Eight entrepreneurs reveal the tech challenges they are tackling now — and how it will make their business better

Technology can have an impact on an organization’s success — and these eight entrepreneurs know it. As participants in the Cisco Women Entrepreneurs’ Circle, they’ve been paired with engineering interns with the goal of using technology to better their businesses. They’re sharing the challenges they’re solving with technology this year — could it help your company, too?




While looking for childcare for their first daughter, Irini Mikhael, an engineer for a global organization, and her husband Halim simply were not satisfied with the options available. So they opened Lullaboo — with the goal of providing top notch education and development to Canadian children, including their own.

Tech Challenge: Managing operations after growth
Since launching in Richmond Hill in 2008, Lullaboo has expanded to nine locations. They’re currently using a FileMaker solution to manage operations — but it’s time to develop their own custom app. Irini is in charge of IT software development (along with process strategy, new buildings, and other operation decisions), and is looking for a solution that can support further expansion.




Rebecca and Mandy Wolfe are the sister-duo behind Mandy’s. With seven branches across Montreal, the salad restaurant is known for their quality food and guest experience — as well as their charitable giving. They’ve found success not only through what they offer, but also by keeping operating costs low, and building out their backend technology and processes to maintain rapid but healthy growth.

Tech Challenge: Consolidating multiple systems
Mandy’s currently employs multiple small systems, and Rebecca and Mandy want to consolidate to better manage and optimize operations. They also recognize that they need support from a fresh, outside point of view to bring more efficiency to their backend.






Located in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Port of Stephenville is a fully operational seaport which works in tandem with Vinking, which includes an industrial estate with over 300 acres of land and 960 acres of sea-bottom currently in the process of development. Owned and managed by Theresa Keeping, she’s focusing the next five years on creating an aggregate mining facility, both shellfish and fin-fish aquaculture facilities, a cutting-edge compost facility, and alternative energy opportunities.

Tech Challenge: Integrating new lines of business
Given the future expansions planned and current port activities — which are anticipated to increase significantly in coming years — Theresa sees the need for an integrated management software platform which can automate, plan, and support on-going operations. Ensuring that all services and business threads are integrated is, and will be, a challenge for the Port.




Colette Cooper is co-owner and VP of Business and Operation of Renteknik, an energy efficiency engineering and consulting firm based in Burlington, Ontario.  The company is at the forefront of the energy industry, providing focused solutions that are cost effective, sustainable, and support North America’s mandate to reduce carbon emissions and promote energy and operational efficiency practices. The company’s current project: developing a real-time energy and operational efficiency monitoring software portal for HVAC, Make Up Air Units and Air Handling Units.

Tech Challenge: Developing a new tech product
The project involves the integration of different analytical platforms into a ‘watch dog’ type system that will allow for the identification of operational and energy issues within the various monitored building systems. By creating a new technology solution, their goal is to give visibility into business operations to achieve greater efficiency and cost savings for their clients.




Donna Enright opened her application development company to make a difference in the world. Based in Haliburton, Ontario, TechnicalitiesPlus has worked with many not-for-profits and innovative businesses to create web-based applications that help them support their clients and customers more efficiently. This year they are launching Assisted Cooking, an easy to use application delivering virtual support in meal preparation to people with cognitive challenges.

Tech Challenge: Making an online solution more accessible
Assisted Cooking is currently set up as a mobile responsive website, which can be problematic for universal functionality. Building a mobile app will provide more control over and consistency in the way the software functions on tablets, making it more accessible to the people who will benefit most from it.





Telelink was launched in 1965 as a traditional answering service in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Present Co-CEO’s Cindy Roma and Sydney Ryan have transformed it into a global leader in safety and emergency response monitoring with over 340 global customers. As their clients become more sophisticated, they are requesting social media monitoring services, a more omni-channel, connected experience, and monitoring of safety devices and platforms — which their current systems can’t handle.

Tech Challenge: Transitioning to a cloud-based client offering
With customers wanting more than just taking a message or relaying information, Cindy and Sydney know they need to evaluate new options in telephony and monitoring platforms. There are cloud-based systems available that offer a host of new services that they can provide to their customers, but it will take research to select the right platform, and transition systems.




Julie Mitchell says she likes to have a lot going on, which explains why she’s both a partner at Parcel Design, an integrated creative firm, and the owner of Torq Ride, an indoor cycling studio that hosts approximately 600 riders per week. While Torq and Parcel are both quite dependant on technology and have access to a lot of related data, they do not currently use it to their best advantage.

Tech Challenge: Making information accessible internally
Their main tech project for the summer is creating an intranet to make processes, policies, templates, and brand standards accessible to the team. As both Parcel and Torq expand, Julie thinks that this platform will have a huge impact on productivity and communications.






Since 2007, Yoga Tree Studios has grown from its first studio in Thornhill to five studios across the GTA, with a sixth opening soon. Yoga Tree offers over 2,000 yoga classes a month and an array of workshops and yoga teacher trainings. Debbie recognizes that the fitness industry is ever evolving and Yoga Tree is responding with innovative solutions — including integrating technology to optimize their digital and mobile presence to increase retention, communication with its clients, and increase brand awareness.  

Tech Challenge: Improving customer experience
Debbie’s focus is on the development and launch of a customized Chatbot, the design of a platform for online streamed classes, and a redesign of their website to be more responsive and intuitive to determine their customers’ fitness goals and align it with their suitable class options. Her goal: to elevate the digital experience of Yoga Tree students to a level that is ahead of industry practice.



The Cisco Women Entrepreneurs Circle — a program led by Cisco in partnership with the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) — addresses some of the obstacles women-led businesses face in building their tech capabilities. Are you a business owner? Fill in a short survey to register for free virtual training from the Cisco Networking Academy and fill in your knowledge gaps, or try the BDC digital maturity assessment tool to find out in less than 5 minutes where your business stands compared to your peers, and how you can improve.



Five Ways to Attract Younger Customers to Your Business


Today’s younger consumers shop differently than previous generations. Strategic in the way they purchase, they’re digitally savvy, socially conscious and increasingly affluent.


By Diane Amato




As a business owner, long-term success may depend upon your ability to attract a diverse customer base who will be around for years to come. Of particular interest to many business owners are young Canadians born between 1980-1994 (millennials) and those born 1995-2009 (Generation Z), but how can you attract younger Canadians to your business?

Learning more about what drives these groups, what inspires them, and what matters most in their lives may give you insights as to how to make your business appealing to them.

Here are five key characteristics of millennials and Generation Z, and five tips to make your business matter to them.


About Younger Canadians


You can’t paint them all with the same brush

While millennials and Generation Z have been characterized as passionate, resilient and inclusive, it’s important to remember that there is great variety within these groups.

There is a wide range in economic status, values, and ethnicity; in fact, according to research firm Environics, millennials and Generation Z make up the most ethnically diverse generations in Canadian history.


Character and community outweigh cost

According to a 2017 RBC poll, Canadians of all ages prefer to shop locally with 88 percent of the population say they will choose to support a local business when possible; however, younger shoppers say they would pay more for a product or service offered by a local business.

Additionally younger shoppers seek authenticity and a genuine connection with the businesses they are buying from. They wish to support companies that have a strong brand character, are community-minded, and care about the impact they have on their customers, suppliers and employees. In fact, 66 percent of Canadians 15-34 say they spend more on a product from a company with ethical values and a principled approach to their business operations.1


There is power in social

Younger consumers are heavy researchers and 1.5 times more likely than Baby Boomers to spend time researching purchases.3 During the exploratory stage, they draw on their social networks for reviews, recommendations and opinions. And if they support your business? Good news. They are quick to spread the word about a company they support, with 75 percent saying they would help promote a company they like on social media.2

You can also expect them to seek deeper connections with you through social media, as 60 percent of younger Canadians engage with businesses they support through social media1 — 20 percent more than any other age group.


“Part of growing up in a digital world means that younger Canadians expect businesses to provide new technologies, including emerging digital payment options like tap, chip & PIN and Apple Pay.”


Mobile matters

Millennials and Generation Z were born into a mobile world. As native digital generations, they rely on their smartphones and use them to make purchases, read reviews and connect with friends and family. In the last month, 78 percent of Canadians used their mobile devices for chat or instant messaging, 71 percent to watch videos and 37 percent to make a purchase.3


Digital payment options are important

Part of growing up in a digital world means that younger Canadians expect businesses to provide new technologies, including emerging digital payment options like tap, chip & PIN and Apple Pay.When it comes to paying for a product or service, 80 percent of millennials wish more of the businesses they shop at had tap to pay, and 60 percent wish more had mobile payment options.5


Five Ways to Attract Younger Canadians to Your Business


So how do you appeal to this diverse, enthusiastic, connected group of consumers? Here are five ways to capture their imagination, support and possibly their business.


1. Be authentic

Offer a genuine connection to your business. For instance, show them how your business is making a difference in the community — even if it’s in a small way. Are your products sourced and produced in a sustainable, socially conscious manner? Do you give back to your community or participate in local events? Telling your story about how you got started is also a great way to build interest and connection. It doesn’t have to be exciting — it just has to be real.


2. Support local businesses

Sourcing local products and supporting local suppliers may go a long way toward building rapport with these proudly-Canadian demographics. While not every aspect of your business needs to be locally supplied, making an effort to support your community, city and country — and showcasing these efforts — may appeal to both groups.


3. Offer emerging payment options

Even if your business is small, it’s important to stay current with technology to ensure it’s fast and easy for your customers to pay you. Investing in payment technology — such as contactless in-store terminals and streamlined online payment options — offer the choice and convenience younger shoppers are seeking. Stay current with technology to ensure the shopping experience is easy.


