CanadianSME Small Business Magazine - May 2024 Edition

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Canadian Small
Medium Businesses ISSUE NO. 66 MAY 2024 AllImages,trademarks,servicemarksandlogosreferredtoorappearinginthismagazinearethepropertyoftheirrespectiveowners. ASustainable Approachto ModernFashion Curated Curated Style: Style: BankingPartner ShippingPartner Accounting SoftwarePartner Email Partner PAGE NO 11 HospitalityPartner

Welcome to the vibrant month of May! As nature blossoms around us, so too does the spirit of innovation and growth within the pages of this month's CanadianSME Small Business Magazine. It is with a blend of excitement and commitment that we present to you our May edition with special focus on "Retail and Mental Health Awareness," a theme that resonates deeply across the business community.

This edition is packed with insightful content, featuring essential discussions like "ESG Reporting – Opportunities and Challenges for SMEs" by SustainabilityX, and a forward-looking interview with Alexander Peh of RBC on the future of Payments & Merchant Acquiring. We explore the dynamic challenges of SME marketing with exclusive insights from Constant Contact, and highlight technological empowerment through a feature by Intel Canada.

Showcasing individual success, we delve into Erin Grace’s remarkable journey from a garage startup to a healthcare empire, and shine a spotlight on Katie Zeppieri, our Business Woman of the Month, who is reshaping the PR landscape through The MicDrop Agency. We also spotlight MedReddie's advances in the Health Tech Industry, NGen's sustainable manufacturing strategies, and PayPal's transformative approaches to payment solutions.

Our articles also prepare you for the future, addressing employee skills development, workplace stress management, and the upcoming retail technology trends for 2024. With a focus on sustainability and strategic advancement, these stories aim to inspire and propel forward-thinking.

Additionally, we are proud to be hosting the fifth edition of the CanadianSME Small Business Show 2024, which centers on "Embracing Digital Transformation for Small Businesses." Scheduled for June 24, 2024, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, this event is a pivotal gathering for SMEs ready to navigate the digital transformation landscape. Register at to join us.

We also invite you to secure your seats for The CanadianSME National Business Awards 2023, taking place on June 7th, at the prestigious Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Book your tickets at

In conclusion, 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 canadian sme canadiansme canadiansme


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Aconversationwith AlexanderPeh on the future of Payments & Merchant Acquiring Vice President, Head of Merchant Payment Services, RBC How NGen's Sustainable Manufacturing Challenge Aims for a Greener Future 42 The Journey Behind Keel Mind's Innovative Approach to Mental Health 53 Fostering Collaborative Strategies for Enhanced Workplace Well-being 62 Payment Solutions for NGOs: What Corpay's Roy Farah Recommends 75 16 Navigating Workplace Stress: Strategies for Success 60 Embracing Change: Raj Kothari's Global Journey in Business Advisory 70


How CanWCC Advocates for Women and Non-Binary Entrepreneurs

Navigating SME Marketing Challenges: Insights Into the Canadian Business Landscape

57 29 23 19

Business Woman of the Month : Katie Zeppieri

Louise Southall on Late Payments and Optimism in the Small Business Sector

Grace Under Pre Erin Grace's Visionary Leap from Garage Startup to Healthcare Empire
Investing in Employee Skills Develop A Strategic Imperative for Canadian How PayPal is Transforming Payment Solutions for Small Businesses p g pp g 56 50 14 Rethinking Financial Wellness: A Look at Mercer’s Latest Retirement Study INTHISISSUE 78
Reciprocity “I Saw That” - Karma 31 Intel Canada: Empowering Canadian Businesses and Driving Economic Growth 26 Innovating in Agritech: Zaffia Laplante's Vision for SkyAcres' Future Paula Allen's Strategies for Promoting Employee Well-Being and Productivity Healthcare with AI: MedReddie's Rise in the Health Tech Industry 67 81 39 BenWise&DarrenChiu INTHISISSUE

Maidene Morris-Dixon Founder of Curated Style

In her interview with CanadianSME Business Magazine, Maidene Morris-Dixon, founder of Curated Style, discussed how she transitioned from thrifting enthusiast to business owner after a decade of passion for sustainable fashion and creative expression. Maidene's journey began with a simple solution for her own dry skin, evolving into a thriving business that merges modern style with traditional practices. Inspired by her friend Joanna Newby, she discovered the joy of finding unique vintage pieces, which led her to create her first business, Stylinhead2toe, in 2014. This venture eventually transformed into Curated Style, representing Maidene's growth as an entrepreneur and her commitment to bringing sustainability and style to the forefront of her brand

ASustainableApproach toModernFashion

Meet Maidene Morris-Dixon - Canada’s Most Stylish Thrifter of 2024 as featured in the April issue of Canada’s Fashion Magazine Her style is an unapologetic passion for sustainable fashion

The founder of Curated Style, Maidene is a Personal Stylist, Interior Decorator and Wardrobe Designer She styles her clients for exclusive events,provides personal shopping servicesand wardrobe consultations.

In her role as an Interior Decorator, Maidene is a consultantwith one of Canada’s leadinghome builders, Daniels. She also has her own client list that she assists in decorating theirhomes.

Maidene has worked on numerous short films, a CBC Gem series and a music video as a Wardrobe Designer Her fashion expertise is called upon to acquire clothing, curate looks and dress actors

A staunch supporter of women and young girls, Maidene is focused on addressing the issue of body image and dressing for success Her work includes advocating for equality in fashion and a world whereeveryone feels and looks beautiful without judgement

m a g e C o u r t e s y : M a d e n e M o r r i sD i x o n

Maidene, you ' ve been recognized as Canada's Most Stylish Thrifter of 2024. Can you share what initially drew you to thrifting and sustainable fashion, and how this passion influenced the founding of Curated Style?

My friend Joanna Newby that introduced me to thrifting over a decade ago. What kept me going back and grew my passion was how thrifting inspired me to become more creative This passion along with my sister Mureen , influenced the founding of Stylinhead2toe I started that business back in 2014 I loved finding unique vintage pieces Back then I would find so many amazing, quality vintage pieces Curated Style is Stylinhead2toe reborn, it represents my growth as an individual and as an entrepreneur

You've emphasized the importance of having a supportive tribe, especially of women who inspire and motivate. How has this community played a role in your personal and professional growth, and can you share a story where their support was pivotal?

This community has played a major role in my personal and professional growth. On a personal level I have a strong group of females in my family and in my friend group that pour into me From my daughter, mother, sisters, aunts, girlfriends, old bosses and coworker you name it I have even had perfect strangers speak positivity over my life and my career People I meet in the thrift stores and I share what I’m doing I have even had two old co-workers many years ago tell me they had dreams about me One around 2013 and again 2018/19 One told me that I was famous, a house hold name the other had a dream I was on Oprah Even before I believed in myself, they way I do now, others saw great things for me

Professionally I was introduced to my stylist mentor Zola Jeffers through Inclusive Stylist Toronto Zola is the one who brought me into the film and TV scene Any and every opportunity that she was able to include me in, she did (When I started Curated Style, being in FILM and TV was not at the forefront of my vision I just wanted to be a personal stylist I love working with one-on-one clients ) From that point on I believe my work ethic and my ability to build good relationships help me realize more and more opportunities within the industry I had other producers ( Temilola Adebayo, Hannah Yohannes, Muna Deria, Shanele Soares, Alex House, Vanessa Magic) who went out of their way to include me in spaces and give me opportunities To this day many reach out to inform me of opportunities that are on the horizon I had other women such as Michelle Lyte, who took time out of busy schedule to answer questions I had about navigating the industry as a new wardrobe stylist I had other women such as June Charles who took time to mentor, educate and even had me work along side to give me more experience in the home decorating space Their support is definitely pivotal in how Ive grown in my crafts as a stylist for interiors as well as wardrobe I think its important to share my experience Often, we hear of women not wanting to share space because it’s too competitive but I have experienced the exact opposite and I am grateful No gate-keeping, just love and encouragement

ImageCourtesy:CuratedStyle Sustainable Fashion

Finding your true purpose later in life can be incredibly powerful. What led you to discover your true purpose at 50, and what advice would you give to others seeking to redefine their paths later in life?

What led me to finding my true purpose at 50 was God gently removing me from the safety of corporate life and forcing me to take a chance on myself to share the gifts and talents He has given me

The advice that I would give to others seeking to redefine their paths in life is, - define it on your terms, - dream big and work hard -Stay faithful and positive, even when its not happening as fast as you would like or may not even seem like anything is happening -Surround yourself with people that love and support you and your dreams

Your visit to Ghana in 2022 for business marked a significant step in your career. Can you describe the challenges you faced while decorating a space there and how you overcame them?

I love Ghana and the opportunity to return to Ghana was a dream come true. I was tasked with decorating a 3-bedroom condo for the purposes of rental (Airbnb I faced a few challenges while decorating the space but nothing that I wasn’t able to work through Sourcing/Shopping was a bit unconventional I was not used to sourcing furniture by the roadside Vendors literally had full living room and other furnishings outdoors That is how I did most of my sourcing with my clients We drove around and made comparisons, as I would normally do here in Canada to get the perfect items at the best price It just took a bit longer Another challenge I faced was putting the final touches on the space Normally, this is the fun part, hanging artwork This proved to be a daunting task because the walls were made out of cement We did enlist the help of someone who worked with cement and did get it done without totally ruining the walls and out clients were very happy

With your recent accolades and public recognitions, what's next for you and Curated Style? Are there any upcoming projects or initiatives that you ' re particularly excited about?

What’s next? I am open and excited about all that God has in store for me I know He is about to bless me more than I imagined or prayed for. I am currently receiving opportunities on daytime television to share my talents I would love to have a regular segment on daytime television sharing my expertise as a stylist and interior decorator I would also love to host a television show on Home & Garden as an Interior Decorator I have always wanted to work more with women and young girls around body image and dressing for their bodies in a way that makes them feel good I am in the process of exploring modeling Modelling over the age of 50, why not? I am open to anything that the universe offers me

ImageCourtesy:CuratedStyle 13- CanadianSME-May2024 Sustainable Fashion

OpportunitiesandchallengesforSMEs ESGreporting–

In the ever-evolving landscape of sustainability, innovative platforms are emerging to empower businesses on their eco-friendly journey

Sustainability-X, a pioneering company, is at the forefront of this movement In this exclusive interview, we sit down with the visionary founder of Sustainability-X –My Tran - to discuss the motivation, challenges, and future of sustainable business solutions

MyTran,managingdirectorofSustainability-X, hascreatedapracticeinCanadathatputscare ofEnvironmentSocialGovernanceatitsheart. Duringtwelverecentyears,MyTran,hadledthe SustainabilityReportingAwardforAssociationof CharteredCertifiedAccountants(ACCA)withthe ACCAVietnamjudgingpanelinVietnam.Since then,thepracticehasgrown,engagingmore than700Vietnameselistedcompanieswhile buildingtheawarenesstoawiderangeofsmall mediumentrepreneurs(SMEs)inthecountry.

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My Tran, Managing Director of Sustainability-X

Can you share the inspiration behind founding Sustainability-X? What motivated you to create a platform dedicated to sustainability?

Our journey began with a realization – the need for a comprehensive platform that simplifies sustainability for businesses Recently, a new BDC study finds almost every large company requires ESG reporting from their suppliers, and small businesses unable to meet ESG requirements will lose the opportunity to win big contracts And there is a clear trend in investors increasingly prioritizing companies in their portfolios with ESG policies I saw numerous organizations struggling to navigate the complexities of sustainable practices

We build very clear simple system for SMES such as overall ESG guidelines, how to create a sustainability report based on the international recognized ESG frameworks We support SMEs to start everything from scratch From ESG strategy development to operation and human resources, we will support to build it all How does Sustainability-X contribute to the success of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in their sustainability journey?

My Tran: SMEs often face challenges in implementing sustainability due to resource constraints Sustainability-X addresses this by providing tailored solutions that fit the unique needs of SMEs We streamline data management, facilitate real-time reporting, and offer tools for benchmarking against industry standards

SMEs play a crucial role in Canada's economy, contributing significantly to job creation and innovation As the world shifts towards sustainable practices, it is imperative for Canadian SMEs to embrace and nurture sustainability strategies to ensure long-term success and contribute to environmental and social well-being And the Canadian government offers various financial incentives and support programs to encourage SMEs to adopt sustainable practices. Businesses should actively explore and leverage these opportunities to offset initial costs and foster long-term sustainability.

In your opinion, what are the benefits for small businesses to get from ESG reports?

Returning to the question of benefits from ESG report, in addition to complying with government regulatory requirements, the following aspects must also be mentioned: First, this is an opportunity to help businesses understand their own business activities through systematically surveying, selecting and gathering information.

An accurate and ready ESG reports will increase reliability and satisfy the needs of stakeholders.

Having a transparent ESG report will help obtain greenhouse gas GHG certification, which is a necessary condition for eco-label registration, helping to improve the reputation of businesses, especially participating businesses global supply chain

And last but not least, if businesses invest effectively in reducing emissions, exchanging carbon credits on the carbon market can also be a significant source of income

To learn more about what you can do with Sustainability-X platform and its benefits for your business, please use the ESG report tool today at!

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Vice President, Head of Merchant Payment Services, RBC

In an interview with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine, Alexander Peh, Vice President and Head of Merchant Payment Services at RBC, shared insights on trends in the payments industry for 2024, emphasizing the importance of embedded payment solutions that allow customers to complete transactions without leaving a merchant's website This trend, he explained, can enhance customer experiences and boost sales Alexander highlighted the need for omni-channel payment acceptance to help businesses reach new customers by operating across multiple platforms He also outlined how RBC's solutions, like RBC

PayEdge for automating supplier payments and RBC Insight Edge for providing realtime business insights, support small and medium-sized businesses in achieving their growth objectives while ensuring secure and efficient payment processes

Born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, educated in Melbourne, Australia and with experience in Africa, South-East Asia, Europe and North America, Alex currently serves as the Vice President, Head of Merchant Payment Services at The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), based in Toronto His mandate focuses on growing RBC's Merchant Services Business and strengthening RBC's partnership with Moneris. He joined RBC 7 years ago to lead their Tech + Ops Innovation Group focused on an array of emerging technology including BlockChain, Voice, Digital Identity and CyberSecurity.

Prior to joining RBC, he had roles leading Market Development & Mobile for PayPal and Braintree Canada and Channel & Mobile Partnership's for PayPal Europe

An active startup advisor & mentor and FinTech investor, he currently is the President and Chair of The Board of Ascend Canada, Board Member of Ascend Global Leaders and has sat on a range of Global Advisory Boards including TechToronto, Singularity University Canada, Copenhagen FinTech, the Mars Discovery District, the BC Tech Association and Dash40 Ventures.

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Can you share your insights on 2024 trends in the payments industry? How will these trends influence small and medium business owners’ merchant services?

With the pace digital payments are being adopted, merchants and card issuers are prioritizing embedded payment solutions that allow customers to complete their transactions without leaving the merchant’s website. These solutions enhance the payment experience for their customers, can streamline transactions and potentially increase sales.

I’m also seeing more businesses start to work with payment partners who can offer omni-channel payment acceptance and seamless integration across various channels These features are particularly relevant for businesses that only operate in one channel (either in-store or online) thanks to the potential they offer to expand reach to new clients

What are the top merchant pain points you’ve noticed in your time working in Merchant Payment Services at RBC?

Consistent and reliable access to capital is critical for a merchant to run their business uninterrupted but can sometimes be a challenge. Newer merchants often face the challenge of managing high transaction fees, which affect their profit margins. Current trends show that many are opting for flat-rate pricing, which offers greater cost-certainty around processing fees per transaction Moneris has recently introduced a flat-rate option for their customers, which is ideal for those starting a new business

Merchantsarealsolookingfor opportunitiestoworkwithpartnerswho canofferaholistic,end-to-endexperience. RBCoffersarangeofproductstohelpmake runningabusinessmoreseamlessthrough programslikeRBCPayEdge,anaccounts payableplatformthatautomates paymentstosuppliersbyintegratingwith merchants’accountingsystems,RBC InsightEdge,adashboardthatoffersrealtimedata-driveninsightstohelp merchantspersonalizetheirmarketing effortsandAvionRewards,RBC’sloyalty programthatmerchantscanpartnerwith tocreatecustomizedloyaltyofferingsand ensuretheirgoalsaremet–whether increasingbasketsize,acquiringmore clientsorgeneratingrepeatbusiness.

