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With startups, popups and meetups infusing local lingo, Victoria is getting its entrepreneurial wings.

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Breath Take Her


A relaxing retreat at our mountainside resort is the perfect surprise for that special someone in your life. Rose petals, truffles and Prosecco, the perfect accompaniments to a romantic evening above the clouds. Enjoy a delectable 3-course dinner for two at the Summit Restaurant followed by a scrumptious breakfast the following morning. Package Price $450 cad*


*Visit our website to see additional details. Offer valid for bookings to February 28, 2018.

Taxes not included. $450 rate based on a Deluxe Room. Room upgrade requests are welcomed. Exclusion dates may apply on Holidays (Christmas & New Year’s). Alcohol and gratuity not included.

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Š2016 Steelcase Inc. All rights reserved. Trademarks used herein are the property of Steelcase Inc. or of their respective owners.

FEB/MAR 2018






2018 Education and Career Section

32 A City of

We explore the value of a business degree, the pros of staff professional development and 10 job titles that didn’t exist 10 years ago.

Entrepreneurs The word on the street is Victoria is well on its way to becoming an entrepreneurial city. But don’t expect a copycat of Silicon Valley.


20 IN CONVERSATION Ross Dunn of StepForth doesn't fit the SEO stereotype — and that's a good thing. BY ATHENA MCKENZIE

28 THE BIG IDEA How artificial intelligence is changing the way we hire, rent and loan. BY SHANNON MONEO

62 LAST PAGE It's raining donuts!



42 Let There Be First Light

Douglas explores a fast-growing solar-lighting company’s steep learning curve and how it successfully pushed back the dark. BY ALEX VAN TOL




INTEL (Business Intelligence) 56 HUMAN RESOURCES Is it time to change your hiring lens? BY CAROLYN YEAGER

An early entrepreneur, the Victoria Chamber's new chair, Victoria’s plastic-bag ban, and a Foreign Trade Zone for the Island




Glass-box brands and the new transparency

Why we need to work through the messy stuff. BY ALEX GLASSEY

Trust as a competitive force.


Want to help shape the future of our region?

SOUTH ISLAND OPEN INNOVATION CHALLENGE SYMPOSIUM WHAT AND WHY: Join us at our live event and help choose the winners of the Prosperity Project’s Open Innovation Challenge, a four-month competition to find the best and brightest ideas for using data and connected technology to solve real-world problems identified by residents of the South Island! Top pilot project teams will be pitching in front of a live audience and expert panel for a chance to win one of three $15,000 prizes. SOUTH ISLAND’S 5 CHALLENGE PRIORITIES: • Transportation & Mobility • Housing & Affordability • Economic Resiliency & Inclusion • Environmental Health • Human Health WHEN AND WHERE: March 11, 2018, University of Victoria, Doors open at 1:30pm sharp

ABOUT SIPP The South Island Prosperity Project (SIPP) is an economic development organization based in Greater Victoria, B.C., comprised of 37 members, which include 10 local governments, two First Nations, three post-secondary institutions, two non-profits, five industry and sector associations, and 15 private businesses, whose aim is to bolster our region’s economic and social prosperity by catalyzing the creation of highquality, household-sustaining jobs, so that more families can afford to live, work and build a life here.





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Those Uncomfortable Truths

TEN YEARS OR SO AGO, I was in an elevator with some older male colleagues who were all dressed in blue suits and expensive ties. They looked professional, but their behaviour certainly wasn’t. They were talking about a female politician in sexually explicit terms. They didn’t notice when the women in the elevator became very quiet and shrank back against the walls. And that’s what women have typically done. It’s what I did that day because I was not only shocked into silence, I was also intimidated by the power differential. Every man in that elevator was a CEO, manager or a high-ranking consultant. That episode came to mind again when the #MeToo campaign began to radiate out globally. My Facebook feed was suddenly ultra active with women speaking out, some simply with the two-word hashtag, others with personal stories. Some opened up about their experiences for the first time; others reopened old wounds. Of the women who spoke out about sexual harassment, a fair number had experienced it in the workplace — a place where they should have felt safe, respected and valued. Many men publicly came out in support of #MeToo, while others privately confessed they now felt paranoid around female There are about coworkers, or unsure about the rules. 15 million women Here’s the thing: there’s no need for paranoia. It’s really easy NOT to sexually harass someone at work. Most men these days in Canada; half of don’t share sexually inappropriate images or videos with cothem say they’ve workers or send suggestive emails or texts. Most don’t tell lewd experienced sexual jokes or anecdotes or make inappropriate sexual gestures or ask about someone’s bra size, sexual history or sexual orientation. harassment over Most understand the difference between saying “nice dress” and their careers. Seven “I love the way that shows off your curves.” And most don’t out of 10 chose touch inappropriately or use their power to intimidate or force advances. not to report the That pretty much covers the basics, and those rules shouldn’t harassment. frighten anyone with a willingness to respect other human — INSIGHTS WEST, 2017 beings. The problem is, there are people who either don’t have a wit of common sense or refuse to play by anyone else’s rules. And, yes, some even enjoy making others feel uncomfortable or get their kicks by boosting their own feelings of power at the expense of others. That’s why employers and other leaders need to set the tone by modelling respectful behaviour, making the rules clear through conversation and training, listening carefully and acting decisively to set up mechanisms by which anyone who feels bullied or harassed in an organization, sexually or otherwise, can feel heard and respected. I know there are those who insist the calls for change have gone too far and that it’s making the workplace “uncomfortable.” Maybe they cope with the discomfort by making sly jokes or just denying the scope of the problem. So I have to ask: Who exactly is this change uncomfortable for? Every woman I know, whether they are employees or entrepreneurs, is pretty comfortable with feeling safe and valued at work. And that goes for #MeToo. — Kerry Slavens

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Fabulous ocean views in James Bay plus a bright sunroom to enjoy sunset. Located near Beacon Hill Park and oceanside walkways.

Starter or investment property in this emerging area. Only minutes from downtown. Mid to upscale finishings compliment.

Top floor two bedroom unit in Saxe Point. Sold in 1 day, setting a new record for highest sale price in building.

Tanya Piekarski

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Spacious & immaculate 4/5 bedroom executive home on a sunny and private 1.26acre property and a 1 bedroom guest cottage.

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New custom Città Group build on a half acre. West Coast modern meets East Coast craftsman. Beautiful ocean views.

Extraordinary executive home on the ‘Street of Dreams’ in Dean Park area. Stunning views toward Sidney and beyond.

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411 Powell St., Victoria

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BEDS: 2 BATHS: 3 1,350 SQ.FT.

BEDS: 8 BATHS: 6 4,928 SQ.FT.

This home was quickly and efficiently sold for over 22% more than the tax assessed value. call Neal today for details.

Successfully navigated a multiple offer situation to purchase this beautiful character home in Fernwood. Call today to see how I can help.

A 2 bedroom +2 bathroom home with unbeatable location, private and sunny yard with updates in many areas, It's a gem.

Beach haven with over 150 ft. of ocean frontage. Elegant 8 bedroom, 6 bathroom property boasts 4,928 sq. ft. & TESLA charging station.

Neal Carmichael

Brett Cooper

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9344 Ardmore Dr., North Saanich

1126 Gillespie Rd., Sooke

4826 Spring Rd., Victoria

1030 St Charles St., Victoria

BEDS: 6 BATHS: 9 9,359 SQ.FT.

BEDS: 3 BATHS: 2.5 149 ACRES

BEDS: 4 BATHS: 4.5 6,356 SQ.FT.


One of the finest homes on the west coast. The 9,359 sq. ft. residence impresses with unparalleled ocean views.

Magical Oceanfront Estate with 150 pristine acres & almost 2,000 feet of shore on sheltered Sooke Basin.

Stunning custom built home with exquisite city, ocean and mountain views. 3 car garage.

One of Rockland's finest estates, this historic design has been tastefully restored to preserve its timeless charm.


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621 Woodcreek Dr., North Saanich

2032 Maple Ave., Victoria

2043 Hedgestone Lane, Langford

BEDS: 4/5 BATHS: 3 2,981 SQ.FT.

BEDS: 5 BATHS: 3 2,564 SQ.FT.

BEDS: 6 BATHS: 3 2,937 SQ.FT.

BEDS: 4 BATHS: 3 2,826 SQ.FT.

Gorgeous, fully renovated executive home on a quiet cul-de-sac with exceptional finishing & lovely views of the Olympic Mountains.

This tranquil Cape Cod style family home is set on a one acre parcel.

Charming character home situated on 3.85 private acres located on the edge of Sooke. Crafted classic farmhouse.

Fabulous, like new, view home on a quiet cul-de-sac, overlooking the 18th fairway on the Bear Mountain Golf Course.

Melissa Kurtz

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Andrew Maxwell


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price upon request

168 Wild Duck Rd., Bamfield

4710 Talon Ridge, Highlands

1239 Trans Canada Hwy, Mill Bay

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BEDS: 10 BATHS: 6 4,010 SQ.FT.



BEDS: 5 BATHS: 4 2,405 SQ.FT.

Adventure awaits. Residential property, with turn-key fishing lodge potential, located in Bamfield, BC.

A tranquil, water view property close to Victoria, but a world away. Private 30+ acre lot at the top of Highlands,

Irreplaceable oceanfront sanctuary in the heart of Vancouver Island’s wine country with all amenities close at hand.

Light and bright updated home in the Westshore with 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and additional 1 bedroom legal detached cottage.

Katherine Gray

Donald St. Germain

Brad Maclaren PREC




Andy Stephenson

Andrew Maxwell

Brad Maclaren

Beth Hayhurst

Brett Cooper

Christine Ryan

Constantin Popa

Dean Boorman

Lisa Williams

Mark Imhoff

Melissa Kurtz

Mike Garman

Nancy Stratton

Neal Carmichael

Rebecca Barritt

Sophia Briggs







Dean Boorman


Donald St. Germain Glynis MacLeod

Katherine Gray

Logan Wilson

Tanya Piekarski

Tom de Cosson

Victoria Cao

Scott Garman


Canadian Owned and Operated. E.&O.E.: This information is from sources which we deem reliable, but must be verified by prospective Purchasers and may be subject to change or withdrawal. PREC is Personal Real Estate Corporation.


We believe the ultimate measure of our performance is our client’s success. It has guided our approach for over 30 years.

PUBLISHERS Lise Gyorkos, Georgina Camilleri






CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Richard Eaton, Alex Glassey, David Lennam, Shannon Moneo, Clemens Rettich, Pamela Roth, Alex Van Tol, Carolyn Yeager


CONTRIBUTING AGENCIES Shutterstock p. 18; Thinkstock p.11, 12, 14, 17, 20-21, 29, 42-43, 50, 52, 54

Ian Clark, CFP 250-405-2928

Joseph Alkana, CIM, FCSI 250-405-2960

Steve Bokor, CFA 250-405-2930

ADVERTISING REPRESENTATIVES Deana Brown, Sharon Davies, Cynthia Hanischuk





ADVERTISING INQUIRIES ONLINE FACEBOOK DouglasMagazineVictoria TWITTER COVER Colour block design by Jo-Ann Loro Published by PAGE ONE PUBLISHING 580 Ardersier Road, Victoria, BC V8Z 1C7 T 250-595-7243 E

Printed in Canada, by Transcontinental Printing Ideas and opinions expressed within this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of Page One Publishing Inc. or its affiliates; no official endorsement should be inferred. The publisher does not assume any responsibility for the contents of any advertisement and any and all representations or warranties made in such advertising are those of the advertiser and not the publisher. No part of this magazine may be reproduced, in all or part, in any form — printed or electronic — without the express written permission of the publisher. The publisher cannot be held responsible for unsolicited manuscripts and photographs.

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If his name is any indicator, 12-year-old Colin Sparks is sure to generate interest in his innovations and business practices. The bright-eyed, ultra-innovative grade-seven student already has an impressive portfolio of inventions. He’s made a coin-separating device that sorts coins by size, and he’s built a tower that can withstand a 2.4-magnitude earthquake, like the recent one near Victoria. He’s also entered the business world with his own product, Mini Sparks, waterproof fire starters made from round, cotton makeup-remover pads dipped in wax. “I learned about them at an outdoor survival camp in 2015 and then created an improved version,” says Sparks. In 2017, Sparks sold the fire starters through Lizzy Lee & Me Salon and then, after preparing promotional packaging for the product, at the Christmastime Modern Market Victoria at Uptown, where he almost sold out. Most recently, Sparks’ teacher gave him a special assignment to build a rocket that will travel up to 6,000 feet in the air in just a few seconds. When launched, it’s expected to break the speed of sound. The secret, says Sparks, is a special motor. So what else is on the horizon for this preteen entrepreneur? “I can’t say,” says Sparks. “I’ve got to protect my ideas.” Spoken like a true entrepreneur.







