Eleanor Lee and Angel Kho grew LOULOU LOLLIPOP from a side hustle to an international brand. Here’s how.

Eleanor Lee and Angel Kho

By Sarah Kelsey 

 

What’s in a name? If you’re a small business owner—a lot. But its importance goes beyond the moniker of the company as Eleanor Lee and Angel Kho, co-founders of LOULOU LOLLIPOP, found out. 

When it came time to expand their sustainable baby accessories company beyond Vancouver, BC, they ran into issues because of their intellectual property (IP)—or lack thereof. 

“When we were coming up with the company name, we liked lollipop because it was like a soother, or a candy as a sucker. It was sweet and very fitting,” says Angel. “But it was too generic. We liked French style, and anything related to France, so we started looking for extra inspiration.” 

The duo landed on the word LouLou, a common French term of affection for children. “The name kind of rolled off the tongue.” 

The only problem was, despite the uniqueness, various individuals owned the rights to use the name in Europe and China, meaning the sisters had to “buy the branding” so they could sell internationally. What ensued was a three-year legal battle, a whopping price tag, and a key takeaway for fellow entrepreneurs: “Make sure you register your IP and the trademark early,” says Eleanor. “Do the research and dig deep. Sometimes a name can be taken in other markets. Make sure the name is protected.”

Before the sisters dealt with branding, exporting, and the legalities of intellectual property, LOULOU LOLLIPOP began as many other businesses do—with an entrepreneur trying to solve their own problem. It was in 2015, when as a first-time mother, Eleanor noticed her teething daughter enjoyed tugging and chewing on her necklaces. 

“I started to realize I didn’t know what they were made of,” Eleanor explains. She began searching for teething products that were silicone and free of harmful chemicals and couldn’t find any. “Out of necessity, I started to look into creating something for myself.”

“We knew we could make an impact; we could respond to a need for all parents. So, we bought $100 worth of supplies and began beading.”

Realizing she had stumbled onto a unique business idea, she brought it to her twin sister, who immediately saw the potential in the concept. “Even though my kids were older at the time, I found the idea intriguing. When my kids were young, there was nothing like that on the market,” says Angel. “We knew we could make an impact; we could respond to a need for all parents. So, we bought $100 worth of supplies and began beading.”

The duo made their first product, a pastel-coloured doughnut teething necklace, as a sort of side hustle. Eleanor worked on LOULOU full-time, and on her days off from her part-time job, Angel worked on the business. While both women were busy juggling mom duties, they’d start their “shift” with a “Tim Hortons coffee and a doughnut” until they had enough product to start selling on Etsy and at local pop-up shops. 

“It was so much fun in the beginning because we were working so hard together on traditional things, like cold calling. It all came naturally,” says Angel. And then the pair received their first big purchase from West Coast Kids. “It was unreal. We were so excited. We worked all night to fill seven large boxes for the company. Our husbands were happily forced to join in the building of everything,” laughs Eleanor. 

Interest and demand for their products grew and today, LOULOU LOLLIPOP can be found in 37 countries and thousands of stores, including major retailers like Nordstrom, Anthropologie, and Crate and Barrel. Traffic on their online store has also exploded, prompting the sisters to expand their product lines with sustainable Tencel Lyocell kids apparel and eco-friendly silicone tableware. 

Impressively, every item LOULOU LOLLIPOP sells is made of earth-friendly, non-toxic materials. A big part of the twin’s mission is to make sure their business has minimal impact on the planet, especially for the children who use their. They also ensure the factories that supply their items are Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) compliant, ensuring fair wages, ethical business practices, and healthy and safe working conditions. 

“We’ve heard from others that ‘it’s so easy and all you did was string some beads and sell products at a pop-up,’ but starting a business is more than that,” says Angel. “We may have made it seem simple, but what we achieved was not an overnight success. There were many late nights and heartaches and challenges.”

“There will be challenges and mistakes along the road, there were for us. They’re stepping-stones. Don’t dwell on them.”

Eleanor adds, as entrepreneurs, failing is a part of the process. “There will be challenges and mistakes along the road, there were for us. They’re stepping-stones. Don’t dwell on them.” The sisters maintain this mindset: “Learn from what sucks.” 

They also advise entrepreneurs to tap into organizations and networks that offer resources, webinars and coaching on how to build a business from scratch. For them, that meant leaning on Small Business BC and WeBC when they were first starting, and then Export Development Canada (EDC) when they were ready to branch out into global markets. 

EDC offers knowledge and financial solutions and partners with the Trade Accelerator Program (TAP), which provides a series of online workshops with trade and industry experts to help enterprises unleash their export potential. This support was essential for Eleanor and Angel to build relationships in key markets. Even today, the sisters rely on EDC for financial and knowledge support, as well as its resources such as webinars

“LOULOU LOLLIPOP is a great example of the creativity and innovation driven by Canadian women-owned and -led businesses in the retail sector,” said Catherine Beach, National Lead, Women in Trade, EDC. “To support its rapid growth, the company turned to RBC, who in turn tapped into the Trade Expansion Lending Program (TELP). This program, offered in collaboration by EDC and the company’s financial institution, helps exporters access additional working capital so they can take advantage of international opportunities. EDC is proud to partner with financial institutions including RBC, to enable high-growth companies to maintain their momentum, and to help develop Canada’s export trade.”

Their ultimate goal is to build LOULOU LOLLIPOP into a world leading baby accessories brand. They want to strengthen their position in markets by expanding their sustainable product collection even further, and they want to be a Canadian brand people recognize globally.

“Whether in the United States or Australia, we want people to recognize our children’s products as trusted, safe and sustainable,” says Eleanor. “We want to be a global children’s brand. We want our brand and name to stand out.”

Vanessa Marshall turned a hobby into a business that has kept more than 500,000 plastic bottles out of landfills.

Vanessa Marshall

By Sarah Kelsey 

 

When Vanessa Marshall decided to launch her now highly successful sustainable haircare company, Jack59, in 2015, she was wrapping up a degree in dentistry. After some reflection, her instincts swayed her away from this path and towards an entrepreneurial one, despite not having any formal business training. 

It all started when she stumbled into the world of soap-making after watching her sister create sudsy bars in her spare time. “I started researching how to do it myself, learning the chemistry, and recorded myself making my first batch,” Marshall recalls. “It was a disaster, but it was thrilling. I was hooked.”