Imagecourtesy-Canva Payments Industry 17- CanadianSME-May2024

Finally, the advancements in generative AI have made business owners more vulnerable to chargebacks and fraud While managing fraud risk often becomes a priority after fraud or a cyber incident, it’s important to partner with Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant payment partners and invest in secure systems.

Can you provide an example of a successful strategy you’ve implemented to help small and medium businesses optimize their payment processes and increase overall satisfaction with their merchant services?

What’s RBC and Moneris’ approach to helping clients access both payments and business solutions?

RBC’s goal is to provide merchants with integrated endto-end solutions We want them to focus on what matters the most – growing their business

We recently launched Faster Access to Funds, which improves cash flow and productivity for RBC business clients that also use Moneris Businesses are now able to get their payments next day, every day, seven days a week at no extra cost, helping to solve the cash flow pain point

What advice have you received that would help small and medium business owners?

In this constantly evolving digital landscape, it’s important merchants take a step back to re-evaluate the relationship with their clients to understand their wants and needs Client expectations will evolve as new technologies emerge, and merchants should be prepared to shift how they do business I believe that this technology disruption is a competitive advantage and that some of the most successful SMEs are the ones that adopt and embrace new AI technologies

initiativesinthecomingmonthsforexample,businesseswillbe abletosign-upfortheirbanking needswithRBCandmaketheir paymentarrangementswith Monerisatthesametime. Imagecourtesy-Canva Payments Industry

In the prevailing commercial environment, effectively marketing an enterprise’s products or services can prove challenging for SMEs. To address these obstacles efficiently, Constant Contact's Small Business Now series provides valuable insights into the current trends and challenges that small and medium-sized enterprises are currently experiencing in Canada How do they achieve it? By integrating exhaustive research and expert opinions. Plus, this series not only provides knowledge to SMEs but also equips them with practical suggestions to enhance their achievements Let’s delve into some of the findings from Constant Contact’s latest study without any further ado.

Imagecourtesy-depositphotoscom 19- CanadianSME-May2024

Listing Barriers that Impede Effective Marketing

One aspect that impedes a good marketing campaign from going in full throttle is the lack of resources This is one of the primary obstacles preventing SMEs from optimizing their marketing efforts This surpasses all other countries surveyed, as 37% of Canadian SMEs identify it as their principal challenge, be it limited manpower, finances, or time. More than half of Canadian SMEs have less than one hour per day to dedicate to marketing, and another 56% say they consistently put their marketing activities off for later The limited availability of resources highlights the critical situation in which small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) must develop approaches that achieve significant outcomes with minimal financial outlay

Monitoring Cost & Expenditure Trends

Essentially, Constant Contact's report reveals that a considerable 63% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Canada devote an annual budget of less than $14,000 CAD to marketing, which is the lowest expenditure among the countries surveyed Moreover, an alarming 11% of Canadian SMBs intend to further reduce their marketing expenditures this year These statistics emphasize the criticality for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to implement economic marketing strategies, yield concrete outcomes, and not place an undue financial burden

Seeking Effective Marketing Strategies

Even though digital marketing tools and platforms are abundant, a considerable proportion of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Canada struggle to develop effective marketing strategies Just 23% of Canadian small and mediumsized enterprises (SMEs) express a high degree of confidence in the effectiveness of their marketing strategy – the lowest among all countries surveyed Moreover, an astounding 90% of Canadian SMBs find it difficult to determine the most appropriate message for their intended audience This underscores the imperative for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to utilize data-driven insights and implement personalized strategies in order to effectively connect with their target audience

SMB Marketing m a g e c o u r t e s yd e p o s t p h o t o s c o m 20- CanadianSME-May2024

Adopting a Multichannel Marketing Approach

Our current era is characterized by diverse communication channels and platforms As a result, it is important for SMEs to utilize multiple marketing channels to amplify their reach and engagement As such, Constant Contact's data reveals that 82% of Canadian SMEs recognize that multichannel campaigns typically generate better results, but 44% of aren’t using more than one marketing channel in their campaigns. Further, just 15% of Canadian SMEs feel confident that they are using the right channels to reach their customers Using a multichannel marketing strategy allows SMEs to diversify their outreach efforts, increase brand exposure, and form stronger relationships with their target audience across several touchpoints

In the end, the Small Business Now report by Constant Contact provides invaluable insights into the dominant trends and obstacles influencing the SME sector in Canada Limited financial resources, growing time constraints, and uncertainty about how to execute effective marketing campaigns are just a few of the challenges that SMEs face on their marketing journey

The good news is, SMEs in Canada can effectively surmount these obstacles and establish a foundation for long-term expansion by making a few small changes. A marketing platform like Constant Contact can help SMEs automate their marketing so they can spend less time worrying about campaigns and messaging, and give their full attention to the rest of their business By leveraging technology, Canadian SMEs can also learn more about which marketing channels their customers respond to, and deliver the right message to the right customers at the right time all without adding any extra work to their plate

Check out Constant Contact’s official website for more information on their marketing solutions by clicking here.

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

m a g e c o u r t e s yd e p o s i t p h o t o s c o m 21- CanadianSME-May2024 SMB Marketing

In an interview with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine, Louise Southall, Economist and Small Business Specialist at Xero, highlighted key insights from the latest Xero Small Business Insights report The report indicates a challenging quarter for Canadian small businesses, particularly concerning late payments and the time taken to get paid

Average payment time increased to 29 4 days, with businesses being paid over a week late on average

While there was still a decline in small business sales (-3.8% year-over-year), this was an improvement from the previous quarter’s -4.3%, suggesting the decline may be leveling off. Louise emphasized the importance of localized data through the XSBI program to help policymakers and businesses understand regional economic dynamics and encouraged small businesses to focus on improving productivity, streamlining operations, and seeking professional advice to navigate current economic challenges

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

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


Economist and Small Business Specialist at Xero

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Louise, could you provide an overview of the latest findings from the Xero Small Business Insights report? What do these findings suggest about the current state of the Canadian small business economy?

The latest XSBI data for Canada revealed another disappointing quarter for Canadian small businesses, particularly in terms of late payments and average time to paid metrics, both of which showed regression in the December quarter after seeing improvement in previous quarters The average time small businesses waited to be paid increased to 29 4 days, up from 29 0 in the previous quarter On average, small businesses in Canada were also paid over a week late at 8 6 days

In slightly more positive news, there were signs that the downward trend in sales growth that has been underway since mid-2021 may finally be starting to improve Canadian small business sales growth was still lower than a year ago in the three months to December (-3 8% y/y), but this quarter showed improvement from the September quarter result (-4 3% y/y), an indication that the downward curve may be flattening

With the report highlighting a decline in small business sales in Canada, what are the key factors contributing to this trend and how it varies across different sectors?

For months, Canadian small businesses have been caught at the intersection of record-high interest rates and sluggish consumer spending Following the Bank of Canada’s sixth consecutive interest rate hold since July 2023, small businesses will be eager to see a rate cut in future decisions, which could lead to an increase in consumer spending down the line

While we don’t currently track industryspecific data for Canada, we can see in other countries where Xero is running its XSBI program, that it’s the industries that are most dependent on non-essential spending from households that are feeling the biggest pinch, such as hospitality This reflects the impact of ongoing cost-ofliving pressures which don’t leave households with much extra cash to spend with their local small businesses

Overall, Canadian small businesses continue to feel the strain of high-interest rates and reduced consumer spending, but this quarter’s results hint at the potential for improved outcomes in the future. Together with rising business owners’ optimism, the latest XSBI data paints a cautiously hopeful picture for small businesses for the second half of the year.

The XSBI program recently began providing province-specific updates. Could you explain why it’s important to have this localized data and how it can help businesses and policymakers better understand regional economic dynamics?

Having this data at the provincial level equips us with extra information about how these specific areas are performing There is very little Canadian data available at the regional level that is specifically focused on small businesses, and most of this is survey-based rather than actual economic performance data This new XSBI data means policymakers, small businesses and their advisors now have access to more localized data that we hope will result in opportunities for more informed, strategic decision-making

24- CanadianSME-May2024 Economy

According to the latest data, there are noticeable differences in economic performance among provinces. What might be causing these discrepancies, particularly the smaller sales decline in Alberta and faster payment times in British Columbia?

Indeed, the latest XSBI data showed fluctuation in small business performance from province to province Albertan small businesses, though they did not see positive growth in the December quarter (sales growth was 3 0% lower y/y), beat the average for sales growth (-3 8% y/y), while both British Columbian and Ontarian small business growth was softer in comparison

Differences in performances across provinces often reflect different economic structures For example, Alberta’s oil industry is likely helping to support many small businesses in the province, given world oil prices, while currently lower than in 2022, are still higher than they were in the years prior to the pandemic. The more diversified economy of British Columbia means it is more likely to be growing at a pace closer to the Canadian average most of the time

Given the ongoing economic fluctuations, what strategies would you recommend Canadian small businesses adopt to navigate these uncertain times effectively?

In uncertain economic times such as these, small businesses should look to double down on productivity and improve efficiencies where they can, whether that be through digital adoption and the use of AI tools to streamline automation efforts or finding ways to make it easier for customers to engage with the business

Some of the active steps small business owners can take include encouraging prompt payments by having multiple payment options available and a “ pay now ” link on invoices, and encouraging loyal customers by using offers such as loyalty cards or weekly specials

Remember that Canadian small businesses don’t need to tackle the current challenging conditions alone. We always encourage owners to get expert advice from an accountant and bookkeeper about their specific business needs


According to a recent report, Intel’s semiconductors significantly contribute to Canadas economic prosperity by powering businesses and increasing productivity

If there’s one corporation that stands out for its considerable influence as Canadian businesses navigate the constantly changing world of technology, it’s none other than Intel With a half-century-long history in Canada, Intel has led the way in innovation, empowering companies to grow and transform with the changing times

The report by Public First, a global strategic consultancy, illustrates and quantifies Intel Canadas contribution to the country’s economic growth and the role its technology plays in helping Canadian businesses unlock higher productivity


The research estimates that around 15 million Intel microprocessors are operating across Canada on any given day, powering everything from servers and special equipment to laptops and desktop computers. Beyond individual devices, those semiconductors are the foundation of critical operations in multiple sectors of the Canadian economy, ranging from healthcare, finance, and manufacturing, to retail, professional services, telecom, and academia. This technology is enabling approximately CAN $33 billion annually in higher productivity for businesses in Canada

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Intel's legacy in developing technologies that improve people's lives is more evident today than ever, with technological advancements reshaping our daily experiences and work environments Looking to the near future, semiconductors, along with five other elements Intel calls “superpowers” ubiquitous computing, pervasive connectivity, cloud-to-edge infrastructure, artificial intelligence (AI), and sensing — will exponentially increase the world’s need for computing as microchips become capable of processing ever more abundant amounts of data According to the report, over the next five years, Intel’s CPUs could unlock an additional CAN $1.4 billion in growth.

Thanks to this ongoing advancement in processing power and the widespread application of Artificial Intelligence, small and medium-sized enterprises can now use faster and more powerful computers, servers, and other electronic devices across their operations With devices becoming more compact, powerful, and portable, employees gain the ability to access crucial information and applications on the go This increased mobility allows for remote work, attending meetings from various locations, and swift responses to urgent issues, all of which contribute to a better work-life balance and heightened job efficiency, resulting in increased productivity and outputs as well as better use of time and talent.

On an industrial level, businesses that have adopted and integrated these technological advancements are gaining a significant competitive advantage They can offer superior products and services, meet customer needs more adeptly, and stay a step ahead of their competition

A case in point for such businesses is Matrox Video, a Montreal-based leader in the broadcast and media, live entertainment, and professional AV/IT markets Matrox recently unveiled its Matrox LUMA series of graphics cards featuring Intel Arc GPUs, designed to meet the mainstream graphics market's demand for multi-screen capabilities, reliability, and performance, promising to enhance future consumer video experiences Thanks to this collaboration with Intel, the company was able to offer a suite of new products to its clients worldwide and at a much shorter time-to-market timeframe

Acknowledging that remaining competitive involves more than merely outlasting rivals, companies require the appropriate resources and technology to function well in the present while being ready for any challenges that may arise in the future Lets take, for example, the latest Intel Core Ultra processors With their embedded AI capabilities, they power the Intel vPro platform, which is designed for small and medium-sized enterprises, and provides business-grade security, stability, remote management, and performance capabilities

The collaboration and support of Intel Canada to the domestic SME sector does not end with technology offerings Its impact on the economy ripples across wider circles The Economic Impact Report estimates that in 2022 alone the fiscal year when data was collected the company assisted in the creation of an estimated 7,500 external positions and contributed $2.4 billion in Gross Value Added (GVA) to the Canadian economy through its direct economic footprint.

Against this backdrop, Canadian small businesses stand to gain further as Intel continues to allocate resources toward research and engages in partnerships with academic institutions and industry associations A future in which Canadians will enjoy the power of AI everywhere and have instantaneous access to data and computational power will become a reality faster than we can imagine

To learn more about Intel’s impact in Canada, please visit

Economic Growth
I m a g e C o u r t e s y : G r a c e M e d
I m a g e C o u r t e s y : G r a c e M e d

Imagine getting a free coffee from your favourite barista, then feeling compelled to leave a huge tip Or receiving helpful advice from a colleague, making you eager to assist them with their next project. This instinct to return favours is known as the Reciprocity Effect.

The Reciprocity Effectis rooted in our deep-seated social norm of returning favours When someone does something nice for us, we feel an internal obligation to reciprocate This isn't just about grand gestures– even small acts of kindness or generosity triggerthis response surprisingly effectively

Imagecourtesy-istockpho 31- CanadianSME-May2024 m a g e C o u r t e s y : B e n W s e & D a r r e n C h i u

Savvy persuaders understand this From building relationships to closing deals, the Reciprocity Effect is a tool to influence choices and create a sense of positive obligation.

Details & Examples:

Let's explore three ways you can strategically apply the reciprocity effect:

Freebies with Benefits: Don't jump straight into your pitch Offer something valuable upfront This could be a helpful content download, a trial period, or even a small, personalized gesture (handwritten notes never go out of fashion). This primes the recipient for reciprocation when you present your actual offer.

Concessions Breed Compromise: In negotiation, be willing to make the first concession, even if it’s a minor one This makes the other party ready to reciprocate, and signals yourdesire to cooperate, moving the process forward.

Emotional Reciprocity: So much of persuasion is about building an emotional connection and gathering information If your counterpart is hesitant to share, take the lead and open up to them This builds trust and encourages the other person to do the same.

Understanding the Reciprocity Effect is a superpower for anyone who wants to be more persuasive Masterful marketers, negotiators, and networkers utilize reciprocity to build goodwill, influencedecisions, and createlasting, mutually beneficial relationships. Think strategically, not manipulatively. Focuson providing genuine value, and the returns will follow.

Be the person known for generosity and valuethat’s when reciprocity truly pays off.

32- CanadianSME-May2024 Reciprocity
1) 2) 3)

Monthly Challenge

Ready to put this into action? Here's your challenge:

Pick a Goal: Do you want a potential client to agree to a meeting, a coworker to support your project, or to improve a business relationship?

The "Give": Figure out something valuableyou can offer upfront This could be a resource, a small favour, or simply taking time for a genuinely helpful conversation.

Don't Push: The key is sincerity, not manipulation. Give without an immediate expectation of return

Observe: Notice what happens Did the other person seem more receptive? Was there a shift in your dynamic?

About Authors:

Want to Learn More? Check out these great resources:

The websiteVeryWellMind has a great overview of the Reciprocity Effect,including many real life examples.

