What went down at the TL Insider and Amazon Canada event celebrating small businesses
TL Insider, Amazon Canada and TECHNATION Canada brought together the tech community to celebrate small business success
The Happy Hour event took place at Amazon’s downtown Toronto Tech Hub, where guests gathered for an evening of networking, a fireside chat with Amazon.ca’s new country manager, and a panel discussion featuring small business founders who have achieved success at scale through Amazon’s logistics, services, programs, and tools.
Charmaine Williams, MPP for Brampton Centre and Associate Minister of Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity, kicked off the event with remarks that called small businesses, which employ about three million people across Ontario, the economic backbone of the province.
With only 16 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses being majority-owned by women in 2020, Williams emphasized the importance of supporting diverse women in overcoming the structural barriers to entrepreneurship. She also highlighted programs like Digital Main Street, Racialized and Indigenous Supports for Entrepreneurs (RAISE), and the Women’s Economic Security Program (WESP), which support diverse entrepreneurs in connecting with capital, resources and mentorship opportunities.
Next up, Eva Lorenz, Amazon.ca’s Country Manager, joined entrepreneur and TECHNATION Canada representative Lola Adeyemi for a wide-ranging conversation about innovation, entrepreneurship and her experience as an Amazon leader operating in Canada’s burgeoning tech sector.
Lorenz shared Amazon’s journey in Canada, which began as an online bookstore in 2002 and rapidly expanded to offer a wide range of products through Prime and third-party sellers, and now has more than 40,000 employees across a number of business lines in Canada. Since 2003, Amazon.ca has made its virtual shelf space available for small- and medium-sized businesses to reach millions of customers, build their brands, and grow their businesses: today, there are more than 41,000 Canadian third-party sellers on Amazon.
Citing Amazon’s “Day One” culture of constant innovation, Lorenz emphasized the importance of identifying customer needs and working backward to provide solutions.
“We’re always looking for ways to innovate on behalf of our customers and we’re passionate about small business,” said Lorenz. “By helping our sellers grow we help serve changing customer needs, so it’s critical that as we continue to launch new offerings, they are as streamlined and frictionless as possible.”
Lorenz also addressed the underrepresentation of women in the tech workforce and shared insights from her own workplace journey. She stressed the importance for women to build networks, find mentors and “de-mystify the tech sector” to encourage more diverse and inclusive participation and foster the next generation of female leaders.
The event continued with a panel of small business owners who sell products and scale their operations on Amazon. Moderated by Jason Maghanoy, publisher at Maclean’s, the panel featured Laura Sultan, founder of Designs By Nature Gems, a handmade jewelry boutique; Stephen Aikman, founder of All Natural Advice Skincare, a leading organic skin care company; and Ish Chopra and Meenu Seda, co-founders of Gyrocopters, an electric scooters and hoverboards distributor.
Each entrepreneur shared their individual “aha moment”, where changing circumstances prompted innovative ways of thinking about how to keep their businesses growing, and related common challenges around scaling operations, upholding craftsmanship in an era of mass manufacturing, and navigating international markets. They discussed Amazon’s role in providing them with opportunities and support to reach new audiences and markets, compete with larger brands and nurture deeper customer relationships.
They also shared advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs, which ranged from the importance of producing high-quality products and understanding compliance and IP rights, to the necessity of growing mentorship networks and relentless perseverance (and resilience) in building—and growing—a business.
The evening concluded with a cocktail reception that provided an invaluable opportunity for networking and learning, and championed the entrepreneurial spirit driving Canada’s small businesses.