Skip to main content

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.

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 multi-service, multi-product 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 They can also be found on Facebook, or you can follow them on twitter (@VillageFP). To contact them by phone, (519) 845-9915.

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, 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.

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 theater, 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, their Facebook page, or by calling 519-339-1000.

Brian Davis Jewellery Inc.

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

Can-Weld Training & Testing Centre

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 or by phone at 519-344-9222. They are located at 1392 Plank Road, Unit 3 in Sarnia.

Christina Hyatt, Virtual Assistance

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 [email protected]. Additional information can be found on her official website,, as well as her Facebook page and Twitter page (@chrissyhyat).



Best friends Brittanny Allen and Haylee Lacroix started pole dancing at the same time as something to do for fun and as a great workout. After their instructor moved to Australia, they both continued dancing even through school, Haylee attending Lambton College and Brittanny attending the University of Waterloo. Once their schooling was complete both were unsure of what they wanted to do in their future and they both came up with the same idea; open a pole dance studio.

They decided that instead of waiting they should go for it now. They built a business plan together and had it reviewed by their colleagues who gave them some advice. They then went to the SLBDC for a loan and were ready to start the business.

Chrome 45 opened on September 17th, 2018 and business has flourished since. They have created a strong community in the studio with some customers coming in 3 times per week. The studio creates friendships between the customers that continue outside of the studio. The environment of the studio is very positive and supportive of anyone wanting to try pole dancing, even having couples classes for those who want to bring their significant other.

There’s a stigma about pole dancing in our society that doesn’t accurately reflect what pole dancing really is. In the studio, it’s a way for people to express themselves and have fun in an environment where everyone is comfortable. It’s also a great workout as you use your whole body when dancing building strength and flexibility.

While pole dancing is the main draw to the studio, they offer other classes as well. Some of the classes they offer are chair dancing (dancing that uses a chair as the prop), floorwork (movements around the pole and floor), a conditioning boot camp, and flexibility training.

It’s a new experience for Brittanny and Haylee running their own business, they were prepared for it to be busy, but it’s still a challenge. Both girls are instructors as well as business owners so they have to manage the time between the two effectively. Both have differing skill sets when it comes to operating the business, that complement each other. Haylee took charge of the back-end and logistics side of things, and Brittanny works on the marketing and getting their name known. They say there was a big learning curve as there was, “much added to your plate”. One thing they would like to share with new entrepreneurs is to make a list of every little thing that needs to be done. “It’s easy to forget something when there’s so much going on and it’s nice to check things off when they’re done,” the girls say.

Working with the SLBDC has been straightforward for the girls, going in for their initial appointment and being approved for a loan not long after. The say that the SLBDC is adaptable with payment schedules and are flexible. The girls also say, “There’s a face behind it which gives it a more personal feel.”

If you want to know more about Chrome 45 you can find them at 187 Christina St. Sarnia or give them a call at 519-330-3479. You can visit them online at or on Facebook and Instagram.

Cipher Interactive

Chris Gardner’s path to his career didn’t start in advertising; he originally went to school to be a nutritionist. He ended up at Sheridan College and studied a one year program in multimedia. Then through one of his contacts he got a job at Cossette Communications in the interactive department. He worked there as a flash developer until eventually becoming an Art Director. From there he has been a Sr. Art director at Grey Advertising and Leo Burnett and now is owner and president of Cipher Interactive.

Chris believes that imaginative thinking has the power to positively influence the people around us. As problem solvers, Chris and his team use visual and conceptual approaches to help clients transform and reimagine their businesses achieving success. Cipher’s communication systems and creative services bring brands to life. They (Cipher) work with businesses to help attract more leads and grow their brand affinity.

Chris has plenty of advice for someone looking to own and run a business; he says find your passion and get behind it with full effort. Believe in what you are doing, and the direction will follow. This allows you to define, model and develop your business to become successful. Accept failure and get through it fast, it is part of the process. Chris uses three principals to help guide his approach to business and life: understanding that decisions, expectations, and discipline drive everything. Although other factors do contribute to success, realizing what you wake up for each morning and these principals are key to what helps Chris to continue his efforts with Cipher and developing big ideas for his clients.

The relationship between Chris and the SLBDC has been all positive. He said that the SLBDC “stepped up to help with financing when things got rough” and that they have good talks about business and keeps a connection to let you know that they are a continuous support.

Cipher Interactive is located at 113 Robinson St. Sarnia and their number is 519-332-1614. You can find them online at or on Facebook.