For a more in-depthreview, the classictome, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, has an entire chapter devotedto Reciprocity

Ben Wise and Darren Chiu are the co-founders of Captivate, providing tactical tools to help you increase your powers of persuasion They are sought after speakers on the psychology of persuasion and have appeared at industry events, conferences and corporate training programs Beyond Captivate, Ben Wise is a 15 year advertising industry veteran who has held successive sales and leadership roles at Google, where he is currently the Head of Programmatic Media working with the largest agencies and brands in Canada Ben is active in his community where he serves on the Board of the Daily Bread Food Bank and recently completed a two year term as the board chair. Ben also advises multiple startups on sales and go to market strategy and volunteers in various mentorship programs helping students and young professionals. Darren is a Strategy Lead at Google, helping brands across all industries develop best in class marketing strategies. With over 12 years of industry experience, Darren’s passion for communication doesn’t stop at the world of business and sales In his spare time, Darren moonlights as a comedic storyteller, stretching his creativity and perspectives beyond the boundaries of his professional life As a recognition of his dedication and expertise, Darren was selected as an Emerging Leader in Advertising & Sales by The Peak in 2023 If you are interested in connecting with Ben and Darren to learn more about Captivate or to book a speaking engagement, you can contact them on LinkedIn (profile links)

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

Rethinking profitability

Scalability, growth and profitability in a business often comes from different aspects including and not limited to long-term goals and strategies, marketing and branding, sustainable practices, and business structure For waste and recycling management firm, Waste Solutions, the key to their success starts right from their team and a strongly built work culture

Founded more than a decade ago by Jason Wilcox and Shane Curtis, Waste Solutions has been redefining waste management, recycling practices and garbage disposal to help organizations achieve their environmental goals and reduce costs Through consultancy with industry-leading experts, innovative technological solutions and management services, the venture provides a holistic waste management solution to companies in multiple industries including hospitality, senior living, manufacturing, government, property management, retail and others Being in this space for a significant time, like any other business, like many others, this venture has been through business turnarounds and pivots to tackle market changes and ensure scalability through unprecedented times “We realized that there wasn’t software on the shelf that would suit the needs of both – our people and customers That’s when we endeavored to build a platform that could be used as our internal Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and offer our clients a dynamic portal This helped us in automating a lot of processes and improved scalability for a more exponential growth trajectory,” says Wilcox. But that’s not all – Wilcox truly believes that it’s their team and a well-rounded workplace culture that has helped Waste Solutions reach the heights

34- CanadianSME-May2024

Recognized on the Globe and Mail’s list of Top Growing Companies in Canada in 2023 (for the 5th year in row), the venture has from a team of 18 employees to a mighty team of 90 in the span of the last 5 years Looking at a whooping retention rate of 118% in the past year and 160% the year before that, Waste Solutions recognized the importance of having strong hiring practices that align with their business goals early in their journey. “We concentrated on hiring the leadership team first, and then moving onto the recruitment of management-led teams to ensure constant support and effective onboarding,” shares Wilcox This strategy particularly helped the company in bringing in individuals with years of expertise, knowledge and a fresh perspective Another move that helped growth came from the switch to internal hiring instead of relying on recruitment firms to find the ‘right fit’ for the team “When we are hiring, we look for positivity and personality Having an in-house hiring team ensures that we find more culturally fit people and create more consistency across departments and teams,” says Wilcox

Focused on growth, Waste Solutions does not stop at finding the right fit – in fact, this process is just the beginning For them, a mix of different efforts ensures a smooth onboarding process for the new hire AND existing employees “We have a 90-day process to onboard a new employee, and this involves cross-departmental training and shadowing, a buddy system and a multi-week training module,” shares Wilcox. An interesting aspect of this 90-day training is the client lifecycle that gives an insight to the new hire into their role and where it fits in the bigger picture Often, when companies try to integrate a new hire, it comes at the cost of added workload and shifting priorities for the existing employees, but that’s not the case at Waste Solutions “We walk before we run with our new team members This is why the onboarding process might also look like a 90+ day process for some to be fully engaged in their positions Regular check-ins for comprehension, mental health, and determining how they are developing in their roles also helps in managing expectations both for the new hires and existing employees,” shares Wilcox

Business Growth ImageCourtesy:WasteSolutionsCanada

Building a strong work culture with a remote-first policy, open communication lines, company retreats and anonymous feedback systems, Waste Solutions has seen a year over year team member growth of 18% and an overall growth rate of 400% on their employee count in the last five years “Open communication is a big one for us From our leadership team having an opendoor policy to considering and potentially implementing suggested feedback from our team, we believe that our employees are the happiest when they feel seen and heard,” shares Wilcox Striving to continue building this environment, the company prides itself on being certified as a Great Place to Work for three consecutive years and credits their client satisfaction to employee retention rates “We truly believe that if you care for your people, they will care for your customers The more experience that an employee gains working at a workplace helps them get better at their roles and responsibilities which ultimately leads to a better client experience and satisfaction level,” says Wilcox

From our leadership team having an open-door policy to considering and potentially implementing suggested feedback from our team, we believe that our employees are the happiest when they feel seen and heard –

A highly diverse team with 50% of their workforce being women, with key focus on the well-being of its employees, and a leadership team that believes in involving their employees every step of the way, Waste Solutions’ success truly lies in the strength of its employees as they continue building one of Canada’s Fastest Growing Companies on shared values and relentless pursuit of excellence

To know more about Waste Solutions, visit Business Growth ImageCourtesy:WasteSolutionsCanada

With continued emphasis on well-being to build productivity, engagement and creativity in our regular everyday lives, ventures such as DifferentMatters are presented with endless opportunities to innovate the way businesses, employees and individuals view their workplace culture In another one of such pursuits, President at DifferentMatters, Todd Attridge and Special Projects Lead at DifferentMatters, Lora Crestan, are now introducing a one-of-itskind online platform – a gym for emotional fitness, The Studio

Recent studies by human resources SaaS company, Bamboo HR, show that employees have had low morales in past three years, and this can potentially cost $8 8 trillion to the global economy The reasons are endless – the advent of the ‘hustle culture, rising costs of inflation and blurring lines between professional and personal lives of remote workers But for Attridge, the reason is deeper “I have noticed that the leadership team, at most companies, understand productivity, but they often lack the understanding of what is it that is preventing employees from being productive ” Attridge and Crestan’s years of research have led them to understand the importance of creating the perfect balance between aspirations and capacities. “When a star employee pushes hard, they become efficient at their jobs. They eventually get promoted or get recognized for their contributions and feel as though they always have to be that person And then as time goes on, they feel that they have lost the agency to say no or set boundaries This leads to more tasks on their plate than they actually have the capacity to deal with and that feeling of overwhelm leads to running over capacity and feeling of dissatisfaction,” shares Attridge

With their one-of-its-kind emotional fitness gym, DifferentMatters is looking to help employees and individuals transition to a life of emotional strength, resilience and calm Just like your local gym, this virtual gym for your emotional health will provide exercises, access to personal coaches, group classes and a community of support! Inspired by the learnings from the likes of James Clear, the author of The Atomic Habits and Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit, the DifferentMatters team built the foundation of their latest product offering on the idea of behavioral change “Our focus was on how we can help people

build good habits, leading to great teams that help build great businesses,” shares Crestan Leveraging the power of building positive habits, Crestan and Attridge designed The Studio to offer small bite-sized learnings to exercise different emotional muscles through repeated exercises To further complement this linear learning phase and successfully build a habit, The Studio also provides exercises that emphasize reflection upon an individual’s learning from these bite-sized learnings and their application in their day-to-day lives

Todd Attridge President at DifferentMatters Lora Crestan Special Projects Lead at DifferentMatters
m a g e C o u r t e s y : D f f e r e n t M a t t e r s I m a g e C o u r t e s y : D i f f e r e n t M a t t e r s

To avoid The Studio from being just another app out there, DifferentMatters is tackling the lack of human connection in applications and software by providing a customized user experience and various human touchpoints in their programming “We have the live chats functionality, a space for the community to chat with each other, the group classes and personal coaches that all help with the human connection How AI helps is in the actual habit building process, ” shares Attridge The AI assistant, a puppy named ‘Cliff’, will not only help in creating a customized journey for every individual utilizing the application, but also help with the reflection of their learnings, and how far they have progressed “We don't want to build one app for a million people We want to build an app that has a million functions for a million people There should be a million journeys, one for every single individual And so although, for now, we'll have a bit of a linear learning, but what will happen is, it will become an asynchronous delineated journey of what is it that you need,” shares Crestan. In the analogue version of The Studio features, DifferentMatters recorded over $1M in revenue in the past 5 years which demonstrates a need for emotional fitness in the workplace The positive affirmation received from their corporate clients drives the additional features of The Studio, so it can reach a broader audience

Reflecting on their journey of expansion from a leadership development organization to also helping companies build a strong workplace culture and now adding a unique Canadian flagship product of its own, DifferentMatters credits their growth to the relentless support from the community and the guidance from TechAlliance “AI really was not the buzz word when we first started working with TechAlliance and so, when OpenAI emerged, our work with TechAlliance really opened our eyes to the other possibilities and applications of this It really took our app from something that was going to be great to something that is actually now going to be quite wild!,” shares Attridge Crestan adds, “We have tapped into several helpful resources from TechAlliance, including some valuable advice from their Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIRs) network. The pitch deck training that Todd has been receiving from TechAlliance is worth millions of dollars from a value perspective as it has truly helped us get ready for our upcoming funding rounds ”

With their prototype in the works, preparation for their dedicated booth space at Collision 2024 and getting ready to be on the stage to find angel investors for preseed funding rounds, DifferentMatters is well on their way to growth and transforming how companies address emotional fitness worldwide.

Check out the Studio here.

Well-Being I m a g e C o u r t e s y : D i f f e r e n t M a t t e r s

CanadianSME Small Business Magazine interviews Kara LeBlanc, CEO & Founder of MedReddie, about her journey from concept to success in the competitive healthcare technology sector Kara shares how pivotal partnerships with the Accelerator Centre and SnapPea Design were instrumental in scaling MedReddie Through these collaborations, Kara's team refined their product iteratively based on real user feedback, ultimately creating a platform that leverages artificial intelligence to streamline healthcare procurement By bootstrapping grant funding and winning pitch competitions, MedReddie secured initial funding, allowing the company to hire skilled data scientists and scale effectively. Despite the challenges of starting a business during a global pandemic, Kara's resilience and strategic partnerships positioned MedReddie for success. She emphasizes the importance of community, mentors, and partnerships in fostering innovation and adapting to uncertain times

Kara LeBlanc, a distinguished entrepreneur, and visionary leader has emerged as a driving force in the realm of healthcare technology Armed with a Masters of Science in International Supply Chain Management from the University of Salford, UK, Kara's astute insights and pioneering spirit have reshaped the landscape of procurement in healthcare

Following extensive research on value-based procurement practices worldwide, Kara identified a pressing need for transformative solutions within procurement and selling processes. From strategic planning to innovative marketing approaches for suppliers, Kara's vision encompasses a comprehensive overhaul of traditional methodologies.

With over a decade of leadership experience in supply chain management, particularly in procuring medical equipment, devices, and solutions, Kara founded MedReddie. This groundbreaking venture was established with a singular mission: to revolutionize healthcare procurement and catalyze positive change within the industry

Could you share some of the pivotal moments and strategies that were instrumental in MedReddie's growth, particularly how you navigated the challenges of scaling a startup in the competitive healthcare technology sector?

A pivotal moment in MedReddie's growth was partnering with the Accelerator Centre and SnapPea Design in KitchenerWaterloo These partnerships provided invaluable mentorship, guiding us through the process of building our company and product Working closely with SnapPea Design, we adopted a systematic approach to product development, starting with prototyping, testing, and gathering user feedback on an international scale This iterative process allowed us to refine our product based on real data and identify features that delivered the most value to our customers


Another pivotal moment was securing non-dilutive grant funding Countless grant proposals funded building, testing, and commercializing our platform, enabling us to remain lean and make smart business decisions in the early stages Additionally, this funding allowed us to hire data scientists to build out our data strategy and leverage artificial intelligence and proprietary algorithms to scale the company

By bootstrapping grant funding, we developed a minimum viable product with customer traction, which supported our success in pitch competitions

This was another pivotal moment as we embarked to scale our solution Winning a couple of national pitch competitions, including Elevate and The Firehood Women in Tech national competition, led to securing our first round of VC-backed funding These strategies were instrumental in navigating the challenges of scaling a startup in the competitive healthcare technology sector

Starting and growing a company during an economic downturn and a global pandemic is no small feat. What specific strategies did you implement to overcome these challenges and ensure MedReddie's success during such uncertain times?

Our evolution began with my firsthand experiences in healthcare procurement, which inspired graduate studies in global supply chain management

Recognizing the universal nature of this problem, I embarked on a mission to find a solution Partnering with SnapPea Design and mentors at Accelerator Centre, we developed cost-effective prototypes and engaged stakeholders to pinpoint pain points

Iteratively refining our product through stakeholder feedback, we transitioned from whiteboard concepts to clickable prototypes and functional MVPs, culminating in a commercialized product Throughout this journey, we prioritized humility, listening, and data-driven decision-making. These principles were instrumental in crafting a scalable product from the outset. Starting and growing a company amid economic adversity and a global pandemic demanded strategic resilience and adaptability Our approach focused on making logical business decisions and embracing incremental progress

You've highlighted the significant impact of mentors, advisors, accelerators, and strategic partnerships in your entrepreneurial journey. Can you elaborate on how these relationships have shaped MedReddie's development and your approach to fostering these critical connections?

Our entrepreneurial journey has been profoundly shaped by our ecosystem of mentors, partners, accelerators, and investors Accelerator Centre, SnapPea Design, Weavik, Angel investors, The Firehood, Forum Ventures, Google for Startups Accelerator, National Research Council Innovation Program, BDC Thrive Lab, New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, Deloitte, ventureLAB Accelerate AI, Equivesto, Elevate, UNB Axis Sales Accelerator and University of Waterloo have been instrumental in our growth

ImageCourtesy:Canva Healthcare 40- CanadianSME-May2024

Theirunwaveringbeliefinour visionandcontinuous mentorshiphaveinfluenced everyfacetofourbusiness,from productdevelopment,corporate governancetostrategic planningandmarketing.Aswe continuetoevolve,werecognize thesignificanceofnurturing theserelationshipsandfostering acultureofcollaboration.Our journeythusfarhasbeen definedbythecollectivewisdom andsupportofourecosystem, andweremaindeeplygrateful. ImageCourtesy:Canva

With MedReddie at the forefront of integrating AI and ML in healthcare procurement, what is your vision for AI's role in transforming supply chain management? How do you ensure that your AI solutions remain innovative and effectively meet the needs of your clients?

At MedReddie, we envision AI as a transformative force in supply chain management, streamlining processes and driving efficiency Our proprietary AI large language models (LLMs) are tailored for healthcare procurement, generating evaluation criteria for diverse medical solutions with unprecedented speed and accuracy Our vision for AI's role is to continuously innovate, leveraging cutting-edge technology to meet evolving client needs, such as getting faster access to medical solutions or discovery of innovative solutions that contribute to the care pathway We ensure our AI solutions remain innovative through ongoing research, staying ahead of industry trends, and actively engaging with our clients to understand their requirements This iterative approach allows us to deliver the most up-to-date and comprehensive assessment tools, empowering our clients with a significant edge in the procurement process

As a successful entrepreneur and a mother, you ' ve managed to navigate the challenges of leading a startup while being present for your family. How has this balance influenced your leadership style and your company ' s culture, and what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs striving for a similar balance?

Balancing the demands of entrepreneurship with family life has profoundly shaped both my leadership style and our company culture. Having a supportive husband and family has been instrumental in navigating this delicate balance. As a proud mother of two daughters, I've learned the importance of empathy, communication, and setting boundaries Our team shares these values, fostering a supportive environment where open dialogue and innovation thrive For fellow entrepreneurs aiming for this balance, I've found that compartmentalizing time helps maintain focus Additionally, it's crucial to understand that achieving balance isn't always straightforward; it can fluctuate with circumstances Offering yourself grace during these shifts is key to sustaining a healthy equilibrium

Healthcare 41- CanadianSME-May2024

John Laughlin, Chief Technology Officer at NGen, discussed with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine how NGen's Sustainable Manufacturing Challenge (SMC) intends to drive significant change in Canada's manufacturing sector This challenge aligns with the nation's commitment to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 By investing $35 million in the initiative, NGen aims to foster partnerships between cleantech companies and manufacturers to accelerate the adoption of sustainable practices The goal is to promote decarbonization and encourage circularity in manufacturing processes, leading to a more sustainable and economically robust industry. This challenge seeks to not only reduce the environmental footprint of manufacturing but also to stimulate innovation and economic growth through collaborative efforts.