“Even if your business is small, it’s important to stay current with technology to ensure it’s fast and easy for your customers to pay you.”


4. Stay social

Social media is where you can tell your story, share reviews, promote events and post updates about what your business is doing. It’s also an invaluable forum for engaging with younger customers — acknowledge a positive review, have a conversation about a negative one, and demonstrate you’re willing to make things right if a customer had a poor experience.


5. Think mobile first

Younger Canadians use their smartphones in just about every aspect of their lives — from banking to connecting with friends, planning trips to buying stuff. Because they are so connected to their mobile devices, it’s critical that your business has a strong mobile presence including an easy-to-navigate mobile site, digestible mobile-friendly content and a simple mobile shopping experience. Use responsive web design that works across platforms, compelling images, videos and e-commerce to help your mobile site become engaging, functional and shareable.

Millennials aren’t all that different from the previous generation — but they do have some distinct characteristics, values and habits that Canadian businesses should recognize — and appeal to — if they want to win their business and their loyalty.



1. Nielsen, 2015

2. RBC poll, 2017

3. Facebook IQ

4. Apple Pay is a trademark of Apple Inc., registered in the US and other countries.

5. RBC poll, 2017



Meet Dr. Catherine Chandler-Crichlow, a human capital expert and immigration champion

Dr. Catherine Chandler-Crichlow is the President & Chief Human Capital Officer of 3C Workforce Solutions. With close to 30 years of experience in human capital research and development, she has worked on a range of initiatives that span private, public and voluntary institutions in Canada, Central Europe, Latin America, South-East Asia and the Caribbean. An active volunteer, Dr. Chandler-Crichlow is Board Chair at Toronto Region Immigration and Employment Council (TRIEC) and also participated in the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship & Immigration’s Expert Advisory Panel, which led to the province’s first-ever immigration strategy that was introduced in 2012.





My first job ever was… As a high school teacher of science, chemistry and mathematics in Trinidad and Tobago.


I chose my career path because… I have a passion for human capital development. I love developing and helping others – both at an individual and corporate level – to achieve their full potential, whether this is in the area of education like math or science, or in areas of self-development and soft skills like in communications, negotiations, or problem-solving.


My proudest accomplishment is… The strong network professional leaders that I have developed internationally throughout my career in government, corporate and the non-for-profit sector.


My boldest move to date was… Taking the step to become an independent consultant and have my own practice. This has allowed me to pursue a range of initiatives including meeting amazing leaders in the human capital industry, academia, and government and the non-for-profit sector.


I surprise people when I tell them… I am an ardent sports aficionado! I love cricket, soccer, basketball, skiing, and Formula One! In fact, my favourite team is Arsenal F.C. in the English Premier League. I have their swag and have attended many of their games in London.


My best advice to people starting their career is… To focus on integrating their passion into their career and make an effort to not box themselves in to pre-defined roles. It’s easy for one to define their life by their occupation. But I say discover your passions, strengths, and expertise and start from there.


“It’s easy for one to define their life by their occupation. But I say discover your passions, strengths, and expertise and start from there.”


My best advice from a mentor was… To create a groundswell if I want to implement sustainable change within a corporate culture. And to create this groundswell, you have to immerse and learn their culture first.


I would tell my 20-year old self… To enjoy every single opportunity you get. Regardless of how bizarre it may seem, enjoy learning from them all! And I would also say, be present in each moment and learn wherever you are.


My biggest setback was… I would not call this a setback, but rather a hurdle: I was living in Trinidad and Tobago and really wanted to study and do a particular masters degree program at Harvard University, but the international student fees were very high. I had absolutely no idea how I would be able to pursue that dream.


I overcame it by… Doing two things: first, I created a vision of myself attending Harvard. Just being there. And second, I created a critical path of actions that I could take to make that vision a reality. I did extensive research in the library to learn about all the international scholarships available to foreign students that I would qualify for. I applied for and received a fellowship from the Organisation of American States and that’s how I was able to attend Harvard University. Again, you have to envision yourself achieving your dreams, create a plan and never doubt yourself.


Work/life balance is… An essential aspect of building a successful career, exploring personal goals, and having a strong family base.


I stay inspired by… Remembering that there is always an opportunity to learn from others and pay it forward at a community level.


The future excites me because… I see the energy, spark, and brilliance in the youth I meet from walks of life. What a tremendous opportunity to help build the leaders of tomorrow.


My next step is… To continue to find avenues in which I can contribute to strengthening the skills, competencies, and capabilities of youth and immigrants, especially with my work as board chair at the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC).

Eight simple steps to starting a remote e-commerce business


by Robin Behrstock



The flexibility that comes from being self-employed is undeniable. Add to that the freedom to work from wherever you choose (including your bed) and it comes as no surprise that more and more people — especially women — are foregoing the typical office environment for the comfort and adaptability of remote work. E-commerce is one of the most common industries to find remote working opportunities. Here are a few tips to help you get your own venture started.


Determine your product line

Most successful ecommerce businesses offer a full line of products. So if you have a great idea for a new product, think about how you can expand and offer a variety of options or complimentary items. Once you have your first few products in mind, research the competition. Are there many other websites with the same products? Do you have a unique selling proposition that offers a higher value? Why should people choose you over everyone else?


Set up manufacturing

Will you manufacture the products yourself? This is a good way to start, but it will limit your long term production capacity, so I encourage you to find a manufacturing solution that allows for growth. You can find a factory that makes similar products and hire them to make yours. Or import products from another country by working with a factory or trading company. You can find factories around the world at Alibaba.com. If importing, you’ll need to hire a shipping company and customs broker who will help you get the products across borders and determine the import duties you’ll be required to pay.


Warehousing and fulfillment

If you’re just getting started, your sales volume may be low, so you can warehouse the products yourself and ship each order. However, when dealing with larger quantities, you should hire a 3PL (Third Party Logistics) warehouse to handle the warehousing and fulfillment logistics. You will need to properly identify each item with a SKU and UPC code. Amazon has its own network of warehouses and can handle your warehousing and fulfillment at a low cost. If you use Amazon’s warehouses through their FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) program, your products will be eligible for “Prime” shipping and will have better sales results versus products that are fulfilled by you, the seller. Some ecommerce businesses choose to own and operate their own warehouse, but that can skyrocket your overhead costs and will prevent your business from being location-independent.


Build your sales channels

Now that you have products, warehousing and fulfillment set up, it’s time to sell! You can sell on marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy, Jet, etc., or launch your own ecommerce website. Nowadays, building an ecommerce website is easy with companies like Shopify. Templates are available with step-by-step instructions to build your product listings, accept credit card payments, and even integrate with shipping software.


Customer service

Since there’s no face-to-face interaction like there is at your local gift shop, customer service emails are extremely important in e-commerce. You need to answer customer service emails quickly and effectively. Set up procedures for returning products to your 3PL warehouse, or to a different location where they can be evaluated and possibly resold as an “imperfect” item on eBay.



After your products are available for sale online, you need to help people find them. Determine your target keywords for each product and incorporate those words as many times as possible on your website and in your Search Engine marketing campaigns. Set up social media accounts to publicize new products and promotions and engage with customers. Follow users who follow similar companies and they will likely be interested in your products as well. Use popular and relevant hashtags to help increase the reach of your posts. Lastly, collect email addresses and build email marketing campaigns with a program like Mailchimp or Constant Contact.


Trial and error

Building a business takes trial and error. You must take risks and try new things to grow. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. You can learn along the way or ask other experts to help. Ask your accountant to help you measure the profitability of new products and marketing campaigns so you can expand upon the successful ones and retract on the poor performers. Establish KPI (Key Performance Indicators) and monitor on a weekly or monthly basis. Set goals, remind yourself about them, and celebrate when you reach them. Continue improving and growing your business by expanding the product line, sales channels and marketing efforts. Listen to your customers and create new products based on what you hear from them.


Embrace the freedom of location independence

Building, growing and operating this type of e-commerce business can be done from anywhere! So feel free to hit the road and work from coffee shops or wherever you can find reliable wifi. Work hard, be nice, and enjoy life!



Robin Behrstock, author of ADVENTURES OF WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS: Stories That Inspire, started Alchemade, a copper mug business, just as they became a popular trend. In less than three years, she grew the business to annual sales of $3 million. Behrstock is currently a partner in Radius Partnership, a consulting firm focused on working with small businesses. For more information please visit www.AWEbook.com.




Twelve Entrepreneurs Confess: How will technology be changing their business for the better?

These 12 women entrepreneurs agree: technology has the power to change a business. As participants in the Cisco Circle of Innovation program, they’ve been paired with engineering interns to help build their organization’s digital strategy, scale, and impact in the marketplace. They’re sharing how their business will be getting better through technology this year — could it help your company, too?



Lara Autio, Experience

Lara Autio is the President (and owner) of Experience, an IT staffing solution company specializing in staff augmentation for time and material contracts and IT Project Staffing. Her company services the North American market from their IT Center of Excellence in Montreal a technology hub specializing in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. Her website is ready for a refresh, so she plans to focus on digital marketing design and development.




Lise Snelgrove, This Space Works

Lise Snelgrove left her role as a marketing director in the telecommunications sector to pursue her business idea full time: giving innovative brands a simple way to transform their beautiful meeting rooms into powerful marketing tools. As co-founder and CEO of This Space Works, Lise places a strong emphasis on technology and innovation. Her plan is to implement a virtual assistant who will connect business clients who need meeting space with the beautiful offices of synergistic companies, creating a unique way to discover and connect with innovative brands around the world.




