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Acquiring market credibility is a common challenge for many entrepreneurs. Lacking large-scale awareness or endorsements from well-known customers and partners can prevent you from growing and getting a much-needed PR boost.

Peter Kielland got his big break a few years ago at a new-ideas showcase organized by Canadian Tire. The retailer picked up Mr. Kielland's creation, the Scruzol, an all-in-one multi-bit screwdriver and drill accessory, and provided the volume critical to the growth of his business.

Mr. Kielland wanted to spread the word about his product and increase the profile for his company across Canada. He knew some well-earned media coverage could amplify the great endorsement he had just received from the national retailer.

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It all started with a phone call to a reporter at Mr. Kielland's hometown newspaper. The Scruzol was featured, and the story was quickly syndicated across Canada. That coverage resulted in a call and an interview two days later from a local CBC-TV station, which was also picked up by NBC in the United States.

"The Scruzol was definitely a unique product that included a lot of innovation; but the real reason I was able to pique the interest of the reporter was the deal with Canadian Tire," says Mr. Kielland, president and founder of Visionary Technology Inc. "Without the endorsement of a huge retailer, I'd be just one more inventor wannabe dreaming of getting on Dragon's Den."

Canadian Tire recently launched a new program targeting vendors, manufacturers and entrepreneurs to uncover the hottest auto gifts for the 2011 holiday season. Inventors like Mr. Kielland are given the rare opportunity to present their new product ideas, and if selected, a huge opportunity to grow their business and be profiled across multiple marketing channels.

For a small business such as Visionary Technology, the positive endorsement from such an iconic Canadian brand was priceless. Combine that with earned media coverage, and Mr. Kielland had the foundation needed to expand into the U.S. market.

As a small-business owner, never underestimate the power of third party endorsements. You could have the most innovative product in your industry, but without customers or partners to validate your story, no one will take notice.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic . She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

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