John joins NGen from the UK where he was responsible for setting the strategies and running high profile government R&D programmes at Innovate UK worth more than $8 5 billion across the automotive, aerospace and intelligent mobility sectors John held senior engineering and programme management positions at Visteon working with Ford, Honda, Mazda, Toyota, Suzuki and Volvo At London Underground his brief was to deliver part of the Olympic Transport Strategy for the London 2012 games He co-founded


Appleseed Solutions, where he helped businesses across the transport sector achieve sustainable business growth, developed the UK Automotive Council’s Strategic Product Roadmap and was the architect and Technical Advisor for Nesta's Drones Flying High Challenge. He served as Launch Manager to set up Zenzic, a not-for-profit leading on R&D investment strategy in the connected and autonomous vehicles sector.

John holds a Bachelor of Engineering Honours Degree in Manufacturing Systems Management and a Diploma in Industrial Studies He is an accredited IP advisor by the UK Intellectual Property Office He is a Chartered Engineer in the UK and a Fellow of the Institute of Engineering and Technology

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Can you share the vision behind NGen’s Sustainable Manufacturing Challenge? How does this initiative align with Canada's goals for achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and what impact do you anticipate it will have on the Canadian manufacturing sector?

NGen’s Sustainable Manufacturing Challenge (SMC) has been designed to leverage Canada’s expertise in technology and innovation to tackle climate change The challenge aligns with the Government of Canada’s 2023 Emissions Reduction Plan The Plan is an ambitious and achievable roadmap that outlines a sector-by-sector path for Canada to reach its emissions reduction target of 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050. This $100 million+ challenge will help Canadian cleantech companies further develop sustainable technology for Canada’s advanced manufacturing ecosystem The focus is on working with and helping both cleantech companies and manufacturers make the transition towards net-zero manufacturing facilities NGen will invest $35 million of global innovation cluster funding towards this challenge We expect $65 million+ of coinvestment from industry We are also encouraging other funding organizations to co-invest in the projects to maximize impact

Projects should demonstrate how they will help Canada realize the 2030 Emissions Reductions Plan. Some key objectives the applicants are encouraged to consider include:

Reduction in GHG emissions

Reduction in energy and natural resource


Operational efficiency gains

Waste reduction

Use of recycled/sustainable materials

Total product lifecycle management and closedloop manufacturing

Circular manufacturing of materials

Through this challenge, we are enabling cleantech companies in Canada to work with our country’s manufacturers to show an impact on decarbonizing and creating circularity in the manufacturers' operations and entire supply chains. These solutions will create jobs and have the potential to be commercialized globally and enhancing Canada’s competitiveness (or something)

Some priority cleantech areas identified are:

Low carbon sources for fuel, feedstock, and energy.

Innovative solutions for high heat generation. Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage.

Track & manage greenhouse gas emissions across the supply chain.

Smart Manufacturing for efficiency gains and GHG reduction.

Greener/circular/sustainable materials.

NGen is looking to support transformative projects that are pushing the boundaries of world-class cleantech for advanced manufacturing and, where appropriate, incorporate advanced manufacturing technology innovations (e.g., artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing, advanced robotics).

Our sustainable manufacturing challenge includes a focus on industrial decarbonization and/or circularity, leading to net-zero manufacturing facilities

We are also open to reviewing other areas on a case-bycase basis

ImageCourtesy:Canva Manufacturing

Given the ambitious goals of the Sustainable Manufacturing Challenge, could you elaborate on the criteria used to select projects for funding?

Two streams are available depending on the project size ($2 million to $10 million) and $10 million+ NGen’s contribution will be 35% of eligible project costs NGen’s max contribution will be $5 25 million (35% of $15 million)

Projects should demonstrate:

A clear focus on Sustainable Manufacturing

Show how they are transformative

Demonstrate the development and application of ideally a combination of Cleantech, Advanced Manufacturing Tech, and Greener Manufacturing Processes enabling sustainable manufacturing (industrial decarbonization and circularity) in Canada.

Help Canada on its 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan

Involve the development and implementation of Cleantech and Advanced Manufacturing capabilities (technology and processes) with the potential to confer a significant competitive advantage for the Canadian manufacturing industry

NGen has a world-class project development team to work with and support companies in the development of project ideas, assist companies to find collaborative project partners, provide advice on how to develop an Intellectual Property plan, and to help connect with other funding sources Companies can email us at smc@ngen ca to seek support

We are planning a collaboration event on May 15th to help companies find collaborative partners and connections to other funding sources

The projects are assessed by an independent panel of assessors and the top-scoring applications will receive funding. Funding decisions will be made available in ** .

Show how they are Applied / Solution Oriented

Show how they are enduring

Focus on solutions, supporting later-stage technology and manufacturing readiness Show potential to generate significant long-term commercial and economic benefits, including jobs maintained and created

Leave a legacy in skills development, tools, testbeds, intellectual property, and/or business knowledge for Canada's advanced manufacturing ecosystem beyond the partners and project timeline

How critical is collaborative effort in driving the success of the Sustainable Manufacturing Challenge, and what roles do you see for industry, academia, and other stakeholders in these projects?

The collaborative effort is crucial and will help develop industry relationships, build trust, and share knowledge, risk, investment, and the resulting benefits NGen has been running Collaborative R&D innovation programs for over five years, and the results show that projects that have meaningful collaboration have higher returns in terms of revenue, job creation and the ability for businesses to scale The funding derisks the partnership and allows the teams to be more ambitious

44- CanadianSME-May2024 Manufacturing

The projects should demonstrate the development and application of, ideally, a combination of Cleantech, Advanced Manufacturing Tech, and Greener Manufacturing Processes enabling sustainable manufacturing in Canada

The inclusion of multiple industry partners is encouraged Each project should include at least two (2) unassociated industry partners - a lead and partner(s) A formal collaborative partner contributes funding (cash) and background IP to the project, leading to the development of foreground IP. In addition, projects should include at least one (1) SME as a partner, with less than 500 employees globally as well as a manufacturer and demonstrate improving sustainable manufacturing processes.

We are able to directly fund the following types of organizations:

For-profit organizations

Not-for-profit organizations that facilitate and fund research and development on behalf of the ecosystem and whose funding and/or revenue is received primarily from private-sector or industry organizations

Non-federal Crown corporations - funding is derived from commercial activities

Indigenous organizations

Inclusion of academic/research organizations is encouraged and they can be funded through a subcontract to one of the industry partners

NGen allows 100% stacking with other government funds

Based on your experience, what are the major hurdles companies face in moving towards more sustainable manufacturing practices, and how does NGen support them in overcoming these obstacles?

Many successful manufacturers in Canada are already focusing on sustainability not just to meet the regulatory compliance requirementsbut to drive long-term economic value and profitability from these initiatives

However, in many cases, it is not easy to focus on these transformative initiatives There are several barriers that manufacturers face while trying to pursue greener/sustainable manufacturing They often range from:

Lack of centralized responsibility for sustainability efforts in the company

Organizational change resistance

Presence of legacy assets and infrastructure

Upfront costs

Technology unfamiliarity

Competing priorities

Inadequate data

Lack of KPIs to show impact

ImageCourtesy:Canva Manufacturing

NGen sees an urgent need to work with its partners to help Canadian manufacturers and technology firms (both cleantech and advanced manufacturing technologies) collaborate, overcome barriers, and accelerate net-zero efforts The SMC will complement other government initiatives in our country’s transition to net zero

TheSustainableManufacturingChallengeisourwayof bringingthecleantechcompanies,manufacturers,and otheradvancedmanufacturerstogethertocollaboratively overcomethesehurdles.Byprovidingfinancialsupportthis allowsustode-riskthebestsolutionsandacceleratethem tocommercialuse Thefundingallowsthecompaniestobe moreambitiousandhelpssupportcollaboration.Wehavea robustsetofselectioncriteriathathasbeendesignedto ensureworld-classprojectsreceivefunding.Wealso continuetoworkwithcompaniesoncetheyhavebeen funded.Aftertheprojectisclosed,wecontinuetoworkwith manufacturingcompaniestohelpthemachievetheirgoals byseekingoutfollow-onfundingopportunities,our IntellectualPropertyexpertscontinuetoprovideguidance, wesupportthedevelopmentofcommercializationplans, andwehaveprogramsthatfocusonworkforce developmentandtraining

Looking ahead, how do you envision the future of manufacturing in Canada, particularly in the context of sustainability and technological innovation?

Canada is well-positioned to have a positive impact on the global sustainability challenge We are lucky to have 2400 cleantech companies in Canada, and 13 of them made it to this year ’ s global top 100 list It is promising to see several of these leading Canadian cleantech companies developing decarbonization and circularity solutionsspecifically for the manufacturing sector. Many of these cleantech companies are innovating in Canada and trying to manufacture those cleantech solutions in our country

In the future, I hope to see companies fully embrace the idea that focusing on environmental and technological innovation does not have an economic downside Doing this does not mean that we are making a trade-off Increasingly, manufacturers are demonstrating that we can move to a more sustainable future and, at the same time, create economic value In our current project portfolio, we have already seen the positive environmental impacts of new processes developed by different companies Over 70% of existing NGen companies have a positive environmental impact. Examples include reducing the tailings ponds by reducing water usage in the oil and gas industry through novel 3D printing, applying AI to reduce energy consumption and new processes that eliminate the use of hazardous solvents

Canada excels in this space, and with the Sustainable Manufacturing Challenge, we are looking to accelerate the pace of change, create economic growth across the country, and enable interprovincial collaboration


President and Managing Director at Capgemini Canada

Tom Mosseau is the President and Managing Director at Capgemini Canada With a deep focus on digital transformation, his team is dedicated to transforming businesses in Canada by harnessing the power of technology Tom is a seasoned leader who has been a key member of Canada’s leadership team for several years With more than 20 years of experience in developing trusted relationships, he has consistently delivered growth, operational excellence, and value to clients. Prior to his current role, Tom led the utilities industry in Canada.

In a revealing discussion with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine, Tom Mosseau, the President and Managing Director at Capgemini Canada, delved into the transformative role of digital solutions in sustainable development Tom's journey from different leadership roles to spearheading Capgemini's initiatives in Canada exemplifies his deep-seated commitment to integrating technology with ecological sustainability His team is pioneering in leveraging digital transformation to enhance business practices while significantly lowering carbon footprints Through initiatives like adopting renewable energy sources and pushing for electric vehicle fleets, Capgemini not only supports sustainability but also sets a benchmark for the industry. Tom highlighted the vital role of innovative digital strategies in reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, aligning with global sustainability goals. He emphasized that real progress in sustainability requires embedding eco-friendly practices across all operations and throughout the supply chain, a principle that Capgemini champions rigorously

The "Eco-Digital Era" report suggests that Canada is only beginning to tap into the potential of technology for sustainability. Could you identify the primary areas where you see significant growth opportunities in Canada's eco-digital economy?

Canada’s eco-digital economy constitutes 1 5% of the global digital economy, while the U S ’ digital economy constitutes one-fourth (25.8%) of the global digital economy representing huge untapped potential in Canada

Prioritizing scaling mainstream technologies, bolstering cybersecurity, and reskilling the workplace are all significant growth opportunities for Canada’s eco-digital economy

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The report notes that digital technologies have enabled a 24% reduction in energy consumption and a 21% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. Can you provide specific examples of how Capgemini's initiatives align with these findings?

As a responsible business, we ’ re determined to play a leading role in ensuring technology creates a more sustainable future while helping our clients address their environmental challenges As a sustainable business, reducing carbon emissions across scopes 1, 2, and 3 is important for us and we are working to achieve a 90% reduction in all carbon emissions scopes by 2040

There are four main areas where we are working to reduce our carbon emissions:

1) 2) 3) 4)

Reducing our travel impact: As a global company, travel, including business travel and commuting, is one of our biggest impacts. Increasing our virtual collaboration capabilities and digital workplace initiatives while still finding ways to connect has helped us reduce our carbon footprint.

Moving to an electric vehicle fleet: We are significantly increasing our investment in electric charging points and have accelerated the roll out of a hybrid and electric car fleet

Transitioning to renewable energy: We are working towards a target of 100% renewable energy use by 2025. As of now, 87% of our electricity comes from renewable sources. We’re also increasing the sustainability performance of our offices and data centers, intensifying our focus on energy efficiency.

Driving sustainability across our supply chain: As a sustainable business it is important for us that our supply chain is also green For years we have been committed to cutting our carbon emissions and we were one of the first companies in our industry to have our carbon reduction targets validated by the Science-Based Targets initiative In 2022 we set out to achieve a 90%reduction in all carbon emissions across scopes 1,2, and 3 by 2040

For Canadian organizations to make a significant impact on their netzero targets, they will need to recognize and understand the role Scope 3 emissions play in their overall emissions footprint. Often left unmeasured, Scope 3 emissions, which include emissions produced throughout the supply chain, tend to be the largest contributor to an organization's emissions footprint In fact, it is estimated that supply chains contribute up to 80% of these GHG emissions To combat this, Capgemini engages with partners across the supply chain ecosystem to drive an end-to-end transformation journey

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Considering that 60% of organizations expect digitally driven business models to generate more revenue than traditional models, as per the "Eco-Digital Era" report, how is Capgemini adapting its business strategies to capitalize on this trend?

Digital transformation is a major key to unlocking a profitable net zero future for all businesses In addition to Capgemini’s award-winning portfolio of specific sustainability enablers, we ’ re embedding sustainability in every solution we have, because every digital transformation can be a sustainability driver for our clients as well

New digital revenue models can also pose a threat to progress towards net zero goals if sustainability isn’t at the heart of the design at every stage These revenue streams must be based on principles of circularity for both the hardware enabling them and the end product itself, and the solutions which power them must be designed with efficiency and minimal resource requirements in mind

Capgemini seeks to take advantage of the digital revolution to capitalize on these trends ourselves – we are leveraging our GreenIT approach to support sustainable digital tools which enable our people to provide the highest quality partnership to our clients with minimal carbon footprint, particularly from air travel, as we work toward our 2040 net zero commitment

How is Capgemini approaching workforce development and reskilling, and what impact do you foresee on the Canadian labour market?

At Capgemini, we believe that reskilling and upskilling are critical for building a competitive advantage and organizational resilience, and according to our latest research, it appears that Canadian organizations agree The Eco-Digital Era report reveals that 73% of Canadian organizations are investing in reskilling existing workforces, making Canada the second leading country globally when it comes to reskilling the workforce

With emerging technologies and the mass adoption of AI, reskilling has become more important than ever for Canadian organizations to maintain a competitive advantage In fact, 60% of Canadian organizations are investing in emerging technologies such as AI, AR/VR, and blockchain

At Capgemini, we invest in learning and development opportunities that allow our employees to grow without barriers. We provide mentorship opportunities as well as have programming in place such as the Women’s Leadership Development Program which is focused on investing in women in leadership.

The "Eco-Digital Era" report projects a significant growth in the eco-digital economy globally. Where does Capgemini see Canada in this global landscape in the next five years?

