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The Importance of a Social Media Policy in your Business

Posted on August 27 2015 | Author: Bethany Witvoet

Earlier this summer I was tasked with creating a social media policy. While doing so, I learned a lot about how important it is to have one in your business.

While browsing news headlines, I found a ton of stories related to social media and the workplace. A few years back, Virgin Atlantic fired 13 employees for posting disloyal content on Facebook that criticized Virgin’s safety standards and offended it’s passengers.  Similarly, an employee was fired from the Broofield Zoo very recently because of a racist post on Facebook taken place at work and in her uniform.

 

Policies provide clear guidelines and support

Policies are the building blocks to any corporation. They provide structure and guidance to each and every employee.  

Social media is drastically changing the way individuals and organizations communicate. It’s important that employees who use social media, use it in a way that enhances the company’s prospects, or at least doesn’t diminish them.  A misinterpreted status update can easily generate complaints or damage the company’s reputation.

A social media guide clarifies standards of behaviour in which employees can use social media professionally and effectively.

 

Policies help manage risks

It is important to keep confidential company information protected. Therefore it is critical that clear guidelines are made about sharing private information online in order to mitigate risks involved with online activity.

Ensure that your social media policy includes that all confidential company information is never communicated or made publically or privately viewable on social media sites. Regardless of privacy settings, online information is accessible and can easily be placed in the wrong hands.

Policies protect company reputation

Users should always be careful discussing things they wouldn’t want their boss to see. Posting information that is disloyal could severely damage your company’s reputation (like those 13 employees at Virgin Atlantic). Setting clear guidelines against this is crucial in maintaining a good company reputation.

If there are no guidelines set in place against this, any posts by employees that harm the company’s reputation will be without consequence. In order to prevent the spread of disloyal information, guidelines must be set in place.

 

Policies assist with networking and awareness

Social media policies do not always have to be a long list of boring restriction. There is a lot of potential in using social media to your advantage.  

Social media is very important for building relationships with current and potential clients. It is an effective way to distribute marketing and communications, build an online brand and business profile, as well as stay connected with valued networks. It is also a great tool for employees to make useful connections, share ideas, and have discussions, whether it is work related or personal.

Illustrate ways in your social media policy for employees to use social media to their advantage whether it be for their personal social media use, or for company use.

 

Policies increase productivity

In the long run, policies actually increase productivity as issues are mitigated and therefore resulting in saved time.

Establishing a social media policy reduces lost time spent dealing with unauthorized usage or inappropriate behaviour online. Instead of dealing with the consequences of conflicts related to social media use, employees will be educated on your organization’s expectations for online professionalism and potential issues will be prevented.

 

And remember, no policy is alike

It is important to keep in mind that all policies need to be structured to perfectly fit your company.

Virgin Atlantic’s social media policy is different than Bioenterprise’s; Apple’s social media policy is different than McDonald’s. Your policy needs reflect your company’s business profile and online strategies in order to fulfill all of your company needs

Bethany Witvoet
Marketing and Events Assistant

Photo: Pixabay, Dilbert.com
References: http://mediabuzz.com.sg/asian-emarketing?catid=0&id=787

 






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Writing a Business Blog: The Why and How

Posted on August 12 2015 | Author: Natalya Smardon

I’m going to tell you exactly why blogging is a fundamental part of any business. It’s not a waste of time, it’s not difficult, and you don’t need to write one every single day. The benefits of blogging to improve a business are boundless, and here is why:

How to start: the daunting task ahead

“The first thing you need to decide when you build your blog is what you want to accomplish with it, and what it can do if successful.” –Rod Dawson

You don’t have to write like an expert, and you don’t need to ‘fluff up’ your writing to make it seem longer. Quality not quantity! Sometimes short and sweet is the way to go.

You want to make sure you have a point and get right to it. Whether it’s to inform readers about something, voice an opinion on a certain topic, or start a debate, you want to have a goal in mind.

This isn’t a diary entry or a personal blog; it’s a business blog. Be thoughtful of your vocabulary choices, tone of voice, and above all else - proofread. Nothing says amateur like having a post littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. It is essential that you do not solely rely on spell-check, make sure you read through your blog at least twice and then, get a co-worker, family member, or unsuspecting passer-by to read through it. Doughnut bribes are most effective!

Know your audience

If you’re writing B2B, use jargon that shows you are an educated and seasoned member of the business world. If you’re writing B2C, convey information in a way that customers will understand. Remember; if you’re going to use humour then make sure it’s appropriate. As NASA says in their ‘One Hundred Rules for NASA Project Managers’ Rule #67: Some like a good joke, others only like a joke if they tell it.