It was during a trip to Mexico that her “very expensive hobby” turned into something more. A fan of the sustainability of shampoo bars, she was travelling with one from an all-natural brand — but it was making her scalp so dry, itchy, and irritated that she had to go purchase a bottle of liquid shampoo. Later, while lounging on the beach, she had an aha moment: The pH level of the soap bars had to be off. If she could balance the pH, she could make and sell shampoo and conditioner bars that everyone would love. 

And that’s how Jack59 was born.

When she returned home to Edmonton, AB, Marshall bought a bunch of ingredients to make her first paraben-, silicon- and cruelty-free hair care products. The company now offers a broad range of sustainable and effective hair products using unique combinations of natural proteins, oils, and extracts, all based on slight variances in the pH levels of different hair types. 

“You don’t get to choose to be an entrepreneur,” Marshall jokes. “When you talk to an entrepreneur like me, they likely can’t stop talking or thinking about their business — no matter how out there their ideas may sound. And my idea may have seemed pretty out there to some.”

“Jack59 is now recognized as a unique, sustainable, and Indigenous-owned and woman-led beauty brand.”

And as for the ‘out there’ name? It’s in honour of a lost dog that wandered into the family’s yard, and was named Jack59 by her then four-year-old daughter. A year later, when Marshall was getting her company ready for launch, her daughter asked if she could call it Jack59 in remembrance of the stray. She realized the name embraced the reason she wanted to be an entrepreneur in the first place — to be able to spend more time with her family. 

Jack59 is now recognized as a unique, sustainable, and Indigenous-owned and woman-led beauty brand. “Our mission is simple,” says Marshall. “Increase the number of good hair days you have while decreasing your carbon footprint. From the responses we get from our customers, to how we’re helping the environment — I know we’re having an impact.” 

The proud owner says her company has prevented more than 500,000 plastic bottles from clogging landfills because of its wasteless, plastic-free packaging — their bars are so long-lasting, they can replace about three traditional liquid shampoo bottles or five liquid conditioner bottles. Jack59 also has a 100 per cent plastic-free production process, and uses 100 per cent recyclable packaging. From a social good perspective, Vanessa has built the company so it gives each employee the work-life balance she wanted when she was initially raising her kids.

“When you’re a child, you’re given the ability to dream. And there are no limitations to that. Whatever you saw yourself being, you believed you could do it, you believed in daydreams,” she says. “And at some point in our lives, there are fears and expectations that get instilled. There’s self-sabotage. If you can fight your way through that, you can do anything. You can make a dream a reality. I have.”

Access to capital is one of the main barriers to growth of women-owned and -led businesses. To level the playing field, targeted programs and support exist for women entrepreneurs to address the unique needs of their businesses.

Two organizations that have helped Marshall along her journey include Coralus (formerly SheEO) and Export Development Canada (EDC)

Selected as a 2022 Coralus Venture, the honour came with a zero per cent interest loan, coaching, and access to a global community of support. Coralus connected her with a network of “radically generous” women and non-binary people, who helped her with resources to grow her company — from finding the right accountant to supporting distribution and marketing. 

EDC taught her how to expand her business into other countries, put her in touch with other trade partners, including the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS), by facilitating an introduction to a local trade commissioner, and increased awareness about grants she could apply for.

Organizations such as Coralus, EDC, and the TCS exist to help entrepreneurs realize their potential — the key is gaining awareness of the available resources and tapping into them.

“At a certain point, I realized I wasn’t going to be good at that stuff. It was essential I put the right people in place to do those things for me, so I could focus my attention elsewhere.”

Today, Marshall helps other entrepreneurs narrow down their company’s philosophy, so they can focus on generating results and solving problems quickly. She also suggests they figure out their weaknesses early on in the start-up process, so they can outsource tasks that eat up their time and mental capacity. 

“I have no managerial experience, for example, and I don’t have business experience,” Marshall says. “Before I built my team, everything was about putting out fires, learning how to do taxes, etc., and at a certain point, I realized I wasn’t going to be good at that stuff. It was essential I put the right people in place to do those things for me, so I could focus my attention elsewhere.”

Today, Marshall and her team of 10, including her sister who’s the company’s chief operating officer, are working hard to make Jack59 a household name. In addition to their own storefront in Edmonton, they are in various boutiques and retail locations across Canada and into the United States, and they ship globally through their online store.They’re focused on creating new products and looking to expand the business into more countries. 

Marshall says she knows there’s an incredible opportunity for the products they make given the current concerns about the climate and sustainability. By expanding more, not only will she be able to help others and educate them about how to choose environmentally sustainable products, she can employ more people on a local level and expand economic growth in her community. 

“We already sell internationally through e-commerce. We’ve had orders in Oman and Europe. I want to break into South America next — largely because I love the people and culture. It’s very exciting.” 

When reflecting on her journey, Marshall offers up this piece of advice to entrepreneurs: “If your dream scares you, it’s probably worth doing. Especially, too, if it scares other people when you tell them about your idea. Trust the journey and the road you’re on. It’s always worth it.”

How the founder of Love Good Fats went beyond bootstrapping to fund her business.

Suzie Yorke Love Good Fats

By Hailey Eisen 

 

Suzie Yorke’s entrepreneurial journey may have started out in a way similar to most — a good idea, an investment of her own savings, and a leap of faith — but her Keto-certified brand of snack bars, Love Good Fats™, quickly took off in a way she could not have predicted. 

Suzie came to realize bootstrapping — building her business without external funds — wouldn’t get her far, especially with a rapidly growing brand, so she spent the first three years of her journey deeply immersed in business development and financing. “For start-ups, cash is king,” Suzie says, “and very quickly I learned that having enough liquidity was critical.” 

But before all of that, what started Suzie’s foray into entrepreneurship was a book, a dramatic lifestyle change, and a marketers’ mindset. 

At 50, Suzie was a single mom, a triathlete, and a marketing executive. “I’d been following a low-fat diet for nearly 20 years,” she recalls. “I ran marathons and Iron Man races, and would reward myself with sugar treats after a run and on weekends.” Although she was very active, Suzie was also experiencing a great deal of stress, traveling a lot for work, and not feeling as healthy as she wanted to be. In March 2016, Suzie read The Big Fat Surprise, a book that dives into the benefits of good fats. “I realized that I’d been doing it all wrong.” 

Suzie quickly recognized the opportunity for a brand to disseminate the information about good fats being written about in books and articles at the time. “I decided then and there that I was going to create that brand.” 

Her business started small: a brand vision, PowerPoint presentation, and a list of compelling benefits of a high fat, low sugar, low carb diet. Her goal was to develop a healthy snack bar that would follow these principles. And, she’d fund the project with her personal savings. 