The global eco-digital economy is poised for substantial growth, projected to expand from the current $16 6 trillion to around $33 trillion by 2028 This shift is underlined by the role digital technologies play in emissions reduction, more than offsetting their carbon footprints

In Canada, the country is expected to increase its investments in digital initiatives from 3% to 5% over the next five years. These investments should yield significant returns, growing from 8% in 2023 to 13% in 2028

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CanadianSME Small Business Magazine interviews Nitin Prabhu, Vice President of Small Business and Financial Services at PayPal, who discussed PayPal's new PayPal Complete Payments solution and how it supports small businesses Nitin explains that small businesses face challenges like customer conversion, repeat buyers, and fraud concerns PayPal Complete Payments addresses these by offering a streamlined payment solution that accepts various payment methods, including PayPal, Apple Pay®, Google Pay™, and 20 alternative options from around the world. With advanced fraud prevention features and enhanced tracking capabilities, this solution aims to help Canadian small businesses grow while maintaining security It also enables cross-border trade and provides tools to help businesses reduce risks and build customer loyalty

Nitin is a seasoned executive within the commerce, technology, product, and operations space with diverse international experience. At PayPal, Nitin and his team are tasked with helping build innovative products and services that help small and mid-sized enterprises grow and compete in today’s digital era He is a results-oriented growth specialist with a track record of incubating products taking them from concept to scale Known as an intrapreneur, Nitin has closely worked with global Fortune 1000 banks, acquirers, processors, issuers, networks, wallet, e-commerce platforms, start-ups, regulators, social and messaging platforms, and retailers Nitin is an avid investor and advisor to early-stage companies

Can you elaborate on how PayPal's suite of financial services, especially the new PayPal Complete Payments solution, is positioned to address the unique challenges faced by small businesses today, and how this aligns with PayPal's mission of democratizing financial services?

Through the pandemic, small businesses realized they needed to undergo digital transformation and launch e-commerce websites, sell via online platforms, social or mobile channels as that’s where consumers were shopping

The reality is that small businesses face intense challenges as they grow and scale They worry about how to convert customers from browsing to buying, how do they get repeat buyers, and how do they tackle safety and fraud concerns To address some of these common challenges, we launched PayPal Complete Payments, our most advanced and one-stop-shop solution for Canadian businesses of all sizes This solution enables small businesses in Canada to accept a range of payments including PayPal, Apple Pay®, Google Pay™, credit and debit cards, and more than 20 alternative payment methods from around the world

We’ve added features that enable businesses to get repeat buyers and reduce fraud and chargebacks We’ve streamlined our offerings to help Canadian businesses grow. Our goal was to reduce the complexity that businesses deal with in having to approach multiple commerce and payment vendors Now they can process card payments directly on their website and customize the checkout experience to match the look and feel of their brand, all through one single integration with PayPal

Given your extensive background in incubating and scaling innovative products, what was the inspiration behind the development of PayPal Complete Payments, and how does it stand out from other payment solutions currently available to small businesses?

Innovation starts with the customer and a deep understanding of their needs – both the ones they tell you about, and the ones you identify based on anticipating their needs That’s our mindset, and it sits at the heart of PayPal’s culture Customers’ needs point us to where we should focus our resources, so that our product teams solve for what matters most

It’s critical that no matter how cutting edge a product is, it must be rooted in a customer need At PayPal, we ’ re motivated by the impact our products have on people’s lives and the financial and mental wellness of business owners. Every decision we take, we imagine the customer is in the room with us

One key area where we heard Canadian businesses loud and clear is that they want to expand their sales to the US and internationally. The US is a major market for many Canadian small businesses. To promote cross-border trade more easily through this solution, eligible Canadian small businesses can now hold and withdraw money into their bank accounts in US dollar and accept payments in more than 20 other currencies.

A key area of differentiation is our focus on helping cross-border trade grow for Canadian ecommerce businesses PayPal Complete Payments provides faster access to 140 plus currencies in a single wallet with no account minimums and no management of multiple accounts PayPal stands out with 25 settlement currencies and business relationships in over 200 countries

Another feature is that with our latest solution, we help mitigate currency risks and ensure assured cash flows Guaranteed forward rates are offered to mitigate foreign exchange (FX) risk PayPal’s FX service eliminates foreign exchange risk by converting funds into merchants' preferred settlement currency at the same rate displayed to the cardholder at the point of transaction

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How does your approach as an intrapreneur within PayPal drive the development of innovative value propositions and use cases for small businesses? Can you share an example of how strategic insight led to a significant breakthrough in your product offerings?

An area of concern for many ecommerce businesses is cybersecurity For large enterprises, we had an advanced solution We wanted to offer that for small and mid-sized customers PayPal Complete Payments now allows consumers to securely save their payment information on a business's ecommerce website for future purchases This reduces friction and drives customer conversions By letting PayPal help manage some of the businesss PCI compliance for the storage of financial instruments, businesses are better able to manage risk and complexity of their businesses. Small businesses can now save multiple payment methods including PayPal and credit cards in the PayPal vault Once saved, these payment methods remain fresh via PayPal's realtime account updater service and network tokens, which can help reduce credit card declines and drive conversions by automatically updating lost, stolen, or expired cards-on-file

PayPal operates in over 200 markets worldwide. How does PayPal Complete Payments cater to the needs of small businesses across different geographies while ensuring local relevance and compliance with regional regulations?

What sets PayPal apart from any of our peers in the digital payment space is that we have a long history of being a trusted partner to consumers and businesses PayPal’s business around the world is governed by constantly changing policies, laws, and regulations To serve our customers in over 200 markets, we have constant ongoing dialogues with regulatory bodies and work closely with them to comply with relevant regulations to protect people and business owners

Looking ahead, what are some of the emerging trends or technologies you believe will significantly impact the financial services landscape for small businesses, and how is PayPal positioning itself to lead or adapt to these changes?

In the world of commerce, customer conversions are everything Our teams are focused on helping customers drive greater conversions at the point of checkout We have a bold vision and mission to take commerce to the next level as the world experiences the next breakthrough in technology: the age of AI

Today, we’re working to leverage AI to unearth customer insights that weren’t previously possible, enabling businesses, no matter their size, to engage more deeply with customers through highly personalized shopping experiences. We’ll be instrumental in helping businesses “know” their customers better than before.

We are reimagining checkout to be super-fast and seamless This is just the beginning We’ll fundamentally change how people shop and save, and how businesses engage with and acquire customers to grow their business – as only PayPal can We’ll help lead this next chapter in global commerce because we have the trust of consumers and merchants, which is something we ’ ve earned through our steadfast safety and security measures.

As we add greater convenience and personalization, protecting our customers’ privacy continues to be a cornerstone Trust and security are intrinsic to PayPal

ImageCourtesy:Canva Payments Solutions for SMBs

The Journey Behind Keel Mind's Innovative Approach to Mental Health

Ahad Bandealy, Chief Digital Officer and Founder of Keel Mind (formerly Get A-Head Inc ), shared with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine the personal journey that led to founding Keel Digital Solutions Struggling with mental health challenges from a young age, he witnessed the complexities of the healthcare system, prompting him to establish a platform that combines technology with behavioral health principles to address the gaps in mental health care. The resulting solution, Keel Mind, uses AI and machine learning to connect patients with mental health professionals, providing real-world experience for trainees while offering personalized care to those in need. This commitment to innovation reflects a broader mission to transform mental health support and counseling, aligning with Canada's evolving healthcare landscape.

Ahad has dedicated his career to the intersection of behavioral health, neuroscience, and psychology, with extensive experience on both national and international scales He brings a wealth of knowledge from his roles as a Ph D student, researcher, and practitioner-in-training at the University of Toronto Drawing from a blend of personal insight and professional expertise in mental health, he has devoted his life’s work to crafting technological solutions aimed at facilitating seamless access to care for those in need. Now, Ahad is the Founder & Chief Digital Officer of Keel Mind (formerly Get A-Head Inc).

Ahad, with a rich background in behavioral health, psychology, and a transition into digital health solutions, what inspired you to found Keel Digital Solutions, and how does your diverse experience influence your vision for the company?

Keel Mind (formerly Get A-Head) started from a deeply personal motivation rooted in personal experiences with mental health challenges Growing up and navigating life’s twists and turns, including significant setbacks in academia and athletic pursuits, I encountered moments of profound introspection and struggled with depression These experiences not only shaped my understanding of mental health but also fueled a desire to seek solutions, not just for myself, but for others as well

I m a g e C o u r t e s y : A h a d B a n d e a l y

As someone who studied behavioural health at the University of Toronto, I witnessed first-hand the inefficiencies within clinical settings that hindered patient care and exacerbated the shortage of accessible mental health services These experiences ignited a passion to craft a solution that not only addressed these challenges but also prioritized the critical training hours required for aspiring mental health professionals This personal journey of seeking help and understanding inspired the creation of the innovative Get A-Head platform, which later evolved into Keel Mind

Thisblendofreal-worldinsightsintomentalhealth carecomplexities,coupledwiththeteam'sbattles andtriumphswithmentalhealth,uniquelyprepared ustopropelthevisionforward.KeelMind,as envisioned,catalyzespositivechange,leveraging technologytoenhancecareaccessibility, effectiveness,andequity.Theheartofthisvisionlies inKeel'straining-focusedapproach.Throughour decisionsupporttools,weaimtoempowerup-andcomingcounselors,enablingthemtoreachtheirfull potentialandbecomeexceptionalcaregivers.By leveragingAIanddigitalhealthexperiences,our platformprovidespersonalizedtrainingexperiences, helpingcounselorshonetheirskills,foster meaningfulconnectionswithclients,andnavigate complextherapeuticscenarioswithconfidence.

Having obtained a certification in Artificial Intelligence from MIT, how are you integrating AI and machine learning technologies at Keel Digital Solutions to enhance healthcare delivery and training?

As Artificial intelligence involves, we ' re leveraging AI and machine learning technologies to transform healthcare delivery and training By integrating cutting-edge tools like face recognition, voice recognition, and key swipes, we ' re striving for a more personalized approach to patient care and training experiences at Keel. These innovations enable us to understand patients and trainees on a deeper level, leading to tailored interactions and continuous improvement Our commitment to innovation ensures that we ' re at the forefront of shaping the future of healthcare delivery and training

Machine learning algorithms power our matching system, which pairs individuals seeking care with mental health professionals ensuring timely access to support while fulfilling clinical training requirements This approach not only addresses the shortage of mental health professionals but also provides invaluable realworld experience for trainees

What are some of the key challenges you ' ve encountered in developing and deploying digital healthcare solutions, and how have you addressed them?

Developing and deploying Keel Mind has been an exciting yet challenging journey AI in healthcare is relatively new and complex, requiring us to navigate various regulatory and ethical considerations To combat this, we prioritize regulatory compliance and collaborating frequently with experts in AI and healthcare By partnering with leading minds in healthcare technology and leveraging their insights and expertise, we ' ve fostered a more cohesive approach This approach has enabled us to leverage collective expertise, streamline development processes, and deliver solutions that meet the evolving needs of healthcare providers and patients effectively

ImageCourtesy:Canva Mental Health

Weknewhowimportantsecuringpatientdataand privacywasfromtheonsetofKeelMindandtook proactivemeasurestoaddressthis.Weareproudto saythatweareSOC2andPIPEDAcompliant,adhering tostringentstandardsfordataprotectionandprivacy inhealthcare.Overall,bystayingcommittedtodata security,privacycompliance,andcollaboratingwith experts,wehavesuccessfullyaddressedkey challengesindevelopinganddeployingKeelMind.Our platformnowstandsasareliableandeffectivetoolfor supportingthetrainingofcounselorsandultimately enhancingthequalityofmentalhealthcaredelivery.

How does your background in behavioral health and psychology inform the development of Keel Digital Solutions' healthcare technologies, particularly in ensuring they meet the nuanced needs of patients and healthcare providers?

After working in the mental health field and collaborating with numerous healthcare professionals, our mission is twofold: to address the immediate needs of patients and to empower healthcare providers with innovative tools for delivering personalized and effective care

Drawing from personal experience, Keel prioritizes the understanding of human behavior, emotions, and cognitive processes in our technological solutions This deep understanding allows us to focus on the design of our platforms which are not only userfriendly but also sensitive to the diverse needs and preferences of individuals within healthcare By integrating principles from behavioral health and psychology into our technology development process, we strive to create solutions that foster trust, engagement, and positive outcomes for all users involved

Looking ahead, what innovations or trends do you foresee shaping the future of digital health solutions, and how is Keel Digital Solutions positioning itself to lead in these areas?

We foresee a significant trend in the utilization of AI for collecting patient data, predicting health trends, and enhancing patient experiences. One key innovation we anticipate is the integration of Language Model AI Systems (LLMS) into mental health platforms LLMS enable more natural and personalized interactions between patients and our platform, allowing for tailored guidance and support Additionally, facial recognition technologies hold promise for enhancing patient identification and improving user engagement by analyzing facial expressions for emotional cues

We are dedicated to harnessing the power of AI to provide innovative and effective solutions that empower individuals to manage their mental wellbeing proactively Through continuous research, development, and collaboration with industry experts, we are committed to shaping the future of digital mental health care

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In a rapidly evolving job market, staying ahead requires continual learning and skills development

According to a 2023 survey by LinkedIn Market Research, Canadian professionals are recognizing this reality, with 34% planning to enhance their skills through classroom instruction and a significant 59% opting for online learning As a business owner, are you ready to empower your team on their learning journey?

Supporting your staff's skills development not only fosters a culture of growth within your organization, but also enhances productivity and adaptability Have you thought about the areas in which you'd like your employees to upskill? Identifying these areas can help align their development with your business objectives

Moreover, did you know that there are substantial resources available to assist Canadian businesses in this endeavor? The Canada Job Grant (CJG) offers grants covering between 50-100% of tuition costs for employee training By leveraging these grants, you can invest in your team's growth without straining your budget

For those specifically interested in bolstering their digital marketing skills, there are specialized programs designed to cater to professionals at every stage of their careers Digital Marketing Skills Canada, funded by the Government of Canada and Upskill Canada, offers comprehensive bootcamp programs tailored for beginners, mid-career, and experienced marketers alike Whether your team needs to grasp the fundamentals or stay abreast of the latest trends, these programs provide valuable resources to sharpen their skill set

Empowering your employees through skills development not only enriches their careers but also fortifies your business against future challenges By investing in continuous learning, you not only cultivate a knowledgeable and versatile team, but also position your company for sustained success in an ever-evolving marketplace.

Ready to take the next step in empowering your workforce? Explore these opportunities to embark on a journey of growth and innovation

For more information about the Canada Job Grant, visit: https://www mentorworks ca/government-funding/human-resourcesand-training/canada-job-grant-cjg/

For more information about Digital Marketing Skills Canada, visit: https://www dmsctraining ca/


BusinessWomanoftheMonth Katie Zeppieri

r, Brand an m n for e. rom al es flix ati ve a tie is build tured ng n ently 024
Chief Brand
at The MicDrop Agency

Before launching The MicDrop Agency, Katie built GIRL TALK Day, Canada's largest girl empowerment event, and an international school chapter network impacting over 100 schools and reaching over 15,000 girls in the seven years of the organization's operation

Katie has recently launched a podcast titled Get Mic'd with Katie Zeppieri, a marketing podcast about the ins and outs of building a notable brand. Each episode features interviews with highprofile people from entrepreneurs to executives who have exceptional experience in marketing, branding, and PR The audience for this podcast is CEOs, entrepreneurs, and marketing professionals looking to uplevel their game Some noteworthy guests include the Shark Tank investor, Matt Higgins and CEO of The Atlantic, Nicholas Thompson

Katie is on a mission to redefine the status quo in Marketing and PR She's built The MicDrop Agency as a modern powerhouse, setting the standard for the future of Communications. By seamlessly integrating Marketing, PR, Branding, Communications, and Digital Strategies, Katie empowers innovative companies and individuals to not just amplify their brand but to authentically connect and captivate their audience.

From Grassroots Impact to Next-Gen PR

Katie Zeppieri's entrepreneurial spirit has always been driven by a desire to empower. Her journey began by fostering growth at the grassroots level, leading summer camps for youth This early experience ignited a passion for empowering young women, culminating in the creation of GIRL TALK Day, Canada's largest female empowerment event For seven years, this annual event served as a platform for girls aged 11 to 18, helping them build confidence and inspiring them to make their mark on the world The event featured a roster of notable speakers, performers, and sponsors, including CHUM, Virgin Radio, and TD Canada Trust, making it a truly phenomenal experience During its duration, GIRL TALK grew to develop an international school chapter network of 100 schools running GIRL TALK clubs across Canada, the United States, Egypt, Thailand and Uganda GIRL TALK directly impacted over 15,000 girls through its events, programs and empowerment resources

Today, as CanadianSME's Business Woman of the Month, Katie's focus has shifted, but her commitment to growth remains constant. Now, through The MicDrop Agency, she's revolutionizing the PR landscape for high-growth startups and high-profile people.