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 or you can reach them by phone at (519)882-2778.

The Couples Clinic

Ronnie Littlewood found an interest in how love works after growing up in a family where there were five major divorces and breakups; this was love not working. Ronnie found a lack of experts dedicated to couples therapy specifically and wanted to do something about it. In 2015 she started the Couples Clinic out of the basement of her home, for couples specifically to get education and mentorship on how to better communicate and work through their problems. Since relationships and marriage are a very big investment both financially and personally she wanted couples to have the expert advice they need.

Ronnie decided that if people were willing to come to her home to get help, maybe a location for the Couples Clinic would be in her best interest. With a location on London Line she went to partners and the SLBDC for training on how to manage a business and giving her the confidence that she has the skills and smarts to make this business work. Sure enough, business has exploded and Ronnie has built an excellent relationship with the community of Sarnia-Lambton.

In 2017 the Couples Clinic won SLBDC’s Win This Space contest and moved to 144 Christina St. with one year of free rent. This let Ronnie focus on other things, developing and improving the business, without the stress of having to pay the rent.

The Couples Clinic offers consultation to people of all ages in any type of relationship, not just marriages and dating, but relationships between friends, parents and their children, or even between siblings. The Clinic’s vision is to give couples the skills and tools to be able to communicate conflict in a healthy and even, loving, way. They teach couples how to effectively communicate with each other when things are stressful or not going well, and the skills to better understand what builds great relationships and the acts that can destroy them. Ronnie’s husband Brian has also joined the clinic to assist those struggling with addiction, anger management, and mental health. Ronnie says, “I am on a mission, driven by God, to save one million marriages.” With the top level service they provide it is certainly doable.

A challenge that Ronnie has faced as a business owner has been misogynistic attitudes in the business world. Ronnie confronts this issue by showing everyone that she, and all women, can have the knowledge and skills to run a business effectively.

To anyone looking to own their own business, Ronnie has this to say, “If you want to be successful, you need to learn to fail spectacularly, because then you learn so much more.” She says that failing might cost a lot of money and time, but what you learn from it afterwards is extremely valuable. Another piece of advice that she shares is that she wishes she had started sooner. She says that instead of worrying about whether or not things are perfect to get first versions of everything out there that are good enough and perfection will come later.

Ronnie has had a very positive relationship with the SLBDC providing her training and mentorship, building confidence in her skills. She says that aside from giving advice and loans, they act as a free business coach for her.

The Couples Clinic is located at 144 Christina St. and you can call them at 519-541-9173. You can visit them online at or on their Facebook and Instagram.

CR Creative Co. Ltd.

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 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.

Culture Shock Kombucha

Kombucha is a health drink made from tea that is fermented using a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), that is rich with antioxidants and probiotics vital for the digestive system. Shannon Shurgold and Laura Rideout have mastered the art of brewing kombucha and are using it to spread the importance of having a healthy gut.

As registered holistic nutritionists specializing in digestive health, Shannon and Laura were looking for a way to bring awareness to people’s health and thought there was no better way than to make a beverage that is both healthy and tasty.

The two nutritionists started Culture Shock Kombucha, which is based in downtown Grand Bend. The Kombucha they make is organic, gluten free, and vegan and comes in a variety of flavours including strawberry basil, pink lemonade, pear ginger, and root beer.

Laura and Shannon have taken on the challenge of owning a business well, learning skills as they go and adapting to new situations. They’re passionate about what they do and it drives them to do their best work every day. A challenge that they have faced has been competing with larger companies and having customers understand what makes their kombucha better than the rest.

Advice that Laura and Shannon would give to new entrepreneurs is, “Follow your heart and trust your gut. Be passionate about what you do, there are highs and lows in business and if you aren’t passionate about what you do then the lows will consume you.” They also say if you are thinking of starting to, “Just do it, take imperfect actions because it’s still progress. It doesn’t need to be perfect the first time because things will change and improve over time.”

Culture Shock Kombucha competed in SLBDC’s Win This Space competition in 2018 and were one of two winners. They describe their experience with SLBDC and the competition as awesome. They say that they learned about a variety of business skills in depth and met some great people that they’re able to call if they ever need help. They appreciate the help and care that SLBDC provides and recommend that anyone that wants to start up a business to go to SLBDC, or their local business development centre, for advice and help.

