Success Stories

BIC’s format tailored to all users

BIC’s format tailored to all users

Bilingual businesswoman Mireille Laroche has launched her first business in Steinbach. The Silhouette Company offers affordable lingerie for full-figured women with a bra size of 38D and up.

To ensure her project’s success, she sought out the advice and assistance of the Business InfoCentre (BIC) at the World Trade Centre Winnipeg (WTC Winnipeg). “I consulted the BIC four times in November and December 2014, and they were able to address most of my questions,” said Mireille Laroche.

The businesswoman particularly appreciated the format of the BIC sessions. “They’re short, which makes it easier to attend. The groups were quite small, creating an intimate setting more conducive to asking questions and getting answers, and the facilitators were all excellent.”

“It was nearly one-on-one advice!” she said. “I recommend the BIC to anyone interested in starting up a business as well as people already in business.”

Mireille Laroche was impressed by the variety of topics offered. “We can choose the sessions that interest us, but they’re all excellent, highly useful and provide a lot of great information,” said the businesswoman. “Even if you’re already in business, there is always more to learn at the BIC seminars.”

“And if you can’t physically attend, you can always follow the webinar!” she added. “I did it several times and it worked really well.”

While Mireille Laroche’s sights are currently set on the upcoming opening of her lingerie boutique, she continues to keep an eye on the BIC seminar lineup. “I definitely plan on returning to the BIC!” she said.

Valuable remote assistance

Valuable remote assistance

Jessica and Ashley Houle were catapulted into the business world after seizing the opportunity to purchase an existing business, and received invaluable assistance and advice from the Business InfoCentre.

When Ashley Houle, an employee of Dauphin-based A Plus Plumbing and Heating, and his wife Jessica Houle were presented with the opportunity to purchase the business in the summer of 2014, the decision required careful consideration.

“We had no prior business experience,” says Jessica Houle. “I was an administrator and Ashley was a plumber. We had a lot to learn.” Jessica, who became co-owner of A Plus Plumbing and Heating with her husband in March 2015, turned to the Business InfoCentre (BIC) of the World Trade Centre Winnipeg (WTC Winnipeg) for help.

“I did a lot of Internet searches on how to prepare a business plan, but I really wanted to speak with someone local,” says Jessica. “I needed more personal contact with someone who knew what was involved in owning a small business in Manitoba. That’s how I found BIC.”

Jessica Houle took several BIC training seminars in summer 2014 on how to write a business plan and make financial projections.

“For me, one of BIC’s greatest advantages was the fact that I could take these training seminars from my Dauphin kitchen via webinar,” she says. “I didn’t need to travel to Winnipeg. That was a huge plus, given that I was in the last trimester of my pregnancy at the time.”

“What’s more, the moderators were excellent,” she says. “They really made me feel part of the group, even from my remote location, and the assistance they provided was invaluable. I found answers to most of my questions.”

“If I need any additional information, it’s the first place I’ll go,” says Jessica Houle. “I strongly recommend BIC to any entrepreneur. They always knew how to get me exactly what I was looking for, right down to the last detail. With BIC, I had easy access to all the knowledge I required.”

From China to Canada, through the BIC

From China to Canada, through the BIC

Originally from China, Benjamin Zhang has been in business for many years. As someone who ran a printing company in his native country, he knows and has experience dealing with the challenges of entrepreneurship.

However, after immigrating with his family to Manitoba in 2012, when Benjamin and his business partner, Kun Qian, set about founding Winnipeg Stonetops, which manufactures hand-made quartz and granite countertops for kitchens, bathrooms and other indoor or outdoor surfaces, the seasoned entrepreneur appreciated the support he received from the Business InfoCentre (BIC) at the Winnipeg World Trade Centre (WTC Winnipeg).

“While I know what it takes to do business in China, running a business in Canada is very different,” says Zhang.”  I therefore needed someone to explain Canadian rules and regulations to me and what I needed to do to comply with them. The BIC provided that assistance.”

The BIC also supported him by pulling together key information on the stone countertop market. “I didn’t know anything about the local market,” says the Winnipeg Stonetops president. “I needed to familiarize myself with it before starting my business.”

“Thanks to the research conducted by the BIC, I learned that 70% of all houses still had laminate, rather than stone countertops, which represented a significant business opportunity for us,” he says.

By attending the various seminars offered by the BIC, Benjamin Zhang also got answers to many of his questions, such as how to register the name of his new Canadian company.

