industry through creativity, commitment, and impact. This year ' s honorees included Arlene Dickinson, a pioneering entrepreneur known for her role on Dragons’ Den, and Tony Chapman, a renowned communications expert and marketing strategist. While Arlene could not attend, her presence was powerfully felt through a video message in which she shared her inspiring journey and expressed her gratitude, deeply resonating with all present. Tony Chapman was honoured on stage, receiving his accolade from the Honorable Rechie Valdez, and the Honourable Nina Tangri, highlighting an evening celebrating exceptional leadership and innovation in the Canadian business sector.

Keynote by Natasha Walji ManagingDirectoratGoogleCanada forGoogleCustomerSolutions

We had the distinct pleasure of welcoming Natasha Walji, Managing Director at Google Canada for Google Customer Solutions, to the stage In her keynote speech titled “Put Google to Work for You,” Natasha offered invaluable insights into leveraging AI-powered solutions to foster growth and innovation within small and medium-sized businesses

Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Most Powerful Women, Natasha Walji's presence and keynote at the awards ceremony were inspiring and highlighted, providing attendees with practical strategies and a vision for harnessing technology to drive their businesses forward

The 5th Annual CanadianSME Small Business Awards also witnessed the Suubi Music and Dance Troupe from Cambridge Secondary School treating attendees to a special performance. The word "Suubi" translates to 'hope' in Luganda, aptly describing the essence of this troupe Founded by Mrs Kevin Kalule, Suubi offers a dynamic platform for young Ugandan performers to express their stories and experiences through vibrant African music and dance mediums Their performance not only showcased their cultural heritage but also highlighted themes of healing and resilience, resonating deeply with the audience and adding a unique and inspirational dimension to the evening

Certificates to Judges

As a matter of fact, the 5th Annual Canad Awards honoured the dedication and expe judges, who played a pivotal role in evalu nominations Their commitment to identify excellence within the Canadian small bus commemorated with a special presentatio appreciation

The certificates, signed by the Honorable Minister of Small Business, were presente prominent figures, including Hon Nina Ta Small Business for Ontario Esteemed rec Rehal on behalf of Chantal Mackenzie fr Stephanie Louis for Brianna Solberg from Williams HR Law, A.J. Stewart from Canad Commerce (CGLCC), Kree Govender of M Velemirovich, a prominent B2B Marketing Manager, National Credit Compliance at Kohli for Ritu Kohli-Sethi from Greater To (GTEC) This acknowledgment served not also as a testament to the high standard ensuring the continued growth and recog businesses across Canada.

SMBAreaLead atMicrosoftCanada
FounderandPrinciple ofWilliamsHRLaw
Laura Williams
Manager,NationalCredit ComplianceatFuturpreneur
Teresa Noble

Certificates to Judges

The 5th Annual CanadianSME Small Business Awards was especially graced with the pleasure of hearing from Nina Tangri, Ontario’s Associate Minister of Small Business. Elected in 2018, Minister Tangri brings an impressive three-and-a-half-decades of business experience to her role. Her passion for nurturing vibrant communities and bolstering Ontario's entrepreneurs was palpable in her remarks The audience welcomed her to the stage with enthusiastic applause, clearly resonating with her vision and dedication to enhancing the business landscape in Ontario Her presence and insights greatly enriched the event, providing inspiration and direction for the future

Editor’s Choice Awards 2023

The Editor's Choice Award ceremony stood out as a significant highlight Presented by our editor, SK, alongside Hon Nina Tangri, Associate Minister of Small Business, the awards recognized exceptional contributions to communities, industries, and the Canadian economy The recipients, chosen after meticulous consideration by the editorial panel, included leaders and organizations demonstrating outstanding leadership and commitment to driving positive change within their sectors

Among the honoured were the Toronto Business Development Centre (TBDC) team, Claudia Krywiak of the Ontario Centre of Innovation, and David Kwok from YSpace, each celebrated for pioneering entrepreneurship and innovation efforts While Sevrine Labelle's inspiring message was shared via video due to her absence, inperson accolades were graciously received by Tabatha Bull of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, Claudio Rojas from the National Angel Capital Organization Canada, and Tiffany Callender, a co-founder of FACE Additionally, the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada and Melanie Gaboriault from Visier were recognized for their roles in enhancing business opportunities for diverse groups across Canada, each adding their unique voice to the narrative of success and innovation celebrated that evening

Visier Inc. Tiffany Callender, Tabatha Bull,
David Kwok, PresidentandCEO,CanadianCouncilforAboriginalBusiness CEOoftheFederationofAfricanCanadianEconomics

Best in AI & Automation Award 2023

Modern Requirements

Modern Requirements was celebrated with the Best in AI & Automation Award at the CanadianSME National Business Awards 2023 for their innovative contributions to requirements management Their state-of-the-art software has redefined efficiency in project development within Azure DevOps, automating essential processes and significantly enhancing productivity across both cloud and on-prem environments. The award was presented by our esteemed editor, SK Uddin, who acknowledged Modern Requirements for setting new industry standards

TBDC Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada Claudio Rojas, CEOofNACOCanada
Don Ludlow VicePresident,SmallBusiness, Strategy&PartnershipsatRBC
Soukaina Mkhanter SeniorPartnershipsandProductMarketeratXero


RegionalVicePresident-Commercial,Marketing &RevenueManagementofIHGHotels&Resorts

RBC Small Business of the Year 2023 (Up

to 10 employees)