A Legacy of Empowerment

While The MicDrop Agency is central to Katie's current focus, the impact of GIRL TALK Empowerment continues to resonate Running such a successful event honed Katie’s leadership skills and solidified her dedication to empowering others Katie also learned how to build a brand from the ground up This experience undoubtedly played a role in shaping her entrepreneurial spirit and ultimately led to the creation of The MicDrop Agency, where she empowers businesses and individuals by amplifying their story on a larger scale

Business Woman of the Month

MicDrop: Pioneering a New Approach to PR

MicDrop isn't your average PR agency Founded with the vision to deliver results that truly matter, they address the limitations of traditional approaches that often fail to serve startups and growth-oriented businesses Here's what sets them apart:

Thought Leadership Focus: MicDrop positions their clients as thought leaders within their industries, sparking meaningful conversations that drive change.

Category Creation: They go beyond traditional PR and actively help clients become category creators, shaping the future of their respective fields.

Adaptability: Their team thrives on a " scrappy, entrepreneurial spirit," allowing them to tailor strategies to each client's unique needs with an empathetic approach

Recognition for Innovation

MicDrop's dedication to innovation has garnered significant recognition They were recently lauded by PR Net as a "next-gen agency, " highlighting their forward-thinking approach This acknowledgment reflects their commitment to staying ahead of the curve in the evolving PR landscape

Impact Beyond Awards

MicDrop's success extends beyond awards They understand the power of social impact and actively integrate it into their work:

Internal Initiatives: Their team goes beyond the boardroom, volunteering at local shelters like the Good Shepherd Shelter in Toronto, giving back to the community and demonstrating their commitment to social responsibility.

Amplifying Positive Narratives: MicDrop champions stories that matter and makes a commitment to mentoring upcoming entrepreneurs and individuals on how they can tell their brand story to make the greatest impact

A True Partner for Growth

MicDrop's early success with clients like Deepti Vempati (Love is Blind fame) showcases their results-oriented approach They managed the entire book launch process for Deepti's book "I Choose Myself," including investing in the book as a first-time publisher and overseeing both the book production and the launch campaign all within a tight timeframe This dedication exemplifies their true partnership mentality, ensuring their clients' triumphs are their own

Furthermore, MicDrop's impact extends beyond singular projects. They have played a pivotal role in executing integrated campaigns for numerous startups and mid-sized companies. This includes brand building during critical funding rounds, forging key partnerships with media and stakeholders, and positioning thought leaders at prominent conferences and seminars. Such diverse contributions illustrate MicDrop's versatility and effectiveness in driving holistic growth for their clients.

Expansion and Future Vision

MicDrop's growth reflects the increasing demand for their unique approach With plans to open a secondary office in the United States by the end of the year, they're poised to expand their impact and empower an even greater number of clients in the years to come

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Business Woman of the Month

Navigating Workplace Stress: Strategies for Success

Stress is a pervasive force in the contemporary frantic corporate environment, lurking around every corner Stress may express itself in a variety of ways, affecting both individual and team productivity. Examples include approaching deadlines, interpersonal confrontations, and organizational changes According to recent research, around 60% of workers report having negative impacts from work-related stress, such as decreasing motivation and performance levels Furthermore, the Small Biz Silver Lining survey found that a stunning 75% of small company owners are concerned about their mental health, with more than half diagnosed with stress-related disorders such as melancholy and anxiety In this article, we will dig deeper into the concept of workplace stress management and how it helps transform organizations

The Perils of Workplace Stress

The consequences of professional stress go well beyond basic pain, presenting serious hazards to both mental health and commercial performance According to a Harvard Business Review study, management behaviour has a significant impact on employee stress levels Managers who participate in unpredictable behaviour,

emotional instability, or a contemptuous attitude toward their team's emotions are more likely to cause anxiety and disengagement Surprisingly, teams managed by such managers are 62% more likely to seek new jobs and 56% more likely to leave their existing positions.

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Striking a Balance to Achieve Work-Life Harmony

Achieving good work-life balance emerges as a cornerstone in the fight against workplace stress Recognizing the value of leisure time and personal hobbies, in addition to work commitments, is critical for long-term well-being Maintaining a good balance between work and personal life reduces stress while also increasing overall happiness and productivity Prioritizing activities that encourage relaxation, leisure, and social relationships acts as a powerful antidote to the stresses of the corporate world

A Growth Mindset in the Face of Adversity

Accepting adversity as a chance for development and learning is critical to healthy stress management. Instead of falling into despair in the face of losses, people may develop a resilient attitude that flourishes in the face of adversity Analyzing and reframing difficult events through the perspective of opportunity can help drive personal and professional growth while generating a feeling of empowerment and agency

The Importance of Building Strong Support Systems

Improving one ' s social connections and cultivating a strong support system are essential components of efficient stress management Building a culture of psychological safety and camaraderie among teams is achieved by encouraging open communication, building trust, and providing mutual support Establishing meaningful relationships both at work and outside of it is crucial to combating the negative impacts of stress and cultivating resilience and fortitude

Finally, a multi-pronged strategy including proactive self-care practices, good communication, and cultivating a supportive company culture may help navigate workplace stress. Companies may create workplaces where employees are happy, creative, and productive by putting mental health first and using focused treatments. In order to invest in human capital and organizational vitality, stress management is essential. A healthy staff is a cornerstone of long-term corporate success, as the old saying goes.

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

ImageCourtesy:Canva Stress Management

Fostering Collaborative Strategies for Enhanced Workplace Well-being

In today's break-neck corporate environment, the significance of employee well-being cannot be overstated Companies are forced to rethink their approaches as employee stress levels climb and discontent grows In only the last two years, research shows that 58% of people have dealt with some kind of mental or physical stress at work In response to this critical need, companies are investigating potential partnerships to improve morale and wellness on the job In this article, we will delve into fostering workplace well-being

Enhancing Empowerment via Work Control:

Granting employees a degree of autonomy in their work can have a substantial positive impact on their overall welfare In addition to boosting morale, granting autonomy in task management and decision-making fosters a sense of ownership and accountability Promoting employee autonomy in project management facilitates self-assurance and mitigates sentiments of powerlessness By delegating decision-making authority to individuals regarding their work processes, organizations can improve a culture of empowerment that enhances overall welfare

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Making Mental

Recognizing the and physical hea holistic wellness to give preceden comprehensively reducing strain a implementation ergonomic works schedules can im Concurrently, the atmosphere that associated with provides avenue can efficiently at welfare Through health initiatives dedication to fos well-being of the

Cultivating a Positive Work Environment:

Establishing a positive work culture is fundamental in cultivating the well-being and contentment of employees Establishing an atmosphere that is distinguished by trust, respect, and camaraderie enables personnel to develop a profound sense of inclusion and direction By cultivating diversity and inclusion, encouraging open communication, and celebrating accomplishments, businesses can cultivate this culture Promoting cooperation and collaboration not only serves to increase efficiency but also fosters the development of solid interpersonal connections and alleviates sentiments of seclusion Organizations cultivate a positive work culture in order to establish a supportive environment that promotes the professional and personal growth of their employees.

Amidst an era characterized by increasing levels of tension and discontentment in the professional environment, collaborative approaches emerge as a promising means of promoting the welfare of employees Businesses can cultivate a prospering environment by placing employee empowerment at the forefront, prioritizing holistic health, and cultivating a positive work culture In the current dynamic business environment, it is not only judicious but also critical for the long-term viability and prosperity of organizations to allocate resources toward collaborative initiatives that promote employee wellness

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

m a g e C o u r t e s y : C a n v a 63- CanadianSME-May2024 Workplace Well-being

How Canada is Gearing Up for the New Retail Technology Trends in 2024

In Canada's dynamic retail industry, the ability to adapt is not merely an advantage but a critical survival mechanism Constantly evolving consumer preferences and technological advancements are reshaping the industry, compelling companies to maintain a competitive edge As an analysis of the Canadian retail sector progresses, it becomes apparent that specific trends are arising as transformative forces, impacting tactics and moulding the trajectory of the industry In this article, we examine the seven crucial trends that are influencing the development of the retail sector in Canada


Current Hybrid Era Witnesses the Revival of Mainframes

The revival of mainframes may be unexpected in the era of cloud computing and edge computing. Nevertheless, within the framework of hybrid infrastructure, mainframes are seeing a notable resurgence Mainframes provide a strong answer for retailers as they negotiate complicated data management systems and strive to achieve a balance between agility and dependability Due to their capacity to safely and effectively process massive amounts of transactions, they are considered essential components in the hybrid age of retail technology

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A Focus on Multi-Channel Sales

The convergence of online and physical purchasing experiences is not only a passing fad; it is increasingly becoming the prevailing standard Retailers are progressively allocating resources to technologies such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and artificial intelligence (AI) in order to provide seamless omnichannel experiences for customers Technologies such as tailored product suggestions and virtual try-on features are transforming how consumers engage with companies, blurring the distinction between digital and physical retail environments


Emergence of Data Governance in AI Adoption

With the rising integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into different aspects of the retail industry, data governance has become a pivotal element in ensuring its effective implementation As the number of data sources increases and the dependence on AI-driven insights grows, it becomes increasingly critical to prioritize data integrity, privacy, and compliance Retailers are required to implement strong governance frameworks to oversee the utilization of data, reduce potential risks and cultivate consumer confidence


Personalization and Data-Driven Insights

The days of cookie-cutter advertising are over These days, customers want services that are specific to them and their habits In order to better understand consumer habits and run more precise advertising campaigns, stores are increasingly turning to sophisticated analytics and machine learning algorithms Using datadriven customization, retailers are transforming the retail environment, increasing consumer engagement, and strengthening brand loyalty via tailored product suggestions and dynamic pricing tactics


Making Sustainable Technology a Priority

Sustainability has emerged as a critical factor for retailers due to rising customer awareness and environmental concerns As retailers aim to reduce their environmental impact, sustainable technology solutions like energy-efficient systems and eco-friendly packaging are becoming increasingly popular Integrating sustainability into retail technology strategies is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic advantage in today's conscientious marketplace From supply

ImageCourtesy:Canva Retail Trends

Emerging Ways of Driving Work Culture, Technology, and Workplace Transformation

The retail industry is experiencing technical and workplace revolutions driven by the push towards remote work and flexible work arrangements This trend is also changing organizational culture In order to equip their employees and adjust to the new normal, retailers are using digital collaboration tools, cloudbased platforms, and remote management solutions These technologies are helping businesses adapt to the changing retail scene by facilitating virtual team meetings and digital training programs


Expansion of Contactless Payment Options

The global pandemic expedited the adoption of contactless payment methods in Canada In response to consumers ' growing emphasis on convenience and security, retailers are diversifying their contactless payment alternatives to encompass mobile wallets, QR codes, and tap-to-pay systems In addition to issues arising from the pandemic, contactless payment methods provide retailers with speed, security, and efficiency, thereby improving the overall purchasing experience and fostering operational efficiencies

In light of the ongoing transformation of the retail sector in Canada, it is critical to succeed by incorporating technological advancements and adjusting to changing consumer preferences To remain adaptable and proactive in the dynamic retail environment, retailers must prioritize sustainability, utilize AI to deliver personalized experiences, and adopt contactless payment methods. By adopting these emerging trends and capitalizing on technology's capabilities, retailers can enhance their prospects for expansion and durability in a viciously competitive market.

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

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Innovating in Agritech:

Vision for SkyAcres' Zaffia Laplante'

CanadianSME Small Business Magazine i

Zaffia Laplante, Chief Operating Officer o y , who shared insights on how her Métis heritage and family history in gardening and farming influenced her approach to entrepreneurship and the vision behind SkyAcres Raised in Northern Ontario, she gained valuable lessons from her mother and grandmother, both passionate gardeners and entrepreneurs This upbringing fostered her love for horticulture, leading to SkyAcres' mission to revolutionize sustainable farming and promote food sovereignty in Indigenous communities SkyAcres specializes in modular vertical farming, providing sustainable solutions with a focus on low water consumption and community engagement Zaffia's participation in Google's Accelerator for Women Founders further empowers the company ' s expansion into new markets, enabling them to reach more communities and strengthen food sustainability efforts.

Chief Operating Officer, SkyAcres

Zaffia, with a rich background influenced by your Métis heritage and a family history of gardeners and farmers, how has this upbringing shaped your approach to entrepreneurship and your vision for SkyAcres?

Zaffia is Canada's Top 30 Under 30 Sustainable Leaders. She is a serial Indigenous socialentrepreneur, climate activist and 3rd generation gardener. She has 6+ years of experience in Cannabis, Hemp and Indigenous entrepreneurship. She is an experienced youth advocate , including several speaking opportunities at the 2022 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and British Council about her experience as an Indigenous woman in agriculture Zaffia is passionate about providing high quality food access to remote, rural and Indigenous communities in Canada She studied Global Studies with Social Entrepreneurship at Laurier and was awarded the Youth Innovation Award in 2019 at the United Nations Association in Canada

Gardening isn't just a hobby; it's ingrained in my identity Raised in Northern Ontario, I gained so many invaluable lessons from my mother and grandmother, both passionate gardeners and entrepreneurs Spending countless hours in my grandmother's garden as a child, I learned the art of cultivating organic fruits and vegetables, instilling in me a profound appreciation for food and the land

Entrepreneurship wasn't a foreign concept growing up it was the norm With my father and both my grandmothers as successful entrepreneurs, pursuing this path felt natural to me. Over the past two decades, I've immersed myself in horticulture, honing my skills in planting, harvesting, and seed saving When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I seized the opportunity to join my grandmother at the local farmers market, where we sold our produce to local citizens every weekend


Gardening isn't just a skill; it's a cherished tradition within my family I've spent years learning skills from my grandmother, and now, with SkyAcres, I'm proud to champion the future of farming It's a way for me to honor my family while contributing to a sustainable food system

What inspired you to venture into the agritech industry with SkyAcres, and how does your work there reflect your commitment to integrating technology with Traditional Ecological and Indigenous Knowledge?

My journey into the agritech industry with SkyAcres is rooted in my personal interest of addressing the need for affordable and nutritious produce in remote and rural Indigenous communities It all began in university when I was learning about the challenges of housing and food insecurity nationwide From there, I had the opportunity to meet and learn from Indigenous leaders and community members across Canada, USA and Australia and how the harmful impacts of climate change have destroyed a lot of their traditional land

Over the years, I've had the privilege of sharing my experiences as an Indigenous woman in agriculture, most notably at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women This was a great opportunity to amplify voices often overlooked in mainstream discourse This journey naturally led me to join SkyAcres, where our mission is crystal clear: to provide affordable and nutrient-dense produce

In an industry that's becoming increasingly crowded, how do you set SkyAcres apart from other vertical farming companies, especially in terms of sustainability, technology, and community impact?

At SkyAcres, we differentiate ourselves in the competitive landscape of vertical farming through a trifecta of sustainability, technology, and community impact Our unique hardware systems empower us to cultivate over 40 varieties of fruits, vegetables, and herbs with unmatched efficiency We've developed a growing system that utilizes 90% less water compared to conventional farming methods.

Our innovation lies in our proprietary system, which boasts the lowest energy consumption in the market today by eliminating the need for pumps a significant energy drain in traditional vertical farming setups

By delivering essential nutrients to plants via a fine mist, we eliminate the need for soil or growing mediums and use a lot less water than our competitors

While many vertical farming companies rely on hydroponic systems or variations thereof, which often require significant energy and water consumption, our approach sets us apart

Our work transcends mere agritech; it embodies a harmonious integration of technology with Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). By safeguarding and revitalizing traditional plants, we not only nourish communities but also honor and sustain Indigenous knowledge in the face of modern challenges.

