Innovators

Masontops & Breadsmart

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Katie Staeger - Marketing and Communications Manager, Masontops & Breadsmart, North Vancouver, BC

How did Masontops and Breadsmart get their start:
Masontops was founded by two childhood friends from Toronto. They wanted to make their own sauerkraut and discovered there was a need in the market for simple, affordable tools. Mason jars became their go-to vessel and a year later they created our famous patented Pickle Pipe airlock, designed specifically for Mason jars. The company took off with a bang on Kickstarter in 2014 and just three years later was named Canada’s eighth Fastest Growing Startup. In 2019, this led to the creation of Breadsmart, our product line dedicated to making artisan bread.

Tell us about your role and why it’s important to the brands:
Besides our founders, I was Masontops’s first employee—I began working for them in 2015 right after the Kickstarter campaign ended. We’ve kept a very small team, which has allowed me to control every aspect of our marketing. From the very start, we had a vision to not just be a product, but an educational resource. Our marketing isn’t only about selling products, but the entire concept and lifestyle around eating fermented foods and other “made from scratch” dishes that are nourishing to the body and mind—nothing is more rewarding than making a loaf of bread or tasting your own homemade pickles! We’ve taken extremely traditional—even ancient—food preparation methods and given them a breath of fresh air through modern marketing.

What does it mean for a small business like Mastontops and Breadsmart to have a dedicated marketing person:
Having a deep understanding of the foods we make tools for has been critical in creating marketing that resonates with the people we are trying to connect to. Behind every photo, social media post, blog post, newsletter, etc. is a person who eats fermented foods daily and makes homemade bread, and that has resonated with our customers and allowed us to become a trusted voice.

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LAMOSE

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Chen Deng, LAMOSE, Calgary, AB

How I got my start:
LAMOSE started with a simple mission: reduce single-use waste by creating best-in-class reusable water drinkware. We name our products after Canadian landmarks and we hope it inspires our customers to travel the country, leaving no waste behind.

What makes my products unique:
We offer name engraving for free and we can customize products to include quotes or words that inspire you, or photos of your favourite memories.

Why I love what I do:
Every bottle, mug and tumbler that we create is as unique as our customer. This really excites us! We love it when our customers show their uniqueness on a functional product. We hope our design can bring happiness in their life.

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Mysa

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Josh Green, Mysa, St. John’s, NL

How I got my start:
Right out of university (I studied Engineering at Dalhousie University), I was interested in helping homeowners become more energy efficient to help fight climate change. This led me to conducting home energy audits. During this time I discovered a gap in the market for a smart thermostat for electric baseboard heating.

What makes my products unique:
While other smart thermostat brands are widely popular, they don't work with high voltage heating systems such as electric baseboard heating, which equates to about 10% of the homes in North America! Mysa Smart Thermostats are specifically designed for electric baseboard and in-floor heating systems.

Why I love what I do:
Two of my passions are technology and helping our environment. At Mysa, we get to combine these two passions and create technology that helps society collectively become a better steward of our environment.

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Arjun & Shiv Chopra, CHAMPS, Montreal, QC

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Arjun & Shiv Chopra, CHAMPS, Montreal, QC

How we got our start:
It seems the luggage industry has been longing for a disruptor for quite some time. Our business was born out of a passion for travel and belief that things could be done in a better way. Consumers today are smart, savvy and seek uncompromised value in the things they buy – and they deserve to have an option that satisfies just that. From the way we design our luggage to the way we sell it, we have our fellow travellers in mind.

What makes our products unique:
Our high-quality cases are thoughtfully designed with the features you actually need, at a price that won’t break the bank. Our efficient business model allows us to make premium luggage and accessories accessible to everyone. With proudly Canadian designs, quick and convenient service and hassle-free customer support, rest-assured that our objective is to provide the best value for your dollar all while making your buying experience a great one.

Why we love what we do:
We believe that travel offers some of life’s greatest experiences. It’s exciting to wander, explore, and discover, all while making valuable connections along the way with people everywhere. As proud Canadians, it’s an absolute pleasure to serve the very same market that we grew up in, and we are thankful for that opportunity.

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Jonathan Wong, Custom Car Posters, Vancouver

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Jonathan Wong, Custom Car Posters, Vancouver, BC

How I got my start:
I started to illustrate cars when I couldn’t find a poster that characterized my particular vehicle. I soon realized that many car enthusiasts wanted the same thing – a poster of their car, in the right colour. I began illustrating more and more cars to meet the demand of fellow car enthusiasts and just like that, Custom Car Posters was born.

What makes my products unique:
Custom Car Posters offers over 700 car designs in a plethora of colour combinations. Here you can find the perfect poster to match almost any vehicle. As a car enthusiast, I take the utmost care to ensure every detail of each car is illustrated with absolute precision.