The 5th Annual CanadianSME Nation Awards also shed a spotlight on the Business of the Year - Up to 10 Empl category, proudly sponsored by RBC Vice President at RBC, presented the celebrating businesses that exempli growth and community impact Roo clinched the top spot with its robust business health across monetary, pe and ethical dimensions They were fo Design Co , noted for its impressive growth and market expansion, and D Fitness+Dance, which has grown fro studio into a community cornerstone multiple locations Kits for a Cause r winners, recognized for their signific contributions to the discount wholes serving a broad network of business nonprofits

TOP 1 Winner - Roo & You Inc. TOP 2 Winner W Design Co & DREALEE | Fitness+Dance TOP 3 Winner - Kits for a Cause


Contact Small Business of the Year (50+ Employees)

The Small Business of the Year 50 category, sponsored by Constant showcased outstanding large-sca businesses. Scott Cunningham, Vi International at Constant Contact presented the awards. First place COSTI, which was recognized for it services in aiding immigrants and MYcourier Inc , celebrated for enh eCommerce experience with supe Delivery services, followed in seco Health Group took third place and its comprehensive healthcare serv patient well-being These compan commitment to excellence and inn respective fields, contributing sign communities and industries

TOP 1 Winner - COSTI Immigrant Services TOP 2 Winner - Mycourier Inc. TOP 3 Winner - Kaizen Health Group

UPS Small Business of the Year up to 50 employees

The "Small B Employees" highlight of Business Aw

Executive a prestigious Healthcare exceptional solutions, c medical pro patient care earned sec to creating with a stron responsibili Project Serv lauded for t and renova the diverse of small bu contributing

TOP 1 Winner
Healthcare Consultants
TOP 2 Winner - The Scented Market TOP 3 Winner - Vision Project Services

Indigenous Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2023

Jenn Harper

FounderandCEO, CheekboneBeautyCosmeticsInc

The Indigenous Entrepreneur of the Year award, graciously sponsored by Xero, was presented by Soukaina Mkhanter, Senior Partnerships + Product Marketer at Xero

This year, the award celebrated Jenn Harper, founder and CEO of Cheekbone Beauty Cosmetics Inc , for her outstanding contributions Jenn has skillfully combined her entrepreneurial drive with a strong mission to support Indigenous communities, establishing a successful brand that not only excels in the cosmetics industry but also promotes significant social impact Her commitment to sustainability and community empowerment is a beacon of inspirational leadership

Black Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2023

Hazel Lord


The Indigenous Entrepreneur of the Year award, graciously sponsored by Xero, was presented by Soukaina Mkhanter, Senior Partnerships + Product Marketer at Xero This year, the award celebrated Jenn Harper, founder and CEO of Cheekbone Beauty Cosmetics Inc , for her outstanding contributions Jenn has skillfully combined her entrepreneurial drive with a strong mission to support Indigenous communities, establishing a successful brand that not only excels in the cosmetics industry but also promotes significant social impact Her commitment to sustainability and community empowerment is a beacon of inspirational leadership

Tech Business of the Year 2023

Pathway Communications

The Tech Business of the Year Award, sponsored by Samsung, was a standout category at the ceremony, spotlighting businesses that skillfully leverage technology to advance their operations presented by SK, the award honored Pathway Communications for their exceptional impact in the tech sector With over 28 years of expertise, Pathway has demonstrated a customer-centric approach, providing robust, tailored IT solutions that not only meet but anticipate the needs of their clients, ensuring their position as a leader in technology innovation

Diversity and Inclusion Award 2023

Pride at Work Canada/Fierté au travail Canada

The Diversity and Inclusion Award, sponsored by IHG Business Edge, was a ceremony highlight emphasizing the importance of creating inclusive workplaces. Tarandeep Singh, Regional VP – Commercial, Marketing & Revenue Management from IHG Canada, had the honour of presenting this prestigious award This year, the accolade went to Pride at Work Canada, also known as Fierté au travail Canada, based in Tkarón/Toronto This impactful organization is at the forefront of championing workplace inclusivity, particularly focusing on the TwoSpirit and LGBTQIA+ communities, while also respecting the land and acknowledging its original keepers Their efforts exemplify the commitment to diversity and inclusion that this award seeks to recognize

Technopreneur of the Year 2023

Startup Business of the Year 2023

Blue Door Agency

One of the standout moments came during the Technopreneur of the Year announcement This category honours entrepreneurs who skillfully leverage technology to transform their industries and create opportunities for substantial growth This award celebrates business success and the innovative spirit that propels industries forward

Managing Director of Google Canada Natasha Walji proudly took to the stage to reveal the winner of this prestigious award David Gens, Founder and CEO of Merchant Growth, was honoured as this year ' s recipient From the humble beginnings of launching his business from his apartment, David has become a key player in Canadian business financing, helping numerous small companies succeed His journey is a testament to the fact that great ideas and impactful innovations can emerge from the simplest starts

ar, the honour went to Blue Door hat was launched in partnership with some of Toronto's top restaurateurs They have swiftly established themselves as a cornerstone in digital marketing and public relations within the hospitality sector, setting a high standard for effectiveness and creativity in their campaigns Blue Door Agency’s rapid ascent underscores the dynamic potential of startup businesses to transform their industries

CSR Excellence Award 2023

The CanadianSME National Business Awards ceremony ’ s centrepiece was the Entrepreneur of the Year award, honouring outstanding leadership and innovation in business This prestigious award was presented to James Nguyen, Co-Founder and CEO of Quantropi Inc , by Miki Velemirovich, a noted expert in B2B marketing James has distinguished himself through a remarkable combination of technological prowess and a deep commitment to community enrichment Under his leadership, Quantropi has achieved significant milestones in quantum-safe cybersecurity, securing global recognition for its cutting-edge solutions This award celebrates Jamess visionary approach and his impactful contributions to advancing technology and community initiatives