From developing a bar prototype — two flavours to begin with — to finding a co-packing facility to manufacture them, to deciding on the brand name (at launch, it was Suzie’s Good Fats), to signing agreements with 10 stores in Canada, things started to ramp up. “The initial plan was to do one small run — 100,000 bars in two flavours,” Suzie explains. “But, just to turn on the machines at the co-packers, the initial cost would be $200,000.”

Suzie realized she’d need access to funding to support her launch. As she began networking with former colleagues and business connections, she started to form a board of advisors and interested investors. Her first round of funding, in the form of angel investment, brought in nearly $400,000 — enough to create a product inventory that would last six months. 

“We sold out in six weeks,” Suzie says. 

Still a nimble company with one employee and a board of advisors, Suzie took on  another round of angel investing which allowed her to roll out two more flavours and a packaging and formula update.

“For women founders, you just have to go from left to right — start with savings, then angel investments, some potential crowd-sourced funding, the EDC and BDC. While banks are still tough until you are profit positive, there are many ways to raise funds beyond bootstrapping.” 

What transpired between September 2017 and the end of 2019 Suzie describes as a period of hyper growth. “It’s a very different world than the usual start-up experience. You have to make a lot of big decisions and right decisions, and everything is moving rapidly.” 

Suzie’s Good Fats bars were initially sold in 10 stores, but before long they were in 200, and then 2,000. “Once we had Loblaws and Walmart, everyone was calling, we scaled really quickly,” Suzie explains. In years one and two, the company did $8 million and $33 million in sales respectively; figures typically unheard of in the nutritional bar category. 

She relied on five rounds of angel investing to give her the cashflow she needed to scale quickly — moving from a startup to a successful, well-recognized brand in a very short time. As point of sale results in Canada continued to hold strong, American retailers took notice. 

“I’d been doing research in the US as early as 2016,” Suzie says. Gathering consumer input from Americans, while also doing the same at home in Canada. “As exporting became closer to reality, we doubled down on research, competitive assessment, pricing, positioning, and more.” 

Before expanding into a new market, Suzie decided a name change was in order. “The name was really well-liked in Canada and the consumers knew me and felt a connection to the brand,” she explains, “but there were 10 Suzie’s in the natural space in the US, and we decided the name needed to be less personal.”

After extensive research and packaging redesign, the name Love Good Fats™ was trademarked and the brand’s US expansion began. 

Around that time, Suzie had also turned to Export Development Canada (EDC) for support. “EDC has been a great partner, certainly for all matters related to exporting and capitalization,” she says. “Once you are funded by EDC, they join your board and you benefit from strategic direction as well.” 

In 2018, when they were getting ready to expand into the US, Suzie was looking into investing options with a Venture Capital partner. “In the end, we realized we had a nice partnership with EDC and they came on instead of the VC, and did a round of convertible debt to help with the exporting process.” 

With the convertible debt — which means the borrowed funds are converted into equity at a later date, rather than paid back in cash — Love Good Fats™ had the resources to grow. They did a soft launch in the US in January 2019 with Whole Foods, and soon after they were approached by Costco, Walmart, and Kroger, among others, and expansion again happened very quickly.

With all this success and rapid growth, Suzie could never have planned for 2020 to bring such a huge roadblock. With the start of the COVID pandemic came the dramatic decline in the market’s desire for on-the-go nutritional bars. 

“2019 was amazing, and then COVID hit and suddenly everyone was staying home, eating homemade banana bread,” Suzie says. “Watching your sugar and carb intake went by the wayside.”   

Financing again became top of mind for Suzie, and would come to have an essential role in the company’s ability to withstand these impossibly hard times. “The saying, plan for the worst and hope for the best, was really key for us,” she explains. “Thankfully, a year ago we were able to raise $10 million dollars with Series A financing — aiming for way more than we thought we would need to get through cash flow issues during the pandemic.” 

As it turns out, the worst was much worse than they’d imagined. “COVID was a huge reality check for us,” says Suzie, “because for three years prior everything we touched turned to gold, we were incredibly blessed, and then we were beat up way more than we thought we would be.” 

Preparedness and resiliency were key to her survival. 

More than a year into the pandemic, and with things slowly starting to move in the right direction, Suzie reflects on her journey and the road ahead. She’s eager to offer advice to other entrepreneurs, especially when it comes to financing a start-up. 

“Women typically don’t get financing for their businesses, and only 5% of VC funding goes to women entrepreneurs,” Suzie says. “It’s very challenging and we’re trying to get more support in Canada and the US for women-led businesses to ensure they’re getting their fair share of the government money available and VC institutional dollars. There’s still lots of work to be done there.” 

Suzie says it’s essential to know where to look for funding and what to apply for. Resources accessed through organizations like EDC, for example, are a good place to start, helping women-led companies access new markets and capital

“In our first year we were also fortunate enough to get small funding from Canada’s Scientific Research and Experimental Development program (SRED),” she says. The key was knowing that this funding was available and putting together a strong case for the fact that her bars were completely unprecedented, with a unique taste and nutritional profile. 

“Today, I recommend to all founders to spend time looking at all funding options — there are a lot out there,” she says. “And while it’s harder for Canadian start-ups because there are fewer options available, we still have some phenomenal partners and incubators in this country.” 

In its most recent rounding of financing, Love Good Fats™ signed on with an institutional investor, InvestEco — a Canadian institutional VC firm that has provided financial and strategic support as well. 

“For women founders, you just have to go from left to right — start with savings, then angel investments, some potential crowd-sourced funding, the EDC and BDC,” Suzie advises. “While banks are still tough until you are profit positive, there are many ways to raise funds beyond bootstrapping.” 

3 ways embracing technology can grow your business in a new market.

Woman entrepreneur filming product video

As an entrepreneur, the idea of ‘embracing technology’ might seem too complicated or costly for a business like yours. In today’s market, every business can benefit from digitalization — with solutions that are simple, save precious resources, and have the potential to help you grow. 

When Connie Lo and Laura Burget founded their natural beauty product line, Three Ships, they knew that exporting would be critical to grow the brand to a significant following. Now available through online retailers and more than 1,000 stores across the U.S. and Canada — including Whole Foods and Target — the pair credits technology with playing a key role in facilitating their expansion.

“The world is more connected now than ever before,” says Laura. “Technology has allowed us to better handle our global supply chain, expand our e-commerce offerings, and ensure that everything runs smoothly on our back-end.”

