Business Tips

Diversity – What does it mean for you as an entrepreneur?

By Sadhna Mathrani, Marketing Assistant

Canada is a racially, ethnically, and socio-economically diverse country where we are lucky to have people from all walks of life. This also means that as an entrepreneur, you have a huge group of people to market your offering to, which can be very daunting. Diversity encompasses many things such as race, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, and beliefs, just to name a few.

It can be a stepping stone to success for businesses, if engaged with in a thoughtful and genuine way. For all the entrepreneurs out there wondering how you too, can embrace diversity, we have some suggestions:

1.       Hire for “cultural add” vs. “culture fit”.

If you’ve hired people before, you’ve likely heard the term “cultural fit”. However, this can be incredibly subjective and you might end up hiring people with the same ideas as you. A concept that is being explored by companies such as Pandora is looking for “cultural add” instead of “cultural fit”. This focuses on hiring people from different backgrounds who hold similar values but provide a diverse perspective to the firm. Rather than hiring people who think the same and behave the same, the company is able to create an environment that facilitates the uncovering and overcoming of biases. Through this new approach, Pandora has seen higher employee satisfaction surveys and morale. When hiring, look for those who are willing to provide a different perspective and will help grow your company rather than those who simply mimic who you are currently.

2.       Consider the diversity of your customers when developing and marketing your product.

You don’t need to sell your product to every single person, but are you excluding a whole group of consumers without meaning to? For example, if you are an organic cosmetics company, you’ll have individuals with different skin types who come from different racial backgrounds and different age categories. Therefore, if you want to sell your product to appeal to a diverse group of consumers you’ll need to make sure that both your marketing technique and product itself are designed with this in mind. Don’t use a blanket technique but rather, a personalized one that shows that you’ve fully considered the diversity of your clients. This will help set you apart from other organizations.

Rihanna’s makeup brand, Fenty Beauty has done exactly that – the company offers over 40 different foundation shades. Unlike traditional cosmetic companies that have a narrow shade selection in their product lines, Fenty targets those who often have difficulty finding the right makeup for their skin. According to the Business of Fashion, Fenty reported a profit of $562 million in its first full year, outselling other popular brands such as Kat Von D. It’s clear that embracing diversity helped the company become one of the most popular makeup brands. Not only has this increased profits for the company, but it is also one of the most inclusive makeup companies.

3.       Adjust your marketing style and product/service when you are entering new markets.

What is considered appropriate and enticing in Canada may be very different than what is well-received in another country. For example, McDonald`s has been successful in countries like India due to their cultural sensitivity. They have introduced food items that reflect the taste of those in the host country, such as the “Big Spicy Paneer Wrap” and the “Chicken Kebab Burger”. You might need to do primary and secondary research for this, or you may need to hire someone who is familiar with business in that particular region. Whatever it is, make sure you are aware of those differences and are able to accommodate for them! Our team at AWE is ready to support as you begin thinking about market expansion through resources, advising, and trade mission opportunities. Our Business Beyond Borders program is tailored towards women entrepreneurs looking to expand and grow their business beyond Alberta’s borders.

4.       Don’t make generalizations about a group of people.

Make sure that you conduct research or speak to people from the group you’re trying to engage with to get a detailed understanding of what they need and how you can best serve their interests. A good way to do this is focus groups and primary research. It can be as simple as doing an online survey or just chatting with your target market in person about what they want. This will also help you market better as you’ll be more cognizant of people’s differences!

As you scale your business, your team will grow, your customer base will expand, and you may even enter new international markets. Embracing diversity and incorporating it into your business now will help ensure your business succeeds in the future.

How to Stand Out From the Crowd with Branded Design

by Rivet Management

If you’re a business owner, you know how important the word differentiation is. You likely started your business after experiencing some gap in your market and thought, “we could do this better.”

While your business model may be different from your competitors, we see many entrepreneurs take a like-minded approach when it comes to the design and overall look and feel of their commercial spaces. Why is that? Well, for starters, it’s easy.

Many businesses reach out to the same commercial designers to support their renovations, which is why you see so many dental and medical offices that look the same. To truly live your brand, you need a space that reflects who you are, what you stand for and why your customers should choose you over the competition.

Here are three ways to help you stand out from the crowd with branded design.

1. Know Your Target Market

Your target market isn’t anyone and everyone. Be specific when it comes to your target market and give them a brand persona. Ask yourself the following questions:

●     What does my ideal client need from my company?

●     What frustrations does my client deal with?

●     What challenges does my client deal with?

●     Does my space align with my client’s expectations?

