Category Archives: Small Biz Champions

Turning a Problem into a Business

How did you become an entrepreneur? Was it something you always wanted to do or did you have an ‘ah ha’ moment that propelled you into a new career path?

For Roxanne Pettipas it was her dog that inspired her to start her own business. Before that, Roxanne was working as a supply teacher and she and her partner had been splitting their time between Toronto and the Bahamas. Eventually, Roxanne grew tired of coming home to an empty apartment so she decided to get a daschund named Buddy to help keep her company.

“I used to take Buddy out for walks using this little neck collar, and after a while I thought he had developed allergies because he would gag and cough every time we were out,” she said. Roxanne admits she didn’t know much about dogs at the time, but she quickly realized that Buddy was choking from the pressure that the collar was putting on his throat. Roxanne searched far and wide for a solution to the problem, but every harness she found was bulky and awkward with too many clips and clasps. “Buddy wasn’t happy and neither was I, so that’s when I decided to make something for him.”

Perhaps it was her background as an art teacher that made her so industrious, but instead of waiting for someone else to produce an acceptable harness Roxanne decided to create one herself. “At the time I was using a soft pliable tire rubber in my art class, so I used that material to create the very first Buddy Belt.” She then consulted a shoe maker and a clothing designer to help her understand how to work with leather. “I had to learn it all,” she said, “Whether it was working with an industrial sewing machine, or learning about patterns, dies, and templates, it all stemmed from wanting to create something comfortable for Buddy.”

Like a traditional collar the Buddy Belt has one buckle that is fastened between the shoulder blades instead of around the neck. The animal’s front legs are then extended through the two holes underneath the collar that helps reduce strain on the neck.

Once Buddy starting sporting his new harness around the neighbourhood, the orders started rolling in. After spending countless hours at the library making patterns, Roxanne developed 11 different sizes of Buddy Belts to meet the needs of teacup, toy and standard size dogs. As Roxanne became heavily invested in her idea, she was offered a full time teaching job. At that point Roxanne found herself having to choose between her business and the teaching career she always wanted. In the end she decided to pursue Buddy Belts full time. “It was a hard decision, but I knew I’d regret it otherwise,” she said.

What I took away from interviewing Roxanne is that you can turn a problem into a business idea. If other people are having the same problem as you, there may be a gap in the market for a new product or service that addresses that problem.

If you want more information about Buddy Belts please visit the website.


This is my definition of the perfect business

1. Everybody loves coming to work everyday
2. Everybody that works in it is proud to say so
3. Customers are proud to say: “we do business with them” or “we buy there regularly”
4. Suppliers are proud to say: “we supply them”
5. It has solid values and principles
6. It is making a positive difference in the world
7. It is very profitable

This is what I want to build

Calling all Canadians! What's YOUR best advice for young entrepreneurs?

Beginning today, the Canadian Youth Business Foundation is inviting Canadians to participate in the Great Canadian Mentoring Challenge. This online initiative enables everyone, from CEOs to fifth grade students, to share tips, suggestions and advice with young entrepreneurs. Submissions can be made at or
using the Twitter hashtag #gcmc.

Entrepreneurship is a Doing Thing – Not Something You Can Learn Just by Reading Books

Although there are plenty of books and resources you can turn to for advice, one thing to remember is, the most valuable lessons are gained from doing, trying and even failing.

We found this article from Toronto’s Ryerson University quite inspiring. Here is an excerpt:

“Starting your own business is a learning experience like no other.

For entrepreneurship students in the Ted Rogers School of Management, starting their own business is an experiential opportunity that caps their four years at Ryerson. Fourth-year students in the Entrepreneurial Organization Appraisal course are given start-up funds to launch an entrepreneurial venture. The young business owners borrow up to $1,000 from a fund, financed by the John Dobson Foundation.

Professor Steve Gideon says this course builds the foundation for students who want to be entrepreneurs down the road.

Entrepreneurship is like learning how to play the guitar. You don’t learn to play the guitar by reading books. You learn until you get blisters on your fingers. With this course, I try to get students to grow their entrepreneurial muscles and the way you grow muscles is to push yourself beyond your limits,” Gedeon said.”

