Home Featured Small Business Week Edmonton is Ready to Recognize Entrepreneurs with BDC Small Business Week™

Edmonton is Ready to Recognize Entrepreneurs with BDC Small Business Week™

Kendall and Justine Barber of Poppey Barley.

Are you ready for BDC Small Business Week™ 2018? The national event, (the local celebration is hosted by the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce) will be held between the 15th and 19th of October. Titled Digitize Now: Transform Your Business, this year’s event will focus on digital performance and technologies, and provide educational sessions on topics ranging from cybersecurity to digital empowerment in the world of e-commerce. As always, the event features the best in business: the Canadian entrepreneurs who contribute greatly to Canada’s economy.

“This year, BDC Small Business Week is focused on the digital economy and business transformation,” explains Janet Riopel, president & CEO of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. “In order to stay competitive, even small business owners need to embrace technology, diversify their operations, and seek new markets. The Edmonton Chamber is in the business of helping business, and BDC Small Business Week provides us with the perfect opportunity to both celebrate and inspire our members to conquer new challenges.”

“We are offering an inspiring range of high-energy, high-value events focused on connecting the business community to the people and ideas that will foster innovation, growth and success,” Riopel adds. “From protecting against cyberattacks to a panel discussion on empowerment, our program will energize entrepreneurs to digitize their business, which is crucial in our increasingly connected, automated and data-driven world.”

“We like to think of BDC Small Business Week as a celebration of small business and the incredible contributions entrepreneurs make to our economy,” elaborates Todd Tougas, vice president, financing and consulting, BDC. “There are over a million businesses in Canada, with small and mid-sized businesses comprising approximately 99 per cent of that figure.”

He adds, “The origins of BDC Small Business Week go back close to 40 years, when a few BDC offices combined their efforts with their local Chambers of Commerce to arrange activities for local business. It has since mushroomed into a national event that is celebrated from coast to coast to coast, recognizing the important contributions of our entrepreneurs to the Canadian economy.

“Each year we choose a relevant theme for BDC Small Business Week. The theme this year is Digitize Now: Transform Your Business because we want to reach out to entrepreneurs and convey the importance of digitizing their businesses. In an increasingly connected and automated world, we need to embrace new technologies to keep from falling behind. Our Digital Readiness study, available through our website, provides many important insights in this regard.”

The week will feature special guests. Riopel says, “We will be kicking off the week with a security expert from Microsoft Canada who will discuss best practices in cyber defense and educate our members on how best to protect themselves. I’m also very pleased to be moderating a panel on Empowering Women in Business, featuring three influential and dynamic leaders: former Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, who is now an advisor with Bennett Jones; Laura Didyk, vice president Alberta South, BDC, who is the national sponsor for the bank’s Women Entrepreneur strategy; and the Chamber’s own vice chair, Dawn Harsch, who is the president & CEO of ExquisiCare Senior Living and Care at Home.”


The main events include:

  • Save Your Bacon: Cybersecurity Breakfast with Microsoft Canada (Tuesday, October 16 from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.) an education session on business security featuring Microsoft’s new Business Self-Defense Boot Camp and keynote speaker Gui Carvalhal, national partner development director at Microsoft Canada.


  • Return on Engagement: Steering Organizations Toward Social Media Success (Wednesday, October 17 from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.) an education session on social media strategizing, featuring ATB Financial.


  • BDC Small Business Week Showcase & Social (Wednesday, October 17 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.) a trade show style networking event hosted by The Sutton Place Hotel.


  • Empowering Women in Business Panel (Thursday, October 18 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) a moderated discussion recognizing women’s important contributions to business success.


  • Creative Connections: Paint Night (Thursday, October 18, 2018 from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.), a creative networking event.


  • Driving Growth Through Digital Transformation: E-Commerce Workshop (Friday, October 19 from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.) a workshop on using e-commerce to grow your business, featuring keynote speakers Michael Denham, president and CEO, Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), and a representative from PayPal (TBA).

However, the real stars of Small Business Week are the small businesses and entrepreneurs who have worked (and continue to work) so hard to bolster Edmonton’s economic success and its reputation.

One such business—and one that can attest to the importance of e-commerce—is Poppy Barley.

Poppy Barley, which is named after poppy seeds and barley corns, the original unit of measurement in shoemaking, was launched by Edmonton sisters Justine and Kendall Barber in 2012. As their name indicates, the sisters shaped the company around the traditional roots of shoemaking, with a dedication to creating the high-quality, tailored, and handcrafted footwear that the days of poppy seeds and barley corns were known for; however, they’ve also given that dedication an even more important focus: the ethics of the fashion industry.

Appalled by the terrible conditions and low-paid workers that are often behind some of the most popular and expensive fashion labels, the Barbers decided to make doing things differently a business priority. They wanted the value of the shoe to be reflected in each aspect of its being, from quality to comfort, to creation. The sisters travelled to screen potential factories for positive working conditions that include fair wages and benefits, worker’s rights and freedoms, health and safety, and opportunity.

Kendall Barber attributes the business’ success to “people and courage”—although, she confides, the company has a long way to go before it catches up to the team’s vision and ambition.

“Our success comes from having the courage to have a vision, share that vision, and onboard the right people: people who share our vision and beliefs, and people who had the courage to say yes, including the initial factories who had the courage to say yes to two people who had no product and an idea.”

Their success reflects the ongoing determination of the company—along with the power of a good idea, a strong dedication to a vision, and the added benefit of digital technology.

“Growing Poppy Barley to be a national brand across Canada is a top priority,” Barber explains. “We are looking at opening retail stores (Poppy Barley currently has a physical store in Edmonton with popups opening in Calgary, Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Regina) as well as continuing to funnel resources into our e-commerce operations.”

The company’s ability to digitize has provided it the opportunity to reach a national market without being hindered by the challenges and limitations of physical expansion. It’s a business model that has also brought them to the leading edge of their industry. Poppy Barley was the first company in North America to offer handcrafted fashion boots online.

Her biggest piece of advice to Edmonton’s entrepreneurs? “Think bigger!”

“Sometimes being in Edmonton, because of the size of city, causes people to think too small in terms of the size of our businesses. There is lots of room for us to be bolder in our dreams,” she encourages.

“It is unexpected for a company like Poppy Barley to come from Edmonton,” she concludes, “and by creating companies that are unexpected and different, we position the city differently in the minds of those who are both from and not from Edmonton—and that is vital to encouraging people to stay in Edmonton, especially creatives who are looking to stay in the field.”

If you are interested in registering for any of the BDC Small Business Week’s events, visit www.EdmontonChamber.com.