For over 30 years, we have been helping businesses across Lambton County start, grow, and succeed!

Here are some local business clients we have had the privilege of working with over the years.

Link2Feed

Having your business certified as a ‘B’ Corporation isn’t an easy task. It requires a clear social mission and commitment to “use business as a force for good”. Link2Feed is so dedicated to demonstrating their commitment to changing the world that they have undergone the rigorous B Corp Certification process, which includes an initial assessment and bi-annual recertification. Why have they set such a high bar for themselves? The answer lies at the heart of their underlying idea: to “feed change”.

Link2Feed believes that food is a catalyst for changing someone’s life – more specifically, that with clean, accurate data, food banks and social agencies can have a long-term sustainable impact on the people they serve. The core Link2Feed system is a database with the capability to not only collect information but to also do sophisticated reporting. Link2Feed has worked closely with food banks across North America to create technology that is changing lives. Over 750, 000 unique individuals via 1,850 organizations throughout North America have been assisted through Link2Feed. In addition to being a requirement for every food bank in Ontario and Nova Scotia, Link2Feed is used by countless organizations across Canada and the US.

The concept started as a side-project for the Sarnia-based Innivity Marketing Group, in partnership with the Windsor Essex Food Bank Association back in 2010. The response was so positive, and the impact so evident, that in 2012 an “off the shelf” version was launched allowing others to benefit from its’ success. In addition to the original Link2Feed program, a second product was launched this year to provide inventory tracking capabilities for smaller agencies. The 10 member team at Link2Feed continues to work closely with The Inn of The Good Shepherd, where staffs also act as volunteers to stay connected to the needs of clients and agencies alike. Both the product and the mindset of the company are community driven and the emphasis on effecting change is at its core.

Knowing where to find help as an entrepreneur is as important as ever. For more than 10 years, Link2Feed’s Founder and CEO Rob Dawson has benefitted from the support and unique opportunities offered to entrepreneurs through the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation. His experience has been wholly positive: “SLBDC provides entrepreneurs a unique opportunity to gain great insight and direction on your business while also being able to offer various levels of funding support. Through this support, I have been able to start new business and grow existing businesses as I have had the confidence in knowing SLBDC was there to assist”. These opportunities are readily available for those who are ready to take that final step.

We also spoke with Link2Feed President Emily Branton about the experience from the perspective of the entrepreneur. When asked about the biggest surprise on the road to success she offers an unexpected response, “the feeling of being part of something big- our customers are more like partners. We have the same mission, the same beliefs”. Her vision of what’s important is a guiding factor, “you have to focus on what’s in your control. Stay the course, and have faith in your plan”. Link2Feed certainly has every reason to have faith in their plan. Their fearless drive to get the product out to those who need it is the catalyst for progress that will allow Link2Feed to create lasting social change.

To learn more about Link2Feed, you can check out their website www.link2feed.ca . They can also be followed on Twitter and Facebook, and contacted by phone at 519-704-5052 or toll free at 1-855-489-6898.

Dolly’s Jerk Joint

For food enthusiasts in Sarnia-Lambton, the choices just got a whole lot bolder. With a recent trend towards more ethnic foods and variety for the palate, Dolly’s Jerk Joint brings a unique flavour and crisp attitude to Sarnia’s ever changing restaurant and catering business. In business for less than a year, Dolly Boyce has taken a gift for cooking and creating and a passion for food quality and created a wonderful recipe for success.

Dolly grew up in St. Lucia where she found herself in the family’s bakery from an early age, watching and learning from her mother. Since the earliest days, she has always dreamed of opening her own restaurant and sharing her passion for food with others. After attending culinary school at the CARE Institute in St. Lucia, she found herself working at five star hotels, whipping up delicacies for discerning tourists at a Sandals resort. She was so passionate about learning her craft, that she used her work-free time to work – for free- at other resorts where she was able to hone her skills for pastries and other delicacies. All of that extra effort certainly paid off as Dolly found herself managing a five-star kitchen by the age of 25. Her specialty can only be described as high quality food, created to a high standard and complemented by quality service.

Dolly’s Jerk Joint currently operates out of their location on Christina Street N in Sarnia as both a catering service and a provider of pre-made delicacies. She features most items on Caribbean Fridays and can have almost any dish or quantity prepared for catering with two days’ notice. One of her busiest days to date was as a result of a “game day promotion” on homemade Jamaican patties. In addition to her wildly popular patties, Dolly has also earned a strong reputation for her signature Curried Oxtail and Curried Goat dishes. The menu is complimented with homemade soups (think corn soup or pea soup) as well as specialities such as Bacon Saltfish and Fish Fritters. She also sells her mouth-watering Jerk Wraps and Roti – all homemade, from scratch, with mostly organic ingredients. But she doesn’t just make the obvious; she also uses her home made jerk seasoning and jerk sauce, giving it a truly authentic flavour. If you’re looking for a treat in a pinch, Dolly’s Jamaican patties are also available to purchase from Pure Local Organics in Point Edward.

While food creation has always come naturally to Dolly, running a business was a new adventure. She has benefitted from hours of preparation and instruction from the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation, intended to provide her with a solid foundation that has included the creation of a business plan, basic reporting and organization. Additionally, when seeking financing for her bold idea, she was particularly drawn to the financing options offered at the SLBDC. Taking a loan from a bank meant committing to debt over the long haul. Choosing to use the SLBDC means she has the freedom to pay off that debt quickly and without penalty. When asked about the experience Dolly is unabashedly positive “they taught me everything. I would definitely recommend their services and support to anyone wanting to go out on their own”.

Dolly can be seen selling her product at many local events throughout the warmer months. If you are interested in trying Dolly Jerk Joint’s menu, you can find her on Facebook, or place orders by phone (519)490-8210, or by email: africanqueen@bell.net.

Concrete Systems

When you get the chance to sit down and chat with one of Lambton County’s busiest Entrepreneurs, you jump at the opportunity! With four successful businesses on the go, Bart Sybenga has learned a thing or two about good business sense, and excellence in business along the way.

Most recognized for the Petrolia-based Concrete Systems, which has been in operation since 1981, he has his fingerprint on many of the new homes and businesses all over Lambton County. With expertise in flatwork, stamped concrete, exposed aggregate, water proofing and radiant heated floors – and a team of 33 employees at the ready- there is no shortage of opportunity to see his work.

In addition to the services available through Concrete Systems, 3 years ago Bart saw an opportunity to expand into a new and growing market – polished concrete. As an economical, sustainable and durable finish alternative, this technique has become wildly popular, particularly with floor and counter top finishes, offering a high-end feel with a very practical result.

Like all keen business minds, Bart had to start somewhere and he was able to make great strides early on. With some support from a local agency, The Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation, Bart was able to take a big idea and watch it unfold one step, or business, at a time. Now serving clients from Forest to Wallaceburg on a regular basis, there is no mystery to his success. When asked to pass on words of advice to other entrepreneurs or those considering taking the leap to small business, his words are sage: “If you don’t plan to put in 110%, then don’t bother”. He believes strongly in the mindset of hard work and you will not find him making excuses. He is not a business owner who sits at the office or enjoys the life of leisure. He has his hand in all aspects of his businesses and when something needs to be done, he is the first to make it happen. He has taken the time to train and mentor members of his team, not only as a training method, but because he believes in investment in people. “If we are going to make it, we have to work together.” He knows that his success depends on the entire machine operating smoothly. When asked to cite what his biggest motivator is, he is very clear – it’s not money. “I love a challenge” he offers with a grin. And with no end in sight to the demands for his expertise, his days are full of them.

With more than 30 years in the business, Bart hasn’t exactly planned his exit strategy just yet, but he does observe a troubling trend – “kids just don’t want to do this. They know very little about the opportunities”, and that of course, means the future remains busy for Bart. If there’s anything to be learned from this amazing business owner, it is the power of perseverance and the respect for quality and reputation. Much of his clientele is repeat business, and that speaks volumes of the customer experience.

If you would like to know more about Concrete Systems or their services, you can check out their website at www.concretesystems.ca or you can reach them by phone at (519)882-2778.

AG Event Graphics

If there’s one thing that Guy Langevin knows, it’s how to take an idea and broadcast it with maximum exposure and impressive delivery. He is the proud founder of AG Event Graphics and the work produced by his team can be seen all over the vehicles, walls and signage of local businesses. Guy’s work however isn’t strictly local. His skill has been called upon for an impressive number of projects in both Canada and the US. Most notably, his signature was all over the Vancouver Olympics and more recently, he was called to wrap a WestJet tailfin in an impressive, colourful, tartan.

Guy and his team boast an impressive list of credentials and specialty services, and are the only vetted ‘3M Preferred Installer’ operating in Sarnia-Lambton. With a current team of 7 predicted to grow measurably in the coming year, the only way is up for AG Event Graphics. Guy has a keen sense of what works for his clients, and their satisfaction is his goal. He has been in the business for over 30 years and has perfected his own personal brand of service. He chose Sarnia for its proximity to clientele on both sides of the border.

When asked what his biggest motivator is, Guy offers “the satisfaction of success is a great motivator. The epitome of success is building something from nothing”, and he has done it. Quality and service are absolutes for the entire team at AG Event Graphics and the power of those successes is reflected in the strength of their reputation. When most of your business comes from referrals and product recognition – you know you have done something right. He also offers some sage words for other entrepreneurs: “Know your market, know your competitors, know your product – and keep your eye on the numbers!”

As a new business starting in an unknown city, Guy approached the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation to see about expanding his business and acquiring more advanced equipment. His experience was incredibly positive and he was impressed with the expertise that was readily available “They can take a great idea and coach you from start to finish- execution, planning….they will really show you all sides of the possibilities”. This means you can anticipate where trouble spots may arise and identify strengths and focus before taking the leap to small business owner.

In addition to the more visible work seen on WestJet and the many vehicles in town that have been wrapped by Guy and his team, AG Event Graphics offers a full line of services including graphic production, graphic project management, event management, and many basic print needs including signage and banners. They are also the premier distributer of Penguin tents and dealers for Testrite and Prism Trade Show Lighting. Sarnia-Lambton residents should expect to see a lot more of this up and coming powerhouse in our midst. The entire team is bursting with ambition and ideas, and there is more creative fire to come!

You can find out more about AG Event Graphics via their website at www.askguy.ca, or you can follow them on Facebook or Twitter (@askguyca). Their office is located at 113 Robinson Street and the phone number to call is (519) 491-0405 or toll free at 1-877-258-6137.

Lambton Audiology Associates

What could be more rewarding than helping those who have lost hearing regain the gift of sound? At Lambton Audiology Associates, they have the distinct pleasure of helping their clientele do exactly that. Whether you have suffered lifelong hearing loss or began losing your hearing later in life due to noise exposure or other conditions, Lambton Audiology Associates has the expertise, compassion and experience to guide you through the process.

Kimberly Eskritt didn’t always plan to be a Doctor of Audiology. Originally planning to follow through with an education in Physiotherapy, Kim stumbled upon Audiology quite by accident – and what a wonderful accident it turned out to be. She has now been in the business for over 20 years and the success of her business is no surprise. With a strong team of 11 staff to compliment her care and oversight, she serves clientele from a variety of demographics, ranging from children to the elderly. They are also able to offer support to those for whom hearing loss has been an occupational hazard. The long term effects of noise exposure aren’t always evident while there is clear and present danger. Many people do not understand the extent of their hearing loss until long after the risk has been removed. In addition to the time spent between offices in Sarnia and Petrolia, Ms. Eskritt also teaches students at Lambton College as part of the Communicative Disorders Assistant program.