So remember, all the books and advice in the world cannot prepare you for the realities of building your own business, so start somewhere and take stock of all the mistakes and lessons along the way.

For the rest of the article, read here:

Get Your Own Carnival in Your Back Yard

Selected by the Vaughan Business Enterprise Centre, James Bortolus is a student that has been accepted to the Government of Ontario’s Summer Company Program. Summer Company is a program that gives students across the province the opportunity to start their own business during the summer, by offering guidance, support, and some start up capital.

Over the summer of 2010 James Bortolus started his own company called Big Top Carnivals. Big Top Carnivals is a business that specializes in creating carnival themed events, complete with Jumping Castle, Balloon Animals, Face Painting, Carnival Food, Games, and Prizes.

Having performed as a magician for many years prior to starting his business James says, “It’s just another step in my performing career, I’ve loved doing magic for years and now I want to take a little step in a different direction with this.”

When asked about his vision for his business he commented, “What were aiming to do, is bring the whole thing together. We don’t just want to be another company that drops off jumping castles. Because, it’s not just the castle, or the face paint, or the games… it’s the whole experience. It’s the carnival. I want the kids to be able to run between the events winning prizes, laughing, jumping, and having a blast. That’s my vision for Big Top Carnivals. To be more than just another company who drops off jumping castles to parties. I want to make it a show!”

Since starting this summer James has been working hard to grow the company and expand his repertoire of available services. “We already have 2 or 3 performers, 5 games, many themed carnival food services, and a jumping castle. And it’s only going to grow.”

James says: “It’s been quite a experience, and it’s only the beginning!”

Perfect for camps, schools, picnics, and birthdays; Book your very own Big Top Carnival today at: or blog at

The YES movie debut in Canada

Are you:
Driven. Determined. Motivated. Resilient. Cutting-edge. Strategic.

And are you a young entrepreneur driven by a passion to succeed in your own business? If yes, then we have a very unique event for you.

On March 5th, 2010 Young Entrepreneurs from across the GTA will come together to celebrate entrepreneurship and the young minds that are collectively changing the way businesses are built and run today. It is the inaugural Notable Entrepreneurship Event for the popular movie The YES Movie (YES – Young Entrepreneur Society) and an evening celebrating young Canadian business leaders.

For the trailer check out:

For more details of the event, to register and for the VIP after party click here.

Also note this is a Notable event. Notable you ask? Yes! NotableTV is hosting this event. So you will definitely get the red carpet treatment. It is something you just can’t miss.
See you there!

Give her your list, consider it done

Rosie Young

Personal concierge service can handle anything

By Small Business Expert Roger Pierce,

There just aren’t enough hours in the day. Wouldn’t it be nice to get some help at home or work to complete your task list? “We enable our clients to spend more time on the more important things in their lives,” comments entrepreneur Rosie Young.

Young owns Rosie Young Concierge (,) a unique concierge service catering to busy families and individuals.

For clients requesting personal concierge assistance, Young will handle tasks such as grocery shopping, event planning, gift giving, pet management and automotive maintenance. If you’re going away on vacation and worried about your home, she’ll stop by to water your plants, pick up your mail and check on things.

Her executive concierge services include schedule management, office organizing, meeting and planning, supplier research and interviewing, business travel planning, and running business errands.

“Our executive service is geared towards busy professionals and small business owners who need a helping hand without the burden of hiring additional staff,” explains Young.

Young believes people crave a dependable, reliable person to help them manage their lives. “Imagine having someone you could trust 100 percent and call on an as-needed basis,” she says. “My clients have enough things to worry about, so we make sure the job will be done in a timely fashion and done right.”

“I tell them, ‘give me your list and consider it done.’”

While there are other personal concierge services in the marketplace, Young differentiates her business by offering a one-stop shop. “Whatever it is, I will take care if it,” she claims. “Organizing a summer dinner party, de-cluttering households, selling unwanted things, picking up the kids from school…we do it all.”

Since launching four years ago, Young says she’s learned to wear many hats. “Most business owners must multi-task marketing, management and finance responsibilities, but in my business I must do all of those things plus deliver a very diverse range of client services,” she comments.

“Every day is different. I love problem solving and am very organized and creative, so the chance to apply those skills in my business excites me.”