ImageCourtesy:Canva Indigenous Agritech

Our ultra-modular growing hardware also allows us to operate efficiently in limited spaces, ensuring scalability without sacrificing sustainability This compact design not only maximizes resource utilization but also enables us to establish farming operations in areas where space is limited

Ultimately, our commitment extends beyond technological innovation We're deeply invested in community engagement, collaborating closely with Indigenous communities to not only provide access to nutritious food but also to foster economic opportunities and promote self-sufficiency across the entire food supply chain

SkyAcres aims to revolutionize the food supply chain to enhance food sovereignty and alleviate insecurity. Can you discuss the challenges you ' ve encountered in making sustainable farming accessible and profitable, particularly in Indigenous communities?

One big issue is the staggering distance food travels before reaching these remote areas often spanning up to 7000 kilometers This lengthy journey not only compromises the freshness and nutritional value of the produce but also contributes to food insecurity, particularly in communities enduring long-standing water advisories. Unlike urban centers like Toronto and Vancouver - where fresh produce is readily available multiple times a week, many remote Indigenous communities receive shipments a few times a month

Our goal is to empower the next generation of farmers by equipping them with the technology, tools, knowledge, and skills needed to cultivate their own produce locally In recent months, we ' ve engaged with several Indigenous communities eager to embark on this journey towards food sovereignty We aim not only to ensure access to affordable, nutritious food but also to support opportunities for skill development, training, and employment throughout the entire food supply chain

By working alongside community members in these areas, we ' re not just addressing immediate challenges but laying the groundwork for a more resilient, sustainable future.

Being accepted into Google's Accelerator for Women Founders is a significant milestone. How do you envision this opportunity impacting SkyAcres' growth, and what future projects or expansions are you most excited about?

Being selected to participate in Google's Accelerator for Women Founders is an immense honor for us at SkyAcres, particularly as one of only three Canadian companies chosen for this year ' s cohort As an Indigenous woman, I find it incredibly empowering to have access to such opportunities, recognizing the importance of representation in the tech industry The resources, mentorship, and industry insights provided by Google will be instrumental in propelling us forward.

Currently, we ' re actively fundraising for our seed round, with aspirations to conclude it within the coming months so that we can expand to new locations and scale up our manufacturing operations. We're setting our sights on venturing into the U.S. market by the end of the year, broadening our impact and reach. If anyone is interested in learning more about how they can set up a SkyAcres farming opportunity, please reach out to me at

SkyAcres (Surrey, British Columbia)

SkyAcres is connecting fruit and vegetable growers to commercial buyers through their marketplace. It allows anyone with under-utilized residential or commercial space, to grow and sell produce, empowered by their proprietary indoor farming hardware

Indigenous Agritech 69- CanadianSME-May2024

Embracing Change: Raj Kothari's Global Journey in Business Advisory

CanadianSME Small Business Magazine

interviews Raj Kothari, Former Vice Chair and GTA Managing Partner at PwC Canada, who shared insights on how his career transition across different countries shaped his unique approach to business advisory and the asset management industry. Raj's journey from the UK and India to Canada exposed him to varied practices and cultural norms, enriching his perspective and adaptability. His experience has encouraged him to think outside the box and seek new approaches, a valuable trait in the rapidly evolving business landscape These insights are a testament to Raj's belief that diversity in experience fosters resilience and creativity in business

Raj Kothari was a Partner and Vice Chair of PwC Canada Raj served as Managing Partner for Greater Toronto at PwC until December 31, 2017 and was a member of PwC Canada’s Extended Leadership Team until June 30, 2018. He also served as the National Asset and Wealth Management Leader, Global Transformation Leader for Asset and Wealth Management Assurance Practice, and as founding board member of PwC’s Global Service Delivery Centre in India.

Raj’s professional and business experience, over 40 years, spans Canada, the United Kingdom, and India, In Canada, he specialized in advising clients in the asset management and fund industry His experience also includes banking, insurance, trading and manufacturing businesses, and IPOs and Secondary Offerings

Raj has served on various working committees in the Investment Management Industry at the Ontario Securities Commission and at the Canadian Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Raj was an early pioneer and promoter of “Doing business in India” and assisted Canadian asset management companies in getting the Foreign Institutional Investor registrations in India, and also assisted Canadian corporations in determining their entry strategies in India and obtaining approvals for Foreign Direct Investment.

Raj currently serves on the board of IMCO (Investment Management Corporation of Ontario), a $70-billion pension plan in Canada; Jarislowky Fraser and MD Growth Funds, both subsidiaries of Scotiabank; on the Independent Review Committee (IRC) of Brompton Funds; and as Advisor to a Private Family Office

Former Vice Chair and GTA Managing Partner, PwC Canada

I m a g e C o u r t e s y : R a K o t h a r

Active within the community, Raj has served as President of the Indo Canada Chamber of Commerce, Chaired the Stratford Shakespeare Festival Endowment Foundation and served on various boards, including Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship / Students in Free EnterpriseCanada (ENACTUS), Duke of Edinburgh Awards–Ontario, Harvard Business School Club Toronto, Pearson College of the Pacific, Artscape, the Stratford Festival and Soulpepper Theatre, and the Ontario Arts Foundation.

Raj was also a member of the International Advisory Council of the Dean of the Schulich School of Business and a member of the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) President’s Advisory Council

Raj has been an active fundraiser and chaired: the Stratford Express, Stratford's single largest fundraising event for three years; "India, The Living Arts" Exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa; “Diwali, A Night To Shine” from 2012-2014 and 2017-2022 for the University Health Network (UHN); and Soulpepper Theatre’s largest fundraising event in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

He currently serves as Chair of the Board of Governors of the UHN Foundation, and on the boards of the University Health Network, UHN Foundation, and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto.


Raj, transitioning your career across countries— from the UK and India to Canada—must have presented unique challenges and opportunities. Could you share how these experiences influenced your approach to business advisory and your specialization in the asset management and fund industry?

While uprooting myself and “starting again” multiple times was certainly a challenge, I think it made me more flexible and adaptable I had no choice but to learn new practices, cultural norms, social and business customs in each country, and I truly believe that this allowed me to bring a breadth and depth of experience and perspective to my work The experience allowed me to approach every engagement with curiosity, to keep an open mind, to think outside the box, and to actively seek out new ideas and different approaches It made me more agile and in an industry that has seen so much change over the last thirty years, this was a tremendous asset

Being recognized with the G. Raymond Chang Award is a significant honor. Could you tell us more about what this award means to you personally and professionally, and how it reflects your contributions to the community?

The late Raymond Chang was an icon – both as an entrepreneur and a philanthropist. I had the tremendous privilege of working directly with Raymond in both capacities - professionally, in the Investment/Fund Management industry and also on a volunteer basis when we were on the board of the UHN Foundation together – and I experienced firsthand his magnanimity, spontaneity, and authenticity Whether it was his leadership in creating one of Canada’s largest asset management firms, or as a philanthropist working to make a difference in education, healthcare, and the arts both in his native country of Jamaica, and in his adopted home of Canada, or in his personal life as a husband, father, or friend, Raymond put his whole heart into everything that he did He was absolutely a role model to me, and many others like me, so this award is especially meaningful because I always strive to follow Raymond’s example as an immigrant who made a significant impact on his community

Awards 2012 The Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal 2013 Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce Male Professional of the Year 2013 Empire Club of Canada Community Service Award 2017 Transformation Award for Professional Excellence
Toronto Metropolitan University G. Raymond Chang Outstanding Volunteer Award

Your commitment to philanthropy is evident. How do you integrate your philanthropic values into your professional life, and what impact do you hope to achieve through your charitable efforts?

Integrating my philanthropic and professional activities has been the very open “secret” to how I find balance across all aspects of my life. My professional relationships have supported my philanthropic efforts, and my philanthropic activities have helped me to develop professional relationships When I first became involved in community service, I was looking for ways to connect with like-minded individuals outside of the office Over time, however, I discovered a way that I could merge the two by entertaining clients at charity events, or encouraging them to buy a table; and connecting with anyone outside of the office is a great way to build rapport and engagement, and perhaps even gain a new client in the process It's all about finding connection and building relationships I have focused my volunteer efforts in three areas: Brain, Body, and Soul – education, medicine, and the arts If my efforts can, in some small way, help improve access to these things, I will be proud

You have faced challenges of various kinds within your career. How have you navigated these, and what advice would you give to others who might find themselves in similar situations?

Ultimately, all that one can do is to hold oneself to the highest standards of integrity To the best of my ability, I always tried to focus my efforts on doing the best possible job for my clients and not getting caught up in politics and drama Sometimes people wonder if this means that I’m suggesting that they should just keep their heads down and do their own work, and that’s not it at all You are your own best advocate, so don’t just wait around to be noticed – but it is absolutely possible to highlight your own achievements and merit without pulling anyone else down, and when you choose to take the high road, you can be proud of how you arrived at your goal

Throughout your career spanning over 40 years, how have relationships played a role in your success?

I have been fortunate enough to have been surrounded by some truly incredible individuals through my career From my first professional mentors in Canada, professional icons Barry Myers and the late Christine Sinclair, to business titans like the late John Wood and G Raymond Chang, to philanthropic luminaries like Jim Leech, Don Johnson, and the Krembil family, to incredible clients and colleagues, it has been such a privilege for me to learn from the best And I truly do believe that I have learned from them all That’s the beauty of a good relationship – it’s mutually beneficial Not transactional, but in a way that allows both parties to grow together and create something greater than the sum of their parts When you put in the time and effort to build a strong relationship, it will reward you a millionfold

ImageCourtesy:Canva Resilience

CanadianSME Small Business Magazine interviews Nancy Wilson, Founder and CEO of the Canadian Women's Chamber of Commerce (CanWCC), about her journey from the corporate world to founding an organization that supports women-identified and non-binary entrepreneurs. After a decade in accounting and finance roles, Nancy left the corporate world to start her own accounting and advisory practice She noticed recurring challenges women-owned businesses faced, such as sexism and microaggressions The obstacles inspired Nancy to establish CanWCC in January 2018 to address the barriers her clients encountered in accessing capital, securing contracts, and managing time for business growth With CanWCC, Nancy aims to create a supportive community and advocate for the unique needs of women and non-binary business owners.

Nancy Wilson is the Founder, CEO and chief rabble-rouser here at CanWCC. In addition, Nancy is a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CGA) with more than a decade of accounting experience in various corporate roles. She also owned and operated an accounting and business advisory firm serving women business owners and entrepreneurs Nancy launched CanWCC in January 2018 out of frustration regarding the barriers, lack of resources and difficulty finding connection she experienced as a business owner – and has been working ever since to create a powerful network of women through which to drive change and create equality in Canadian business Nancy is a driven and accomplished feminist entrepreneur who loves learning new things, meeting new people, discussing the philosophical underpinnings of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and watching horror movies.

Nancy Wilson

Nancy, could you share more about your journey from leaving the corporate world to founding the Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce (CanWCC)? What were the key barriers and challenges you observed that motivated you to create this organization for womenidentified and non-binary business owners?

After over a decade in accounting and finance roles, I transitioned from the corporate world to establish my own accounting and advisory practice, specializing in assisting women-owned businesses Despite my CPA background, running a successful business required additional learning I encountered familiar challenges of sexism and microaggressions, prompting me to found the Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce in January 2018, driven by the firsthand struggles my clients faced in accessing capital, securing contracts, and managing time for business growth

The Alliance project recently launched its report on 'Invisible Entrepreneurs.' What were some of the most surprising or impactful learnings from this project about the neglect of self-employed individuals in small business policy, and how is CanWCC addressing these findings?

An important takeaway from the report is that the exclusion and neglect of self-employed individuals is a long-standing issue that is not specific to a particular leadership party or a specific decade This is a nonpartisan issue that needs to be addressed immediately

Founder & CEO of the Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce

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

Secondly, the Alliance members were surprised by the consistent feedback from the focus groups In late 2023, the Alliance conducted six regional focus groups with self-employed individuals Across all regions, the message was clear, the self-employed are isolated and want opportunities to connect Another common challenge is navigating tax, regulatory requirements, and government programs (where they do exist).

Finally, the composition of the self-employed was a stark reminder of the result of systemic exclusion and discrimination Self-identified women, black, racialized, and Indigenous entrepreneurs are over-represented among the self-employed On a positive note, this provides an opportunity for the government to efficiently direct funding and support to a group of individuals that will fulfil the government’s strategy of an inclusive economy

Based on the outcomes of the Alliance project, what specific types of support do you believe self-employed individuals need to succeed, and how is CanWCC working to provide or advocate for these resources?

Self-employed individuals need at least three types of support: social policy, economic development policy, and community-based support Employment Income (EI) reform should include the needs and nuances of self-employed people Expanding universal pharmacare and dental care can also help the self-employed Taxation reform is needed to reduce unnecessary complexity Finally, the government should continue to fund community organizations that support self-employed people, particularly those that provide opportunities for individuals to connect with one another

CanWCC’s advocacy activities are varied; however, establishing the Alliance and promoting the report is a good example of what CanWCC does to raise awareness of and advocate for the self-employed.

Access to capital is a critical issue for many entrepreneurs, especially women and non-binary individuals. Why is this a focal point for CanWCC, and what actions or programs are you implementing to address this challenge?

CanWCC applies a feminist and intersectional lens to the issues facing our community, research, and advocacy activities. As a result, we know that what women and non-binary individuals need to start and build successful businesses is capital Mentorship and skills-training are excellent tools but they cannot be put to use unless you have a strong, well-capitalized business CanWCC engages with our partner network and policymakers throughout the year to discuss and advocate for access to capital

We just launched a new program called Flip the Script, which will teach 600 women-identified and non-binary entrepreneurs across Canada how to apply evidencebased techniques that are proven to get them up to 60% more investment dollars

With the upcoming launch of the 'Flip the Script' program, what can members and potential members anticipate from this initiative? How does it align with CanWCC’s broader goals to support and empower women in business?

Flip the Script is an exciting program that addresses the impact that unconscious bias plays in access to capital. It is based on award-winning research conducted by organizational scientist Dana Kanze and her team

Flip the Script is a national, six-month program in both English and French This pilot program, offered in English and French and funded by the Government of Canada’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy Ecosystem Fund, is open to 600 women-identified and non-binary entrepreneurs across the country Apply now at fts canwcc ca

At its core, Flip the Script is not just about acknowledging the existence of implicit bias; it's about equipping entrepreneurs with the tools to challenge and overcome it By leveraging social and organizational psychology research, Flip the Script enables women and non-binary entrepreneurs to take control of their narrative and forge meaningful connections with investors

Women Empowerment 74- CanadianSME-May2024


Payment Solutions for NGOs: What Corpay's

Roy Farah


SVP Global Payments Solutions, Corpay Cross-Border Solutions

In an interview with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine, Roy Farah, Senior Vice President of Global Payment Solutions at Corpay CrossBorder Solutions, discusses the unique challenges NGOs face with crossborder payments. Unlike other organizations, NGOs often operate in emerging markets, requiring payment providers with deep experience in managing complex regulations and real-time tracking capabilities Corpay's approach involves leveraging strong in-country relationships to offer favorable rates and seamless processes, making it easier for NGOs to execute time-sensitive transactions Roy's insights reveal a shifting landscape, where specialized payment providers are enabling NGOs to navigate these complexities, ensuring funds reach their destinations efficiently and cost-effectively.

As SVP Global Payment Solutions at Corpay Cross-Border Solutions, Roy is responsible for leading the development and commercialization of key integrated payment verticals across the Cross-Border business. He works in conjunction with Cross-Border’s Regional Managing Directors, Enterprise Sales Leaders, and the Product Management Team to advance the company’s efforts aimed at building a world-class crossborder payments automation firm With over 23 years’ experience in cross-border payments and currency risk management, Roy is an industry veteran who has held various Finance and Commercial leadership roles and brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the Cross-Border business, with specific knowledge and successful track record in Financial Institutions, NGO’s, Education and Legal customer segments

Roy, with your extensive experience in cross-border payments, what would you say are the top considerations NGOs should keep in mind when selecting a payment provider? How do these considerations vary from those of other types of organizations?