Lambton Audiology Associates offers a variety of services in addition to testing, prescribing and dispensing hearing devices. They also offer “Hearing Help” classes for those who are new to the technology and wish to optimize their experience, as well as expertise to people who live with Tinnitus, which affects many, but doesn’t need to be a source of suffering. Ms. Eskritt shares some of her philosophy on treating patients, which has made her such a success, “We believe you have to treat the whole person, with integrity and honesty”. As such, they are far more focused on rehabilitation than the sale of products. The most rewarding part of her job? “When someone comes in and says ‘thank you for improving my quality of life’, being able to help them help themselves. That’s the best part”.

Ms. Eskritt knew she planned to be in practice for a long time, and with the help of the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation (SLBDC), she was able to make that dream a reality, by securing the financing needed to purchase the facility and expand opportunities. As a young woman operating a business and facing a large real estate purchase, she found a supportive team at the SLBDC. “The process was definitely easier than dealing with the banks” she recalls. She offers some helpful advice for other entrepreneurs: “Be sure you have a good business plan. If you have a partner, have a partnership agreement. Have an exit strategy. Make sure you have protection in place in case you are suddenly unable to run the business”- a step that many entrepreneurs fail to follow through on and most people with employment benefits take for granted.

Never satisfied to sit back and become complacent, Lambton Audiology Associates has plenty of new projects on the horizon. They are always looking for new ways to improve the quality of life for their patients. If you or someone you know is living with hearing loss, there could not be a more hopeful time for patient outcomes, nor a more positive team of helpful experts.

To learn more about Lambton Audiology Associates, you can check out their website at www.lambtonaudiology.com, you can find them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter (@LAudiologyA) or you can reach them by telephone at (519) 542-0569 in Sarnia and (226) 738-0401 in Petrolia.

OB1 Pierogi

There’s a new trend sweeping local cuisine and we have two very ambitious entrepreneurs to thank for it. In a city known for its fries-there’s a new side dish making waves. Since its inception in June of 2014, Heather Denning and Michael Genovy have been the dynamic duo behind OB1Pierogi. They have taken a niche market and made it a hot commodity.

Their product can now be found in five local restaurants (Dockside, Sideways, Limbo, Grind and Chow Ciao at last count). They are able to go above and beyond for restaurants, offering a unique Pierogi flavour to enhance and complement the existing menu. They offer a Pierogi of the month, with an existing menu of 11 flavours to choose from. In addition to traditional flavours like Potato and Cheddar, you will find the amped up alternatives – Potato Cheddar Sriracha. You will also see some unique Pierogi interpretations like Poutine, Reuben and Cheese & Pepperoni Pizza flavours. Some Pierogis of the Month have been so popular they have become regular menu items and bring such unique interpretations as Jalapeno Bacon Cheddar, Buffalo Chicken and Blue Cheese and Asparagus Bacon Onion Gorgonzola. In addition to the wide selection, Heather and Michael have taken dietary restrictions into consideration – teaming up with Junior Baker to create some variations with specialty Gluten-Free dough, and also offering some Lactose-free options.

Part of the strength of their model lays in strong collaboration with other Small Business owners. Heather and Michael were fortunate to team up with the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation when they considered taking a talent for Pierogi making (and at the urging of friends and family who had been enjoying them for years) and taking the leap to Entrepreneur. There, they were able to learn the basics of running a Small Business, creating a business plan and the due diligence required to bring it all together into one successful package. Their experience was so positive that they subsequently referred many others to access SLBDC services and take their own ideas from start to fruition.

While they certainly hoped that friends and family were right, they had no idea they would find themselves outgrowing their newly crafted commercial kitchen in less than a year. After a great success at the Big Sisters Show and Sale last year, they decided to increase their product this year – and they still sold out. In fact, they sold over 500 dozen of their unique goodies. During the warmer months, you can also find them at the Point Edward Moonlight Farmers Market. Additionally, they offer their product for fundraising purposes to community groups, schools and sports teams alike.

When asked what the best part of being entrepreneurs is, Michael cites the freedom to work their own schedule. Managing a young family played a strong role in the development of their business protocol and being the boss allowed them to incorporate their own rules (for example – “the stove turns off at 5pm” whenever possible). At the moment, the only competition Ob1 Pierogi faces is of the frozen, mass produced variety which is available in supermarkets. One taste, and you can see why there really is no comparison! If you haven’t tried them yet – you really must.

If you would like to know more about Ob1 Pierogi, you can find their menu and place orders directly from their website at www.ob1pierogi.com. They can also be found on Facebook, or can be reached by phone at (519) 312-7091.

Derkzen Motorsports / Sarnia Transmission Services

What’s better than owning and operating a business that you love? How about operating two of them! That is the story of Erik and Jody Derkzen who brought their unique business Derkzen Motorsports from London to Sarnia in 2013. Originally operating out of London since 2006, they have been offering the ‘Arrive and Drive Racing’ experience for driving enthusiasts out of the Grand Bend Motorplex and Toronto Motorsports Park, since 2010.

When the Derkzen’s relocated to Sarnia to be closer to family, they decided to do a few things differently. The key to successful entrepreneurship is learning from your successes and obstacles and they knew that purchasing a building in their new Sarnia location made more sense than renting. In order to do so, they approached the traditional lenders for financing. Unfortunately, when your business is as unique as theirs, there’s not a lot for banks to compare with in terms of predicting your success rate. Derkzen Motorsports is the only one in Ontario offering what it does, with clientele across the province from Ottawa to Sarnia. The statistical information needed to back up the Derkzen’s plan simply didn’t exist. Like smart business people, they didn’t let that deter them from their dream and they found themselves engaged with the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation (SLBDC) to discuss the future of their business. Erik was thrilled to find support, where in their previous location they had no knowledge of such services and had struggled to find answers alone. Despite that, Erik advises aspiring entrepreneurs “Don’t hesitate, Just do it!” particularly with such helpful aid on hand.

The great thing about a non-traditional lender is that they can look at your business and see vision and possibility where others see only risk. They are more receptive to unique concepts and innovation. Jody and Erik had several things going for them. They were passionate about their business; they had already been successfully running it from another location; and Erik had extensive mechanical knowledge. The duo created a business plan and could not have been more pleased with the process. “We learned a lot about our own business while creating the business plan for SLBDC”. During that process, one of their advisors questioned Erik about his superior mechanical knowledge – particularly as it relates to Transmissions. He had worked for several dealerships specializing in the area of highly-tech Transmissions and realized that he still had expertise to offer in that field.

From the new location of Derkzen Motorsports on Palmerston Street S came their business venture – Sarnia Transmission Services. Transmission mechanics are often hard to come by, mostly because people often discard a vehicle rather than fix the transmission. “People often think, well if a new transmission is $5,000, then I may as well get rid of the vehicle and buy a new one” Erik says, “In reality, it may only cost a small fraction of that price to actually repair the transmission. Sometimes, it’s as simple as one small part.” And for that reason, Erik hopes people will bring their vehicles to him when they get the dreaded diagnosis.

He will offer an honest assessment of what’s needed and most times, it’s not a death sentence for the vehicle. Erik is particularly skilled at working with high-tech repairs and highly-specialized transmission services. Between both businesses they employ a team of six people, which is great news for Sarnia-Lambton. The strength of their model lies in the diversity of their product. From making race car driving dreams coming true, to encouraging a ‘repair rather than discard’ mindset around transmissions, Derkzen Motorsports and Sarnia Transmissions Services have got all your bases covered!

To learn more about Derkzen Motorsports you can find them on their Facebook page, or on their website www.derkzenmotorsports.com. Sarnia Transmission Services also has a Facebook page. Both businesses are located at 439 Palmerston Street S. Derkzen Motorsports (519) 451-0404 Sarnia Transmission Service 519-337-7678.

Lemon Beauty Bar

When two natural born entrepreneurs team up to make small business out of their craft, the results can be surprising. Such is the story of Ashlynn Wright and Shaylyn Doyle. The proud owners of the wildly successful Lemon Beauty Bar are just into their fourth month of business, and to say business is booming would be an understatement. Warm and welcoming colours set the tone as you enter the door. You will find little touches and attention to detail not often seen from such young business minds- right down to the Italian sodas.

While Lemon Beauty Bar certainly feels like a high-end spa, patrons will be happy to know their services are comfortably priced in the middle-range and all are welcomed. Their most sought services are the ever popular Lash Extensions and of course, manicures and pedicures. They also offer a variety of other services including their Signature Organic Lemon Facials and a full line-up of waxing and sugaring services and make-up application. Both owners are Estheticians and highly skilled at what they do. The unexpected high-speed take-off of their business has necessitated the addition of a third Esthetician in order to keep up with the demand for their services. Knowing when to expand is an important step for business owners and these two have a keen understanding.

The journey into small business has been a fortunate one for Ashlynn Wright and Shaylyn Doyle. Having previously worked together, they knew they shared a common vision and strong partnership dynamic. They knew exactly what they would like to do, and not do, in their own practice. They were fortunate to find a supportive team in the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation. With plenty of questions and vision, they needed a starting point and a plan. Neither one can say enough about how positive that experience was for them. “It was amazing. We can ask them anything and they know exactly what to do. I wouldn’t even know where to start in terms of our gratitude” offers Shaylyn. Some of the unexpected wisdom they gained? “Learning how to do payroll, basic accounting – all of the business basics we knew nothing about”. It’s clear that both women are a quick study. Their measurable success in such a short period of time is almost unheard of. Their youthful spirit and fresh insight seems to shield them from the fears that plague other entrepreneurs. When questioned about the best part of being an entrepreneur, Ashlynn doesn’t hesitate “Being happy at work. We love coming to work. Our clients know we’re happy to be here and serve them”. The only regret they can name? “We wish we were more educated about business in general”, but they have surely been schooled on the job. The lack of previous knowledge has not slowed them down. Their newly acquired business savvy oozes from the logo on the wall. Ashlynn doesn’t hesitate when asked what advice she would give to other aspiring entrepreneurs “If it’s something you love – go for it! Take the risk. If you fail, try again”. Shaylyn echoes the sentiment “Just do it! No ‘what if’s’!”

As small business owners, both women know the value of giving back. In the month of October they will launch a special project to raise money for the Sarnia District Humane Society. For every $5 donation to the charity, clients will receive a 15% off coupon. For a donation of $10 or more, they can expect to receive a coupon for 25% off of services.

To learn more about Lemon Beauty Bar you can find them on Facebook and Instagram. You can also visit them in person at 201 Christina St. or reach them by phone at (226) 776-1581.

The Eye Guy

For more than 17 years Frank Stewart has been helping people see clearly from his idyllic little shop in Mitton Village. Now you might be tempted to confuse The Eye Guy with a high-end boutique – given the attention to detail, impressive selection of choice and personal attention. The truth is you will find all of those perks with many options in the mid-range price. You don’t just become The Eye Guy overnight though – Frank Stewart has spent years earning his reputation. Once employed by a local retailer, the licensed Optician has been associated with the role for so long that when he ventured out on his own, it only made sense to keep the title so many had already given him, “The Eye Guy”.

All small businesses start with an idea. Add an ounce of passion and some industry knowledge and you have the makings of a concrete plan. Frank was fortunate to connect with the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation (SLBDC 18 years ago and gained valuable knowledge from their team. The Business Counselling services helped him create a viable business plan while also providing him the tools he would need to succeed on his own. They taught him accounting so that he was armed with as much knowledge as possible – and it worked. He does his own books, incorporated early on and gained the confidence he needed to approach banks for financing. Like most small business owners, he faced some “No’s” along the way, but he knew his plan was solid and forged ahead. An active community member for many years, he has stood the test of time and proven his longevity. There has been a lot of learning in the 17 years since he decided to open his business. He is ripe with wisdom for new entrepreneurs who are considering taking the same path. That wisdom is tempered with reality . “Give it five years” Frank says, when asked what other entrepreneurs can expect. “The early stages can be really trying, eventually as you get to year five, you can see a direction and it might be year 10 or 12 before you see financial success”. Frank credits the support and services offered at the SLBDC with helping him survive that first year. Many without supports never do.

