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    

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

By Kim Lachance Shandrow, Senior Writer

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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 ( 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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Why You Should Invest in Your Employees

Posted on March 18 2015 | Author: Mary Dimou

You’ve found yourself at the head of an enterprise; you may be at the stage where you’ve just recently scaled up your business or perhaps you’re undergoing expansion. Either way, it’s time for you to assess your resources, manpower, and finally, start making critical decisions for your company’s future. For that, you will need a dedicated team behind you that you can trust to operate collaboratively and effectively, while providing the appropriate level of support to your customers.

It is important to strategize how to maintain that trust with your seasoned staff as well as begin to develop that trust with new hires.

This is a matter of opinion and the methodology is uncharted; but as a small operation, the salaries you can offer are likely not competitive with large corporate counterparts. The challenge becomes deciphering what you can offer that is unique to the small business environment to entice your new hires and sustain your loyal staff. The truth is fairly straightforward; you can invest in both their professional and personal growth.


Here are a few critical points to consider while you are moving into this next step and recommendations to overcome these hurdles:

  1. The job market is perpetually changing. New graduates are entering the market with more credentials than their predecessors. This means a highly competitive applicant pool to choose new hires from; but on the other hand can translate to your current employees feeling pressures and insecurities. Diminish this by being proactive. You may consider creating a small allocation of your capital to a Professional Development Fund for each employee; or embark on creating company-wide training initiatives for all employees’ growth.
  2. Nurture them to be a resident expert in their field. Allow your employees to assume leadership roles on company initiatives and inspire them to share ideas of their own. Promoting an interactive and safe environment can stimulate creativity that could have positive effects on your current process efficiencies. Further, allowing your employees to work within interdisciplinary teams, or allowing them to shadow other positions in your company, can aid them in finding their niche. Once they have, take the time to plot a career path to alleviate any ambiguities about where they currently are in the company and where they could be.
  3. Support their network development. Encourage your team to expand their networks. Why? A greater network will contribute to greater self-assurance, confidence in their performance, and their opportunities to encounter relevant information. It’s imperative to keep your employees at the forefront of industry adaptations and educational criteria. As their employer, attempt to help them stand out in the crowd by introducing them to influential people in their expert field. You may even consider creating a Mentor Match program for your new employees to expedite their learning curve.

Ultimately, an employee that feels appreciated and invested in can be one of your greatest assets. A small investment, (be it monetary, time, or both) improves the productivity and workflow of your company; creates a champion in your corner, and can reduce your turnover rate. Consider what this could mean for your company and assess the amount you can allocate to employee development. 

Mary Dimou, M.Sc.
Business Analyst, Food Nutrition & Health

Photo Credit: Project Resource

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The Importance of Languages in Business

Posted on February 25 2015 | Author: Natalya Smardon

If you’re thinking about broadening your spectrum by engaging in international business, it’s important to consider which languages will be most frequently used for interactions with other businesses, clients and customers. Of course, most places around the world have large English-speaking communities and for the most part, English is used by professionals from all over the globe. You may be considering the idea that, knowledge of another language is not needed or not worth the time and effort it takes to learn. After all, why should you bother having multi-lingual employees when English is commonly the default language for communication? There are considerably large benefits to second language use that are invariably overlooked.

The foremost reason is respect. Believe it or not, even if your skills are a little rusty, people appreciate the effort. Showing a willingness to use another language even if you make mistakes demonstrates your confidence, dedication and willingness to connect – traits that are important for all entrepreneurs. Speaking another language not only helps with first impressions, but eases communication with business partners. Having both parties able to communicate in more than one language is ideal, as it can lead to a deeper understanding and thereby aid in a smooth transition from a national to international market. In this fashion, languages help with foreign affairs, correspondence with governments and institutions, and essentially any and all international exchanges. There is a growing demand for multi-lingual individuals as the global market expands, and the world becomes smaller.