Culture Shock Kombucha is located at 23 Main Street in Grand Bend and can be contacted at 519-872-3296 or through email at [email protected]. You can find them online at and on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

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, their Facebook page, or by telephone at (519) 344-9215.

D.J. Robb Funeral Home and Cremation Centre

D.J. Robb Funeral Home began operating in 1924 with founder Dyzart J. Robb and has been a family business for three generations including the current president and managing director Jim Robb. Now operating under the name D.J. Robb Funeral Home and Cremation Centre, the business has been family run in the same location for nearly 100 years.

Jim began working at the funeral home during his father’s ownership helping however he could and later received his degree in Funeral Services from Humber College. When his father suffered a stroke, Jim took responsibility for the business. He served as the funeral director in charge and the treasurer of the business until 2012, where he became the owner and president of the business.

Everyone that works at the funeral home has the same mindset to help people. They know that the people that come through their doors are having one of the toughest days of their lives, and they make it a priority to provide the best service while giving them comfort. They hold services wherever they are needed going to churches, parks, and backyards as well as inside the funeral home. They help people through the entire process, including documents required with credit card cancellations, title transfers, bank account updates, and other benefits after the services. Jim believes in honesty and transparency with his services, offering reasonable prices and offering to help other funeral homes when it’s needed.

One of the challenges that Jim and the funeral home faces is the public’s view of what a funeral home is. It doesn’t bring them joy to see people walk through their doors and they don’t take advantage of people in grief. The reality is that they want to help people through these difficult times and give all of the options available to make sure that the experience is as comforting as possible. Ontario has the highest standards for funeral directors of any province. Each funeral director must go through college for funeral service education to be licensed to work.

Another challenge is changing traditions, with cremation becoming more popular. For the longest time burial was the only option and the business has had to change to what people want. Jim is looking for the next new tradition for funerals, so that they stay current in the ever changing world.

When Jim approached his traditional banker for funding the buyout of his former business partner he thought it was a great idea, but would have to confer with those make such decisions. Jim then got word by an upper manage in another city telling him they could not recommend giving him a loan  because the D. J. Robb Funeral Home & Cremation Centre was a 3rd generation family business and according to their statistics, 2nd or 3rd family operated small businesses are riskier than other businesses.  Jim couldn’t miss his chance to become the sole owner of D.J. Robb Funeral Home and Cremation Centre so he asked his lawyer for some advice. His lawyer highly recommended the SLBDC saying they are the perfect professionals to help older businesses like his. He sent in his application, met their criteria, and was approved for the loan. Jim says, “They saw what I needed and set me up for success.”

D.J. Robb Funeral Home and Cremation Centre is located at 102 Victoria St. N in Sarnia and you can reach them at 519-336-6042 or online at

Dolly's Jerk Joint

“SLBDC Helps Spice Up the Local Cuisine”

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 at 539 Christina St. 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. Dolly’s over the counter menu includes favourites like jerk chicken and rice, oxtail, rice, and peas, and the ever popular Jamaican patties. Occasionally she will have a “Hump Day” special where she will showcase a new item with favourites like jerk ribs and jerk burgers. Dolly’s also has a delivery service through On the Dot Delivery so you can get your fill from your own home.

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 [email protected].

The Eye Guy

Originally from Sarnia and now living in Courtright, Beth Kolthoff began her career in the optometry industry at the age of 18 as a receptionist. Throughout her career in the field of optometry she performed task in all aspects of offices from frame selection and verification of prescriptions, to exam room technician and at the age of 44 decided to get her Optician’s license. She is now celebrating her 30th year in the industry as the new owner of The Eye Guy in Sarnia.

The Eye Guy offers a variety of products including dress and safety eyewear, sunglasses and contacts. Recently Beth added low vision aids to the store that help people with activities like reading and looking at things in fine detail. In addition to the low vision aids Beth has added Maui Jim Sunglasses to an already extensive variety of sunglass brands to choose from. This brings the sunglass inventory to nearly 200.

Beth also provides the service of going to clients that may have mobility restrictions living in long term care facilities and are unable to come into the store. She does this to give her clients a fun interactive experience allowing the client to be involved in their eyewear choices and fulfilling their visual needs. All this personal service helps the client to feel comfortable making the decision of frame selection without pressures of arranging transportation and having to leave their home.

What motivates Beth to run The Eye Guy is connecting with clients and getting to know them personally. It helps her understand what each client needs visually for the tasks they perform daily, but also what they may want in fasion and function from their eyewear. When asked about advice for new business owners she said this, “You have to be sure you are purchasing inventory or equipment wisely” and to watch the money coming in. Be sure to “check and check again” about whether or not you really need to make a purchase.

