Tag Archives: online business

The Race is on to be the Next Groupon Contender in Canada

You must have been hiding under a virtual rock this summer if you missed being bombarded online by Groupon ads that displayed photos of delicious food – enticing you to click and sign-up for their daily social deals.  Once I became obsessed with Groupon, I started to notice a myriad of other daily social deal sites explode onto the Internet scene.

A lot of the original daily social deal sites were based in the US and just targeted Canadian cities.  However, I’ve seen a number of Canadian sites launch in the past few months. Most recently, TorStar Digital launched WagJag.com.  I heard from a source at the company that they recently sold almost 14,000 burgers in a “Buy $5 for $10 worth of Burgers” deal on behalf of South Street Burger Co.  Man, had I known about that deal, I would have definitely bought-in!

So, how does one find out about all of these daily social deals in the frantic, busy lifestyle that we lead?  The solution – daily deal aggregator sites.  I’ve discovered two daily deal aggregator sites based in the US and one of them has just launched in Toronto – DealGator.com.  Yipit.com is another daily deal aggregator of note but they have yet to launch in Canada.  These sites aggregate daily social deals from other sites based on your specified interest in deals like restaurants, spa/beauty, travel and more. I guess that the race is on to see who aggregates all of the daily social deals in Canada first? I’m excited to see what other sites will evolve out of this mass daily social deal site frenzy.

I’ve read a lot of articles lately that talk about whether or not the business model for sites like Groupon is sustainable – especially when it comes to negotiating deals with larger retailers.  I’m sure there will be an eventual shake-up in this newly developed industry.  However, I will enjoy the fruits (or cupcakes if they’re the deal of the day) of their labour in the meantime :)

The Rise of Niche Social Networks in Canada

Social media word cloudI mentioned in an earlier blog that I feel that Canada and Toronto in particular,
is just ripe for start-ups.  I wanted to share some proof of this statement. As Facebook
has inevitably become a verb for connecting with friends (i.e. “Facebook me”), niche
social networks seem to be the next phase in the social media evolution.  There are
a number of start-ups emerging in this space in Canada right now.

Here’s a list of some of my favourite new Canadian niche social networks.  These sites foster social networking in a more focused environment, rather than just creating a group or page on Facebook:

(1) Sprouter.comThis is a site based in Toronto that connects entrepreneurs worldwide. Entrepreneurs can tweet questions out to the online community and share advice on the Sprouter platform. Sprouter hosts frequent live chats with successful entrepreneurs to allow community members to learn from their peers online. A key ingredient to Sprouter’s growth has been their offline events called “SproutUps” that enable entrepreneurs to connect face-to-face and share best practices.

(2) WineAlign.comBased in Ontario, this site is a free community-based service for reviewing, sharing and discovering wine. This site is ideal if you are trying to find the perfect bottle of wine to go with the meal that you are planning. Their site is synched up with the LCBO database to help you find the right wine at the right price at an LCBO near you. Site visitors can also connect and share information about their favourite wines and new wine releases.

(3) LoonLounge.com – This is a site dedicated to connecting new and prospective Canadian immigrants to various Canadian immigration services groups via an online community. LoonLounge was created by a Canadian immigration lawyer David Cohen, who realized that there was a missing link in the process of immigrating to Canada. The site’s mission is to “improve the Canadian immigration process for the millions of people involved: applicants waiting in the queue, new immigrants adjusting to life in Canada, Canadian employers waiting for skilled workers to arrive, and the many people around the world who dream of one day making Canada their home“.

(4) UrbanMoms.caThis site was inspired by a woman whose friend Madeleine, a mother of 2 children, had recently lost her battle with cancer. This motivated the friend to raise money as a trust fund for the kids who were left without their mother. The support from mothers helping to raise money across the country was astounding and inspired the friend to create an online community for brave mothers to share advice, opinions and expertise on various motherhood topics. The site includes a collection of motherhood blogs, community postings, product reviews and contests.

(5) Vestiigo.comThis is a fairly new Canadian career site that makes jobs searching more social. Job seekers are able to contact the hiring manager directly when applying to postings. When you sign-up, you receive personal messages from the site owners to welcome you to the site. They also want to know how they can help you and welcome you to contact them directly – which makes you feel welcomed. Daily job postings are sent out to the community via a number of social media  platforms including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn Groups.

(6) Rypple.com – This Toronto-based start-up creates community-based software that helps managers to encourage a constant feedback loop for their teams. A major focus of the software is to encourage the idea of “giving thanks” to your peers. This site is inspired by the idea that employees need constant recognition in order to feel valued. This idea of providing constant feedback within the team also helps to make quarterly and annual reviews a breeze for managers.

(7) TeamPages.com - This B.C.-based social networking site provides a platform for sports teams and leagues to set-up their own pages/sites – making organization and communication a lot easier. Benefits of the site include: managing team and/or league schedules online, scheduling games and events, sending out e-mails and text messages to your team and/or league, displaying team scores and player statistics, and much more. There is a fee associated with managing your team page(s) – packages are based on the level of sophistication required.

(8) ShesConnected.com – Founded in Toronto by Donna Marie Antoniadis, this social networking website was created for busy women by women. The site allows women to manage both a personal and a professional social media profile in one place. The site also boasts a community database of over 400,000 bloggers and offers community management to help advertisers take a meaningful approach to spreading the word about their products and services to women online. ShesConnected.com just recently hosted their first social media conference in Toronto in October 2010.

Not many of these sites have advertising on them yet, but I feel that it is only inevitable that I will soon be targeted by Rogers for Small Businesses on Sprouter and Food/Lifestyle brands on sites like WineAlign very soon.

If you know of any other Canadian niche social media communities worth noting, definitely let me know and I’ll add them to the list.


Inspiration: Why SmartBrideBoutique.com is a True Labour of Love

Andrea Lown (left) and Leah Andrew (right) from SmartBrideBoutique.com

I had the privilege of working with some remarkable women this summer who have shown me what it means to truly love your job. Andrea Lown and Leah Andrew from SmartBrideBoutique.com found their inspiration for starting their business while each planning the wedding of their dreams. They soon realized that it’s tough to find the ultimate wedding dress on a tight budget.

They knew that there had to be a better way to find a beautiful wedding gown for less and so they turned to the Internet to look for deals. However, what they found was that the shopping experience on sites like Kijiji and Craigslist is not conducive to easily browsing postings and searching for specific designers and sizes.

So, they decided to develop a way to make it easier for budget-savvy brides to shop online while also dreaming up a concept that was good for the environment. They ended up building an easy to use online platform that helps brides-to-be to save up to 50% on their wedding dress while helping recent brides to recoup some of the costs from their wedding by recycling their wedding dress, decor, accessories and more.

What I find so inspiring about watching Andrea and Leah work together is not only their great and often hilarious rapport with each other, but also their tireless efforts to make their company a success. What is also incredibly refreshing to see is that both the idea for their business and their willpower to succeed are born out of the same motivation – love. If it weren’t for love, they wouldn’t have had weddings and discovered a business opportunity. In addition, if they didn’t love what they do on a daily basis then they wouldn’t be so determined to grow their business.

Having worked with Andrea Lown in the past, I know that she is not one to settle for less than the best. After her honeymoon, she too was looking for a new job and realized that if the right one wasn’t out there, then she’d just have to go out and create it for herself.

These ladies have no idea how much they’ve inspired me. A Facebook “like” button on their site does not express how much I have enjoyed watching their online business grow and thrive. Facebook, please develop a “love” button!

Read more about Andrea and Leah’s business here: http://t.co/AUO841M

Watch Andrea and Leah talk about how to stretch your wedding budget: