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Small Business Report on Small Business Newsletter: Telemedicine startup raises $40-million; Shopify to launch warehouse

Montreal telemedicine startup Dialogue raises $40-million in financing led by Caisse

Montreal-based telemedicine startup Dialogue has raised $40-million in venture capital, led by the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and Germany’s Holtzbrinck Ventures. The three-year-old company has 400 enterprise customers, about half of whom are in Quebec and another 40 per cent in the rest of Canada, including National Bank of Canada, Lightspeed POS, Industrial Alliance, Air Canada Vacations and Stingray Digital Group. They offer Dialogue’s doctor-on-demand service to their hundreds of thousands of employees, who access the live professionals through their computers and smartphones. Revenue exceeds $10-million annually. Story

Shopify to launch warehouse network for merchant clients

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Shopify Inc. will spend more than $1-billion over the next few years to build a network of warehouses to store and ship the products of its merchant clients, adding to the company’s attempts to become a global alternative to Amazon.com Inc. for entrepreneurs. In the past several years, Shopify executives have been trying to expand from managing payments for online retailers to offering a wider range of services, including shipping and cash advances. The new service, called the Shopify Fulfillment Network, will provide warehouse space for clients’ products near areas of high demand, and pack and ship the orders. Story

Ontario government cuts funding to youth business organization Futurpreneur Canada

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government has eliminated all provincial funding this year for Futurpreneur Canada, a national non-profit that supports young entrepreneurs. The Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade is not going ahead with $1.2-million in scheduled funding for the organization for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Last year, the ministry disbursed $1.2-million to Futurpreneur, which offers loans and mentoring to entrepreneurs aged 18 to 39. Most of the money had been used as loan capital, with the rest helping to fund a program for newcomers launching businesses. Story

Craft brewers worry they will get shut out of Ontario convenience stores

Independent craft brewers in Ontario are worried that reforms allowing beer in convenience stores could spell trouble for their businesses. Without a minimum percentage of shelf space mandated for their products, they worry multinational beer giants may swallow up most – if not all – convenience-store space dedicated to alcohol. Forthcoming reforms, triggered by the Ontario Progressive Conservative government’s decision to rip up its Beer Store agreement, come after years of craft brewers fighting for more access to consumers after getting frustrated with the control the Beer Store has over distribution and sales in the province. Story

B.C. employers paying first instalment of health tax face tough choices

As businesses across B.C. pay their first instalment of the province’s new Employer Health Tax due on Saturday, many say the tax places an unfair financial burden on small businesses because it’s tied to payroll instead of profit. The new tax replaces B.C.'s Medical Services Plan premiums, paid by individuals and families on a monthly basis to finance public health care. People in the province need to pay online, in person or mail a cheque to Victoria to get public health coverage. B.C. is the only province that still collects such premiums. They are charged on a sliding scale based on income, and in 2017 everyone who made more than $24,000 a year needed to pay, and the rate maxed out at $900 a person per year for those making $42,000 a year or more. Story

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Addressing Canada’s worker shortage requires a broad-based approach

When asked about the most significant constraints on their businesses’ growth, more than 40 per cent of small and mid-sized employers cite a shortage of qualified employees. The issue has been a long-standing concern, but since the middle of 2017, the problem has been the most significant on the list, according to CFIB’s monthly Business Barometer. Our latest reading for the first quarter of 2019 indicates that 3.3 per cent of all private-sector jobs sat vacant for more than four months because employers were unable to find suitable people, a record level since CFIB started measuring these statistics in 2004. Opinion

For Canada’s cattle barons, the challenge of succession offers a chance for noblesse oblige

It is Saturday morning and a wheat-coloured SUV is bucking slowly through a field half an hour northeast of the town of Cochrane, Alta. It is calving season, J.C. (Jack) Anderson’s favourite time of year to be out on the land. He enjoys nothing more than seeing a healthy newborn Black Angus calf find its feet and then immediately try to find its mother. Now 91, Mr. Anderson leaves the driving to his long-time neighbour and friend, Lorne Armstrong. Perhaps later they will go for coffee or, even better, drop in on an auction, but for now Mr. Anderson is content just to be on the 19,000 acres of the sprawling W.A. Ranches and see some of its more than 1,000 head of cattle. It is a magnificent property – actually, several separate properties, with their own lake and, on a clear day, sweeping views of the Alberta Foothills all the way to the Rocky Mountains. Mr. Anderson doesn’t care for publicity. In fact, he wouldn’t be interviewed for this story about him – no matter, everyone else was more than happy to sing his praises. Mr. Anderson, with the help of his daughter, Wynne Chisholm, built W.A. Ranches from scratch to a point where, today, it is valued at $44-million. Last year, the father and daughter decided to do something incredible with the magnificent ranch they had built from nothing. They would give it away. Story