“I learned a great deal at the seminars, but it was the personal support that exceeded my expectations. I received quick and helpful answers to all of my questions,” says the entrepreneur.

Benjamin Zhang still has many questions about human resources and employees’ contracts in Canada.

“I recommend the BIC for anyone thinking about going into business”, he says. “They are always ready to help, regardless of the question.”

Winnipeg Stonetops opened in January 2015 and will soon have four employees. Its president hopes to purchase a numerically controlled machine tool within the next three years so that the company can meet increasing customer demands.

Invaluable Support

Invaluable Support

Business InfoCentre not only helped Francine Poitras with her market research, but they also provided her with invaluable advice to succeed in business.

Francine Poitras, who used to work at Hands of Hope, a charitable organization in Winnipeg North, developed an eye for valuable antiques and collectibles and witnessed the needs of Winnipeg’s less fortunate for home furnishings. So, in 2013-2014 she created her own goods resale company following a death or a move: Where do I start?.

With a network of charities, collectors and buyers, Francine can find a home for almost anything and is passionate about the 3 R’s, reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Francine Poitras quickly launched her business, initially without a proper business plan or any business experience. To fix this, she came knocking on the door of the Business InfoCentre (BIC) at the World Trade Centre Winnipeg (WTC Winnipeg) a year ago.

“I had looked elsewhere, but hadn’t found what I was looking for,” she recalled. “BIC offers sessions on everything you need, and it’s free! It’s an incredible resource.”

Francine Poitras particularly appreciated the personalized service from the BIC employees. “A BIC researcher did a lot of market research for me and it was really helpful,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do all of that research by myself; I didn’t even know where to start. It would have taken me days to do, and he did it within 24 hours for free!”

She also attended a session on networking techniques and self-motivation. “The best piece of advice that I’ve gotten from BIC is how important it is for those who work from home not to stay in their pyjamas, but to get up, get ready, and go work in a designated area of the house,” she shared. “This self-discipline helps to keep me motivated.”

Besides the good advice she’s received, Francine Poitras has appreciated meeting other entrepreneurs at BIC. She can network and run her ideas past them.

At the time of writing, the new entrepreneur was planning to continue to take advantage of BIC’s services. “In the beginning of February, I’ll be attending a session on social media,” she concluded. “I’m looking forward to it because I’m not very savvy with computers, yet it is increasingly necessary in order to succeed in business. I’m also interested in taking some of the sessions on taxes.”

Friendly and efficient

Friendly and efficient

For Startup Winnipeg, the Business InfoCentre offers services of exceptional quality, not only professionally but also on a personal level.

Startup Winnipeg co-founder Chris Johnson and entrepreneur Dustin Refvik got acquainted with the Business InfoCentre (BIC) at the World Trade Centre Winnipeg (WTC Winnipeg) during the 2013 Ramp Up Weekend held in the city.

“BIC provided us with free onsite research,” said Chris Johnson. “Since then, we’ve used the service often. BIC is great at finding very specific information on our markets critical to shaping our go-to-market strategy. Without their help, we’d waste a lot of time and money getting that information ourselves (non-experts at research) or hiring consulting type firms to do so.

Having a solid foundation of information to build projections and assumptions on is critical if you’re going to seek investment, and using BIC delivers just that,” he said.

Chris Johnson also took part in several BIC seminars, focusing on business plans, marketing, and operations and finance.

“Their seminars cover a wide range of relevant issues,” he says. “They provide very useful tools, especially for those who don’t know where to start. Personally, I was able to get a lot of information in areas where I wasn’t very knowledgeable.”

Dustin Refvik, for his part, prefers BIC’s individual support over its group seminars. In his view, “BIC’s greatest value resides in its free research service, an efficient resource that you won’t find anywhere else.”

Whatever his request, “BIC has always been able to provide me with prompt, focused and detailed answers,” he added enthusiastically. “BIC employees really know how to use their research tools. Any time spent with them is time well spent, resulting in sufficient time for us to really focus on our projects!”

And if BIC can’t quickly locate the information, “they have extensive contacts allowing them to redirect our queries,” said Chris Johnson. “BIC is extremely well connected in Manitoba’s business community.”

While the BIC team’s expertise has exceeded Startup Winnipeg’s expectations, its approach is also what motivates customers to keep coming back.

“The BIC is a safe place to ask questions, gather input, while never feeling overwhelmed or intimidated,” said Chris Johnson. “Their only goal is to help get you where you want to go starting from where you are now, and they do that in the warmest and friendliest way imaginable.”

