Algoma University, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

Bridges to Better Business: Youth Edition (YouLaunch and Millworks - Centre for Entrepreneurship)

Today Algoma University hosts YouLaunch and Millworks - Centre for Entrepreneurship for the Bridges to Better Business: Youth Edition workshop. This Lunch and Learn promises to offer key tools and speakers to help youth incorporate technology in their business ideas and plans. The event is free, sandwiches are provided, and parking is covered. Pretty good deal!
YouLaunch is a youth entrepreneur program focused on bringing together students interested in launching a business and connecting them to start-up resources, mentoring, and funding. YouthLaunch is a division of the Sault Ste Marie Innovation Centre. For more information, contact 705.542.5284 or youlaunch@ssmic.com or visit their website: YouLaunch.ca
Monique Morrison from Jeronamo Solutions and Success with Digital begins her workshop walking attendees through a Social Media and Web Presence scorecard.
A five page, paired down version of their audit to help a business assess their online presence, including website, reputation, social media, and email.
Monique speaks to the importance of proper SSL certificates in addition to tags for SEO and pixels from Facebook (which allow for custom audience targeting on Instagram in addition to other things).
Google Page Speed test is a great free tool to optimize your site for quick mobile and desktop access. Speed is a critical component for websites and has a direct impact on revenue.
Do you have a physical location? Do you want people to be able to contact you? Make sure those actions are easy to discover and execute on your website.
Monique speaks to the importance of reputation management. People research online prior to purchase. Where are you being reviewed? What are people saying about you? You can reply to reviews and post directly to Google via your (free) Google My Business account. Make sure you have claimed your Google Maps, Yelp, etc listings. This ensures you control that your information is correct and up to date.
Monique recommends investing in the social platform that your audience prefers. LinkedIn may be better for you than Instagram if you focus on B2B for example. Take advantage of YouTube for information about your business, your products, customer testimonials, advertising, demos, and more.
Email marketing feels old school but remains one of the top drivers of revenue for businesses. If you use it well, it can be a far better investment than social. Building a strong list and sharing solid content that benefits the reader - not just sales - (and respecting spam policies) can keep an audience primed and engaged.
Monique directs attendees to score their own business efforts to identify their "opportunity score" (things they can improve.)
Performing an audience audit will give you a sense of where you should be targeting your efforts, remarketing, and what platform is performing best for you. Remember, likes don't necessarily lead to sales so make sure you're measuring the right things and investing in what drives the action you want your audience to take.
Monique emphasizes the benefits of a Facebook Messenger list (essentially works like a newsletter subscription, but right in their chat app). Another way to notify your audience with time-sensitive promotions or contests.

Social Media Audit

Social Success Cycle

Monique answers questions from the audience. One attendee sells ice cream in the summer and only has a Facebook page. She struggles with creating content and knowing what to share. Right now she only shares sales and specials. She got covered in a tourist publication which drove a lot of business, but she doesn't know how to connect that to her Facebook or promotions. She also bought the business from someone else and is struggling to claim her listings. Monique recommends creating a "topic wheel" of content: Where do you get your ice cream? What flavors do you offer? Are there local businesses you could collaborate with? Are there influencers you could offer a freebie to to post pictures?
Monique has more workshops coming up, her next one is about how to create a website so stay tuned to the YouLaunch mailing list for info and discount tickets.

Quick break between sessions announced by our host Patti Trotter.

Kristy Rachkowski from Vibe Eatery & Juice Co. speaks about how she has incorporated technology in her business and ways to measure your digital footprint to create business success.
Kristy opened up Vibe Eatery (vibeeatery.ca) nearly two years ago. She identified a need in The Soo and sought to address it. Her mantra is “Eat Well, Feel Well, Live Well.” Vibe Eatery & Juice Co. provides healthy, plant based dishes for breakfast, lunch & dinner, along with cold pressed juices, smoothies, coffee, tea & specialty hot beverages. They use Organic & Local produce whenever and wherever possible.
Kristy's philosophy on technology: "If it can motivate me, educate me, save me time, money or stress I am interested." She asks the audience about their fave tech: Google Calendar, voice to text applications, Google Docs and collaborative tools top the list.
Kristy uses a lot of tech to power her business: social, apps, POS tools, analytics, scheduling apps, QuickBooks, security systems, and ordering and loyalty apps. Customer amplification (customers talking about her business and products on their own social channels) has been huge. At Vibe, they use a simple POS system, Touch Bistro, on an iPad which allows easy menu changes, remote monitoring, and even employee clocking in/out.
She highly recommends "When I Work" app where employees can share availability, swap shifts, create schedules, and sync to other calendar apps (like Google Calendar).
Vibe recently launched their own app which provides customers a path to earn loyalty points and order food for pick-up. They partnered with Apple to build the app and had over 600 people download and use the app in the first month. The app also allows Vibe to send customers notifications and customers can gift each other credit (like for a birthday). The loyalty program has been very positive for them and their customers as people spend more money when they know they are getting something back.
As a vegetarian who travels a lot, Kristy has experienced the frustration of fast food restaurants who are slaves to their POS systems which make it hard to deliver on customer needs and requests. She brings these learnings into the customer experience at Vibe. "When people try to copy you, you know you're doing something right."
"A lot of people can offer vegetation options, but how do you offer something people want and do it in an innovative way. We try to do as much local as we can and offer a gluten-free environment." "People care about buying local, about the quality of ingredients -- that can be your completive advantage, that can be what sets you apart."
Kristy's dream tech list includes hardware, software, and services -- but everything costs money and you have to prioritize your investments (and where you spend your time). Recent regulation requires chain restaurants to publish certain information about their food. Kristy wants to have a barcode on every menu item that tells you the makeup of the food. Delivery and meal subscriptions, like a daily lunch plan, is another wish list offering item for Kristy and Vibe.
Attendees talk about the lack of good international cuisine in The Soo, like Chinese and Indian food.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke

An attendee demonstrates a "scan marker" as a piece of tech that has improved his life. This USB device is simply dragged along a line of text like a highlighter and it goes to your computer for easy study notes.
Kristy answers audience questions about bringing vegan sensitive practices to their businesses, expansion/franchise plans, education elements, and product distribution. "How long did it take you from market analysis to signing your lease?" 3 months, and then another 3 months to open. Having other business mentors is really important. I'm not the first person to have this idea, so there are a lot of resources available. I moved really fast and worked with a professional business planner who had a highly successful track record. I worked with chefs and professional advisors in every element. The whole process took 6-9 months. "How do you manage fresh, local ingredients supply chain?" We opened in March so not a lot of local growing. Worked with two vendors in Southern Ontario to start. We are very transparent about our vendors and availability on our website. Sometimes you can't get organic locally or can't get local seasonally. We do our best to buy Ontario produce and our transparent about it.
Want more? Check out "Value Proposition," Part 2 of the Innovative Entrepreneur Certificate on October 24th. Two workshop times and locations: Sault College: 10:30am-1:30pm in Room L1120 Algoma University 2:30pm-5:30pm in Room SH300