The CSR Excellence Award spotlighted companies leading in corporate social responsibility This year, the award was proudly presented to Future Kitchen & Bath Ltd, operating under the brand möbel, for their exemplary commitment to sustainable production practices and timeless cabinetry design Möbel has successfully combined aesthetic appeal with durability, ensuring their products enhance homes and sustainably for years to come The award was presented by Miki Velemirovich, a prominent figure in B2B marketing, who commended möbel for their dedication to setting new benchmarks in sustainability and design within the industry

Future Kitchen
Bath Ltd (MOBEL)
James Nguyen
Entrepreneur of the Year 2023

Excellence in Data Privacy & Cyber Security - 2023

INKAS® Payments

Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2023

The Excellence in Da Award was a signific top-tier achievemen

Payments received t recognized for their tiered security strategy that spans all departments This approach exemplifies their unwavering dedication to safeguarding client data and maintaining trust The award was aptly presented by Ryan Sydor, Area Vice President at Okta, who commended INKAS® Payments for their exemplary practices in cyber security.

Lacey Koughan, Founder and CEO of 24STRONG Youth Empowerment Inc , was celebrated as the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Lacey's entrepreneurial journey, which started when she was just 16 with her own dance studio, showcases her remarkable leadership and vision Her numerous accolades, including the 2023 Rising Entrepreneur recognition, highlight her significant impact on youth empowerment The award was presented by Norman Musengimana, Business Development Manager at Kingston Economic Development Corporation, who praised Lacey for her dedication and innovative approach to inspiring young minds

Customer Service Excellence Award 2023

The Customer Service Excellence Award competitive category, spotlighting com have gone above and beyond in servin clients. Leading the honours was Fullint celebrated for their exceptional punctu delivering crucial media insights to clie morning Harbinger Network Inc followe was recognized for its commitment to s hiring practices that significantly enhan quality of customer service Fourth Ave Aesthetics was also applauded for sett benchmarks in follow-up care and pati education within the medical aesthetic The award was gracefully presented by Govender, a Senior Leader at Microsoft commended the winners for their exem dedication to customer service excellen

TOP 1 Winner - Fullintel TOP 2 Winner - Harbinger Network Inc. TOP 3 Winner Fourth Avenue Medical Aesthetics

Award 2023


Inspirational Leader of the Year 2023

The spotlight shone brightly on QueerTech, the esteemed recipient of the 2SLGBTQI+ Inclusive Excellence Award Recognized for their trailblazing initiatives in promoting inclusivity within the tech industry, QueerTech has been instrumental in breaking down barriers and enhancing community connections for 2SLGBTQ+ individuals Their dedicated efforts have played a crucial role in ensuring that queer members are not only included but also flourish in the technology sector The award was proudly presented by A J Stewart, Operations Manager for Supplier Diversity at Canada's 2SLGBTQI+ Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC), who applauded QueerTech for their commitment to transformative work and leadership in fostering a more inclusive tech community

Margarita Simkin, Chairwoman at INKAS® Safe Manufacturing, was honoured with the Inspirational Leader of the Year award(the award was accepted by one of their executives as Margarita was not present in the awards) Recognized for her profound leadership and innovative vision, Margarita has played a pivotal role in elevating INKAS® to global prominence, continually setting new industry benchmarks with pioneering solutions Kree Govender, Senior Leader at Microsoft, presented the award and commended Margarita for her relentless dedication and transformative impact on the industry

Inclusive Excellence

Best in Health and Wellness Business Award 2023

St. Francis Herb Farm

Business Woman of the Year 2023

St Francis Herb Farm was awarded t Health and Wellness Business Award to their enduring impact on the natu industry For over thirty years, St Francis Herb Farm has been at the forefront of herbal craftsmanship, utilizing their Holistic Herb Approach™ to develop products that maximize the therapeutic properties of plants This commitment to natural health has significantly enhanced the well-being of countless individuals, making them a leader in their field

Tracy Sicard, CEO and Owner of TuesdayAfternoon Media (TAM) Media, was honoured with the Business Woman of the Year Award at the CanadianSME National Business Awards 2023 Under Tracy's leadership, TAM Media has excelled in creating transformative learning solutions, leveraging a talented team of over 40 professionals to set benchmarks in communication and innovation The award was presented by Lindsay Stewart, Communications & Engagement Manager at WEOC / OEFC, who praised Tracy's commitment to excellence and her pioneering approach to educational media. Tracy's dedication to developing thoughtful, impactful messaging has profoundly influenced the industry, making her a standout leader and deserving of this prestigious accolade

E-commerce Business of the Year 2023

H lth Pl t

Fastest Growing Company of the Year 2023

Sparkle & Sheen Organize And rvices Ltd.hy Planet

Healthy Planet was proudly recognized as the E-commerce Business of the Year at the CanadianSME National Business Awards 2023 Their exemplary efforts in making a wide range of health and wellness products easily accessible to customers across Ontario have set a high standard for customer service and community health initiatives. The award was graciously announced by Monica Rehal, Regional Vice President of Sales at Canada Protection Plan, a Foresters Financial Company, who commended Healthy Planet for their unwavering commitment to enhancing accessibility and enriching customer experiences Since the team of Healthy Planet was not present at the ceremony, Tony Chapman accepted the award on their behalf

Sparkle & Sheen Organize and Cleaning Services Ltd was celebrated with the Fastest Growing Company of the Year Award at the CanadianSME National Business Awards 2023 This innovative company has redefined the boundaries of the cleaning services industry by integrating valueadded services such as grocery delivery and companionship. This approach has deeply impacted their clients' lives and boosted local employment. Christine Macdonald, Director of Business Development at Mitacs, presented the award, lauding the company for its exceptional growth and innovative business model