If you or your business can be officially labeled as multi-lingual, you will find that more doors are open to you. With increased means of communication, you become more accessible to overseas markets that may have previously been unavailable to you, and can signal boost to reach a more extensive range of markets. Furthermore, you have the potential to access new sources of funding and sponsorship and can provide better services to clients.

Translators / communication platforms
One who is not already convinced on the importance of multi-lingualism, might say they have the use of electronic translators. These devices may be available at every turn in today’s society—apps on smartphones, computers and laptops, tablets and iPads, but unfortunately they are incorrect most of the time. Sure they can get the general idea across, but can you afford to blur the lines in your meetings and discussions? Electronic translators are inconveniently slow, do not understand acronyms, slang, jokes, and most importantly dialects. Having a real person translating and interpreting for you is much more personal, and accurate, and even better if you can do it yourself!

Blog Entry NatCross-cultural communication
Cross-cultural communication is an important aspect of international business that should not be looked upon lightly. There are many customs, gestures and signals that elude the less-traveled individual, which can lead to inconvenient and embarrassing misunderstandings. The last thing you want to do is strain relationships based on cultural miscommunications, but fear not! When you can speak a mutual language or two, it is much easier to explain your actions, discuss foreign customs and clear any confusion and misinterpretations. Here are a few gestures that may be unknown to you:

Eye Contact
In some African countries, it is considered insulting to make eye contact with your superiors. In contrast, Arab cultures see eye contact as very important and it is often constant. The same can be said for Brazil, where people look into one another’s eyes much longer than in North America, as they view the eyes as mirrors of the soul and see this as a way to get to know a person.

Finger beckoning
In North America, beckoning your finger at someone means ‘come here’, but in Malaysia it has an effect of ‘come here animal’. In Indonesia and Australia, it is used to call inferiors, and is an insult. Additionally, in North America the “okay” hand sign means everything is alright. Do that gesture in France, Australia or Islamic countries and it’s a great insult meaning zero, or worthless. Another commonly unknown gesture is the North American ‘halt’. In Iraq, putting your hand out in front of you with your palm facing outwards means hello.

Handing out Business Cards
In Hong-Kong, Singapore or Japan, when someone hands you his/her business card, they will do so with both hands. You have to receive it in both hands, look at it, acknowledge it and then put it into your pocket. Otherwise, it is considered quite rude. Whatever you do, don’t write on a business card in front of the person that gave it to you!

Yes and no
In many countries the nod forward is the symbol for ‘yes’. In Bulgaria, Pakistan and India you shake your head back and forth to say ‘yes’, the way North Americans and many Europeans say ‘No’. In Greece, ‘No’ is represented by shaking your head briefly backward and a mild tongue-clicking.

There are hundred of customs that could get you into trouble, be it manners, body language, verbal queues, forms of politeness, or attire. Do plenty of research before traveling!

Fun Facts

  • Canada's French-speaking population ranks second only to that of France worldwide. It is larger than the Francophone populations of Switzerland and Belgium combined.

  • The number of French-speaking Canadians living outside of Quebec is equivalent to that of entire provinces such as Saskatchewan, New Brunswick or Nova Scotia.

  • Almost one Canadian in four has French as a mother tongue and close to one Canadian in three speaks French.

  • 1.6 million of Canada's French-speaking population have an ancestry other than French or English.

  • According to the Linguistic society of America, there are between 6900 – 7000 languages spoken worldwide.

  • Not surprisingly, Mandarin Chinese is the most useful language for business after English, spoken by 845 million people in the world's second-largest economy, China. French is no. 2 and Arabic No. 3.

  • Studies from Rosetta Stone have shown that bilingual employees earn on average 10% more in their salary than those that are monolingual.

It is no question that business and language compliment each other. More and more, businesses are beginning to require language to be successful. The end result is that you can only benefit from learning and using a second, third or fourth language. Convinced? Read more from the Government of Canada on Making your Organization Bilingual.