Van Isle Comic Con is coming to Sidney this June. The idea, which began small with a plan to bring together local artists for a Canada 150 event last year, quickly grew into a full comic convention and is now going into its second year, with sponsorship from the Sidney Business Improvement Area Society.


he owners of Cherry Bomb Toys (and their National Toy Museum), Candice and B. Woodward, have partnered with Tourism Victoria and the DVBA, creating a new non-profit organization to present the inaugural Capital City Comic Con from March 16 to 18 at the Conference Centre and Crystal Garden. They’re hoping for a first-year attendance of between 12,000 and 15,000 people, many of them visitors from out of town. In fact, Tourism Victoria felt compelled to come on board after its research showed that comic conventions, fan expos or any formal gatherings of geeks mean big business. San Diego’s famous ComicCon International sells 130,000


tickets and pumps nearly $200 million into the local economy (including $83 million in direct spending by attendees). In Seattle, the Emerald City Comic Con has grown to 91,000 attendees from 2,500 when it began in 2003. “We think it can become very big business,” says Tourism Victoria president and CEO Paul Nursey. “It’s important to do a credible con in year one so the big companies come and buy out the hotels in year two.” A quarter of ticket sales are being snapped up by visitors to Victoria. “We definitely want to grow it over the years and bring a world-class event to Victoria,” says Candice. “Quality is really important for us. We want people to be really proud of it.”

Josh Kully, a local comic-book illustrator and writer, is coordinating the convention, which will feature an artists’ alley, cosplayers (a mashup of the words costume and play) and a vendor exhibition. Van Isle Comic Con takes place on Sunday, June 10, at the Mary Winspear Centre.


Our goal is to get back to the roots of comic cons and provide an opportunity for the incredible talent we have right here on the Island. CONVENTION COORDINATOR JOSH KULLY



“We are in Nerdvana,” says B. Woodward, co-owner of Cherry Bomb Toys. He’s alluding to the moniker for the comic-central area around Broad and Johnson, which is home to Cherry Bomb Toys, Legends Comics and Books, Yellowjacket Comics & Toys and Curious Comics. “It’s our generation’s Antique Row,” he says. “We’re not fighting each other. We send customers to each other. We want people who come here to say, ‘Have you been to Victoria? Do you know the collecting hub they have there?’” Gareth Gaudin, co-owner of Legends, considers his shop the underdog, having only been in business for 25 years. Neighbouring Curious Comics is celebrating 29 years and Yellowjacket has 20 years in business (plus another decade under a different name). “If a city this size can support a vintage comic store and a mainstream comic store and Yellowjacket, that’s amazing,” says Gaudin. “It’s the only place in the world with three comic stores on one block. Victoria’s famously a comic book town.”

“IT’S THE ONLY PLACE IN THE WORLD WITH THREE COMIC STORES ON ONE BLOCK. VICTORIA’S FAMOUSLY A COMIC BOOK TOWN.” And with Hollywood and comics merging into one mega stream of pop culture, Victoria is poised to ring up the till if Capital City Comic Con is a success. “It’s no longer a subculture of nerds that has to hide their interest,” says Gaudin. Nor hide their wallets. Consider that Gaudin was recently brokering a comic book deal for a one-million-dollar SpiderMan (Amazing Fantasy #15, printed in 1962, in case it’s in your attic) or that Marvel Studios alone has conquered the movie box office with a $13 billion return since 2008. Apparently, there’s a superhero-like power attached to this business, and Victoria is about to tap into it in a bigger way.



“I don’t care if it’s 13 municipalities, four or one, I want a system that works.” DAN DAGG, VICTORIA CHAMBER CHAIR, ON AMALGAMATION


Why did you want this very big job? At first, I didn’t, then I spent so much time around the board table that I began to believe I might do a good job, and they asked me and I said yes. I think my success in getting the South Island Prosperity Project off the ground gave me the confidence that I would do a good job in this role. As the Victoria Chamber’s new chair, what key issues will drive you? Fundamentally, I feel my focus will be on collaboration and getting the message out that good business is good community. I practice a heartfelt leadership style, and I think some of that will permeate out. What’s the biggest myth about business that needs busting? People sometimes think business people are greedy and self-serving. I think that’s dead wrong. Best piece of business advice you’ve ever received? David McMillan, former CEO of Island Farms, said the most


n the surface, he’s everything you’d expect in the president of a successful advertising agency like Hot House Marketing, but don’t be fooled by his bow ties, arty socks and creative work digs. Dan Dagg is not a surface kind of guy. To wit, his conversation is threaded with words like heartfelt and collaborative, even when he’s talking about economic development. As I interviewed Dagg in his Design District office (a former police after-hours club), there was every sense the newest chair of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce is part of an emerging era of business thinkers whose approach is less competitive, more collaborative. Indeed, he heads up an increasingly collaborative and diverse Chamber that would probably baffle its 1860s-era founders, except, perhaps, for a few nagging issues like amalgamation. But Dagg has his own thoughts about that too.

important thing in business is cash in and cash out. All the rest is tertiary. I’m a little more heartfelt and emotional, so I don’t like to think that, but it’s fundamentally true. If you want a better answer, one of the things I often say is that nothing ever happens until somebody sells something. Thoughts about the new Johnson Street Bridge? [Sighs.] Let’s get it done. Amalgamation? I won’t use the word amalgamation. Amalgamation is a tactic, okay, and it may or may not work. What we need is good governance — good collaborative governance. So I don’t care if it’s 13 municipalities, four or one, I want a system that works.

Homelessness in Victoria? I think it’s significant and it requires people’s attention. And I don’t think it’s that people are too lazy to get a job or work. There are often addiction or mental health issues driving it. It’s such an extremely complex issue that no one group can solve it. It takes all of us — not just the municipalities and not-for-profits, but all of us as citizens to reframe the way we think and approach it. How about Airbnb? I believe in fair competition that involves equal and fair taxes and regulation. Look into your crystal ball and imagine Victoria 10 years from now. What does it look like? It would be a Smart City with a

strong sense of pride, a city where all of our children could find good paying careers and jobs and not have to leave the Island. And it would be a city in which the quality of life is high. That means affordable housing, and [solving] environmental issues and dealing with our traffic and commuting issues. Anything else our readers really should know about you? No! [laughs]. Only that I’m all about what I would call the greater good. Almost everything I do is around that, and I want people to understand that prosperity is not a zero-sum game. So if one person prospers, it’s not necessarily at the expense of another. If we do this right, we’re all prospering ... Let’s grow the pie, not just our slice of it.




tarting this summer, retailers in the City of Victoria will be prohibited from providing customers with single-use plastic bags when the Checkout Bag Regulation Bylaw comes into effect on July 1. Victoria joins Seattle, Montreal and the state of California in banning single-use plastic bags. Victoria businesses have until January 1, 2019, to use up their remaining plastic-bag stock as long as the bags were purchased before December 14, 2017. Exceptions to the bylaw include single-use plastic bags for loose bulk items, such as meat, produce or baked goods and for prescription drugs bought from a pharmacy. Jeff Bray, interim executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA), says the association’s retail members have been engaged with the city on this issue. Some retailers have already begun working toward the elimination of single-use plastic bags as part of their sustainability efforts. Bray adds that the DVBA will work with partners and members to develop practical solutions to ensure minimal impact for tourists and visitors to downtown Victoria.


17 million

Approximate number of plastic bags every resident in Victoria uses each year


Estimated number of plastic bags Victoria residents use each year


Years that a plastic bag will remain in a landfill


Percentage of all landfill waste made up by plastic bags, plastic film and plastic packaging

Amount of surplus funds that the City of Victoria has allocated to public engagement and education on this plastic-bag ban

$100 TO $10,000

Amount a corporation could be fined for not complying with the new bylaw SOURCE: CITY OF VICTORIA CHECKOUT BAG REDUCTION BYLAW NO. 18-008 REPORT TO CITY COUNCIL.

Prices Up, Inventory Down

671 Wilson Street

250.385.3541 14 DOUGLAS


Increase in benchmark value for a singlefamily home in the Victoria Core ($753,900 to $823,800).


Decline in the number of active listings for sale on the Victoria Real Estate Board MLS (1,493 to 1,384).


Decline in properties sold in the Victoria Real Estate Board region (471 to 462).


When it comes to Victoria real estate, the main thing going up in 2017 besides condos was home prices. A comparison of Victoria Real Estate Board (VREB) statistics in December 2017 versus December 2016 shows a 9.3 per cent increase in the benchmark value for a single-family home in the Victoria core, from $753,900 to $823,800. Buyers also felt the inventory pinch. Active listings on VREB Multiple Listing Service declined from 1,493 listings to 1,384, a drop of 7.3 per cent. VREB president Kyle Kerr expects inventory to improve but says there’s a way RECORD to go before the housing market regains LOW FOR a balanced inventory, which in the VREB INVENTORY region is typically between 3,000 and 3,400 In terms of the listings. However, he doubts we’ll see the Victoria real booming price increases of previous years, estate market, largely because 85 per cent of buyers in December 2017 the VREB region are local. saw the lowest “Since local salaries aren’t likely to go level of inventory up by 25 per cent,” Kerr says, “I can’t see for the area since housing prices climbing astronomically the statistic was again.” tracked in 1996. Homes sales also declined by 1.9 per cent during the period of comparison, from 471 to 462. “Certainly, when you look at the two Decembers,” says Kerr, “the biggest difference is the new mortgage rules and the new stress test, so we saw many people trying to get in ahead of that.” But, he says, indications from mortgage and financial professionals are that the changes won’t have a lasting impact on homes sales into 2018.


This VIATEC-created exhibition of more than 72 tech firms and research organizations is the ideal showcase to learn more about careers in tech and innovation. Event features include a Tradeshow, Creative Hub of interactive tech displays and an Innovation Theatre with talks and panel discussions.

Island Wood Industries Forum and Wood Product Showcase FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 9 TO 4 | COWICHAN EXHIBITION PARK

The Island Wood Industries forum explores how to strengthen and diversify value-added manufacturing on the Island, and addresses issues such as secure fibre supply and new product production. A showcase will feature interior and exterior wood products being manufactured on the Island. This event is the result of three years of work by the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance to help expand markets and diversify wood manufacturing.

Victoria Chamber Business Leaders Luncheon WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 11:30 TO 1:00 | HOTEL GRAND PACIFIC


The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce hosts BC Ferries CEO Mark Collins, who will discuss the corporation’s strategic plan and what the future looks like for the coastal ferry system.


This national conference focuses on the future of marine engineering and ship innovations, with technical presentations, an exhibition and networking opportunities for marine professionals involved in the design, building, maintenance and operation of large ships and other marine vessels.


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Vancouver Island’s GAIN GROUP OF COMPANIES is the David Foster Foundation’s newest Life Legacy member, following an extension of their funding relationship to the 10-year, one-million-dollar mark. GAIN, which represents auto brands including Alfa Romeo, and owns the Villa Eyrie Resort and Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit, has assisted the foundation since 2015 to support non-medical expenses of Canadian families undergoing life-saving pediatric organ transplants.

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RACEROCKS 3D, a Victoria tech company, has led development of a state-of-the-art system used to train the naval crew of MV Asterix, Canada’s first Resolve-class naval support ship and the largest ship built in Canada for the Royal Canadian Navy. Seventy-five Armed Forces personnel began training virtually in June on the system, which includes case studies, rich-media learning, interactive simulations and an entire virtual ship built by Nova Scotia tech firm Modest Tree.

The FAIRMONT EMPRESS was named Best Meeting Hotel in Western Canada (tying for first place with Fairmont Chateau Whistler) by the readers of Meetings & Incentives Travel Magazine. The Empress was also named Best Wedding Hotel Venue at the Vancouver Island Wedding industry Awards.

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DEANA BROWN has joined Page One Publishing as an account manager for YAM, Spruce and Douglas magazines. Brown, previously a media sales consultant with the Times Colonist, will represent Page One’s growing portfolio of business, lifestyle and homes magazine brands. Before working in media sales, Brown played an integral role in the success of the Victoria headquarters of Regus, the world’s largest provider of flexible office spaces, first as operations manager and then as general manager.


The secret of the smile...

DRIVEWISE BC and TITAN BOATS have tied for the Family Business Excellence Award from the Family Business Association (FBA) of Vancouver Island. MIKE GERIC CONSTRUCTION was named as a finalist, and Daisy Klaibert of BEACON HILL WEALTH MANAGEMENT was awarded the Young Entrepreneur Award. The annual FBA awards recognize, celebrate and promote achievements of Island family businesses. The awards will be presented at a gala at the Beach House Restaurant on February 8.



Fill Up Your Fleet


After three decades in business, Kimberly Williams of KIMBERLY WILLIAMS INTERIORS has announced a partnership with long-time team members Elaine Martel and Adriana Wootton. The expanded partnership will continue to offer services for residential, commercial, hospitality and assisted living projects.

Putting Vancouver Island in the Success Zone THE VANCOUVER ISLAND ECONOMIC ALLIANCE CHAMPIONS ISLAND EXPORTERS WITH FEDERAL PROPOSAL If the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance (VIEA) is successful with its application to the Government of Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan, the Island may soon join nine Foreign Trade Zones across the country receiving funding and assistance to develop marketing initiatives to attract foreign direct investment. VIEA president George Hanson says the application, submitted in June 2017, is awaiting federal Ministry of Finance approval. “We’ve challenged the model they’re accustomed to,” says Hanson. “... the other applications they’ve approved were all single municipalities. We’ve taken a regional approach, suggesting Island communities are so interconnected with their transportation infrastructure and industry that it makes more sense for it to be a regional designation ...” Hanson adds that while the Island is well known globally and regarded as a great place to visit and retire, people don’t think of it particularly as a place for business investment. “A major inhibitor for the export of goods off Vancouver Island,” says Hanson, “is essentially the lack of volume of products. The [FTZ] designation is primarily to attract investment and, in so doing, increase the volume of export products being produced on Vancouver Island for global markets.”