An Unwavering Support

An Unwavering Support

I am a self-proclaimed foodie and sole proprietor of Bessie’s Best. I recently moved to this province to follow my heart and while doing so, realized a long-time dream by becoming my own boss! Just over two years ago, I started an all-natural/organic Mediterranean dips and sauce business.

Relocating and starting a new business is not without its challenges. To be perfectly frank, not having the comforts of family or a familiar support system has proven to be difficult, scary and downright frustrating at times.  I am very grateful to have crossed paths with the wonderful staff at the Business InfoCentre (BIC) within the World Trade Centre Winnipeg (WTC Winnipeg) who have helped alleviate much of this adversity for me.

I would just like to take this opportunity to thank the BIC for the absolutely wonderful service that they provide and for their unwavering support during this humbling, yet exciting time. Their tireless efforts and attention to detail have not gone unnoticed. They have offered invaluable assistance, wisdom and knowledge. Among the outstanding BIC team, there is the finest researcher I have ever worked with. Without his continued support, many business plans would not have been completed and many sleepless nights ensued.

I am also grateful for all the amazing workshops I have attended. Meeting leaders in their fields has been quite exciting.

In essence, I could not begin to put a dollar value on all the encouragement, understanding, guidance and real “hands on”, experience I have received. Rarely do most take the time to give genuine support these days. I am forever indebted and truly grateful for having the WTC Winnipeg in my corner.

A win-win collaboration

A win-win collaboration

The Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba (WECM) and the Business InfoCentre of the World Trade Centre Winnipeg (WTC Winnipeg) collaborate to support women entrepreneurs.

A 2012 memorandum of understanding between WECM and WTC Winnipeg was the foundation for mutual client referral when the Business InfoCentre (BIC), a department within WTC Winnipeg, was established in 2014. “We continue to share best practices with WTC Winnipeg”, noted Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba CEO, Sandra Altner. “The BIC offers resources that our clients need, particularly research capabilities of unequaled quality. In turn, the BIC refers women entrepreneurs to our Centre for the specialized services we deliver. It is a mutually respectful and beneficial cross referral system to ensure that clients are able to access the services and programs they need.”

More than being just a client referral source for each other, WECM and BIC have made adjustments to work more effectively together for the benefit of their entrepreneurial clients. “Instead of duplicating efforts, we are working together to create efficiencies for both organizations”, Sandra Altner added. “One of our great strengths is our business plan development series that helps clients develop comprehensive, relevant plans. This takes up a lot of time so we have reduced some of our other seminar offerings because we knew that quality sessions were available at BIC.”

“Each organization has strengths and resources that they use in support of the other. BIC has been a great supporter of WECM initiatives including networking events and monthly Business Breakfasts. The Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba regularly promotes BIC events and initiatives in its newsletter and website.”

While the collaboration between BIC and WECM helps to increase the exposure for each organization within the community, the great benefit is for Manitoba’s entrepreneurs who can count on strong, sustainable, effective and consistent support.

“On top of all this, the BIC team is wonderful to work with; they are always open to ideas and suggestions on how we can help each other. I foresee many future collaborations”, Sandra Altner concludes. “The possibilities are vast when the partnership is sound and successful!”

Useful Ideas in Every Session

Useful Ideas in Every Session

In December 2010, Sheryl Watt came up with the idea of filling in for family caregivers so they could take holidays, attend major milestones, and maintain their lifestyle, career and job while providing for the care or future care of their loved ones. She created the trademark bedside champion™ to coin the services provided and establish a name for the role of key personnel providing services which include patient advocacy and navigation.

Syner-g Care also targets self-employed individuals needing to stay at the hospital, notably providing a reception service for phone calls and emails during their absence enabling solopreneurs to remotely run their business from a hospital bed; and bedside champion™ service personnel can be assigned to their bedside before, during or after treatment or procedure to increase peace of mind.

“No one can be in two places at the same time,” Sheryl Watt said. “We help people manage their multiple priorities, such as their health, their family, and their job.”

bedside champion™ by SYNER-G CARE Inc. is already a success, thanks to help from the Business InfoCentre (BIC) at the World Trade Centre Winnipeg (WTC Winnipeg).

“Since 2014, I have been coming to BIC for information and in July 2014 met with an information officer to discuss the trademark application procedure,” explained Sheryl Watt. “The BIC employees helped me a lot during the entire process, and through BIC I was able to find a wonderful local agent through the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) who took on my case. Finding an agent instead of doing it myself is one of the best pieces of advice that I received from the BIC.”