“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” - Ludwig Wittgenstein


Natalya Smardon
Junior Marketing & Projects Coordinator

ABC News
The Linguistic Society of America

Photo Credit: Glasbergen

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The Evolving Food Landscape

Posted on February 11 2015 | Author: Jessica Taylor

Jess 2015 blogWhen reflecting on 2014’s major trends such as the local food movement, transparency and the clean label, it is undeniable that consumer demand is driving innovation and change in the food sector. The Information Age has created a generation of consumers who are used to having answers at their fingertips and they expect the same from the food they are buying. Today’s consumer wants to know what they are eating, where it’s from and how it travelled through the supply chain.

So what should you keep your eyes open for this year? According to Innova Database here are a few of the trends we can expect in 2015:

Protein: Old Trend, New Sources
Consumers are still looking to increase their protein intake and we will continue to see more high-protein products enter the market but the difference this year will be the source. New sources of protein such as pea and milk will be introduced and novel sources like algae and insects will also hit the market. That’s right, last year’s “bug trend” is expected to continue! However, as we saw in 2014 insect-based products will be picked up quicker in Europe than here in North America. Keep your eyes open for products like Chirps, cricket chips, and Chocolate Chirp Cookies by Six Foods.

Gearing Up for a New Generation
Millennials, the biggest generation since the Baby Boomers, are now becoming the primary customers of food products. These individuals are 15 to 35 years old and are very different than any consumer the food industry has seen before. Unlike their parents, and generations before them, Millennials are very concerned about the story behind the products they are consuming; brand loyalty is a thing of the past. In 2015, we expect to see the food industry respond with marketing geared towards Millennials – more storytelling, more information.

From Clean to Clear: Changing Labels
With the consumer growing increasingly interested in their diet, food labels have evolved to provide appropriate information. In recent years food labels have become “clean” with statements such as: no additives; no preservatives; nutritious, wholesome ingredients; and claims about consumer health benefits. This year we will see another evolution of the food label, from clean to clear. The clear label will boost simple claims and hone in on the transparency trend providing consumers with a better idea of what they are eating.

Today’s consumer is all about the DIY. They want to Instagram a photo of their Tuscan Tortellini Vegetable Soup, Berry Green Smoothie and the incredible breakfast burrito they made this morning, but they want it to be as convenient as possible. These same Foodies who are looking to make gourmet meals at home are also in a rush and convenience is of utmost importance. We are a society that has come to expect instant gratification, even when it comes to food preparation. This year we should expect to see the food industry cater to this demand with pre-cut fruits and veggies and other products to speed up meal prep time.

The Rise of the Snack
Finally, more and more consumers are eating meals on their own and on-the-go. Many people have shied away from large family-style meals due to their increasingly busy lifestyles and the difficulty of finding a time where everyone can sit down. In 2015 the food industry should pick up on this trend and launch more “snack foods” to replace traditional meals. Breakfast is no stranger to this movement, but products this year will aim to replace lunch and dinner options with snacks as well!

Through a snap shot of the food industry we can see that many changes are on the horizon. As society evolves, so too must the food industry in order to meet the needs of the ever-changing consumer. It looks like innovation is the name of the 2015 food game – who is up to the challenge?

Jessica Taylor
Business Analyst, Food, Nutrition & Health

PR News Wire
Food Navigator

Photo Credit: iStock

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Conference Common Sense

Posted on January 21 2015 | Author: Jennifer Kalanda

Conference blogAttending the right conferences can be an important element to the success, expansion or survival of your business. Once you’ve established your conference schedule however many, it’s important to make sure you show up with a plan and some common sense!

Get connected.
Many conferences have mailing lists that you can sign up for and receive updates about the upcoming event.  You can also follow their social media accounts.  Using their event related hashtags in your social media communications might even garner you a “retweet” or “like”, giving you exposure to others followers of the event (or even potentially new customers).  The event will use their electronic communications to promote things like, when registration opens, when early bird discounts expire or when they have booked an exciting keynote or sponsor.