The topic

I consider there to be two fundamental criteria when choosing a blog topic.

  1. Write about what you are passionate about.
  2. Write about what you know.

Usually the two come hand-in-hand. You want to write about something you really care about, because that passion will make writing easier and more influential. You also want to write about something that you have a fair bit of knowledge on, because it often takes years of accumulated knowledge and experience to show an expert opinion. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t explore new areas. In fact, researching for a blog is one of the best things you can do - just make sure you aren’t in over your head; and if you do decide to do research, add your sources.

Another great addition to any blog is quotations. Quotes from famous authors, philosophers, from CEO’s, employees, news stations or anything relevant to your company, target audience and blog topic show your knowledge, dedication, and if you ask me - add a certain flare. If you can’t think of any inspiring quotes off the top of your head, use this online quote database!

Online platform for networking

Entrepreneurs can network at events and connect with others through LinkedIn, but when the opportunity to meet face-to-face is not available, a blog is a great way to network, gain contacts, and generate interest in your company. Blogs demonstrate your expertise, and give readers a chance to learn about your company and interests with a more personal touch that goes beyond the standard information found on website homepages.

Great PR tool

Blogs of course share your ideas, opinions, and insights, but can also be a place for press releases and company updates. Added a new member to your team? Opened more offices or changed location? Acquired a company or received investment? Blog about it.

Website Traffic

One of the key opportunities for gaining website traffic is through writing a blog. People want to know what you and your company think, and what you’re doing. A blog on your company website can be an ideal outlet for this information, as it can be linked and shared through your social media platforms and emails, bringing more readers back to your website.

Inbound traffic to your website enhances your search engine optimisation (SEO); the more people who visit and share your post (and therefore your website) the better your search ranking becomes. This means your site will appear in search results more often, and possibly, higher on the list. Enhanced SEO helps attract and convert more traffic into customers; talk about a low-cost marketing channel!

Don’t forget! Promote your content.
Having a blog is all well and good – if people read it. 20% of your time should be spent writing your blog, while 80% is for promoting it! Get on your Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, and whatever else is at your disposal or send it out in an email or newsletter.

Engagement opportunity

Not only do people stay informed about your company’s activities through your blogs, but many have comment sections that allow for suggestions, affirmations, debates and general feedback. It’s a two-way street that helps readers engage with the author, and operates as a learning tool for the author as well. Blogging is a communication outlet for you, your peers, and most importantly, blogging gives you insight into your audience.

Mix up the type of content that you share

It’s not very entertaining to read a wall of information with no other media. Balance text with images, videos, or even sound clips! This will help to further engage your audience and hold their attention. You want them to read the entirety of the blog after all. Having headers and sub-headers is a great way to organize information. Another great hook is to have guest bloggers, who add a fresh voice to your site.

Maintaining a blog is a great engagement opportunity for learning, networking, connecting, marketing and branding! From start-ups to large corporations, business blogs are becoming a vital part of growth and success. Start your own blog today and begin to reap the benefits.

Natalya Smardon
Junior Projects Coordinator

Photo Credit: Flickr, Pixabay






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On-Hand Cash: The Hidden Value

Posted on July 29 2015 | Author: Paulo Mendes

Bootstrapped start-ups and SME’s have a different relationship with cash than a large multinational corporation.  Despite this fact, many small firms will have situations where cash has been generated without the need for it to be immediately spent on other aspects of the business.

The complacent firm would plainly place the cash in a chequing account and utilize it when needed. Yet, with some careful planning this excess cash can provide an extra flow of income.  If a company decides to invest the primary focus should be placed on answering the two following questions.

How long until the cash is needed for operational purposes? (Liquidity)

How much desired risk does the company want to place on the cash? (Risk)

If a person would prefer to avoid risk it may seem to be the logical approach to place cash in interest generating savings accounts, yet the majority of these accounts have microscopic rates of interest. These savings accounts can generate less than 0.1% of annual interest. Currently, these rates are below the inflation rate so in the big picture the cash should be indifferently placed between chequing and savings accounts.

To generate more cash it would be better to place in a low-risk money market investment or Canada Treasury Bond that can be withdrawn within less than years time. Other securities are available dependent on how long a company would prefer to hold their investment.

Some examples of short-term investment options are:

  • Short Term Bond Funds and Electronically Traded Funds (ETFs)
  • Certificate of Deposits
  • Money Market Accounts
  • Vanguard Short-Term Investment–Grade Fund

In terms of liquidity, many of the short-term investments are significantly less risky by design. Since debtors need to be distributing payments in a short period of time, the debtors tend to have less likelihood to default during the small time frame.