3 BUSINESS BENEFITS OF VANCOUVER ISLAND BECOMING A FOREIGN TRADE ZONE IMPROVED MARKETING SUPPORT The FTZ designation would put Island businesses on the radar at the municipal, provincial and federal government levels for funding to support regional branding initiatives, says William Collins of CollinsWorks Ventures who moderated the FTZ panel at the recent VIEA summit.




REDUCED OVERHEAD Having a non-governmental support program and a dedicated local FTZ office will help educate importers/exporters and should save time in getting products to market.

IMPROVED CASH FLOW While the Duty Deferral, Export Distribution Centre and Exporters of Processing Services programs are available to any business in Canada, an FTZ designation will make these programs easier to access.




of consumers said they would switch to a new brand in the pursuit of product transparency.



of consumers said they would be willing to pay more for a product that offers complete transparency in all attributes.


of consumers said they would be willing to sample a brand’s entire range of products if they were comfortable with its degree of transparency. SOURCE: LABEL INSIGHT TRANSPARENCY ROI STUDY OF BRANDS IN THE FOOD INDUSTRY, 2016


THINK AGAIN Daniel Drezner’s new book, The Ideas Industry: How Pessimists, Partisans, and Plutocrats are Transforming the Marketplace of Ideas (Oxford University Press), delivers a knockout punch to so-called thought leaders who often charge big money for speaking engagements to talk about ideas heavy in charisma but light in intellectual rigour. Citing our eroding trust in authority as a key factor, Drezner delves deeply into the dumbing down of public intellectualism and the rise of “single-idea merchants” who are what Captain Crunch cereal is to organic granola — full of flavour and light on real nutrients.

GLASS-BOX BRANDS AND THE NEW TRANSPARENCY In the age of radical transparency, savvy brands are like glass boxes whose internal cultures are visible to everyone. This has given rise to a refreshing openness that is winning consumer trust, but it’s also led to brand insecurity (as in, how much do we really want people to know about us?). But as notes in its Glass Box Brands report, the desire for transparency is something marketers, strategists and CEOs can’t afford to ignore.

“Connectivity, job automation and the intensifying search for a more meaningful consumerism are all pushing the emergence of glass box brands.” —TRENDWATCHING.COM

Business Lingo

(You Should Never Use) ITL Remember when people were fired or laid off? Now they are “invited to leave,” which is used when employees (often executives) are quietly dismissed, perhaps with a bonus for going nicely. The transparent truth is: nobody’s really fooled by this.



RYVER does much of what Slack does, but it also turns any chat message into a task you can assign, schedule, organize and track. You can even set automated alerts to remind your team of tasks and check on progress.

WORKPLACE by Facebook offers chat, live chat, news feeds for business or groups, screen sharing and automated tasks in a familiar Facebook-style interface. Plus, it integrates with Box, Dropbox and Salesforce.


HOW ABOUT SOME RADICAL CANDOR? Transparency in organizations must be developed from inside out, and there’s no better place to begin than at the top. That’s the premise of Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor: Be a Kick-ass Boss without Losing Your Humanity (St. Martin’s Press). Scott threads the book with stories (good and bad) from companies she’s worked at, like Apple and Google, and from her work as an adviser to top brands, including Twitter. Her direct but compassionate advice is a new approach on how to give and receive feedback, make smart decisions, motivate employees and more. This isn’t wishy-washy pseudo HR advice — it’s straight talk for leadership in the age of transparency.





Lori Muñoz Malcolm is a community strategist and founder of HeartPress PR, a firm that helps create meaningful community partnerships between non-profits and businesses.

A SEE-THROUGH STRATEGY TIP  EVOLVE YOUR CULTURE No brand is without warts, but there’s power in admitting we’re not perfect and working honestly to get it right. Think how powerful it would be for Air Transat, which kept passengers trapped on an overheated plane on an Ottawa runway for six hours, to launch a client-driven, transparent campaign to change its customer-service culture. TIP  TELL IT HONESTLY When you make positive changes to your internal culture, do tell the story of that journey, but don’t exaggerate. By communicating simply and sincerely, your story can become the most powerful aspect of your brand.


TIP  BE REAL According to Cynthia Forstmann, a business and culture strategist with Allegory Studios, “... you can’t imitate culture. And trying to create cool office space or benefits programs based on another organization’s culture will fall flat. Instead, you need to discover your own culture DNA.” TIP  BE OPEN BUT SMART There’s a difference between transparency and foolishness. Coke would not be a company that’s lasted for over a century if it made its secret recipe public. It’s okay (and smart) to guard your trade secrets.


SLACK, the app to beat in this category, is light on bells and whistles, but that makes it a sleek, quickly learned team communication tool that lets you easily message and exchange files with one person or many. Slack has access to thousands of apps, including video and voice apps, that can extend the capabilities of your team.

What is your definition of glass-box brands? The true definition would be transparency, but I think you need to take that transparency into how you operate, throughout your business culture, and also into your corporate giving and social impact so people have a clear understanding of who you are, your values and what you stand for. What are consumer expectations about transparency? Ten years ago there weren’t a lot of studies around this, but today studies around social impact show consumers, and not just millennials, are practicing conscious consumerism. They’re not just taking what you say at face value; they actually do their research [on your claims] so it has to come from a genuine place. What are some of the other benefits? Transparency just leads to more accountability with businesses and that just leads to better leadership. And it’s not just retention; it’s about attracting talent too. Employees now look at your brand and decide why or why not they identify with what you are doing — “that’s a place I can work at.”

STRIDE, from the Hipchat makers, surpasses Slack with its tools, from voice calling and natively hosted audio and video meetings to task and decision tracking, group screen sharing (for brainstorming) and a “focus” mode that gathers info and minimizes distractions.



WILD WILD WEST ROSS DUNN GIVES AN INSIDER LOOK AT THE EXPANDING FRONTIER OF SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION. LET’S BE CLEAR: Ross Dunn would never refer to himself as a “guru.” But one could argue it’s a fitting description, given his authority in search engine optimization (SEO) and web-based marketing, his successes around the world and his willingness to share his expertise and knowledge through his popular podcast, SEO 101. He does, however, call himself an “over planner” and has saved some talking points on his iPad for our Douglas interview. It’s proof he follows one of the key business lessons he shares during our talk: Don’t get cocky. “If you feel confident, you will do well in a scheduled, highpressure situation,” he explains, “but not without preparation. My first standing/speaking presentation to a client was to the board of Time Inc. Interactive in New York. I was so nervous, but I was prepared and I knocked it out of the park. That was a huge confidence booster. From that point on, I’ve been paranoid and always over plan.” Dunn, owner and CEO of Victoria-based StepForth Web Marketing (and co-owner of First Dentist Web Design & Marketing, a successful niche business that works with dentists around the 20 DOUGLAS

world), has used that focus and forethought to help an impressive roster of clients over the past 20 years. Working with international companies such as and Golfasian, and local companies such as Sante Spa at Bear Mountain, he’s established himself as the go-to specialist for web marketing. He’s considered a pioneer in the Wild Wild West of SEO. His successful presentation to Time, which led to him training magazine staff to do SEO inhouse, was back in 2005. While that may be considered the early days of SEO, Dunn had worked in the industry since 1997, or as refers to it, during its “first signs of life.” “There is a group called the ‘first-generation SEOs’ and Ross is in that group,” says John Carcutt, Dunn’s co-host on SEO 101, their weekly podcast on “There were about 100 of us in the late 90s who connected via bulletin boards and message boards online. There are not many people that have the level of experience he has. And a lot of the people that have been in this industry for a long time are just really figureheads and do a lot of presentations, speeches and sales. Ross stays in the thick of it. He is in SEO, working with clients on a daily basis.”

Ross Dunn of StepForth Web Marketing, whose SEO 101 podcast is downloaded 30,000 times every month, is considered a pioneer in the heavily competitive world of search-engine marketing.

Both Dunn and Carcutt (VP of strategy at the digital marketing company Reflexive Media in Arizona) acknowledge there is plenty of skepticism and misinformation about SEO. Their podcast — which is downloaded 30,000 a month and is one of StepForth’s leading generators of business — tries to help new practitioners of SEO and those businesses trying to do it themselves to understand the constant changes and how to react to them. “There are a lot of personalities in our industry, but Ross is one of the most down to earth,” Carcutt says. “He really cares about the people who work for him and he cares

about the clients. It’s not about money to him: it’s about making businesses perform better online.” In Douglas’s conversation with Dunn, he shared his insights into SEO, how he deals with the skeptics and the lessons he has learned along the way. How did you get into SEO so early?

The short answer is that I was working for Prince of Whales Whale Watching and they needed a website. I was already at home working on this sort of stuff and I said I could do it. I had an idea for a virtual whale-

watching set-up and things like that. They were excited about it and it worked out really well. They are still my clients today. But when I got into it, I realized that even if the design is there, it’s the classic story of ‘you build it, they won’t come.’ You need to be found … SEO was really interesting to me. At the time, it was quite simple, but it was just technical enough that people didn’t get into it. I had clients that really understood its worth and it seemed a good fit. But it took me a few years before I decided to go full time. I’m not a really big risk taker. I like to have a business that is stable before I jump into it.

ROSS DUNN’S BUSINESS LESSONS 101 Gut + mind + heart all play a role in running my business. If I ever made a mistake, it’s because I forgot to listen to one of these. Or I let someone else influence my decisions. Advisers are great but they should only advise, not direct.

Hire for “not-so-common” sense and attitude first. Common sense is just not common. Following this has paid huge dividends for me. A potential employee may not have all the answers and they may not be perfectly trained but if they have common sense and that attitude, you can do wonders.

Always sleep on emails that have impassioned you. This is an old one but it bears repeating: I have to do this maybe once a week. You can get challenging questions and challenging clients. It happens.

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Don’t burn bridges, even if you feel justified. You may find the other person surprises you some day by crossing over with an open hand. That has happened more times than I can believe. They can become supporters and it’s shocked me.

Learn your own faults and limitations. That has taken me 20 years. In business, I have learned a lot about the fact that I can’t work, work, work, as much as I want to. It’s the downside of loving the job.

How has SEO evolved in that time?

It was so simple at the beginning. Google had just been “born” in 97, so it was Infoseek, AltaVista and WebCrawler. Infoseek was great because I could go to a website and make changes to it and add a keyword here or there and watch its ranking move up or down instantly. Now, it won’t show up in Google’s results for maybe three weeks. It’s very contemplative about results, as it should be. Back then, it was way too easy to game the search engine. At the most basic level, that’s been a huge change. The algorithms that run Google are off the charts.   What does this mean for you and your clients?

It makes it easy for me. In the beginning, I was exploring, like everybody else was, but I’d say 99.9 per cent of [SEO practioners] at the time did things that would now be considered spam. I never wanted to do anything that could potentially harm my clients, because frankly I need to sleep at night. As a result, the people who were spamming — who were beating out my clients because they were taking advantage of Google — got slammed [by Google’s algorithms] and finally my clients got where they deserved to be. Oftentimes, we’d get them close to the top but never that extra bit because someone was there spamming away. We still see it occasionally, but I’m fortunate as many of the people in my industry who have been around long enough can get the ear of Google if we see something blatant. What is your biggest challenge now?

There’s many, but the one that kills me the most is when I get calls from someone who has been referred to me but who has been bitten by a bad SEO [consultant]. It’s one of the hardest things and I am a sucker for that. I want to help them. I want to change their mind because we’re not all like that. Sometimes they are excellent clients, they are just dying for someone to look after them and treat them well. Sometimes they are difficult because they are constantly suspicious, and how can you get anywhere that way? In what ways have these bad consultants affected the industry?

There’s the misconception that we are snake-oil salesmen. To those that may not understand SEO, there is suspicion around the whole process. I’m very lucky that people listen to my podcast and I love it when they contact me. They already understand that I know what I am talking about, and they also already understand that what we do here is needed. But with others, it requires guidance and education, and we understand that and we’re glad to provide it. But it’s tough when you’re pushing uphill against someone who’s had [a bad experience]. DOUGLAS 23










4:45 PM

Given that, how do you show your integrity? How does any business do that?


Kris Wirk, Partner



I love to get potential clients on the phone. When I get someone on the phone, I’ve been told that it’s infectious. If you’re passionate about what you do, you’re guaranteed to share that passion. Something I counsel my clients to do is a video on their website, talking about what they offer. The second part is references, absolutely. I have no hesitation in connecting someone with another client. People can also look online and look at our reputation. I try to build our testimonials and our LinkedIn profile. If someone is still not sold or on a long path to deciding who they want to go with, I send them to the podcast, SEO 101, because there are other great people they can learn from on there, not just me. How important is SEO actually for a small business?

Isn’t your inbox full enough? We provide professional advice on a personal level, communicating with you to understand your needs and find you money. Call 250.220.7311 or visit

It does depend on the type of business, but for a local business, it’s extremely important. Everyone is pushing to mobile use, so if you have a mobile phone and you’re searching for a particular service, you’re going to end up doing a search on your phone. The first set of results is going to be paid ads. That’s the paid angle, the pay-per-click, which is also something we handle. Then you go off that first page and see organic rankings, the stuff that is not paid for, that you have to earn. Showing up there is absolutely critical. Around 80 per cent of people are now using mobile. It’s very high and why Google is moving toward a mobile first index. It’s a big, big deal. How proactive does a business need to be?

P U R I T Y. B A L A N C E . W I S D O M .

Celebrating one year!

