Canada’s 10 most remarkable small businesses

<p class=””>In early September, The Globe and Mail’s Report on Small Business asked readers to nominate their favourite small businesses for our inaugural #remarkablebiz contest. We received over 120 nominations, not to mention hundreds of retweets. Following the initial nomination stage, we posted 65 semi-finalists to our Pinterest board and the community was given the opportunity to vote through Pins, likes and comments. We took your votes into consider when preparing the top-ten list.


Skyline studio

Elevator pitch: We’re a Halifax-based digital media company that specializes in Aerial services using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), video production, photography and web design. We capture stunning content for businesses and create the space for it to live online. Skyline Studio was founded in the fall of 2013 and has quickly grown from 2 to 4 employees.

Secret sauce: A huge part of our success has been working with a team that possesses an incredibly diverse set of skills. We’ve been early adopters of innovative technologies, we’re extremely creative and have an obsession with quality. We offer a finished product for our clients that would usually take three or four companies to produce.

Culture: We deal with cutting-edge technology on a daily basis and it’s our business to stay ahead of the curve. We’re constantly scouring the web to learn about new innovations and how they could help us. Innovation, creativity and improvement is what drives us.

Challenge: Strangely enough the Weather is one of our biggest challenges! Flying UAV’s is a large part of our business, and weather conditions can keep us from getting airborne. Another challenge we deal with is time-management. We’re a small company that’s growing fast so prioritizing and organization has kept us on track and moving forward.

Advice: Advice that we would give to someone looking to start their own business is to Jump in and go hard. Running your own business requires dedication and a complete disregard for the Monday to Friday 9-5 work week mentality. Also, offer something new and create demand rather than just responding to it.

Purlin’ J’s Roving Yarn Company

Elevator pitch: Purlin’ J’s Roving Yarn Company is Kingston, Ontario’s mobile yarn truck. Think gourmet food truck, only selling yarn instead! Purlin’ J’s satisfies the modern knitter’s craving for beautiful yarns when she/he is most relaxed and inspired to create something beautiful: at a music festival, studio tour, market or retreat. We were founded in 2013 and operate out of a former fire truck, a 1982 Ford step van, nicknamed Lil Dorothy. It is owned and operated by Joan Sharpe, aka Purlin’ J!

Secret sauce: The truck at the very least is a curiosity. Everyone, knitter or not, wants to come on-board to see what it’s all about! Most especially though, yarn lovers yearn for the “squish factor”: the ability to feel and “pet” fibres and bask in the range of colours. With the Purlin’ J’s brand, I strive to create a carefully curated selection of yarns, including luxurious hand-dyed yarns created right here in Ontario, and other “fascinating fibre paraphernalia”, in a small-scale, flexible, and novel retail environment that is responsive to the market. The truck can travel to communities where unique yarns are simply not available. But my regular customers also appreciate the personal shopping experience.

Culture: I am the sole owner and operator, plus I have support and help from my family and friends and this means a lot to me. I’ve been lucky that I’ve had the ability to launch the business and test it while still working full-time. But the best thing about the yarn truck is that it’s fun, welcoming, and non-intimidating. I’d like to think that just by coming on-board, someone might get the spark to try working with yarn or fibre, if they’ve never done so before. Knitting is a proven stress-reliever!

Challenge: Meeting demand – I’d love to take the yarn truck to all the places it’s invited, but fuel costs and wear-and-tear add up! I’d also like to have more time to think about long-term strategy and ways to scale the business. I have more innovative ideas that I want to explore, but only so many hours in a day.

Advice: My creative background helped me visualize the business in action while still in the planning phase. I was then able to articulate my vision to everyone who helped me at start-up, especially my graphic designer! Remember that everything you do is essentially about satisfying your customer’s wants and needs. I have a bookkeeper so I don’t get bogged down by paperwork. I prefer to apply my time and energy to the more creative aspects of the business: social media, buying, visual merchandising, and event planning.


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