For example, your target audience could be women from 35-45 years of age from Sherwood Park who are mothers. Are 35 year old mothers and 45 year old mothers the same? No. Do they have different frustrations and expectations? Maybe. Think specifically of Martha who is 37 with three kids in full time school and a part-time job.

This is also important to your space. A 35 year old mother may have younger kids with different needs than the 45 year old mom with teens needing charging stations and free wifi in your waiting room. What does Martha, your ideal client, need from you to make her experience memorable?

2. Create Conversation Pieces

Let’s be honest, a TV cannot be your focal point of conversation in your waiting room. It may seem like the easiest option, but it’s by far the most generic piece of technology we see in every other office space. Find a way to stand-out and create something that keeps your clients talking, even after they’ve left the building.

Conversation pieces could include:

●     Artwork;

●     Selfie wall or photobooth;

●     Fish tanks;

●     Charging stations;

●     Mirrors; or

●     Treadmill desks.

3. Keep Your Brand Experience Consistent

Lack of consistency is what can kill your brand. If you’re walking into a fast food restaurant that charges $15.00 for a burger versus $3.00 for a burger, you probably have a different level of expectation when it comes to how the restaurant looks and feels. Think back to your ideal client, what do they expect when they visit your space? If you’re charging a premium price, your client likely expects a premium experience. How can you add value to their time at your place of business?

Branding your space is more than just plastering your logo on everything. It’s incorporating design elements that speak to your ideal customer while ensuring your brand’s values are properly reflected.

Join Alberta Women Entrepreneurs and Rivet Management for two workshops in early 2019 as we cover:

●      How you can maximize your dollars

●      How you can create a space that both you and your customers love

●      How to increase your overall revenue while providing an awesome experience

Register for Edmonton’s session on January 24, 2019.

Register for Calgary’s session on February 21, 2019.

About the Author

Rivet Management is an Edmonton and area based firm focused on creating unique and branded spaces. We specialize in commercial spaces including dental/medical clinics, restaurants and more! Learn more about us at

Client Feature: Sonia Egey-Samu


We sat down with Sonia Egey-Samu, Partner of Clarity Wealth Counsel Inc, to learn more about her business, the journey as an entrepreneur and mother, and her experience with AWE and the PeerSpark program.

Sonia, tell us how your journey into entrepreneurship began.
Well, I worked at several of the big financial institutions in my 10 year corporate career and saw every aspect of what financial advice looked like. I learned all the cookie cutter tools and products being used. But all the while there was an internal conflict since I could never develop to the "mold" and constantly needed to learn more to do more for my clients whose financial lives depended on me. At the height of my corporate career my husband and I were flown to Denver to EACH be awarded as one of the top 30 advisors in Canada within the firm we worked at. It was a really cool moment, and we looked at each other and were so proud in sharing that achievement.

Then from there we went on to start our own retirement planning firm and it definitely wasn't an easy decision! Now we look back just a few years later and absolutely cannot believe the tremendous growth that we've had as a company, as individuals, as a married couple, and as parents.

What is the service you provide?
Our specialization is Tax Efficient Retirement Planning. So when somebody comes to see us, they're finished dabbling, and kind of guessing and hoping, and are now serious about not only completing a detailed retirement plan, but also ensuring that they achieve that plan. And the way we approach planning is extremely comprehensive so "no rocks are left unturned". Clients generally leave our office feeling that "weight" or "worry" being lifted about their financial future. It's what we've been doing for a long time, and we absolutely love what we do!

What would you say is the best part of having your own business?
The shaping of our business is the best part by far. I'm so deeply driven to consistently review how we provide value, and then 10x that. But sometimes as business owners we lose sight of what value really is. And it's so easy to lose sight because there's what you think your client values, and then there's taking the time to habitually ask clients what THEY value and so we've been doing this since day one and shaping our business based on their feedback and their needs.

What have you learned from working with others in the PeerSpark program?
It's definitely been one of the best experiences of my life meeting like minded women and sharing our deepest challenges to be able to work through them quickly. My growth today wouldn't be where it is had I not participated in PeerSpark, I'm very grateful to continue to be a part of it.

What are you most proud of in your business?
It was a tear jerker moment for me when we recently had a few of our long time clients volunteer to do a video testimonial. Listening to their words and what they'd experience has been made me the most proud. I had a good cry (laughing)

Would you recommend entrepreneurship to a friend?
I don't recommend entrepreneurship, just like I don’t recommend how to parent, or how to eat. These decisions should all be based on personal values in my mind. If a friend wanted to talk through the idea of it, I'm there!

How do you manage being a mom and business owner?
First things First by Stephen Covey, it's a good read! I schedule each week based on my core values. I get total fulfillment from being a Mama, a business owner, and all the other hats I wear.

