Business News - September 2019

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Disruptive innovation Peer-to-peer platforms are changing the face of business Page 14

FALL: 2019

VOLUME 34: #3 | 0923-2019

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FALL: 2019 | VOLUME 34: #3

Business News is a publication of the St. John’s Board of Trade. Reproduction of any material contained in Business News is permitted provided written approval from the St. John’s Board of Trade. We encourage you to support the business leaders whose names and products you see advertised in this issue as well as throughout our entire membership. The Board reserves the right to edit submissions. DIRECTORS ST. JOHN’S BOARD OF TRADE Executive: Janis Byrne: Chair Andrew Wadden: Senior Vice Chair Justin Lahda: First Vice Chair Norm Dimmell: Second Vice Chair Jennifer Clement: Treasurer Directors: Kevin Casey Debra Feltham Alex Gibson Glenn Janes Heather Stamp-Nunes Leigh-Anne O’Neil Joann Slaney Doug Wright STAFF Nancy Healey: Chief Executive Officer Rhonda Tulk-Lane: Director of Business Solutions Jackie Bryant-Cumby: Member Relations Administrator Brendan Hagerty: Manager of Labour Market Solutions Jennifer Chaytor: Manager, Finance & Compliance Brandon Ellis: Policy and Advocacy Researcher 34 Harvey Road P.O. Box 5127 St. John’s, NL A1C 5V5 Canada Tel: 709.726.2961 E-mail: Business News is published by The SaltWire Network Custom Publishing Department Project Manager: Lindsey Bunin Editor: Nicole Gnazdowsky Layout & Design: Peter Ross Contributing Writers: Joey Fitzpatrick, Heather Laura Clarke, Brandon Ellis, Josh Healey Cover photo: dotshock/123RF Sales Enquiries: 709-748-0829 Printed by: Bounty Print Copyright 2019 by SaltWire Network. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any article, photograph or artwork without expressed written permission from the publisher is strictly prohibited. Disclaimer Business News magazine makes no warranties of any kind, written or implied, regarding the contents of this magazine and expressly disclaims any warranty regarding the accuracy or reliability of information contained herein. The views contained in this magazine are those of the writers and advertisers; they do not necessarily reflect the views of Business News magazine, The St. John’s Board of Trade or its publisher The SaltWire Network. Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to St. John’s Board of Trade.

In this issue: 4 Members in the news ............................ 6 Business Solutions ............................. 10 Around the board ............................... 12 Disruptive innovation ....................... 14 CEO’s Message .........................................



Peer-to-peer platforms are changing the face of business

Breaking down barriers .................... Promoting a culture of collaboration for St. John’s businesses


22 Member Profile: ................................... 24 Working for you ................................... Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship

The Economy ........................................ •


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Disruption driving business development I




n this edition of Business News, we look at disruption and how it is impacting local businesses — from restaurants, which are adapting to the SkipTheDishes phenomenon, to hotels and B&Bs, which now compete with Airbnb. The world is undergoing constant disruption and businesses in this province are not immune. At the Board of Trade, we are helping businesses adapt through a number of programs, including through our partnership with Google. We are offering Grow with Google workshops to help small businesses compete in a digital world. We are also looking at how business friendly is St. John’s, on the heels of the City of Mount Pearl’s business attraction campaign, Consider it Done. We talk to some entrepreneurs about their experience and how we can improve the process for businesses at City Hall. Finally, we take a look at the growth of Memorial University of Newfoundland in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes

to fostering new startups. Memorial has more than a dozen initiatives to foster business development, a critical piece of infrastructure to ensure we encourage entrepreneurship and nurture a vibrant private sector. Check out our fall calendar of events. We have some exciting speakers, including Hamoon Ekhtiari, Founder and CEO of Audacious Futures, a global launch pad for bold innovation re-imagining the future at the intersection of technology, humanity and philosophy. And don’t forget to get your nomination in for the coveted Business Excellence Awards on Nov. 28, 2019. The deadline for nominations is Friday, Nov. 8. And finally, a little inspiration from Jay Samit, author of Disrupt You!, who advises: “To thrive, all businesses must focus on the art of self-disruption. Rather than wait for the competition to steal your business, every founder and employee needs to be willing to cannibalize their existing revenue streams in order to create new ones. All disruption starts with introspection.” ■ BUSINESS NEWS

Brown-eyes blue? Your genes determine a whole lot more than just your eye colour We’re using pharmacogenetic testing to help disability claimants discover which medications will get them back to health faster and more effectively. It’s part of our proactive approach to helping employers bring better health solutions to their employees. Ready for a healthy change in benefits? TM The Blue Cross symbol and name are registered trademarks of the Canadian Association of Blue Cross Plans, used under licence by Medavie Blue Cross, an independent licensee of the Canadian Association of Blue Cross Plans.