Tiffany Clark, Elements Mortgage Team

Tiffany Clark has worked in the finance industry for more than 14 years, entering the mortgage broker network in 2009. She now leads the Elements Mortgage Team under the banner of The Mortgage Group (TMG), helping homeowners in Grande Prairie, Alberta with their finances based on their unique needs. To help continue to grow her business, Tiffanywants to share her brand messaging through social media and search engine optimization.





Chantal Levesque, SHAN

Chantal Levesque founded SHAN in 1985 — a company that specializes in haute couture bathing suits, leisure wear, and accessories for both men and women. As president and designer, Chantal Levesque has been instrumental in transitioning SHAN from a promising company based out of Laval, Quebec, to a renowned luxury brand available in over 30 countries. With such impressive growth, SHAN is investing in a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, integrating an online platform and digital archiving.





Heather Stewart, BBE Expediting Ltd.

BBE Expediting Ltd. has been moving cargo into remote areas of Northern Canada for four decades. Under the leadership of Heather Stewart — president since 2011 — the logistics company has been reorganized and restructured, increasing their skills and knowledge of best practices of supply change management. Providing freight services to the mining, airline, oil & gas and construction industries, Heather understands that she can get a competitive advantage by staying on the leading edge. Her goal is to integrate the GoBox technology platform into BBE’s shipping services.




Rhonda Hewko, Elkan Environmental Engineering 

Rhonda Hewko is the president and owner of Elkan Environmental Engineering, based out of Grande Prairie, Alberta. She has nearly two decades of experiences as an environmental consultant and engineer, and the consulting company she founded has been providing environmental and wastewater engineering services in Western Canada since 2010. Rhonda is looking for new solutions for her company’s network.





Nicole Smith, Flytographer

Nicole Smith’s entrepreneurial inspiration came while she was on vacation with her family. She went on to create Flytographer, the first global marketplace connecting travellers with local photographers for fun, candid vacation shoots. The venture has been successful: as founder and CEO, Nicole has built a community of hundreds of local photographers in 200 destinations around the world. She’s looking to continue the growth with website development, including enhanced features for Flytographer’s booking application.




Allison Christilaw, Reddin Global Inc.

Allison Christilaw has more than 25 years of entrepreneurial experience. After selling the
management consulting company she was a partner in to one of the Big 4 firms, Allison once again took on a leadership role as CEO of Reddin Global Inc., home of The Emerson Suite — a technology platform offering a complete suite of mobile management tools for leader-managers to accelerate the performance of their teams. Integration with Microsoft and other business platforms is the next development focus, with the aim of enabling teams to work seamlessly.




Erifili Morfidis, iRestify

Recognizing that the cleaning industry was trailing behind many other industries in technological advancement, Erifili Morfidis co-founded iRestify, an online platform that provides an easy way to book and manage a trusted and insured cleaning service. By integrating advanced workforce management and logistics tools, the company has modernized the way in which commercial and residential customers hire cleaning experts, and made the market more efficient. Erifili plans to continue web development to improve their platform and their reach.




Debra Van Dyke, Frilly Lilly

In 2005, Debra Van Dyke opened the first Frilly Lilly boutique in Alberta, specializing in waxing, manicure and pedicure services, along with the distribution of signature bath and body care products. With the support of her children, Jeremy and Lisa, Debra has grown her business to include several locations, with products in stores across Canada. Debra’s biggest focus for 2018 is to establish a competitive advantage by leveraging technology. This includes revamping their website and  implementing an SEO strategy, streamlining computer and device management for all locations, and implementing a chat system for customer service — all while ensuring there are strict security and privacy protocols for employees and customers.




Martha van Berkel, Schema App

Martha van Berkel is a co-founder and CEO at Schema App. Schema App is a software as a service that translates content at scale to be understood by search engines and voice search resulting in increases in organic traffic and higher quality leads from their website. Prior to starting the business, Martha worked at Cisco for 14 years as a senior manager responsible for Cisco’s online support strategy. She leverages her experience at Cisco to partner with digital marketers at Enterprise and Global Digital Marketing Agencies to translate their brand at scale for machines. During this co-op,  Martha is looking to introduce more automation to scale and mature her operations and marketing.  




Lisa Will, Stonz Wear

It was Lisa Will’s own experience as an outdoorsy mom that inspired her to create Stonz Wear, a Vancouver company making high quality baby and kids’ footwear and apparel giving parents more time outdoors with their kids. Launching with the Stonz Bootie, the brand now offers a broad range of functional, innovative, and stylish products for all seasons — sold in over 500 stores and in over 16 countries. Stonz is already using technology to create its products, track their progress, market, engage with customers, understand their needs, ship and track product, and better service and surprise customers once they’ve purchased. Lisa’s goal is to continue to embrace technology whenever she can — it’s helping Stonz achieve its goal more quickly of being the go-to outwear for kids and baby.





The Cisco Women Entrepreneurs Circle addresses some of the obstacles women-led businesses face in building their tech capabilities. In partnership with organizations including the Business Development Bank of Canada, Cisco is connecting women to the expertise and knowledge needed for their entrepreneurial ventures to thrive. Are you a business owner? Fill in a short survey to register for free virtual training from the Cisco Networking Academy, and kickstart your journey towards business success.



What are the critical “future skills” for executives?


by Jennifer Reynolds


“Skills of the future” is a topic that is starting to dominate talent discussions today. Technology is rapidly shifting the landscape in all industries, and as a result, continuously changing the skill sets that are in high demand. The question professionals today need to ask themselves is: how do I ensure that I am developing skill sets which have longevity in the workplace? And employers need to consider: how do we attract and retain a talent pool with those skills of the future?

A recent Toronto Financial Services Alliance study done in partnership with PwC looked at how roles and skills will change in the financial services industry across key functional areas, including customer service and sales, product development, technology, operations and controls. In the context of automation, big data, and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain, the study sought to identify the skills people working in the
industry will require to harness the value of these technologies.

The study identified four key skills of the future:


1. Human Experience Skills

Emotional intelligence, empathy, communications, and influencing skills will be critical to allow individuals to meet increasingly high expectations of customers and employees when it comes to the value they demand in their interactions with organizations.


2. Re-imagination Skills

Curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, and business acumen will help individuals reimagine the future and develop new solutions to meaningful business problems that have commercial value.


3. Pivoting Skills

The willingness to change, the capacity to learn and adopt new skills quickly, and the ability to lead people through change and build resilience will help people adapt in an environment of volatility and uncertainty.


4. Future Currency Skills

Developing and staying current on key technical skills will be a baseline requirement for people as the digital and information age continues to evolve. Holding key technical skills will be critical for employees; however, those in-demand skills will evolve and shift, so employees and employers will need to proactively build new pools of expertise.


To support this more agile, innovative and skilled workforce, talent management will need to take on a more integral role in the strategic planning process and in the performance evaluations of leaders and managers at all levels in the organization. A greater focus on anticipating the new skill sets that will be required and on developing strategies to attract and retain that talent will be key competitive drivers for organizations. Hiring for core skills which can adapt to new job descriptions and adopt new competencies will provide a stronger talent pool with lower friction costs. Retraining and regular education will need to be a principal element in any successful talent strategy.

Undoubtedly, all this will mean managers and leaders will spend considerably more time managing and developing talent. As the investment in the talent pool increases, attracting and retaining that talent will be increasingly important to organizations.


“Academia and the private sector will need to work together to ensure Canadian post-secondary institutions are equipping students with skills that are relevant and in-demand.”


To facilitate the evolution and development of the skill sets required for the future, academia and the private sector will need to work together to ensure Canadian post-secondary institutions are equipping students with skills that are relevant and in-demand. A critical role that the private sector can play will be to create more work-integrated learning experiences for students. These practical work experiences will allow students to graduate with more sophisticated and well-rounded skill sets and enable them to transition into careers more effectively. The financial services industry is increasingly recognizing the value of these programs for students and is creating a growing number of co-op and internship opportunities, both through independent programs and as part of collective initiatives like ASPIRE, a TFSA-led sector-wide work-integrated learning program. Reaching students earlier ensures organizations can help equip the future workforce with the skills our economy requires, not to mention it allows those organizations to define the value proposition its organization can provide to new graduates.

Organizations will need to prioritize bench strengths like people development and coaching skills much more highly than in the past. Rapid change and continuous re-skilling will challenge both employees and managers, but if successfully navigated, can be a defining element of success. Today, more than ever, strong talent management will be a key competitive advantage for senior executives and their organizations.



Jennifer Reynolds is the President & CEO at Toronto Financial Services Alliance. Her 20 year career in the financial services industry has included senior roles in investment banking, venture capital, and global risk management. Prior to joining TFSA, Jennifer was the President & CEO of Women in Capital Markets (WCM), Canada’s largest industry association and advocacy group for women in the financial sector.




How to start making more money as an entrepreneur



If you’re an entrepreneur, the question of how to make more money is one you probably ask yourself every week. It’s common, and I highly suggest this type of self-talk, because it means that you’re on route to helping more people and growing your business as a result. The problem is, most entrepreneurs get lost trying to “do” and “be” everything at once in order to increase their revenue, which is unsustainable. Instead, here are some actionable strategies for you to make more money as an entrepreneur — without burning out.


By Shaylene Cameron



Know your numbers
The goal of running your own business is to create a life you love and profit while doing it. This starts with being clear on the cost of operating your business. Consider your basic overhead: office rent, internet, phone, website, online platforms, conferences, payroll, etc. Also factor in other, more variable expenses, such as education, personal coaching, advertising etc.


Be clear on what you do
Have you ever asked an entrepreneur what they do for a living and their response takes three minutes to explain? We always want to avoid confusing a potential client when talking about our business. So let’s create a clear elevator pitch to talk about what it is that you do.