It’s clear to see what clientele like about The Eye Guy. Customers deal with only one person. There is never any confusion about what was promised yesterday. Inventory is kept fresh, and if he doesn’t have it – he can probably get it. Frank understands his industry and has experience not only with regular glasses and contacts but also boasts more than 35 years of experience working with and fitting safety glasses. In addition to the traditional lenses, you will find the latest technology available at The Eye Guy, including lenses with Digital Surfacing for Hi Def vision and options for athletes and children as well as a “two pair special” for those of us who frequently misplace our trusty glasses.

A majority of The Eye Guy’s customers are from within Lambton County, but sometimes, customers move away or leave for University and they still count on Frank to keep their vision crystal clear. He works with a Lab in London, and as an independent, he can count on the personal service and recognition he gets from his own suppliers to trickle down to his customers. Aside from a single break for family vacation in summer, Frank Stewart is always ready to serve his customers. They know they can count on him, so if by chance they arrive at his door during that summer holiday; they tend to wait for the next week rather than go to a different business. That is a true testament to the depth of his customer care and the dedication of his customers.

If you would like to know more about The Eye Guy, you can check out his website at www.theeyeguysarnia.com. Frank Stewart can be reached by phone at (519) 337-4060 or in person at 147 Mitton Street N.

Cutting Edge Power Equipment

Bart and Kim Verge know a lot about yard and garden equipment, and it shows. They are the owners of Cutting Edge Power Equipment and they have been serving the Sarnia community for almost 16 years, from the corner of Ontario and Confederation. As you walk through the front door, you cannot help but notice the pristine state of the showroom, despite that they are also a full service repair shop. You will be greeted by a warm “Hello” and a Mission Statement which is much more than just talk. You will find it on the wall behind the counter, in the back office, on the website and in the repair facility to remind both staff and customer of the business’ obligation to serve. “Committed people providing outstanding products and services, that impress our customers and successfully grow our company”. And grow, they have. What started out as a partnership many years ago has become a thriving business with a glowing reputation, now operated solely by Bart Verge and his wife, Kim.

Cutting Edge Power Equipment offer both sales and service on multiple brand names and their team of highly trained staff boast a multitude of certifications and competencies to support their work. They have clients from all over Sarnia and Lambton County, some coming from as far away as Wallaceburg to benefit from the sales advice and honest nature of the Verges’.

A keen business sense has set Cutting Edge Power Equipment apart from their competition. In the world of big box stores who can afford to sell some items at a loss to get you in the door, they have used their ingenuity to identify that their business is here to stay. At one time, they faced massive construction on the roads outside their store. Some would have been very daunted, but the Cutting Edge team appeared at a local business event in hard hats, complete with caution tape, vests and maps to direct customers to gain entrance to their business. That positive attitude and outside the box thinking has been a trademark of their longevity. Likewise, when they knew they had a bright vision and needed the financing to start their dream, they stepped outside of typical avenues like big banks and other traditional lenders. They found support for their idea at the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation which has the added benefit of being able to facilitate financing for businesses that may not yet have the history and track record that is demanded of them from the larger lending institutions.

Bart and Kim do not see obstacles, they see opportunity. With a team of up to six people at any time, they know how to run their team efficiently. Bart touches on some key pieces of advice for up and coming entrepreneurs, “think about your opportunities very carefully. You have to know when to cut a loss rather than watching it grow into a bigger loss. When bumps happen, make a sound decision and move on”. He goes on to identify the hardest part for many new businesses “three big mistakes that new businesses make –they are undercapitalized, they haven’t done the research, or they simply didn’t work hard enough”, and he knows about hard work.

Bart’s biggest motivator is a surprising one. Like many, he loves being in control of his own business and being able to make decisions with little fanfare, but what he loves the most? “I love working with and meeting new people. I love it”. You will see it not only in the warm smile that greets you, but on the faces of their customers who appreciate the depth of expertise and care that they get at Cutting Edge Power Equipment.

Cutting Edge Power Equipment is located at 756 Ontario Street in Sarnia. They can also be found on their website www.cuttingedgepower.ca, their Facebook page, or by telephone at (519) 344-9215.

Beyond Borders Travel & Tours

When you walk in to Beyond Borders Travel & Tours, you can’t help but surrender to the cheery atmosphere and positive attitudes. It’s neither an accident nor a fluke. The office is ripe with the small touches that make you feel instantly at home. The colours are soothing and the people are warm. This is no accident. That positive energy is weaved right into the very fabric of the business and it was placed there lovingly by its owner, Maureen Forbes. A strong believer in the “personal touch”, Maureen has incorporated the needs of her clientele in everything she does from the tours she creates and oversees to the personal notes written on invoices. She is a shining example of the entrepreneurial spirit and how following a dream can lead to great success.

After 26 years of employment with the same company, Maureen found herself in the position that so many people face- downsized. She returned to Lambton College to study Hospitality and Tourism and started in a new direction. Faced with the daunting task of deciding her next move, she was in a position to think about what her dream employment might be, and like many others, self-employment was the answer she arrived at. She knew that she had a passion for travel. Even more, she had a passion for bringing travel and new experiences to others and she found a way to put all of those wishes into one wonderful idea. After graduation she sought the support of the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation and was able to create a business plan and receive the business counselling needed to bring it to fruition.

Beyond Borders Travel & Tours is a full service travel agency who has primarily made their mark by offering “First Class Tours With First Class Style” in addition to booking the traditional all-inclusive vacations and travel tickets. The business opened in 2004 when the building that houses it was purchased, gutted and renovated by Maureen’s husband. Upon that foundation, Maureen began to build her customer base and learned to perfect the travel side of the business. In 2005, they took the leap and began to build the tours side of the business. Tours are a real passion for the team at Beyond Borders Travel & Tours. They oversee all aspects, from the creation of itinerary to staffing the tours. They are with the client from the moment they book until they debark from the bus filled with memories and new experiences. Tours include everything from day trips to Toronto for theatre, to their highly sought “Tours of Distinction” where clients can expect to go anywhere from New Orleans to a European River Cruise. Whatever your dream destination, Maureen has already thought it through. They service clients from all over South Western Ontario and are known for their active tours which attract active travelers. You won’t be sitting on the bus taking window pictures, but you may find yourself on a walking tour of Germany’s medieval cities. Part of the great joy that emerges from this successful business is being able to make someone’s day or experience just a little brighter.

Beyond Borders Travel & Tours has lead Maureen and her team exactly where she had hoped. She started out small, built a strong foundation that includes a team of four who also put their hearts into the business’ success. Her advice to other entrepreneurs is the same advice she received from the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corp. “Think it through, be realistic and seek the perspective of others who can help guide you”. The other piece of advice she followed early on? “Surround yourself with positive people and positive attitudes. Don’t let anyone bring you down with negativity”, a sentiment which rings true the moment you walk-in the door.

Beyond Borders Travel & Tours is located at 149 Mitton Street N. Information regarding travel and tours can be found on their website www.beyondborderstravel.ca, their Facebook page, or by calling 519-339-1000.

Grandpa Jimmy’s Scottish Bakery

Bob Hosford is a third generation Baker with family roots back to the 1890’s in Cork Ireland, but he didn’t start out that way. Ten years ago he retired from his life’s work as a farmer and literally, sold the family farm. He saw the perfect opportunity to return to his roots in Grandpa Jimmy’s Scottish Bakery in Grand Bend, Ontario, and he hasn’t looked back since. He, and his wife Ruth, took over the business at its former location just on the outskirts of Grand Bend but within two years realized that a new location and better facility was needed to do allow for future growth. With the new location on Ontario Street, came new opportunity, and Grandpa Jimmy’s became much more than a small town seasonal bakery.

Officially, they are a Food Manufacturing Facility, with a North American Industrial Classification by the Canadian Food Inspection agency. A distinction that allows them to expand in ways they couldn’t have previously, by exporting to International markets. Despite the distinction and new location, Grandpa Jimmy’s remains true to its roots. They serve traditional Scottish and Anglo-Celtic fare to store customers. But Bob doesn’t do it all alone. Grandpa Jimmy’s is a family affair, with Bob’s wife by his side and his son, Alan, being groomed as the fourth generation Hosford baker, there is no better example of team work than the Hosford family. Their biggest selling items are the traditional meat pies, sausage rolls, fruit cakes, and of course, the shortbread.

Bob tries to use locally grown raw materials as much as possible, and his customers have shown they appreciate it, purchasing more than 8000 meat pies even more sausage rolls from him in a single season last year. If you ask him what his favourite part of being an entrepreneur is, he will tell you without hesitation, it’s the people. Grandpa Jimmy’s is a bakery, but it’s also a social hub, a meeting place, a chance to connect over hot coffee and warm conversation. Every visitor gets a Cead Mille Failte (one hundred thousand welcomes).

When asked about his experience as an entrepreneur, Bob recalls all that he has had to learn. He is very thankful for those resources that do exist to support business owners and regularly recommends the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation to those serious about starting year round local businesses – something he hopes to see more of in his community. When asked if he has any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, he advises “keep the principles of your company, be fair with your customers and suppliers, and when you need to, fight for what’s right”. The best part of business ownership? “You own your time. You manage your own time. Invest your time early on, and you will get it back later”.

Grandpa Jimmy’s Scottish Bakery is located at 36 Ontario Street North in Grand Bend, Ontario. They can be reached by phone at (519) 238-5055 or 1-877-225-5055. You can also find them on Facebook, on their website at www.grandpajimmys.com, or by email at scottishbakery@hay.net.

A Village Fireplace Shop

The Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation (SLBDC) team had the pleasure of visiting A Village Fireplace Shop in Wyoming, Ontario. We sat down with owners Tina and Wayne to discuss the evolution of their business, from a small operation with 2 employees to a multiservice, multiproduct company that now employs a team of 14. A Village Fireplace shop just celebrated 21 years in business this past January but don’t let the name fool you. When they opened so many years ago, fireplaces were the focus, but like any smart entrepreneurs, Tina and Wayne saw opportunities for expansion and didn’t hesitate to diversify and grow their business at every opportunity. They are ‘home comfort specialists’ offering much more than just fireplaces. They offer a full line of Heating and Cooling products, hot water tanks, barbecues, generators, accessories and parts, and so much more. In addition to the products they sell, they also offer service to those products as well as inspection, chimney sweep services and many others. Among that team of 14, Tina and Wayne have a son who now works with the family business. Their hope is that that he will continue the family tradition of entrepreneurship. On the day that we visited, Tina and Wayne’s grandson arrived during our interview and was right at home in the shop. You can see that hard work and character run deep, both in the family and the business.

When asked what important early steps contributed to their success, Wayne recalls how he sought advice from another local business woman. She told him to capitalize on the presence of larger centres close by (like Sarnia) rather than put all his eggs in one basket. That message was received loud and clear and these savvy owners worked to not only diversify their product lines, but also their client base and opportunities. Rather than see themselves as a small business in a small town, Wayne always saw them as a growing business located at the centre of the county. He saw opportunity throughout Lambton County and beyond, often finding new customers in neighbouring counties. While Wyoming is a small town, viewing it as “the hub of the county” gave them a unique perspective when going after new business. It wasn’t always easy for Tina and Wayne though. In the beginning, lenders were leery about investing in what they thought would be a small-town business with a single product line. Wayne and Tina were so grateful for the support they received from the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation in those days. The SLBDC staff was able to help sort out the financial side of the business, while they began the process of proving themselves, both to lenders and to locals who also questioned whether their small town could sustain a “fireplace shop”. Additionally, they were able to develop a strong business plan to get them started.