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Members in the news

Gaining knowledge of Newfoundland’s genetics Sequence Bio, a Newfoundland and Labrador biotechnology company, has launched the pilot phase of the N.L. Genome Project. The N.L. Genome Project is a local research study that aims to learn more about our province’s unique genetic makeup. The N.L. Genome Project will study the DNA, medical records and health information of 2,500 volunteering, consenting participants. Sequence Bio is aiming to develop better, safer and more targeted

medicines and improve how we treat and prevent diseases. The company is committed to benefiting the lives of individuals, families and communities in Newfoundland and Labrador for generations to come by returning findings to participants to help inform better health care choices. The N.L. Genome Project is currently enrolling participants through participating doctor’s offices across the province. To learn more, visit

Equinor secures rig for exploration drilling in Canada

constructed for operations in harsh environments such as Eastern Canada. The Barents is currently contracted with an operator offshore Eastern Canada. About Equinor: We’re Equinor, an international energy company with a proud history. Formerly Statoil, we are 20,000 committed colleagues developing oil, gas, wind and solar energy in more than 30 countries worldwide. We’re the largest operator in Norway, among the world’s largest offshore operators and a growing force in renewables.

Equinor Canada Ltd. has awarded a contract to the Transocean Barents to conduct a three-well program in the Flemish Pass Basin beginning mid-2020. The program is located offshore Newfoundland and is a follow-up campaign related to Equinor’s previous exploration activities in the basin. Two wells will target exploration prospects in the Flemish Pass Basin and the third operation will be the plug and abandonment of a previous exploration well. The Transocean Barents is an Aker H-6e semi-submersible, DP3 drilling unit, capable of working in water depths of approximately 3,000 metres. The water depths in the upcoming Equinor operated campaign are around 1,200 metres. The Barents hull design is robust and has been designed and


M5 Group grows

On June 27, 2019, m5 Group of Companies acquired Group ATN Consulting Inc. The m5 Group of Companies today announced it has acquired the Halifax, N.S. based Group ATN Consulting Inc. Headquartered in Halifax, N.S. since 2010, Group ATN is a diversified consultancy

serving the public and private sectors, Indigenous communities and non-government organizations (NGOs). Group ATN also specializes in tourism analysis, communications and marketing. “With this acquisition, we’re adding senior talent and new areas of expertise to our already integrated offerings,” said Chris MacInnes, Halifax-based partner with the m5 Group of Companies. “We are further enhancing our ability to provide comprehensive planning and strategic counsel to our clients. The breadth of services we offer under one roof is unparalleled.” Group ATN is recognized as a leader in strategic private and public sector counsel and in recent years has partnered with m5 on a variety of initiatives. “Having collaborated on several client projects, the move to join with the m5 Group of Companies came as a natural evolution for Group ATN,” said President Ron L’Esperance. “We know our clients will benefit from the deeper bench, geographical reach and expertise that the larger group offers.” Group ATN is led by L’Esperance and Vice-President Thomas McGuire. L’Esperance brings an unmatched combination of private sector senior-level consultant and advisory services, strengthened by his diverse career as deputy minister of numerous departments with the Nova Scotia provincial government. Vice President Thomas McGuire is recognized as a leading Canadian economist, senior business advisor and analyst, developing client strategies, business planning and projections on a regional, national and international scale for more than 25 years. Other members of the Group ATN team include Stephen Coyle, Director of Research and Corinne MacLellan, HLCol., a Communications and Media Relations Associate. Group ATN will continue to operate under its current branding. The acquisition is effective today. About the m5 Group of Companies: The m5 Group of Companies has offices in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & Labrador, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and New Hampshire. With expertise in marketing, public relations, public affairs, market research, web development and video production, the firm serves diverse clients across North America, most notably in the tourism, education, energy and public sectors. Our family of companies includes m5 Marketing Communications, MQO Research, m5 Public Affairs, Wavelight Productions and Group ATN Consulting Inc. BUSINESS NEWS

Cox & Palmer welcomes new partner*

Cox & Palmer is pleased to announce Todd Stanley, QC as its newest partner. Stanley returned to the firm as Counsel in 2018 after a distinguished career at the Department of Justice and Public Safety, where he served as Deputy Minister and Deputy Attorney General. Stanley’s extensive government experience enhances our energy and corporate commercial teams. He has acted as lead counsel for the province in a broad range of matters, including major offshore energy developments, mega-project participation and financing and the creation and governance of Crown corporations. His strong public sector background also includes most forms of public legal practice. Stanley serves as Co-Chair of the St. John’s office Energy and Natural Resources Group. Todd’s unique mix of government and private practice experience are a significant benefit to our firm and our clients. We are delighted to welcome him to the partnership team.