Immigrant Entrepreneur

Of The Year 2023

Best Business Innovation Award 2023

Samos Insurance Solutions

Morteza Javid, CEO of LABonWEB, received the Immigrant Entrepreneur Award at the CanadianSME National Business Awards 2023 Morteza's journey from academia to leading a startup exemplifies his remarkable determination and innovative spirit His work in developing interactive simulation technology addresses key societal challenges and highlights immigrants' invaluable contributions to our community A special thanks to SK Uddin, our editor, for presenting this well-deserved award Morteza's achievements inspire and demonstrate the dynamic impact of diverse entrepreneurial talents in enriching our technological landscape

Samos Insurance Solutions was honoured with the Best Business Innovation of the Year 2023 award at the CanadianSME National Business Awards, a testament to their revolutionary impact on the insurance industry Claudia Krywiak, President & CEO at Ontario Centre of Innovation, presented the award, celebrating Samos Insurance's innovative approach to enhancing financial security Their pioneering insurance products are designed to provide peace of mind during life’s crucial moments, simplifying access to vital financial protections and democratizing security for all.

Best Professional Services Award


Sapling Financial Consultants Inc



Sapling Financial Co as the Best Professio CanadianSME Nation distinguishing itself through exemplary financial consulting services This prestigious accolade was presented by Laura Williams, Founder and Principal at Williams HR Law LLP, who commended Sapling Financial for their commitment to excellence and innovation in the financial sector Their dedication to delivering high-quality advice and solutions clearly sets them apart in the professional services industry.

Fill it Forward proudly received The Sustainable Business Award at the CanadianSME National Business Awards 2023, recognizing its innovative approach to blending technology with ecofriendly practices Its steadfast commitment to reducing single-use waste and promoting global sustainability sets a remarkable example for businesses everywhere This prestigious award was presented by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), underscoring the significance of sustainable development in today’s corporate world.

Business Award

DrewloHoldings Community Impact Award 2023

Digital Business of the Year Award 2023

Page Pros

Drewlo Holdings was ho Community Impact Award at the CanadianSME National Business Awards 2023, recognizing their exceptional contributions to building vibrant communities Beyond offering high-quality rental properties, Drewlo Holdings creates welcoming living environments through excellent space management and proactive tenant engagement Their efforts significantly enhance neighbourhood cohesion and set a high standard in property management Stephanie Louis, Vice-President Partnerships at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, presented this notable award, celebrating Drewlo Holdings' commitment to fostering community spirit

Page Pros Inc proudly clinched the Digital Business of the Year Award at the CanadianSME National Business Awards 2023, marking a significant milestone in their journey This dynamic company has shown remarkable success through hard work and dedication, especially in their sales team's achievements, reflecting the transformative impact of providing optimal opportunities The award was presented by Daniel Lunghi, Vice President - Public Sector Canada at Ricoh Canada Inc , who commended Page Pros for their innovative approach and significant contributions to the digital landscape.

Best in Retail Award 2023

Kevito Group w Award at the C Awards 2023, innovation in the Quick Serve Restaurant sector As pioneers, Kevito Group has significantly transformed the dining landscape with its Asianinspired culinary brands, setting new industry standards through their dynamic approach to food service The award was graciously presented by Christie Rall, Partner, Workforce Transformation at Mercer, who applauded Kevito Group’s commitment to excellence and innovation in the retail sector.

Best in Manufacturing Award 2023


Media Resources Inc was distinguished with the Best in Manufacturing Award at the CanadianSME National Business Awards 2023, recognizing their transformation from Grant Signs into a leader in visual communication solutions across North America Their large-format printing, 3D fabrication, and LED digital manufacturing expertise has consistently elevated industry standards within the signage and display sectors The award was presented by Tony Chapman, who commended Media Resources for their innovative techniques and commitment to excellence in manufacturing.


In an interview with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine, Stephen Mercer, Regional Manager and Project Engineer at RJC Engineers, discussed his significant role in driving the firm’s growth and positively impacting the local economy in Halifax He explained how his extensive background in handling major housing projects in Vancouver is now instrumental in addressing similar challenges in Halifax With a focus on integrating national expertise with local market needs, Stephen is keen on advancing innovative construction methods like modular and mass timber, aiming to optimize construction processes and labor utilization in the region. His leadership not only aims to enhance RJC Engineers' local presence but also contributes to sustainable and efficient infrastructure development in the Maritimes.

Stephen is a detail-oriented structural engineer with a passion for creating resilient and innovative building designs. He has a strong technical background and experience designing with an array of building materials including concrete, steel, and wood Beyond his technical proficiency, Stephen embodies a collaborative spirit, understanding that great designs are born from effective teamwork and communication

A versatile engineer, Stephen’s broad portfolio of work includes both new and existing structures ranging from high-rise concrete mixed-use towers and office buildings to low-rise mass timber commercial and steel academic buildings His expertise extends beyond design alone; he possesses hands-on construction experience and adeptly manages projects from conception to completion

After earning his Bachelor of Engineering from Dalhousie University, Stephen received a Master of Applied Science from the University of British Columbia, and gained experience in the Vancouver area while working with RJC. Born and raised in the Maritimes, Stephen is thrilled to bring his expertise to RJC's Halifax office. His background and education equip him with both the technical skills and local knowledge necessary to guide projects to success throughout Atlantic Canada.

Professional Affiliations:

Engineers Nova Scotia (ENS)

Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia (EGBC)

Structural Engineers Association of British Columbia (SEABC)

Construction Association of Nova Scotia (CANS)

m a g e C o u r t e s y : S t e p h e n M e r c e r

As the Regional Manager for RJC Engineers' new Halifax office, how do you see your role influencing both the firm's growth and the local economy in Halifax?

