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Here are the four runners-up for the 2015 Small Business Challenge contest along with advice for each from the contest judges. The winner of the contest was AquaMobile Inc. To see all of the Challenge coverage, click here.
Toronto-based MyBabbo creates memorial photo books, video tributes and memorial websites and sells these products through funeral homes. Tracy Rossetti, above, the company’s founder, wants to scale operations beyond MyBabbo’s 2 per cent penetration of funeral homes in Canada. She says to do this, she needs an onboarding process for hiring new designers and video creators. She also wants to launch mini-websites where clients can view their books and order more products.
What the judges say: MyBabbo should venture beyond funeral homes and go direct to consumers and expand its focus from hard-copy books to digital products that are easier to share, says Sean Stanleigh, managing editor at The Globe and Mail’s Globe Content Studio. “MyBabbo should boost their Web offering so families are able to share their information and photos,” Mr. Stanleigh says. “The company should then take its marketing online so they can showcase both hard-copy and digital products – a strategy that might also draw more funeral homes, resulting in a double win for the business.”
Toronto-based PathCore Inc. takes some of the guesswork out of disease diagnosis with image-analysis software that provides precise measures of cancer indicators. The company also offers a technology platform – which it recently moved to the Cloud – that allows health-care professionals to view and manage pathology data. PathCore co-founders Dan Hosseinzadeh, above, and Anne Martel want to provide their product via the Web to pathology laboratories around the world, starting with the United States. But they need money to present their technology to some of the best U.S. hospitals.
What the judges say: Katherine Scarrow, digital content strategist at the Globe, says there’s no denying PathCore’s value proposition is strong. But a key challenge for the company’s leaders is articulating clearly what PathCore does, how the company generates revenue and what makes its technology best-of-class. “One suggestion for PathCore would be to leverage existing relationships and capitalize on the halo effect,” Ms. Scarrow says. “Testimonials from, for example, a doctor at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre or a researcher from Ryerson University would go a long way in helping the company tell its story and ‘humanize’ the technology.”
With a price tag of about $130, BakerStone International’s portable pizza oven box is a more palatable alternative to other, significantly pricier models in the market. About 50,000 BakerStone oven boxes sold last year through retailers in Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, as well as in Europe and Latin America. Lewis Rose, above, and Tim Case, the business partners behind BakerStone, want to spread the word about their product. They believe infomercials are the way to go.
What the judges say: Ami Richter of Lug Canada Inc. advises BakerStone to rethink its strategy of betting a big wad of dollars on infomercials. From the onset, the company was a favourite among Challenge judges. “However, they were so completely stuck on using the entire grand prize money on an infomercial,” notes Ms. Richter. “If they had shown more flexibility and given some consideration to the judges’ encouragement to really rethink this strategy, I think the outcome could have been very different. I would recommend for BakerStone to use the Challenge as an opportunity to re-evaluate its marketing and sales strategy, because it really does have an impressive product.”
WTFast, a technology platform developed and owned by Kelowna, B.C.-based AAA Internet Publishing Inc., keeps online gamers happy by reducing the online lag that can occur in multiplayer video games played over a network. Rob Bartlett, above, WTFast’s co-founder and chief executive, says that to keep the business growing, he and his partners need to invest in research and development. They also need to put more dollars into marketing and business development. But going to industry events, where they can talk to potential users face-to-face, is an expensive proposition.
What the judges say: Being a Challenge contest semi-finalist has already set WTFast on the right path to boosting its marketing and advertising. Lug Canada’s Ms. Richter urges the company’s owners to make the most of the media exposure they’re getting through The Globe and Mail and Telus Corp. “Spread it as far as they can since marketing was one of the needs they listed,” she says. “I would recommend that they share any writeups and press releases about the Challenge contest to pique interest from industry-specific writers and help garner additional editorials and media opportunities. This will help to spread awareness of WTFast and its platform, and get people talking.”
About the contest
Now in its fifth year, The Globe and Mail’s Small Business Challenge Contest received a record-breaking 3,000-plus entries in 2015. Five semifinalists and the winner were chosen by a panel of judges that included The Globe and Mail’s Katherine Scarrow, Steve Tustin and Sean Stanleigh, Jim Senko and Suzanne Trusdale from Telus, Ami Richter of Lug Canada and Chris Griffiths of Fine Tune Consulting. The grand prize winner gets $100,000 cash from Telus while all five semi-finalists receive $10,000 and a Business Prize package that includes $2,000 worth of Telus services or devices, a one-year subscription to Globe Unlimited, and mentoring from a business expert. The Challenge is also giving Regional Recognition prizes of three business devices each to 10 businesses from the country’s Atlantic, North, West and Central regions; winners will be announced in October. Also recognized will be three Most Promising Startups and 50 Honourable Mentions.