In 1999, a massive addition to the building signaled that A Village Fireplace Shop certainly wasn’t going anywhere. Soon after, a second property had to be purchased for the purpose of warehousing. When reflecting on his experience with the SLBDC team, Wayne adds “everything they did for us was a great experience. They always stayed in contact and offered help with anything we needed from doing the books to just running the business”. While the magnitude of their growth may have come as a surprise, proving themselves to their community has been a great reward. They could have moved their business to a bigger centre at any time, but Wyoming is where the dream started, and where it will continue to grow. When asked about the surprises of entrepreneurship, Tina and Wayne are pragmatic. They did not enter this partnership with any illusions. They were prepared for hard work and few breaks – although perhaps not as much paperwork. Given the scope of their products, due diligence is a big part of the day to day operations and staying abreast of regulations and changes are a constant. Do Tina and Wayne have any advice for future entrepreneurs? “Many people don’t realize the hard work…they think they can take breaks and relax when they have their own business” says Wayne, but Tina is quick to add “at the same time, it’s important to take time away when you can”. They are accustomed to working seven days a week, with few breaks. With her young grandson on her lap, Tina details an upcoming family trip that has been a dream in the making. Her grandson squeals with excitement as she talks about what they will do. These are the rewards for a lifetime of sacrifice. With three generations on hand, and two very hard working entrepreneurs at the helm, it is obvious that A Village Fireplace will be here for generations to come.

A Village Fireplace Shop is located at 623 Broadway Street in Wyoming, Ontario. They are open Monday-Friday from 9-5, and Saturday from 9-2. You can view their range of products and services on the company website at www.villagefireplaceshop.com. They can also be found on Facebook, or you can follow them on twitter (@VillageFP). To contact them by phone, (519) 845-9915.

CR Creative Co.

Owner Matt Pasut sits in the board room of the new location for CR Creative Co. The rapidly expanding business has recently relocated to 400 Broadway Street in Wyoming. We discussed the evolution of his business since its’ Incorporation in 2011.

CR Creative Co. currently employs a team of up to 10 people at any given time. These are big changes since Matt set up shop. The services they provide are ever expanding, making the physical expansion a necessary step. Their services are varied and business is booming! With a broad focus on Marketing/Direct marketing, graphics, and web and print services, CR Creative Co. has blossomed from a small town business to working with clients at both the national and international level. Technological developments mean that a proprietor in his industry is no longer tied to a local clientele base, and Matt Pasut has been quick to use this as a means to expand into new markets and territories. When asked about his experience as a new business owner accessing the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation’s (SLBDC) Business Consulting services , Matt is quick to respond, “they were just fantastic. They really helped us grow from where we started to the current point. I would say they were definitely one of the keys to our success”.

While there haven’t been any big surprises for Matt, he acknowledges there are some simple things that not all new business owners are prepared for, such as the accounting aspect and financial records. With the help of the SLBDC team, Matt was able to solve this problem quickly and easily with a strong foundation of understanding. When asked about the best part of being an entrepreneur he cites several aspects that appeal to him; “having lots of irons in the fire” means that he is never bored or lacking for a challenge. He enjoys having “a million projects on the go”. His sense of business ethics and superior customer service has served him well, often giving him the edge over the competition. He is quick to share a piece of wisdom that he passed along to his students while teaching at Fanshawe College in London, “the key to our success was follow-through. Never, ever miss a deadline. If you say you will do it, you do it. Every time.”

For more information about CR Creative Co. and the services they offer, please check out their website at www.crcreativeco.com. You can also find them on Facebook. Matt’s team can be reached by phone at (519) 333-3318 or toll free at 1 (866) 808-3318.

Christina Hyatt, Virtual Assistant

Christina Hyatt, Virtual Assistant is a smart and unique business idea that creates a win-win situation for both Christina Hyatt, and the businesses she works with. Not only does being a Virtual Assistant give her the opportunity to work with different businesses everyday, but Hyatt provides a cost-effective solution for all of her clients.

Hyatt offers the services that any traditional administrative assistant would, but since she is hired on a contract basis, the company would only have to pay for the hours they need and just get her to do what needs to be done. She completes all of her tasks virtually, through the Internet, email, phone, and fax, so your business would not need to worry about any additional overhead, salary or government contributions. In addition to having clients purchase hours for her to help on an as-needed basis, Hyatt currently has three clients where she is their full-service secretary. “Their phone calls and paperwork would go through my home office”, Hyatt added.

When she opened her business in January 2012, Hyatt made a five-year plan. However, her hard work is clearly paying off because her business has grown faster than she initially anticipated. “I started out as part-time with a goal to make this a full-time job by the end of five years. But I am actually about to start being full-time now.” She offers clients several services, including bookkeeping, invoicing, client contact/newsletters, database management, as well as any other assistance to suit their unique needs. Besides small, local businesses, Hyatt also assists farm businesses by offering additional services such as swine or herd data management. What she likes about being an entrepreneur is the fact that she gets to work with so many different people on so many different tasks and projects. “I’m always learning new things and enhancing my skills.”

Hyatt went to the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation (SLBDC) for the business counselling sessions. “The sessions were remarkably helpful. There is a lot of paperwork to go through when starting a business and they helped me figure out how to handle contracts and all of the government forms.”

If there was one thing she wished she knew before she started her business, it would be how important it is to put time back into the planning of the business, not just focusing on the financials. Hyatt emphasized, “Do not underestimate the importance of creating a distinct brand.”

For any inquiries, you can contact Christina Hyatt, Virtual Assistant, by calling (519) 384-2360 or emailing christinahyattva@eastlink.ca. Additional information can be found on her official website, www.christinahyattvirtualassistant.ca, as well as her Facebook page and Twitter page (@chrissyhyat).

Graphite Marketing

From previously working at a large marketing firm in Toronto and then a small firm in Sarnia, Darren Hakker became inspired to combine the best of both worlds and start his own business, Graphite Marketing. This firm specializes in, but is not limited to, consulting, creative strategy, copywriting, project management, and event management. Upon request, he is willing and able to do many other tasks, which for him is one of the perks that come with the job. “I am doing something different everyday,” said Hakker.

Graphite Marketing has grown in terms of the relationships Hakker has built with his clients and suppliers. What he likes about being the only one at Graphite Marketing is that every client knows him personally. “I want them to build a relationship with Darren, not just a relationship with Graphite Marketing.” If there is a task that Hakker cannot complete up-to-par, he will seek assistance from his extensive network. “I know that I am not good with web design, so rather than doing a poor job myself, I would ask a fantastic web designer, who I’m good friends with, to do it.” Whether he completes a task on his own or outsources it to one of his suppliers, Hakker ensures that his clients will receive the best possible result.

One of the big factors that differentiate Graphite Marketing from other marketing firms is its flexibility. Larger firms have many projects for many clients, making them unable to start focusing on a client’s request until a few weeks later. Hakker, on the other hand, can complete a client’s project right away. “I stay open and honest with clients. When I say it will be done, it will be done.”

Hakker sees the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation (SLBDC) as an important organization for local businesses. “I can’t say enough good things –we get along so well because we have the same outlook. They are flexible, they focus on building relationships, and they focus on building excellence.” He encourages new entrepreneurs to go through the SLBDC.

For Hakker, one of the best parts of being an entrepreneur is the flexibility. “I love being able to manage my own time. I may have a week where if I work hard for four days, I can take Friday afternoon off. Or if I am emailing back and forth with a client and I have some time in my day, we can decide on-the-spot to get coffee and chat in person.”

From one entrepreneur to another, Hakker has two pieces of advice. The first is to not burn your bridges. He adds, “Every business industry is small, especially in Sarnia. Everyone knows everyone.” The second piece of advice is what entrepreneurs should be ready to do every morning: “Make awesome happen.”

For any marketing inquiries, call Darren Hakker at (519) 491-0404 or email at darren@graphitemarketing.ca. Further information can be found on his website, www.graphitemarketing.ca.

Formosa Graphics

In 1992, Sid Formosa opened Formosa Graphics, a design studio that provides businesses with graphics, web design, print, and promotional solutions. Throughout the past twenty-two years, Formosa has remained focused on creating excellent service and becoming a trustworthy resource for several businesses. No matter where his clients are or how big or small their business is, he always keeps one goal in mind: to act as their Art Department.

Although many of his clients are within Sarnia-Lambton, Formosa has also worked with businesses that are located all over, including the United States. Formosa Graphics has a good reputation for being reliable and fair with its clients. “I can complete projects and turn things around quickly”, said Formosa. He saw how small businesses cannot afford having their own Art Department, which is why he continues to concentrate on fulfilling that need.

Before opening his business, Formosa went to the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation (SLBDC) to receive business counselling as well as to obtain a loan. He was actually one of SLBDC’s first clients ever. Formosa said, “They helped me with accounting and getting me into the whole business mindset.”

One of Formosa’s favourite things about being an entrepreneur is that he gets to work with several other businesses and entrepreneurs. “I like that I get to see how other people do it –how they run their businesses.”

If Formosa could give one piece of advice to a new entrepreneur, it would be to be patient –starting a business is not something that can happen overnight. However, you should not plan so much that you never take action; sometimes you just have to go for it even if you do not have every single detail figured out. “You don’t have to have all of your ducks in-a-row when you start.”

Formosa Graphics is located at 103 Ontario Street and you can contact Sid Formosa by calling (519) 337-8189 or emailing sid@formosagraphics.com. For more information and updates about the business, you can find Formosa Graphics on Facebook, Twitter (@FormosaGraphics) as well as its website, www.formosagraphics.com.

Junior Baker

If there is any business that follows the motto, “Customers come first”, it is Junior Baker. Junior Baker has been the Downtown Sarnia Bakery since 2003. Besides being gluten-free, Junior Baker is known for catering to other dietary restrictions upon request. There has been a growing demand for either sugar-free or vegan treats, but they also offer less common options such as soy-free or egg-free. “We try to keep it as healthy as possible”, said Nicole. Even if people do not have any food restrictions, Junior Baker has become a first choice for many. Some of Junior Baker’s top sellers are the banana-chocolate-chip muffins, biscotti cookies, multigrain bread, red velvet cupcakes, and brownies. Junior Baker also offers baking classes that are open to anyone. These classes are one or two hours long and the cost includes the cake and any decorating materials.

Everyday is a busy day for Junior Baker.ohn is at the bakery no later than 4:00am and would bake until the store closes, whereas Nicole is at the store by 9:00am to help get everything ready for when the store opens. However, like all entrepreneurs, the work does not end when the store closes. “I would be answering calls at home and sometimes up until 1:00am replying to emails. We get about forty orders a day”, said Nicole.

No matter how much they have succeeded on their own, John and Nicole remain appreciative towards anyone who has helped them along the way, such as the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation. “They’re an incredible support and a wealth of information. They give more than just the basics; they are realistic and make you work for it so you know [being an entrepreneur] is what you want to do. When asked what the best part of being an entrepreneur is, Nicole says, “Being an entrepreneur is the best part.” They both agreed that they would not do it any other way ever again.

John and Nicole’s best piece of advice for a new entrepreneur is “Do not give up. The struggles are worth it, the long hours are worth it, and all of the energy and time you put in, you will get out.”

Junior Baker is located at 165 Lochiel St. and you can contact John and Nicole Moore by calling (519) 336-0440 or emailing juniorbaker@cogeco.ca. Photos of past creations and other information can be found on either their Facebook page or website, www.juniorbakersarnia.ca.

Holme Automotive

Customer service is always a critical factor in order to grow a business and it is what made Holme Automotive stand out in the crowd. Not only do Chuck Holme and his employees provide high quality work, but they also make it as convenient for the customer as possible.

In March 2013, Chuck Holme opened Holme Automotive, which is a vehicle repair and maintenance shop located in Corunna. His business is classified as a Tech-Net Professional Auto Service –a network of independently-owned service centers that focus on providing quality service. This has benefited Holme Automotive because with the technology in cars constantly changing, being a Tech-Net company has made it easy to stay on top of the latest equipment. “My employees and I would go to their training once a month from October to April every year. We change as cars change.” What is great about Holme Automotive is that he emphasizes continuous learning so that their customers receive optimal service. “We strive for excellent customer service.”

