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(Stockbyte/Getty Images)
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Small Business Briefing

‘Smart panties’ pair underwear with tech Add to ...

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Innovative panties line

A line of women’s underwear called Knock out sold 20,000 pairs of thongs, briefs, and boy shorts in its first year of operation, according to a story in Bloomberg BusinessWeek .

“Who cares?” you say. “This sounds like a shameless excuse to drive web traffic to your story.”

It’s actually a pretty amazing success story. Launched by a Washington-based startup in late 2010, with $100,000 (U.S.) of founder Angela Newnam’s own money, Knock out in April won Harvard Business School’s Alumni New Venture Contest for startups with $1 million or less in invested capital and under $2 million in revenue.

Key to the product line is innovation. Ms. Newnam bought the patent to No Trace, “an odour-absorbing solution developed for hunting apparel so deer wouldn’t be tipped off by the smell of a sportsman’s sweat,” the story says. It’s used as a liner in what she calls her “smart panties.”

Knock out’s designs are now sold at 310 stores in Canada and the United States, including Holt Renfrew, an increase from 200 shops at the end of 2011.

And as a point of reference, Hanky Panky, credited with making thongs mainstream, sold only 5,000 pairs in its first year.

Credit delinquencies increasing

Average delinquent balances of Canadian companies have increased for the past eight quarters ending March, 2012, according to an Equifax study of business-to-business lending. Since the second quarter of 2010, average early-stage (30 to 59 days past due) delinquent balances are up 35 per cent, mid-stage (60 to 89 days) are up 19 per cent, and late-stage (90 or more days) are up 116 per cent. The wholesale and manufacturing sectors have had the largest overdue balances, while the government and transportation sectors have had the lowest average credit delinquencies. “Normally after the jobs start returning we see delinquency rates fall, and balances at-risk decline too,” Equifax chief economist Amy Crews Cutts says in a press release. “This is not exactly what’s happening three years into recovery.”

Venture capital award winners

Canada’s Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (CVCA) held its awards dinner Wednesday night. Edward Anderson, managing general partner of Ventures West Capital, received this year’s Community Leadership award for his work alleviating poverty in the West African nations by advising on venture investing in businesses in the agriculture value chain. BDC Venture Capital and New Brunswick Investment Management Corp. took home Venture Capital Deal of the Year for investments in Q1 Labs Inc., which was sold to IBM. The investment generated an internal rate of return (IRR) of 32.8 per cent and a multiple of nine times the original investment. Avrio Capital Inc. was awarded Private Equity Deal of the Year for its investment in Brookside Foods in 2006. The company was acquired by Hershey Co. in February for $175 million. The IRR of 54 per cent represented 7.5 times the original investment.

EVENTS AND KEY DATES

B2B marketing

Now in its 15th year, the SOHO/SME Business Expo is a business-to-business marketing event that aims to motivate, inspire and drive success. It’s described by organizers as “interactive, engaging and fun.” It will be held in Vancouver on Oct. 16, and in Toronto on Oct. 30.

Want to do business in the U.S.?

A seminar in Richmond, B.C., on Sept. 26 can help Canadian businesses and their tax and legal advisers better understand expanding ventures across the border into the United States. Instructors include cross-border and international taxation specialists who will discuss setting up a U.S. location, selling into the U.S. from Canada, and starting a new business in the U.S. as a Canadian. It runs from 7:30 am to 10:30 am.

EDITOR'S PICKS FROM REPORT ON SMALL BUSINESS

How to drive sales

While smaller companies may not have have high levels of brand recognition or financial clout, with the right sales strategy in place, they can still compete with – and even outsell – larger corporations. In a Google+ Hangout, Report on Small Business web editor Katherine Scarrow interviewed Tibor Shanto, principal of Renbor Sales Solutions Inc., to discuss ways to execute a successful sales strategy.

FROM THE ROSB ARCHIVES

The story of Aldo

Anyone who has stepped into a Canadian mall knows the name Aldo, as well as its FeetFirst, StoneRidge and Spring chains. But few appreciate the breadth and depth of this company that has quietly sprouted 1,500 stores in more than 55 countries.

Got a tip on news, events or other timely information related to the small-business community? E-mail us at smallbusiness@globeandmail.com.Join The Globe’s Small Business LinkedIn group to network with other entrepreneurs and to discuss topical issues: http://linkd.in/jWWdzT

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Follow on Twitter: @seanstanleigh

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