Canadian SME owners are more and more cognizant of the importance of expanding their business into international territory. 3 Canadian SMEs have reached international marketplaces. Read this article to learn more!
Canadian SME owners are more and more cognizant of the importance of expanding their business into international territory. However, there is still some apprehension among such owners. SMEs account for about 41.9 per cent of the overall value of exports in Canada.
Despite the challenges, many Canadian SME owners saw the opportunity internationally.
Growing up with three great-uncles who lived with muscular dystrophy, Charles Deguire was determined to use robotic technology to help people. “We’re sending robots to space, we’re replacing people with robots in factories, but we’re not using robots to help people,” Deguire said. “It kept me up at night.”
In 2006 along with co-founder Louis-Joseph Caron L’Écuyer, Deguire launched Kinova Robotics—a company dedicated to providing assistive robotics to individuals with mobility limitations. Today, there are 65 employees in Boisbriand, north of Montreal.
A major frustration for the Kinova team is that there is no clear way to integrate innovation into the health-care system. As well, there is limited government support for pilot programs that Kinova is interested in pursuing such as those in surgical robotics.
Beyond assistive robotics, Kinova works with organizations such as Google and NASA in the field of service robotics, assisting with projects like toxic waste management.
Launched in 2009 by Indigenous artisan Yvonne Jobin, Moonstone Creation offers artisanal Indigenous artwork, traditional art classes as well as facilitation of sacred marriage ceremonies. Moonstone Creation showcases work from over 50 artists in private and public collections in Canada, the United States, and Europe. Jobin continues to operate the business with her daughter Amy Willier, a part-time owner.
During their first year in business, the mother-daughter duo was tight on money. Willier had to work a part-time job to pay expenses. Opening during the 2009 global recession didn’t make things easier on the owners either.
Despite the challenges, Jobin persisted. Jobin’s success lies in reaching thousands of people, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples alike, with her teachings of Indigenous culture, oral storytelling, and traditional knowledge. The company started with 12 artisans and has since grown to encompass 50 Indigenous artists across Western Canada.
In 2014, co-founders Veronica Nnensa and Freeda Mulenga opened Kuwala, an online boutique curating clothing and accessories from socially responsible fashion brands across Africa and the Diaspora. The online boutique takes pride in its fair supply chain—promoting a sustainable African fashion industry—and ethical fashion—working with designers and artisans who provide fair wages and safe working conditions for employees.
For Nnensa and Mulenga, the greatest success they’ve had has been working with designers and co-operatives who are treated fairly and paid ethical wages for their work.
Their most significant difficulty is finding and securing partnerships with such designers and co-operatives.
While some Canadian SMEs are seeing the expansive potential of exporting their goods and services, many more need to look beyond Canadian borders for an opportunity.
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