Beth worked with SLBDC to help get started on her ownership path and had this to say “they were phenomenal and incredibly supportive throughout the entire experience.” She went on to say that it can be scary when making such a big career change, but the SLBDC team made it easy and kept her calm during a very important decision in her life.

Follow The Eye Guy on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or visit her website and watch for her “pop up Sales” where you can receive additional savings on already competitive pricing for eyewear, sunglasses and other products in store. The Eye Guy is located at 147 Mitton St. Sarnia. For more information about Beth or The Eye Guy visit the, call 519-337-4060 or email [email protected].

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: PHONE: 519-491-2500
Like Flowers Forever on Facebook

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 [email protected]. For more information and updates about the business, you can find Formosa Graphics on FacebookTwitter (@FormosaGraphics) as well as its website,

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 [email protected]. Further information can be found on his website,

Grind Cafe and Catering Co.

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
Like ‘Grind Café and Catering Co.’ on Facebook

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

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,

The Hungry Hillbilly

Before The Hungry Hillbilly was a place to get food for breakfast, lunch or dinner, its building was a gas station in the town of Brigden. Plenty of reworking has been done since then, including leveling out the floor, and it is now a family restaurant.

Tiffany Birch became the owner of The Hungry Hillbilly in February of 2019. She has always wanted to run a restaurant and now that she is, she loves it. Especially meeting the people that she serves and getting to know everyone that comes in, making friends with the whole town. “If you listen for long enough you can hear the history of Brigden,” Tiffany says referring to some of her customers that have lived in Brigden for many years. She has had some challenges with equipment failing, but seeing a friendly face makes it all worth it.

Variety is not an issue when it comes to getting a meal at The Hungry Hillbilly, with plenty of options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast foods like bacon, eggs, sausage, and pancakes are morning favorites. Lunches include subs, sandwiches, soups, and burgers. For dinner there’s finger food like chicken fingers, nachos and mozza sticks; meals like spaghetti, lasagna, and roast beef; and even pizza and wings available. Needless to say, no matter what time you come into the restaurant there will be something on the menu for you.

Some advice that Tiffany would like to give is to hire young students and give them the opportunity to get some experience. Along with that she says to follow your goals and dreams.

Working with the SLBDC was an enjoyable experience for Tiffany saying, “It was good and they were a lot of help.”

The Hungry Hillbilly is located at 2344 Courtright Line in Brigden and you can give them a call at 226-778-2297. You can find them online on their Facebook page where they post updates and specials.

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 [email protected]. Photos of past creations and other information can be found on either their Facebook page or website,

Lambton Audiology and 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, 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.

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.


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 . 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.

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 They can also be found on Facebook, or can be reached by phone at (519) 312-7091.

Petite a La Carte



Traditional, old world fine dining with a modern day twist is what comes to mind for the newly opened restaurant Petite a La Carte.

Owner, Mike Service, has long had the dream to start his own restaurant and the foundation for opening Petite a la Care came from asking his partner, Pat Havlik, a very simple question; where would you like to go for dinner? Pat’s continued response of “I don’t care” brought the realization that it wasn’t so much that she didn’t care but that every place felt the same. Mike went on to explain that “we have been to a number of nicer restaurants in town so many times that it was no longer a treat. It was just a return visit, some place to go. There was no where she really cared for that she would go out of her way to visit.”

With this in mind, Mike took a hard look at the demographics he was looking to serve which were ladies between the ages of 25 to 65. His market research included asking the market he was aiming for “if there was a place in town that was built for you, what would you look for in that place?” Petite a la Carte was designed around that concept.

When Mike and Pat took over the storefront, they were adamant that they didn’t want it to look like the previous restaurant with a different menu. They wanted to make sure that when customers walked in, it was a whole new experience. Starting from the entrance, to the service and the food, a complete restoration was completed.

When asked if there were any hiccups along the way, Mike provided that he had “severely underestimated the cost of the renovations because when you are dealing with a 110 year old building you start with one thing and it opens it up to three more.” They gutted the place from top to bottom and even installed new plumbing.

Petite a La Carte provides an intimate atmosphere with cool tones and soft furnishings. The flow of the restaurant provides multiple pockets for dining that can accommodate different sizes of parties and still be able to keep them in their own areas and not have the restaurant be monopolized by them.

The menu is designed around the concept of small plates, a la carte and items change seasonally. A lot of the menu items are recipes that have been refined over decades. They wanted to bring back traditional, old world fine dining. “When you went out for dinner in the 70’s” Mike explained, it was a special occasion. That’s what we tried to create here. “

“You have your root vegetables in the winter because that’s what’s available. We want the recipes to be as authentic as possible. Our menu is varied in terms of regions and dishes. We try to do stuff that you can’t find anywhere else,” explained Mike in regards to the menu. Pat added that they “try and get everything as fresh as possible. The lamb is sourced from a local farm.”

If you are looking for a place to catch up with friends, while enjoying delicious food, an amazing atmosphere and great service come dine at Petite a La Carte.

Petite a La Carte is located at 170 Christina Street North in Sarnia.


“When you are going into business, make sure that you have enough capital to get you through your first year” offers Mike and Pat’s input is “you have to prepare for the lean times”.

“You have to at least have a working knowledge of the finances of the business. I would recommend reaching out to either the SLBDC for some courses or attending some courses at your local college to fill in the knowledge gap because you can never know too much but you can definitely know too little”. – Mike Service

“Know your market. It’s surprising how many people are unaware of the market that they are aiming at.” – Pat Havlik


“I would give them 10 out of 10! Ashvin and Don were very helpful in putting this all together. The timing was exactly as they said it would be. They were very supportive and made sure that I had all my t’s crossed and my I’s dotted and that my financial projections were realistic and not a pie in the sky, get rich overnight kind of thing.” – Mike Service

Piquette Frozen Meals

A Recipe for Success – Piquette Frozen Meals

What comes to mind when you think frozen meals? Salty. Processed. High fat. 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 ($8-11 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; many dishes have no salt, flavoured only with his signature herb & spice blends.

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 kitchen location based in Plympton-Wyoming.

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. He supplies clients of Purdy Ideal You and Pure Local Organics, and can be found at the Downtown Market at 140 Christina Street. Under contract to Lambton Elderly Outreach, his meals are enjoyed throughout Lambton County, even adopting easy to open packaging for LEO clients.

Future plans include expanding his building, creating more fridge and freezer space and expanding his reach beyond Lambton County.

Stressful was the word that came to mind as Marc was asked what it was like to be an entrepreneur, especially as his business grows, but he enjoys it. Marc says that he could never see himself working for someone ever again, enjoying the “restricted freedom” that comes with being his own boss.

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

Tel: 519-466-3672   Email : [email protected]

Visit for detailed menu options

Like ‘Piquette Frozen Meals’ on Facebook

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.

Point Edward Early Learning Centre
213 Michigan Ave., Point Edward
Phone: 519-337-4468
Email: [email protected]

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
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 10-5:30
Monday – 11-4
Thursday- 10-6
Tel: 519-344-7471

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


Tel: 519-381-6169

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
[email protected]
tel. 519-330-6116

Shine at Home

Chris Treftlin began his career working in the retirement home when he discovered that some people were opting out of living in a retirement home due to the cost of living there. He did some research and found a need for an in home service that allows independent seniors to live at home while still getting the service they require.

Chris and his wife Sabrina then decided to act on their research and start Shine at Home to help those who need some support, while also wanting to live in their own home. Operating in Sarnia the couple wants to help the locals and make sure each one of their clients gets the exact support they need. They offer services like preparing meals, housekeeping, laundry, and even door to door transportation.

Shine at Home truly cares about each one of their clients and make sure they receive the best possible service. They do this by meeting with the clients first and making sure everyone knows what is expected and how everything will run, and when they say they will do something they are sure to follow through. They say once you’re a client you become a family member that is cared for. This care for the client is reflected in their hiring process even having police background checks to make sure that their clients feel safe with every one of the employees.

Sabrina and Chris have said that owning their own business has been a lot of fun and a lot of work. They are involved with the day to day operations of the business and the different needs of the clients can mean some late night work. Working out of their home with unconventional hours means they have to have a good balance of work and family time, which they say is important because both influence each other.

Chris and Sabrina’s advice for anyone looking to start a business is to do your research and not just dive right in. They say to “research about the need and find the market” as well as know about the any bylaws that could apply to the business like business licensing and transportation bylaws.

When Shine at Home was looking to receive a loan for a business vehicle, SLBDC was recommended. They went in for an initial conversation and within a month the loan was approved. Sabrina and Chris say that the operation startup was great and that it gave them piece of mind during that time. The support and encouragement from SLBDC was appreciated and help the couple be sure that their idea would work. They say, “SLBDC was willing to share knowledge and helped make it through some of the tougher times in the beginning.”

You can find Shine at Home online at and on Facebook, or give them a call at 519-336-9898.

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

Smokin' Aces Vape Shop

Greg Johnston moved from BC to Sarnia as a youngster, and has called Sarnia home ever since. After studying architecture at Fanshawe College, he worked in the landscaping field and in a variety of labour jobs. While working as a water deliveryman, Greg decided to curb his smoking habit and to try vaping as his chosen method to curb his habit, eventually quitting smoking altogether. Following his personal success, and noting that vaping was becoming more mainstream, he thought that starting a vape shop was not only an ideal business opportunity, but also a means to help others quit smoking. Soon after, he launched Smokin’ Aces Vape Shop.

Smokin’ Aces sells vapes and accessories to suit anyone’s needs. More than just offering products, the staff provides the required education to ensure that products selected best suit the customer’s needs are provided. Based on Greg’s personal experience when he began to vape, he found that he wasn’t getting all the information he needed and wants to make sure that his customers are well informed, will be ultimately satisfied with their purchases.  It’s not always about selling the newest, most expensive vape on the market for Smokin’ Aces; it’s about matching the customer to the best product.

If someone has never smoked or vaped in their life, Greg would rather not have them start. Even having conversations with would be customers trying to convince them that it’s healthier to leave their lungs alone and not begin vaping.

Greg loves the challenge of running his own business, saying that the greatest reward is knowing that he’s growing and building for his own future success. He takes great pride that the business is his own.

Greg gets a great sense of satisfaction from helping people around Sarnia Lambton quit smoking and he’s confident in the quality service he and his team provide. When asked about being an entrepreneur, Greg’s advice for others looking to start their own business is this, “If you’re not ready to give it your all, don’t bother. It’s not that it isn’t easy but you have to be ready.” He says you have to have both feet forward to be successful.

Greg shares that his experience working with the SLBDC was, “absolutely fantastic,” and that the information given was a very beneficial in providing him the building blocks for success to launch and grow his business.

Smokin’ Aces Vape Shop is located at 940 Murphy Road in Sarnia. Find them on Facebook or call them at 519-491-5091.

Top Shelf Canada

Josh Lines was having a meal after a shift as a bartender and was unsatisfied with his options of hot sauce. It was then he thought “Why doesn’t Canada have its own hot sauce?” and decided to make some for himself. Josh and a friend who is a culinary scientist got to work and came up with something awesome: Front Street Heat.

Top Shelf Canada was started looking to make Canada’s own hot sauce and Front Street Heat was the first product. It’s a hot sauce that goes on anything with a flavor that even those who aren’t hot sauce fans will love. The idea behind Front Street Heat was to make it for everyone, not just those who love spicy sauce, so they came up with a sauce that is more flavorful with a respectful amount of heat.

For those who want some more heat to their sauce, Top Shelf Canada is looking to release something soon that will satisfy the need for heat. Front Street Fire is currently the name of the next product that will ramp up the spiciness. Josh also plans on producing more products down the line but works on perfecting products before worrying about the next.

Josh’s biggest motivator to run Top Shelf Canada is his daughter. He wants to make something that will make her proud and it pushes him to work hard and make the best sauce and make the company the best it can be. He also wants to make Sarnia proud, knowing that Canada’s hot sauce came from a local man that wants to give people some great hot sauce.

Josh says that running his own business is fun, exhausting, exciting, and terrifying with all the work and effort put into running the business. He says that it is hard work to start up the business but it’s liberating to be your own boss. Some advice that Josh would share to new entrepreneurs would be “Don’t overwhelm yourself.” He says that if you take on too much at a time you could spread yourself too thin and it could cause issues.

When asked about his experience with SLBDC Josh described it as excellent. “It’s helpful to go in and have business talks,” Josh says, “They get your mind in the right place and are experienced in business.”

You can find Top Shelf Canada’s, Front Street Heat in various cities across Ontario such as Sarnia, London, and Windsor. Check their website for each location or give them a call at 226-886-0214. Top Shelf Canada is also on Facebook and Instagram and post recipes on Pinterest.

Wendy Smith Portraits

Portrait of Wendy Smith

For 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
Contact her by phone at 519-495-2373 or via the contact form on her website to inquire about booking a session.

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