Here’s a short template I use with some clients:

I help____(your niche) who wrestle/struggle with ______(niche’s problem) have ______(desired solution) and (desired solution).

Here’s an example:

I help female entrepreneurs who struggle with enrolling clients have 10k months and still time for themselves.


Treat yourself like an employee
This is huge! I want you to start viewing yourself as an employee in your own company. Imagine you work for a CEO and she asks you to finish a deadline by 6:00 pm. What do you do? Finish that deadline! Hold yourself to the same expectations you would any other employee or contractor.


Schedule “me” time
Scheduling alone time is the most powerful thing you can do for your business. The top 1% of high-performers place as much emphasis on their personal life as they do on their business.
Take time to grab a cup of tea, snuggle up with a book, call a friend, take a trip. I suggest scheduling (yes, scheduling) something for yourself once a week to nurture your soul. This is where creativity flows and financial attitudes shift.


Train your mind for positivity
Entrepreneurs have a higher risk-threshold than most. We’ve got the tendency to jump and open the parachute on the way down. Given this nature, you’ll likely have more mental and emotional ‘ups and downs’ than someone in a 9-5 role. So, creating a sense and feeling of mental/emotional security is vital to long-term gain. A simple strategy you can use: choose an affirmation that is positive and about you and say it as often as possible.

Some simple affirmations could be:

I approve of myself, I’m an amazing money manager, I always pay myself first, Money flows to me easily.


Develop a referral system
Most people think getting a referral is the product of luck or chance. But, you can create an organized referral system and make it a win-win for everyone.

First steps to set up a referral program:
1) Create an agreement with specific guidelines on what your role is and what the referrer’s role is. Be sure to see legal representation to ensure you have everything you need.
2) Established some sort of value-exchange. For example, if you get a client, they receive coaching or money in return.


Joint Venture Partners
Partnerships with people in similar industries to you are going to be your biggest asset. When you’re searching for partners, think “community” instead of competition. Joining forces and resources is a powerful way to leverage your business.

Start with these steps:

1) Make a list of and research 10 potential partners that you’d like to partner with

2) Contact them and share your interest in becoming a joint venture partner. Be sure to mention why you think you’re a good match.

3) Arrange a date to speak and schedule it in your calendar.


Use these tools as the foundation of your business before adding any more work to your to-do list.



Shaylene Cameron is the CEO and Founder at Shaylene Cameron Mentoring. After driving over $1 million in B2C sales, managing a team of 12, and teaching everything from prospecting to client sales, Shaylene quit at the top of her game. Now, she helps coaches and service-based entrepreneurs have a positive impact AND create more wealth in their businesses. You can reach her at shaylene@shaylenecameron.com.






Good Question: How can I create a strong relationship with a potential sponsor?

Christine Laperriere

Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.



Q: I have been invited into a “coffee talk” with my boss’ boss. I know it’s a great opportunity for future sponsorship, but I’m not sure how to take advantage of it. This isn’t part of any sort of formal program, just a casual invite without a specific agenda. How can I create a positive impact in this conversation and start a strong relationship with a potential sponsor?


Even though it’s just a chat over coffee, this is definitely a meeting you should be preparing for. Many highly talented professionals get invited into these casual skip-level meetings, but they often don’t think through a strategy to leverage this opportunity to build a stronger relationship — and potentially create a sponsor. Follow these tips to get yourself prepared and make a positive impression.


1. Be intentional.

Set a clear intention for this conversation and how you’d like this person to feel after the conversation. An example might be: “I want Jane to feel that I admire her work within the organization, and I want her to know my strengths so she considers me for new opportunities in the future.”


2. Show your admiration.

Everyone appreciates being valued and recognized, even top executives in your organization. If there is an aspect of this executive’s work that you admire, it never hurts to share this as you get to know them better. Show them that you don’t just respect them for their title but more for the great work and leadership they bring to the organization.


3. Question their views.

Take the opportunity to ask them to share their perspective about how they see various business issues, projects or opportunities. Given their role in the organization, they often have a different perspective and vantage point. By being curious about their perspective, you can learn a lot about a leader. The more you know about how they view things, the more value you can bring to your relationship with them.


4. Share your personal brand.

Be sure to think through a quick sound bite that highlights a few recent accomplishments you are proud of or a few unique strengths you bring to the team. Remember that your work alone can’t actually speak for itself, so you’ll need to help highlight these accomplishments and your strengths in an authentic way.


5. Invite them to walk in your shoes.

Once you’ve shared your personal brand, it’s a powerful question to ask your potential sponsor what opportunities they would be thinking about if they were in your shoes. There is specific magic in this question as it encourages that executive to really comprehend the strengths and highlights you’ve shared, and connect those to future opportunities they see in the organization. The best part is, if you position this as a question, it encourages them to do the thinking — making them more likely to remember your conversation moving forward.


6. Think “mutually beneficial.”

The best relationships in business and in life are beneficial for both parties involved. Many times, professionals assume that executives have everything they need or they only focus on what’s in the relationship that could benefit them personally. Asking this potential sponsor what you could do to help them demonstrates that you aren’t looking to build a one-sided relationship for your own benefit alone, but that you are also looking out for their interests as well. This simple step will help you build the respect and trust that will act as the foundation for a long-term strong working relationship.


7. Send a mindful follow up.

After your coffee, follow up with an email that specifically points out why you appreciated the conversation, including the insights and suggestions you found valuable. Watch for future opportunities to connect, and if you’re unsure when or how to approach them — each sponsor and each situation is different — this could be a good conversation to have with a mentor or trusted colleague.



What’s the difference between a mentor and a sponsor?

It is often said that a mentor talks with you, and a sponsor talks about you. What does that mean? While a mentoring relationship focuses on discussion, advice, and guidance, a sponsor actively connects you to career opportunities. You may not even know that an individual is your sponsor — but that doesn’t stop them from suggesting your name when a stretch assignment or promotion comes up. That’s why it’s so important to take advantage of “casual coffees” that enable you to cultivate these valuable relationships. It can have a major impact on how quickly you are able to move up in your career.



To learn more about how you or your organization can advance talented female professionals and leaders more effectively, contact Christine directly at claperriere@womenofinlfuence.ca.


Five significant (and possibly surprising) ways that technology can help your business



Technology is already the heart of your business — and of all businesses. Its infrastructure houses your data and provides access to email, the Internet, and applications. Are you taking advantage of all that it can do for your company?


By Marie Moore



In a BDC study of Canadian entrepreneurs’ investment intentions, technology — including computer hardware, software, and e‑commerce — was cited as the number one area for planned investment in 2017. So, if you are like the majority of business owners in this country, you already recognize technology’s importance. The question is, are you taking full advantage of the ways it can help your business succeed?

Consider the following five areas where technology can make an impact:


1. Attracting and retaining talent

If retaining high-performing employees is a priority for your business, it’s time to recognize how much technology can play into employee satisfaction. Consider the frustration caused by using slow, outdated devices, or the gratification and success that comes from having the right equipment to perform their job — in the way they want to perform it. Technology is key to employee morale.  

Especially as the labour force includes more millennials — who value flexibility even more than compensation — the way your employees prefer to work and communicate is shifting, as is their use of and attitudes toward technology. The expectation is that the tech they use for their job will be as intuitive and always-available as their personal devices, enabling simple and seamless access from anywhere. And if you have a multi-generational staff, your business needs to cater to these different work styles and cultures, or risk losing talent to competitors.

TIP: Security and secure access are the most important elements to consider when employees work off-site, and if you haven’t invested in products like Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFWs), an enterprise mobility management solution, or cybersecurity software, you could be putting your data — and your customer’s data — at risk.


2. Taking advantage of sales opportunities

There are inevitably times when your employees come into the office and printer X or server Y isn’t working. If it happens often, it means you’ve purchased an inferior product, or you’ve exceeded the capabilities of your current solution. How can your employees serve customers if they don’t know whether they will be able to use their phone that day or access email?

Even if your organization isn’t missing out on sales through lost productivity caused by aging or inferior technology, there may still be opportunities for upgrades or additions that can lead to actual, quantifiable sales. Consider the benefits of providing instant and intimate connectivity to customers, regardless of their location, using video conferencing, or the advantage of a timely response, enabled by giving your employees access to email and important documents wherever, whenever.

TIP: There’s no reason for your business to miss these opportunities when reliable, secure collaboration and networking products are available at a reasonable cost — and made more so with financing options.


3. Tapping into valuable customer data

Have you ever connected your phone to a store’s free Wi-Fi before? Every time you log in — or simply walk by another location — there is a connection made with their server that allows each location to understand internal traffic, street traffic, demographics, popular times, and more. This allows management to proactively staff for the busiest periods, push deals and samples when there is high foot traffic, and decipher what amount of goods they need at each location.  

As more and more devices connect, companies have the potential to collect tons of data that can transform their current business practices and create new opportunities. However, as the name suggests, “big data” can be daunting — and the struggle lies not only in how to best access it, but also in how to use it.

The best place to start is to consider how your business operates, and how you interact with your customers. Are you a retail company with inventory? Do you have a physical location or are you using e-commerce? You could be collecting data on in-store or online orders (or both). You could also be tracking a product’s popularity by region, for example, to understand purchasing trends and enable proper inventory management. Offering Wi-Fi to your own customers enables marketing push notifications for promotions and insight, plus data collection on volume, popular times, and popular locations. The better you can predict, the better and more profitable your business can be.

TIP: It’s technically possible to collect data from every connected device, piece of equipment, and asset — but you don’t have to jump in all at once.


4. Managing and making the most of growth

As your business starts growing, you’ll find a host of new opportunities become available — as well as a new set of challenges. Technology, when employed smartly, can help turn more of these nice-to-have problems into major wins.