In general, if given the opportunity to invest cash for small periods of time, short-term investments are an ideal option despite not giving the returns that long-term investments provide. These actions allow a company to create value from assets the company has and with just a little bit of planning.

Paulo Mendes
Junior Financial Analyst Intern

Image credit: Getty Images






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Women in Business: Starting a Career in a Male Dominated Industry

Posted on July 15 2015 | Author: Michelle Kienitz

At my first agricultural event a few years ago, I couldn’t help by but hum a song from my childhood: “One of these things is not like the others, which one is different, do you know….”. And much like the Sesame Street song, in a male-dominated industry the focus is on the odd one out, not the many that are the same.

With an outward facing role, roughly 85% of my meetings are with men, and most entrepreneurs in the agri-technology industry are also men (similar to tech start-ups: 89%)[i]. Increasing the amount of women in STEM jobs has been a hot topic for several years, and the numerous articles on the dearth of women leading start-up companies continuously overpopulates my LinkedIn feed; but this is my first attempt to tackle the subject from my own perspective: working in an environment that is heavily represented by one gender.

Being a woman in a male-dominated industry comes with drawbacks, but there are also a lot of benefits. The single biggest thing I have learned about being a woman in agriculture and agri-technology: It is a positive, not a negative; there is a spotlight on me, and when my performance excels, my spotlight appears bigger and brighter. The following 5 topics are issues I have dealt with early in my career. Dealing with these issues I have sought advice, read the LinkedIn articles, and done a lot of introspection.

 

1. Dealing With Negativity

Avoid being easily offended. While working with mostly men, I have heard my fair share of disgusting stories and negative or degrading comments, been overlooked for happy hour drinks with the guys, and been asked to “forgive my language” often enough to last a lifetime. Initially, some of these things were offensive, and if I’ve heard it enough in a day, it still can be.

Having a strong sense of self will help you react positively in these situations rather than defensively. It is easy for women to get pushed out of the social group or to be excluded. Instead of being excluded, you can share a story or invite other coworkers to drinks.

A strong sense of self allows negative situations or comments to slide off your back.  Understanding your capabilities, weaknesses, your approach to work, life and relationships, and your motivations will help you react and deal with situations in an authentic way. Resiliency comes from accepting yourself and helps you navigate trying situations.

 

2. Importance of Authenticity

Each situation will be different, but in every situation I always try to be myself. Authenticity is important when building credibility and relationships; don’t attempt to alter your personality to fit into other’s perceptions or to emulate your male counterparts.[ii] Moving up in an organization, and continued success depends on looking and acting like a leader, and on being perceived as having a professional presence. [iii] Enable others to see the value of differences, by leveraging a perspective that is uniquely feminine while professional.

 

3. Find a Role Model

Early in your career it is helpful to have a few advisors who are further in their respective careers. They can help you navigate issues that might arise, and they are very helpful for bouncing ideas off of. The need for advisors and mentors doesn’t deplete as your career progresses, but the nature of the relationship will most likely change.

Find a sponsor within your company, someone in leadership whose perspective you trust, and who will help pull you up to promotions and new projects.  Male or female, the sponsor will help you build your career. A female mentor outside of your company is valuable for getting feedback on issues that might uniquely affect women, and for a positive professional female association. No matter where you end up professionally, surrounding yourself with people you can count on, gender aside, is key to great results and enjoying your work.

 

4. Dress Code

The 9-5 attire can be frustrating for women who enjoy colour and personality in their wardrobe.  When it comes to choosing attire that fits your personality or fits with corporate culture, many women are conforming to the traditional power suit colours, grey, black and navy. Depending on my audience in a particular day, I monitor what I am wearing and dress according to the culture of the company with whom I am meeting. Professionalism trumps personality, but personality can always be expressed in professional work wear. Don’t be afraid of colour.

There are times when choosing a little bit of colour can be an asset. At an industry event where there is a sea of grey, black, and navy, adding colour to your wardrobe can help you stand out in the crowd. I believe that as women have flooded the workforce it has opened up the colour palette available to men. Don’t be afraid of colour, women have traditionally worn more colour than men, and the corporate uniform is based on the male standard.

 

5. Learn From Others

There are a plethora of books, blogs and bios focusing on the struggles of women in the workforce. Pick some that speak to your needs, your industry, and your demographic. Their stories aren’t words to live by; instead they are a guideline for finding your own way. Find what works for you – women aren’t all the same.