Embracing technology to fuel success isn’t unique to Three Ships — and in today’s market, it shouldn’t be. According to Caroline Abela, Director and Chief Product Owner of Export Development Canada’s Knowledge Business, digitalization is the new “table stakes” for entrepreneurs, especially those looking to export. 

“The digitalization of the economy, which was estimated to happen over a 10 year period, just got compressed by the pandemic into one year,” Caroline explains. More importantly, she adds, the evolution is here to stay. 

So where do you start? Caroline offers three areas where technology can have a big impact on your business, regardless of your size and industry. 

Enhancing the purchase experience of your customers. 

“A couple of years ago, being able to fully manage the customer experience online put you ahead of your competitors,” says Caroline. “Now, that’s the bare minimum required.”

For many businesses, that means offering e-commerce is a must (and if you’re just getting started on that, Caroline notes that EDC has in-depth articles and webinars on everything from upping your e-commerce game to managing digital risk). If your product doesn’t lend itself to e-commerce in the strictest sense of the term — click on a product, add to cart, complete transaction — there are still opportunities to digitize how you interact with them.

“It might not be an online retail experience that you’re enabling,” explains Caroline, “but you could still be using technology to streamline your customer’s experience and how they engage with your business.” Depending on your industry and unique business offering, that could mean moving parts of your sales process online, or your post-purchase support — or any other element of your customer lifecycle that’s causing friction. 

“Ask yourself: if you solve this one problem, what does it do for your customer, and how does it increase the likelihood that your customer is going to transact with you?” 

To understand where to invest your resources, compare your processes against customer expectations, and identify pain points. While today’s rule of thumb is “whatever can be digitized, should be digitized,” you can get started by solving problems that have the highest return on investment, says Caroline. “Ask yourself: if you solve this one problem, what does it do for your customer, and how does it increase the likelihood that your customer is going to transact with you?” 

If you’re doing this exercise with exporting in mind, be sure to take into account the expectations set by the local market, as well as what your competitors are already delivering. “If you are thoughtfully growing into a new market, be aware of market dynamics around the look and feel of your website, the translation of your website, and the digital culture of the audience you’re trying to reach,” explains Caroline. 

Ultimately, you’ll need to understand if your digital offering is on the level needed to be able to compete, and if not, how to meet and hopefully exceed that bar. Look at the market as a whole — for example, throughout Asia, there are very high expectations for being able to buy and return online, both in the retail and non-retail space — and familiarize yourself with the digital experience of your direct competitors. “If it’s not a big price point, try a transaction, and see how simple it is to do business with them,” suggests Caroline. 

And remember, digitalization offers opportunities at all points of the customer lifecycle — including acquisition. For Shelby Taylor, the founder and CEO of Chickapea, technology has been key in finding new international customers for her line of chickpea and lentil-based healthy pastas. “We have spent considerable time evolving our digital marketing strategy in order to optimize how we reach customers in all markets,” explains Shelby. “This has included a presence on a number of platforms, impactful emails, and focusing on reviews.”

Adding efficiency and predictability to your back-end. 

Along with the customer experience, the digitalization of supply chains has also been accelerated throughout the pandemic. Caroline notes that with a bit of upfront investment, there are enormous opportunities for driving costs out of your business on the supply side — from how you onboard your suppliers to how you make payments to them. 

You can also find cost savings and efficiencies in other back-end processes. There is software available to support everything from CRM (customer relationship management) to accounting, and much of it comes with integrated features, like advanced security for risk management, and even predictive ability.

“You don’t need to have a data scientist on your staff to make use of predictive tools that are coming out in software, because technology companies themselves are actually starting to bake that into their off-the-shelf solutions,” Caroline says, pointing to Shopify and Square — both tech companies serving small merchants — as great examples of this. “In so many ways, today’s software can help you see around the corner.”

For example, if you have a payment gap that’s coming up 90 days from now, the right software can identify where you may have risks in your cash flows. On the sales front, much of the CRM software available will be able to tell you which customers are likely to be needing supply soon, so you can manage your inventory and focus your sales efforts. 

When you’re selecting a software program, don’t get hung up on adopting artificial intelligence tools — instead think about how you are going to make data-driven decisions, Caroline advises. “Entrepreneurs that are making data-driven decisions at all points in their business are going to be more successful, because they’re actually going to be following the evidence for where they should be focusing their energy.”

Removing barriers for small businesses on a global stage through cloud-based software. 

Adopting CRM, accounting, logistics and other solutions used to take a multimillion dollar investment in on-premise software. Now, cloud-based software offered for a monthly fee (also known as ‘Software as a Service’ or SaaS) are leveling the playing field — any business can have access to advanced technologies.

“It’s quite empowering for small businesses,” says Caroline, “because instead of making this really heavy investment up front, you’re making a choice and then paying monthly, so the affordability and flexibility are quite good.” 

“It only takes a little bit of courage to tap into these opportunities that have become so much bigger, so much broader, and very exciting.”

In the last five years alone, Caroline says the availability and functionality of SaaS products targeting small businesses has grown considerably, and there are also online tools you can tap into on an as-needed basis. For example, if you’re already using Shopify for your e-commerce, the EDC Export Help Hub Shopify App gives you free, online access to answers to your most important questions about doing business internationally. You can search and review written responses from Expert Advisors, and communicate with them directly if you’re having trouble finding what you need.

And just last year, Google launched a free tool called Market Finder that can help you answer the first big question in exporting: Where is the best place for you to start selling to? “You punch in information about your product, and it identifies potential markets that look promising,” explains Caroline, with the results based on Google’s in-depth consumer insights and country-level data. 

The push towards digitalization might seem scary or risky for some entrepreneurs, but you don’t have to be technologically savvy to use these tools, Caroline says. “It only takes a little bit of courage to tap into these opportunities that have become so much bigger, so much broader, and very exciting.”

How to use market knowledge and connections to find customers in new markets.

Woman entrepreneur making soap

By Hailey Eisen

 

When it comes to finding customers in a country you’ve identified as a promising market, connecting with someone on-the-ground — like a representative in one of EDC’s overseas offices — is a great first step. These individuals can help you navigate the market, introduce you to decision makers, and match you with local business prospects.  

If you’re an entrepreneur looking to expand into Australia, Teri Nizzola is someone worth knowing. For nearly four years, she’s been based out of Sydney, working with EDC as its chief Australia representative, with the primary focus of helping Canadian businesses break into this market. Prior to Australia, she spent more than three years doing the same in Mexico.

“Here in Australia we have a team Canada approach,” Teri explains. “We work together with partners and stakeholders to help foster positive exporting experiences for Canadian companies that are mutually beneficial to the Australian market.”

