Shifthub, "Extreme Startups" Finalist, Launches as Business Solution
Entrepreneur Jeremy Potvin has spent the last two-and-a-half years, along with his co-founder James Woods, developing Shifthub, a cloud-based staff scheduling and communication platform for managing work forces. Potvin, CEO and co-founder, talked to Promogram Canada about the developments in Shifthub, how it can benefit the promotional industry and what customers can expect from it in the future.
Promogram Canada: When and how did you get started with Shifthub? How did you come up with the idea?
Jeremy Potvin: When I owned a small chain of outlet stores, my managers constantly complained about staff scheduling. There are so many options for business solutions, while the schedule was still stuck to a corkboard, all scratched out with arrows all over the place. I mapped out Shifthub on paper and I went through a series of partners, building it very slowly. Then my friend James Woods, who thought of the name, came aboard as a co-founder.
The employees are the key to this whole system. They're the ones the managers have to get to work on time, the ones they have to communicate with. We have a very fast system for creating a schedule. When you publish it through us, it pushes out to everyone's mobile phones and they can get it by text message. Once they have it in their hands, the employees can pick up the schedule at any time and look at what they have coming up over the next couple weeks. If they see a conflict, they tap on the conflict day, tap the Offer button and it pushes into our Shift Exchange where all available employees will get a notification. Whoever wants it can grab it, and the manager can approve or deny it. These are things you can't get from Excel or a piece of paper.
We're not only building tools that make it easier for the employee to grab their schedule, ask for shift changes and schedule time off; we're also giving them the ability to build their own professional profile that moves with them from job to job, so they can show a potential employer their great record, like punctuality, time and attendance, anything they want to share.
We spent two-and-a-half years just trying to take it to market. Xtreme Labs invested in us initially and built out our mobile platform because they really believed in this. Startups are tough. It's not for the faint of heart. I've been living just above starvation level and trying to make this happen. But I believe that if you aren't willing to risk everything, you shouldn't do it.
Promogram Canada: Tell us about Extreme Startups and what it's meant for your expansion.
JP: The Extreme Startups program accepts a bunch of new businesses and offers mentors, resources, financing and an office. In August 2012, we applied and were one of the five finalists. There was $50,000 up-front in initial funding and there'll be an additional $150,000 at the end of the three-month program, plus they lined us up with government grants and new investors. It's given us the opportunity to focus as a team and make the right connections. From August to now, we're doing more than we did in the last couple years. We know we have something really unique - we want to build a half-billion-dollar company.
Promogram Canada: What have you learned from business successes and failures?
Promogram Canada: How do you balance risk and reward?
JP: I gravitate toward risk. I've had companies since I was 16 years old. I love the freedom. I don't look at next week's bills; I ask, what can I do right now, two years, five years down the road? I love building big things. Risk sometimes is the reward for me. Money motivates me too. I love building companies and making money and seeing it all come through the front door.
Promogram Canada: How can Shifthub work for small and medium-sized businesses? What do you offer that's different from competitors' services?
JP: We offer simplicity. We're focusing on the Small and Medium Business (SMB) market, which makes up 95% of companies. They need a simple tool. There are tons of players at the enterprise level and a high cost of entry. We are very low-cost, lower than any competitor. The key is it's simple to use. And when our new user interface comes out in a few weeks, it's going to blow everyone away. You can do your whole schedule with one click and be up and running within minutes.
To reach Jeremy Potvin e-mail: email@example.com.
Canada Sportswear Expands Toronto Manufacturing Facilities
Canada Sportswear (asi/43682) has expanded its manufacturing facilities in Toronto to meet the increase in demand for domestically made products. "As part of our expansion, we've added the capability to produce seam-sealed, waterproof outerwear," says Ron Brownstein, general manager of the company. "We now have the equipment to make seam-sealed items, which has been great for meeting the demand for Canadian-made goods."
This year, the supplier has also introduced a Canadian Custom In-Stock program for customers who require quick turnarounds or cannot meet minimums. Three key items, including a Melton peacoat, polyester fleece varsity hoodie and 100% cotton golf shirt, are available in-stock in the customs department and are available for immediate delivery.