If you want to be found locally with people searching on their phones, that’s one thing, but people are also doing searches for products and looking for reviews. All that stuff is online and you have to ensure that those third-party places like Google are top-notch. If you’ve got reviews, you’ve got to manage them. If there are negative reviews, you have to handle it properly — with kindness and professionalism. It’s the same thing for positive reviews. So many people don’t even say “Thank you.” Why do you work with small businesses?


1 41 1 G OV E R N M E NT STRE ET


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Working with Time was amazing and I thought enterprise was where it was going to be and where I was going to go. I loved the feeling of being recognized and an expert ... but I like that in the small and medium-sized businesses, I can make an impact on their bottom line. I can see things change. They listen — or at least the ones I work with listen. You only want to work with people who understand that they need this. You want to build a relationship over the long term. ■




escribed as a for profit business with a big social impact, HeartPress PR fills the gap for small- to medium-sized businesses which aren’t staffed with a community relations employee to manage and facilitate their corporate giving. “Working with both small businesses and the non-profit sector, I saw that there was a gap between the two sectors,” says Lori Munoz Malcolm, Founder of HeartPress PR. “It’s not just a gap of resources, finances, or culture. A real lack of connection exists. Non-profits want the support of businesses but have few resources to solicit the help. Companies want to help non-profits but they just don’t know how or even where to begin. That’s where we come in.“ Brokers of Good HeartPress PR is furthering the causes of non-profits through managing the collaboration between the business and non-profit sectors. They play matchmaker between the two to make meaningful connections and better connect and serve the community. They’ve coined themselves the #BrokersOfGood. HeartPress PR is trail-blazing when it comes to cause marketing and corporate philanthropy. Their services and value proposition are unique and on trend at a time when Gen Z and millennial employees are looking to businesses to get involved with social issues and corporate philanthropy. Although recent studies support their case, there are few companies delving into that space within North America and around the world. They are leaders on a mission to change the non-profit landscape. Making Giving Accessible For Businesses HeartPress PR’s early research with companies indicated that one of the main challenges with giving back is not having the information to be able to make

“HeartPress PR is the go-to resource for businesses looking to improve their corporate philanthropy portfolio. Our clients are investing in their company by investing in the community.” an informed decision. Their solution? They’ve created an online tool to make giving back easier for businesses. Their Community Platform is a web application which showcases non-profits’ profiles and opportunities. Businesses are able to view giving opportunities based on their search criteria. HeartPress PR's Community Platform is the resource that companies are looking for to make strategic decisions about their corporate giving.

A D V E R T O R I A L F E AT U R E 250.216.5480



From left: Tiana Kalaj, Creative Director; Kelly Darwin, Owner/Director of Accounts; Brianna Green, Marketing Director


eriously Creative is an awardwinning marketing and website development company, but “digital pioneers” may be a better fit. With nearly 20 years of experience, we have quite literally seen it all. We were among the first to pursue Social Media Marketing back when Facebook had just reached the masses and were practicing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) before it even had a name. Backed by the experience of our close-knit team, we find ourselves at the forefront of online marketing, propelling companies like yours to the top of the market by leveraging our ability to innovate all while staying one step ahead of the trending technology of today. People are no longer content with impersonal, generic marketing. As a business, our team works to connect you with your customers in a personal way that’s all too absent in today’s world of popups and spam ads. When people work with us, our team becomes a part of your team, providing a one-stop-shop for all your online and marketing needs. We work closely with you to develop and optimize every aspect of your

“Those who know the importance of digital marketing realize that having a professional team to work closely with is a crucial part of any business’s success. Our passionate team becomes your passionate team.” business’s marketing strategy, fine-tuning every detail. From web design and social media management to carefully crafted brand strategies with a clear goal of your unique audience in mind, Seriously Creative provides every service your company needs. Our passionate team becomes your passionate team, ready to equip you with industry-leading expertise. We began back when the digital world was made up of screeching dialup tones and desks creaking under the weight of 80-pound monitors. As the digital world has evolved from AOL and personal Myspace pages that we would rather forget, so too have we evolved alongside it. In our years serving clients, we have loved working with businesses


both within our community and those on the other side of the world, learning about new industries and applying what we know to help our clients succeed beyond all expectations. Along the way we’ve remained a “what’s next” company, leading the digital marketing industry. For Seriously Creative’s future, we’re excited to continue to do what we love most: aid in the growth of businesses across multiple platforms of the online world, particularly through our popular Canadian webhosting services located right here in British Columbia. Beyond that, we look forward to our future with new clients and the opening of our second office.

#4 101 Presley Place, Victoria, BC 250.474.4723


any businesses struggle to identify what makes them unique. Duttons just is unique. It starts with David Logan and Ole Schmidt, now heading into their sixth year as the owners of Duttons. When biographies include a passion for architecture and design, jazz guitar, years of business in China and Korea, and riding bikes to appointments, unique isn’t just an empty catchword. David and Ole are as individual as the homes they represent. They are passionate about their neighbourhood of Fairfield, where they both live, and where the Duttons building has been a local landmark at the corner of Moss and Fairfield for over 22 years. As a Property Management firm, Duttons manages some of the finest addresses in the city, with more than 500 individual Downtown and core neighbourhood residences under management. David and Ole put relationships first in their single-unit management of condos, townhomes and single-family houses. “When owners and residents deal with

us, they know they receive trustworthy, ethical guidance tailored for their personal situation.” They share the conviction that great systems and great culture are the bedrock of business, and they pride themselves on being responsive, embracing new technology, nurturing their team members and listening to the desires of their clients. With Ole and David’s leadership, the Duttons Sales team (including REALTORS® Christina Carrick and James Fehr) are specialists in the walkable, urban-core neighbourhoods of Fairfield, Downtown, James Bay, and south Oak Bay. The team are experts in selling and buying classic character homes and quality strata properties. They care about lifestyle and collaborating for the benefit of those around them. The result is a level of care and personalized service second-to-none. This unique focus has been honoured yearly with sales awards, recognition from the Victoria Real Estate Board, and by their exclusive repeat and referred clients list. Duttons’ commitment to community goes beyond professional expertise.


Duttons’ Community Impact Fund helps support many organizations throughout Greater Victoria, including Big Brothers and Big Sisters, InspireHealth Supportive Cancer Care, the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre, Greater Victoria Housing Society, FGCA, Cridge Centre for the Family, and so many more. Duttons is passionate about building community and serving people. David and Ole have created an organization where people collaborate and feel inspired to be their best. They are building a community that starts with service at home, and spreads across their beloved urban village and beyond.

394 Moss Street, Victoria, BC 250.389.1011





SO WHO ARE YOU REALLY? A Victoria startup with a technology named Claire is changing how landlords and employers screen applicants by pulling together publicly available information to check behaviourial and social profiles, as well as credit. So how is your Facebook profile looking? ith 20-plus years of property management experience, Claire Flewelling-Wyatt has no hesitation saying that at least 20 per cent of people fib when filling out a rental application. “They lie about smoking, their jobs, how much money they make … use their friends as references,” says the Pemberton Holmes’ managing broker. So with a near-zero vacancy rate and a deep pool of people seeking places to live, how do landlords find tenants who pay rent on time, are clean, obey the rules and won’t trash an asset owned by someone else? One new possibility: Certn. For this Victoria technology startup, the brave new world of artificial intelligence is assisting how flesh and blood humans collect information and make decisions. Certn uses a constantly modified database and program named Claire which analyzes not only financial information, but social and behavioural profiles as well, to evaluate individuals. Part of the program includes the algorithm — a set of rules applied to problem-solving operations, sometimes dubbed machine learning — that allows the system to learn from itself. For Certn, the brave new world of artificial intelligence is replacing human research. “We enable our clients — property managers, landlords, financial institutions, employers — to have access to public information,” says Andrew McLeod, one of Certn’s founders. “We take a more holistic view.”



Instead of merely looking at addresses, phone numbers and employers, facets such as honesty, kindness, conscientiousness and cleanliness are considered. In Certn’s case, a would-be renter or prospective employee is given a score after Claire analyzes a person’s data. So what goes into the hopper? “We only look at risk-relevant information. We use our best judgment to determine what is risk-relevant, with a strong eye on privacy legislation,” McLeod says. One consideration is “reasonableness,” a long-standing legal principle. A jaywalking charge would not be deemed reasonable grounds to screen out an applicant, but a money-laundering conviction would raise red flags. McLeod stresses that only publicly available information is used. Included are social media posts, including those on Facebook and Twitter. More than 100,000 credible newspapers, television and radio stations, from 240 countries, using 77 languages, are also fed to Claire. Fraud-watch lists, sanctions lists, criminal and court data, North American public eviction notices, law enforcement, FBI and CSIS bulletins and Equifax data are other sources. Images or anything “locked-down” are not used, nor are non-credible outlets like The National Enquirer or The Onion, McLeod adds. The process works like this: A prospective renter creates an account with Certn so they can fill out the tenancy application. The applicant consents to the application and is also asked to authenticate their account, using Facebook, which gives Certn the ability to scan Facebook posts. The applicant also completes

a “Behavioural Questionnaire,” which includes questions such as “I am not bothered by messy people” and “I try not to think about the needy.” Once the application is filled out, Claire searches for the person’s name through its database, which is updated in real time. If results come up “clear,” the next steps are to do a credit check, income verification and reference check, McLeod explains. Certn was born in November 2016 after McLeod, Evan Dalton and Owen Madrick realized financial data was only one piece of the equation. McLeod and Madrick had worked at Vancouver’s RentMoola, which developed an app for Canadian tenants to pay rent online or with a credit card. “Credit scores were not the most effective way to evaluate tenants,” McLeod says. So Certn goes beyond the traditional methods of personal assessments, typically based in part on credit scores. “We help tenants put their best foot forward,” he adds. Because a good proportion of would-be renters are young, often with no credit histories, or with less-than-golden credit ratings, their ability to rise to the top is impaired.


with in-depth character mapping and consumer insights from thousands of data points. Critics say there are privacy concerns, but proponents say it makes the system fairer for applicants.


“Credit scores don’t tell the whole story,” he adds. “Something might have happened five years ago, so that affects their current score, but they still might be a good tenant or employee. Or else people are getting credit for the wrong reasons, because they have to do it.” Instead, Certn considers their “social credit” where Claire evaluates them based on their personality rather than solely on credit score. To finesse their algorithm, the three founders enlisted the expertise of Victoria behavioural psychologist Jeff Fuhr, as well as others in Ontario and the U.K. In February 2017, with financial backing from Alacrity Canada, Claire took form. By the summer of 2017, it was ready for testing, and Pemberton Holmes and Devon Properties signed on for the pilot project. “It’s been a continually developing model,” Fuhr says. “It began from the psychological point of view. What are the essential qualities of a good tenant?” To measure individual traits and attitudes, such as evenness, material values, cooperation, order and responsibility, a questionnaire was developed. Of the initial 32 personality questions asked, “double-validity qualifiers” were included to test for truthfulness. Such questions include “I rarely overindulge” and “I usually buy only the things I need.”

TRANSPARENCY VERSUS PRIVACY For Flewelling-Wyatt, Certn has proved useful. “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” she says. Some applicants initially appear sketchy, but turn out to be fabulous renters. Others look good on paper, based on references and employment information, yet soon the cheques are bouncing. Flewelling-Wyatt gives a few examples. The “hostess/waitress” who used her apartment as a brothel; evicting her took months. A drug dealer who conducted nonstop business from his suite. And tenants who destroyed granite countertops or ruined high-end appliances. “It’s very important to ensure we get the right person,” stresses Flewelling-Wyatt, one of about 350 licensed property managers in B.C. It can take landlords months to get reimbursed by a bad tenant, and in many cases landlords never get what’s owed for rent or damage. “What I really like about Certn, they can pull data we simply can’t,” she says. This includes social media information. She’s also impressed by the tidy online application, the scoring and that the algorithm is continually being tweaked. “The challenge we have is that tenants are not used to doing this. The Boomers don’t like it. They feel they are invasive questions,” she says. When applicants don’t answer all questions, their application is left “pending,” she adds.

Against today’s backdrop of landlords making unreasonable demands on desperate tenants (such as visiting the tenant’s current lodging), combined with ongoing calls from upset suite seekers, the acting deputy commissioner at the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia, has concerns about programs like Certn. “In the majority of situations, you don’t need to go into such depth,” says Bradley Weldon. When the one-size-fits-all approach is used, a minimum amount of information should be collected, he says. Acknowledging that landlords are entitled to seek the best tenants, Weldon also notes that a majority of renters don’t pose risks, so using such an invasive tool isn’t justified. To determine if someone would be a suitable tenant, Weldon says the initial check would be to contact the applicant’s previous landlord or residence. By speaking to a former landlord, questions about prompt payment and cleanliness are answered. In the case of an applicant with no references, the landlord is justified to ask more questions, but they must be relevant. “Just because information is publicly available, it doesn’t mean the organization is authorized to collect it,” he says. “The object of protecting people’s privacy under the Personal Information Protection Act [PIPA] is to prevent others from using what they

Energy efficiency a bright idea for City of Burnaby By 2019, the City of Burnaby believes it will have completed an ambitious plan to update all of its current streetlights to LED fixtures. The endeavour will save energy, reduce maintenance costs, and boost visibility across the municipality. Richard Ching, Burnaby’s energy management coordinator, says it would not have been possible to get this far without a strategic energy management plan (SEMP), which ensures different teams are in the loop on energy efficiency projects.