Focus FS announces investment from Germany-based company Dräger Dräger Safety AG & Co. KGaA has acquired a stake in Focus Field Solutions Inc., a leading provider of industrial safety solutions based in St. John’s, N.L. With this latest investment, Lübeck, Germany-based Dräger extends its expertise in the area of digital worksites. Focus FS has developed a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform which digitizes critical operations data for people and assets. It offers different modules such as HSE (health, safety and environment), e-mustering, incident Management and asset tracking. The customer can choose from a range of modules and create a solution that best fits their company needs. There are three main use cases that can be addressed by the solution: worker safety, plant and asset safety and incident safety. This digital technology minimizes risk and delivery performance insights to create safer and smarter workplaces. Through optimized workflow traffic and facility activities, real-time analytics and dynamic HSE processes, worker safety accelerates FALL 2019

from simple compliance to safety culture dominance. Plant and asset safety enables efficient worksites with real-time inventory visibility and tracking, preventative maintenance planning and smart rescue planning operations. Systematic management and corrective action, along with real-time communication and accountability, enhance and improve incident safety protocols. “Behaviour-based safety, situational awareness and increased operational productivity are challenges our customers worldwide face on a daily basis. With this partnership, we have the ability to offer effective solutions today,” says AnnMarie Edgerton, Vice President of Segment and Product Marketing Emergency and Rescue Services at Dräger Safety AG & Co. KGaA. “Our vision for tomorrow is also clear. We will ensure that not only do we offer technology for life to our customers — we will have an integrated offering that supports their ambitions of building safe and efficient worksites. “We are very enthusiastic about having

Dräger as a partner and investor,” says Jeffrey K. Brown, CEO and Co-Founder of Focus FS. “This investment shows Dräger’s confidence in our vision of creating connecting worksites. We believe zero-harm is achievable and by aligning ourselves with Dräger, who also believes workplace safety is paramount, we can help our customers realize that ambition.” Focus FS already has a strong presence in the oil and gas, mining and transportation sectors with Canadian and international customers. An important aspect of the company’s connected worksite vision involves market growth and product adoption.

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Changing roles at MS Society

The MS Society of Canada, Atlantic Division is pleased to announce that the current President of the Quebec Division, Louis Adam, will now take over the role for both. This shared leadership model sets a goal to create a more integrated and collaborative cross-boundary work for both divisions which will continue to remain separate. The strong culture of innovation and the dedication of staff and volunteers in both divisions will contribute greatly to enhancing the organization’s ability to serve those affected by MS. Former Atlantic Division President, Ben Davis, has recently taken on a new role within the organization. Working out of the Atlantic region in a new national position, he will be responsible for research, programs and services and advocacy as the new Senior Vice-President of Mission.

Newfoundland veterinarian wins national award

The Veterinary Specialty Centre of Newfoundland and Labrador (VSCNL), has been recognized as Practice of the Year by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) for outstanding achievement with their community. “We would like to thank the CVMA for recognizing the efforts of the VSCNL team,” said John Mackenzie, Co-Owner of VSCNL. “We would also like to thank our incredibly talented and caring team who works hard to care for each patient, never hesitating to give back to our community.” Dr. Trina Bailey, Founder and Managing Director of the VSCNL, grew up in Newfoundland and completed a Bachelor of Science at Dalhousie University before going on to complete her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Prince Edward Island’s Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC) in 2000.


Largest Costco in Canada opened in St. John’s, N.L. on June 27, 2019.

She worked at AVC as a clinical instructor and research assistant, followed by a small animal rotating internship in 2002. In 2003, Dr. Bailey and her family moved to Baton Rouge, L.A. where she completed a surgical residency and a Master of Science degree in 2006, subsequently becoming a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons in 2007. After returning to Canada, Dr. Bailey worked as an AVC professor and travelled to Newfoundland a few times a year, providing surgical services. During these trips, the need for advanced veterinary care in the province was evident as travel with sick and injured pets is difficult and sometimes impossible. In 2014, Dr. Bailey moved back to her home province with her family to provide full-time referral animal surgical services. This grew to include radiology and 24-hour emergency services, as well as visiting specialists in other areas. The VSCNL is the only referral hospital and emergency centre in the province and was opened to help provide advanced care with the goal of no pet having to leave home for their care. “The CVMA Practice of the Year Award, established in 2013 and sponsored by Scotiabank, is just one of CVMA’s annual awards recognizing great contributions to the Canadian veterinary profession,” states Dr. Terri Chotowetz, CVMA President. The VSCNL is the only hospital in Newfoundland and Labrador providing access to advanced specialist, diagnostic and treatment options 24-hours, 365 days a year, lessening the financial impact of travel for pet owners, as well as the stress of travel for both the pet and its owner.

In addition to providing industry-leading services and care, VSCNL also works to give back to the community through numerous charitable activities throughout the year including sponsorship of local amateur sports, the SPCA St. John’s, St. John’s Regatta and local food banks. “It’s a great honour to be recognized by the CVMA,” said Dr. Trina Bailey, Co-Owner of VSCNL. “Our vision was to create a centre of excellence to provide specialty and emergent care allowing pets and pet owners to remain in the province. It was also incredibly important for us to build a team who was committed to the community in which we live and work. It’s a wonderful feeling to see this dream in action.” CVMA’s Practice of the Year Award, sponsored by Scotiabank, recognizes a veterinary practice team for outstanding achievement within their local community. Such achievements may include innovations in provision of veterinary services, commitment to work-life balance, meaningful community or charitable involvement or implementation of green practice procedures.