When I meet women who have succeeded and survived in a heavily skewed male-industry, they all possess one quality, they are not intimidated by their male counterparts, at least not on the surface.  So this post is aimed at young women entering the workforce, or for the women who, like me, sometimes forget, as you excel, the spotlight on you appears brighter and bigger. It’s a spotlight that you can use to your advantage, and it’s an asset that none of your male colleagues can inherently have.

Michelle Kienitz,
Manager Strategic Partnerships

[1] How to Enter a Male-Dominated Industry As a Woman, Everyday Feminism
[2] When competing in a male-dominated field, women should ‘man-up’. Fortune.com
[3] The Authenticiy Trap for Workers Who Are Not Straight, White Men, Harvard Business Review Online.






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10 Startup Expenses You Shouldn’t Waste Money On

Posted on June 24 2015 | Author: Admin

While I’m happy that Single Grain is now in a financial position to support two individual offices – both filled with full-time employees and the latest tech gadgets – I can easily remember back to the days when we were a bootstrapping startup like so many other companies out there today.

If you’re in startup mode yourself and haven’t yet received the million-dollar financing rounds you hoped for, you’re going to encounter plenty of temptations to spend money you don’t have.  If you want to keep yourself going and make it past that critical first-year hump, I’d highly recommend avoiding the following ten expenses until you’re on more stable financial ground.

Expense #1 – Office Space

Trust me – you don’t need a prestigious office address to be taken seriously.  These days, there are so many alternative options for office space that commercial leases should be the furthest thing from your mind.  Instead of blowing your budget here, look for coworking spaces or business incubators that offer extra perks for growing businesses at a fraction of the cost of traditional office rentals.  Even consider keeping your company remote until your finances match up with your leasing aspirations.

Expense #2 – Office Furniture

Now, even if you do decide to lock in to a traditional office lease, there’s no reason you need to waste even more money loading it up with new furniture!  Look for office furniture consignment stores, companies that are going out of business, university disposition programs or Craigslist ads to pick up everything you need at a fraction of the cost of buying new.

Expense #3 – Expensive Subscriptions

While paid subscriptions to services like Basecamp or Sprout Social might seem like they’ll take your business to the next level, keep in mind that there are nearly always free alternatives to these programs.  Trello and SocialOomph, for example, are two options that provide many of the same features as their paid counterparts.  Start with free subscriptions now and amp up your spending in this area later on when you can really afford to do so.

Expense #4 – Conference Travel

Being seen at conferences is great for your business’s profile, but it’s a pretty damn expensive way to get noticed.  Until your cash flow grows, look for local networking events or free online forums.  There are plenty of networking opportunities out there – it’s up to you to take advantage of them!

Expense #5 – Info Products

Info products are a huge weak point for me.  I love learning – so whenever somebody I trust and follow comes out with a new ebook or training course that promises to show me something new, it’s hard for me to keep my hand off my credit card.

But the thing is, I can afford to buy these products now.  If you’re starting out, buying in to a $999 course might mean the difference between paying all your bills one month or falling behind financially.  Not to mention, spending too much time learning can take away from the amount of time you’re actually implementing – and that’s much more important for a young company.

Stick with free online resources for now and make sure your time is focused primarily on actions (rather than learning).  There will come a time in the future when you can learn as much as you want!

Expense #6 – Shipping Supplies

Single Grain doesn’t ship products (unless we’re sending t-shirts to our followers), so we haven’t had to worry too much about the expenses that this process entails.

But if you do ship products, there are a number of ways you can trim your expenses in this area:

Take advantage of the USPS’s free packaging program (if flat rate shipping makes sense for your business).
Get the major carriers to compete for your business by asking them to match – or beat – each other’s shipping rates.
Constantly compare your actual shipping and handling costs to what you’re billing the customer.  If you’re coming up short on each transaction, you need to adjust your margins somewhere.

Expense #7 – Printed Marketing Materials

There’s nothing that says “I’ve arrived” like logo-printed envelopes and glossy custom brochures.  But when you’re first starting out, there’s also nothing quite as unnecessary as printed marketing materials.

Everything we do these days is online, which – for the savvy business owner – means that most traditional printing costs have become obsolete.  Sure, it might be worth it to pick up a box of business cards from Vista Print or Moo – especially if you plan on attending a lot of free networking events.  Just skip everything else and send electronic document versions to cut down on costs.

Expense #8 – Employee Salaries

At some point, your startup will grow to the point where bringing on traditional employees and compensating them with salary and benefits packages will make sense.  However, until you’ve reached a point where your cash flow is relatively stable, it may make sense to pursue alternative employment options.