What Holme likes about going to the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation is that clients can receive a lot of one-on-one assistance. “When you go in and have a meeting with them, they will actually work with you on your business plan. You will know that you will succeed before you even start your business.”

Before opening Holme Automotive, Holme had over twenty years of experience in this field. So for him, one of the best parts of being an entrepreneur is that he is able to pick and choose what he wants to do everyday. Holme jokes, “If there is a big job that comes in, I can decide to be a part of that and get one of my employees to do the oil changes.

If he could give one piece of advice to a new entrepreneur it would be to research your area. “Look at your location, competitors and level of demand.” Holme explained how his business has grown very quickly because there was a low level of competitors located in Corunna. “If there are a lot of competitors in that one area, your demand will go right down.”

Holme Automotive is located at 618 St. Clair Parkway in Corunna and you can call (519) 862-2886 for vehicle assistance or other inquiries. Additional information can be found on its official website, www.holmeautomotive.com.

Brian Davis Jewellery Inc.

Spend a moment with Caroline Davis, and you feel her pride in the Brian Davis Jewellery tradition of quality, service, community involvement and most of all, in her father, Brian Edward Davis, who founded the business in 1967 and retired in 2010. His legacy remains central to how the family business operates, and continues to thrive. You may even get a glimpse of the pencil sketches for custom work done over the decades. It’s fascinating to see the style evolution and detail put into each piece. That style evolution continues.

Brian Edward Davis came to Canada from Newcastle England in 1964 with $160 in his pocket to create a better life for his family. He learned the art of jewelry design in Scotland where upon seeing a help wanted sign, he ascended a steep staircase to meet a jeweler seeking a trainee. In that little shop in Glasgow, Brian studied repair, fitting and learned about custom design. He discovered his life’s passion.

Known for custom design, Brian Davis Jewellery, located at Northgate Plaza for 20 years, offer an array of ready to wear pieces for every budget. The next generation – daughter Calah and daughter in law Victoria are tasked with sourcing showcase items – and for the customer looking for a one off, unique piece but who might not wish to go a custom route, their Estate and Consignment pieces are diverse and most often, 60% off. As well, they purchase gold and diamonds on the spot and the Birthstone specials of the Month have been brought back as well. SLBDC played a role in their continued growth by providing financing to expand their Estate Jewellery operation.

The biggest challenge in the business is to convey that custom doesn’t mean unaffordable. Budget is discussed up front to define options; a meaningful discussion is had not just about the style the client loves, but to get the WHY behind the piece. Then, not only the look, but the feeling the wearer has – that sense of occasion and joy, is captured. Custom work typically takes 4-6 weeks. A wax model is made as the vision comes together. Items like family rings can be turned around in 2 weeks. Custom design orders for Christmas gifts are accepted until the end of November. A 3 year warranty is offered on custom pieces, exceeding industry standards. Customer education is high priority, and an investment in the client relationship.

Seeing satisfied customers leaving smiling and becoming return clients, especially those for whom Brian Davis Jewellery is their family’s jeweler, is the best reward. Each wedding that they’re part of through custom designed engagement rings or bands is sent a congratulatory card and flowers. It’s a demonstration of their commitment to treating customers as family. Whether through purchase of a piece, repair or appraisals or even free cleaning, the team is there to help.

Being able to give back to the community is viewed as a privilege. Causes such as Breast Cancer, Kidney Foundation and Harmony are among their favourites.

While the showroom undergoes renovations, they remain open to serve their valued clients.

Visit Brian Davis Jewellery Inc.
500 Exmouth St., Northgate Plaza
Hours: Tuesday-Friday 10-5, Saturday 10-4
Call: 519-337-8644 www.briandavisjewellery.ca

Can-Weld

To say that John Arseneault has extensive knowledge as a welder and trainer would be an understatement. More than sixteen years ago, he was the official instructor for the Ironworkers Local 700, when he saw a void in the local training opportunities for aspiring Welders. Together with his wife Jann Arseneault, Can-Weld Training & Testing Centre was born. In those 16 years, they have proven they can stand the test of time. While other training centres are closing they continue to provide options for local trades people, as well as those who may wish to acquire the skills needed to create their own products, with no sign of slowing down. Operating on a “continual enrolment” system means that students don’t have to wait until September if they choose to pursue training as a Welder. Another thing that sets Can-Weld apart is the practical, hands-on approach to learning. Students should not expect to spend a lot of time sitting in a classroom, studying theory. Instead, they will do most of their learning “on the floor”, hands on.

When Can-Weld began, 16 years ago, the building they occupy on Plank Road was new and an ideal location where almost all of their 3000+ sq ft is used for training. John and Jann made sure they had support in place when they started this journey, and they found it in the form of the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation. There, they were able to create a vision, a business plan and benefit from the free counselling offered to small businesses. One of the key things they learned would later prove to be one of their biggest, assets – due diligence. Part of that was taking the steps to become a recognized Private Career College as defined by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU). This recognition has allowed them to provide training to those seeking Second Career opportunities through the MTCU, and opened the door to a lot of students who may not have otherwise been able to afford it. They are also members of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Sarnia-Lambton Chamber of Commerce.

Jann and John have two sons who carry on the family tradition, and countless graduates who credit them with their start in an industry with no shortage of opportunity. Jann is much more than the Centre’s administrator, she has become family to so many who have walked through her door. She maintains contact with her graduates and is frequently contacted by employers looking to hire – so often in fact, that she is sometimes out of grads to recommend – because they are already working. With the help of their dedicated and hard-working team of 5, students don’t just graduate – they graduate prepared to work. In addition to the training portion of the curriculum, Can-Weld is also a Testing Centre, which means that those who may have acquired their skillset elsewhere, but lack the final credentials, or may have been unable to attend on the limited testing dates at their own school, can complete the testing process at Can-Weld to solidify their credentials. Jann offers a most selfless explanation when asked about her motivation as an entrepreneur. It isn’t money, and it isn’t notoriety…”it’s the success of the students. Seeing them graduate, helping them on their path”. In business, that attitude is a rarity, but has helped to solidify Can-Weld Training & Testing Centre as an industry leader.

To find out more about Can-Weld Training & Testing Centre, you can find them on Facebook, on their website www.canweldsarnia.com or by phone at 519-344-9222. They are located at 1392 Plank Road, Unit 3 in Sarnia.

Financial Cents

On the list of things people enjoy talking about, taxes wouldn’t normally crack the top 10. Unless you’re Erin Pollard, tax consulting specialist, licensed financial advisor and owner of Financial Cents. Erin, best described as a Coach, celebrates 5 years in business this July. It’s not her job to make you like talking tax, but it IS her business to help corporate clients and individuals, most of whom are self-employed, manage their taxes more effectively. She identifies efficiencies, and does tax preparation. Working through her self-designed checklist, Erin gets clients organized and eliminates the mad scramble to locate receipts and essential paperwork, making tax filing less daunting. Supplementary services provided by Financial Cents include brokering insurance, such as Key Person insurance for business clients.

Business leaders and entrepreneurs have skills that propel their business to great success, but for some, their expertise doesn’t extend to money management. Others may possess the skill but not the time, nor the inclination to focus on that and by engaging a professional like Erin, free their time to focus on what they excel at as part of their overall business strategy.

Convenience is key. Your paperwork is at YOUR office, so Erin comes to you. “Coach Erin” doesn’t shy from the question “Why are we doing this?” and is quick to remind that even when you talk write offs you’re STILL paying money out of pocket.

When planning her business, market research was critical to create a structured business plan with defined goals. Erin believes in the need to review your plan annually and allow sufficient flexibility to get through leaner times. This is her best advice for potential entrepreneurs. Make a plan, revisit regularly and adjust as needed. Erin has regular clientele which provides a steady base income. As well, she always takes time to re-engage clients and finds satisfaction that her growth comes from referrals.

Although she maintains a structured workday, the main advantage to working for herself lies in the ability to focus on family. ‘There are new challenges every day when you’re an entrepreneur. Knowing that if something comes up with my kids, I can participate with them is wonderful. I’ve built more confidence and take pride in the fact I can provide for them.’ Her children also are her main motivator, and she loves showing them you don’t have to work 9-5 for others, can follow your passion and create your own opportunities.

Asked about things she’d do differently, two things were mentioned – to take courses related to social media and be more aggressive seeking out networking opportunities.

Referred to SLBDC from The Workplace Group, Erin shares that the best part of working with SLBDC was the accountability involved in the process – checking in with the counsellors and the staff regularly helps entrepreneurs sharpen their work habits. Later on, when you’re accountable only to yourself, you have the discipline to stay on track.

Get a jump NOW on tax planning by contacting Financial Cents today!

Erin Pollard, President, Financial Cents
Email: erin@financialcents.biz
or call 519-331-0096

Flowers Forever

On the surface, Sue Downey is in the floral business, but she’s really in the business of making people happy. “Knowing that I’ve made someone’s day and given them exactly what they wanted” is Sue’s measure of success. Strong repeat business and word of mouth referrals show she’s on the right path. Unlike most novice entrepreneurs, when Sue launched Flowers Forever – Designs by Sue in November 2015, she had 30 years of experience in floral design. Sue bet on herself and put in the hard work required to launch Flowers Forever.

Asked about the biggest surprise she experienced through the start-up, it was how warmly she was welcomed to the neighbourhood. The biggest challenge in her industry are overwhelming peaks in demand for holidays, but knowing her customer’s tastes helps simplify that process. Sue’s tasteful arrangements or planters for funerals, sympathy and any manner of life moments, can be sent at a later time to say you’re thinking of the recipient. Sue will admit with a smile that lovely ‘I’m Sorry’ florals are quite popular.

Though Sue prides herself as a neighbourhood florist, she delivers throughout Lambton County in her cheery green Kia Soul, detailed with her logo, contact info, and eye catching floral theme. Branding your business and following through with a consistent look with everything you do is critical, including your storefront, signage, business cards, vehicle and social media presence.

Though her walk in, drive by, phone and online traffic is strong, custom work for special occasions – particularly weddings, represents her core business. Consultations are available to plan YOUR special day at a budget that fits. Each bride is different and unique, so working with a client’s personality, specific colour schemes and themes to achieve beauty and elegance is very rewarding.

What motivates Sue most is her passion for design and working for herself allows more creative freedom. Customers feel her enthusiasm and trust her expertise. She offers not only fresh arrangements, but plants and even custom designed high quality silk florals. Her attractive shop displays home décor accent pieces and even accessories to add a little spark or sparkle to your home or wardrobe.

When asked about tips for others, Sue had wise words to share. “Know that you are married to your job. This is not a 40 hour per week commitment. It’s something you have to make sure works with your life. You are working 7 days per week because you are always checking out a variety of ideas and thinking about how to improve.”

Being referred to SLBDC for business counselling was a welcome opportunity. “Their counselling helped me to develop the plan that I needed to go from working seasonally to creating a full time career with my own business, working independently.”

Flowers Forever is located at 132 Russell Street South in Sarnia
WEB: www.flowersforever.ca PHONE: 519-491-2500
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Greenafish

“There is no wrong way or right way. There is only YOUR way, and that is considered perfect Art!”

Visiting Penetanguishine over March Break 2016, Shawna Bowers and her young daughters Ca$he and Harlow visited a children’s art studio where the girls threw paint in a splatter room. Their delighted reactions prompted Shawna to suggest to her mother Peggy that they launch a Kids’ Art studio in Sarnia. They were disappointed to learn one already existed – Greenafish Art Studio.

However, the business was for sale and Peggy and Shawna acquired the studio. Shawna calls it serendipity. Thought not formally trained artists, they craft at an advanced level. With PSW and DSW education, Shawna is attuned to kids requiring extra attention.

Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation’s team helped guide the sale process, from ownership transfer and registering for HST. The process was efficient, thorough, and helped boost their confidence. Notably, Greenafish’s original owner started the business through SLBDC.

Purchased in June, reopened in July 2016, the refreshed Greenafish offers scheduled classes, Birthday parties, 4 week programs, summer camp and even a portable splatter room. Committed to providing fresh experiences, they avoid repetition, as children may be guests at multiple parties. Superheros are perennial favourites – The Joker and Harley Quinn are the most requested characters. As for theme? The sky’s the limit!

Sourcing ideas is a true family affair with Shawna, Peggy, and all 5 grandkids involved. 11 year old Madison, is a Birthday party assistant while grandsons Evan and Tucker round out the team of junior consultants.

The next phase in Greenafish’s evolution is an imminent move to a downtown Sarnia space triple the size of their current studio, a risk they have excitedly embraced.

Children’s natural creativity hampered by screen time, Greenafish stimulates independent thought and expression, developing a sense of pride in accomplishing something unique. Encouraging parents to participate is a bonus and recently, a mom who said she wasn’t a party person, was won over and happily flung some paint. Four week art classes for kids 7+ run monthly. Parent & Tot runs the 3rd Friday of each month. ‘Party Animalz’ with The Painted Cat takes place the last Thursday of the month for ages 5-7, and the last Friday for 8-12 year olds. The cost is $25 for each event and includes pizza. Birthday Party packages start at $160 for up to 10 children. The best part? Parents don’t clean!!

July and August Summer camps are $160 per week and run 9am-1pm Monday-Friday for kids 5-7 and 8+ with a variety of activities included. The mobile splatter room is $150 for the first hour, $100 per hour for each additional hour. Check out greenafish.com, Instagram and Facebook for updates. Advance registration for classes and party bookings are always required. Private groups and clubs are also welcome to schedule their own event.

Seeing the pure enjoyment of kids and growing confidence of program participants is their greatest reward.

Greenafish proves that entrepreneurship doesn’t always begin with a blank canvas. With passion, a plan and hard work, an existing business can be made your own.

Call 519-464-8093
Address: 140 Christina St, Third Floor www.greenafish.com
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Grind Café and Catering

November 12th marked the second anniversary of Grind Café and Catering. Grind is the third food establishment of co-owner Sean Barlow, owner of downtown Sarnia hot spots Limbo Lounge and Sideways Classic Grill. Grind’s partners, Melissa Cameron and Head Chef Brian Hall, are hands on at Grind. Melissa leads front of house, managing bookings, administration, advertising, event coordination and social media. Brian leads the culinary team handling all ordering, directs menu creation and food execution with Sous Chefs Heather Jennings and Erik Fawdry.

Grind’s food combines the elegance of Limbo and casual approachability of Sideways.

Specializing in catering events up to 200, Grind filled a void in Sarnia-Lambton. Limbo devotees clamoured for Limbo to cater events, but unfortunately they were unable to accommodate the high demand. Once Grind’s location on the main level of the St. Clair Corporate Centre was secured, and following months of renovations, Grind launched!

Operating both café and catering operations maintains revenue flow critical to their success. As an exclusive caterer with the Gateway Room in the St. Clair Corporate Centre and Sarnia Riding Club, Grind acquires new patrons each week.

Currently, catered events see fewer clients seeking a formal, plated meal; small plates and an abundance of delectable appetizers flowing throughout the night are on trend. Grind offers many popular late night “food bar” offerings, including poutine, sliders, carnival treats, grilled cheese sandwiches and more. Grind also specializes in “dessert bars”, such as cheesecake, s’mores and cake pops to satisfy any sweet tooth. The Grind team embraces the opportunity to create custom menus, don’t hesitate to ask! It’s the era of Pinterest, and they often reimagine unique offerings, and never disappoint. With over 30 weddings booked for 2017, contact them promptly to save your date.

Grind’s focus is on customer experience. Recently licensed, a seasonal patio runs May-October with featured drink specials, ½ price appetizers, live entertainment and open mic night. Weekly lunch specials follow a pattern: Monday is on the lighter side, think salads, Tuesday is a sandwich, Wednesday is comfort food, Thursday is a unique nacho and then there’s “Fried” Friday. Brand new for 2017 are pre-made healthy meals for customers on the go.

Grind prides itself on community involvement. Highlights include, but aren’t limited to: Fusion, Chilly Willy Cook-Off, Pastafest, Lambton Farm Feast, and a coveted ‘White Party’ Dinner for Eight in support of the Breast Cancer Society.

SLBDC provided financing to Grind, as they had for both Limbo Lounge and Sideways. Access to the capital required to launch a new business or expand operations is challenging. The hospitality industry is one where few lenders venture. Recent financing facilitated renovations and equipment upgrades to maximize Grind’s efficiency.

A significant challenge in the food and beverage industry is retention of talented culinary staff. Grind offers competitive wages, encourages team contributions and is always quick to rave about their team.

Melissa’s advice for other entrepreneurs? “There will be many sacrifices made; you need to dedicate yourselves 100%. Time with family and friends may be difficult to schedule, so you need to LOVE what you do!”

Grind café and Catering
265 Front Street N., Suite 105 – Sarnia, ON
Hours: Monday – Friday : 8am-3pm
Call – 519-339-8986
Check out the menu & photos of past creations online at grindcafecatering.com
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The Ice Creamery

It’s the day after Valentine’s Day. Hundreds of strawberries were hand dipped to satisfy those in love, and those in love with chocolate. Launched in 1993 in a 173 Square ft. kiosk in Lambton Mall, The Ice Creamery is a labour of love for owners Dave and Wendy Ghobril. They energetically share their story, filling in each other’s blanks as they go.

With the support of Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation’s counselling, they were able to gather the knowledge and financing needed to lay the foundation for their dream. Armed with a business plan and a vision, they were grateful for the early support.

Using the small Gaggia machine they’d purchased, they made endless batches of ice cream, a litre at a time, refining, sampling, sharing with friends to perfect the taste and texture. Their first promotions were providing penny cone samples. Fudge was also in their product array from the very start.

Dave is the chocolatier, with much of his technique acquired through observation and experimentation. His initial course in chocolate making at Callebaut was successful, despite learning on arrival in Quebec that all instruction was in French. A minor detail…

Investment in promotion has been critical. Brigden Fair is a perennial favourite, building recognition in early days, and now a way to stay connected to their beloved customers. The Ice Creamery actively participates in a wide variety of community events. A year-long ‘cake a day’ giveaway created huge buzz for their ice cream cakes – an expensive undertaking that paid off.

Their dedicated kitchen allows them to keep their locations in Lambton Mall, Sarnia Farmers’ Market and Covent Garden Market in London beautifully stocked, with ample space to create custom masterpieces. Their seasonal site on Front Street across from Centennial Park runs late May/early June through Labour Day.

Staff is family. An employee coined the term ‘Icecreamologist’ and another used The Ice Creamery as their muse for a marketing assignment, creating recognizable branding still used today. Dave and Wendy double the take in tip jars for a variety of team outings; the latest was a victorious outing to an escape room.

What sets The Ice Creamery apart? All their chocolate, ice cream and specialty products are handcrafted on site, ensuring the freshest, tastiest product possible. Fudge, caramels, Canadian maples, ice cream cakes and 19 varieties of truffles are available. ‘Pigs in the Orchard’ – a bacon truffle, is among the most unique.

Custom creations are welcomed with some notice. One bridal couple, both with the initial M, had custom M&M ice cream crafted for their special day. Gelato bars for groups of 100+ are also wildly popular so call to reserve your date!

A long standing Easter tradition is the Dino chocolate eggs and the wildly popular fillable Easter eggs. Clients bring gifts to be sealed inside and anything from inexpensive trinkets to diamond tennis bracelet or even $1000 cash have all been sealed in Ice Creamery eggs. Decadent and extravagant!

Dave’s advice to those dreaming of entrepreneurship? You cannot always be the cheapest – so be the best! Volume won’t necessarily translate to success, so price your products and services to reflect the excellent quality you consistently deliver.

Savour The Ice Creamery’s creations at these locations:
Lambton Mall, Sarnia Farmers’ Market – Wed & Saturday, Covent Garden Market (London) Daily , Front St. (Seasonal)
www.icecreamery.ca
For Orders, call: 519-541-0102

Piquette Frozen Meals

What comes to mind when you think frozen meals? Salty. Processed. High fat. Good enough. Shouldn’t food be an everyday pleasure? Why settle for average?

Convenient, tasty, ready to eat meals, chef prepared from quality ingredients is the trademark of Piquette Frozen Meals. Specializing in comfort foods, Chef Marc Piquette turns out delicious, affordable ($8 per entrée) meals with no preservatives. It’s REAL food, freezer to table in 4-7 minutes. Ensuring meals have desired texture and taste once reheated is a technical challenge he’s mastered.

Marc’s culinary training began with his dad, Norm. By age 10 he was learning classic French techniques. After completing chef training at Algonquin College and an apprenticeship, Marc lightened up family favourites to satisfy the way clients want to eat today.

With 140 recipes in his repertoire, Marc offers limited run features. Perpetual top sellers are roast turkey, lasagna (meat or veggie) and shepherd’s pie, but there’s always a wide variety of entrees, soups and desserts in stock. Quality and consistency separates him from the competition. His new storefront, opened in January, features a larger kitchen and an herb garden. Many dishes have no salt, flavoured only with his signature herb & spice blends. With the Farmers’ Market close by, he has access to fresh produce.

Marc’s entrepreneurial journey began three years ago when he decided to test his frozen food concept and engaged family and friends to sample and critique. Initially renting commercial kitchen space and selling from his home, he graduated to his first storefront after a year and is happily in his new, visible location at 105 Mitton Street.

Marc was referred to SLBDC by friends and of the services, he shares: ‘I wouldn’t have been able to start my business without the program. If you have little money, you can’t borrow from conventional banks for a food business. They’ll match dollar for dollar, but won’t take additional risk. Most importantly, I learned to manage my books.’

Catering to the perpetually busy client craving home style food – word of mouth, Facebook and print advertising have been effective in growing his clientele. Plant workers are a strong demographic, many ordering 20 meals at a time to avoid the fast food trap. He supplies clients of Purdy Ideal You and Pure Local Organics. Under contract to Lambton Elderly Outreach, his meals are enjoyed throughout Lambton County, even adopting easy to open packaging for LEO clients.

Custom meal plans, with a minimum order of 25 meals can meet any dietary restriction or guidelines. Inquire directly for these options. Family size meals are available on request. In March, Marc’s excited to launch bi-weekly, FREE delivery within Sarnia for a minimum order of 10 items – meals or a combination of soups, entrees and desserts.

Future plans include the purchase of his own building, and expanding his reach beyond Lambton County.

Marc’s advice for budding entrepreneurs? ‘Do your homework. Understand what you’re getting into, but take the leap. If you’ve done your research and have a solid business plan in place, you’ll still be scared, but do it anyway!’

Piquette Frozen Meals
105 Mitton Street, Sarnia
Monday-Friday 10-6, Saturday 10-NOON
Tel: 519-466-3672
Email : piquettefrozenmeals@gmail.com
Visit: www.piquettefrozenmeals.com for detailed menu options
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Point Edward Early Learning Centre

It began as a half day, co-op nursery school in the hall of St. Paul’s Anglican church by a group of determined mothers almost 50 years ago. Now, Point Edward Early Learning Centre has a dynamic team of 27 staff, led by Caroline Martin and Cathy Eyre, who started their careers as classroom teachers. Stewarded by a dedicated and skilled Board of Directors, the Point Edward Early Learning Centre has evolved, but what remains is the commitment to providing excellent care and developmental learning opportunities.

Groups served are toddlers 16 months + and preschool age; complimented by before and after school programs for children ages 6-12. It hasn’t always been easy. The organization had outgrown physical space on a few occasions. From the hall in St. Paul’s, to a location on Louisa, to the hall of the former United church that is their current location, augmented by space at Bridgeview School, staff persevered to grow without disrupting service to their families.

A lasting partnership with Bridgeview, where children ready to take the leap into full-time school are cared for, is a welcome addition to their toddler and pre-school programs. As a plus, with assistance from Pathways, they can accommodate medically fragile children who also attend Bridgeview.

In 2012 the centre was at a crossroads. The United church was closing and they faced relocation yet again. Determined to remain in Point Edward, they pursued purchase of the church, renovating and utilizing the entire building. With a business plan in place, and despite jumping through hoops with traditional lenders, hope to buy their building was fading. A former Board member suggested an approach to SLBDC. With a proposal quickly put together and reviewed at a special SLBDC Board meeting, financing was approved and $500,000 of extensive renovations later, Point Edward Early Learning Centre has an ideal location. Their praise for SLBDC’s decisive actions, belief in their business plan and ability to succeed is strong. Without SLBDC’s support, we may not have been able to continue, shares Caroline. hen asked what separates them from their competitors, Caroline was quick to praise their location. The walkability of the Village provides built in opportunities for learning and recreation. Exploring the waterfront, including the fish hatchery, Animal Farm, visiting neighbours at Point Edward Fire & Rescue or OPP detachment, there are plentiful field trip opportunities. The kids have even visited Public Works, and enjoy trips to Point Edward Arena to skate as well. The Village of Point Edward generously supports a few pre-school skate days each year.

On occasion, the team is able to reconnect with past students, and it gives them tremendous satisfaction to know they’ve made a positive impact on the critical early years for so many children.

Intakes are accepted year-round, with a formal application process, a mandatory tour to explore if there is a fit for the families and orientation to acclimate new children into the day to day routines. Some subsidized spaces are available.

Contact:
Point Edward Early Learning Centre
213 Michigan Ave., Point Edward
Phone: 519-337-4468
Email: peelc@cogeco.net

Reno Fine Clothing for Men

For over 30 years, Reno Fine Clothing for Men has been THE destination shop for gentlemen seeking high quality men’s wear in Sarnia-Lambton. The owner since 2011, Bruce Marks, continues the tradition of high service standards established by founder, Reno Cacace. Bruce takes pride in providing his clients a thoughtfully curated selection of fashionable clothing and accessories to allow men to express their personal style. From stylish jeans and sportswear, right through to custom suits manufactured in Canada, Reno’s has something to fit the lifestyle of men who value quality clothing.

Bruce was working in the corporate world in a job that required extensive travel, which didn’t work for his young family. He needed a change. One day, shopping at Reno’s, where he was a regular, Reno announced he was retiring and suggested Bruce buy the business. Soon after, he found SLBDC who ‘got the ball rolling’ for him, and provided counselling, helped him complete a business plan, advised on how to structure his deal to purchase, and provided financing. Bruce says it’s critical to have a good relationship with your financiers, and know they’re in your corner to support you in challenging times.

Entrepreneurship, especially in a retail environment, demands long hours, and Bruce shares that for anyone running their own business, finding a healthy way to manage stress is critical.

The days of men wearing suits each day to work are largely over, though there are some notable exceptions. On trend are shirts with pattern, and pants with a slightly tapered leg for a streamlined look for clients with fitter physiques. Men are looking for flexible options too, like a smart sports jacket they can dress up for work or can pair with jeans for a polished, relaxed look. It’s their goal to help you stretch your wardrobe so you always have appropriate, stylish clothing choices.

In 2011, Bruce challenged himself to think about his ideal location and decided downtown was the place to be, with higher traffic and a more modern storefront. Serendipitously, the same day he decided to pursue a downtown location, one was offered to him. Now on Front Street for over 4 years, he enjoys a lot of walk in traffic, although it’s clear spending time there, that it’s regular, dedicated clientele that keeps Reno’s thriving. While there, a fellow merchant dropped in to talk about a great new vendor they’d met. It’s a community feeling along Front Street, and client referrals are the norm.

Buying for the collections he has in the store happens a year in advance from trade shows, online research and visiting manufacturers. Research happens throughout the year. Popular lines carried include Nautica, Tommy Bahama, 34 Heritage though there are fresh options each season. While many fashion trends originate in Europe and the UK, Reno’s is focused on Canadian designed and made products. As well, almost anything can be custom designed, not just suiting, but pants and shirts as well.

Eye catching accessories like colourful socks, ties, hats, belts and pocket squares are plentiful at Reno’s and don’t get rid of those French cuff shirts – cuff links are back in a big way. Fall is in full swing, with new items arriving daily.

Reno Fine Clothing for Men
150 Front Street, Unit B
HOURS:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 10-5:30
Monday – 11-4
Thursday- 10-6
Tel: 519-344-7471
renofineclothing.com

Saat Lune Yoga Studio

Photo of Nicol McColl MartinNicol McColl Martin dreamed of entrepreneurship since childhood, but it wasn’t until a few years ago she turned her passion for yoga – a practice she began at age 18, into a business. Following their completion of 200 hours of teacher training, she and her husband Mike Martin launched Saat Lune Yoga Studio in 2015, offering not just yoga, but also Reiki and meditation.

Stepping into the Saat Lune studio, with its abundant natural light, you feel their commitment to providing a quiet, tranquil and safe environment for clients to deepen their practice of yoga, distinguishing them from classes held in a gym setting.

Referred to SLBDC’s business counselling program from Lambton College, Nicol, a nurse by training, praises the support she received at SLBDC. Specifically, she was advised on how to convert her concept to a formal, workable business plan, guidance on completing formal market research critical to her planning, principals of financial management, as well as advice on marketing and promotion.

A Bright’s Grove native, a location in the Grove was a priority. Securing her property took six months, renovations another four. Primarily through word of mouth recommendations, clientele has built at a steady pace. During the research and initial launch, Nicol thought her target clientele would be primarily be those 45-65 and though they have clients in all demographics, this has proven accurate.

A variety of styles and intensities are offered including: Kundalini, stretch and restore, YIN yoga, Candlelight, Prenatal and more. Opportunities for mother/daughter, father/son, couples, children, private instruction and group classes also exist. Yoga Fit, taught by Mike 3 times per week at 6am offers a more physical vs spiritual workout. Runners and cyclists are often part of Yoga Fit.

In late 2016, Nicol travelled to Northern India for advanced training and stayed at Arhanta, a silent ashram where she was the lone Canadian in a group of 16. Meals, meditations and even walks around the grounds were silent and connection with technology very limited; reinforcing the ability to connect with her true self and become more aware of the physical, astral (spiritual) and mind. Though her teaching style is the same as before her trip, her energy and ability to connect with her students is perceptively heightened as noted by her regular students.

Members of the Canadian Yoga Alliance and International Yoga Alliance, Saat Lune is thrilled to offer certified teacher instruction this April. The 200 hours of instruction will continue through early December. Interested students should contact Nicol directly to inquire.

Nicol’s best advice to others interested in launching a business? ‘Let go of the fear. It may sound cliché, but you CAN do anything you set your mind to. Don’t get in over your head financially; plan well to ensure you can meet your start-up costs.’

Saat Lune offers various class pass options – 10 class passes are $135 and 20 class passes are $225. 1-12 month unlimited memberships are also offered. Classes are scheduled at a variety of times to allow clients to pursue their practice as part of a busy lifestyle. Walk-ins are welcome as space allows.

Saat Lune Yoga Studio
2695 Hamilton Road, Suite 1
Bright’s Grove ON
Tel: 519-381-6169
www.saatlune.ca

Safety Robotic Demolition Inc.

“If you build it, they will come.”

Safety Robitic Demolition OwnerSo was the line in Field of Dreams. But when it comes to structures, particularly industrial or commercial spaces, there’s a time when a building’s usefulness comes to an end or significant modifications need to be made.

Whether it’s a partial or total demo job, expertise is required to get the job done safely and efficiently. Gone are the days where manual demolition was industry standard. As  President & CEO of Safety Robotic Demolition Inc. (SRDinc) Dave Hendrickx says ‘It’s all about dollars and cents in this industry.’ Robotic demolition offers not just a quicker demo, which can, depending on manpower, be 6 to 8 times faster, but also significantly reduces risk to workers. Less noise, zero emissions and reduced exposure to hazardous construction materials as well as less downtime are just a few benefits. In 2012, following six years with another firm, Dave Hendrickx decided to form his own company. Within 6 months, Safety Robotic Demolition was operational with clients across Ontario.

As a higher risk industry, traditional lenders don’t often consider a loan. SLBDC’s financing was put in place and used to buy new machinery and provide operating funds.

The sophisticated Brokk machinery that Safety Robotic Demolition uses is operated remotely and is very limber, able to maneuver through doorways and climb stairs, meaning there are few jobs that cannot be completed robotically. Dave and his employee both work hands-on in all demo jobs.

While training is available from Brokk for operators, the real finesse is acquired as the operator gains hands on experience. The Safety Robotic Demolition team has 20+ years of combined experience. Dave shares that as he began his training on the Brokk machines, learning was done by observation – holding cords and seeing how nuanced the demo can be. With an agricultural background – he farms as well – he’s adept at maintenance and keeps his fleet ready to rock.

A challenge for entrepreneurs is cash flow. You may have leaner months, or clients may be slower to pay. While not an issue for you if you’re an employee – your pay comes regularly, regardless. But as an owner, it’s something to be tightly managed.

Dave feels the best part of being your own boss is being able to put your own processes and standards in place. Also, he shares, an entrepreneur cannot THINK consumers or clients will want what your business has to offer – you have to KNOW they want it. Focused research and planning is critical.
Finally – know ALL the costs involved in your start up! Everything adds up quickly. Insurance, inventory acquisition, machinery, space renovations are just the beginning.

SRD Inc. works primarily in industrial and commercial settings, with some residential and agricultural jobs rounding out their workflow. Quotes are frequently prepared remotely with photos and blueprints, but for jobs close by, in person quotes are arranged.

Dave remains focused on growing the business. As for client expansion, he’d love to do more work at home in Sarnia-Lambton.

 

For Further Info or Quotes, Contact Safety Robotic Demolition Inc.
President & CEO Dave Hendrickx
srdemolition@gmail.com
tel. 519-330-6116
www.srdinc.ca

Shoes @144 Front

Shoes @ 144 FrontShoes and accessories are something most women can agree on. The right shoe or handbag can evoke a delighted smile and literally give new spring to your step. Even when a skirt might not zip or pants are a bit snug, shoes don’t disappoint. They’re always the perfect fit!

Sisters in life and partners in business, Rebecca Reading and Denise Huard have found the formula to succeed with Shoes @144 Front, their sleek and stylish shop on Sarnia’s waterfront; offering fashion forward, quality shoes, bags and accessories at affordable prices to complete every outfit. Rebecca’s background in marketing and Denise’s retail experience in the beauty industry mesh well. Denise makes the majority of the buying decisions for the shop, while Rebecca’s marketing knack contributes to their longevity and success. Having diverse strengths and personalities that complement one another made them an effective team.

March 2017 marked their 8th Anniversary. Offering both Timeless and Trendy selections – special occasion shoes to comfortable walking shoes, there is something for everyone. Ordering is done twice per year, 6 months in advance at Canada’s largest shoe show. Periodically, customers suggest a line they love, which they then research to see if it might complement the existing lines carried.

The era of towering heels seems over but a variety of heel heights are available to fit every woman’s preference. From classic stilettos to kitten heels, block heels and wedges are on trend in a big way for spring. More wearable options, flats and sneakers now enjoy a larger portion of the footwear market. Shoes @144 Front stays on trend to keep their customer’s style current.

Selected lines included are: Nine West, Franco Sarto, Steve Madden, Betsey Johnson, Vionic, Gabor, and a funky Canadian designed line – Barcelona Shoe Company. Some of Barcelona’s styles are hand washable. Canadian designer Christopher Kon’s ‘Co-Lab’ handbags always sell well, he’s an established favourite.