Expansion could require outfitting a larger office, or balancing an increasingly remote workforce. The key is to evaluate your current space and the ways people interact and work within it, so you can make informed changes for the future. Business growth can also lead to supply chain and sales complexity. You may have started out dealing with a handful of suppliers or a predictable group of customers, only to enter a logistics nightmare as orders increase. When you can no longer rely on eyeballing inventory, it’s time to employ a technology solution.

TIP: As you are making plans for your company’s growth, consider how technology will play a role in that vision. That way, when upgrading your technology products, you can make sure you are addressing the needs that exist today — and the changing needs of tomorrow.


5. Keeping you in business

Businesses are rapidly becoming more digital — think about how you hail a ride, book a trip, and the bank account you carry in your pocket — and customer demands for seamless, immediate service are increasing. This is why you should be thinking about digital transformation — applying technology within your organization to deliver more profitable revenue, greater competitive advantage, and higher efficiency – even if you aren’t in the tech industry.

According to Gartner, 75 per cent of businesses will be digital businesses, or will prepare to become digital businesses, by 2020 — but digital transformation will not look the same for each one. What is most important is that you identify the areas within your organization that will most benefit from new technologies, and begin there. These projects will reap you the most success, and provide valuable learnings for subsequent initiatives.

TIP: The best place to begin your digital transformation is with your IT network. Digital transformation is all about using technologies that rely on connectivity — sensors, software, devices, and equipment — to make your business operate faster, simpler, and better than before. Those technologies cannot do what they are meant to do if your IT network can’t handle the data traveling across it.


The Cisco Women Entrepreneurs Circle addresses some of the obstacles female-led businesses face in building their tech capabilities. In partnership with organizations including the Business Development Bank of Canada, Cisco is connecting women to the expertise and knowledge needed for their entrepreneurial ventures to thrive. Are you a business owner? Fill in a short survey to register for the free virtual training from the Cisco Networking Academy, and kickstart your journey towards business success.



The Sponsor Effect

The Sponsor Effect

Did you know that sponsorship has a direct impact on women’s belief that they can reach the c-suite level? No matter what stage you’re at in your career, sponsorship is mutually beneficial. Find out how.

Meet Phoebe Yong, a Risk-Taking Communications Entrepreneur with More than a Thing for Sports

With over 20 years of industry experience in B2B marketing and a degree in Communications and an MBA in Marketing, Phoebe Yong, Principal and Founder at Magnolia Marketing Communications has led marketing campaigns with some of the biggest brands in the world, including Dell, HP, and Microsoft. She’s known in the industry for her tenacity, work ethic and passion, and in her day to day life? For being one of the Dallas Cowboy’s biggest fans.



My first job ever was… When I was 17 years old and I was the cashier at Woolco (now Walmart). I always loved playing with toy cash registers when I was a kid, so at the time, that was my dream job.


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted the flexibility to create my own schedule. Having 2 and 4 year olds in the family, I wanted a schedule that could accommodate a young family lifestyle. Second, my passion is being creative. As an entrepreneur, I would have the opportunity to create stories, ideas, and campaigns and explore never ending possibilities with my creativity.


My proudest accomplishment is… My children and family life that I’ve created with my husband are my personal pride and joy.  Related to work, it would be building a business that’s successfully sustained itself in a highly competitive and crowded space. Every day I get to go to work and love what I do.


My boldest move to date was… Early in my career, I left a comfortable government position to join a high-technology company to start a new career in marketing. I gained the necessary experience in sales and marketing to get a job of a lifetime in a leading-edge company specializing in wireless data.


I surprise people when I tell them… I’m a sports fanatic. A dream day is being at a Vegas hotel and betting on sports book in the NFL.


My best advice to people starting out in business is… Develop a passion to never give up and be obsessive about creating the right customer experience. There will be hard days to go along with the good days. Also, get a really good accountant to help you plan cash flow, taxes and keeping your books up to date. I learned the hard way and paid the price for not having good bookkeeping when I started my business.


My best advice from a mentor was… Have clarity in what you want to achieve. Be as clear as you can on what type of customers you want, what you want to offer them and what markets you want to serve. Having clarity will serve you and your team well.


Mentorship matters because… It’s a wonderful way to pass on your experience to another person. To give them advice that that they might not have otherwise known and help them immediately. I can’t imagine my career without my mentors.

Work/life balance is… Hard to achieve. When you have your own business, it’s hard to turn things off. I try my best to find time for my women friends who fill my soul with stories of similar challenges and opportunities. Journaling also helps me reflect and keep life into perspective. Golfing with my husband allows us to laugh at life and being parents.


“I try my best to find time for my women friends who fill my soul”


I love my job because… It fills me with pride and joy when I get to work with an amazing group of talented women, and we do amazing work for our great clients. Mostly, I love my job because every day I get to do what I love – be creative in telling people’s stories.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That my dream job would be working for the Dallas Cowboys marketing team. Or that I drove on the Charlotte Motor Speedway (NASCAR racetrack).


I stay inspired by… The pace of today’s technology and society’s insatiable need for the best and coolest thing. The yearning for excellence at a breakneck speed creates societies with boundless opportunities. I get inspired by Elon Musk, Sergey Brin and Larry Page in their pursuit of new frontiers.


The future excites me because… I work with many millennials and I appreciate their longing for humanity, community and yet there is a strong appreciation for self-worth. This makes for a future generation with self-confidence to make a difference.


My next step is… To shoot a round of golf under 85, and if I’m lucky, to continue to build a sustainable business where I  help influence the young talents that have the drive to move the goal post every day and make a difference.



Do you know a successful female entrepreneur who deserves recognition? Nominate her for the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards!


Meet Marni Johnson, a Passionate HR Guru with an Unconventional Path

With experience in several industries and over 25 years in financial services, Marni Johnson provides overall leadership and strategic direction in the areas of human resources and corporate and internal communications at BlueShore Financial. Her passion for human resources developed after a bold career switch, and since then she has fully embraced her role, becoming a Trustee of the BC Credit Union Employees’ Pension and Benefits plans, and serving on the boards of the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources of British Columbia and Yukon. With a background in math and marketing, Marni is the perfect example of what a woman can achieve when she realizes that boundaries are in fact merely suggestions, and forges her own path. 



My first job out of school…At a financial institution in Toronto in a back office role. In my role I identified a gap in processes, which I raised to my manager. It was dismissed. I decided to trust my instinct and explored this further to realize that in fact there was a gap, which had financial implications for the company. I learned a very valuable lesson from this first job and that is to trust your instincts even if you are a junior in your role. Each person can bring a great deal of value to the table no matter their place in the org chart.


I decided to enter the world of HR because…I was given an incredible opportunity for a career change from marketing to HR by the CEO of BlueShore Financial (back then the name was North Shore Credit Union). She offered me the role of VP HR because she believed I had the right leadership attributes and could learn the technical aspects of HR. The switch was the best career decision I ever made.  


“Trust your instincts even if you are a junior in your role. Each person can bring a great deal of value to the table no matter their place in the org chart.”


My proudest accomplishment is…Having worked with my teams to create and maintain a very positive culture and a great place to work that is client-focused, results-driven and nurtures diversity and inclusiveness, since research shows a clear link between a strong culture and organizational business performance.


My boldest move to date was…Making a career change from Marketing to HR at the executive level. I faced some skepticism because my formal experience was not in the HR function. I persevered, achieved my CPHR designation, and over time established my credibility as an HR leader. I learned a lot about empowering and trusting my team, as they had more technical expertise than I did. I believe as women, we need to allow ourselves to reach for stretch goals and pursue them with confidence in our abilities to learn and grow.


I surprise people when I tell them…That I have an undergraduate degree in math, because often they don’t see that math and HR go together. To be successful in HR, you need to understand and be able to speak the language of business, which is usually numbers and money. Having strong math skills has been an enormous benefit throughout my career.


“As women, we need to allow ourselves to reach for stretch goals and pursue them with confidence in our abilities to learn and grow.”


My best advice to people starting their career is…Take responsibility for your own career by seeking  opportunities to gain experience and transferable skills. Ask for “stretch” assignments even though they will take you out of your comfort zone — you’ll be amazed at the skills and lessons you’ll learn that you can take with you as you build your career.


My best advice from a mentor was…Don’t expect anyone else to care as much as you do, or to look after your best interests. This advice instilled in me a strong sense of accountability for results. It’s equally applicable to managing your personal life and career; you must take ownership for getting what you want and not abdicate that responsibility to someone else.   


My biggest setback was…In my early 30s I accepted a job with a company that enabled me to move from Toronto to Vancouver, but it required that I take a 10% pay cut. That was a big deal, not just because of the reduction in income but because of my perception that career success meant making more money with each job change. I almost didn’t take the job because of what I saw as a step backward.  


I overcame it by…Taking a longer term view of my career and the potential the new job represented. It was the right decision — if I hadn’t taken that job, my career would have taken a very different direction and I wouldn’t have ended up at BlueShore Financial. I learned through that experience that a great career move doesn’t always have to be a move “up”.


Work/life balance is…Different from person to person, both in terms of how much of each feels right, and how that balance is achieved. For me, it’s more of a “blend” vs. a strict delineation. I frequently check my work emails in the evenings and on weekends; but also have flexibility in my days where I can attend a meeting if needed for a not-for-profit board that I serve on.


“A great career move doesn’t always have to be a move “up”.”


I feel successful when…I can see the impact I’ve had on my team’s or the organization’s results. One of my favourite things is coaching my team and seeing them develop their abilities and confidence as an outcome.  