"We make it easy for custom manufacturing," says Brownstein. "We offer fast turnarounds, large graphics capabilities and storyboards for our clients, and we're professional at what we do." For more information, visit www.canadasportswear.com.
Premiums Plus Opens Office in Newtown, PA
Premiums Plus (asi/79383) has opened a new U.S. sales office in Newtown, PA, and has named Jay Ostrow vice president of sales & marketing. Ostrow has over 15 years of experience in sales, marketing and technology, and was an integral part of the launch of ASI Canada. To contact Jay Ostrow, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.premiums-plus.com.
iPROMOTEu Welcomes New Distributor Affiliates
In September, Counselor Top 40 distributor iPROMOTEu (asi/232119) officially expanded into Canada to offer distributors the opportunity to join the company as independent affiliates. iPROMOTEu finances orders, provides back-office support, negotiates special pricing with suppliers, offers sales and marketing tools and allows distributors to diversify in the print industry by offering expertise in their print and packaging division. Affiliates continue to own and operate their distributorships independently with their own company name and identity.
Recently, iPROMOTEu welcomed Kelly Knight, president of Kaycee Promotions & Design in Winnipeg, MB, and Yamila Gonzalez, president and owner of Auka Impex in Mississauga, ON, to the network of affiliates in Canada.
"The reception has been very positive from both distributors and suppliers," says Samantha Gotlib, director of marketing and business development at iPROMOTEu. "We're excited to offer this much-needed service to Canada, and know that it will be just as widely received there as it has been in the U.S."
Coming in at number 20 on Counselor's Top 40 list for 2012, iPROMOTEu reported annual sales of $74.7 million for 2011.
Boomerang Marketing Moves to New Location
Boomerang Marketing has moved to 131 Citation Drive, Units 22-24, Concord, ON, L4K 2R3. Phone and fax numbers as well as e-mail addresses will remain the same. For more information, visit www.boomerangmarketing.ca.
BrandAlliance Locations Awarded Premier's Award for Healthy Workplaces
Counselor Top 40 distributor BrandAlliance (asi/145177) has announced that the company's Alberta units (Calgary, Edmonton and Grande Prairie) have been given the Premier's Award for Healthy Workplaces for the third consecutive year. The award recognizes businesses that provide strategies, initiatives, policies and programs for promoting employee health and well-being on a daily basis.
New to Counselor's Top 40 list in 2012, the company is ranked in the number 30 spot, with $44.8 million in sales.
Starline Aids in Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts
Starline (asi/89213) has donated over 100 flashlights and lanterns to the SAAGNY Foundation for those still affected by the aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy. The SAAGNY Board of Directors continues to receive e-mail updates regarding items still needed in the hardest-hit communities. For more information, please contact Cindy Soles, vice president of sales, at email@example.com, or call (905) 669-5250 x4388.
Redwood Classics Featured on CBC's "The BIG Decision"
"We've survived two recessions," says Kathy Cheng, director of sales and marketing for Redwood. "What's motivated us is a drive to sustain the Canadian garment manufacturing industry and the local craftsmen who produce apparel that's of a quality far superior to the offshore alternative. We're pleased that the CBC has chosen our success story as one that should be told."
Full Line Specialties Welcomes Cyrene Beavis
Full Line Specialties (asi/199688) has hired Cyrene Beavis as a marketing consultant. Beavis has over 20 years of experience in promotional products sales. Beavis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Promotional Elements Inc. Names Jack Hancocks to Sales Team
Promotional Elements Inc. (asi/300786) has welcomed Jack Hancocks back to the company's sales team. Hancocks has extensive industry experience and is a regular contributor to marketingedge magazine. He will be responsible for developing new business opportunities. Contact Jack Hancocks at email@example.com or call (519) 503-6261.
Pedigree Hires Daryl Bishop
Pedigree (asi/71107) has appointed Daryl Bishop as sales representative in British Columbia. Bishop has many years of experience in the industry and will represent both the headwear and winter gear product categories. For more information, visit www.pedigree.ca.
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