Halifax and the Maritimes are seeing massive growth, and the local construction industry needs not only additional consulting engineers but consultants with a wide range of expertise to help advance it. RJC Engineers (RJC) has already been in this area for years, but my role is to cement our local presence and help bring new ideas from across Canada to Halifax

My experience navigating the housing boom in Vancouver helps with the wide range of housing projects needed to deal with the projected population growth and existing housing supply challenges in Halifax As Regional Manager, I am also responsible for bringing the wealth of expertise from across RJC to the region, supporting other RJCers and clients as we deliver a wide range of services

Given your educational background at Dalhousie University and subsequent experiences, how do you leverage this unique blend of local and national expertise in your role at RJC Engineers?

My experience in large cities nationally has exposed me to various types and scales of projects, skill sets, challenges, and solutions that may be uncommon in Halifax When a unique challenge presents itself in the Maritimes, I can use this experience or call upon any of my colleagues across the country with expertise in that area.

Growing up and working in the Maritimes, I see the unique challenges we face here, especially in our housing crisis and labour shortage, where the engineering solutions we develop can speed up construction and work with the labour supply While concrete is still an excellent option for our projects, modular and mass timber are increasing a part of the equation as they can rapidly produce housing with local labour

All in all, I’m bringing RJC’s national experience and expertise to ‘made-in-the-Maritimes’ solutions

With the opening of RJC's Halifax office, what are the key engineering services and specialties that you are bringing to the Atlantic Canada market?

RJC is one of Canadas preeminent engineering firms We bring many specialities to the region, including structural engineering, structural restoration, parking planning, building science, and building energy modelling We offer services to help owners from ideation through the life of their building with a holistic approach, focusing on building performance We can pull expertise from a wide range of projects across Canada and apply it to the local industry.

I m a g e C o u r t e s y : C a n v a 84- CanadianSME-June2024

In particular, we feel that the local market can benefit from our significant experience in medium to high-rise residential buildings, fastpaced construction, modular housing, mass timber and institutional work

Could you elaborate on the opportunities and challenges you foresee with mass timber projects in Halifax, and how RJC plans to address these in upcoming projects?

Mass timber is another tool in our toolbox; it provides many solutions to the construction industry but isn't a silver bullet

Mass timber allows us to build beautiful homes and structures in public spaces with a lower environmental impact The local market can have long construction schedules, whereas mass timber structures can have a reduced project timeline Mass timber buildings are also desirable places for people to live and work For example, studies have shown that children perform better in schools when their classrooms use exposed wood Additionally, mass timber supports the local forestry industry, and many new and existing local companies are looking to develop mass timber products

One challenge is that mass timber is still in its infancy here in Nova Scotia versus the more established industry RJC has been a part of in other parts of Canada, particularly in the western provinces There is room to expand the labour pool of mass timber expertise in Nova Scotia, as most of the supply currently comes from outside the Maritimes. We are hopeful that the

Reflecting on your return to Halifax, how do you believe your journey and the opening of this new office will inspire future engineers in the region?

I have met many people who have decided to return to the Maritimes or move here for the first time I think the influx of individuals coming to the Maritimes is well underway I cannot speculate on individuals’ reasons for coming here, but the population growth speaks for itself, especially in the past several years This growth has provided many employment opportunities, especially for engineers and others in the construction industry From my experience, the Maritimes offer big-city opportunities with a smalltown sense of community

m a g e C o u r t e s y : C a n v a

Lucas McCarthy, CEO of Showpass, shared with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine how the company has become a disruptor in the ticketing industry through innovative technology and customer-focused strategies From introducing features like simultaneous event checkouts to universal barcodes, Showpass is reshaping ticketing standards. Lucas highlights the company ' s commitment to transparency and customer satisfaction, such as their transparent pricing and automated exchange and refund platforms. His leadership approach, shaped by previous entrepreneurial endeavors, emphasizes strategic vision and effective teamwork, ensuring Showpass not only meets but sets new industry benchmarks.

Lucas McCarthy is a 3x founder and the current CEO of Showpass, North America’s largest independent ticketing and things-to-do discovery platform Showpass revolutionizes the ticketing industry by leveraging technology to enhance customer experiences in a sector known for poor satisfaction rates Lucas's entrepreneurial journey began with a design company catering to competitive gaming teams, followed by a venture developing a synchronized video upload platform for musicians worldwide He holds a finance degree from the University of Calgary and has been featured in A&R Magazine and IQ Magazine for his innovative approach to business Recognized for his resilience and leadership during the pandemic, Lucas has been honored in Event Industry's Top 40 under 40 and often speaks at events about entrepreneurship, technology, and entertainment.

Showpass has been described as a disruptor in the traditional ticketing industry. Can you elaborate on the specific technological innovations and customer-centric strategies that Showpass has implemented to enhance the ticketing experience?

Back in 2014, when we embarked on this journey, we were driven by a simple yet powerful vision: to revolutionize the ticketing industry We set out to make the ticketing experience not just better but exceptional Our early innovations, like enabling customers to checkout with multiple events at once and introducing universal barcodes, had never been done before at the time We didn't just want to meet industry standards; we aimed to set new ones As our impact grew, so did our determination to reshape the industry's

CEO of Showpass

perception of ticketing From pioneering transparent pricing structures to launching a fully automated exchange and refund platform, we ' re working to change the reputation of the ticketing industry We want to raise the bar and want everyone to expect more That's the spirit that drives us at Showpass

As a significant player in Calgary’s tech landscape, how do you see Showpass contributing to the growth of this sector, and what makes Calgary an ideal base for tech companies?