The process of identifying potential customers depends greatly on the country, the nature of your business, and the specifics of your industry — but there are some universal truths. We asked Teri to share her best advice for any business looking to make meaningful connections in a new market.

Determine who your customers are and the best way to reach them.

Your approach to sales and product management will vary greatly depending on whether you’re selling directly to your end users in the market or through a distribution channel that will sell your goods on your behalf. The first step in the process is to determine which approach will work best for you in the country you’re looking to export to. 

Generally, if you’re the original manufacturer of the product, require longer-term engagement with the customer to complete the sale, and are needed to provide post-sale service, you’ll want to opt for direct selling. In this case, you may only have a few dozen potential customers in the market. 

“The end user will want to deal with your team directly, especially if you’re required to provide on-going support and maintenance,” Teri advises. “Customers won’t want to wait 16 to 24 hours for you to return a call, which can often happen for Canadians dealing with countries like Australia. So, you’ll need to have someone locally who can provide real-time support.” 

Shamira Jaffer, founder and president of Signifi Solutions — a company that provides hardware and software to the automated retail industry in over forty countries — has learned to navigate selling a complex product. “Signifi’s solutions are complicated and require a lot of resourcing to implement successfully. We pride ourselves on being trusted advisors,” she says. “Now that we are larger, we have a lot more dedicated resourcing for ensuring client success and repeat sales.”

“When you’re doing business in a different country, they really appreciate when you’ve done the work.” 

Selling indirectly through a sales channel often works best when the product’s sales cycle is short and simple, the dollar value per unit is relatively low, and the distributor’s decision to buy your product involves a small number of people. This type of selling also makes sense when the overall market for the product involves a large number of end users, and distributors within the channel can sell these products in quantity to those users. 

For example, Teri explains, there are many Canadian consumer goods manufacturers that sell their products through Australia’s grocery stores via local distributors, thanks to relationships fostered through EDC’s Global Business Development team. In this case, distributors handle the on-the-ground sales process, help you understand the competitive landscape, and ensure that your product meets the needs and tastes of your customers. 

Having distribution support is key, but Teri advises business owners visit the country — when restrictions set on by the pandemic allow — to connect with the market directly, explore the stores you’re going to sell through, and get a good sense of what the customer base looks like and how they shop. 

Until in-person meetings and travel are possible again, online resources and events, plus virtual trade shows and trade missions have popped up to replicate these experiences. Using the web to connect with potential customers and to garner a sense of what the culture is like in a particular country often works well, and when travel isn’t possible, having local connections in a particular country is even more valuable.  

Get familiar with local business culture.

Depending on the part of the world you’re dealing with, cultural norms and customs can vary greatly. “When you’re doing business in a different country,” Teri says, “they really appreciate when you’ve done the work.” 

Navigating business practices and appropriate etiquette is an important part of knowing your potential customers. After doing your research, much of these nuances can be obtained during market visits, speaking with other Canadian businesses in the market, and connecting with the Trade Commissioner Service, among other things. 

What has worked for Shamira is having trusted agents in Europe and the U.S. She says, “our agent model has been successful with having dedicated people in the foreign market who know the clients and market nuances and culture.”

Teri advises that some important considerations to include are how and when business is conducted. “Do they hold formal meetings, or prefer to converse over a meal? What time of the day is off-limits? Also, try your best to understand what etiquette to follow during negotiations ahead of time.” 

Familiarity with the local culture is also essential in understanding your potential customers and their needs and wants. Knowing which countries already have an interest in your type of products, which markets are already saturated, and where you fit in, are important parts of customer research. Since tastes can change, staying on top of trends is not only key to breaking into a new market, but also to remaining relevant and ahead of competition. 

Use a variety of strategies to find and connect with new customers. 

Connecting with local organizations and businesses and attending events (both live and virtual) are excellent ways to establish relationships with potential customers. When it comes to getting to know your customer base in a particular market, being there in person, or having someone there in person on your behalf, is often highly beneficial. 

Teri’s job is to help forge these connections, pair businesses with the appropriate events, and suggest potential partnership opportunities. The value of your network is huge when it comes to establishing a customer base, which is why EDC has individuals on the ground in each country with real relationships to leverage. 

“Just this week I spoke with a CEO from Canada whose solution pertained to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and she was looking to break into the Australian market,” Teri explains. “I was able to introduce her to The Trade Commissioner Service and an expert at EDC, while also helping coach her through her value proposition prior to making introductions to local companies.” 

Thanks to EDC’s rich expertise in global trade, these types of introductions and warm leads are what Canadians can expect from EDC in a number of countries. Beyond the Trade Commissioner Service, EDC also works with Chambers of Commerce and industry organizations, plus other ecosystem partners and business networks who can help navigate the ins and outs of the local market and customer base, such as SheEO, WEConnect International, and the Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT).

“There are often other Canadian companies in your ecosystem already in the country you’re looking to export to, and we can forge these connections so you can pick their brains and gather intelligence,” Teri advises. “Sometimes partnerships come out of these connections as well.”  

Trade shows and events are another great way to connect with a specific market, to directly interact with potential customers and distributing partners. From oil and gas and mining events to Australia’s annual ‘Fine Foods’ trade show, Teri is able to suggest the right opportunities for virtually any business. 

And while travel is restricted, don’t miss out on other opportunities to connect. Dannah Davies, founder of Sweetsmith Candy Co., has had success both in-person and online. “Trade shows have always been a great way to find new customers, however there are ways to find customers digitally as well,” she says. “Contacting buyers directly through Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms are ways to engage your target audience and build brand awareness.”

How to find your competitive advantage in a new market.

Woman business owner

What makes your business unique in a foreign market? How do you stand out from all the others competing for buyers’ attention on an international scale? Having a clear understanding of your competitive advantage is critical for any business — but even more so when looking to begin the exporting process. 

“Concisely and effectively identifying what you do differently than your competitors, and the expected benefits, is critical,” says Andrea Gaunt, a Global Trade director with Export Development Canada (EDC).  In order to do this, she explains, you need to fully understand what competitive advantages you have over your key competitors. “Is it lower cost, higher quality, increased efficiencies, more environmentally friendly? Once you can clearly identify these benefits, you need to communicate them.”

To help find and leverage your company’s competitive advantage, Andrea suggests three key steps: 

Start with local market knowledge.

Before you begin exporting, you’ll have to do some work to better understand the market you’re selling into — and whether your current value proposition will still be a good fit. 

