Friday, November 14th, 2014
The Best Ottawa Business Awards are coming to the newly-renamed Shaw Centre Nov. 20. In the days leading up to the awards ceremony, OBJ will feature some of the recipients. Today, we feature Exceptional New Business Award winners.
When Jeri Rodrigs sees a problem, he views it as an opportunity. And when he finds a solution, he thinks about how he can improve upon it.
That’s how this Ottawa inventor struck upon the idea for the Rumidifier. When his sick son needed a humidifier for his bedroom, Mr. Rodrigs thought there had to be a quieter and more environmentally friendly solution than the typical plug-in appliance.
There wasn’t, so he built one. The Rumidifier uses no electricity. Instead, it just sits over an existing heating vent and uses that flow of air to humidify a room.
In less than two years, Rumidifier Home Comforts has become an Ottawa success story. Thousands of units have already been sold. Distribution deals have been inked with Home Depot, Home Hardware, Lowe’s, Costco and terra20, which puts the Rumidifier in 1,200 stores across Canada.
Best of all, this is a 100 per cent made-in-Ottawa product. The Rumidifier was conceived and designed in the city, and is manufactured and shipped from here.
“What makes this business so exceptional is that we ... created a multimillion-dollar business in one year, with no marketing or sales support,” Mr. Rodrigs said. “Having an award program like the BoBs gives entrepreneurs and inventors like me a boost to continue on and work to create new businesses and jobs.”
Epic Perks founder Joelle Parenteau once worked in the insurance industry, until she grew too frustrated trying to help small businesses obtain pro-rated services such as group benefits for employees, which only larger organizations could afford.
A few years later, Epic Perks is on a mission to build “a small business empire of epic proportions” and give her smaller clients access to the resources and discounts that big corporations enjoy. Businesses that join the Epic Perks community not only gain access to VIP perks and pricing, they also join a movement of businesses uniting for collective empowerment.
According to the Business Development Bank of Canada, small businesses represent about 98 per cent of all businesses in Canada and account for the majority of employment.
“What’s contributed to my success are mentors and advisers who have led me along this adventure, and an extremely supportive husband,” Ms. Parenteau said. “I launched my company five months before getting married. He’s been my rock ... when you start a new business, you need that stability and that sanity.”
Awards programs such as the BoBs give the business community a reason to pause and reflect, she added.
“It’s easy to get busy and be go-go-go all the time. We sometimes forget to take a deep breath and recognize all we’ve accomplished.”
Exceptional New Business, Fusebill
Many business owners suffer from the same challenge – too many hours working in their business instead of on their business. Tedious administrative tasks such as billing are a big part of that problem.
That’s where Fusebill aims to help. The cloud-based subscription and billing management platform helps small and medium-sized businesses take control of their billing to save time and help drive revenue.
The young company has a powerful pedigree. Fusebill’s founders were also part of another Ottawa success story, Protus IP Solutions, which was acquired for $213 million in 2010. In a few short years, Fusebill has secured more than 100 clients in various industries.
Fusebill simplifies billing by automating and streamlining many processes and workflows for greater accuracy and efficiency. The Fusebill system is built to scale with the needs of each individual client, and to integrate with existing systems.
Despite the credentials of the leadership team, Greg Burwell, the firm’s co-founder and chief technology officer, admits that any new venture is a whole new learning experience.
“The biggest thing is we are not perfect, but we are definitely learning from our mistakes,” he said. “It’s an up-and-down road. We try and stick to a plan, but that plan always changes and we try to adapt to that change ... but we have surrounded ourselves with a strong team that’s helped us get to where we are today.”
Exceptional New Business, SEO TWIST
SEO TWIST has established itself in Ottawa as a growth marketing agency to watch.
Its services range from web and mobile design and development and print marketing materials to ongoing search engine optimization, Google pay-per-click advertising and social media campaigns.
The agency began by working with small local businesses such as professional services and medical offices, software companies, health and beauty salons and tourist attractions. But SEO TWIST is now drawing the attention of large national brands.
Over the past year, SEO TWIST has doubled the size of its team and expanded its client base to the east coast and Alberta. In July, the agency signed a partnership agreement with the Ottawa Sun to support the digital services the paper provides to readers. It’s an important relationship with a major media brand that SEO TWIST wants to grow to other markets.
SEO TWIST has grown because of its ability to stay on top of industry trends and offer complete digital marketing solutions to its clients, according to founder Gustavo Natotschiev.
“The BoBs awards mean a lot to us,” he said. “We launched three years ago, we are still a startup company, and being recognized as one of the exceptional businesses is something very significant. This exposure will help us secure new business and new partnerships.”
Exceptional New Business, Tweed
It’s fair to say that a few years ago, no one in Ottawa’s business community could have anticipated marijuana production would figure into their annual business awards.
But times have changed. Medical marijuana has been approved for use by Health Canada to treat complaints such as chronic pain, seizures, muscle spasms, nausea and loss of appetite.
Not just anyone can produce the stuff. There are stiff hurdles to overcome with Health Canada in order to secure a licence to grow and harvest, and ongoing compliance requirements to ensure a greenhouse operation is above board.
The Tweed team rose to the challenge. The firm took 470,000 square feet of derelict manufacturing and distribution space left behind by The Hershey Company in Smiths Falls and turned it into one of the world’s largest medical marijuana greenhouses.
A month before the company shipped its first product, it had already made a public offering that gave it a market cap of more than $100 million.
In August, a second facility was licensed in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
For co-founder and CEO Bruce Linton, recognizing the success of local business is about much more than just local visibility.
“So many times in Ottawa, we picture ourselves at the edge of something, that we are not really core to what is happening in Canada,” he said. “But when we elevate ourselves, the rest of Canada looks up at our action, instead of us looking up to what’s happening elsewhere.”
Ottawa Business Journal. http://www.obj.ca