Why I love what I do:
As a major gearhead, I’ve restored, modified and raced a variety of cars over the years. I live and breathe all things automotive and love the process of bringing a new car poster to life. I enjoy engaging with the car community online and working closely with customers to get them the perfect print. Whether you are a car expert or are completely lost in the automotive world, I love to help my customers find the perfect design.

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Karet Design

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Yuka Abe, Karet Design, Coquitlam, BC

How I got my start:
I discovered my passion for jewellery making when I was a little girl in Hokkaido, Japan, using any materials around me such as chestnuts, branches, pieces of rubber and twist ties of bread. After I moved to Canada where the magnificent nature gave me inspiration and energy, I began creating more and expanded my style.

What makes my products unique:
In the past 15 years, I have travelled to several countries to find unique beads and combine them into one piece. Various people and cultures inspired me to create something new and original.

Why I love what I do:
It’s exciting to always search for and think of new materials I can use and create new designs and colours to fulfill my customers' expectations. I believe the jewellery that my clients find in my collections will bring a smile to their face and happiness to their lives.

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SLY EYE

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Agata Piskunowicz, SLY EYE, Toronto, ON

How I got my start:
It has always been a dream of mine to own a greeting card shop. My love for greeting cards started when I noticed the effect a small note had on people who received it. When friends or family around me needed a pick-me-up, I was busy creating custom cards that would make them smile. Life happened and a different creative career path took over, so the dream of my stationary shop never materialized. Three years ago, I created SLY EYE to reawaken my passion for greeting cards, posters and illustration.

What makes my products unique:
All of my work is printed using a Risograph machine. This process is environmentally friendly because the inks are soy based, the printing screens are made using plant materials and the machine is very efficient on energy consumption.

Why I love what I do:
I love being able to create work that other people enjoy.

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Athletic Homestyles

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Holly Edwards & James Gordon, Athletic Homestyles, Saskatoon, SK

How we got our start:
I started my own business in 2011 when I created My Custom Cake Topper and made unique, handcrafted, wedding cake toppers. In 2017, I met James and he joined me in the business, which helped diversify our skillset and product offering. From there, we launched Athletic Homestyles, which started with us creating Christmas ornaments that reflected our enthusiasm for strength training sports. Since then, we have expanded into more sports, hobbies and careers with new products like silicone hot pads, clocks, wine stoppers and more!

What makes our products unique:
Each product is originally hand-sculpted by me, and James molds and casts them in the appropriate material to make them extremely durable. Certain products also have hand-painted accents added. We create something one-of-a-kind from just an idea and that’s an amazing feeling at the end of the day!

Why we love what we do:
Athletic Homestyles enables us to work together as a team, create the products we dream up and gives us the flexibility in our schedule to pursue our fitness goals. Our business also challenges us to learn new skills, develop new ideas, and flex our creative muscles.

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Cultivated

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Ikenna Nwakwesi, Cultivated Co., Meadowvale, ON

How I got my start:
Growing up, my dad used to bring home heat transfer sheets and I would use them to make a variety of designs for my clothing that inspired me and would share them with my friends. Throughout university, I gained a love for fashion through online shopping, but was constantly met with issues shipping to Canada due to the high cost, or it simply wasn’t an option at all. I eventually grew tired of experiencing the same issue and decided to bring my designs to life by starting my own brand that is accessible to Canadians.

What makes my products unique:
My designs are inspired by real life, whether it is through my experiences or pop culture. Though some may argue that a number of our pieces are outlandish, we try to find balance between simple and outside-of-the-box thinking for our designs.

Why I love what I do:
I have always wanted to leave my mark on the world and provide products that boost your confidence and comfort. My brand has made this possible and allowed me to cultivate long-lasting relationships in the process. In addition, I’m the first in my family to take on the life of an entrepreneur. While many of my family members have viewed it as difficult, I feel fulfilled that every day is an adventure.

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Larch Wood Canada

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Don Beamish, Larch Wood Canada, Cape Breton, NS

How I got my start:
I spent 35 years as a home designer, builder and cabinet maker. My passion has always been hands on work, design and working with my favourite medium, wood. In 2004 the opportunity came up to run a business working with Eastern Canadian Larch - an abundant and underutilized species of trees here on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.

What makes my products unique:
The stunning bold grain patterning of the Larch tree and the durable end grain construction make our products unique. No two boards look the same.

Why I love what I do:
I love the endless combinations of patterns that come from the grain of the Larch tree and I also enjoy the sales aspect of the business knowing that it is a great product made with a lot of pride and attention to detail. We always get a wow from the customers.

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The Clay Marche

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Jessie Jair, The Clay Marche, Toronto, ON

How I got my start:
As a young child, playing with homemade clay was one of my favourite pastimes. A few years ago, I was searching for a creative outlet outside of work and rediscovered the medium again, so I began designing playful earrings in hopes of bringing a smile to people's faces.

