While technology leaders in this country have typically been male, over the past decade Canada has seen a dramatic increase in the number of women who are doing everything from running digital companies to building communities on Twitter. For the next five consecutive Mondays, Trending Tech will shine a spotlight on women who are breaking new ground in the tech industry, from mobile marketers to software evangelists, and beyond.
Years before Groupon's daily deals took over our inboxes, Joanna Track launched a site aimed at helping Canadian women decide what to buy, what to wear and what to do to live a better life. SweetSpot.ca, a city-by-city trend-spotting guide, went live in 2004 and now reaches almost 200,000 unique visitors a month.
Track says it was Daily Candy, a popular site in the US, that inspired her to start a similar service in Canada. As she explains, there were very few consumer-focused e-mail newsletters at the time. She thanks viral marketing for her company's success, but is quick to point out that such a strategy was quite different in the days before Facebook and Twitter. Mostly, Track depended on word of mouth. She also worked hard to leverage the power of other female-oriented networks and organizations.
"As a start-up with no budget, I also got creative by forging partnerships with other brands that had a similar target audience, which led to cross-promotional programs with companies such as lululemon and Rethink Breast Cancer."
A couple of years after launch, the company had become such a success that it drew the attention of one of Canada's largest media enterprises. In 2004, Rogers stepped up to buy a stake in SweetSpot.ca, and eventually purchased the rest of the company in 2011.
"I had originally intended to look for a buyer but I always thought it would happen at around the five-year mark." says Track. "I was pleasantly surprised when various companies started approaching me after 18 months."
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While Track's success in the digital space came quickly, she says she was inspired by other entrepreneurial women. These include Natalie Massenet, the founder of Net-A-Porter, who launched a luxury fashion site and Heather Reisman, the founder and CEO of Indigo Books. "She has created an iconic Canadian brand," says Track. "I hope one day to emulate her success."
Finally, Track says her late grandmother -- who had a flare for fashion and was never shy about flaunting it -- was a huge influence on her work.
Today, Track is focused on a new venture. Dealuxe is an online shopping destination that will feature the latest and greatest in the world of fashion, accessories, and beauty. Similar to SweetSpot.ca, she is once again focusing on the Canadian market. "As an avid online consumer, I was often purchasing from US-based sites and dealing with the frustration of the shipping/duty hurdles," says Track. The goal of Dealuxe is to eliminate these "cross-border headaches" so visitors can shop with ease north of the 49th parallel. There will also be homegrown fashion tips and advice, so editorial will complement the shopping experience.
Dealuxe will go live this month. "I want to get it to the first level with a successful launch," says Track. "Then after that there are so many interesting ways to grow the business. This could be anything from broadening the breadth and depth of our women's offering, to moving into new categories, such as men or kids."
This time around, she also plans to beef up the digital side of her business with a specific focus on the mobile woman.