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know…That I am a hobby chocolatier. I’ve taken several courses over the past 25 years, continually learning new techniques and creating recipes. I take a week of vacation from work in early December and make more than 2,000 chocolates. Not surprisingly, my colleagues are incredibly supportive of “Chocolate Week” and the product of my time off!


I stay inspired by…Connecting with people who have a positive outlook and a passion for what they do. That kind of enthusiasm and commitment is infectious, and a source of energy for me.   


The future excites me because…As an organization we have a very strong vision and an aligned and engaged team to execute on that vision. That’s a magic combination, and there’s no end to what we can achieve.


My next step is…To be determined.  I’m loving my role at BlueShore and am continually looking for ways I can make an even greater contribution. What that will look like, who knows, but I’m open to the opportunities!


Want to hear more from seasoned HR professionals? Purchase your ticket to our April 26 Luncheon, Untapped Resources: How to Hire, Advance, and Retain Women.



Meet Yana Barankin, a Woman Challenging the Fashion Industry to do Better for People and the Planet

Yana Barankin is the female lead of TAMGA Designs, a clothing line with integrity at its center. Before embarking on this journey, Yana and her business partner asked themselves two simple questions is it too expensive to produce a socially and environmentally responsible piece of clothing? Does style have to be sacrificed for accountability? The obvious answer was no  so they set out on a mission to prove it. Here’s her story.



My first job ever was… sales clerk at a clothing store!


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I realized that I can have much more of a positive social and environmental impact by pursuing my passion rather than sitting at a 9-5 desk job. 


My proudest accomplishment is… Getting my Masters in International Development from Kent University.


My boldest move to date was… Taking a leap of faith and buying a one-way ticket to Indonesia with my fiancee to set-up a responsible and transparent supply for the company.


I surprise people when I tell them… I lived in Dhaka, Bangladesh for 2.5 years working in international aid.


My best advice to people trying to get an idea off the ground is… Surround yourself with creative and like-minded people! Know what your weaknesses are and don’t be afraid to ask for help and inspiration!


My best advice from a mentor was… It’s a marathon, not a sprint.


“Know what your weaknesses are and don’t be afraid to ask for help and inspiration”


My biggest setback was… My personal biggest challenge was moving to Canada at the age of 12 and what felt like at the time adapting to a whole new world.


I overcame it by… Giving it time.


Work/life balance is… Knowing when to a call it a night (laptop and cellphones OFF) and enjoying the weekend with family and friends.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I’m a self taught photographer.


I stay inspired by… Being outdoors.


The future excites me because… There are endless possibilities! We’re starting to see a shift where businesses can’t just take away from people and the planet — to get customer loyalty they have to show how they’re giving back. Combining profit and purpose is the challenge of our generation, and there are so many amazing entrepreneurs and companies working on it.


“Combining profit and purpose is the challenge of our generation”


My next step is… My next steps are all about TAMGA at the moment! We’re developing some amazing new pieces and prints with our team in Indonesia, and will be introducing some awesome new eco materials to our line. This summer we will be doing lots of in-person festivals, pop-ups and markets in the Toronto area. And we can’t wait for lots of sunshine, TAMGA clothing, and meeting all our amazing customers.


Meet the founder of Lucky Iron Fish, a company with social responsibility at the heart of its business model.



Meet Emily Rose Antflick, a Chief Community Cultivator Bringing Women Under One Roof

As the founder and Chief Community Cultivator of Shecosystem, a co-working space that nurtures the personal and professional well-being of women, Emily Rose Antflick is a champion of working with integrity and fostering a positive sense of community. And this has served her well — while walking away from both an ill-fitting career and relationship simultaneously was a challenge, she has since emerged energized, hopeful, and fueled by a true sense of work-life integration, which she believes beats the mythical “work-life balance” any day. Here’s how she does it. 



My first job ever was… Working at a vintage store/art gallery in Kensington Market, my soul’s home in this city and the neighbourhood where my ancestors first settled in Toronto in the early 20th Century.


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I had creative energy that needed to be released, and after bouncing around different education institutions for over a decade, I still hadn’t found a workplace place where I would want to show up every day. Everywhere I worked I felt like I had to compartmentalize or present a certain way, and I wanted to truly show up authentically at work.


My proudest accomplishment is… Taking Shecosystem from a dream to a bricks and mortar business in just over a year. I worked hard to build community and to shape the business around that community’s needs, and as a result I opened the doors with twice my target number of Founding Members.


My boldest move to date was… Walking away from my teaching job and ending my engagement in the same week. I had gotten to a point of such acute energetic depletion that only a bold move would give me the opportunity to reshape my life from the ashes.


My best advice to people trying to get an idea off the ground is… To get it out of your head first — write it down and talk it over. And then let it exist in the world in its perfectly imperfect state, because if you wait until it’s perfect to launch, it won’t happen.


My best advice from a mentor was… To stop playing small out of fear, but instead to listen to what that fear might be telling me. Courage is not the absence of fear; it’s feeling the fear and doing it anyway.


My biggest setback was… Not having all of the operating policies and procedures firmly in place when I opened Shecosystem. There were lots of uncomfortable conversations and lost opportunities in the early days, but in the end it meant that these policies arose from a more organic place. They took shape around real learnings rather than being imposed based on some hypothetical idea of how things “should” work.


I overcame it by… Cultivating a healthy trust in the unknown, asking for help and input from stakeholders to develop these policies cooperatively, and as one of the members put it, continuing to move forward “bravely and tentatively.”


A sense of community is important to your career because… Working for yourself shouldn’t ever mean working alone. I see my challenges and my successes mirrored in the women who work at Shecosystem. Knowing that I am supported, seen, and celebrated by this sisterhood gives me the courage to move forward with my business.


Work/life balance is… A myth. I prefer to talk about work-life integration. If we are going to cultivate sustainable businesses and abundant lives, self-care needs to be a part of our business strategy.


“If we are going to cultivate sustainable businesses and abundant lives, self-care needs to be a part of our business strategy.”


My past experience helps me today by… Reminding me that I am resilient and  resourceful. Also my background in curriculum design, teaching and facilitation means I have a toolkit that can be applied to lots of different contexts because, after all, I’ve always believed that real learning happens outside of the classroom.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… My bank account number, but that’s about it. If you go back far enough you’ll uncover my travel blog, old teaching resources, even the story of my first menstrual period.


I stay inspired by… Dancing and getting into nature as often as possible.


The future excites me because… The feminine is rising and more people are waking up to our potential to discard broken systems and return to more human scale, soul-centric and eco-centric ways of situating ourselves in the world.
My next step is… Simply taking time to observe how Shecosystem works — then refining, modifying, and preparing to scale based on the insight drawn from these observations.


We met Emily Rose Antflick, the founder of Shecosystem, at the 2017 Feminist Art Conference held at OCAD, where she sat on a panel of feminist entrepreneurs, alongside Petra Kassun-Mutch and Valerie Fox. Check back to meet more of the incredible woman entrepreneurs that attended. 



Meet Valerie Fox, Canada’s Reigning Queen of Innovation

Meet Valerie Fox, the woman who’s been at the center of innovation since the 80s as a designer for IBM. Since then she co-founded the Ryerson DMZ, North America’s number 1 university business incubator, and started a new venture which helps build successful incubation models with corporations, academic institutions and regions, and brings communities of diverse skills together to collaborate, design and deliver impactful innovation, world-wide. With over 30 years in the creative digital industry, Valerie has been recognized for multiple awards, including the 2016 Canada Innovation Leaders team, and the Sara Kirke Award for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, CNE Woman of Distinction. Get to know her here.



My first job ever was… As a printing press operator, graphic artist and camera room operator in a print shop. Up to that point, I had gone to university and college for art and design, and wanted to illustrate children’s books.


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… In the 80s I could see that tech was changing the landscape of design, communication and education. I wanted to be on the bleeding edge of what I knew was going to be the future of everything.  I had an incredible career at IBM as an intrapreneur. From there I was asked to join Ryerson University by the then President, Sheldon Levy to help in its transition to become a leader in entrepreneurship and innovation.


My proudest accomplishment is… My family, and meeting the many professional experiences I’ve had, like being the creative director of the Sydney Olympics web experience and co-founding and growing the Ryerson DMZ business incubator to be recognized as number 1 in North America and number 3 in the world. 18 months ago, started a company to help develop incubators and entrepreneurial ecosystems in towns, cities, academic institutions and corporations in Canada, the U.S., and Internationally.


My boldest move to date was… Getting the gig for the Sydney Olympics for our Canadian IBM team. We had a week to prove to the executive producer in Australia that we had what it took to design and deliver an exceptional online experience to the world. We super-stretched the capability of the internet in the year 2000 to create an incredible interactive and immersive experience. It showed what happens when design and technology work closely together.   


I surprise people when I tell them… I’m 63 and a grandma.


My best advice to people starting out in business is… To hold on tight. It’s filled with the most incredible high’s and lows. The best things you can do is to stay in perpetual motion, learn, iterate, team, share, and create long lasting relationships.


Mentorship is important because… It’s a beautiful way to learn and build mutually beneficial relationships.


“The best things you can do is to stay in perpetual motion, learn, iterate, team, share, and create long lasting relationships.”


My best advice from a mentor was… Not to worry about what others think, but listen, learn, apply, while continually holding on to core values.


My biggest setback was… Health related. My back went out and I was house-bound for 3 months. It stopped me cold. I realized how important health is, to do anything.


I overcame it by… Changing my perspective. It’s okay to take time to eat, sleep, take care of oneself and enjoy that too.


Work/life balance is… I don’t believe it’s a balance. For me it’s integrated. I love my work, it’s a part of my life. But it’s not the only thing in my life.