Schedule meetings in advance.
Review the schedule in advance of the event and determine what panels, keynotes or workshops are going to be of greatest interest to you.  Armed with your event related agenda, try to schedule a few meetings with people in your network who are from the area or are attending the event as well.  Having a few key meetings already set up, will help ensure you are able to get the most out of your time away from the office.

Follow the dress code.
This seems pretty obvious, but you would be surprised!  It’s important for you to be comfortable and you have a long day ahead you, but following the event suggested dress code will ensure you present yourself as the well prepared professional you are.  If you are unable to determine the dress code, by the type of event, or pictures from the previous events, just be sure to dress for success!

Bring a lot of business cards.
Again, obvious but important enough it bares mentioning.  Make sure you have more than enough business cards with you at all times.   After you have had a conversation with someone and have swapped cards, take a few seconds and jot down some notes about your chat.  You don’t want to miss an opportunity when you are sorting through your contacts and following up.  You stand to meet a lot of people and have a lot of conversations to remember.

Network! Talk to people!
Understandably this, for some, is easier said than done.  But that’s why you are there; don’t miss out on the opportunity to make a valuable connection.  If you’re a little new to attending industry events, a good conversation starter to ask a fellow attendee is what brings them to that event.  This question is great because it encourages them to identify their goals and objectives to you right away.  Their answer should set you up to ask more relevant or engaging questions.  Another easy icebreaker is asking what they thought of the most recent speaker/panel/workshop.
Practice your elevator pitch, you are going to have to say it a lot — and if you haven’t already, read up on the latest industry news prior to the conference.

Position yourself as an expert.
Becoming and staying active in your industry could help you to develop a reputation as an expert to your industry peers and clients.  Those who are able to separate themselves as a leader could be asked to speak at events or write articles for related industry publications.  Your existing and new clients will feel good about doing business with someone who is celebrated by their industry.

Try to have fun.
Being in business should be rewarding and fun.  Industry conferences can add a layer of enjoyment to managing your company’s growth.  Conferences and networking events add a valuable social aspect to your business development and branding efforts.  Some events have fun activities such as group exercise, golf, or tours of the host city.  If time and budget permit, it’s worth taking an extra day at the beginning or end of the trip to explore a new city.  Attending an event and maximizing your meeting opportunities can be tiring, especially if you went to a great city and only saw the inside of a hotel!

But most importantly, follow up!
After the conference, send a quick message to those you connected with the most.  Don’t send out a generic email – make sure you personalize it.

Jennifer Kalanda
Marketing & Events Coordinator

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Funding Your Start-up

Posted on December 11 2014 | Author: Kelly Laidlaw

Being your own boss and following your true passion are among the many factors that entice thousands of Canadians each year to start their own businesses. In fact, a study by the Wharton School of Business found that grads who started their own businesses reported the highest levels of career satisfaction, regardless of how much money they earned. However, no one said that starting a company would be easy. Entrepreneurs often report that the hardest part of starting a new business is raising the initial start-up money. Luckily there are several ways to do this.

Kelly blog funding

The Three Fs:
The first people that many entrepreneurs pitch to are the proverbial three Fs- friends, family and fools. This can be a fast way to get interest-free loans. However, mixing business with your personal life can get messy. To avoid ruining close relationships you may want to show them your business plan, let them know how much you’ve already invested into the business, and establish clear time lines as to when you’ll pay them back. If you find that your loved ones are weary of loaning money (perhaps they’re jaded from an annoying uncle’s get rich-quick-schemes) then take a look at the following options.

Personal Savings:
Many entrepreneurs start their businesses from their own savings. This is a good strategy since it allows you to maintain control over your company. It also shows investors and lenders that you have risked something of your own. This is a requirement to get many business loans. After all, if you aren’t willing to invest in your own company, how can you expect others to?

Some businesses can be built up quickly enough to make a profit without getting investors involved. This can be done in some sectors such as the service industry, where there isn’t much initial capital needed for start-up expenses like employees or rent. Entrepreneurs can use their savings to get the business up and running, and then use the profits from each sale to continue to grow the company.