WHAT WE’RE READING ELSEWHERE

Vancouver grocery store shames customers with embarrassing plastic bags

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Independent food stores are known to use minimal packaging and encourage recycling of their produce to promote greener living. But now one grocery shop in Vancouver has gone a step further by designing plastic bags to embarrass its customers from using single-use plastics. East West Market, an independent store selling only local food, hopes the move will encourage people to bring their own reusable bags to shop instead of relying on the single-use plastics many are used to. Customers will be charged five cents per 'embarrassing' plastic bag they take, which will have messages such as ‘Weird Adult Video Emporium’ and ‘Wart Ointment Wholesale’ printed on them. The gourmet specialist market, located on Main Street and King Edward Avenue, believes the campaign will influence people to switch to more environmentally friendly bags wherever they choose to shop. The Telegraph

It's an 'employment seeker's market' for young workers in B.C.

Employers started hitting up the University of B.C.’s employment centre last September and October looking for this summer’s staff, which was a sign to staff there about the youth employment market. “(That) is extremely early,” said Abraham Asrat, an adviser at the centre. “Generally we’ll see employers coming in January, February looking for their summer interns or summer placements. So, to me that speaks to the competitive market for talent.” With B.C.’s overall employment rate hovering at 4.3 per cent as of May, the lowest in Canada, the youth job market is also performing relatively well. Defined as 15-24 by Statistics Canada, youth unemployment is typically higher because that demographic captures a segment of the school-aged population that typically isn’t working. In May, B.C.’s youth unemployment rate was 8.6 per cent, which is a percentage point higher than the same month a year ago, but substantially lower than May 2015 when it hit 13.2 per cent. Vancouver Sun

Calgary businesses call for help amid uptick in crime

A half-dozen businesses, including Analog Coffee, say an uptick in vagrancy and unnerving incidents along Calgary’s 17 Avenue has them considering hiring private security as a last resort. “We unfortunately do, on a regular basis, have people who are clearly mentally ill or on some drugs who are out and about on the streets and find themselves here at the shop,” Fratello Coffee CEO Chris Prefontaine said. “The tipping point for us, frankly, is that we’ve lost some amazing staff, some people who have had incidents happen while they were on staff here.” The group wants the city and local business association to help pay for security. Global News

Open your doors to dogs, Ottawa Humane Society begs businesses

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The Ottawa Humane Society (OHS) is encouraging shopkeepers in the capital to become more dog-friendly. "When in Europe, I've seen dogs well integrated into everyday life and it hasn't been disruptive in the least," said OHS president Bruce Roney in a news release. "I envision that Ottawa can do the same thing here." Roney said the program is intended to boost business while keeping animals safer. The OHS is drawing up a list of local businesses that welcome pets and pay $25 a year per location to register, and plans to post it online for shoppers to consult. CBC

Federal government launches app for Canadian small business owners

The federal government has announced it is bringing its online innovation portal, which matches small and medium-sized businesses with government programs and services, to mobile devices. Canada Business is a mobile business consultant, simplifying access to government services. Designed as an all-access point for business, Canada Business aims to provide a customized user experience to find essential information on programs, directly interact with government resources, and access tools to help Canadians focus on building their business. BetaKit

Shut Out by Shoe Giants, ‘Mom and Pop’ Stores Feel Pinched

BELFAST, Me. — Colburn Shoe Store, established in 1832, advertises itself as the oldest shoe store in the country. It has occupied the same small storefront on Belfast’s Main Street since 1905. It’s a place where the owner, Colby Horne, and his father, Brian, remember the brand and size their customers like, and those of their children, their partners and probably their siblings, too. They know the shoe business. But they can no longer sell some of the most popular brands, like Nike and Adidas. The Hornes are among a number of independent retailers who have been cut off in recent years by giant shoe manufacturers adjusting their retail strategies. In some cases, small businesses are required to make large yearly purchases of $20,000 or more. That outlay can amount to at least 500 pairs of shoes, far too many for a one-room shop to carry and sell in a year in addition to its other brands. New York Times

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