Something you can’t learn in a classroom is… So many things. Life is learning. Experience gives perspective, relevance, and application. But I would add that it depends on the classroom. There are some amazing classes out there that encourage team and project building, and knowledge sharing.


To me, innovation means… Change that makes a difference.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I’m a pretty open book.


I stay inspired by… Hanging out with people I love and learn from and meeting new people to learn from. Also reading, walking, traveling…never standing still.


The future excites me because… It’s filled with possibility.


My next step is… Continuing to help build connections and learning opportunities that will shape our world to be a better place.


We met Valerie, the founder of The Pivotal Point, at the 2017 Feminist Art Conference held at OCAD, where she sat on a panel of feminist entrepreneurs, alongside Petra Kassun-Mutch. Check back to meet more of the incredible woman entrepreneurs that attended. 



Meet Petra Kassun-Mutch, a Former Executive Turned Feminist Entrepreneur

Petra Kassun-Mutch wants to revolutionize the way entrepreneurs do business, bringing social consciousness and a feminist mind-set to a space that is all too often profit-centric and male-dominated. A former executive turned serial entrepreneur, Petra is determined to demonstrate how a business can be both responsible and profitable, widening the definition of innovation to be more inclusive and altogether more exciting.



My first job ever was… a fry girl at McDonald’s — I also had lobby duty.


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted to be able to show up authentically, create opportunities for others, and design and launch innovative, values-led enterprises that helps transform institutions and systems.


My proudest accomplishment is… leaving my 18-year corporate career and role as President for a $46M division of a multinational publishing company to found, build and grow a Platinum LEED (first in the world), a mid size award winning artisan goat and sheep milk dairy in Prince Edward County — even though I had no experience in cheese, farming, or the food processing industry. I didn’t even know you could milk a sheep! But I do now! We won the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation two years after opening.


My boldest move to date was… Combining activism with scalable entrepreneurship.  


I surprise people when I tell them… I was once a certified milk and cream grader, licensed HTST operator, and drove a milk truck.


My best advice to people starting out in business is… Everyone should start their career in sales. You will learn about markets, people, and learn how the world really works. For me personally it was transformational.


My best advice from a mentor was… Be the market you intend to serve. In other words, don’t try to sell something to people (or markets) you don’t truly love, respect or understand.


Women can support other women by… Leading with intersectional feminist values at the heart of all you do. Investing in women, including trans and gender non-binary female entrepreneurs.


My biggest setback was… Having to sell the business I loved and started because of an ill-timed divorce. In entrepreneurship, business is personal, and the personal is business.


I overcame it by… Taking a break, reflection, lots of self care, trying new things (not always successful), and surrounding myself with dynamic, diverse, creative kick ass women friends.


Something you can’t learn in a classroom is… How to cope with and recover from major loss.


To me, innovation means… A lot more than just high growth/extreme cheap scale tech.  Today’s definition of innovation is too narrow and leads to a gender gap in innovation policy that goes under recognized.  We need to support process innovation alongside product innovation.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I know how to macramé.


I stay inspired by… Watching The Walking Dead and working with entrepreneurs.


The future excites me because… I believe we can and will create a human-centric, values-led economy in the future, one that will promote individual, community and global wellness, a world without fossil fuels, a future where structural and cultural gender driven inequality for women, trans, queer-identified people (anyone experiencing discrimination based on gender) are a thing of the past.


My next step is… To pioneer what it means to design and operate an enterprise based on feminist business best practice.  


We met Petra at the 2017 Feminist Art Conference held at OCAD, where she mediated a panel of feminist entrepreneurs. Check back to meet more of the incredible woman entrepreneurs that attended. Until then, hear more from Petra at liisbeth.com



Meet Bridget Russo, CMO of a design brand with a bigger purpose

Bridget Russo joined Shinola in 2012, relocating from her native Tribeca to the company’s Detroit headquarters in 2014. As Chief Marketing Officer she oversees global marketing and communications, building the American design brand through storytelling and well-made products. By bringing skilled manufacturing jobs back to Detroit, Shinola is also having a positive social impact on the community — a key element of their brand. It’s a perfect fit for Bridget, who made a name for herself in the fashion industry by pursuing projects she found ethically compelling, including the establishment of her own consulting firm focused on fashion ventures with a philanthropic angle.



My first job ever was… At a store in New York,  which is now closed, called FAO Schwarz. I worked in the doll department.


My proudest accomplishment is… Somehow impressing my mother, who is not impressed, ever.


My boldest move to date was… Moving to Detroit.


I surprise people when I tell them… That I moved to Detroit.


The biggest marketing challenge companies face today is… Considering how much information is getting thrown at consumers on a minute-to-minute basis, the ability to break through and capture their attention is increasingly more challenging.


My best marketing advice for companies today is… Be authentic. Go with your gut. Stay true to the brand.


My biggest setback was… Leaving a job that I really loved too quickly for silly reasons. I would have eventually left, but I probably had a good five years to go before I did that. I did it in haste. I was turning 30 and thought I needed to grow up.


Work/life balance is… Never checking your emails after work, unless absolutely necessary. Keep two separate phones: one personal, one work.


My best advice from a mentor was… Take time to congratulate even the little successes of your team.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I am socially awkward and shy.


I stay inspired by… The people I work with everyday.


The future excites me because… I have hope, despite everything that’s going on in the world today. Human beings are human beings, and we’ll continue to do great things.  



See more from Shinola.



Meet Lesley Lawrence, the BDC senior executive helping entrepreneurs realize their dreams

Lesley Lawrence

Recently appointed to the role of Senior Vice President, Financing and Consulting, Ontario, Lesley Lawrence oversees Business Development Bank of Canada’s lending and consulting services in the province. She hadn’t planned on going into finance — Lesley holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto — but after more than 25 years in the financial services sector, she considers herself lucky to have found a career where she can help people realize their dreams.

Actively involved in the community, Lesley personally focuses on advancing entrepreneurship. In her role at BDC, she acts as national champion for the Bank’s Women Entrepreneur initiative. This includes work with Cisco’s Circle of Innovation, an internship program in cooperation with Cisco and Communitech. The program has partnered entrepreneurs across Canada with interns from the University of Waterloo to help grow companies’ digital presence, all while using Cisco technology to drive future growth, collaboration, and success.


My first job ever was…Working as a cashier at Miracle Food Mart grocery store. I did that job all through high school and university to pay for my education. I took summers off to work full time and came back and worked during the school year for 8 years.


My proudest accomplishment was…Being a strong role model for my daughter. Showing her you could be successful in your career and be a wife and mom at the same time.


My boldest move to date was…Moving my family from Toronto to Vancouver to take on a new role with increased responsibility and building a new team and a new region.


I surprise people when I tell them…I have an abundance of disco music on my phone.


I balance work and life by…Taking my dog for a walk, running, and experiencing new adventure as often as I can. I work hard, but ensure I make the time to enjoy my life.


My best advice from a mentor was…Be true to yourself. Always remember who you are is what got you to where you are.


Female entrepreneurs and funding is…My passion. I am proud of the work the team at Business Development Bank (BDC) has done in supporting women entrepreneurs as they represent one of the fastest growing market segments in Canada.


Engaging women in entrepreneurship is…Not only necessary, but key to the future success of the Canadian economy.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know…I thrive on pushing myself outside my comfort zone. I enjoy a challenge and get enormous satisfaction when i inspire others around me to the same and realize success.


I stay inspired by…Surrounding myself with people of different backgrounds who bring new and interesting ideas to the table. I enjoy learning from others, especially millennials.


The future excites me because…Of the unknown. It challenges us to grow, expand our thinking, and evolve to succeed.


You helped find female entrepreneurs to match with interns at the University of Waterloo for the Cisco Women Entrepreneur program. How would you describe that experience?
It was a enjoyable and very rewarding experience. Partnering with Cisco gave us the opportunity to help women entrepreneurs leverage technology and obtain critical expertise to accelerate the growth of their business.


Are you an entrepreneur interested in leveraging technology to grow your company? Sign up for the Cisco Women Entrepreneurs’ Academy, with over 90 hours of free training on the technology basics that can help you understand the opportunities available to you and your business. Simply fill in this quick survey for access.


Embracing mobility: the key to success in the digital age

woman holding phone

Mobile devices have brought advancements to virtually all aspects of modern life, from our personal time to how we work. And yet not all businesses — especially those that are small to medium sized — have embraced mobility to achieve positive results.

Of the 1400 companies included in the 2015 Cisco Mobility Landscape Survey, a full 63 per cent still didn’t have a mobility strategy, even though the majority (56 per cent) were using mobility to win over customers. So if the payoff is clear, what’s keeping businesses from “going digital”?

In the SMB space, the issue is one of resources, and security is strongly tied into that. According to Nolan Greene, a network infrastructure research analyst with IDC, “Many SMBs do not go beyond installing basic wireless connectivity, often through consumer-grade infrastructure. A lack of full-blown enterprise-grade security can result in SMBs being the target of network predators.”

Plus, employees want to use personal devices for work, and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) remains a challenge for smaller organizations. As Nolan explains, “Devices can be infected off-premises and carry potentially harmful malware onto the business network. Also, personal devices can be used for non-business applications that may divert valuable bandwidth away from mission-critical applications.”

For these reasons, it’s not surprising that many SMBs are lacking in a mobility strategy — but it is unfortunate.

Here are the top five reasons why mobility is a key to success in the digital age, regardless of your company size:

1) Improved customer satisfaction and service with location-based applications and analytics, and connected mobile experiences that offer real value through customer engagement.

2) Improved employee productivity, collaboration and satisfaction with the ability to take advantage of a mobile workspace, greater efficiencies in day-to-day operations with cloud applications, and BYOD capabilities that satisfy “the mobile generation.”