Costco opened their largest location in Canada in St. John’s, N.L. on June 27, 2019.

Cohen’s Home Furnishings

Congrats to Cohen’s Home Furnishings in celebrating 100 years in business.

Browning Harvey Ltd.

Congrats to Pepsi and Browning Harvey Ltd. who celebrate 75 years in business this year. BUSINESS NEWS


FALL 2019



Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism

Business solutions It’s like having your own department of getting an edge


t. John’s is a vibrant, colourful city full of energy and life. It’s the oldest Englishfounded settlement and the most northeastern point in North America. We can’t wait to welcome your new business to our community! We are here to help you settle in. Did you know that St. John’s is the creative capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, has its own time zone and boasts the third mildest winter in Canada? St. John’s could be one of the most unique destinations you will find on planet Earth. The St. John’s Board of Trade’s Business Solutions team can help you get to know the: • local business climate; • local workforce; and • connect you with the right people. Rhonda Tulk-Lane, Director of Business Solutions 709-351-0291

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Around the board

On July 9 WXN hosted a speaker series, In Conversation with Canada’s most Powerful Female, an event moderated by Nancy Healey, the Board’s CEO. Guest panelists included Judith Bobbitt, President, Oceans Ltd.; Charlene Brophy, President and CEO, Fonemed; Kendra MacDonald, CEO, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster; and Anne Whelan, CEO, Seafair Capital.

On June 14 Alex Gibson, Senior Recruiter with SNC Lavalin and Super Connector with the St. John’s Board of Trade’s Connector Program, hosted a session on “how to get hired.”

On July 11, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Honourable Ahmed Hussen and Member of Parliament, Seamus O’Regan joined members of the St. John’s Board of Trade to discuss improved immigration to our province.

St. John’s Board of Trade Directors take part in an afternoon of axe throwing at Jack Axes.

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Chair Janis Byrne shows off her skills at axe throwing.


Congratulations Past president Rob Crosbie was named to the Order of Canada. Rob accepting the award from Governor General Julie Payette

On June 27, we mixed it up at Quidi Vidi Brewery with a day boil business mixer.

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On June 5 Barry Perry, President and CEO of Fortis, told the story of Fortis and how it evolved from the St. John’s Electric Light Company in 1885, to today leading the North American Electric and Gas Utility Company.

The St. John’s Board of Trade was happy to support Verafin’s Annual Softball Tournament where $20,000 was raised for Stella’s Circle!

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Disruptive innovation Peer-to-peer platforms are changing the face of business 14 |


By Joey Fitzpatrick


t’s early August in St. John’s and the George Street Festival is rocking to the sounds of Sam Roberts, Randy Bachman and The Trews. In its 35th year, the weeklong celebration of music and culture attracts tens of thousands of visitors from around the world — and these folks need accommodations. FALL 2019

The four units Brandon Copeland rents through Airbnb in downtown St. John’s are fully occupied with festival visitors. Copeland began renting property on Airbnb three years ago, when he and his then-fiance built a house with a separate, private-entrance apartment on the ground level. “At the time, we were just thinking of using it for family,” he recalls. “But when

I looked at the potential numbers from Airbnb, I realized I could make two-anda-half to three times more with the nightly rental. But it is certainly more work.” Then, in December 2018, he purchased another property to exclusively rent on Airbnb. He estimates he has hosted some 250 guests, from Europe, Australia, the United States and every part of Canada.

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Erik McLean/unsplash


“… We wanted to establish ourselves with these brands and these partnerships before everybody else got onboard.” – Kate Vallis, Co-Founder/Owner,

Piatto Pizzeria + Enoteca

“There are very few nights over the summer when there aren’t people in the units,” Copeland says. The clientele ranges from tourists to wedding parties and students in town for interviews at Memorial University of Newfoundland. St. John’s is a convenient jumping-off point for exploring other parts of Newfoundland and Labrador. “I’m often the first stop and last stop on someone’s Newfoundland adventure,” he says. The Airbnb platform is part of the “sharing economy” built around peer-topeer transactions, rather than the traditional company-to-consumer business model. Apps like Uber, SkipTheDishes and Airbnb have been referred to as examples of “disruptive innovation” for the outsize impact they are having on their respective sectors. Airbnb was not even a gleam in someone’s eye 15 years ago, when Judy Sparkes Giannou and her brothers purchased the 104-room Airport Plaza — now Comfort Inn — on Airport Road in St. John’s. “We added 40 more rooms and invested heavily to bring the property up to speed,” she recalls. “At the time, the market was running really high occupancy.” According to industry numbers, Airbnb operators in St. John’s did $9-million worth of business in 2018 and, in July 2019, sold more rooms than the three largest hotels in St. John’s. There is little doubt this service is taking market share from established hotel operators. “Without question, it’s very challenging to have this sort of disruption in the marketplace,” Sparkes Giannou says. “I don’t have an issue with the shared economy. The issue