What makes my products unique:
All the colours used in my creations are handmixed and each piece is sculpted by me, so each piece is truly one-of-a-kind.

Why I love what I do:
Clay is incredibly versatile and almost therapeutic for me - if something goes wrong, you can always just start over. My creations are a reflection of what I love or may be inspired by at that moment in my life. It's wonderful to see that it brings other people joy and provides them with an outlet for self-expression, either through a piece of jewellery they wear or as gifts to their loved ones.

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Kana

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Marise Perusse, Brand Manager, Kana, Montreal, QC

How did you get your start with Kana and Nolk:
I began my career in fast fashion but soon realized it was not for me! Afterward, I enjoyed 12 years working in the high-end technical outdoor and activewear industry. During this time, I gained expertise in developing smart features for products while working with the latest fabric technologies and certification. I felt inspired to transfer these skills to a new industry and began looking at kitchen brands. Nolk and I share the same vision and it is a perfect fit. Parchment paper, cast-iron cookware and tri-ply stainless steel are now part of my daily life and it feels great!

Tell us about your role and why it’s important to Kana:
Building a cohesive brand is an essential part of the success of any business. As brand manager for Kana, my role is to ensure that each and every action made is consistent and aligned with our branding and mission statement, from visual direction to product development. The key is synergic teamwork and great communication to maintain that consistent brand message.

What does it mean for a small business like Kana to have a brand manager:
The best brand managers understand every element of the brand they are working with. For small businesses like Kana, a brand manager has the opportunity to be more hands-on, ensuring that in all aspects of operations the brand is consistently communicated and aligned with its values.

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Buphallo

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Desmond Tsui, Buphallo, Calgary, AB

How I got my start:
We wanted to personalize and bring back the simplicity in making coffee! However, coffee making nowadays can involve some very expensive, high tech machines. Unable to find a quality solution, we decided to make our own Stainless Steel Pour Over Coffee Filter. This is a filter that does not require any paper, which can take away the essential aromas of the coffee, offering a bolder and more flavourful coffee experience. It allows anyone to experiment and personalize their morning routine!

What makes my products unique:
All our products are simple, portable and put the focus back on quality pour-over drip coffee. We spent a lot of time doing extensive research and testing to provide quality brewing products without costing an arm and leg. Brewing coffee this way also personalizes the coffee experience and brings more appreciation to the coffee. This is the brewing method that is preferred by coffee lovers and makes brewing good coffee simple and accessible to everyone.

Why I love what I do:
A good cup of coffee can change a person's day. We love that we can offer quality brewing options, no matter where you are! It's amazing to know products like the Pocket Drip Coffee Filter make brewing while camping and travelling extremely easy!

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GingerSnap's Crochet

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Kristy Elden, GingerSnap's Crochet, Vancouver, BC

How I got my start:
Ever have trouble finding a toque that is stylish AND keeps you warm? I sure did! I would either find toques that were warm and functional but lacked style, or toques that were cute and fashionable but didn't stand up to cold Canadian winters. I needed both fashion and function for the toques in my life, so I decided to start making my own. What started off as a weekend hobby and passion for crocheting turned into a business.

What makes my products unique:
The. Little. Details. So often, one toque looks the same as the next but in my opinion, all toques are not created equal. It's my goal for GingerSnap's Crochet toques and their owners to stand out in a crowd. Each toque that I make is created to have its own unique vibe and catch people's eyes. I attain this through keen attention to detail, such as using cute and contemporary wood button accents and functional, but fashionable, snap on/off pom poms. These small details add a little extra pizzazz to make my products pop out and say, “Look at me!”

Why I love what I do:
I love being a handmade artisan and seeing people wearing and using the creations that I make with my own two hands. I enjoy the process of making something that someone else loves. It is important to me that all GingerSnap's Crochet products bring happiness, style and coziness to each of my customers.

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1824

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Sean & Anita Kung, 1824, Toronto, ON

How we got our start:
It all started from our own personal experience. We had bought several large house plants, but couldn’t find planters in the specific style or size we wanted, so we decided to make our own! Since we only needed two planters, we had a lot of leftover concrete and began experimenting with smaller geometric sizes. We started trading them on a popular bartering Facebook group in Toronto and got really positive feedback, so we decided to open 1824! We’ve since expanded to create other home goods too.

What makes our products unique:
Design and quality are really important to us, so we make it a point to create our products using the best materials and molds to ensure durability. We blend our own mix of concrete that allows the planters to be small yet strong. We also offer custom metallic accents to personalize your purchase.

Why we love what we do:
In the digital age, it’s rare that we get to work with our hands. We’re often hunched over a computer, and bombarded with emails, so it’s nice to be able to just create something physical from scratch. Experimenting with different designs and shapes is all part of the fun! This has also allowed us to keep our personal plant collection growing. Anytime we acquire a new green family member, we can just build them a new beautiful home!