EDC’s website is a great place to find market-specific resources, including country and market information, Global Economic Outlook reports, and TradeInsights, a searchable hub of EDC’s expert knowledge. Companies that are export-ready can also speak directly with the EDC Export Help Team, and you can consider connecting with the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) in markets of interest. These offices are located around the world and across Canada and are well connected in most global markets.

“For the most part, your key competitive differentiators should remain relatively consistent.  What may change is which “products” and benefits you focus on based on the specific needs of your customers.”

You may also find help through your own network (if you’ve built a strategic one). Non-competitive, successful suppliers already in the region you’re looking to export into can inform you of the key factors needed to turn local leads into solid prospects. And never underestimate the power of talking with potential customers. Find out where their needs are and how you can meet them better than the competition. 

This approach worked well for Dannah Davies, founder of Alberta-based Sweetsmith Candy Co. “Every product will be different, however, in my experience, the best way to find your competitive advantage is to listen to your customers and find the gap in the market,” she explains, looking back on her exporting journey. “After some small adjustments, packaging was a quick win, as our export partners loved our retro appeal. Additionally, I discovered the demand for gluten free, vegan, and sugar-free products in my category — so I began to promote that more visibly.” 

Tailor your unique selling proposition to the new market.

Having done your research, you can now tailor your approach to the specific market you’re looking to enter. While there are times when a product and a unique selling proposition can be replicated across markets, often businesses will need to make some adjustments — from market to market, or even from buyer to buyer.  

For the most part, your key competitive differentiators should remain relatively consistent.  What may change is which “products” and benefits you focus on based on the specific needs of your customers. Depending on the kind of product or service you’re selling, these factors will vary considerably. 

Start by examining the criteria your potential customers use when evaluating products like yours. For example, if your solution requires long-term service or support, you’ll need to consider in-market infrastructure as part of your value proposition. Conversely, a consumer product that’s simple to understand will focus on other attributes that differentiate it from the competition. 

Consider the success of Connie Lo and Laura Burget, founders of Three Ships, a natural beauty brand sold in more than 1,000 stores across North America, including Whole Foods and Target. “Within the beauty space, press and consumers love ‘new-ness’. We lean into this when launching into a new market by stirring up excitement with consumers to get them to try us out,” they explain. “In addition, aligning ourselves with well-established and reputable retailers when we launch into a new market gives us a competitive advantage, as we are able to piggy-back off of their brand recognition and consumer base.”

Whatever approach you take, remember to keep it simple. Prospective customers will ultimately want to understand, in very short order, what you can do for them. How can you solve their problems and what benefits can they reasonably expect to achieve?  

Adjust when necessary to remain competitive. 

Knowing who your competition is and what their capabilities are helps with differentiation. When you understand the capabilities of the local suppliers, you can look for gaps between what they’re delivering and the anticipated needs of potential clients. But you also need to be aware that your competition will adapt and change.  

“The goals and strategies of your clients should be a guiding light on areas of innovation that are needed to remain relevant.”

Suzie Yorke, CEO and founder of Love Good Fats, knew what her product offered that others didn’t — a unique combination of ingredients, quality, and taste. She was also aware that there would be copycats, making speed and scale strategic drivers. “We didn’t want to have a bunch of US competitors beat us to the market,” she says. “Lots have jumped in, but we are first, and now benefit from being on the shelves of many retailers and selling well — having had a bit of a head start.”  

From finding more efficient ways to deliver your solution, to adding on or highlighting new features that set you apart, responding to the changing competitive landscape is an ongoing process. The goals and strategies of your clients should be a guiding light on areas of innovation that are needed to remain relevant.

While it may seem like a lot to consider when starting out on the exporting journey, there’s a good chance you’re already more prepared than you realize. “Ultimately, today’s marketplace is very global,” Andrea Gaunt says. “So most suppliers are competing against global competitors whether they’re selling domestically or internationally.” 

Getting clear on what sets you apart and remaining nimble and ready to adapt will ensure success beyond Canadian borders.

5 ways to build the right network to grow your business in new markets.

Women on video call

You’ve heard the saying: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. 

When expanding your business internationally, that bit of advice certainly understates the importance of market research and an informed strategy — but it’s also impossible to overstate the benefits that your network can offer.

From opening doors and building trust, to overcoming language barriers and understanding cultural norms, an international network is essential for expanding globally. The right contacts can provide invaluable local market knowledge and connections, helping you to avoid costly mistakes, gain competitive advantages, and achieve your business goals more quickly.  

How do you tap into all these benefits? According to Jennifer Cooke, the corporate lead for EDC’s Women in Trade strategy — a role focused specifically on helping more women entrepreneurs export to grow their business — the first step is to get started

“You have to be deliberate. You can’t just wait for it to come to you,” advises Jennifer. “You need to be very strategic about building networks for the various needs you have in your business. And starting early is a good thing.”

To ensure success from there, she offers five key tips for building a global exporting network. 

Tailor your networks.

While your support networks are key for your mental health (especially amidst a pandemic), when it comes to growing your business, you need specific business networks. For global growth, that’s even more important as you’ll be faced with roadblocks and opportunities that are unique to exporting, as well as to the market you’re entering. 

That means the kind of network you need can change depending on the market and your strategy for entering it. Are there language barriers to overcome, or other cultural considerations? Are you selling directly to consumers through ecommerce, or working with an agent, or distributor? Start with research to understand what contacts would be beneficial to your needs and goals, then work on fostering those connections. 

“One of the first things we did was establish partnerships with sales brokers who had experience with natural products in the markets we were targeting,” says Shelby Taylor, founder and CEO of Chickapea, a line of healthy pastas made with organic chickpeas and lentils. “This helped us to learn about the markets and the differences from our home market, while benefiting from existing relationships. By taking this approach, we were able to better understand the investment required and reduce our risk with unknown retailers.”

“You can often tap into your current customers, suppliers, and service providers (from your lawyer to your shipping partner) for advice, new connections, or even a foot in the door.”

Start with your connections at home. 

While you do need a specific network, you don’t have to start from scratch. Look at who’s in your business network, and see if you can leverage relationships with individuals that you know and trust in a new way. You can often tap into your current customers, suppliers, and service providers (from your lawyer to your shipping partner) for advice, new connections, or even a foot in the door. 