Photos contributed

From left: Jay, Brian and Kate Vallis are the trio behind Piatto Pizzeria + Enoteca. Kate and Brian co-founded Piatto together and Jay joined the family business as an Owner two years later in 2012.

is that most of the growth in Airbnb has been with multi-unit holders.” While the Comfort Inn has not had to lay off any employees, the summer of 2019 did not see the typical growth of summer employment, Sparkes Giannou says. “That’s a big loss to the economy overall because you’re not seeing those people working.” The playing field is uneven, she contends, as Airbnb operators don’t have the same expenses in areas such as insurance, health and safety compliance and business regulations as hotel operators. She is in favour of a marketing levy or occupancy tax for the Airbnb sector. “Many other jurisdictions have already put that in place. Four per cent of $9 million last year would have been a significant contribution to the marketing of the city and the payment of the debt on the convention centre.” Sparkes Giannou and others in the industry have been calling for the federal government to require Airbnb to report host earnings to Canada Revenue Agency for tax purposes, similar to Uber’s requirement to report driver earnings.

Copeland concedes that the proliferation of Airbnb accommodations in St. John’s is having an impact on the city’s accommodations sector. But he also believes that Airbnb contributes to the tourism economy by attracting visitors, both from inside and outside the province, who would not otherwise have come. “I think people are choosing to come here for the Airbnb experience,” he says. “But beyond that, I also believe it has opened up Newfoundland to other Newfoundlanders and now more people are travelling to parts of the province that wouldn’t be visited otherwise.” Just as hosting platforms are transforming the accommodations sector, food and beverage delivery platforms are having an oversize impact on the restaurant business. Each day, hundreds of SkipTheDishes drivers are delivering food from local restaurants to homes across St. John’s. The ability to reach more customers and increase market share are two of the key benefits of the online delivery platforms. Piatto Pizzeria + Enoteca was one of the first restaurants to sign up with SkipTheDishes when the service came to St. John’s two years ago.

Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism

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Working in the gig economy contributed

Judy Sparkes Giannou and her brothers purchased the Airport Plaza — now Comfort Inn — on Airport Road in St. John’s 15 years ago.

“We knew that, eventually, all of our customers and all of our competitors would be there,” says Kate Vallis, Co-Founder/ Owner of Piatto. “So, we wanted to establish ourselves with these brands and these partnerships before everybody else got onboard.” Piatto is an authentic, wood-fired, Neapolitan pizzeria, with locations across four Atlantic provinces and Ontario, with SkipTheDishes delivery available at all outlets. Menu prices are the same for delivery customers, plus a delivery fee, as for walk-ins, and SkipTheDishes also charges the restaurant between 20 and 30 per cent, a significant consideration in an industry where margins are already thin. “It’s not necessarily a super-profitable endeavour,” Vallis says. “But I think it’s essential to maintain and grow your market share. This gives us exposure to tourists, to hotel guests and others who might not be aware of our restaurant.” Despite the cost, Vallis says SkipTheDishes is still more economical than having their own delivery service, with a fleet of vehicles, drivers, insurance costs, etc. The app’s rating function, whereby customers can provide immediate feedback and ratings of the food and service, forces restaurants to a high level of accountability. People are now starting to look to apps like SkipTheDishes first, instead of Googling a list of restaurants, while younger customers are especially more inclined to order online. “We used to have someone manning the phones on a busy Friday or Saturday night,” Vallis says. “Now, we have somebody manning the tablet.” While the sharing economy is indeed disruptive, it’s also a huge economic driver, with an impact measured in billions across the country. As technology continues to evolve, there’s little doubt it’s here to stay. “I liken it to cars versus the horse and buggy,” Copeland says. “People choose what they choose.” ■

FALL 2019

By Joey Fitzpatrick

currently delivering restaurant food to consumers in St. John’s. AirDNA, which aulette Samson has been a dog lover mines data on the Airbnb sector, indiall her life. On any given day on cates Airbnb operators did $9 million her half-acre property in Paradise, just worth of business in St. John’s last year outside St. John’s, there are at least four and that 90 per cent of operators in the dogs, which are her own, and several city grossed less than $10,000 per year more she is walking and caring for as from their rentals. part of her business. “It’s a supplementary income for “We will board up to three and prome,” says Steven Gardiner, a real estate vide daycare for up to four more,” she developer who was one of the early explains. Samson launched Walk the adopters of Airbnb when the platform Dawgs six months ago and takes in dogs first came online a decade ago. for an hour, a weekend, a week or more, Gardiner rents out three St. John’s depending on the customer’s needs. apartments and says the ratings “It might be for a day when they’re functions on peer-to-peer platforms, in town shopping or staying at a hotel,” in which customers and vendors can Samson says. “Or it rate each other and could be overnight if add comments, help to they’re working a night promote high industry shift.” standards. Combined with “You’re only as social media and word good as your last of mouth, she uses the review,” Gardiner says. – Steven Gardiner Rover app, a platform “Were the pictures on where buyers and the site representative sellers exchange pet care services. She of the actual property? Was the host estimates approximately 30 per cent of quick to respond when you had a quesher customers initially found her via the tion or concern?” Rover app. While Airbnb has become a As Samson approaches retirement hot-button issue in St. John’s in recent as a college instructor, she is among the years, Gardiner says the platform has countless number of Canadians taking been a boon for tourism in more remote part in the gig economy, in which shortNewfoundland communities — those term contracts or freelance work is not large enough to support traditional replacing full-time, permanent jobs. accommodations. The gig economy is enabled by a “People would have typically just range of apps and platforms, where driven on through,” he says. Now, they buyers and sellers connect directly are stopping and staying in these comto exchange goods and services. The munities and spending money in the impact is felt across every sector, local stores, coffee shops and museums. including dog walking, home renovaGardiner sees a softening in the tions, tool rentals and arts and crafts. short-term rental market, as the numBut the effect has been most immediate ber of people renting out properties on and acute in the transportation and Airbnb continues to grow. hospitality sectors. “Three or four years ago, it was very Platforms like Uber and Lyft are lucrative,” he says. “I wouldn’t say the taking market share from the taxi market is saturated, but I would say the industry. By some accounts, there are supply has increased faster than the more than 300 SkipTheDishes drivers demand.” ■


