My Cart



Posted on

Last month, the first round of PARKFORUM 2018 kicked off! A big thank you to our sponsors cSpace, ROSSO Coffee Roasters, and Dirtbelly, and another big thank you to everyone who attended. If you weren’t able to make it, PARKFORUM will be happening again on April 14 - 15, 2018. Early Bird tickets are now on sale - get 'em here. 

Photo of @annekeforbes by @stancecreative 


Here is a recap of DAY 1 of PARKFORUM: 

The first speaker of the day was Ellen Parker, the founder of PARKER PR

Ellen Parker has over 15 years of professional experience in Canada and the United States. Parker gave the audience an opportunity to explore what it’s like to work for a boutique PR firm by examining case studies and navigating through a crisis, media relations & social media.

Parker’s advice to creative businesses and entrepreneurs is to ensure honesty, integrity, and professionalism are always on the top of your mind when dealing with PR. Public relations isn’t just necessary during a crisis or public scandal, but should be implemented throughout a brand/organization’s life!

How PARKER PR maps out a strategy: 

  • PR is the umbrella  
  • Map out a plan/ Critical Path/ PR Plan 
  • Events 
  • Partnership/ sponsorship acquisition ALWAYS  
  • Media Relations
  • Social Media
  • Volunteer Management

Following Parker was Shawn Freeman, Founder & CEO of TWT Group

Born and raised in Calgary, Shawn found TWT group with the goal of making IT easy for small and medium-sized businesses. Shawn has contributed on technology and entrepreneurship to major global communications like The Huffington Post, Notable, and Forbes. TWT group believes in giving back to their community and provide services for charities both pro-bono and discounted fees.

Shawn’s presentation focused on tools and technologies you can use in your creative business that don’t involve any IT companies. Some recommended apps are: 

        1. Pandadoc allows you to spend less time creating documents. It creates templates for future documents and inputs information for you. It also integrates with Hubspot. 
        2. Need help with Wordpress? Look no further than WP Engine.
        3. Hubspot is an inbound marketing and sales platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers. It's great for following up via email and integrates with google doc
        4. Zenreach is a restaurant-based app that allows you to collect contacts faster and engage customers more effectively. Zenreach tracks how often a customer visits your establishment through wifi (login once and it'll automatically connect you to wifi during future visits) and will send follow-up emails to your guests. 
        5. Touchbistro provides an easy and smart iPad-based POS system for restaurants, cafes, bars & more. 

Shawn’s biggest recommendation for businesses is to ensure your information is safe from hackers by using 2-factor authentication whenever possible. What is 2-factor authentication? Having to input more than just your username or password to gain access to emails, websites, purchases etc. Use apps like Lastpass, Backupify, and Skykick to encrypt your information and stay safe from hackers. 

The third presentation of the day was from ROSSO Coffee Roasters’ founder David Crosby and his two business partners Cole Torode and Jessie Attrell. 

ROSSO was founded by David Crosby in 2007 to fill a gap in coffee shops with a focus on quality within the Calgary Market. For the first 6 months, Crosby worked independently and handled every single aspect of the business on his own. Shortly after, Cole Torode joined Crosby as the head barista and coffee trainer. In 2013 Jessie officially joined the ROSSO full-time to implement strategies and growth plans, oversee the leadership team, refine their company processes, and lead their sales strategy/wholesale team. ROSSO now has 7 cafe locations in different pockets throughout Calgary. 

An important part of expanding Rosso, and what made a huge impact on their success, was creating a company culture that incorporated two concepts — putting people first and living by your values. ROSSO are in constant contact with their neighbors and always looking for new ways to collaborate and make their city even better.

Here are three tips from ROSSO on building community:

  1. Being active and contributing to initiatives and events, not just for publicity but for genuine enjoyment 
  2. Partnering and collaborating with others who have the same values and beliefs 
  3. Creating a comfortable and approachable space for all. Share your Wifi!

A final piece of advice from ROSSO is to understand your product from the bottom up. 

 The fourth presentation, before we broke for lunch, featured Quan Ly - the Co-Founder of McRally.

Ly and his team members tackled the topic of accounting for creative small businesses. McRally takes a different approach to accounting than most traditional firms by embracing technology and utilizing automation. Their presentation centered around Xero - an online accounting software from New Zealand made for small businesses in Canada. Not only does Xero allow you to access your business from anywhere, understand your real-time cash position, easily collaborate with your accountant and bookkeeper, and protect your business data but it also works with dozens of dozens of apps!