From left: Tom Ng (Facilities Management), Richard Ching (Energy Management Coordinator), Doug Louie (Transportation Services)

He credits vision from, and coordination with other departments—such as facilities management and transportation— for getting the ball rolling, and keeping the momentum going.

“The SEMP gives us an overall map of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going,” he details. “It creates one central place for us to track savings, and to plan the budget for future equipment replacement.” Burnaby isn’t going to stop there, of course. Future plans include doing more LED lighting conversions in public parks and along pedestrian paths; strategic energy management will help guide the process. “Partnering with BC Hydro is a great help— from technical advice and incentives, to help with strategies for behavioural change, BC Hydro is an invaluable source of information and encouragement.” Richard Ching, Energy Management Coordinator, City of Burnaby

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2018-01-09 2:10 PM

say, to harm them. Information collected for one purpose should not be used for another purpose.” Social media information is problematic because it may not be accurate. “You have to ensure the accuracy of the information,” Weldon notes. As well, information not relevant, such as a three-year-old drunk driving charge, may appear in the algorithm. And algorithms can be flawed. “A person with biases writes the algorithm,” Weldon says. “There’s no way to establish their efficacy. It’s tough to measure their success.” One example: unsophisticated social media users may have privacy settings that are public, while more educated users know how to lock down their Facebook pages. Thus, more damaging information from some individuals is fed into the algorithm, while savvy users avoid Claire’s probing tentacles. Weldon is also concerned that while tenants may be worried about the questionnaire, out of desperation they complete it. “They’re faced with a Faustian bargain,” he says. There is a touch of cold consolation though. Under PIPA, prospective tenants have a right to a copy of Certn’s report.

A SIGN OF THINGS TO COME By late 2017, Certn was providing data for 100,000 apartments, primarily in B.C., Alberta and Ontario, McLeod says. Since late 2014, San Francisco company Naborly has offered a similar service that uses its artificial intelligence system named Sherly to do tenant screening. Naborly offers two levels of screening: “basic,” which covers credit-type data for US$30 per check, and “pro,” which adds criminal checks to credit data for US$50 per screening. Certn’s price is confidential, McLeod says. Flewelling-Wyatt admits Certn has revealed no big surprises, although a few prospective tenants who looked decent were revealed to be not so unsullied. With the pilot project wrapping up, she expects Pemberton Holmes, which has about 300 rental properties suited to Certn, will continue to use the service. Costs will be transferred from Pemberton Holmes to property owners in the same way credit checks are now. Certn earned a $10,000 award in September from the BC Innovation Council and the New Ventures BC society as a top regional startup, something McLeod says will help build the business. Currently, about 90 per cent of Certn’s work is tenant screening, with the remainder being credit or employment checks. But McLeod expects those two components to grow in 2018 once testing is complete. “We’ve put a ton of time and effort into it,” he says. “The last thing you want to do is put something out that negatively impacts tenants.” ■

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ENTREPREN With angel investors arriving en masse this spring, and startups, popups and meetups infusing our lingo, it seems Victoria has its entrepreneurial wings at last. But don’t expect a copycat of Silicon Valley. This city has its own vibrant attitude.


We’d love to help grow a company in Victoria to a billion dollars with a thousand staff because the offshoots of what comes from something like that are tremendous ...


NEURS IN THE CORNER OF A DESIGN-FORWARD FORT-STREET SPACE filled with workstations, a draftsman is focused on a contract renovation project for a heritage home in Oak Bay. Detailed renderings are spread across his two-computer desk. Not far from him, a graphic designer modifies colourful shapes on a large monitor. On the other side of the room is Jordan Dack, who’s been running his own dance and poetry company for schools for the last 10 years. Most of those years were spent sitting alone in his home office. But these days Dack practises co-working, surrounding himself with half a dozen professionals and entrepreneurs from various backgrounds. It’s a stimulating atmosphere that gives him new ideas to chew on every day. “It’s a great environment. A lot more stimulating than a home office,” says Dack, who would sometimes put on a dress shirt and tie to get into work mode at home. “Being around all these people, there’s a vibe in the air you can’t get at home.” Dack is one of 40 people who regularly soaks in the vibe at Club Kwench — the latest co-working space to launch in Victoria and help fuel the city’s growing entrepreneurial scene. The vibe continues across Fort Street in the decidedly tech-meets-funky Summit building, which is home to 12 tech companies, including some of Victoria’s most successful startups, such as EchoSec, LlamaZOO and SaasQuatch. Downstairs, the Dak eatery is buzzing with business talk among


the who’s who of Victoria’s tech community. Just down the street, which is being rejigged to accommodate bike lanes, VIATEC houses 35 earlystage tech companies and is a high-octane gathering place for makers, movers and shakers through its funky accelerator and co-working space known as Fort Tectoria. This is the heart of Victoria’s entrepreneurial scene, and it’s thriving more than ever. “There’s definitely a vibrant feel,” says Richard Egli, managing director of the Alacrity Foundation, which has helped startup culture explode in the city. “Four years ago it was more antique shops than tech offices. Now you go up and down Fort Street and our group alone has three offices, and then another two within a block radius. You run into people walking up and down the street, and places like Dak become a central sort of hangout.” Launched in 2009, the now-global Alacrity Foundation provides support and mentorship to promising entrepreneurs, and then connects them with the venture capital funding needed to develop thriving tech companies. Egli can’t wait to see how Fort Street will transform during the next five years. “Everyone working up and down Fort Street in tech is happy with where we’ve come, but I think the most important thing is we have only scratched the surface and there’s so much more we can do. We want to find more buildings to put more great companies into up and down Fort Street and just keep propelling the scene forward.”


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companies roll out of that. It’s the next step for us.” In the past half decade, so-called sleepy Victoria has surged from business boring BUSINESS, NOT AS USUAL to exciting entrepreneurialism. Fuelled by According to the City of Victoria, 1,239 new an influx of talent and resources, a number business licences were issued in 2016, and as of sectors are experiencing growth in the of mid-November 2017, 1,250 new business region, including aerospace, agri-business, licences had already been issued. The bulk aquaculture, health and life sciences, ship of those licences are related to home-based repair and game development. The region’s businesses, followed by the restaurant industry tech sector continues to lead the charge, and retail. tripling in revenue since 2004, and now claims Suzanne Bradbury, chair of the Downtown twice the economic impact of local tourism, Victoria Business Association (DVBA), credits achieving annual revenues in excess of part of the growth to the city’s motivation $4 billion. Nearly 400 tech firms now operate toward breaking down barriers to allow more in downtown Victoria alone, breathing new economic development. An example of this life into the city’s core. is the city’s Business Hub, which opened in Dan Gunn, executive director of VIATEC, December 2015 as a way to make it easier for has been closely watching Victoria’s tech new and established entrepreneurs, investors, industry and entrepreneurial scene blossom property owners and leasing agents to do since moving to Victoria from Ontario in 1999. business in Victoria, and get up and running Gunn believes more than 900 tech companies as soon as possible. now operate in Greater Victoria. Many of them The city and community partners like were founded and headquartered in the region. VIATEC and the Capital Investment Network An estimated 80 to 100 new ones start up have also been promoting Victoria on the every year. global stage. In 2016, Victoria As to why so many tech hosted its first Capital Mission, companies are popping up Tech entrepreneur which originally targeted San in Victoria, Gunn said the Jim Balcom never Francisco/Bay Area investors answer is simple: people to come and discover why are drawn to the city had any intention Victoria is such as great place because of the great lifestyle, of moving to to live, work, play and invest. universities and federal Victoria, but he The three-day mission resulted research labs. It’s a city he quickly realized it’s in 25 participants from Los calls magnetic, combining a stimulating place Angeles, Portland, Seattle, a high quality of life with that offered the Vancouver, Calgary and quality opportunities that Toronto that included investors draw entrepreneurs from kind of lifestyle he with an interest in early-stage near and far. and his wife were tech companies. “If you look around looking for. Now, Capital Mission has Victoria, things like the become an annual event, most restaurants per and this February, the National Angel Capital capita, a thriving tech industry and more Organization (NACO) will hold its regional microbreweries per capita are all indications we’re an entrepreneurial city,” says Gunn, who summit in Victoria, which is expected to attract 100 angel investors and NACO members believes the only thing preventing the tech to the city. industry from growing faster is a lack of talent at the senior level. Certainly many of the other success boosters ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PUSH With a focus on exporting local innovation are here. “In Victoria, there’s a loyalty and in clean tech, manufacturing, education, film support I don’t see in other cities,” he adds. and tourism, Victoria mayor Lisa Helps has led VIATEC plans to build on that with an trade missions to China and Japan with local ambitious plan to grow the tech industry companies and organizations, including the to $10 billion by 2030. To get there, the South Island Prosperity Project (SIPP). organization is identifying up to 25 companies As a regional economic development agency that have the greatest chance of becoming a pushing to create a more vibrant and diverse $100-million business or more. “We’d love to help grow a company in economy, SIPP has worked hard to remove Victoria to a billion dollars with a thousand economic development from municipal silos staff, because the offshoots of what comes and has united most of Greater Victoria’s from something like that are tremendous for municipalities — along with a healthy grouping the rest of the industry,” says Gunn. “It brings of businesses, universities and Indigenous more talent, more experience and then more groups — since it formed nearly two years ago.


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On the 2017 China trade mission, SIPP met with several groups interested in travelling to Victoria this March to look at investments, technology applications and partnership opportunities as part of their attendance at the GLOBE Forum 2018 Vancouver — North America’s largest clean-tech and sustainablebusiness conference. Around the same time, a one-day summit is slated for Victoria as part of SIPP’s Smart South Island initiative and regional bid for Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge — a nationwide competition offering prizes of up to $50 million to support communities ready to innovate using technology and data to solve real-world challenges and improve livability for residents. By 2050, more than 50 per cent of the global population will live in cities, which is why a growing number of tech companies are increasingly focused on smart cities, seeing their innovative technologies, solutions and concepts as a way to help cities become more manageable. Smart cities are also often innovation centres for entrepreneurs. “It’s basically how do we look at better sustainability in terms of our business community, how we treat the environment, human health, and how do we create more sustainability by using the new technologies that are available to us?” says SIPP CEO Emilie

de Rosenroll, noting the agency is currently asking citizens to come up with ideas on how to help solve some of the major challenges in the region. “It’s understanding our challenges, like health, economic resilience, inclusion, the environment, mobility and transportation and saying how do we get people involved and understanding these challenges? The technologies are relatively easy to develop when you clearly understand what your objectives are.”

GREAT TO GREATER Although Victoria is finding its entrepreneurial moxie at last, it still has a long way to go on the world stage, according to entrepreneur Hannes Blum, former president and CEO of AbeBooks. Now serving as venture partner for North America at Acton Capital Partners, headquartered in Munich, Blum has noticed Victoria is still missing larger companies to bring that worldwide talent Gunn would like to see and build an ecosystem around. Few companies in the city actually make it past 50 to 100 employees, he noted, and the bulk of them get stuck at around 20 to 30. Blum has also noticed some entrepreneurs that are very successful by local standards are satisfied too quickly, preventing them

from taking their business to the next level. Another trend he’s noticed is that Canadian entrepreneurs don’t think as big as those in the U.S., who always want to conquer the market. To build a great business these days, Blum says entrepreneurs have to think global. One of the companies that has managed to break the mould and substantially grow is Redlen Technologies, which has gone from 60 to 140 employees during the last five years. The company is a leading manufacturer of high-resolution Cadmium Zinc Telluride (CST) semiconductor radiation detectors that are enabling a new generation of high-performance detection and imaging equipment, including nuclear cardiology, CT scanning, baggage scanning and dirty-bomb detection. Redlen’s COO Jim Balcom is the driving force behind much of the growth, helping to triple the company’s revenue and recruit highquality people to the city. About half of the 80 new recruits are from outside Victoria. Balcom plans on hiring another 10 to 20 people in the next year and often collaborates with scientists and engineers at the University of Victoria to find the right fit. Recruiting the right people is what’s allowed the company to grow, he notes, and is something he spends much of his time doing. Attracting them to Victoria isn’t difficult, given




the high quality of life here. The Canadian government has also helped pave the way for foreign experts to get Canadian citizenship and work visas, which has been important for Redlen’s success. Spending the bulk of his career in the tech sector in the Silicon Valley, Seattle and Vancouver, Balcom never had any intention of moving to Victoria, but he quickly realized it’s a stimulating place that offered the kind of lifestyle he and his wife were looking for. “It’s a phenomenal place to live,” says Balcom. “We love the outdoors, to bike, hike, sail, kayak, and all those things are so accessible here.” “It’s obviously very small compared to the Silicon Valley, Seattle or Vancouver in terms of the size of the tech sector, but it’s a great place to hire people into. It’s much easier to recruit that many people to Victoria than it would be certainly in Vancouver now with the high cost of living and the long commute distances.” Balcom doesn’t expect Victoria will ever turn into another Silicon Valley, where the giants of the tech industry such as Apple, Intel and HP are deeply rooted, but he doesn’t think it needs to in order to continue growing as an entrepreneurial city. The support that organizations like VIATEC provide young entrepreneurs is an important part of a healthy entrepreneurial city, he notes, along with having small spaces that a new company can lease and grow within.