Servicing existing customers in a new market is an easier way to begin growing, so pay special attention to clients who are operating internationally. You may also be able to reduce risk and access bigger and better opportunities by joining forces with other like-minded local businesses to create a broader and more robust offering. To help make those connections (and many more), you can look to organizations with the specific mandate of helping Canadian businesses, such as industry and trade associations, chambers of commerce, and Export Development Canada

EDC is dedicated to helping Canadian companies of all sizes succeed on the world stage. They’re international risk experts and can equip you with the tools you need — the trade knowledge, financial solutions, equity, insurance, and connections — to grow your business with confidence.

Jump on organized networking opportunities.  

Even if you’re just starting to explore your international ambitions, a trade show can help establish new and valuable connections. If you’re export ready, with a market in mind and a strategy in hand, there are also several trade missions offered by federal, provincial and municipal governments, as well as trade associations. Visiting your target market is the best approach, but with COVID-19 still impacting travel, virtual events and even virtual trade missions are taking over, and still offer value.  

Rather than going in with the expectation that you’ll win contracts right away, consider it an opportunity to gain market intelligence and build your strategic network. You may even find a supportive network of fellow exporters, says Dannah Davies, founder of Sweetsmith Candy Co. based in Strathmore, Alberta. The producer of handmade toffees and brittles credits exporting events with helping her on her growth journey.   

“I have found the other businesses in the export community to be incredibly helpful,” says Dannah, “and I am grateful for all of the new friends made through export events as we continue to encourage each other and share experiences with exporting.”

Do your due diligence. 

When establishing relationships with international business partners, due diligence is a critical step. You’ll avoid potentially costly surprises down the road by investing time in a careful vetting process up front — and that means doing more than a Google search and social sniff. 

Validate that they have solid credit and are reputable. Look at their environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) practices to ensure you’re working with a business and leadership team that shares the same values. You can get references from their customers or from their suppliers, and depending on the type of partnership, it’s not uncommon to ask them for their financial statements to ensure they’re a solid business.

Another great place to start is EDC’s Company Insight — a free online tool that lets you search and vet companies based on data that EDC experts rely on every day. And if you’re export ready, the Trade Commissioner Service can connect you with a trade commissioner in more than 160 cities worldwide, who can help you validate potential local business partners. 

Finding new customers, intermediaries, business partners, and international opportunities hinges on successful global networking.”

Invest in the build. 

Can you get lucky and find an international buyer quickly? Yes, but more often than not, it takes time, resources, and a sustained effort to build the right network for exporting. You may need to visit the local market — possibly multiple times and over multiple years — to gain the cumulative knowledge and relationship capital that will be critical to your success. 

Shamira Jaffer is the founder and president of Signifi Solutions, which provides hardware and software for the automated retail industry, from advanced vending machines to smart storage. To get their kiosks operating in 40+ countries around the world, Shamira has invested heavily in her export network, from participating in trade missions through the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, to working with the Trade Commissioner Service to establish contacts in each of the European markets she now operates in. 

Having dedicated expertise in foreign markets through vetted agents has been a key competitive advantage. “Signifi has built its business with networking and forming relations, either with customers or other business alliances,” Shamira explains. “We have four trusted agents in Europe and two agents in the US that have come from referrals. This approach allowed for a careful selection of agents who can be trusted with business goals aligned with Signifi.”

Building a network takes strategy, time, and resources — but the efforts are worth it. Finding new customers, intermediaries, business partners, and international opportunities hinges on successful global networking. And remember, it’s never too early to start.

Worried about the risks of exporting? Start with a strategic plan.

Expanding your business into international markets can be very rewarding — but it can also be an intimidating process. Though risks and challenges are real, they can also be mitigated using a well-prepared strategy. With the right planning and support, you can gain access to new opportunities, increased exposure, and an expanded customer base that lies beyond our borders. Kseniya Stogniy, a Regional Manager, Partner Channel with Export Development Canada (EDC) and formerly an Export Help Advisor (EDC), answers the top questions EDC receives from companies who are looking to grow internationally, but don’t know where to start. 

How does a company properly research and plan to enter a new market?

The first step, prior to entering a new market, is to create an export plan — a roadmap for your global growth. This plan will help you assess your company’s readiness for expansion, including the availability of resources, from funding to the knowledge and skills of your team. It will also help you look at the market and the approach you want to take to enter it. Once you’ve assessed your readiness, you’ll want to identify international opportunities in your sector, who your potential customers are, and how to best reach them. The next step is to create a strategy, which is the meat of your plan — the who, what, when, where, and why. EDC’s Export Help Hub is a useful resource at this stage; it’s full of expert advice on entering the US, EU, and Mexico markets. Lastly, remember as you move through the export process, continuously measure your results with a set of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and adjust as you go. 

How should a business strategically plan for market risks and challenges?

When it comes to exporting, with opportunity comes risk. What if your customer doesn’t pay, or your product gets stuck at the border? Understanding the risks that your company may face will help you prepare for them accordingly. The likelihood of risk can be based on several factors, including your company’s size, the industry you’re in, the markets you’re looking to enter, and your financial strength. If you’re a small business looking to export as a growth strategy, your risks will be different than a company that’s already an avid exporter, exploring new markets.  

You’ll want to start by examining your competition abroad. Some industries are traditionally safer than others, and while that’s subject to change, it can play a role in your decision to expand globally. You’ll want to look at what’s in demand in Canada for your industry compared to what’s in demand in the market you’re looking to enter. You’ll also want to determine how risky the market is you’re entering. Many Canadian companies are most comfortable first exporting to the US because it’s fairly similar to what you already know in terms of language, cultural norms, and similarity in tastes –– but you shouldn’t ignore the benefits of trade diversification. Finally, a financial analysis of your company’s strengths and weaknesses will help determine your appetite for risk. 

“When entering a new market, ensure that the opportunities you’re looking for are within the scope of your current business, that you can deliver on them, and perform to your highest ability.”

What should be considered when it comes to intelligent risk-taking?

The first step in intelligent risk-taking is to go into an exporting opportunity making sure you have the full picture. This is where your plan comes in. While companies often skip over the planning process, it’s a critical component. In creating your plan, you’ll be able to address what you need to know before entering a new market. These include: regulatory requirements, taxes, customs and tariffs, IP protection, due-diligence, and compliance. Having all of this in your plan means you’ll have a strategy to address these foundational items as you begin to take your company global.

How should a person set up their business to protect themselves? 

Many small businesses aren’t prepared for the risks their company may face during this growth process, which means they’re often caught off guard. There are steps you might want to take prior to exporting, like incorporating your business, rather than remaining a sole proprietorshipand there are benefits to both options. Beyond knowing your risks and preparing for them, companies may want to hire a risk manager. This individual will look at the market you’re expanding into to identify and monitor potential risks and use their expertise and market intelligence to guide internal decisions. You may also want to consider the costs and benefits of insuring your sales, to see if credit insurance makes sense for your business. 