Calgary's tech landscape is unlike any other, shaped by the resilience and grit of its workforce thanks to the constant boom and bust of oil & gas Showpass, born and bred in Calgary, embodies these qualities We're not just a tech company, our commitment to responsible growth is a testament to our

You have a rich background in entrepreneurship with several ventures before Showpass. How have your previous experiences influenced your approach to leadership and innovation at Showpass?

I've always believed in getting my hands dirty, and in leading by example Yet, I've come to realize that true leadership requires more than just diving into the trenches; it demands strategic vision and effective teamwork Seeing my team share the same passion for our work is invigorating, but we ' re evolving together We're shifting our focus toward broader strategic initiatives and it's a journey of growth, both for me and for Showpass.

dedication to this city and Calgary’s spirit With stakeholders from local family offices and a workforce steeped in Calgary's culture, we ' re not just contributing but leading by example Our office culture is a reflection of who we are as Calgarians and Canadians

ImageCourtesy:Showpass ImageCourtesy:Showpass ImageCourtesy:Showpass

The pandemic posed substantial challenges for the event industry. Can you share how Showpass pivoted its business model during this period and what key lessons were learned?

We tailored our services and products to meet current demands and pioneered markets like hotels and agritourism alongside initiatives such as a hotel concert series and a creator streaming platform Through this journey, we learned invaluable lessons in frugality and the importance of assembling a resilient team capable of weathering any challenge. These principles have been fundamental to our growth and will continue to guide us as we navigate future endeavors

Showpass recently unveiled a new 30,000-square-foot office, complete with a 3,000-square-foot restaurant-style kitchen. What inspired this unique office design, and how do you see it influencing the company culture and productivity at Showpass?

Inspiration for our office design stemmed from a practical need and a deep understanding of our team's desires My wifes previous workplace had a kitchen, prompting us to hire our first Chef in 2017 We engaged extensively with our team to identify what would make them comfortable and productive throughout the day, and food emerged as a crucial factor Offering amenities like a kitchen eliminates the need for tasks such as cooking, dishwashing, and grocery shopping, saving our team valuable time each week. It's a testament to our commitment to providing a supportive and productive environment where our ambitious team members can thrive, not just professionally but also in their personal pursuits

ImageCourtesy:Showpass ImageCourtesy:Showpass ImageCourtesy:Showpass

BDC’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

In a compelling interview with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine, Véronique Dorval, BDC’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, discussed the transformative impacts of digital banking on small businesses in Canada. Véronique highlighted the strides made in accessibility, efficiency, and the customization of financial services to better suit the dynamic needs of small businesses With digital banking, Véronique noted, entrepreneurs gain the advantage of simplified transaction processes, faster service delivery through automated systems, and universal access, enabling them to operate their financial activities seamlessly from any location At BDC, Véronique is steering initiatives that make digital banking more intuitive and responsive, ensuring that services like the digital Express Loan are not just tools, but solutions that foster substantial growth and efficiency in Canada's entrepreneurial sector. Under her leadership, BDC continues to enhance its digital interfaces and expand its outreach, ensuring that small businesses across Canada are equipped to thrive in an increasingly digital economy

Véronique brings an impressive 24-year career as a strategic business leader with a track record for driving growth, delivering ambitious transformations and creating a digitally-enabled operating model that is always client focused

She was appointed BDC’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer in August 2022. In this role, she oversees the Financing, Growth & Transition Capital, and Advisory Services business lines, ensuring BDC’s solutions are integrated, effective and efficient for maximum impact on Canadian business owners

Before joining BDC, she was Senior Vice President and Chief Client Experience Officer at Sun Life Financial, where she defined a transformation agenda and was responsible for sales across direct channels, delivering double-digit growth. During her 8-year tenure with Sun Life Financial, she also held responsibilities for strategic initiatives, client acquisition, engagement and loyalty.

Prior to that, she spent 12 years as Associate Principal at McKinsey & Company, leading management consulting mandates for large North American financial institutions and other clients.

Véronique is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and has a Bachelor in Business Administration from the Université de Sherbrooke, with part of her program completed in Mexico, Spain and India.

Véronique is strongly involved in the development of women in the workplace and in her community She was a leader in the Sun Life Bright Women network and she is a contributor to the Fitspirit nonprofit organization, whose mission is to get teenage girls active for life Previously, she was a member of the Board of Directors of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens from 2013 to 2023 and she was a member of the Advisory Board of Heads & Hands from 2013 to 2016, whose mission is to provide young people with the tools they need to make informed decisions about their physical and mental well-being Since June 2022, she is a member of the Board of Directors of Eugeria, a Quebec-based company that proposes concrete solutions to facilitate many aspects of daily life for people with Alzheimer’s disease and their family, in all dignity.

I m a g e C o u r t e s y : B D C

With your extensive background in banking and finance across various roles, how do you see digital banking evolving to meet the needs of small businesses in Canada?

Digital banking for entrepreneurs is about making banking and funding easier, faster, and accessible to more small entrepreneurs

First, it’s about ease: making information and transactions feasible in a few simple steps It also means that, through technology, we assist entrepreneurs in finding information, prepopulate forms, and validate them All of this with one goal, making it easier for entrepreneurs!

It is also about speed Digital banking allows financial institutions to automate many steps, from the collection and analysis of information to approvals The tradeoff is that it removes part of the human interaction This is where having the right balance plays a critical role in the experience

And finally, digital banking increases accessibility: it makes financing accessible anywhere, anytime, to more small entrepreneurs All entrepreneurs have a phone, tablet, or computer, making digital banking available on their own terms

As Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at BDC, what are the key strategies you are implementing to enhance the digital banking experience for your clients?