Debt Financing:
There are several types of debt financing, which are essentially loans that are paid back with interest. This is a good approach to getting funds relatively fast. Lenders want to make sure you have the following:

  • Personal collateral
  • A sound business plan
  • Realistic projected cash flow
  • A strong management team
  • Good credit rating
  • Commitment of your own money to the business

For more information on debt financing, click here.

Government Funding:
There are many options for government financing to either start or to expand your business. These include grants, contributions, loan guarantees and subsidies. The Canada Business Network site allows you to browse different government financing. The most desirable type of government funding is grants because they provide you with free money that you don’t need to pay back. It can take anywhere from 2 to 18 months to receive this funding. Understandably, you will need to be prepared to outline in great detail every aspect of your business and what the grant money will go toward.

Private Investors:
Angel investors are wealthy individuals who invest their own money in the hopes of getting a return from a business opportunity. Their investments usually range from $25,000 to $100,000.  Some angel investors act very quickly, while others take their time before investing. If you are comfortable giving up equity for financing, this can be a smart solution to raise capital. Though angel investors’ involvement levels vary, they can serve as a valuable mentor since many are entrepreneurs themselves who have successfully built and sold companies. Since they are risking their own money, it is in the angel investor’s best interest to coach you and to help your company thrive. 

Venture capital is money provided to start-ups from a fund, which is a pool of money that was raised through individuals or companies who have money to invest.  Venture capitalists usually invest larger amounts of capital than angel investors, and typically invest after the first round of seed funding.  They are looking to invest in innovative technologies with high-growth potential. Venture capital can be an excellent option for companies who are too small to ether raise money in the public markets or to complete a debt offering.

Harnessing the Crowd:
Crowdfunding is a valuable tool for entrepreneurs and businesses looking to bypass traditional sources of funding. Crowdfunding usually raises money through collecting funds from a large amount of people, or the ‘crowd’.  This is done via the Internet on sites such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter.  Project creators document their ideas on the website in hopes of getting donations and pre-selling their products. Crowdfunding can be a fast way to raise money, but even if your venture doesn’t get funded, at least you’ll get to test your business idea and get exposure. Keep in mind that you will need to carefully consider your company structure to ensure that you can maintain control of your business, since the number of shareholders could dramatically increase after crowdfunding. Recently, some provinces have been considering crowdfunding. In December 2013 Saskatchewan became the only Canadian province to have a crowdfunding specific prospectus exemption. Currently, there are no websites offering equity crowdfunding in Saskatchewan. Once equity crowdfunding websites are launched, the Government of Saskachewan’s Financial and Consumer and Affairs website will post them here, so stay tuned!

Kelly Laidlaw
Project Coordinator

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Due Diligence - An exercise in organization and presentation

Posted on December 04 2014 | Author: Ingrid Fung

Ingrid DD blogAt one point or another every company will require financing. While some may be able to access capital through founders, and personal networks, most will need to raise money externally.  Potential investors of every kind are likely to require a comprehensive analysis of the business to evaluate commercial potential prior to investing in a company.

Bioenterprise offers due diligence services to companies that are looking for investment. The goal of the process is to evaluate whether the claims made by a company are supported by the information provided.  While every project has it’s own challenges, invariably the key to a smooth due diligence process is providing well-organized, comprehensive information to evaluators.  

Organization of the information you provide is key to helping your evaluators understand your argument, and analyze your business. When providing this information, it is important to approach the process much like a presentation.  Organize your information by:

  1. Telling your reviewers what you are going to tell them. You can do this in the form of a pitch deck, business plan, or executive summary.
  2. Tell them.  Provide the information.
  3. Tell them what you have told them by summarizing the conclusions they should draw from each set of information provided.