She has also attended 18 BIC sessions. “One of the best features is you can attend these sessions remotely from your office,” she explained. “Many times, I was on a business trip or between meetings, but thanks to this great detail I did not miss the BIC sessions. Plus, they’re free!”

She also enjoys the networking opportunities that these sessions provide, “even when you attend online, because you have the opportunity to introduce yourself, your company, the services you provide and share between fellow online students through the group chat feature.”

Today, Sheryl Watt continues to implement the many ideas acquired from the BIC sessions that she has attended, from how to price services to the one-page Business Model Canvas platform. “It’s a great roadmap to study before setting out for the day,” she explained. “It helps me to focus on key activities required to develop and grow business rather than getting caught up the day-to-day tasks.”

Lastly, the entrepreneur spoke highly of a trip to the American border with the BIC. “It was an incredible opportunity to learn more about the art of doing business with the United States. And it was so well organized down to the smallest details. I was amazed,” concluded Sheryl Watt.

The BIC - an absolute must for prospective entrepreneurs

The BIC - an absolute must for prospective entrepreneurs

Linda ‘Laz’ Lazarowich visited the Business InfoCentre (BIC) at the World Trade Centre Winnipeg several times in 2014 and 2015 with a view to moving her business project forward. Her company, ProWearGear will market innovative protective gear developed exclusively for police, military and security forces.

“Our flexible, lightweight soft body armour will protect against knife/edge blade and spike cuts, slashes, barb-razor wire and a host of natural hazards from snake bites to cactus and brush.” says Linda Laz. “We have created clothing to fit contours of men and women, working dogs and horses. The gear currently on the market often doesn’t comfort-fit these body contours.”

While ProWearGear has been around since 2006 as K9 ProWear, the new  products offered by Pro Wear Gear will come to market in September 2015, starting in Canada and the USA, while international locations are under consideration at this time. Linda Laz obtained the Canadian patent for her innovation in May 2015 and the innovation is patenting pending for the United States and Europe.

Laz as founder, President and CEO of ProWearGear, turned to the BIC to ensure a successful market entry.

“The BIC is a single window opportunity with excellent staff, resources and workshops in all kinds of areas of interest to us, not to mention the networking opportunity it provides,” comments Linda Laz. “It’s a primary resource for marketing, sales, preparing RFPs, bookkeeping and more.”

“Whatever the issue, chances are there will be a good fit for offerings at the BIC through seminars or contacts on the subject. Participants can attend in person or via a webinar! This is a huge plus when considering time constraints of a busy schedule.”

She also praises the BIC’s personalized service. “I told them what I was looking for and they called me back to tell me about the seminars they offered that might be of interest to me,” says Linda Laz. “That’s almost an unprecedented service!”

“What’s more, when the BIC doesn’t have the answer to a question, they do everything possible to put us in touch with someone who can. The BIC is easy to get to, easy to find close parking and best of all staff are pleasant to work with to help work through your specific needs.”

For all of these reasons, Linda Laz firmly believes that the BIC is an absolute must for anyone thinking about starting and growing a business. “Of course the more you work with BIC the better their staff knows about your business and how they can better help with targeted resources and seminars” She adds. “We should also keep in mind BIC and WTC Winnipeg are our leaders to Centrallia, an excellent opportunity to share your product/service with the world” she concludes.

Kick start your business with BIC

Kick start your business with BIC

Even though Manitoba-based entrepreneur Adam Penner continues to work towards starting up his business, he is that much closer to achieving his goal thanks to the BIC at the World Trade Centre Winnipeg.

On the advice of his financial institution, the Assiniboine Credit Union, Manitoba entrepreneur Adam Penner paid a visit to the new Business InfoCentre (BIC) at the World Trade Centre Winnipeg when it opened in April 2014. He hasn’t looked back since.

“I attended most of the BIC seminars,” said Penner. “They covered various business topics, including marketing tools and ideas and financing, and were highly informative.  I learned a great deal about many of the details that we don’t always think about.”

Adam Penner plans to set up a concrete moulding and sculpture business, producing art objects such as fountains and birdbaths.

“There is still a lot to do before I can launch my business, but thanks to the BIC, I feel I am much more business savvy,” he said. “I actually plan on returning to the Centre and look forward to the new seminars offered in the upcoming season.”