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Ish Chopra & Meenu Seda

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Ish Chopra & Meenu Seda, IMGadgets, Mississauga, ON

How we got our start:
In 2015, we researched the upcoming technology of hoverboards. We learned everything, from building a hoverboard to servicing it, and got our small batch of hoverboards manufactured as per Canadian standards. In our early days, we started with one product and one model. With our humble and out-of-the-box sales and marketing efforts, our hoverboard gained popularity and we experienced high demand with happy customers. This was the beginning of us pioneering in the world of portable e-mobility. We are 100% Canadian owned and operated and have national presence in Canada.

What makes our products unique:
Many of our product designs are patented and we get our products manufactured with Canadian standards in mind. Our gadgets have versatile options (i.e. colours, features, etc.). Additionally, our products come equipped with the most up-to-date technology and follow the trends.

Why we love what we do:
We are passionate about gadgets, so our company focuses on bringing new, trend-setting gadgets to our consumers. We absolutely love this continuous research and understanding of trending technology. Bringing it into the market keeps us - and all our employees - excited and on our toes.

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Stephen Aikman

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Stephen Aikman, All Natural Advice, Oakville, ON

How I got my start:
I started my career in banking in downtown Toronto, which I did for 25 years. In 2010, I became a strategist where I helped retailers develop strategies to grow their businesses. Surrounded by inspiring business owners, I learned the ins and outs of consumer behaviour, business trends and client buying experiences. Around the same time, a former co-worker and friend of mine launched a company that made organic, all-natural skincare. We formed a joint venture because we saw a gap in Canadian, all-natural and organic skincare.

What makes my products unique:
All of our products are made here in Canada. We focus on offering all-natural and organic products through direct-to-consumer channels to provide premium skincare that people can actually afford.

Why I love what I do:
My passion has always been to improve the client experience. Our clients are the reason we are here and growing. It is my mission to go above and beyond their expectations.

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The Cocktail Box Co. & Brew Your Bucha

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Chris Yee, The Cocktail Box Co. & Brew Your Bucha, Vancouver, BC

How I got my start:
My business partner Derek and I started Brew Your Bucha because, while we enjoy drinking kombucha, it's expensive! After brewing with a SCOBY purchased locally, it left us wanting to make sourcing the accessories and ingredients easier. We also wanted to save money, so we put together our first 4 Litre Kombucha Kits and started sharing them with friends and family. Shortly after, we officially launched Brew Your Bucha. We have since become one of the top sellers of kombucha SCOBY and starter kits and offer many guides and resources to new and experienced brewers. We had a similar experience with cocktails. We wanted to make it fun and easy to make cocktails, so we started with a true classic – the Old Fashioned. We have since released five other cocktail kits and other bar-related accessories.

What makes my products unique:
Each of our products have been designed to deliver a fun and unique experience. Whether making kombucha or creating your favourite cocktail, you will want to share your creation with your friends, family and colleagues. You can get creative, tailoring your beverage to suit your flavour preferences, and we encourage testing and experimenting with different recipes.

Why I love what I do:
We started Brew Your Bucha in our apartments, moved to a small garage and have since grown to a team of seven. It is a privilege to work with a diverse and fun team. What started out as a hobby has turned into a business, which allows us to share our experiences and connect with customers around the world. It's been quite the journey so far and we look forward to what is to come.

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David Prince

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David Prince, Main and Local, Montreal, QC

How I got my start:
My friend and I were working on a cruise ship, and when we couldn’t find souvenirs that we liked, we decided to create them ourselves!

What makes my products unique:
We create souvenirs that aren’t boring. They are designed in Montreal and there is always an element of fun in all our products.

Why I love what I do:
Our products result in lots of smiles all around - from our amazing team to our amazing customers!

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MilkKloud

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Anna Wa, MilkKloud, Calgary, AB

How I got my start:
After welcoming my first-born child, I had a hard time finding simple, organic products that my baby could cuddle and safely love. We created a line of organic cotton baby loveys that also have organic cotton stuffing instead of polyester. These products are not chemically treated or chemically pre-shrunk, so parents can rest assured their loved ones are not exposed to harsh chemicals.

What makes my products unique:
Our philosophy is that the first toy your precious baby touches should be natural, organic and non-toxic. Our loveys have organic cotton inside and out, which makes them unique. We are firm believers that passive toys make active babies and our products reflect this design principle. They come in beautiful packaging to make perfect gifts for baby showers and celebrations. We also offer stuffed toys for older children that are very cute and playful, designed with love and care in Canada.

Why I love what I do:
When we get to see happy parents and children enjoying our products, it is extremely gratifying and just melts our hearts. Our loveys for newborns often become their first friends and it is a true honour to be part of creating these precious moments and relationships in life.

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