Below are several tips that can help you better organize the information you provide:

  • Organize your documents in a similar order to the way information is provided in your business plan, pitch deck, or executive summary. This will make it easier for your evaluators to follow your lines of thought, and more likely to come to the same conclusions as you. It’s much easier to agree with someone when you are presented with support for their argument each step of the way.
  • For each section or type of information you provide (e.g. Intellectual property, Financials, etc.) Include an overview document that provides some kind of narrative as to how the information or documents came to be.
  • Take time to write out brief summaries or summarize complex data into easily referencable charts and figures. Basically, what you are doing here is providing a guideline for your evaluators, and then what they should be seeing in the information you provided and how they should be seeing it.
  • Take advantage of online file sharing services to organize your documents in easily sharable ways. This way when your evaluators look at the information, they will see it in the relative order, groupings etc. designated by you. Besides climbing into your brain, this is the next best thing.
  • Take the time to rename your files, giving them easy to understand, self-explanatory names. There is nothing more frustrating than to having to open dozens of cryptically named documents to decipher their contents.

There are a number of checklists and guidelines online that give a good overview of the information a company should provide (see end of document for some suggested resources).  However the organization, and presentation of information is just as important as the documentation provided.  Providing good written summaries of the information you provide will give evaluators and analysts a road map to refer to throughout the process. Well-organized information and data will make it as easy as possible for those evaluating your company to come to the same conclusions as you!

Ingrid Fung
Senior Business Analyst, Planting & Animal Science

Sample due diligence checklists:

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“Your Office in your Pocket”

Posted on November 25 2014 | Author: Laura Millson

Benefits of having an Exchange Server

Many of us work on the run, -- no I will rephrase that – we all work on the run whether we admit to it or not.  With Internet access just a touch away we all love to be able to check “the status” of projects or just catch up with the office emails.   

Laura exchange blogThen there are those of us that are required to be in meetings; attend conferences and speaking engagements; to be travelling and away from the office for extended periods or have the opportunity to work from home and still need to be connected to the daily office “activity”. 

Email is a tool of today’s working society.  We all use it.  It gives us the satisfaction of making contact, a contribution and sense of productivity.  However in order to achieve that seamless automatic response we seek, you need to have access to an Exchange server to experience having what I refer to as your  “office in your pocket”.

Exchange can accommodate both PC and Mac platforms with the ability to synchronize with mobile devices to access email contacts and calendars from blackberry, iphone and android.  It allows you to access email anywhere  (in the world) with security and backup features that are seamless. It gives you massive amounts of storage space, control of your email client  (Outlook) with access to sharing features (like folders, notes and calendars), adding and deleting accounts, size of attachments and the comfort of backup.  Yes, backup!  So when your hard drive fails (and they do!), or your email account is corrupted, restoring your information is as simple as connecting to the Exchange server.  An administrators dream!

You can also access your mailbox using OWA (Outlook Web App) a browser based email client, which allows you to access your Microsoft Exchange Server mailbox from almost any web browser.

So What Exactly is an Exchange Server?
The Microsoft Exchange server application feeds data to a client application (in most cases Microsoft Outlook) which then allows you to use the features of  email, contact management and calendars simple and trouble-free.

Primarily designed for businesses Exchange is also suited for individuals who want flexibility from their mail platform that is not provided by other webmail clients or POP3 email accounts are capable of providing.

So what are the benefits of using Microsoft Exchange Server?

  • Security – confidentiality without compromise by outside sources
  • Backup – knowing that an email account is never lost and can always be retrieved
  • Accessibility – anywhere in the world with access to all the features of MS Outlook
  • Efficiency – easy to find and fix issues with monitoring capabilities to detect issues quickly before it disrupts business. 

Many tasks required to keep MS Exchange operating properly are automated allowing administrators more time to deal with more pressing issues.

There are many benefits to using Microsoft Exchange Server and many businesses are discovering that this is a program that they cannot do without.  Its worth looking into.

Laura Millson
Entrepreneur Services and Office Operations Coordinator


Microsoft Exchange Top Features


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