THE CITY AS AN INCUBATOR Although there is a significant focus on Victoria’s tech sector, businesses outside the core, tucked away in buildings like Rock Bay Square, which is filled with artists and makers, are also thriving. Case in point is Toni Desrosiers of Abeego, runner up for Business Development Bank of Canada’s prestigious 2014 Entrepreneur Award and featured in a Venture Spotlight by SheEO, a leading global innovation in the female entrepreneur marketplace. Desrosiers is a success story in the city’s growing culinary entrepreneur movement, which includes DeeBee’s Organics, Cultured Kombucha, Jusu and Rumble. With a background as a holistic nutritionist, the 38-year-old got her business idea after looking at fresh living food and wondering why so much of it ends up stored in airtight plastic wrap. So she created a wrap made of hemp and cotton fabric, infused with beeswax, tree resin and jojoba oil, that allows food to breathe. The beeswax is used as a natural adhesive. The wrap is also reusable, and each piece lasts for well over a year. Desrosiers describes the process of inventing Abeego as traumatic and exciting. Some days everything worked perfectly; other days left her feeling like throwing in the towel. But once

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Truth and Myth

by Richard Eaton

An entrepreneur is commonly defined as “a person who organizes and operates a business, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.” That does a pretty good job of describing my professional life, but I find that description a little too shallow to do justice to my life’s work, or, as author Peter Drucker might say, my practice. So what is an entrepreneur? Here’s what I’ve learned over the past 20 years, both the hard and the fun way:


Entrepreneurship is neither a science nor an art. It is a practice. — PETER DRUCKER




An entrepreneur is passionate about making things better Entrepreneurs embody passion and authenticity. Think of the cartoon character Dudley Do-Right of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle show and you won’t go far wrong.

A real entrepreneur is probably not stressed out all the time Much of the literature out there eulogizes the workaholic, overstressed entrepreneur. But entrepreneurship should actually be tremendously fun and exciting. You shouldn’t be doing this — or anything for that matter — just for the money or, even worse, for the promise of money. To paraphrase Confucius: as long as you are pursuing your passion, you’ll never work a day in your life. If you’re an entrepreneur and are stressed out to the point where you think you can’t take it anymore, then it’s probably time to think about trying something else on for size.

An entrepreneur can be anyone, anywhere, anytime Entrepreneurship is not the exclusive province of the private sector, or external business consultants, or anyone else who might be described as a guru. Anyone, in any walk of life, anywhere, can be an entrepreneur. See a need, fill it. That’s all. Oh, you don’t think government workers can be entrepreneurs? Think again. An entrepreneur is an opportunist, in a good way An entrepreneur can quickly identify opportunities and convert them into magic.

An entrepreneur is not necessarily born with an “entrepreneurship gene” Despite what many people might believe, you can teach people to be entrepreneurs, but it takes real passion to put it to use. Here are some tips:  Build authentic, enduring relationships with like-minded people based on a shared vision.

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 Earn a credible education in something that you’re passionate about and the world needs more of.


 Be an appreciative enquirer and lifelong learner who is always curious about “why” things are and what they might be.

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 Build a tapestry of life experiences to expand your ways of thinking and to build character.  Live the courage of your convictions and align to a noble cause the way a compass needle aligns with magnetic north. That’s all. An entrepreneur is not a job title Deputy director, chef, lead hand, chief constable, management consultant: these are all examples of job titles. Most of these titles are backed by some kind of job description or competency profile that describes how they add value to the world. Coincidentally, every one of the people doing these jobs can also be entrepreneurs. But that doesn’t mean their business cards should say “entrepreneur.” That’s kind of like putting “thought leader” on your card. It makes me leery. Entrepreneur is not a title — it’s a gift word.

Richard Eaton is a founding partner at Berlineaton and a senior management consultant facilitating significant, positive culture shifts within large organizations and complex human systems.

she found the right ingredients, the next step was even more intimidating — launching her business to officially become an entrepreneur. “I had every emotion you could imagine,” says Desrosiers. “I didn’t have any experience, a degree or a business background. Everything was created within my comfort level.” She first started selling Abeego at local markets and craft shows. Now sales have grown 400 per cent over 2016 levels and Abeego products are distributed throughout Canada, Europe, Japan and the U.S. Desrosiers is aiming for it to become a worldwide brand. “I love running a business,” she says. “I love growing something and changing the way people think. I feel like a lot of people avoid going into business because they think they don’t know enough, but you don’t have to know anything anymore because you can learn everything.” Victoria, she notes, is an incredible incubator of ideas. “Most of the people I know are entrepreneurs. It’s a smaller city so there’s not an abundance of job opportunities, so people make work for themselves and create their own business. The city is rich with minds.” And that, no doubt, bodes well for a smart city evolution. ■

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A vibrant business community is the result of businesses both large and small being forward thinking, putting themselves out there and engagement with their community.

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n its website, First Light Technologies, which sells lighting solutions for pathways, parking lots and playgrounds to a global audience, says it’s “building safer, more usable communities through solar outdoor lighting.” But when you get down to brass tacks, what founder and CEO Sean Bourquin will tell you is that First Light is actually in the business of “un-sucking” solar lighting. “One of the things we say is that solar lighting sucks,” says the engineer-turnedentrepreneur. “It’s always sucked. We really think solar lighting should be more successful.” It’s a sensibility that’s so strong for Bourquin that on the day of our interview, he’s wearing a First Light Technologies T-shirt with the words Unsucking Solar Lighting blazing across the back in large lettering. “We had them printed for our eight-year open house a while back,” he grins. For Bourquin and co-founder Justin Taverna, making solar lighting “not suck” is at the heart of their brand promise: No Lights Out. “We hold ourselves accountable, first and foremost,” says Bourquin. “If a customer has a bad experience, we will engage. We will stand behind what we say.” Bourquin and Taverna themselves will still go out into the field to fix a malfunctioning


product, regardless of that light’s age. They research tirelessly the efficacy of their products. They’ll even proactively fix things that newer information tells them will eventually break down. Recently they replaced 500 lights in different locations around the U.S. when their in-house reliability testing indicated that the batteries lasted only a fraction of the time the manufacturer had claimed. “We spent $50,000 to fix a problem,” says Bourquin. “We said ‘we’re going to change them all. And we’re going to eat it.’” It’s a philosophy that wins them customers — and keeps current customers coming back.

NO LIGHTS OUT It took a number of years and a lot of hard learning to be able to articulate that brand promise of No Lights Out. After leaving their jobs at Carmanah Technologies in 2009 to launch First Light, the co-founders spent their first couple of years consulting. It was reasonably easy work serving clients they’d become connected to over their years with Carmanah, and it brought in good money. But the two had always envisioned being able to step back from working on an hourly basis. They gradually moved away from consulting to focus on creating products, with solar LED lighting solutions as their key niche. “When we switched to a product mentality, it took time,” says Bourquin. “It was a really painful year when we decided to stop consulting and focus on sales. That was our worst year ever. We lost a lot of money.”


First Light designs and sustainably manufactures solar-powered and high-performance LED bollards and luminaires for pedestrian-scale and parking-lot applications. Each light is designed and built in the company's Victoria manufacturing facility.


Almost half, to be exact. First Light’s earnings tanked, dipping from $640K to $370K. “We’d gone from a year of 50/50 lighting products and consulting,” says Bourquin, “to the next year where consulting had kind of died but the products hadn’t picked up.” They’d focused on operations and development without a concomitant investment in sales and marketing — and it showed. While they had brought in someone to help with sales, despite nailing a couple of big deals early on, they found that employee’s worldview didn’t sync with First Light’s, and he eventually left. Bourquin and Taverna floated along for a few months, believing naively that the products were so good that they’d sell themselves — especially given their recent wins. “We thought we had a couple of big wins with a resort and a military base,” says Taverna. “And it was like ‘Holy cow, this is easy! We’ll just put it on a website and sit back and make some calls here and there and this is gonna go.’” But as sales sputtered, it began to dawn on them that good products won’t sell themselves if nobody knows they exist. “It was learning that people buy from people,” Taverna says.

After bumpy beginnings and a steep learning curve, First Light’s co-founders Justin Taverna (left) and Sean Bourquin have grown the company to a ranking of 190 on the PROFIT 500’s 2017 list of Canada’s fastest-growing companies.



Oddly enough, 2012 — the year First Light made the cover of Douglas as a 10 to Watch winner, won a VIATEC award and was featured in the Times Colonist — was the company’s worst year ever. “Most importantly, strategically we just weren’t clear on where we were going to go and how we were going to get there,” says Bourquin. Then, right around that time, the pair received a kick in the pants from their angel investor and mentor, David Green of Carmanah Management. At their year-in-review meeting in 2012, Green lost patience with the pair and told them to “figure out where the pointy end of the stick is, and go do that.” So Bourquin and Taverna honed their focus to solar LED lighting for pathways and parking lots, and while Bourquin


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Using solar power and LEDs, the SCL2 series is completely selfcontained and allows for wireless control of the light through an iOS app. As it operates independently from the grid, it not affected by power outages. There is also minimal site impact as neither trenching, cabling nor wiring is required. Motion-sensing capabilities optimize its performance based on usage.

The PLB LED bollard comes in both a solar-powered and a wired AC version. It’s ideal for lighting pathways, building exits and public spaces, and its contemporary design suits new construction, renovations or retrofit projects. The PLB-AC suits areas where wired power exists and site conditions don’t allow for a solar-powered bollard (such as the shaded side of a building or under dense tree cover).

oversaw product development, Taverna set to work selling. “I picked up the phone,” he says, making dozens of calls a day to talk to people about the product. First, the company targeted resorts and other hospitality venues, but soon realized it was too hard to reach decision makers by working upward through the chain. They decided instead to sell their lights to municipalities in Canada and the U.S. It felt like the right place to be, and Taverna’s hard work selling began paying off. “Seventytwo calls tended to yield two lights,” says Bourquin. Immediately they hired a clutch of salespeople to replicate Taverna’s selling success.


Every captain needs a second mate

from their angel investor and mentor, David Green of Carmanah Management. At their year-in-review meeting in 2012, Green lost patience with the pair and told them to “figure out where the pointy end of the stick is, and go do that.”

But in those early days, Bourquin admits, he and Taverna weren’t skilled at interviewing, or even identifying what the company really needed, beyond more sales. They hired salespeople who weren’t clear on the company’s core values, and who didn’t know where First Light was going as a business. No surprise there: Bourquin and Taverna didn’t even have that information. “We just needed a guy to make 72 calls and get two lights,” Bourquin says.

A LIGHT GOES ON The co-founders burned through more than a few employees in their mad scramble to make sales. While they experienced wins, moving the needle from $370K to $960K to $1.6M and even to $3.2M throughout the years following, they still always came back to asking themselves whether they could do more — and the answer was always yes. When the needle wavered and then started moving the wrong way, they took a good hard look at their overall game plan. In 2016, at $2.8M in revenues, they realized their strategy had reached its limit. They needed more structure in finding the right people to move the company forward. “We got to the end of what we knew how

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to do,” says Bourquin, “and we needed new tools.” So they reached out, attending VIATEC events, connecting with leaders in their field and joining a mentorship group for owners of tech companies. Through those connections, they discovered a book called Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It … and Why the Rest Don’t by Verne Harnish. The book — which is based on the work habits of John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil, one of the most successful, and profitable business of all time — guided Bourquin and Taverna in developing their decision making in the areas of staffing, strategy, execution and cash. They got tight on their values, narrowing them down to determination to achieve, taking initiative, and keeping it tight via deep knowledge of the company’s standing and always being prepared for what’s next. Using The Metronome Effect: The Journey to Predictable Profit by Shannon Byrne Susko, they developed a one-page strategic plan that guides all their decisions. And they adopted topgrading as their hiring and interviewing strategy, winnowing down prospective employees through extensive, structured interviewing. In fact, they spent a full day talking with their most recent hire, the director of sales and marketing.

(L-R) Jim Cameron, CPA,CA, Sanci Solbakken, CPA, CA; and Steve Wellburn, CPA, CA.

They discovered a book called


MNP Welcomes Hulko Cameron Wellburn LLP Success in business starts with a strong team and a common vision. That’s why we are pleased to announce Hulko Cameron Wellburn LLP (HCW) – a full service accounting firm in Victoria – has merged with MNP. Serving clients in the greater Victoria region for more than 35 years, HCW has grown to a team of 17 and is a like-minded firm that shares similar values and a commitment to helping clients succeed. By bringing together our combined expertise serving private enterprises and professionals, we continue to build the best team possible to meet your business needs. Local in focus and national in scope, MNP is committed to delivering the industryleading services and the results you need to be successful. Contact Steve Wellburn, CPA, CA, Partner, MNP Victoria, at 250.388.6554 or


SCALING UP: HOW A FEW COMPANIES MAKE IT … AND WHY THE REST DON’T by Verne Harnish. The book guided Bourquin and Taverna in developing their decision making in the areas of staffing, strategy, execution and cash.

“People will say that’s a lot of time and that it sounds expensive to put all that effort into hiring someone,” says Bourquin. “But think of what happens if you don’t get it right. Calculate the cost of that mis-hire. For one of our hires, I had a $375,000 cost to that mis-hire.” Taking the time to find the right people is just one of many tips Bourquin and Taverna have picked up from Scott Phillips, CEO of Starfish Medical. No stranger to strategic struggle himself, Phillips is now widely regarded as a sage in the area of leadership. But the learning was hard-won for Phillips, too: Starfish hit the skids 12 years ago, hemorrhaging cash and

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Brian Rayner of First Light assembles and tests a self-contained solar LED bollard.

morale, and needed a massive recalibration of vision and management to get it back on track. Phillips did the work and now is more than happy to show others how it’s done. He admires Bourquin and Taverna for their deep experience within the field of solar LED lighting, as well as their razor-sharp focus on only certain products. “They’re being very targeted with their market, which is super important,” he says. “That’s a mistake a lot of people make, is to be undisciplined. They’re very specific with what they do. They’re not trying to say, ‘We’re the solution to everything solar that everyone will ever need.’”