3) Protected data, business and employees with an enterprise-level mobility management program that makes BYOD safer, offering malware and web protection.

4) Cost savings and scalability through moving to cloud-based platforms, which offer simplicity without giving up performance.

5) Increased ability to compete effectively with companies who lack a mobile strategy — and for SMBs, that can include larger organizations — due to the ability to quickly scale, improve operational efficiencies, and better engage employees and customers.

Want to learn how to embrace mobility for your company? Try the free Mobility Fundamentals course featured in the Cisco Women Entrepreneurs’ Academy! Simply fill in this quick survey for access.

Five career tips from the trenches of entrepreneurship

By Amy Laski

Have you ever tried running along a sandy beach? The refreshing sea breeze, the mist off the water, sun drenching your hair…

It sounds glorious. But running on sand is hard work. It’s difficult to gain traction, the wind is often much stronger by the ocean, and at times the beach can be so wide, it proves hard to navigate.

My experience working in a big corporation felt like running on sand. While I found it fascinating to be working alongside colleagues from around the globe, as someone who likes to move swiftly to make and implement decisions, it often felt like I was running hard but not really getting anywhere.

The best thing to come out of my time working in a large corporation was that I experienced first-hand, as a client, the shortcomings of the traditional PR agency model. So when I was contemplating the next step in my career, I seized the opportunity to turn this agency model on its ear and founded a virtual communications and content agency, Felicity.

Now that I’ve been in the entrepreneurial trenches for more than four years, I thought I would share some of the learnings from my journey thus far. These can, in turn, be applied to any career. Whether you’re looking to amplify your performance within an existing position, make a move up the corporate ladder, or start something newthese five tips will help ensure your success along the way.  

Related: How can you take lessons from big brands and apply them to your personal brand?

  1. Have well-toned resilience muscles, you’ll need to flex them

I’d heard the saying, “when one door closes, another opens.” Nobody forewarned me, however, just how many doors may close, and how many others I’d have to knock on, in order to achieve success. No matter how trying things become, knowing how to pick yourself up and move beyond challenges to identify opportunities is key to career success. Whether it’s a boss, a client, or a colleague with whom you are looking to align, you alone control how you react to challenges. Rally your supportersthose people who opened the door for you, even a crackand leverage their support to help open other doors on your behalf. This can be as simple as asking for a connection via LinkedIn, or seeking their advice or mentorship while navigating a tricky situation.

  1. Ask the right people the right questions—and pay attention to their answers, even when it’s something you don’t want to hear.

Know your strengths, and equally important, your weaknesses. These may change over time as you grow, as your needs change, and as the business environment changes around you. Constantly re-evaluate your relative position, then surround yourself with people who complement your strengths and weaknesses. The ability to tap into your own intellectual curiosity, ask poignant questions of these “complementors,” and listen attentively to their answers, will deepen your understanding of any complex issue or challenge you face.

  1. Never stop expanding your network, and nurturing it.

No matter what field you’re in, consider yourself Chief of both Sales and Marketing for your personal brand. Filling your funnel means having a vibrant and relevant network that’s working for you at all times, even in the background. Keep in contact with your network, provide value where you can, take the time to comment on and share their posts via social media, and meet in person whenever possible. The more effort you put into maintaining your network, the easier it will be to reach out without feeling intrusive. No matter if you’re happy in the position you’re in or looking for something new, a great deal of your power lies amongst the people you’re connected to.

  1. Keep the big picture in mind.

There’s no better time to think about the big picture than when you’re perfectly comfortable with where you’re at. They say if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. Always have a list of long-term goals you’re working toward, and keep your short-term decisions and objectives tied to these.

  1. Love it or leave it.

You’ll know when you’re doing something that’s right for you and you’ll know when you’re not. There’s nothing worse than working for a company or in a role that doesn’t make you happy. Leaving a position is not about failure, it’s about organizational fit and professional growth. Finding a role where you provide value and your work is valued, is satisfying and motivating in and of itself. Trust your gut, and act upon it to build the bridge to your next move.


Amy Laski is founder and president of Felicity [Inspiring Communications], an award-winning virtual integrated communications and public relations agency, where clients pay for brains, not bricks. Teams are comprised of seasoned communicators driven by business minds, and are custom-tailored with the right experts based on client needs. Felicity partners with clients to leverage public relations in support of their overall business strategies, to optimize reputation, inspire action, and drive bottom-line results. Felicity associates thrive on doing challenging work within a flexible work arrangement. Happy workers = happy clients. For more information about Felicity, go to www.felicitypr.com



Five Network Tips for Making Your Business More Efficient

As an entrepreneur, you understand that efficiency is a key to success—especially when resources like time and money are tight. You may not realize, however, just how much network technology (from your phone system to your routers and switches) can have an impact. Here are five tips for using network technology to help your business work more efficiently, cut costs, improve customer satisfaction, and stay ahead of the competition.


1. Don’t underestimate the importance of having secure, consistent access to your network. A reliable network based on intelligent routers and switches lets you and your employees access the information and tools needed to keep up with the pace of business. Downtime costs money.

2. Make it easy to work anywhere. To stay productive on the move, you and your employees need to be able to reach whatever information is needed—anywhere, anytime. Cloud computing is an excellent way to enable work to continue from outside the office, and still enjoy safe access to the business network.

3. Make it easy to work together. Seamless collaboration between employees, partners, suppliers, and customers is a great way to boost efficiency while also reducing costs. An intelligent network lets your business take advantage of interactive calendaring, videoconferencing, unified communications, and other technologies for easy collaboration.

4. Enable employees to take their phone systems wherever they go. With a networked voice and data solution, you and your employees can have one phone number that rings simultaneously on multiple devices, so customers reach the right person the first time. It’s also possible to access all communications from anywhere, checking for e-mail, voicemail, and faxes from just one inbox.

5. Make sure your technology fits your needs. Whether you have one employee or a hundred, you need a technology solution that suits your business. Find one that can be customized for you, rather than getting too much or too little from a one-size-fits-not-quite-everybody option.

Do you want to solve your IT challenges without recruiting an IT team? Do you want a simplified approach to your communications needs? The Cisco Entrepreneur Xperience solution features everything you need to get your business communicating, collaborating, and connected. Customized for your business size and needs, the product bundle is simple to deploy and cost-effective. Fill in this quick form to receive more information on this “Office in a Box” offer.


If it’s broken, fix it: why we need a new model for doing business

By Catherine Bell

Catherine Bell is the founder of BluEra, an executive search and team transformation company. She’s also the best-selling author of The Awakened Company, a thought-provoking read that explores how treating businesses as communities can transform them for the better. She shares how the idea was born, and the impact it’s capable of having.

I co-founded my boutique consulting business on a credit card, during the global economic crash of 2008. Needless to say, it was a challenging time. Eight years later, BluEra has a small but mighty team of dedicated employees. We’ve worked with Fortune 500 Companies and clients across multiple industries. In 2015 we made it to #123 on the PROFIT 500 Ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies, and we’re in the top 10 for Calgary as well as HR companies Canada-wide. By all measures, we are successful—but it’s not the financial success that I’m most proud of. It’s the kind of company that we run.

We are, as I like to put it, an “awakening company”—an organization that has moved from “me” to “we” in our thinking and practices, and that sees our employees, the communities we serve, and the planet itself as more than mere resources. We use mindfulness as a tool. You’ve probably heard of the term, but might not be sure of the meaning; simply put, it is being very present to where we are now, in our heart, head, and hands. We use other wisdom traditions as well.

Why do I believe in the awakened company model? And why should other businesses, including yours, be interested?

Quite simply, the old model of doing business doesn’t work very well. Most companies fail before their tenth anniversary. The overwhelming data on worldwide employee disengagement is staggeringly sad, with the vast majority disengaged and demoralized at work. Instability is the norm, with all its accompanying ups and downs in the economy. I believe we can do better. In fact, we must do better, for ourselves and for future generations.

The solution I put forward in The Awakened Company has been in development for about seven years, and it really grew concurrently with BluEra. As a new company we made a lot of mistakes, but each one was a learning opportunity (and I believe contributed to our future success). We were gathering invaluable research about teams, team dynamics, innovation, and engagement. I was also witnessing a world where disconnection, apathy, and failure are the norm. I began to understand that business can never be “just business,” but impacts every aspect of our lives. There was a deeper problem this book needed to solve.

Along with my two brilliant collaborators, I interviewed over twenty world-renowned business leaders, including the CEO of Patagonia, Rose Marcario, Otto Scharmer from MIT, and Tony Hsieh from Zappos. We were excited to discover just how many were aware of the severity of the problem—and how many of them share with us the simple realization that we not only can do better, but that some of the leading corporations are already pioneering a new business model, with amazing results.

The Awakened Company is more than just a business book, it’s an urgent call to action. It is my hope this book brings humanity back into organizations and that the data on business success and engagement awakens amazing and revolutionary results.

Ready to awaken your own business? Get your copy of The Awakened Company, and learn how companies are achieving a new standard of success. A best-seller within a week, and one of Eight of the Best Business Books of 2015, it explores a new way of doing business: incorporating mindfulness and wisdom traditions to ultimately benefit companies, those involved in them, and the planet itself. It has earned praise from business leaders and industry experts, and is the blueprint for the successful executive search and team transformation company, BluEra.


The Top Four Books for Using Psychology to Succeed in Business

How can we use the power of psychology to make people and organizations more effective, reach our full career potential, and untangle the knot of conventional management? These insightful reads will help answer those questions, each taking wisdom from the world of psychology and applying it to achieve success in business.

Continue reading