“You’re only as good as your last review.”

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Breaking down barriers Promoting a culture of collaboration for St. John’s businesses By Heather Laura Clarke


ity Coun. Dave Lane is on a mission to make St. John’s more business friendly after he misunderstood the permit process while volunteering with a local organization. The embarrassing experience opened his eyes to the confusion and frustration surrounding applications and inspections felt by many business owners in St. John’s. “Creating an environment that enables businesses of all sizes to start, grow and thrive is really important to me,” says Lane. “St. John’s is a world-class city and an amazing place to live, but I fear there are countless residents who want to start their own businesses but decide not to try because the

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process seems too daunting.” He wrote a 3,300-word blog post outlining a 10-point plan to foster a culture of collaboration in St. John’s, including action items like “clarify and maximize the efficiency of the permit process for businesses” and “review and revamp the City’s business guide.” He also wants the Business Information Centre on Water Street to become the primary source for all businessrelated inquiries. “We’ve made incredible improvements over the last year and we’re working on even more, especially in planning and development,” says Lane. “We’re working on showing business owners that we care about improving the experience of running a

business in St. John’s.” St. John’s isn’t the only city working to make life easier for business owners. When the City of Mount Pearl wanted to actively attract new business, it came up with a campaign called Consider it Done. The city promoted itself as a place that puts “people before permits,” while providing tax incentives and an enviable work/life balance. Nancy Healey, CEO of the St. John’s Board of Trade (BOT), says Mount Pearl’s initiative certainly inspired St. John’s to start a conversation about their own business-friendly attributes. “There’s been quite a concern about how long it takes to obtain various business permits in St. John’s and the process isn’t as BUSINESS NEWS

Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism

clear as it needs to be,” says Healey. “There have been instances where one inspector will arrive and say something needs to be done, but the next inspector will come in and say something different.” Healey says one of their BOT members was recently told they needed to put up a guardrail over a culvert in their new subdivision, but they weren’t provided with specifics on the size or height required — just sent a photo of a guardrail in another subdivision. When the information is that vague, Healey says, business owners have little to no chance of guessing correctly. Healey says one of the biggest slowdowns is regarding accessibility inspections. When a business installs a new feature — such FALL 2019

as a ramp, doorway or washroom — it must be inspected by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. Since these inspectors travel across the province, Healey says there tends to be a backlog and businesses suffer. “We’d like municipal inspectors to be able to do these accessibility inspections,” says Healey. “It’s another level of red tape that could be reduced. Instead of having to go to the province for it, why couldn’t the city officials do it?” For nearly eight years now, Martek CEO Charlie Oliver has also been pushing for more streamlined processes. He would like to see approved architects and engineers be permitted to sign off on plans and conduct

inspections — with the city simply doing periodic checks — rather than the current system, where everything must be vetted by the city. “All municipalities need to realize the aggravation of waiting too long for an inspection. It means a project takes more time — and time is money,” says Oliver. Even though Oliver is currently waiting on the city to inspect a new building and expects occupancy will be delayed, he says he’s confident things are getting better for entrepreneurs in St. John’s. “You could visit any municipality in the country and there are always going to be improvements they could make, but with our new City Council, we’re seeing

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“There’s a great camaraderie here in St. John’s. People work well together and that’s a nice feeling.” – Justin Ladha,

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CEO, KMK Capital Inc.