NGOs have distinct and often unique requirements related to cross-border payments when compared to other types of organizations; therefore, they will have different considerations when selecting payment providers Most NGOs are required to make payments to emerging markets such as Africa, South America, and Asia. As a result, the most important consideration is the payment provider’s experience and ability to send payments to emerging markets in an efficient, expedited, and cost-effective manner Transferring funds to certain emerging markets carries unique challenges due to various countryspecific requirements and local regulations; this can result in errors, delays, returned payments and higher costs due to duplicate fees and high exchange rates NGOs need to make sure that a payment provider has extensive In-country experience in illiquid and exotic currency markets to help overcome complicated regulatory requirements

75- CanadianSME-May2024

The ability to track payments is another important consideration NGO payments are often critical and time sensitive They will need to ensure that the payment provider is able to track the status of the payments in real time; similar to a FedEX package

Lastly, NGOs are often subject to enhanced reporting and audit requirements, so an important consideration is the financial stability, reputation, and dependability of the cross-border provider, as such factors ensure they’re able to meet such requirements

Could you explain the advantages of working with a specialized payment provider like Corpay Cross-Border Solutions versus traditional banking institutions, especially for organizations involved in international operations?

Working with a specialized payment provider such as Corpay has several advantages

As payments experts, we can leverage our in-country relationships to offer advantageous rates and expedited payment delivery for organizations that operate in emerging markets. We also help ensure efficient delivery of funds through an automated and streamlined payment process allowing for enhanced productivity for NGO staff This usually requires limited to no investment on behalf of the NGO or the SME

Traditional banks also have automation tools, but they are usually reserved for their largest and most profitable clients, and will often require significant IT investments On the contrary, for many NGOs, partnering with a payment provider may result in enhanced efficiencies, improved service levels and potentially lower total costs That being said, it's important to factor in the size of the business If an NGO has one or two small international payments per year it may not be worthwhile to consider a specialized payment provider at this time

For businesses operating across borders, currency risk can be a significant concern. How does Corpay Cross-Border Solutions assist these organizations in managing their currency risk, and what strategies do you recommend?

Currency fluctuation is always a significant risk for businesses operating across borders This is especially true for a Canadian SME or NGO due to limited acceptance of the Canadian Dollars outside of Canada Corpay has a specialized currency risk team that supports organizations in mitigating the risk of currency fluctuations We have a number of strategies that can be tailored to the specific needs of an organization based on several factors such as risk tolerance, time horizon, and the sensitivity of the business operation to currency fluctuations The strategies range from a basic forward that allows an SME or NGO to lock in the exchange rates to a more complex structured options product that allows the organization to benefit from participation in positive currency movements, while also providing varying levels of protections The Corpay team will work with each client to help design and implement a currency risk strategy that is unique to their business As an example, an NGO may use a simple forward to lock in the Canadian Dollar cost of a future project outside Canada, and have full certainty of the costs; whereas an importer may decide to use a currency option strategy to benefit from any appreciation of the Canadian Dollar, and potentially reduce the cost of their imports while also providing some level of protection in the event that Canadian dollar depreciates.

ImageCourtesy:Canva Payment Solutions for NGOs

Given your role in leading the development and commercialization of integrated payment verticals, how do you tailor Corpay’s solutions to meet the specific needs of diverse customer segments like financial institutions, NGOs, educational bodies, and legal firms?

Each of these client segments have unique requirements; we believe adding real value to a client comes from creating bespoke payment solutions specifically geared to the needs of their business and the industry in which it operates For example, many financial institutions would like to offer international payment solutions to their clients; We allow financial institutions to leverage our international payment infrastructure, platforms and help them expand their services to allow their clients to better compete on the global stage In a nutshell, our solution allows financial institutions to offer international payments capabilities to their own clients, with limited or no investment in products or payment infrastructure

Lawfirmsontheotherhandhaveaspecificneedto automatelargenumbersofinvoices;thisisespecially trueforlawfirmsinvolvedininternationalpatents.We havecreatedasolutionspecificallyforlawfirmswhere weautomateinvoices,eliminateFXexposuresbyhedging attheinvoicelevel,andintegratedirectlyintobilling,ERP, treasury,orbanksystemsofthelawfirms.Thissolution hasallowedustobecomeamarketleaderinprocessing lawfirmpaymentsintheUS,andwearenowstartingto expandintoCanadabyofferingthissamesolutionto CanadianLawfirms.

Reflecting on your 23 years in the industry, could you share a personal anecdote that highlights a key moment of learning or change in cross-border payments and currency risk management? How have you seen the industry evolve during your career?

The payment industry has evolved considerably over the last two decades In the past, an SME doing business in Europe had to open a Euro bank account, which can be inefficient and complex Today, a corporation doing business in Europe can simply use one of the multicurrency accounts offered by a payment provider, such as Corpay, which significantly reduces the complexity and costs of doing business outside Canada. These accounts are available in many currencies and can be used for collecting and holding foreign currencies, as well as paying invoices in foreign currencies

Risk management is another area where I have seen major changes In the early 2000s, forward contracts were the only way SMEs could mitigate currency risks Today, an SME has a vast array of choices through the use of currency options, which often require no upfront payments and can be flexible in order to meet the SME’s unique requirements.

Payment Solutions for NGOs


In an interview with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine, Jillian Kennedy, a partner in Mercer's Wealth business and leader of the defined contribution and financial wellness strategy for Canada, shed light on the key findings from this year ' s Mercer Retirement Readiness Barometer (MRRB) and how it might influence current retirement planning strategies. Jillian explained that younger generations face a unique financial burden, often split between paying down debt in a high-interest-rate environment and saving for retirement. The MRRB suggests that focusing on

debt reduction could lead to a more favorable retirement outcome, potentially delaying retirement by only one to two years, compared to trying to balance debt and retirement savings This strategy, according to Jillian, can significantly impact retirement planning by helping younger individuals save more in the long run.

Jillian is a partner in Mercer’s Wealth business and is responsible for leading the defined contribution and financial wellness strategy for Canada. She is also a member of the Wealth Leadership Team and works closely with Mercer’s global teams Jillian’s main practice area is in supporting defined contribution pension plans and savings plans for plan sponsors and plan members From plan design to investments, service provider management and ongoing governance support, Jillian applies a holistic approach to proactively manage plan sponsor objectives and improve the overall financial wellness of employees

Jillian has been with Mercer for more than 17 years and has been supporting plan sponsors and members to achieve better outcomes in retirement savings for more than 23 years.


Jillian, could you share the main headline from this year ' s Mercer Retirement Readiness Barometer (MRRB) and explain how the findings might influence current retirement planning strategies?

This year ’ s MRRB focuses on the financial demands placed on younger generations as they are faced with paying down debt in a high interest rate environment and saving for their future retirement The findings show that if a younger individual were to split their disposable income between paying down debt and saving for retirement, this could potentially delay their retirement by one to two years compared to focusing solely on paying down debt in the short term While people have been encouraged to save a portion of their pay cheque for retirement steadily over their working career, the MRRB analysis shows that in todays economic climate with elevated interest rates, a sample 30-year-old with $30,000 of personal (non-mortgage) debt, could retire one year earlier with $125,000 more in savings if they focus entirely on paying off debt within 10 years, before shifting their focus to saving for retirement

In terms of enhancing retirement outcomes, what impact have you observed from employer matching contributions in workplace retirement and savings programs? How significant are these contributions in the broader context of financial wellness?

In the MRRB analysis, if the same sample 30-yearold has access to a workplace retirement and savings program with 100% matching contributions from their employer, they could retire two years earlier with an additional $250,000 in retirement savings at age 65, if they prioritize paying down debt early rather than focusing on retirement savings from age 30

When employers provide matching contributions to a workplace retirement and savings program, employees have the opportunity to accumulate more savings Employees are also often more engaged when there are matching contributions from the employer since there is a shared sense of responsibility when it comes to saving

Many people think that if they have not started saving for retirement by age 40, they have failed, but the latest analysis shows that if a younger person is diligent about paying down debt as a priority, they still have time to accumulate savings and may actually end up in a better position at retirement. It may make more sense to prioritize debt payments over saving when the interest on debt is higher than the expected return on investments. Paying off debt can be effectively saving for retirement.

ImageCourtesy:Canva Retirement Planning

Beyond matching contributions, what are some innovative ways that employers can further support the financial wellbeing of their employees?

Some workplace retirement and savings programs are starting to evolve in recognition of supporting the importance of financial wellbeing with a more personalized approach As the financial needs of employees can vary, we are seeing the concept of flexibility being introduced to workplace programs For example, allowing employees to direct their own savings to a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) or non-registered account where funds can be withdrawn for debt repayment, while still directing matching employer contributions to a traditional pension arrangement provides some flexibility. Under this example, employees have the option to withdraw their own contributions when needed to address immediate financial needs, while knowing that their employer is still contributing towards their future retirement Employers adopting plans with this type of flexible design are noticing higher employee engagement and financial literacy

How important is financial literacy in effective retirement planning, and what steps can employers take to improve this among their workforce?

Financial literacy is extremely important not just in supporting employees with effective retirement planning, but also in helping employees with managing their day-to-day finances Employers can start with evaluating the current state and effectiveness of their workplace retirement and savings program, as well as the financial wellbeing needs of their employee demographics This evaluation can help identify areas to address through the structure of the workplace retirement and savings program, or through targeted education and communication geared to different employee segments or life stages. Various digital tools and financial planning services can also support employee financial literacy, although employers should assess the appropriateness of these tools and services

Under what circumstances can high interest rates be advantageous for individuals planning for nd how should they adjust their egies in response to changing rates?

erest rates can be a financial burden nvolved, high interest rates may neficial to someone who is retiring if ng to buy an annuity to provide ome Based on this year ’ s MRRB, a ar-old retiree with $500,000 in savings who purchased a single-life n January 2024 would have $3,500 al retirement income versus investing in a retirement income product erest rates fall by 1 5%, the sample ld have $1,700 less in annual ome with an annuity It is important to hasing annuities may not be s for long if interest rates fall as they to do later in 2024 While there are portunities for retirees, this will ial literacy or support through a sor to navigate through the various ome options

ImageCourtesy:Canva Retirement Planning

Global Leader and SVP, Research and Client Insights at TELUS Health

In an interview with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine, Paula Allen, the Global Leader, Research and Client Insights at TELUS Health, shared insights from the latest TELUS Mental Health Index on the concerning level of isolation among workers under 40 The study revealed that workers under 40 are more than 40 percent more likely to lack trusted workplace relationships compared to their older counterparts This lack of social connections has significant implications for mental health, with isolated employees reporting lower mental health scores, and has a knock-on effect on productivity, absenteeism, and workplace morale Paula highlighted that supporting employee wellbeing not only reduces the risks associated with loneliness but also contributes to business success. Employers can address these issues by fostering a more supportive work environment through initiatives that build trust and encourage employee engagement.

StrategiesforPromoting EmployeeWell-Beingand Productivity

Paula Allen is the Global Leader, Research and Client Insights at TELUS Health (formerly LifeWorks) In this role she manages the research agenda for TELUS Health, which includes primary research, exploratory data science, research collaborations and meta-analyses Her focus is on discovering, defining and communicating industry trends; service development that aligns with emerging market needs; and supporting TELUS Health’s clients with insights and data-driven decision guidance.

Paula is a well-recognized expert in all areas of workplace mental health, learning strategies, disability management and drug plan management. She is a sought-after speaker by media, organizations, and conferences for her knowledge and expertise in current issues and the future direction of health, wellbeing, productivity, and related risk management

Paula is a member of the Women’s College Hospital’s Board of Directors; on the technical committee for the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace; on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Club of Toronto; a member of the One Mind at Work Guiding Council; a member of the Virtual Learning Advisory Board consulting to the public sector’s post-secondary on-line learning strategy; and a Civic Action Diversity Fellow mentor She was also Cochair of Civic Action’s Champions Council on workplace mental health; was a member of the Income Security Working Group providing advice to the Ontario Government on issues relating to disability and income support; and sits on several research and strategy advisory boards that address issues ranging from emental health solutions to substance abuse in the workplace.

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Paula completed undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Toronto in psychological research and neuropsychological testing and clinical intervention She has more than 20 years of experience relating to workplace research, product development and operational leadership that spans the range of EFAP, Workplace Learning, Attendance and Disability Management and Health and Benefits Consulting

Paula, the TELUS Mental Health Index highlights a concerning level of isolation among young workers under 40. Can you discuss the key findings and what these trends suggest about the current state of workplace mental health?

Young workers are experiencing a worrying trend of lacking trusted personal and workplace relationships which is a major contributing factor to many feeling isolated and lonely. According to our research, workers under 40 are more than 40 per cent more likely than workers over 50 to lack trusted workplace relationships A lack of trusted relationships is a factor in loneliness, which can lead to lower mental and poorer physical health

These findings resonate with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) stark warning that loneliness poses a significant threat to global health The comparison made by the US surgeon general, equating the mortality effects of loneliness to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, underscores the severity of the issue


27 per cent of younger workers lack trusted relationships at work and experience a mental health score 19 points lower than their supported colleagues, the repercussions on wellbeing and productivity are profound.

Given the significant impact of loneliness and isolation on mental and physical health, how do you think this affects overall workplace productivity, and what measures can employers take to address this issue?

Loneliness and isolation not only take a toll on the mental and physical health of employees but also have a significant impact on workplace productivity Employees who feel disconnected and unsupported are more likely to experience decreased motivation, engagement and overall performance The negative effects of loneliness can lead to higher absenteeism, reduced collaboration and lower job satisfaction, ultimately hindering organizational success

A striking 76 per cent of employees indicate that health and wellbeing support is a factor when considering whether or not to stay with their employer Time and time again we see that when organizations prioritize the creation of effective health and productivity programs, they witness tangible benefits and stand out from competition

This compelling data underscores the direct correlation between prioritizing employee health and wellbeing and the enhancement of business performance

ImageCourtesy:Canva Employee Productivity

With the increasing awareness of mental health issues, what strategies would you recommend employers implement to create a more supportive and trusting work environment?

Here are three things I recommend employers to do create a more supportive and trusting work environment:



Building trust is foundational and we can not assume that it will develop with familiarity over time Trust is built when people feel that the other party trusts them, respects them, is open with communication and will support them as much as is possible and reasonable. This applies as much to the relationship an employee has with their employer as it does between two individuals in any type of personal relationship. Noting that support is important for trust, people feel support when it includes personal support for their wellbeing, in addition to support when there are work challenges. Employee assistance programs (EAPs) offer a range of support to address mental strain, personal needs such as financial consultation and timely support to employees facing mental health challenges TELUS Health’s Total Mental Health builds on everything available in EAP and goes above and beyond with care navigators and ongoing support. As with EAP, the availability of 24/7 support ensures that employees can seek help when they need it most.

Review current strategies through tools like the TELUS Workplace Strategy Index to enhance organizational support for workplace mental health Available to both clients and nonclients of TELUS Health at no cost for a limited time, the tool enables organizations to strengthen their offerings and remain ahead of the curve.

Why does TELUS Health conduct the Mental Health Index research, and what are the primary goals you aim to achieve through this ongoing study?

As a company rooted in social purpose, we invest in understanding and offering health and wellbeing solutions that make a meaningful difference We use the TELUS Mental Health Index as a tool to measure and track the state of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace and share it so that organizations can better understand how employee needs are evolving. With the right data and understanding of trends, organizations are better equipped to develop strategies and interventions that support the mental wellbeing of their employees

Measurement is essential to improvement and with the TELUS Mental Health Index’s validated measurement, our objective is to improve the mental health of the working population overall

From the insights gained through the TELUS Mental Health Index, what are some actionable steps that small to medium enterprises (SMEs) can take to improve mental health and wellbeing within their organizations?

Enhancing mental health and wellbeing within employee groups is essential for the success and sustainability of all organizations, regardless of its size Here are key strategies that businesses can start implementing today to support the mental health of their workforce:

Promote work-life balance: respect personal time and encourage employees to take breaks, vacations and time off to recharge

Regular check-ins and feedback: meet with employees to build trusted communication patterns, address any concerns and provide support.

Training and education: offer training programs on mental health awareness, stress management and resiliencebuilding for employees and managers.

Create a supportive work environment: encourage teamwork and mutual respect while fostering a culture of support, inclusivity and psychological safety

Employee Productivity
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