At the end of the day, however, remember that not all risks can be planned for. The best advice I can provide is for companies to be open to experimenting. If you fail, fail fast, look back, make observations, learn from them and move forward, and adjust as you go. With the right tools, you can manage risks as they arise. Longer term, exporting can help lower business risk; a Deloitte study showed that companies who export are less risky because they’re more diversified, have a broader set of customers, and are better equipped to handle the ebbs and flows of economic upturns and downturns, leading to more resilient companies that stay in business longer.

What are some key factors to understanding distance/logistics and the use of resources?

When you’re dealing with a potential buyer or customer in a new market, there is a lot to be considered logistically. For example, who takes title of the product and when, who is responsible for delivering the product, who is responsible for placing products onto a boat or other form of transportation, and who is responsible for taking them off.  Reviewing Incoterms — a set of internationally recognized rules defining the responsibilities of sellers and buyers — would dictate who takes responsibility at what point. We also recommend hiring a freight forwarder as a small company exporting for the first time wouldn’t want to be stuck doing customs clearance or documentary clearance or dealing with other fees that may come up at the last minute. If you’re unsure of where to begin when looking for a trusted partner, EDC’s InList resource is a helpful tool companies can use when searching for a vetted list of providers. So, before you get into a new market, look closely at the supply chain as a whole. 

How do you research prospective business partners and build new relationships?

Once you’ve engaged with a prospective business partner, there are various ways to verify the business’ legitimacy before you go ahead and sign an agreement. The risk associated with this when you’re entering foreign markets is greater than when you’re dealing with domestic customers. This is a topic many companies don’t feel comfortable addressing because they don’t feel they have the contacts in those markets to conduct due-diligence. A good place to start is EDC Company InSight, which lets you search EDC data to discover insights about international companies — including buyers, suppliers, distributors, and potential partners. To dive deeper, the best resource you can use is the Trade Commissioner Service in a specific market. They will help you conduct due-diligence on a specific buyer or refer you to a local credit agency. They’ll also have best practices and other check-lists that will help you when working with a new partner for the first time.  

How can you plan to have sustainable growth in an exporting business?

When it comes to sustainable growth, the key is to not bite off more than you can chew. When  entering a new market, ensure that the opportunities you’re looking for are within the scope of your current business, that you can deliver on them, and perform to your highest ability. Do you have the backing to cover unexpected costs, longer payment cycles, and higher costs of sales? While ensuring you have the financial capital to pursue growth opportunities in new markets is key, don’t forget that having the right team of people in place is equally important. Make sure that you have sufficient support to operate the current business, so that you can pursue the growth opportunities in new markets, or alternatively, hire someone to focus on export market development. Taking all of this into consideration will help make sure the growth you’re approaching is sustainable. 

What is one way an export business can remain adaptable in an ever-changing market?

This is an important question, and the answer is to listen to your customers’ feedback. What works well in Canada may not work in a different market. So, after entering that market, take the time to step back and assess whether that solution is working there. You’ll want to determine how your reception is in the new market and whether there are customer comments or feedback you can incorporate into easy improvements. The most successful companies will be flexible and willing to make changes to their strategy as needed. It goes back to the advice I gave prior: if you’re going to fail, fail fast, and be agile to change and improve. 

Building your business in new markets starts with a new mindset.

Woman business owner

Have you ever asked yourself, am I ready to export? If the answer is always a ‘no’ — or you’re not even ready to consider the question of going global — you’re not alone. Only 11% of women-owned businesses in Canada are exporters.

The low participation can partially be attributed to the unique barriers that women entrepreneurs face when it comes to building a business — but there are factors you can control. And the first step is changing your mindset.

Here are four things to consider that just might change your view about taking your business international:

1. You’ve already got the mindset you need. 

After all that’s happened over the last year, it’s normal not to be feeling particularly confident or courageous. But take a moment and think back to your first step into entrepreneurship. Reflect on all the big obstacles you’ve overcome, the opportunities you’ve gone after, and the ups and downs of the daily grind in between. All of that took confidence and courage — the same mindset you need to find success abroad.  

2. You might be exporting already.

When you think about exporting, you probably picture a box being packaged and shipped around the world. That image misses all the service providers selling to an international market. Even when everything is done online, and you’re selling ideas, advice, or other intangible goods, you’re an exporter. The sooner you learn how to embrace the term, the better equipped you’ll be to manage exporting obstacles and to go after opportunities. 

3. Success isn’t about size you can export as a small business. 

Yes, large enterprises account for a lot of the goods and services leaving Canada, but if you look at the landscape as a whole, the majority of exporters employ less than 50 people, and three-quarters sell less than $1 million abroad each year. Small businesses and even micro-businesses (making under $1 million in revenue total) can find their exporting niche, and along with it, the benefits — which may include growth. Between 2009 and 2011, one out of every 10 exporters grew at an annual rate of more than 20%, and small- and medium-sized companies that export average more than double the annual revenue of non-exporting companies, according to a 2015 report by Industry Canada

4. You don’t have to go it alone.

Even if you’re feeling ready to export, or are dabbling in it already, you might have hit the  roadblock of figuring out how to do it well. The good news: you don’t have to waste resources finding those answers on your own. There are supports available for women entrepreneurs who are interested in starting or growing their exporting efforts. From resources like EDC’s Export Help Hub to programs like EDC’s Women in Trade, you can find expert knowledge, targeted advice, inspirational stories, and even financial solutions designed to help you meet your global potential.

“While attending a tradeshow in Toronto, a friend of mine suggested I go to the New York NOW Gift Show directly after the Toronto show was over. I was terrified at the prospect of going to a show in the USA as I knew nothing about export, but I went anyway. After that show, I realized the opportunities for export were greater than I imagined, because export markets are incredibly interested in Canadian made, shelf stable products.”

Dannah Davies
Founder, Sweetsmith Candy Co.

Dannah Davies Canada Sweet Shop

“My co-founder, Connie Lo, and I have always had high aspirations for Three Ships. From Day 1 we knew that exporting to the US in particular would be critical for us to grow the brand to a significant following. After going through the TAP [Trade Accelerator Program] two years ago, our eyes were truly opened to the possibilities and support that there is in Canada to export.”

Laura Burget
Co-Founder, Three Ships Beauty

Three Ships Beauty founders Connie and Laura