improvements,” says Oliver. “We can always say, ‘The process should be faster,’ but there’s positive motion. They’re moving in the right direction.” He recently met with nearly every City Councillor to work through a few processes and Oliver says they were all happy to set up meetings and pull in staff members as needed to help him. “They said they loved the project, but there were a few things that needed to be tweaked, so they suggested we come back with creative solutions,” says Oliver. “The whole process was encouraging and particularly enlightening.” KMK Capital Inc. manages companies involved in construction and development projects throughout North America. CEO Justin Ladha agrees things in St. John’s seem to be improving. “Just like anywhere else, there are things that could be improved. People in our business would always like to see faster regulatory and approval processes,” says Ladha. “But the people we work with certainly want to see more development and we work well with them.” Ladha says St. John’s is a smaller market that’s gone through “a bit of an economic bump” over the last four to five years, but he

believes those bumps bring about opportunity as businesses contract and eventually expand again. “As in many small markets, we do a lot of things with partners — and those partners can be our competitors,” says Ladha. “There’s a great camaraderie here in St. John’s. People work well together and that’s a nice feeling.” At least 80 per cent of businesses in St. John’s are small businesses. Lane says it’s important to help them succeed instead of tying them up in red tape. He recently spoke with the owner of a craft brewery, who chose Mount Pearl over St. John’s because St. John’s city employees had given them the impression that there would be “too many obstacles” if they opened in St. John’s. Mount Pearl, with its cheerful promise to “consider it done,” felt like it would be an easier choice. Lane believes St. John’s employees were simply “trying to paint a clear picture of the process, without sugarcoating it,” but agrees it likely comes across as negative. “We need to address these problems without sending the message that it’s impossible to do business here — because that’s not the case at all,” says Lane. “We’re just a very old, very diverse city with different geographic pockets, different cultures and


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different needs than a newer, smaller city like Mount Pearl. Yes, we have more variables, but nothing that can’t be improved upon.” Two years from now, when his term is up, Lane says he hopes City Council has made St. John’s an even friendlier city for business owners — specifically, that they get the proper assistance through each process

and “feel appreciated” by City Hall. “We’ve had our struggles, but if we proceed the way we are, I think our business community will feel the love and attention — and know we’re serious about helping them,” says Lane. “St. John’s really has the potential to become one of the best cities in the world for doing business.” ■


FALL 2019

“We can always say, ‘The process should be faster,’ but there’s positive motion. They’re moving in the right direction.” – Charlie Oliver,

CEO, Martek


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Tackling the issues


St. John’s Board of Trade addressing hot-button topics By Brandon Ellis Policy and Advocacy Specialist St. John’s Board of Trade


he St. John’s Board of Trade tackles a variety of issues that would have an economic impact on our province. Here’s a look at just a few we have dug into over the past year.

Bill C-69 The St. John’s Board of Trade has stood shoulder to shoulder with our oil and gas industry and has worked with the province, industry partners and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in calling for amendments to Bill C-69. This included meetings with MPs, lobbying efforts on Parliament Hill and culminated in testimony at the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources alongside Husky Energy, CAPP and NOIA. The St. John’s Board of Trade will continue to march forward with concerns we have with Bill C-69 and the potential it has to create issues within our oil and gas sector.

Minimum wage In 2018, the provincial government tied minimum wage increases to the consumer price index (CPI), which effectively took the politics out of the minimum wage and tied it to an economic indicator. Since then, a group known as Common Front NL has emerged to push for minimum wage increases. The St. John’s Board of Trade knows that minimum wage increases often have a negative impact upon the economy, hurting youth, seniors on fixed incomes, small businesses and notfor-profits. It has been known to decrease youth employment, increase food prices and increase labour costs. With minimum wage set to be reviewed in 2020 and with organized labour heavily advocating for these increases, it is our belief that government needs to complete an analysis of the effects of a minimum wage increase and not just increase it for political purposes. Taxes One year ago, the tax committee of the St. John’s Board of Trade made a submission and a presentation to the independent tax review committee of Newfoundland and Labrador. We also engaged in an intensive

lobbying effort with the City of St. John’s to lower property taxes to a fair rate for commercial properties. Most recently, we provided testimony at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance to state our position on the federal budget and the dangers of running deficits until 2040-41. If government does not get its act together, then high deficits today mean higher taxes tomorrow. Regulations and development clarity The City of St. John’s can take small steps to make a big difference in terms of making the city more business friendly. One of the large issues our members have identified is a lack of an adequate stormwater policy in the city. The city’s deficient policy is something that desperately needs to be updated to give engineering consultants the city’s specifications and expectations for designing infrastructure. The board has brought issues such as this forward to the city and are also bringing other issues that continue to hamper development forward to council over the coming months. Our goal is to work with the city in collaboration to make St. John’s a go-to place to do business. ■

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FALL 2019

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A group of current students. A total of 60 students have opted to work on their own ideas through the centre’s $4,500 work term bursary.

Creating your own career


The Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship means business By Josh Healey


t wasn’t so long ago that becoming an entrepreneur in Newfoundland and Labrador was viewed as a gamble. However, through his work as the director for the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship, Florian Villaumé says more people are seizing the opportunity to grow their community through business.