Define your work life balance
Hmm, I'd probably say to maintain a level of homeostasis. To keep contributing to my family and my business, I need to make sure I keep my cup full so that I can perform at a high level, be present, feel healthy and organized in my life.

Would you recommend PeerSpark to other entrepreneurs?
I cannot speak highly enough about PeerSpark and the positive impact it has made on my life. If someone out there is thinking about it and needs to chat before making the leap I'm more than happy to share my experience.

To learn more about Sonia and Clarity Wealth Counsel Inc, visit their website at

If you have questions regarding AWE or our PeerSpark™ program, visit our PeerSpark™ page to learn more. 


Everything You Wanted to Know about Co-Working!

You may have heard about co-working spaces lately. But what are they?

Co-working spaces are places that for a monthly membership fees, members can
drop-in and work. For some, it’s an affordable alternative to renting office space to work, meet clients and have meetings. For others, it’s a social space, to meet entrepreneurs like them, learn, network, gain clients or suppliers, and brainstorm ideas. This can make it a great option for entrepreneurs who are currently working out of their home.

Some co-working spaces (like NABI Commons in St. Albert) bring in business experts (such as AWE) to help their members grow their business. Often, they have business amenities, like phone line and access to office equipment. They are frequently modelled in a modern open working environment.

Interested? Try out NABI for a $10 drop in fee or a $125 membership fee per month. Or check out the other co-working spaces in Edmonton!

Co-Working Organizations in Edmonton

Co-Working Organizations in Calgary

How to Know When to Fire a Customer

The customer is always right. We hear this business cliché time and time again, but do we ever stop to think if it’s actually true? We’re here to tell you that it’s not! The customer is most definitely not always right, and it’s important to be able to fire a customer in the same way that you would fire an employee who is causing the company grief.

Some customers are simply not profitable, or cause more of a headache than they’re worth. You shouldn’t be trying to please everyone because this is ultimately a waste of time, energy, and resources. You’re better off understanding who your profitable customers are, and how to attract more of them. When you are attracting the right customers who are in line with your brand and what it stands for, you will be providing better service and fostering loyalty with these customers. The more loyal your customers are, the more frequently they will come back, and the more positive word-of-mouth they will spread.

So how do you know when to fire a customer?

  1. The customer abuses company policies and drains resources. Every business has experienced the customer who takes advantages of warranties, return policies, or sampling. These policies have been put in place to ensure great service for customers who will in turn be loyal and come back. If a customer is continually taking from a business and it is apparent that they will not be converted into a satisfied customer, they need to be politely turned away.
  2. The customer delivers a much lower return on income than others. This situation is more difficult to spot because the customer is not intentionally causing any issues. However, in the long-run your employees are utilizing more resources to serve this customer than the customer is contributing back in return. They can usually be phased out by reducing the amount of effort employees invest into them over time, which will guide the customer out the door without any hurt feelings.
  3. The customer abuses employees. Some customers can be real jerks, and it doesn’t matter how much they are spending with your business if they are draining employee morale while doing so. The toll this takes on employees will decrease productivity and leave them wanting to quit. You may suffer a short-term loss in revenue but in the long-run you will have created a more sustainable, profit-generating environment.

Now you’ve decided to fire, but how?

First and foremost you want to ensure you aren’t going to generate negative word-of-mouth by firing a customer unfairly or unprofessionally. Follow the next three steps to settle things amicably with the ex-customer.

  1. Try to clarify disagreements. Take the customer aside and communicate to understand both sides of the story. The customer may be acting out because they feel they have been wronged by the company. Don’t mistakenly fire a customer because they are upset with your service, and if there was a service mistake on your end, it’s important to rectify it. If you were not in the wrong and they are still upset, empathize with them, but explain rationally why you cannot help them.
  2. Be professional. Use a polite tone of voice and calmly explain why the business will not be a good fit for them in the future.
  3. Suggest alternatives. Guide them to a business who may be a better fit for them so they leave feeling like they have another option.

Most importantly, learn from the experience and define why the customer was a bad fit so that you can avoid getting into similar relationships in the future.

What You Need to Know About E-Commerce

We sat down with Ashley Janssen, CEO of Code and Effect and Former PeerSpark member to ask her about everything e-commerce and what you need to know as a business owner.

Ashley is facilitating Building Your E-Commerce Business on August 30 in Calgary. You can register here.

Q: What does a successful e-commerce website need to include?

That is a really big question with a number of different answers. The short answer is that you need to actually set up and be a business, you need a strategic plan including financial management, you need to pick the appropriate platform for selling your products, and then implement a detailed marketing plan. (Whew!)