We have already introduced the digital experience for new and existing small business clients; requesting a loan of up to $100,000 takes only 15 to 20 minutes, completely online Our existing clients that meet certain criteria can also access (via their account manager) BDC’s digital Express Loan capability, a pre-approved loan of up to $750,000 We are continuously adding digital capabilities for entrepreneurs on; our website features an ‘Articles and Tools’ section that provides practical support on business plan creation, calculating carbon footprint or cybersecurity readiness


You've been a strong advocate for Canadian entrepreneurs. Can you share how BDC's initiatives under your leadership are tailored to support the growth and innovation of small businesses across the country?

Business owners are incredibly important to their communities and to our country Our clients employ over 1 2M people SMEs contribute 50% of Canada’s GDP It’s important to grow our reach to support as many business owners who require our support as possible Last year we saw the biggest growth in the number of new loans, and we currently support more than 100,000 business owners across the country

We pay particular attention to underrepresented groups, including smaller businesses We increased the number of women, Indigenous, and Black entrepreneurs served by more than 10% just over the last year.

Our strategic focus and initiatives support the priorities of entrepreneurs and help them address important challenges they face

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Small entrepreneurs do not always have the internal resources to optimize their business Our Advisory Services provide tactical advice and tools to help them be more productive and resilient Topics range from operational efficiency and financial management to social and environmental issues, labour shortage, and opportunities related to AI

The productivity gap is top-of-mind; one of the ways to close this gap is via investments in technology Over the last two years, we were an important partner and contributor to the Canadian Digital Adoption Program

Given your commitment to community service and your professional role, how do you integrate corporate social responsibility within BDC's operations and culture?

As a development bank, corporate social responsibility is at the core of our purpose It informs our focus on small and medium entrepreneurs, as well as underrepresented business owners such as women, Indigenous and Black entrepreneurs

We are also committed to supporting greener business models and contributing to a reduction of GHG emissions We provide advisory services and tools; for example, our Climate Action Centre features a GHG emissions calculator We are also piloting green solutions to support the construction, acquisition and retrofit of buildings

Internally, we walk the talk when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We focus on constantly improving our practices from hiring to procurement In keeping with our development focus, we increased our supplier diversity by 15%, which now accounts for nearly 9% of our total procurement

Looking ahead, what are the major trends you foresee in the financing and consulting sectors that could impact small businesses, and how is BDC preparing to address these changes?

There are three trends I would like to focus on: productivity, technology, and business transitions

Productivity and managing the productivity gap are essential to Canada’s economy and they are mission critical to our entrepreneurs’ competitiveness Our Advisory Services play an oversized role in equipping our clients with the tools they need to stay ahead of the curve such as operational efficiency and financial management.

Technology will continue to evolve at a high pace. The impact ranges from increased digitization and AI-powered opportunities to the need for awareness and safeguards around cybersecurity We constantly evolve our advisory services offer to help entrepreneurs leverage technology and provide solutions to finance the required investment

Business transitions should not be a surprise; a significant number of Canadian entrepreneurs will retire in the next few years – more than 60% of Canadian entrepreneurs are over 50 years old – and many of them will look to sell their business. We support entrepreneurs via financing for the next generation (Growth & Transition Capital), by connecting buyers and sellers, and by leveraging our ecosystem network to connect them with relevant partners.

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Naoufel Testaouni, Co-founder and CEO of QueerTech, detailed his motivation and vision in an interview with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine. The genesis of QueerTech was spurred by Naoufel's and his co-founder Andy Saldana's personal experiences in the tech industry, where they felt a stark lack of representation and community for queer individuals This realization led them to establish QueerTech as a beacon for 2SLGBTQIA+ tech workers, aiming to dismantle barriers and cultivate a supportive environment From its humble beginnings as a meetup group, QueerTech has grown into a robust nonprofit organization, driven by a clear mission to empower queer presence and leadership in technology through comprehensive programs and initiatives

Naoufel Testaouni started his career in the non-profit sector as General Manager for AIESEC in Morocco, which provides young people with leadership development and cross-cultural global internships. He later transferred to the AIESEC United States in New York City and managed the expansion to Bahrain, Qatar, and the UAE through a US government grant of over $1 million. He then took on the interim COO's role and managed a team of 10 people with a budget of $4 million.

Naoufel joined Microsoft Middle East and Africa as a Regional Program Coordinator, managing the Microsoft Software Donation Program for Internet safety and security He also managed relationships with crucial Microsoft partners in the region, like the World Bank and the United States Agency for International Development After two years at Microsoft, Naoufel moved to Montreal to join tech startups He started at TandemLaunch Technologies, where he built relationships with university tech transfer offices worldwide Naoufel was Head of Business Development at Local Logic, his last company

Today, Naoufel is the Co-Founder and CEO of QueerTech This organization aims to Queer the Tech Ecosystem by breaking down barriers, creating spaces, and connecting communities to support and empower 2SLGBTQIA+ people to thrive."

Could you share with us what motivated you to co-found QueerTech? What were some of the pivotal experiences that shaped your vision for the organization?

QueerTech was founded by myself and my co-founder, Andy Saldana, due to our own experiences in the tech industry We were passionate about tech, but didn’t see ourselves represented or reflected in the space We realized that this was a common experience for queer tech workers, and that a dedicated community space was necessary to address these barriers and tackle feelings of isolation

Several pivotal moments have shaped QueerTech Meeting my co-founder, Andy, was a transformative encounter and the beginning of an extraordinary partnership Since we first met we have been united by a shared vision, and unwavering passion, for change Joining the Board of Montreal NewTech was another pivotal moment that granted us access to both an incredible community and funding that provided the foundation needed to bring QueerTech to life.

