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Carrie Antlfinger/AP

With its $100,000 prize, Livestock Water Recycling can start making investments that will allow it to take its business beyond North America. Two previous Challenge winners offer Mr. Thurston some advice.

Research your market

The market outside North America is huge and diverse, points out Jordan Richards, president of last year's winning company, Toronto-based Glassopolis Inc. That's why it's important for Livestock Water Recycling to do its due diligence before expanding its operation.

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"It is easy to be seduced by the opportunity to grow quickly, but these markets will naturally take time to develop, and this can put real strain on the resources of a small business," he says. "By researching and properly segmenting the market for your products, it is possible to develop a realistic marketing and sales strategy that systematically targets the high-ROI customers, market influencers, or other important milestone customers for your products."

Shop around for equipment

"The biggest costs facing Livestock Water Recycling is the cost of lab equipment and, from our experience, we've found that there are amazing deals you can find online from labs that are shutting down," says Angela Quinton, owner of Down to Earth Labs Inc., a Lethbridge, Alta., soil- and feed-testing company, previously known as Sandberg Labs, that won the Challenge in 2011. "There are also companies in Calgary that will refurbish this used equipment for you and get it up to snuff."

Watch out for regulatory land mines

"If good 'import' technology is going to put some 'local boys' out of business, you'd better make sure that you understand any legislative, administrative or other restrictions that can be arbitrarily placed on your products or company to limit your success," Mr. Richards warns. "Not supposed to happen under all our free trade agreements, but it happens every day. Now go get 'em!"

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