And the shift starts with students. “You’re really in a stage where everything is possible,” said Villaumé of student entrepreneurs, adding that interest in the centre has spiked since it launched in 2017. “We want to inspire student entrepreneurs and really show entrepreneurship as an exciting and viable career path.” The centre is a resource for Memorial University of Newfoundland students

interested in learning about or pursuing entrepreneurship. Through various courses, workshops, pitch competitions and work terms, students have the opportunity to put their ideas to the test. Villaumé explained that the centre offers something for everyone. The workshops, for example, give students curious about entrepreneurship the chance to learn about the basics of developing

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Florian Villaumé (pictured), director for the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship, says the centre is helping students realize their start-up ideas through their programs and expertise.

an idea and teasing it out. A wide variety of topics are covered, ranging from accounting to technology training to networking. Other avenues include working an internship at a company or meeting with the entrepreneur in residence. These opportunities give students the chance to talk face to face with real world start-ups and to get hands on experience. For students interested in pursuing a particular idea, Villaumé said there’s also the option for a work term, including a $4,500 bursary for students to flesh out their ideas. “Students like it because it’s really the entrepreneurial experience,” he said. “You get freedom but you also get the accountability. We really push them to take their ideas as far as they can.” Villaumé added interest in the centre and its programs have grown each year with over 300 participants in this year’s workshops. At one event, he said, people lined up just to get a chance to listen. Another 60 students have opted to try the work term since the centre opened; roughly 20 tested their ideas through the work term this year. Overall, the centre has been trending in the right direction and Villaumé said he expects it to continue. “The growth has been amazing over the last three years and it keeps building,” he said. And the results are becoming evident in the greater St. John’s community. For example, CoLab Software, which is owned by Adam Keating and Jeremy Andrews, started out at the centre and has since become a business operating in town. Other business initiatives across Atlantic Canada — from medical technology to 3D printing — have roots at the centre. Villaumé said students are embracing FALL 2019

the opportunity to be their own bosses while helping out the local community. “It’s feeding the local ecosystem,” he said. “The advantage we have is that we’re a small community and have a small network. You can connect to people who are executives and important very quickly.” Over the course of the last few years, Villaumé said the centre has started to earn a name for itself. He attributed its growing success to both the students’ creativity and hard work. But what does an increased interest in entrepreneurship mean for the future of Newfoundland and Labrador? “What it means, I think, is that people consider entrepreneurship as a possible career path. That is one of the most important changes we’ve created in the minds of people,” said Villaumé. The centre is not the only institution pushing business ideas; organizations like Propel and the Genesis Centre are a part of the wave of innovation sweeping the province. And if Villaumé and his team have their way, the centre will continue to be a part of a provincial shift towards new, innovative ideas. “There’s lots of problems and opportunities in business that students can work on. There’s a growing community of entrepreneurs that want to give back and create something special here,” he said. In recognition of the work being done at the centre, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) contributed $1 million in August. The provincial government also provided $375,000. Simply put, it’s a good time to bet on your own start-up; all you need is an idea. “You can get a job or create your own job,” said Villaumé. ■



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By the numbers

Current Month

Same month last year


Population June 2019.......................................................................... 522,500.................... 526,500................................. -0.80% Employed June 2019............................................................................ 224,100.................... 223,300...................................0.40% Unemployment rate June 2019........................................................... 13.3.......................... 15.3....................................... -2.00% Average weekly earnings..................................................................... 1,066........................ 1,034.......................................3.00% Consumer Price Index All Items June 2019......................................... 139........................... 138...........................................0.90% Retail Trade – Unadjusted for seasonal variation Jan-April 2019...... 2,557,314................ 2,587,304.............................. -1.20% New Motor vehicle sales Jan-May 2019............................................... 12,156...................... 12,409................................... -2.00%

Housing Starts all areas 1st Q 2019.................................................................... 218........................... 237......................................... -8.00% Median price bungalow St. John’s 1st Q............................................. 288,966.................... 307,814................................. -6.10%

UPCOMING EVENTS St. John’s east debate

LOCATION: Bella Vista DATE: Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019 TIME: 12 – 2 p.m. All candidates in the riding of St. John’s east will be invited to participate in a debate and take questions from the audience. This debate is for the upcoming federal election.

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Immigration Speaker Series Hamoon Ekhtiari LOCATION: TBD DATE: Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019 TIME: 8:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Hamoon’s work at FutureFit AI not only stems from a deep desire to see others navigate pathways to opportunity, it also stems from his own personal experience as an immigrant to Canada. When Hamoon moved with his family to Canada as a young boy without knowing English, the simple task of navigating physical space (going from A to B) was a significant challenge. Today, in a fast-changing world of uncertainty, navigating the world of work and opportunity is one of people’s most

significant challenges. If access to food and water were the big challenges of the last 100 years, access to opportunity will be the defining factor of people’s livelihoods in the next 100 years. FutureFit AI puts real-time intelligence in the hands of people, organizations and societies to become and stay FutureFit.

Business Excellence Awards LOCATION: Delta Hotel DATE: Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019 TIME: 12 – 2 p.m.

The St. John’s Board of Trade presents the 27th Annual Business Excellence Awards, with title Sponsor RBC. Nominate a business today by visiting


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