The long answer is that, as you will see in my workshop, there are many strategic planning and business administration steps that need to happen behind the scenes before an e-commerce platform is selected and items are sold. These steps are the building blocks to setting up a successful e-commerce website. They include building a cashflow spreadsheet to make sure the numbers work, setting up the business properly through incorporating and getting everything all your business numbers, GST, licences, etc.

Then you can confidently go through the process of selecting the right e-commerce platform, payment platform, and template for your business.

Once your e-commerce platform is setup, you can’t just hope people with come to it. It is at least as much work as a traditional brick and mortar business. You need to have a marketing plan, social media and social validation, email newsletter marketing, Adwords and online marketing with landing pages, blogs for organic search results….I could go on.

Q: How do Google Analytics and Keywords impact your website overall?

Google analytics and keywords are vital to the success of an e-commerce website. Your analytics, if properly set-up, are an important decision making tool that you should be checking regularly. Your analytics are what tell you what parts of your website and marketing campaigns are effective and when you need to make changes/updates to your website.

Adwords with effective landing pages can be instrumental in educating and raising awareness to potential customers and, in turn, driving sales.

Q: What systems (tools) do you recommend to someone just starting out with their website?

This is also a hard question to answer because there are so many variables. You needs tools/systems for: productivity, email, accounting, e-commerce platform, payment platform, newsletter management, analytics, landing pages, social media management, etc. The answer to which one in each category, is, “it depends”. In my workshop I will go into more detail about some of these and give more clarity on how to make educated decisions about which tools are right for you.

Q: How has your website evolved since you first started your business?

Well, it has been a decade so that is a long answer. The short version is that we have redone our website 4 times, recently rebranded from AgileStyle to Code and Effect, and each time we get a bit better at communicating who we are and what we do.

We started out mostly building brochure type websites and evolved to custom development and web applications.

Q: Tell us more about Code and Effect.

Our tagline is: “Need software but don’t know where to start? Let us help”.

We do custom software development. Customers come to us when they can’t find an off-the-shelf solution for a business problem. We work with them to find their pain points and develop software that solves that pain.

Rather than specializing in particular industries, we serve any small or medium-sized business that has unique processes requiring unique software. Some examples would be custom e-commerce, membership portals or customer management systems.

Q: Any other advice you would like to share with a website newbie?

A website is just a small part of your overall business strategy, even when you are an online business. It is a just one of many tools at your disposal. Your website is not your business but rather a platform for serving your customers. Just building a website is not enough, there are many other things, as I will go over in the workshop, that must be done in order to make your website effective.

Join Ashley and AWE for Building Your E-Commerce Business on August 30, 2017 in Calgary.

Guest Blog: How Can Being a "Jill of All Trades” Relate to Financing?

Do you know that women account for 40% of all tool sales? Well, a good number of us get tired of waiting for someone else to do the work for us, according to Ann-Marie Campbell, a Home Depot Executive. "As women become more empowered," she said, "they come into Home Depot and say, Hey, I can do this. I don't need my husband or partner to do it for me…"

While moderating the lunchtime panel at the AWE Learning Day on February 22nd, I brought my home toolkit onto the stage to impress upon the 150+ business owners in attendance that just like the toolkit a contractor brings to your home to do their job, a financial toolkit is similarly required when it’s time to scale up your business.

Just like the multi-head screwdriver, measuring tape, hammer, nails and cordless electric drill that you keep in your basement or garage, what are the most-often requested components of a financial toolkit?

The application is the starting point and creates an overview of your business. At this stage funders want to know what product or service you provide, who owns the business, who you bank with, current financing in place, the amount you are requesting to finance and why.

Next, depending on whether you are seeking funds from a traditional source such as the bank, or from alternatives including angel investors, venture capital groups, grant providers or asset based lending/factoring organizations; the required document list will vary. Financial Statements are key and provide a picture of past performance; some financiers will request a business plan, cash flow projections and maybe your bank statements for the last 4 months.

Your accounts receivable aging, list of customers, inventory and equipment summary, as well as GST and payroll deductions status are possible ‘asks’. Market size, competitors, exit strategy, management team resumes, website address, social media accounts and a personal financial statement round out the list of possible requirements.

Phew! Are you exhausted just reading the list?!

Applying for financing may seem daunting and never-ending but in most cases it’s not. If your documents are up to date and you supply everything requested at the time you complete the application, most financiers will provide you with an answer quickly – e.g. equipment lease financing may take as little as 24 hours, factoring line 3-5 days, simple bank loan 5-10 days …

Financing involving grants, more complex debt and equity partners will take longer – be sure to ask how long the process is expected to take so that you don’t panic. Also, begin the process sooner rather than later and lastly, ask for help!