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SEEING SUCCESS Discipline and focus are the two habits that have set Bourquin and Taverna’s company well out in front of the competition. By relentlessly pursuing better products and better practices, and by seeking guidance from others who have travelled the path before them, the pair has positioned First Light for tremendous growth. From monthly all-hands strategy and update meetings for the entire team, to barbecues with family and friends, to a focus on continuous learning, Bourquin and Taverna finally feel that the world is their oyster. “We’re up 60 per cent this year,” says Bourquin. “Up until this year, the growth rate was around 40 per cent. The growth rate is accelerating and we’re only at the early stages of integrating this way of thinking,” he says. “Building a process-based approach for how we’re going to be successful is what we’re in the midst of doing. The exciting thing is ... we’re just starting now.” ■

Great Kids WANTED

$10,000 COMMUNITY SCHOLARSHIPS: FUTURE-PROOF YOUR CHILDREN FOR MORE THAN A CENTURY, Glenlyon Norfolk School (GNS) has been a proud member of the Victoria community. During that time, we have partnered with families to educate generations of young men and women, equipping them with the skills required to find success in university, in their careers and in their lives, while at the same time making many positive differences in the world. The GNS Community Scholarship initiative is designed to ensure that this tradition continues. These $10,000 awards, renewed annually for a student’s time at the school, are specifically intended for senior school-aged students in Greater Victoria, making our unique, engaging educational experience accessible to enthusiastic, well-rounded young minds. In exchange, each recipient is encouraged to fully embrace the

“At GNS, our uniquely designed and delivered approach to the International Baccalaureate curricula enables students to learn world-class, higher level skills in inquiry, analysis and innovation.”

opportunities we offer in academics, the arts, athletics and citizenship. At GNS, our uniquely designed and delivered approach to the International Baccalaureate (IB) curricula enables students to learn world-class, higher level skills in inquiry, analysis and innovation. Inspired by compassionate, committed and expert teachers, students develop into effective communicators, able to adapt to change while also influencing the direction of change as disrupters themselves. They grow as caring, engaged citizens with strong character, and they gain a better understanding of who they are and how they can positively impact their communities and the world. They learn that “doing good” is just as important as “doing well.” Our well-rounded approach to education extends far beyond the traditional classroom setting. Students learn the importance of a healthy lifestyle through our athletics and outdoor education programs, guided by committed coaches who value teamwork, strong individual effort and participation every bit as much as skill acquisition. Meanwhile, our Fine Arts teachers inspire the development of talents and passions, encouraging students to push beyond their comfort zones, with results that are truly remarkable. At GNS, we understand that change is a constant. The rapid pace of advances in technology make it imperative that we prepare students for careers that

very likely do not even exist today. Fortunately, the GNS version of IB education ensures each student learns to welcome opportunities to grow and develop throughout their lives. This year’s Community Scholarship is bigger and better than ever. If a student in your family is entering Grade 9, 10, 11 or 12, we want to hear from you! Find out more about Community Scholarships and Glenlyon Norfolk School by visiting: community-scholarships and join us for a visit. GREAT KIDS WANTED!

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Should You Invest

in Professional Development for Your Employees? BY ALEX VAN TOL


roviding continuous opportunities for your employees to develop their skills and knowledge boosts confidence, strengthens competencies and increases engagement — but not all leaders can see the forest for the trees. Executives sometimes shun investing in their employees for fear their people will “take the training and leave.” And it’s true: sometimes people do. But usually not immediately — and you’ll still derive benefit from that training as


your employees apply it to their work in your organization. Take, for example, someone who’s received training in how to create videos to market your products. A video-training seminar might cost $295 and a full day, but when that individual returns to your organization and maps out a campaign and content for the first six videos, and then creates and promotes the first video on social media — well, your organization has benefitted in a big way from your investment. And consider this: investing time and resources into your employees communicates

your long-term commitment to them and therefore enhances their commitment to you. “People are loyal to people who help them,” says Denise Lloyd, principal at Engaged HR. “That helps promote employee engagement and retention. And nowadays, retention is important to everyone.” Professional development doesn’t have to break the bank, either. Rather than tuition for grad school, an offer of professional development could be something as simple as a $49 webinar plus release time so an employee can sit and watch. Maybe it’s some classroom

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training or continuing education. Or maybe it’s something bigger, like a life-changing company-wide intensive such as The Human Element, a program focused on improving business results through human-performance development. Whatever form it takes, professional development — and the commitment to support your employees in lifelong learning — is good for business. “We all need to learn,” says Lloyd. “We all need to keep up to date so that we bring the best to bear on our careers.




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that didn’t exist 10 years ago One of the best indications of how quickly the world is changing is how fast new job titles pop up on the scene to keep up with changing technology, scientific discoveries, market shifts and new ideas. Here are 10 job titles that only emerged in the past decade:

SCRUM MASTER Assists an agile team in adhering to scrum values and practices, and coaches the team to be more productive. Scrum methodology originated in software development.


SUSTAINABILITY MANAGER Communicates and coordinates with employees, shareholders and customers to address social, economic and environmental sustainability issues and initiatives within an organization.


SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER Leads an organization’s social-media strategy to boost engagement. Develops strategy to guide online presence on various platforms, producing content, customer service, analyzing data, managing campaigns.


UX DESIGNER Improves the usability and/or accessibility of a product (e.g., an app or website) by examining every stage of a consumer’s interaction with that product; tries to make the experience better at each point of interaction.


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CHIEF INNOVATION OFFICER Ensures a certain percentage of company resources is directed toward innovation. Identifying opportunities and developing capabilities to serve them. Engages in change management.

2 4 6 8 9 10

VIRUS DESIGNER Makes use of patients’ stem cells to create antibodies or targeted therapies. Cells are grown, differentiated and processed using viral vectors. The designer engineers the viral vectors that activate the cells for targeted therapies.

CHIEF COMMERCIALIZATION OFFICER Strategically oversees the multidisciplinary pursuits required to commercialize a product. Requires technical knowledge, marketing know-how and strong business development skills.

BIG DATA SCIENTIST Frames business problems as data questions, and then creates data models to answer those questions. Uses data to tell stories.

INFORMATION SECURITY ANALYST Plans and administers security measures to protect networks and systems, (e.g., installing firewalls, updating software against cyberattacks).

HEALTH COACH Facilitates wellness-related behaviour change. Uses evidencebased clinical interventions to engage clients in clarifying their values and taking action on their goals. Can include nutritional and exercise education.

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What’s the value of a business degree?



ow and then, doubt surfaces and people talk in hushed tones about the value of a business degree: is an MBA really necessary anymore? Well, no, and it never has been, really. Plenty of Victoria entrepreneurs haven’t got even a baccalaureate degree let alone an MBA. A few don’t even have their Dogwood certificates. But for the focused professional who wants to take their career to the next level — or into the business world — a business degree is a deeply worthwhile investment. Like other post-secondary programs, the value of a business degree equates directly to the value of the energy you give it. Signing up for an MBA and expecting that just completing the coursework will launch you straight into the C-suite is a stretch. But if you go into it with a readiness to learn, expand your network by developing new relationships, receive new ideas and examine new approaches to longstanding problems,

a degree can fast-track your progress up the corporate ladder — or give you the stable foundation upon which to build your own venture. One of the key differentiators of a business degree is that it puts you in touch with people from a vast array of industries. You’re not just working with people who hail from a narrow scope of focus, like you might do in medicine or architecture. A business program, whether it’s at the beginning of your career or whether you go back to school midway through, exposes you to people from all different backgrounds who share an interest in “That’s what you really want similar issues. — to find someone who can Graduates of actually have an idea.” business programs are highly sought after in the job market, and the types of degrees are varied, from finance and accounting to marketing and economics and beyond. Regardless of pedigree or product, every enterprise shares common

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challenges that a business degree will give you greater, more relevant preparation to face.

A Degree That Connects Business programs are guaranteed to offer something that will catch your interest and develop your skills. Combined with high personal engagement in the subject matter and great career prospects upon graduation, a business degree can connect you with other people who can move you further, faster. As an enhancement to a business degree, a co-op option opens doors by providing experiential learning, connections to potential mentors or employers, and in situ practice with making decisions in a business context. Co-op also allows you to make adjustments to your trajectory in a more informed way, as you alternate between real-world work and your fulltime studies. Business programs centre on working in teams, which is a reflection of the reality of today’s collaboration-heavy workplaces. “Understanding of team work is a key value,” says Victoria management consultant Peter Elkins, president of the Capital Investment Network. Being able to share ideas, iterate, make decisions and execute are core competencies for any successful employee in business — and especially for leaders.

Understanding how to zoom out, look at the bigger picture and take a business perspective is an invaluable competency, too. “The idea behind business is about growth and increasing revenue,” says Andrew Wooldridge, publisher at Orca Book Publishers. “It’s not just about doing a task. It’s about being able to see where the opportunities are, and to do something about it.” To develop your handle as a person who can spot ideas and then nurture them along to fruition — or to some sort of refined expression of the original — is to make yourself a jewel in the corporate crown. “That’s what you really want — to find someone who can actually have an idea,” says Wooldridge. A business degree will also give you the context, insight and structure from which to tackle thorny issues as they crop up. “Business programs offer structured learning, where you’re learning the foundation and framework, and then the applications,” says Elkins, “versus shooting from the hip.” And one last note on the value of a business degree: where else can you have so much fun while learning? You’re thinking outside the box with a diverse array of people. It’s ideal human development on the fullest scale: social, intellectual, psychological, financial. Good times — and a great career — ahead.

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Is it time to change your hiring lens?


Why we need to work through the messy stuff.


Trust as a competitive issue.


Julie uses her organizational skills to keep filing up to date at GT Hiring Solutions. She is one of a growing number of people with disabilities who want to contribute to the workforce and supplement their disability incomes. Julie's team is excited to work with her and takes pride in having an inclusive workplace.


Is It Time to Change Your Hiring Lens? A tight local hiring climate may seem like a crisis, but it's actually an opportunity to look beyond the stereotypes of who makes a great employee.


or the first time in many years, "for hire" signs are dotting the windows of Vancouver Island businesses, and many are struggling to fill vacancies. In Victoria, we have the good/bad circumstance of a low unemployment rate: 3.8 percent, equalling a full-employment labour market. While that’s great news for employees and job seekers, it makes running a business challenging, and at times hiring for certain positions is downright impossible. Employers have to be more creative in their hiring practices, going beyond giving days off and bonuses, to really look at the labour pool. One 56 DOUGLAS

such largely untapped resource of great employees is people with disabilities. By identifying the strength and value in employees with diverse abilities, businesses will find their workplaces are happier and more productive and will experience decreased turnover. One in seven Canadians of working age lives with a disability, or approximately three million people. Many are well educated and very capable, yet unemployment among this group is 4.5 per cent higher than for people without disabilities. According to Statistics Canada, 12 per cent of Canadians with a disability reported having been refused a job in the previous five years as a result of their condition. Among 25- to 34-year-olds, the rate is 33 per cent.

TAKING A NEW VIEWPOINT To begin with, we have to change our perspectives from “what can’t a person do” to “what can a person do.” For example, in most workplaces, every employee performs tasks that slow productivity. Ask yourself, do your executives have to do their own filing? Do your salespeople need to stock shelves when they could be focusing on your customers instead? Is there a better use of their skills? Rather than struggling to hire another employee who fits a rigid job description, consider hiring a person with a cognitive disability who would be delighted to assume those duties, freeing up other

employees to be more productive and drive increased revenue. Julie is woman with a cognitive disability who works one afternoon a week for our company. We have to keep paper records for certain accounts, and before we hired her, the filing competed with other pressing needs. While I like to joke that I have to sing the alphabet song when I file, Julie is a whiz who puts things in order in just a couple of hours. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in five Canadians will experience a mental health problem or illness, and by age 40, half the population will have experienced depression or another mental illness. A colleague recently told me about Hal, a young man she worked with in her community agency in Nanaimo. Hal had always dreamed of being a mechanic, but his mental health prevented him from pursuing that dream. He was helped to land an unpaid work experience with an auto-repair shop. Hal’s employer was so impressed he offered Hal part-time work as a mechanic assistant. Today, Hall works full-time, has paid off his debt and bought a car. A growing number of young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are entering the workforce, dispelling myths that they can’t work. Many of these employees exhibit a need for order, room to focus, clear directions and performance feedback, attributes many

employers value. Many people with ASD are extremely successful programmers, and some software companies are inviting applications from these careful, detail-oriented applicants.

