Presenting the 2021 winners
These impressive small businesses were selected as the winners of the 2021 Tales of Triumph Contest. Their stories are great examples of resilience and dedication.
Grand prize winners
Offline to Online
Mobile Escape brings the escape room to you. Starting in 2016, brothers-in-law Paul Harvey and Eric Reynolds towed large cargo trailers ..., containing escape rooms to events across Alberta. More than 100,000 students went through their escape rooms before the pandemic. COVID-19 shut down their main business model in minutes – but they didn’t fold up. After three weeks of brainstorming and hiring staff with new competencies, they pivoted to an entirely new business model. They’re now a global business that has people all over the world playing #EscapeMail – an escape room in an envelope. Their 12-episode series features mind-boggling puzzles, paper crafting, video narratives and interactive materials. They’ve sold to dozens of countries, won industry awards and earned more revenue in 2020 than in any previous year.
Bliss Skateboard Shop sells skateboards and accessories in the border city of Windsor, Ontario. The City of Roses was without such ... a specialty store when owner Sasha Senior, a mother of two boys, opened its doors. Senior describes herself as one of the first Black women to open a skateboard shop in North America. When she first launched Bliss she thought the property would be a small hobby, but it really took off when she was forced to move more business online during the COVID-19 pandemic. It helped that Bliss garnered a lot of positive press on websites like The Berrics and magazines like Thrasher and Stoops. Boardz n The Hood, the company’s non-profit initiative, started as a grassroots movement to supply free boards to local kids. It also supplied two skateboard parks internationally, one in Uganda and one in Jamaica. Today, Bliss is looking to expand to other North American cities, continue its history of giving and to expand its inventory to scooters, roller skates and BMX products.
Watergirl Quilt Co. sells high-quality quilting products and other services: virtual classes, events, chat groups and even group retreat ... packages that can be purchased online or in-store. They opened online during the COVID-19 pandemic; a brick-and-mortar store opened a few months later. Owner Michelle Peters, a retired teacher, also created virtual shop tours, video shopping appointments and a landing page where customers could request free swatches of fabric. Online sales grew quickly – from $10,000 in its first month to more than $40,000 in July 2021 – despite a lockdown for six of their 13 months in business. The “small but mighty quilt shop” today has a following of close to 2,800 people across North America, and a strong social presence, with some of their Facebook videos reaching close to 15,000 views.
Offline to Online
When Sareena Nickoli opened Soul Studio in 2014, she wanted to show customers that exercise could be both beneficial and ...enjoyable. The studio welcomes all ages and fitness levels and offers a wide variety of classes, including resistance training, Zumba, indoor cycling, yoga and Pilates. When COVID-19 forced fitness facilities to close, Nickoli was determined to keep her members moving. Shortly after the lockdown, she set up a webcam and her team of instructors began hosting live classes via Zoom. Nickoli posted about the classes on social media and soon people from across Canada, the U.S. and as far away as Australia were joining the fun. Even after the studio reopened, the virtual classes remained popular. Since then, she’s invested in high-end audio/visual equipment to enhance the experience. They’ve hosted more than 2,000 online classes and interest in their business continues to grow internationally.
Kaija Heitland is an artist and entrepreneur who belongs to the Cowichan Valley Métis Nation. Her company, Indigenous Nouveau, helps ... other Indigenous and non-indigenous artists connect with her culture through beadwork lessons, quillwork and other traditional arts. With the pandemic, she transformed everything – from ecommerce and shipping and using Zoom for lessons – while maintaining the integrity of her Indigenous, ethical and eco-friendly practices. Online, she could share her culture and skills (including berry-picking, hunting and making her own clothing and regalia) with a wider audience. Digital access has given more people, regardless of geography, the ability to reclaim their traditions. Her success has also allowed her to offer pro-bono work in schools, painting murals and classes in traditional skills – so Kaija is sharing professionally and personally.
Started by a mom and her two kids in Richmond, B.C., Plant Gather sells rare tropical houseplants to Canadians from coast to ... coast. Founded in September 2020, the company was inspired and driven by the pandemic. The store provided meaningful work for her kids who found themselves without jobs as a result of lockdowns. The pandemic also unearthed a client base – houseplants had never been in such high demand. The Donnett family marketed Plant Gather on Facebook and Instagram, but the company’s best results came from its brand ambassador program. Each ambassador gets coupon codes to post on their social media channels, with the hope that their followers join the Plant Gather community and become customers. If the coupon is redeemed, the customer gets a 10 per cent discount on their order and the ambassador gets a store credit. Some of Plant Gather’s 25 ambassadors even generate the company’s content for TikTok, Reels, Instagram and blogs.