Can some of your admin tasks be handled by a virtual assistant hired through Odesk?  Can you use a cloud-based accounting subscription service, rather than hire a traditional bookkeeper?  Or, if you must have employees on-site, can you come up with creative ways to compensate them based on performance incentives, rather than with set salaries?  There are options out there – and you can save a lot of money if you look for them!

Expense #9 – Brand New Computers

Sure, your buddy’s shiny new Mac laptop looks pretty appealing – and, as a business owner, don’t you deserve one too?  As Suze Orman would say, “Show me the money!”  If you can afford to buy brand new computers and tech equipment without negatively affecting your business’s finances, then go for it.  And if you can’t, look for manufacturer refurbished or “scratch and dent” models until your cash flow improves.

Expense #10 – Traditional Land Lines

If you need to set up phone service for your company (if, for example, you’re in a traditional office, rather than a coworking space), there’s simply no reason to buy-in to traditional land lines anymore.  Solutions like Google Voice or VOIP services will save you tons of money without compromising your overall service.

Now, with all of that said, I do want to make it clear that there are some areas where I don’t think you should look to save money at all costs.  The following three expenses are ones that I believe every small business owner should prioritize – regardless of how young, old, successful or financially devastated the company is.

Expense #1 – Legal Advice

When you’re starting out, find a good lawyer who specializes in your business’s area of expertise and pay for the advice you need to keep everything kosher.  There are plenty of things you can do to save money on legal expenses (for example, doing some of your own background research or filling out documents yourself), but the financial implications of failing to start out on the right legal foot can be enough to tank your company down the road.  Don’t skimp when it comes to good legal advice!

Expense #2 – Financial Advice

The same thing goes for anybody who’s handling your money.  While you can save money hiring a cloud-based bookkeeper rather than a staff clerk, don’t mess around with cheap advice when it comes to major financial planning issues.  Having a qualified accountant or tax attorney assist with setting up your books, advising you on potential tax saving strategies or determining your long range financial plan will be well worth any upfront costs.

Expense #3 – Taxes

And finally, don’t think that you can save money by skipping out on your taxes!

When I was much younger, I used to be terrible about setting aside the money I knew I’d need to pay my taxes later on.  Instead, I’d reinvest it in my business – rationalizing that the increased growth would leave me with enough income later on to cover each April’s tax bill.  Of course, that never happened – and every year, I’d wind up scrambling yet again to come up with the money I owed to the government.

Don’t be like me!  Whenever your startup receives a payment, make sure that the appropriate amount is set aside in a separate account that won’t be touched until it’s tax time.  It takes discipline, but trust me – there’s nothing worse than that mid-April scramble to come up with more cash!






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Perfecting Your Pitch

Posted on June 15 2015 | Author: Kelly Laidlaw

Gaining the support of investors is an integral part of growing your business. However, the thought of pitching to investors creates a tremendous amount of anxiety for many entrepreneurs. To help you succeed with your next pitch, here are some tips to get you on the right track.

Perfect your elevator pitch: You will likely make an elevator pitch before making an official pitch presentation. These are short, carefully-planned speeches that are meant to grab investors’ attention in less than one minute, or in the time it would take to ride up the elevator. The purpose of the elevator pitch is to say just enough to introduce your company in a compelling way, which will hopefully result in a subsequent meeting where you can present your idea in more detail.

Do it with passion. As an entrepreneur, you probably live and breathe your technology or product. Let that passion and enthusiasm shine through during your pitch! In order to stand out from the crowd, you need to be able to connect with the audience in an honest and exciting way. Including an element of storytelling is an effective way to make your pitch compelling and resonant.

Be clear about your financial plan.  Explain what value will be created with the capital you are raising and how you intend to use it.  Whether it will be for technology development, customer traction, or regulatory approval, outline the events that add value to the company given successful execution on attaining milestones. Be sure to include what your main revenue stream is, your timelines, and the exit strategy.

Market size matters. Investors want to know that you have the potential to grow. You should be able to demonstrate size and a gap in the market and a need for your product, technology or service.

Be prepared to wing it. Technology is a wonderful tool that helps us succeed in business. However, from time to time, technology can fail. If your computer crashes or there are problems with your slideshow, be prepared to wing it and present without technology. Don’t lose precious time in front of an investor while attending to a technology issue.

Have a business plan. If you want to raise money you will need a well-written business plan. The elevator pitch and presentation are needed to spark interest in your idea, but you will only close on the money after the investor buys in to your business plan. Although business plans vary, they all contain common elements. The Canada Business Network site offers selections that you may want to include in your business plan. At the end of the day, no matter how effective your pitch is, it will not result in an investment unless you can provide an analytical and feasible business plan that specifies how and when the investor will see a return. For more information on writing business plans, see a previous Bioenterprise blog post here.  Additional related resources can be found below.