I m a g e C o u r t e s y : Q u e e r T e c h

After that, we evolved from a simple meetup group to an incorporated nonprofit in 2018 - solidifying our commitment to making a meaningful impact for Canadian 2SLGBTQIA+ tech workers With this evolution came the crafting of our official vision statement and programs, with a dedicated focus on clarity and impact for the audiences we aimed to support The last pivotal moment came in 2022 when Andy and I embraced a new chapter of QueerTech by shifting into full-time capacities - a decision that allowed us to build a passionate team and significantly amplify our efforts

QueerTech is dedicated to empowering Queer individuals within the tech industry. What are the strategies and programs QueerTech has developed to break down barriers and create opportunities for Queer individuals entering the tech space?

Through a recent research initiative, QueerTech discovered that only 13 9% of aspiring and current 2SLGBTQIA+ tech workers in Canada believe their queer identity is a benefit to acquiring employment High rates of pre-employment discrimination were also uncovered - with 35 6% of respondents indicating

they’ve experienced blatant discrimination during at least one job interview (another 9 5% think they have, but can’t be sure) These worrying experiences, paired with the stark underrepresentation of 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals in tech generally, indicate an urgent need for informed intervention We will never see queer leadership or meaningful advancement within the sector, at scale, if we fail to open the door first

QueerTech has multiple programs meant to address the different areas of acquiring employment in tech - skill development and industry navigation, mentorship and community forums, and channels to facilitate direct access to employment opportunities

A cohort-style program designed to equip queer individuals with the professional skills necessary to break into the digital innovation economy, demystify the job search process, and increase value alignment.

A secure portal platform that allows members to connect with other QTs, participate in groups, attend events, and discover their next opportunity.

A two day conference convening aspiring and current queer tech professionals, leading industry experts and Canada’s largest, most inclusive employers across the sector.

An initiative for job seekers, freelancers, entrepreneurs and employers alike, Ask & Offer is an opportunity for community members to ask for what they need (a dream job, a co-founder, etc.) or offer what they have (insights, a vacant position on their team, etc.).

A live feed of over 3,000 curated job opportunities with inclusive employers across the country.

A two day virtual professional development experience that features facilitated workshops, expert-led panels, AMA’s with industry leaders, and meaningful connections with potential employers and hiring professionals.

How does QueerTech assist Queer professionals already in the tech industry to thrive and advance? Could you discuss some specific resources or workshops you offer for skill development?

QueerTech embraces a community model, meaning that most programming integrates mutually beneficial aspects for all agents of said community - from aspiring tech workers and seasoned professionals, to employers and the support ecosystem itself Authentic community requires both taking and giving - a reality largely absent in transactional corporate settings However, in a support organization setting, authentic community is powerful when we understand that both taking and giving come with value

For example, the previously mentioned QT Access program relies on a network of engaged mentors who have previously navigated job search and employment processes across the sector, as a queer individual Doing good feels good, and we are proud to have built a community that fundamentally subscribes to the notion of “sending the elevator back down” for the next generation of queer tech leaders

However, we also have our QT Leaders program - an initiative designed for experienced queer tech professionals surrounding skill development and career advancement. The QT Leaders Summit is a one day conference that gathers 2SLGBTQIA+ tech leaders and executives from across the country to inspire and empower participants, facilitate peer learning, and exchange sector best practices. The QT Leaders Creatives in Tech Program is a sixmonth, cohort style program that targets aspiring and emerging leaders in the creative tech sector, with a focus on leadership development and community building. ImageCourtesy:depositphotoscom

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You work with companies to foster more inclusive work environments. What are some common challenges you encounter in this area, and how does QueerTech guide organizations to overcome these hurdles?

Within capitalism, there must be winners and losers Drivers of this economic system (private companies, governments, etc ) will never be drivers of equity, due to this reality. However, we can work to reduce the scope and scale of disparity within the tech industry by working closely with companies on human-facing aspects of their operations

Our research on workplace culture revealed:

Top descriptors for Canada’s tech industry: “white”, “hyper masculine”, “homogenous” and “cisgender”

Less than 40% of tech workers - queer and notbelieve 2SLGBTQIA+ employees are consistently treated with respect

While 70% of tech workplaces have DEI initiatives, only 24% of employees find them very effective

Multiple interviews cited termination of employees who raised issues related to queer inclusion

Addressing culture involves tackling quantifiable areas like DEI policies and workforce representation statistics, while also ensuring informed systems for accountability, transparency and iteration are present When engaging with company decision makers, effective channels for communication and a foundational understanding of queer experiences are vital. Establishing both trust, and commitment, enables organizations like QueerTech to be more effective at providing tailored solutions, including: collaborative research, information sessions, DEI goal setting and tracking guidance, leadership support, and tactic iteration insights

Looking forward, what are some of the longterm goals QueerTech aims to achieve? How do you see the organization evolving to further support the Queer community in tech?

QueerTech has three vision goals that act as the foundation for all programming and support decisions within the organization:



Increase representation of queer people in the tech industry to 20%

Advance queer leadership to reach 5% of executive and leadership roles in the tech industry

Increase the funding opportunities for 2SLGBTQIA+ people to reach 15% of total funding allocations

3 These are big goals, but they are goals we are fully committed to accomplishing with the help of our community

About QueerTech:

QueerTech is on a mission to queer the Canadian tech ecosystem Operating since 2016, QueerTech is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting workforce and economic development across Canada by fostering entrepreneurship and providing opportunities for the 2SLGBTQ+ community to access employment, professional development and meaningful connections in the technology industry The organization is also a national leader in workplace inclusion advocacy and progressive 2SLGBTQ+ equity, diversity and inclusion policy facilitation

I m a g e C o u r t e s y : d e p o s i t p h o t o s c o m
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