Meet the 2020 winners

These impressive small businesses were selected as the winners of the 2020 Tales of Triumph Contest. Their stories were shining examples of hard work and dedication.

Offline to Online

(Grand prize winner)
Ocean Sports

Ocean Sports is a family-run watersports and scuba business in Edmonton. When COVID-19 hit, they had just set up a large booth at the Edmonton Boat Show. The provincial government cracked down on gatherings and the event closed just 4 hours in. They lost the money invested in the trade show and any potential revenue to be earned. They were forced to lay off staff and close. The family doubled down and has taken Ocean Sports to new heights since the pandemic hit. They cut expenses and focused on their online store. They began marketing and advertising to all of Canada. They spent hours responding personally to customer inquiries. They fine-tuned their e-commerce store and insured inventory accuracy. They now operate with fewer staff, who have taken on new roles and connect with customers in store and online. To encourage orders across Canada, they introduced free shipping on most orders over $99.

Bougeotte et Placotine *
Bougeotte et Placotine offers physical spaces where pregnant women and new mothers can enjoy supervised training. When COVID-19 hit, the business had almost 1,200 clients registered ... for sessions. New COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns meant indoor gatherings were not permitted. They had to close their 5 branches and the business was forced to reinvent itself. During COVID-19, Bougeotte et Placotine’s owner developed online courses to offer their services to mothers across Québec – keeping them connected and supported. The company shifted to a 100% digital model. All registered clients were offered unlimited access to 20 lessons per week. They recruited coaches from their 5 branches and modified their website so that clients could participate in virtual classes. They offered free online packages to influencers and ambassadors to encourage positive word of mouth.
COMMIS provides commercial kitchen space to food start-ups –without the traditional capital expenditure and high overhead costs that are a barrier to entry for fledgling culinary businesses. When ... COVID-19 hit, half of COMMIS’ members disappeared, and the other half were left vulnerable due to local market closures. To adapt, COMMIS launched a podcast where they interviewed local food entrepreneurs. It was designed to help keep those businesses top-of-mind for local consumers while the businesses were unable to operate. They launched a contest and gave away over $5,000 in memberships to 3 local chefs so that they could launch their own business. They also curated "Market Haul Totes" to provide locals with regional products, digitizing the farmer’s market. After the success of their totes, COMMIS launched an online Farm Shop and Artisan Market where they offer free delivery of their members' products and farm-fresh produce from around the region.

Doing Good

(Grand prize winner)
Caribbean Flavas Restaurant & Catering

Caribbean Flavas Restaurant & Catering began as its owner’s thesis project at the University of New Brunswick. He presented his thesis, "Can an ethnic restaurant survive in a predominantly white market” to 5 professors – it was poorly received. He lost his scholarship and student visa and was nearly deported. He asked his parents to move from Trinidad to help open the restaurant and 16 years later it is thriving. When COVID-19 hit, the business had to lay off long-time employees, their catering engagements decreased and indoor dining was restricted. To ensure their customers felt safe, they used a sticker system for takeout that captured the name of the employee who prepared the meal and his/her temperature. They also sealed each container to prevent contamination. The family tackled the need for food in their community by introducing a Buy One, Give One program. They have fed 1,000s of Fredericton's most vulnerable citizens (the homeless, essential workers, etc.) one meal per day. They teamed up with local food banks, shelters, hospitals, testing stations and schools to get the word out.

Jamie Gentry Designs
Jamie Gentry is from the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation. Her business, Jamie Gentry Designs, forges meaningful connections through moccasin making. She believes that when consumers connect ... with the maker and the product, they are more likely to cherish that product and it is less likely to end up in landfill. Her moccasins are custom made. They are cut, beaded, sewn and carved by Jamie. COVID-19 increased order volumes for the business. Due to the handmade nature of her products, she struggled to meet demand and was forced to adapt. Jamie hired an Indigenous woman to assist her with production. Going forward, she hopes to offer more Indigenous women work opportunities. She also used COVID-19 as an opportunity to educate and strengthen her community. She noticed a new cultural openness and now uses her social platforms to educate people about Indigenous culture and promote other artists and their work.
Patricia’s Cooking Classes for Children
Patricia teaches cooking classes for children of all abilities from ages 3 to 18 years old. She started her business after being unable to find affordable cooking classes for her children. She only charged ... enough to cover expenses and volunteers her time scheduling, arranging and teaching the classes with her children’s assistance. Patricia’s business was new when COVID-19 hit. It was originally a strictly in-person business, so not being able to gather was a real obstacle. Many families faced financial stress during the pandemic, so paying for her classes was not possible for all of them. Patricia adapted her classes to an online format. Realizing that many children would struggle without the structure of their normal education and activities, she decided to offer her classes for free to anyone in Canada via Zoom for the first 2.5 months of the pandemic. In June, she began to charge participants a pay-what-you-can fee to cover expenses. She also offers private classes and donates extra meals and treats to people in need.

Weathered the Storm

(Grand prize winner)
North Shore Sports Medicine

North Shore Sports Medicine is a physiotherapy clinic that enables patients to receive all the treatments they need in one location. Social responsibility is a fundamental part of their business strategy. They provide many free hours of service to dozens of teams, schools, healthcare initiatives and charities, and pro-bono and subsidized treatments for low-income patients. Their revenue fell 95% during the pandemic and they were left with only enough cash-on-hand to cover 3 months of operations. It forced them to rethink and reinvent their business. To remain open and retain their staff, they raised emergency funding and added virtual telehealth services. They streamlined their processes. To help patients adapt, they created videos on what telehealth is and how it is done. They trained practitioners to conduct telehealth visits, ensuring their team and patients were comfortable. They quadrupled their spending on social media and their website to maintain a strong connection with patients. They reopened at 85% capacity and got back to 100% of pre-COVID revenues within 2 months.

The Local Space
The Local Space is a retail store that supports over 100+ Canadian brands. It provides customers with access to local options so they can avoid big box stores, while providing local artisans a store to ... sell their products. The Local Space relied heavily on foot traffic – which virtually disappeared during COVID-19. At the beginning of the pandemic, the business had to temporarily lay off staff. They were also in the middle of a build for their second location, so funds were scarce. To adapt, The Local Space trained their customers to shop online, offered shipping and curbside pickup, amplified their social media presence and released explainer videos to show customers how to use their website. They communicated with customers in a raw and honest way on social media to connect deeply. The owner worked tirelessly until she was able to rehire her staff, running the shop and making deliveries.
HockeyStickMan Inc.
HockeyStickMan works with over 150 hockey programs. It’s the largest pro stock hockey stick and equipment retailer in Canada. It’s designed to help families save money on hockey equipment by fixing and reselling ... broken sticks. They have a physical Canadian presence and an online store that serves customers worldwide. When COVID-19 hit, they had just purchased a warehouse, opened a second location, tripled staff and doubled inventory. It threatened demand for their products. Confident that hockey would bounce back, they opened a new business called YardSports to sell backyard games and training aids. They cut all non-essential expenses and took on some debt to buy from hockey clubs. They also took out a business loan to purchase for the hockey teams that relied on their buy-back program. They offered free shipping, purchased training equipment for re-sale and other items that seemed in demand. They engaged customers with social media challenges, giveaways and contests and started a customer loyalty program. All of these strategies helped them generate revenue for HockeyStickMan.