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Jul 20, 2020

Meet the Heroes of Small Business Matters Series One.

Each week, during the darkest days of COVID-19, we produced a podcast featuring a small business owner, and three thought leaders who help them get to where they need and deserve to go. All made possible through the incredible support of RBC. We went remotely across Canada to explore many sectors of our economy. We talked to startups, established businesses, first-generation Canadians to family-owned companies that spanned decades. Every one of them inspired me with their resilience, resolve, and ability to reinvent.

In this podcast, I revisit each one to pay tribute to these heroes and to share what I learned along the way.

Small Business Matters series, presented by RBC.

Traci Shepheard (01:41)
Traci Shepheard's lifelong dream was to be an entrepreneur building a health and wellness business. She invested her savings and purchased an Airstream Trailer, retrofitting it to create a 'rock star' experience. MeditationWorks is launched. As she starts the ignition, her wheels fall off when COVID-19 stops everything in their tracks, especially a studio where people meditate inside a trailer, even one as beautiful as Traci’s.

Paul Hemburrow (04:14)
Paul and his partner buy a profitable business that rents TV sets to patients in hospitals and then reinvents it to offer a suite of innovative tools that patients can access at their bedside while benefiting the hospital and healthcare. Health Hub Solutions finally get the breakthrough they need but COVID-19 arrives and no one is focused on the future, just surviving the day.

Lisa Taylor (06:08)
A powerful insight leads Lisa Taylor to reinvent the future of work. Many people were satisfied at work, but not fulfilled. Lisa left the security of a great job to launch the Challenge Factory, a research-based, process-driven consultancy that helps companies create productive cultures where people work with a higher purpose. She moves from the uncertainty of a startup to the complexities of leading a growing business, only to have today's economic uncertainty, turn her business upside down.

Joe O'Brien (09:11)
Joe O'Brien is a gifted entrepreneur operating his tourism business, O'Brien Boat Tours, from St John's Newfoundland. He captains his guests to the edge of the world, with whale watching, giant icebergs, and a wild bird sanctuary, mixed in with the songs and spirit of Newfoundland and Labrador. are on offer. Joe shares his story of growing up in a fishing village and having to reinvent when the Cod disappeared. COVID-19, requires Joe to reinvent once again.

Kristi Knowles (11:01)
Kristi knows that the company needs a rebrand if they are going to battle international food giants for market share.  Mother Raw is born, and the legacy of the Founder, and her mission of 'Good on Good'  is woven across every consumer, retailer, and employee touchpoint. Manufacturing in Canada and in 5000 locations, can Kristi finance this growth and get the attention she feels Mother Raw deserves?

Carly Shuler (12:49)
After a five-year stint with Sesame Streets Labs in New York, and getting her Masters in Education at Harvard, Carly returns to Canada and creates Why? Carly knows that kids who love to read will spend a lifetime loving to learn. Hootreading matches students with real teachers, and with Carly's proprietary technology and teaching methods, her business takes off. Her concern is that she might draw the attention of multinationals who will go after her market share with their deeper pockets.

Jennifer Menard (14:29)
Jennifer Menard’s life has been about reinvention, regardless of her circumstance, openly sharing her life story growing up in a broken home, but persevering to become a successful entrepreneur. Finding her path through a mentor who employed her and then subsequently encouraged her to buy the business she helped build. Jennifer rebrands, brings in a partner and Staff Shop is born, staffing events across North America and the Caribbean. Her business is all is promising until COVID-19 cancels every event. 

Ernesto Gomez (17:12)
Ernesto Gomez is a first-generation Canadian who fell in love with food watching and then helping his mother and grandmother prepare meals in their kitchen. Curiosity led him to explore Chinese and Italian food and travel the world, feeding his mind with possibilities. A chance meeting in Vancouver kick-starts Ernesto’s latest venture - Nuba Restaurant. Armed with a war chest, they set their sites on a new location in Spain and then COVID-19 attacks in more ways than one. They have to shut down their restaurants, and Ernesto catches the virus.

Francois Theriault (20:04)
Surmesur, an innovative, personality led tech-enabled made-to-measure men's wear retail chain. Francois and his brother Vincent understand customer service better than most. Instead of selling a made to measure suit, they train their staff to sell into a moment that someone wants to own. They combine this insight, with a personality led shopping experience, and state of the art technology. Their skills as entrepreneurs lead them from one store in Quebec City to expansion across Canada and into the United States and Mexico. Then COVID hits.

Sheena Russell (22:07)
Sheena Russell is the co-founder of Made with Local. Sourcing local ingredients and working with social enterprises to employ people who have barriers to the mainstream workforce, Sheena achieves B-Corp status, When COVID hits, the government orders this 'high risk' segment of the population into isolation, leaving Sheena with a ton of orders to fill and no one there to help her. Sheena makes a trademark entrepreneurial move - she jumps in with her family to bake, make and ship products, and fast-tracks a new product that is perfect for these times. 

My Closing Thoughts (24:15)
Despite the challenges they faced, entrepreneurs find a way to get back up in the horse to ride again. “They don't just find an opportunity. They create it” They create our economy and our jobs. These entrepreneurs inspire not only their children and their employees, they inspire all of us to make our destiny a matter of choice, not chance.


Links and References

MeditationWorks -
Health Hub Solutions -
Challenge Factory -
O'Brien's Boat Tours -
Mother Raw -
Hootreading -
Staff Shop -
Nuba Restaurant -
Surmesur -
Made with Local -

RBC Business page –
RBC COVID-19 Financial Relief page -
Future Launch -

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