In addition to my own insights, I have gathered some advice from one of our in-house experts, Joe Regan, who is the Managing Partner of Bioenterprise Capital. He brings extensive venture capital expertise gained from within two of Canada’s largest funds. Here are some of the insights that he shared.

Know your audience. Do your own due diligence on the audience to understand their specific needs so that you can tailor your presentation to resonate with their mandate and investment strategy.

Never say you don’t have competition. Sharing information about your competition actually helps you because it validates that you have a strong business idea. Also, it demonstrates that you have done your market research and understand your prospective place in the market.

Be realistic. Most investors see hundreds of pitches and can quickly detect overstatement of reality. Being realistic about valuation, market adoption and other aspects of your business with gain the trust and respect of the investor.

Be open to input and advice. Understandably, it can be hard to hear criticism about your idea. However, synthesizing the feedback and acting on it can help you build a strong relationship with the investor. A venture investment is a long-term relationship so there needs to be an ability to work together over the long run, with the tone being set at the first meeting.

Exploring these guidelines is an excellent first step in preparing your pitch. Should you require further advice or assistance about growing your business, feel free to reach out to our experts here at Bioenterprise. We are happy to help.

Kelly Laidlaw
Project Coordinator

References:
The Government of Canada Business Network
Canada Business Network Sample Business Plans and Templates
Elevator Pitch Tips

Photo Credit: Getty Images
 






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What Happens When Farming Goes High-Tech?

Posted on May 29 2015 | Author: Admin

 

Soil maps, GPS guidance, and even drones are becoming critical tools for modern farmers. These methods of precision agriculture can help increase yields and efficiency—and save farmers a surprising sum along the way.

By 2050 we'll need to feed two billion more people. Click here for a special eight-month series exploring how we can do that—without overwhelming the planet:
http://food.nationalgeographic.com

Watch more Food by the Numbers videos:
http://www.nationalgeographic.com/foodbynumbers/#.VWiwP2bOUoss

Click here to view original video






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Food Fax Edition Part 1 of 4: Caught Out

Posted on May 06 2015 | Author: Carol Culhane

The theme for the 2015 Food Fax series is "Caught Out", an examination of the practice of food adulteration for economic advantage.  The first issue introduces the issue and how reputable members of the food industry are systematically dealing with the issue.  The three subsequent editions of Food Fax 2015 will examine:  the changing role of the regulator as food fraudulence becomes more prevalent; how primary agriculture has become associated with global human trafficking;  and how inferior ingredients pose food safety hazards.

“The man who took chalk out of bread”
Prior to his passing last year, Professor John Postgate, a renowned figure in the field of sulphate- reducing bacteria, wrote a biography of his great- grandfather (his namesake) entitled Lethal Lozenges and Tainted Tea which recounts the fatal effects of adulterated food and drugs of 18th and 19th Century Britain, and the financial sacrifices, perseverance and political will undertaken by Postgate and two colleagues - Hassall and Accum - to bring Britain’s Sale of Food & Drugs Act of 1875 into being. Legislators relied on smell, taste, feel and appearance until a published paper showed that a new invention - the microscope – revealed chicory, roasted corn, ground acorns, bean flour and crushed mangelwurzel in coffee. They were on to something.

Mold, Meat and Misleading in the USA
The USA’s Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906 was a direct response to Upton Sinclair’s book, The Jungle, written to expose the hardship of immigrant life but also revealed unsanitary conditions in the USA’s meat packing industry. Widespread deaths from an adulterated elixir led the US Congress to enact the Food, Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1938, expanded to include the oversight of Food Additives in 1958. In 1962, the partner to adulteration, misleading, was first legally curtailed, when Congress required drug manufacturers to provide scientific evidence that their offerings were not only safe, but effective as well.

When Canada was a province
Sections 15-22 of The Statutes of the Province of Canada and the Dominion of Canada and Ontario (1876) deal with the “penalty on persons mixing deleterious articles with food” (first offence, $100 fine; second offence, six months imprisonment with hard labour), and “offering articles so mixed for sale” ($100 and $200 fine, for first and second offences, in turn). As well, the analytical costs related to the conviction were levied. In 1919, a federal Department of Health was formed, followed by the introduction of Canada’s Food and Drugs Act in 1920. Subsequent to the thalidomide tragedy of the 1960’s, drug efficacy was subjected to regulator review, in addition to safety.