App recommendations

  1. Receipt Bank allows you to keep track of your business expenses without any stress. Simple snap a photo of your receipt with the app and upload it to Xero via your desktop. You can also keep track of what bills and invoices still need to be paid!
  2. Payment Evolution is a great payroll system for small businesses. It's user-friendly and their support team offers amazing customer service with quick results. 

The next presentation was from the Otahpiaaki group led by Patti Derbyshire and featuring Angel Aubichon, founder and designer of Indi City. 

Patti Derbyshire and her team discussed the evolution of Otahpiaaki. What started off as a school project at Mount Royal University has grown into a social innovation that partners with Indigenous designers and artists across Canada. Otahpiaaki aims to create opportunities for development, business, and social enterprise. PARK has an ongoing collaboration with Otahpaiaki’s Fashion Week, and these collaborations are essential to ensuring the vitality and success of emerging projects. 

Together the audience brainstormed ideas for Otahpiaaki 2018 and discussed issues such as cultural appropriation, the importance of licensing indigenous designs, and true reconciliation in length. We have a rich and diverse Indigenous fashion scene full of talented artists and designers!

To quote Angel, "make sure that it’s created by Inspired Natives and not just Native-Inspired." So ask questions, research products before you purchase them to ensure authenticity, and start conversations! 

Number 6 on the list of presentations was a women entrepreneur panel which featured: Wray Bokitch, the Director of Finance and Systems at Hedkandi Salon; Stacy Boruk, co-owner of Bamboo Ballroom; Linda Maslechko, CEO and Founder of Triple Flip; Amanda Hamilton, Founder and Creative Director at Amanda Hamilton Interior Design; and Kristi Stuart, Founder of Barre Belle.

PARK’s Vice President, Jessie Li, asked the panel questions from the audience which ranged from how to handle social media to building capital and growing your business. Some important takeaways are:

  1. Find a backer or a business partner - someone who has a different skillset than you and can bring something to the company that you can't. Balance is super important in a team and when you find the right mix, you can acheive success!
  2. Utilize Stats Canada for industry information and the CFIB: Canadian Federation of Independent Business for courses. 
  3. Having a presence on social media is important, but don’t feel obligated to overshare. Your social media, whether personal or business, should be transparent and honest - not forced! 
  4. If you can't do it, hire someone else who can. While you have to wear all the hats when your business is emerging, it's a lifesaver to have a team who specializes in different areas such as marketing, HR, and finances.
  5. Don't rush to grow your business - while it can mean more revenue it also means more bills to pay! Wait for the right opportunity, but don't wait too long.  

"My business partner is the first person I talk to before I go to bed and when I wake up, and they aren't my husband!" - Kristi Stuart 

The last speaker of the day, and the headliner, was Michelle Gault from Herschel Supply Co.

Herschel was founded in 2009 by brothers Jamie and Lyndon Cormack, Herschel Supply Co. adopted the name of the town where three generations of their family grew up. Based in Vancouver, Canada Herschel Supply Co. is a design-driven global accessories brand that produces quality products with a fine regard for detail.

Michelle Gault has spent the last 25 years in key product development roles at lifestyle brands across Western Canada. She joined Herschel back when the company consisted of 12 people and now oversees the design, development, and manufacturing of Herschel’s extensive product line.

 Gault’s advice was:

  1. Position your brand: compare and relate to other brands. Ask yourself are you luxury or commodity? Are your prices high or low? 
  2. Always think of your brand as global even if you’re only reaching one city or one province. Since day 1, Herschel considered themselves a global brand and now they are one of Canada's biggest companies. Never set limits to how far you can grow. 
  3. Separate your businesses into units. Make sure each product can stand alone. If you only sold wallets, would your company make it? If you only sold t-shirts, would people still shop at your store? If the answer is no, then don’t pursue it
  4. Tell your story. Customers and shoppers want to know how a brand started and why! 
  5. Compare yourself to small and local businesses instead of big box stores 
  6. Partner and collaborate. Work together instead of competing against one another. 
  7. Get your tech specs right! They're the blueprint for your product and if they aren't precise, down to the last detail like how a zipper should close from bottom to top, you'll waste your time and money. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our PARKFORUM recap featuring Kevin Langman, Alison Geskin, Ken Bautista and more! 


For more PARK 



Leave a comment

All blog comments are checked prior to publishing

Hello You!

Join our mailing list