Selection and unique offerings aside, it’s clear the personal service they offer to their clients is the key. While we chatted, a regular customer stopped in to inquire about a specific Vionic walking shoe. Rebecca researched the item and confirmed the client’s contact information to ensure they connect prior to the customer’s upcoming trip. On leaving, the client said ‘See you Saturday!’

Social Media is used regularly to excite customers on new arrivals and provide details on promotions. With new stock arriving constantly, posting photos invites questions, and Rebecca actively engages with client inquiries on pricing, materials and size availability.

Rebecca attended business counselling at SLBDC where she was assisted on development of their comprehensive business plan which helped arm them with the tools they needed to prepare effectively for their business launch. Our approachable counsellors made the process an encouraging and positive experience and they know the door is always open for any advice they might need.

Thrilled to be part of Downtown Sarnia’s renaissance and close knit business community, they love participating in First Fridays and other special events. With unique stores opening regularly, Rebecca and Denise suggest you gather friends and spend a day experiencing local independent retailers, restaurants and attractions.

Connect with Shoes @144 Front
144 Front Street, Sarnia
Monday-Friday-10-5, Saturday – 10-4
Tel: 519-491-0777

Shokas Pizza Co.

No food is more loved than pizza. A popular internet meme says it all. “Any pizza is a personal pizza if you try hard and believe in yourself.”

It was a love for pizza and pasta that inspired Shokas Pizza Co. Opened in July 2015 by Peter and Jennifer Nassiokas, Shokas offers pizza, calzones, salads & signature pastas. While pizza is the top seller, lasagna and the braised beef ravioli are customer favourites. Dough is made from scratch, fresh daily, as are the pasta and sauces. Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza is a new permanent menu item unique to Shokas. They have a commitment to be innovative and new menu items are being worked on constantly.

Freshness and quality is key. Even prior to opening, perfecting their signature pizza sauce took almost a year, by finding just the right tomatoes and spices to produce their flavourful, rich sauce.

Peter grew up in the restaurant business and spent 16 years as a food franchisee. Being independent owners demanded they create branding, menu and location from start to finish – a new challenge! The anchor tenant in their plaza along Murphy Road, their space, renovated over 4 months, resulted in a bright, inviting location.

Positive customer feedback, especially from regulars who provide word of mouth raves to friends are their greatest motivation and reward. Customers become family and a dedicated marketing team.

SLBDC’s role in their story is a supportive one – providing templates and resources to help them manage operations, to providing financing to consolidate their payments and providing breathing space in the early months after opening.  Referred to SLBDC by a fellow restaurant owner, they were grateful for the honest assessment of their operation and our firm belief in both their concept and potential.

Restaurant life means long hours. After closing, there is prep to be done, dough to be made, equipment to clean. The biggest personal sacrifice is less time with their three children, ages 10, 6 and almost 8. Their first family trip in 14 months was Labour Day weekend. Their children willingly help out, folding pizza boxes and other little tasks to earn their allowance. They are developing a strong work ethic and as Peter shares, though there are many obstacles involved in running your own business, they refuse to quit when things are difficult. Extended family also helps make it work. Peter’s dad makes meatballs, sauce and pastas & helped perfect their lasagna.

Offering excellent products and service, things fall into place. They are building a future for their family. A commitment to the community is also important, with Sacred Heart School, their children’s school, a favourite partner.

Not just a dinner spot, Shokas offers Lunch pasta specials Monday-Friday, from 11am-3pm. Catering is a popular option, especially for business team lunches. Gluten free pizza and pasta options are available on request. Eat in, take out or have your meal delivered to Sarnia and Point Edward.

Shokas Pizza Co.
580 Murphy Road, Sarnia
Mon-Fri: 11am-11pm, Sat & Sun: 3pm-11pm
Call 519-332-2828
www.shokaspizza.com

The Hayter Group

In 1981, Chad Hayter’s father Jim purchased the heating and cooling firm he worked for which began in the 50’s. In 1982, he installed the first Geothermal water furnace units that comprise most of their residential work. Rising energy costs and environmental consciousness make geothermal and solar technology increasingly attractive for residential and commercial spaces. As well, 2017 is the final year for the microFIT program, offering homeowners guaranteed rates selling power generated through a solar installation for the next 20 years, netting a 9-11% return on investment.

Chad was encouraged to complete post-secondary education and gain work experience before joining the family business, joining full time in 2003, following Business studies at Lambton College and a 9 year Sales & Service career with Cargill. Chad credits those years as the best education possible and will insist his kids follow a similar path if they’re interested in joining The Hayter Group. He and his wife have 7 children, aged 3-15 and their older kids work part time.

In 2003, Chad bought into the company and in 2006, became sole owner. SLBDC provided business counselling support, and helped Chad formalize the detailed business plan that allowed him to secure financing to purchase the business, build a bigger shop and acquire new service vehicles.

Geothermal, in simplest terms, is the process of capturing heat in the earth to heat a building. It’s a cost effective, efficient method of heating, burning NO fossil fuels – a truly Green technology. Since 2002 all but a few custom homes they’ve worked on utilize geothermal technology and/or radiant floor heating. Of course, they still offer high efficiency natural gas, propane and oil heating systems.

Chad’s best advice to other business owners? Focus on attracting and retaining great staff. Don’t directly supervise more than 7 people, so you have time to invest in their success. They look after their team by paying good wages, offering benefits and a pension. When candidates would come in to be interviewed, he’d have them wait, to have them interact with his mother Mary Louise at reception. She’d later be asked if she’d feel comfortable welcoming this person into her home. Technical competency combined with a personable nature is fundamental to their team’s success, resulting in repeat business and client referrals.

Currently, 9 Administrative and Sales and 21 Field Staff make up their growing team. Immediate needs exist for a variety of roles – the career section on their website makes it easy to apply. The Alvinston and Cambridge bases allow them to be no more than an hour’s drive to customers throughout Sarnia-Lambton, Chatham-Kent, K/W and Middlesex. Free estimates, courtesy calls, and follow ups on all jobs speak to their high service standard.

Costs for Solar home installations start at $15,000 with geothermal systems, around $24,000.

Chad proudly works with the Ontario Geothermal Association as they lobby to advance the geothermal industry, providing advantages for consumers and contractors with a focus on expanding the use of Green technology.

Marketing on social media, a rural sign campaign, at farm & home shows, YouTube videos, wrapped vehicles and branded uniforms are all used to keep them top of mind. A refreshed Hayter Group look is coming soon!

The Hayter Group
3277 Nauvoo Road, Alvinston ON
Tel: 519-898-2857 or Toll Free: 1-877-429-8377

The Woods Hair Salon

The Woods Hair Salon is the perfect juxtaposition of natural elements mixed with modern sophistication. Opened in December 2015, The Woods is a dream realized for Tyler and Ashley Smith. The natural touches are all Ashley, the modern is Tyler’s influence. Their desire was to create an environment where everyone on their team was on the same page, yet able to bring their own creative influences to their work. The best part of being business owners is to inspire their team. Through doing hair their team uses creativity and technique to transform a client’s look, while exceeding customer service expectations. A confident, happy client is always the end goal.

Creating a buzz in the community is a huge motivation; fashion shows and photo shoots have been part of their first months in business. Tyler, a stylist for almost 13 years, has a passion for all things artistic – hair, fashion, music and design and Ashley, his wife, is like minded. Tyler recalls bleaching his hair in Grade 5 as an homage to Kurt Cobain. Business has been brisk, and two months ago, Ashley was able to leave her job as a PSW to manage The Woods full time.

Tyler’s typical day is 11 hours, which fly by because he enjoys his work so much. Clientele of all ages, have followed their stylists to The Woods and though they were confident in their concept, the volume of new clients has been overwhelming. Positive word of mouth and social media are primarily responsible.

The team are highly educated, and are in Toronto at least once a month studying with Kevin Murphy whose product line is exclusive in Sarnia to The Woods.
Keeping ahead of trends allows them to respond with ease to client requests. Walking clients step by step using the right products and tools to help them recreate their
look at home is essential.

Their location was carefully selected. Sharing a building with Adora Spa, who have been in business over 10 years, their services compliment one another, a
mutually beneficial partnership. Free, plentiful parking at their location on London Road has also been an asset.

The biggest challenge faced during start-up was the delay with permits; they had aimed to open in September. Thankfully, their contractor was accommodating and reworked their schedule to complete the renovations efficiently, without sacrificing quality in any way.

SLBDC was recommended to the Smiths both by Tyler’s father in law and their friend Marty. Business counselling followed, and a detailed business plan created that included both very modest and aspirational revenue targets with coaching provided by SLBDC staff. They’re proud to report that revenue has been solid, but that knowing how lean they could run and still cover their overhead was an important step to take in planning. The most daunting part was grasping the financial piece – source deductions, payroll and other documentation to keep a business running efficiently was wisely met by engaging a professional accountant.

Tyler’s advice to those considering entrepreneurship? “Make sure you have a solid business plan. Don’t get discouraged by those who doubt you. Be confident – if you want it bad enough, you can make it happen!”

The Woods Hair Salon
1410 London Road, Sarnia
519-491-6895

Wendy Smith Portraits

Portrait of Wendy SmithFor Wendy Smith, of Wendy Smith Portraits, the path to a fulfilling work life was unconventional. This May, she celebrates 5 years as a photographer specializing in contemporary portraiture: themed family photography, headshots, and a growing niche in glamour and boudoir photography. It’s light years from her former life as a Class A
mechanic, who raced cars as well. After marrying and starting a family, she sought a career to satisfy her creative nature.

Preparing for her wedding, she hit it off with the photographer, who possessed a terrific eye and a warm personality. Wendy had an aptitude for taking pictures, but certainly hadn’t considered it as a career. Following dedicated training at Fanshawe College, she worked as a second shooter on weddings. This mentorship was crucial to the growth of her artistry and editing skills.

Wendy’s boundless curiosity in people’s stories and love for capturing moments on film, along with a passion for learning is her winning formula. One on one interaction with clients as they plan a theme, wardrobe, hair and makeup, props, and location is very rewarding. Most shoots take place in her studio, where lighting is ideal, though location shoots are welcome. Her focus on providing a memorable, fun experience is rewarded by steady referrals and repeat customers across all demographics. Multigeneration shoots are often very sentimental.

Wendy jokes that when she was working in automotive and had a night out, she’d often overshoot the glam. Friends often kidded her, but she wanted to show her feminine side and break free of her dirty coveralls. This philosophy of pampering is essential to her glamour and boudoir photography. She offers makeup and hair, though some clients do their own. Girls’ nights are increasingly popular. Some boudoir clients are shy, but Wendy is able to bring out the sexy – not through provocative dress, but by encouraging self-confidence and loving yourself at any size and shape.

For all sessions, a minimum two weeks advance booking is suggested, to set a theme and decide on wardrobe, hair and makeup.

The experience with SLBDC was a positive one for Wendy as she developed her business plan, and learned fundamentals essential to manage her new business. Bookkeeping course work was particularly eye opening. She shares there was a real sense of community as she worked through her planning and she learned about business, but also about herself.

Her best advice for entrepreneurs? Be honest  with yourself; learn where your strengths lie. Work through any internal roadblocks with purpose. The classic fear of failure and fear of success can paralyze you into inaction. Engage trusted advisors and mentors to help you along your journey.

In the era of social media, you’d suspect a professional photographer would despise camera phones. Not so. Wendy uses hers consistently, but believes when documenting moments that truly matter, a skilled professional is needed.

Not always chasing the latest equipment is an ideal handed down from mentors. Upgrade when your mastery and skill level outgrow your equipment. The Art is
the process of understanding and caring for your subjects and will reflect itself in beautiful results.

Wendy offers flexible hours to meet her clients’ needs. Evening and weekend appointments are available.
View her work on Facebook and at www.wendysmithportaits.com
Contact her by phone at 519-495-2373 or via the contact form on her website to inquire about booking a session.