Plus ça change
Economically-motivated food adulteration is more prevalent today than ever previously recorded. As food science matures and technology becomes more precise, paradoxically, opportunities for fraudulence to gain an economic advantage have increased. The Rockland, MD-based USP (U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention), who purchased the Food Chemicals Codex in 2008, published a Food Fraud Database in 2012. Recordkeeping, analytical skills, and stakeholder collaboration have identified the foods most susceptible to being passed off¹:

Most prone to clone Some whys and wherefores
Olive Oil Dilution with inferior oils; natural forces curtail supply, leading to price increases; buyers are motivated.
Fish and Seafood Higher-priced varieties replaced by those of lesser value
Milk and Milk Ingredients Milk from cows adulterated with milk from sheep, buffalo, and goat antelope and with reconstituted milk powder, urea, rennet, and other food and nonfood products.
Natural Sweetening Agents such as Honey and Maple Syrup Colour, sweetness, and viscosity can be mimicked; honey: rising prices due to Colony Collapse Disorder
Saffron To the world's most expensive spice has been added: glycerin, tartrazine, sandalwood dust, barium sulphate, and borax
Expensive Fruit Juices

Such as pomegranate, diluted with apple juice

Coffee See second paragraph!

¹Mermelstein N. 2015. Fighting Food Fraud. Food Technology. Vol. 69 No. 3.

What the Food Industry is Doing
The naysayers abound, as surely as they did when Sinclair published The Jungle. Yet, reputable members of the food industry refuse to be smeared by crooks. The USP has published Guidance on Food Fraud Mitigation, a framework, matrix and flowchart to assist all members of the food industry to fend off food shikesters of every description.

Carol T. Culhane, PHEc, MBA
President, International Food Focus Ltd.
Bioenterprise Regulatory Advisor
 






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6 Steps to Becoming a Successful Student Entrepreneur (Infographic)

Posted on May 05 2015 | Author: Kim Lachance Shandrow

Bill Gates. Mark Zuckerberg. Larry Page. Sergey Brin. They share more than a few enviable accomplishments. They’re billionaires, they made their fortunes in tech and they started their businesses while they were still students. It also doesn’t hurt that they’re seriously smart cookies.

However you slice it, they’re all living proof that you don’t have to wait until after graduation to launch your own business. And, as was the case for Gates and Zuckerberg, you might not have to graduate at all (though, to be clear, we’re not advocating for dropping out).  

If you’re considering becoming a student entrepreneur, just like any other endeavor you undertake, you should have a clear plan -- not like a half-assed term paper hobbled together the night before it’s due. Researching the steps needed to successfully bootstrap a business from your dorm room is key.

Here's a six-step snapshot of the basics of starting up. At first glance, it looks easy, but, as many student entrepreneurs will attest, it's very challenging, especially while juggling a course load and keggers:

  1. Evaluate your business skills, knowledge and goals.
  2. Find the business idea that suits you best.
  3. Research your competitors (and prepare to crush them).
  4. Make a stellar business plan.
  5. Seek out a helpful mentor.
  6. Register your business, open up shop and rock it.

Luckily the people behind the U.K.-based Westminster Bridge Student Accommodation and Urbanest Student Accommodation have neatly packed specific, actionable instructions pertaining to each of the above steps into the helpful infographic below. We couldn’t help but notice that a good chunk of the information visualized within it hails from our very own wordsmiths, right here at Entrepreneur.com.    

From inception to launch, here’s how to startup while you’re still a student. Good luck!

By Kim Lachance Shandrow, Senior Writer Entrepreneur.com






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Becoming an Ag Entrepreneur

Posted on April 22 2015 | Author: Admin

Today’s agriculture isn’t your grandmother’s agriculture.  While we still till the soil and practice animal husbandry, we do it in wonderful ways that past generations could never imagine.  From lasers to GPS to genomics to drones, agriculture has become a hotbed of innovation.

And ag-innovation is no longer the exclusive domain of the major multinational companies. Farmers and non-farmers alike are dipping their toes into the ag-innovative pool with an endless supply of novel ideas. But the journey from creating an idea, to converting that into an actual product or service, and then moving that through to market can be daunting. Fortunately budding entrepreneurs don’t have to take that journey alone.

There are a number of ag organizations available to help aspiring entrepreneurs turn ideas into commercially successful products, or where necessary, offer a bit of tough love. One with which I have worked closely for almost 10 years is Bioenterprise Corporation (www.bioenterprise.ca) located in Guelph. Bioenterprise is a not-for-profit centre whose sole purpose is to foster innovation in the agri-business sector* across Canada. Their team of agribusiness professionals provides entrepreneurs with early stage feedback on the validly of their business idea, areas that need continued work, and help to fill in the gaps.