You know, I was thrilled with the number of women who raised their hands to let me know that ‘YES’ they own power tools! Ladies, it’s not that big of a stretch from power tools to financials – follow the instructions and you’ll be well on your way!

About the Author


Judy Perdomo  President, Liquid Capital Rockyview Inc.

Judy Perdomo
President, Liquid Capital Rockyview Inc.

5 Tips for Hiring the Perfect Employee

 5 Tips for Hiring the Perfect Employee

Whether you are making your first hire, or are looking to hire additional employees as your business grows, you want to make sure you are moving forward with the employees who will help your business to thrive. 69% of employers said their companies were adversely affected by a bad hire last year, according to a recent study by CareerBuilder. 41% of those businesses estimated the cost of a bad hire was over $25,000! So how do you know if the person you’ve hired is really your next star employee, or just charming in an interview chair?

7 Ways To Build Loyal Customers

7 Ways To Build Loyal Customers

In a world of endless options, it is increasingly tougher to gain the loyalty of a customer. However, the effort invested to build the loyalty and keep them coming back is absolutely worth it. Studies have shown that it costs 6-7 times more to acquire a new customer than to provide service to an existing one (Ciotti, G.). According to a study done by Consumer Insight Group, those existing customers who develop a sense of loyalty to your brand will show their love in different ways: 78% will spread the word, 68% will buy more, and 54% will refuse to buy other products. Does that sound like something you’re interested in?

Entrepreneurs Ready for International Expansion after BWIT Trade Mission

Entrepreneurs Ready for International Expansion after BWIT Trade Mission

Over the past two weeks, AWE had the exciting opportunity to accompany a few of our most driven entrepreneurs on a dual-city trade mission, led by the Business Women in International Trade (BWIT) Program at Global Affairs Canada. The mission included stops to Atlanta, Georgia for the Women in Business: North America Summit, followed by a stop in Orlando, Florida for the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) National Conference and Business Fair.

How CSR can enhance a business of any size!

How CSR can enhance a business of any size!

CSR…that’s when large corporations donate huge sums of money to social causes, right? Well, not exactly. Corporate social responsibility is a deceptive term, as it includes that scary ‘C’ word, but essentially it means a business is operating ethically and responsibly across the triple bottom line (socially, environmentally, and financially). It is also something that is absolutely achievable for your business…without the overwhelming price tag associated with this type of strategy. In fact, entrepreneurs are some of the most powerful people to implement socially responsible strategies. This is because as passionate people, entrepreneurs rarely start a business with the sole purpose of making a lot of money, but rather they are usually committed to fulfilling some kind of social need, making them of the mindset to limit social grievances. 

How an AWE business loan will help you grow

How an AWE business loan will help you grow

This week I sat down with Lori Thexton, wife and mother of two, cross-fit enthusiast, and expert loan portfolio manager with Alberta Women Entrepreneurs. Lori came to AWE from the credit industry, having previously worked for Ford Credit Canada Ltd., and has now been with us for 3 years, lending money to women who are helping to build the Albertan economy. I asked Lori a few questions about our loan program to give entrepreneurs considering taking out a business loan a better picture of how we can help them at AWE.

4 Ways to Make Social Media Work for Your Business

4 Ways to Make Social Media Work for Your Business

Social media for business owners can be an extremely daunting and overwhelming task. You already serve the role of accountant, payroll specialist, human resources, business development, and now social media manager. For many business owners’ social media can often be the task that is left behind in the day-to-day operations, but it shouldn’t be. Social media can have amazing effects on your business if done properly and consistently.

4 Tips for Maintaining Company Culture during Periods of Rapid Growth

4 Tips for Maintaining Company Culture during Periods of Rapid Growth

Things have really started taking off for your business. This new flurry of success is exciting, but it also probably means your meticulously planned strategy is being tested and strained in new ways, and the dynamic is changing rapidly within your organization. As your focus is challenged, how do you ensure you can grow while maintaining a company culture that results in not only your employees being excited to come to work every day, but also them being invested in playing an active role in fueling the successful growth of the business?

Ignoring the Numbers: The Worst Thing You Can Do To Your Business

Ignoring the Numbers: The Worst Thing You Can Do To Your Business

Do you hate the numbers aspect of your business? You are not alone! Financials can be a scary and intimidating word for business owners, but the worst thing you can do is avoid them. Understanding your financial statements can improve decision making, decrease risk, and better your company’s operations on a day to day basis.