Terry suffers chronic pain as the result of back surgery. A modified work station and new chair make it possible for her to work with less pain, but equally important is that she is free to start her day a little later, close her door for THE BUSINESS CASE FOR HIRING stretch breaks and go for walks to loosen up. A study from DePaul University found that She still works a full work week but can modify employees with a disability working in the her day to work almost pain free. hospitality and retail sectors stay in their jobs If you’re still not convinced, remember that longer than their colleagues who do not have people with disabilities are also customers and a disability, and experience have influence. It’s estimated less absenteeism across all that this consumer group HIRING RESOURCES sectors. Not only are they will spend about $25 billion There are a number of loyal employees, but their in Canada this year and will excellent agencies who co-workers’ and customers’ also sway the buying habits of can connect employers with people with loyalty and satisfaction also their friends and families. Take disabilities seeking work. increased. This, incidentally, advantage of this knowledge Some of these agencies also contributes to the bottom by asking your employees include: line. who have a disability for ideas  InFocus Rehabilitation Worried about the cost of on how to better serve your Services accommodating employees customers’ diverse needs. who have a disability? Many Having trouble getting up  Lifetime Networks studies show the average cost to full staffing levels? Maybe is less than $500. Many grants it’s time to re-evaluate your  Community Living Victoria and programs are available job descriptions and hiring that can pay for assistive practices. There are up to three Garth Homer Society technologies, additional million people in Canada to training, wage subsidies, onchoose from. ■  GT Hiring Solutions the-job coaching and more. (Victoria/Saanich/Nanaimo) You definitely don’t have to go Carolyn Yeager is chief operating officer of GT Hiring Solutions. it alone.





Why We Need to Work Through the Messy Stuff How primal human emotion hinders and helps the success of business owners.




THE 5 C’s




This bias is rooted in biology. It’s primitive, deep and powerful. It helps us survive by driving us forward. It gives us hope when an objective analysis might lead to despair. But it also affects rational thought COMPETITORS and, therefore, our decision making. COST Worse, most of us (85 per cent in one study) suffer from a bias blind spot. We there. Let’s discuss their futures and can recognize biases in others, but we aspirations. Let’s demonstrate that we fail to recognize that we are similarly biased. understand their dreams and are committed This causes us to minimize the value of other to supporting them. Let’s build some trust and perspectives without realizing it. create win-win scenarios that expand both of Think how much better our decision making our pies. This goes a long way toward reducing would be if we could see past the messy stuff fear and protectionism and opening up — our own feelings and biases — and properly conversations based on hope and trust. consider all the available data. The key to improving our decision making is to become WHO’S REALLY SETTING OUR more aware of our biases and blind spots by PRICES? WHO REALLY MAKES THE inviting more perspectives and data into our Next, the messy stuff causes many of us to DECISIONS? process — especially from our customers. leave money on the table because of our Let’s start with the decision-making process. pricing process. This is an awful problem Most of us believe that we start by looking WHO’S IN CHARGE OF OUR at our data. We plug it into tools like CONVERSATIONS WITH CUSTOMERS? because a bad price hurts revenue and gross margin every month. spreadsheets, we assess the outcomes and we Another big topic for business owners is Two main factors negatively affect our make our decision. customer relationships. Too often our customer price setting. The first is that we’re not well But the process often actually works quite conversations get reduced to tugs-of-war. They schooled in how to set prices. This is totally differently because the messy stuff gets in the want to pay less, but we want them to pay understandable. Setting prices is complicated way. For instance, we may begin the decisionmore, so we find ourselves haggling over terms and boring. In a study of pricing professionals making process with a deep-seated bias, such in a zero-sum game, like two kids squabbling in large firms, PriceWaterhouseCoopers as our love for our idea or product. We have an over a pie. These discussions may seem found a large majority of respondents had a innate sense of the direction we rational, but once again they are fundamentally flawed process. So even the should go. The problem is that rooted in the messy stuff — primal experts don’t do it well. we then use our tools and data fear and protectionism. But a second factor undermines even good to justify our decisions. This But can we actually use the pricing. This factor is the business owner’s innate sense is so strong that messy stuff to change our customer personal level of confidence — the messy we can ignore conflicting data. relationships? If emotions can so stuff. When we are unsure of ourselves, we are This is the “illusion of powerfully influence our thinking naturally more reluctant to ask for full value for superiority” at work. It’s a THE PERCENTAGE OF and behaviour, can they be our products and services. These deep-rooted well-known cognitive bias that PEOPLE WHO SUFFER harnessed to improve our business primal feelings get in the way of rational price results in thinking our ideas, and create different kinds of FROM A BIAS BLIND setting. our products and our decisions conversations with our customers? SPOT. APPARENTLY, I teach a pricing course for business owners, are better than they really are. As it turns out, our customers WE CAN RECOGNIZE and I’ve watched perfectly good pricing models In a 1991 study, one million are human too. They’re just BIASES IN OTHERS, get completely undone by a lack of confidence. high-school students were as affected as we are by zeroBUT WE FAIL TO I believe that many business owners wrestle surveyed, and only 2 per cent sum conversations. But equally RECOGNIZE THAT with this. of them stated that they were important, they too are powerfully WE ARE SIMILARLY But what if we didn’t have to? Imagine what below average in leadership motivated by hope. BIASED. we could do with the additional revenue. ability. So let’s start our conversations hen we talk about our businesses, we use rational left-brain language, don’t we? We seldom mention messy human stuff like feelings, hopes and fears. Yet this messy stuff profoundly affects our leadership, and we need to be aware of it to maximize our business’s success. When we overlook the messy stuff, we make poorer decisions, we leave money on the table and we don’t take advantage of powerful motivating forces. We’re left feeling that business success is hard to achieve. But imagine if we could harness those forces to make better decisions and improve profitability, by integrating the messy human stuff with the rational business stuff. So let’s examine the messy stuff — feelings, hopes and fears — using three topics that every business owner knows.





The solution is to take a renewed sense of our company’s value and feed it into our pricing model. We know we do good work. We know we have great offerings. Let’s push ourselves to reflect more of that value in our price.

EMBRACING THE MESSY STUFF IN BUSINESS OWNERSHIP When we embrace the messy stuff, we make better decisions. We price more effectively. We have richer customer conversations. We become more successful business owners. So let’s go through the steps one more time:

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w Speak to your customers about their aspirations, and better understand what they truly value. Incorporate this value into your offerings.

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w Use your improved understanding of customers to bolster your confidence, and then set a price that’s fair to both of you. w Be aware of your blind spots, even though you can’t see them. Listen hard to other perspectives, and give them more weight in your decision-making process. We all know the saying “it’s just business,” but when we understand that business comes with a lot of very human messy stuff, things begin to get a lot less messy and more clear. ■ Alex Glassey teaches an online course called The 5 C’s of Perfect Pricing. Naturally, the first C is Confidence. :-)



Why Trust is a Powerful Competitive Force

“New year’s goal: bring out the best in each employee. Start with clear and frequent communication, treat each with respect and encourage input.”

Trust has replaced convenience and price as the ultimate competitive advantage for businesses. Here’s what it really means to build trust with customers — and why it matters.

Al Hasham, President of Maximum Express


olkswagen sold cars that made consumers feel better about driving on a planet that really can’t take the emissions of many more internal combustion engines. The company lied. Air Transat sold “nonstop” flights to Mexico at unbelievably low prices. It lied. And then Americans elected a billionaire who doesn’t just lie — he lies





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unashamedly, his deceptions verging on the pathological. Lies and more lies. This post-truth propensity is stressing the fabric of our political, social and mental health. But there’s good news: it’s also creating a massive entrepreneurial opportunity. Here’s why. In the 20th century, the ultimate competitive advantage was convenience (think fast food and shopping malls). But in the 21st century, where complexity and deception are generating oceans of anxiety, the ultimate competitive advantage for businesses has become trust. Businesses that earn trust consistently do three important things:  They help consumers make good decisions in alignment with the consumers’ own values.  They reduce the overwhelming complexity of choice and information (no deliberate obfuscating!).  They ensure that their products, services and brand experience are what consumers want. Once a company gets these core practices right, that’s when consumer trust begins and the relationship becomes about loyalty. That’s something organizations such as Rolex, Disney or Lego know. Interestingly, these three organizations took first, second and third spots on Forbes Magazine’s 2017 World’s Most Reputable Companies list.

WHO CARES? Building a company that values a trust relationship with its clients or consumers is, quite simply, the right thing to do. What’s the

▲ Disney ranks in the top three on Forbes’ list of the World’s Most Reputable Companies. While Disney is now a huge corporation, it still adheres to Walt Disney’s focus on continually creating authentic, meaningful relationships with its customers.

alternative? To shoot for the “Least Trusted Brand” award? But beyond this, being a trustbased company is also the most effective way to build market share, ultimately leading to greater profits — and companies build market share when they increase retained and referred business. Any organization that can build a community in which trust and delight are abundant, and its members spread the word on their own, has achieved the gold standard in the 21st century: its customers and employees become vectors. So what exactly is a vector? In biology, a vector is an agent (like a dust particle) through which an infection is spread or transmitted. In marketing, vectors are people who spread the word about the value of a business. Seth Godin, author of many business books, including Unleashing the Ideavirus, calls these people sneezers. Essentially, what they sneeze out is the message “You can trust this brand or company.” And the message spreads. But trust, like creativity or team player, is one of those words that is all suggestion and has no hard-edged meaning. To be meaningful, trust requires edges and measurable behaviours. These are the most important ones for businesses: Expertise. Ignorance is the enemy of trust. Consumers won’t trust you just because you

and your business mean well. You need to know your stuff. This isn’t the easy truth of the saccharine social media “memes”; this is truth that takes work and costs something. So become a trusted expert. Whether it is in business growth, cocktails or climate change, own your space. Commit to lifelong learning. Commit to filtering everything you share, teach or promote to ensure that it’s the truth. To do that, you have to know what the truth is, and you have to tell it even if it hurts. That, and nothing short of that, builds marketeating loyalty. When consumers trust you that completely, they come back. And they send their friends and people they care about. When they trust you that much, they’ll become your vectors. Communication. Consumers can’t trust a business if they can’t understand it. More importantly, they can’t trust a business that doesn’t make an effort to understand its customers. Communication that inspires hope in a better future and is rooted in the truth is the core of leadership. To transform that communication into a vector for trust, you must do one more thing: speak consumers’ language. You may have the answers, but are you answering the questions consumers actually have? Precision in communication matters. Little

has grown consumers’ collective cynicism more than the exploitation of language by liars. Phrases like “all natural” and “non-stop [flights]” become corrosive agents in the hands of brands who don’t live up to these promises, eroding consumer trust.

Consumers can’t trust a business if they can’t understand it. More importantly, they can’t trust a business that doesn’t make an effort to understand its customers. Ask yourself what a 10-year-old would understand from the words you are using. Create your ad copy accordingly. Transparency. When it comes to true transparency, there’s no place for salesy smoke and mirrors. What you really want is for the consumer to say, “I’ve seen everything about you, and it is exactly what you said it was.” Challenge yourself every day to risk being more transparent, especially with your employees, who can be your most powerful vectors. If trust is the most powerful competitive advantage for businesses in the 21st century,

then transparency may be its greatest lever. Distrust is proportionate to the extent to which consumers believe something is hidden from them. Open the door. Consistency. The more consistently you can deliver on your promises, the more sustainable the trust factor. Again, this is especially true when it comes to your employees. Will you tell the truth even if it costs you profits? If it benefits a competitor? Nordstrom is famous for training its employees to put the happiness of its customers first, even if it means losing a sale. Would you do that? Tell the truth when you’ve made a mistake. In fact, use mistakes and failures as opportunities to showcase your commitment to your values. Consumers find out what you are really made of only when they see how you fix your mistakes. They won’t trust people who can’t own up to their mistakes. Trust is a powerful force — and trust me, in a world where information overload and deception have become default settings, consumers will be very reluctant to abandon a business they trust for a cheaper or more convenient alternative. ■ Clemens Rettich of Great Performances Group has an MBA in Executive Management and 20 years of experience in education, management and small business.






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Making only a limited number of made-fromscratch donuts daily, Empire Donuts has elevated the humble donut to a local icon and created an insatiable demand.


such a powerful brand — and a sense of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) in fans — that a donut on Empire’s Instagram and Facebook pages, seen by over 8,000 followers combined, sells out in hours. Fans of Empire Donuts also love the name and rocket logo. “I love robots, I love rockets and I really like Star Wars — that’s where the ‘Empire’ came from,” she says. “Donuts are fun, nostalgic and comforting. I wanted my brand to reflect all of that.” Between the shop, wholesale and catering, sales have steadily grown over the last three years for this brand, which is proudly unpretentious in its approach. “While I do flavours you don’t usually see around [like hibiscus rosehip and strawberry rosewater], I don’t try to go too crazy with the flavours. I found people really like the classic flavours done well.” As it turns out, the classic donuts are Laverick’s favourite too.

Melanie Laverick’s donuts have not only made fans of locals, they even attract donut tourists from across North America.


They’re trendy, photogenic and a favourite foodie find on social media feeds, but that’s not why Melanie Laverick started making donuts. She launched Empire Donuts simply because she loved the classic and carby treat. Just so you know, Empire Donuts is no empire — at least, not yet. The shop, in St. Andrew’s Square at 736 View, is barely 150 square feet and without its own kitchen — and the donuts are available only at Empire itself and in select locally owned businesses, like 2% Jazz Coffee. But its small size, along with a business model of selling only made-that-morning donuts, is a huge part of its appeal. When Laverick launched Empire as a wholesale company in 2014, she ran the entire operation herself, handmaking about 50 donuts daily, delivering them to coffee shops and giving a lot of product free to get Empire’s name out there. Now, business is thriving. During the week, she and her bakers make up to 400 donuts for the shop at an off-site kitchen. On Fridays and on weekends, they make at least 500 for the shop and another 500 for wholesale. Donut-lovers must arrive early or miss out. Laverick has created

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