Here’s how it typically works. At Bioenterprise, if a business concept looks interesting and passes the initial evaluation phase, prospects are invited to expose their idea to an Entrepreneur’s Reality Check, a sort of friendly Dragon’s Den.  Here, a group of senior industry experts will apply their skills and experience to give entrepreneurs a deeper evaluation based on the specific dynamics of the industry they plan to enter. The Reality Check gives entrepreneurs direct access to industry-specific professionals that they would otherwise have little chance of meeting.

If the idea passes the Reality Check, the entrepreneur can continue working with Bioenterprise staff to receive help with writing patents, building a business plan, assembling financial forecasts, conducting market research, and of course, finding sources of seed money. The best part is that there is only a nominal cost for all these services, in the range of $300 per month. You’d do well to get two hours of a consultant’s time for that kind of money.

But how do you know if your business idea is even worth giving Bioenterprise a call?  Too often we fall in love with our own ideas, especially if well-meaning friends and family provide encouragement. Although their intentions may be genuine, rarely are these the best sources to ask for an evaluation of whether you should devote the next few years of your life and much of your savings to your innovation.

However, after working with dozen of ag entrepreneurs over the past 10 years, I have found six simple questions which, if answered honestly,  can provide entrepreneurs with a good initial self-evaluation of whether their innovation is ready for the big stage.

1. Does my invention work?
And more importantly, can I prove it using industry recognized standards? The more third party data you can generate to prove your product delivers its claims, the better. If you can’t prove to the satisfaction of industry professionals that your product works, there is no need to even consider the next 5 questions. As the saying goes, “Without data, you’re just another guy with an opinion”.

2. Can my invention be protected?
That is, can my invention be patented, or is there some other form of intellectual property protection that can be used to keep competitors at bay. If it cannot be protected, it will be copied. And without protection, you can forget about enticing a major company to ever make you an offer. Along the same line, an often neglected question is whether you have Freedom to Operate. In other words, are you sure you are not infringing on someone else’s patent? Many entrepreneurs forget to check this, only to have the rug pulled from under their feet after they have invested a large chunk of their savings.

3. Can I register my invention?
Although not necessary with all products, many areas of agriculture are highly regulated. Do you know how your invention will be regulated, what government agencies will be involved, and whether you will be able to satisfy their questions? Some products, such as pesticides, food additives, or nutraceuticals can be very difficult to register and can cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some technologies may not be registerable at all.

4. Can I Manufacture my Invention?
Making a prototype in your workshop is far different than scaling up into mass production. Do you have the expertise and capital resources to construct a modern manufacturing facility? Are the raw materials readily available, and will the raw material suppliers sell to you? It is not uncommon for competitors to have exclusive contracts with suppliers of specialized raw materials to keep others out of the industry.

5. Will I have Customers?
What makes me believe that customers will switch from what they have been using for years and adopt my product? And how will I reach those customers? Distribution tends to be one of the most difficult steps for entrepreneurs. The best distributors tend to be tied up with the best suppliers, and may be unwilling to carry your product if it could put that larger relationship at risk. And if your product is destined for the mass retail market, such as a novel food, gaining shelf space with one of the major food companies can be daunting task.

6. Will I Make a Profit?
After investing all my time, energy and money into this venture, will the returns be worthwhile? Entrepreneurs often over-estimate the market share they can obtain and underestimate the total cost to bring an invention to market. Unless you have previous experience, you may be surprised by the cost of patent protection, regulatory compliance, third-party research, and marketing. Building an early relationship with your accountant can help avoid nasty surprises along the way.

It isn’t necessary to have full answers to all six questions right away, but eventually each will need to be addressed. In my opinion the first question, “Does my invention work?” is the most important. If you can honestly say that you have invented something new and useful and can prove it works, it may be time to engage the professional help available at organizations like Bioenterprise and become one of Canada’s next successful ag entrepreneurs.

*Agri-business Sectors serviced by Bioenterprise

Agri-Based Life Sciences Food
Agri-Based Health Food Ingredients
Ag Management Tools Functional Foods
Animal Science Growth Stimulants
Aquaculture Nutraceuticals
Agri-forestry Organics
Bio-Energy, Bio-fuels Pest Control
Bio-Materials Water Management
Cleantech Software (ag)
Crop Science Waste Management
Equipment Technology Crop and Seed Varieties
Fertilizer, Nutrients  

 

Warren Libby
Chairperson, Bioenterprise Board of Directors
         






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