All I want for Christmas is a lemonade stand! At six years old, Mimi has a business plan.

Red Tape Awareness Week 2017  is wrapping up and, as in previous years, we celebrate by announcing the Golden Scissors award winners (awarded each year to a public servant or elected official who did the most to cut small business free from the tangled web of red tape restraining innovation, job creation and economic growth across this nation). On CFIB’s My Startup blog, however, we concentrating on another good news story!

We published a story on Wednesday about two young Ottawa-area girls who set up a lemonade stand beside the Rideau Canal only to be tangled up in government red tape. Now, our business counsellor extraordinaire, Cesar Gomez, will tell us about his niece’s foray into the business world via lemons and lemonade!


cesar-lemonade-stand-resizedIt was a balmy October, day when the Gomezs got together to have our annual Thanksgiving dinner. After having an amazing meal, our conversation turned towards Christmas and what Santa might bring the children.

My six year old niece whispered into her mother’s ear what it was she wanted most: a lemonade stand.

It was a proud moment for me. I love the spirit of entrepreneurship and it warmed my hear to hear my six-year-old niece was already thinking of her first business..

A week later, I talked to my niece about her next steps Here’s how she broke it down for me:

  • She gave me exact details of what her business card should look like
  • What colours her logo and overall design should be
  • She set the price for the lemonade stand
  • She would get started by selling to family
  • She named grandma as her business partner, since she had tasted her lemonade before
  • loyalty-card-with-captionShe knew she wanted to have a loyalty program, in her words: “Just like some cafes that you get a stamp and every 4th coffee is free… I want my customers to have that as well.”
  • She made plans to have security cameras in the future to ensure her staff is safe; and,
  • We would launch her business on Christmas, at the family dinner

She thought she would get a side table, where she could promote and offer her lemonade. We surprised her by giving her a real lemonade stand. We also provided her with a branded apron, along with posters, business cards and cups.

It was another important business lesson: surround yourself with people that believe in you!

And the result?

Never underestimate a small idea. She made $34.00 in one night, thanks to some pretty impressed customers. It was hard not to be. The marketing was on point: excellent promotion, attractive posters and this a six year old with big vision and a big heart.

Where do we go from here?

“Next time lets have a basket of cookies for our customers,” said my niece already thinking ahead .

From a lemonade stand to a restaurant, from a farm to a factory. We can all be entrepreneurs.

All it takes is an idea and the drive to follow through. You can achieve only what you believe you can.

Happy New Year!


CesarCesar Gomez-Garcia has been with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business for six years. His current role at the CFIB is helping members with their questions on compliance. These questions can range from employment standards to health and safety, as well as complicated red tape situations that small businesses face. His passion is reading and writing about entrepreneurship. Learn more about Cesar via LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter @josuegomezg.

Government red tape trips up kids’ lemonade stand

There’s nothing like a cool, refreshing glass of lemonade to quench your thirst on a hot day.

And it can be a great lesson in learning the value of money, hard work and running a small business too. At least, that was the idea when two young Ottawa-area girls set up a lemonade stand beside the Rideau Canal this past summer. Simple, right?

Unfortunately, the young entrepreneurs were quickly introduced to something Canada’s small business owners are all too familiar with: red tape. A mere two hours – and an impressive $52 – after opening, a National Capital Commission (NCC) officer informed the girls and their father that the median they’d set up their stand on was NCC property and they would need a permit to do business there.

Thankfully, this red tape story had a happy ending, with the NCC issuing a special permit for the lemonade stand, on the condition that one day’s worth of proceeds be donated to charity.

Looking for ways to get the young people in your life interested and involved in entrepreneurship? Check out VuKids an online series of business skills and financial literacy courses for kids created by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business in partnership with Vubiz and M is for Money author Teresa Cascioli.

Sustainability isn’t for later. 10 ways any business can build a more credible sustainability story

Sustainability isn’t a priority right now. We need a full sustainability strategy before we can start. I need to calculate what the ROI would be first. All of these are common objections to taking the first steps on any organization’s sustainability journey. In fact, credible sustainable action can be accomplished by organizations of any size and it doesn’t have to be costly or time-intensive. Additionally, there are a variety of programs available that are both cost-effective and have the potential to provide savings or even increased revenue. Further, when organizations become increasingly green-minded and communicate their initiatives, they often tap into a growing base of ethical consumers in Canada, increasing their bottom line.

At Bullfrog Power, we’ve been working with companies as large as RBC and as small as the start-up webstore run out of your home office. What connects all of them is a commitment to sustainability that is part of a much broader trend. Businesses increasingly understand that having a social purpose and contributing to the communities they work in are essential to building an authentic brand story and making real connections with customers.

Here are 10 ways that your business can build a more credible sustainability story.

Start small. The earlier you begin, the better. Choosing sustainable options, from green energy for a small home office to working with reputable, environmentally-conscious suppliers is much easier to accomplish and more cost effective for small businesses than large ones.

Register as a B Corporation. Join the ranks of the growing B Corporation movement that encourages companies to go through a rigorous questionnaire to assess the overall impact of your company on its stakeholders, the environment, workers and your community. Simply filling out the assessment will give you ideas on ways to green your business. You might be surprised by the results, and how sustainable your organization already is!

Conduct an energy audit. For those businesses that have a permanent home, consider an energy audit of your space. Knowing how much energy you use and where (i.e. which appliances/systems are the energy hogs) can help identify key ways to save money by saving energy.

Start the day right. That morning coffee isn’t always green. There are a lot of environmentally-friendly coffee alternatives to the waste created by many coffee pods. In our office, we use compostable coffee pods from Reunion Island and a coffee machine serviced by Office Coffee Solutions.

Waste opportunities. Think about where the waste in your office goes. Does your building have a recycling plan? What about biodegradables? If not, find creative solutions. In our office we work with Wastenot Farms to handle our organic waste through their pick-up service.

Listen to your employees. Learn about the causes that matter to your employees. Where do they already volunteer? Align your business with their interests and your brand story will become more authentic and community-directed.

Find issues relevant to your business. Understand your business, its impacts and its unique role in your community. As a green energy provider, Bullfrog Power works with community groups across Canada—such as schools, community centres and First Nations groups—to help their green energy projects become a reality. Today, community renewable projects are a core part of Bullfrog’s business and tangible examples of our work to advance renewable energy in Canada.

Spread the word. Build your social presence by helping to get the word out about causes important to your organization. Retweets don’t cost a thing!

Choose green energy. Climate change is now a mainstream concern and even the smallest businesses can take action to reduce their carbon footprint and support the development of green energy in Canada. Bullfrog Power offers products tailored to small businesses looking to make green energy part of their sustainability story.

Start today. A culture of sustainability is more easily developed in smaller organizations, but only if you take the first step.


anthony-santilliAnthony Santilli, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Bullfrog Power

As Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Anthony Santilli is responsible for growing Bullfrog’s commercial business and leading the strategic sales marketing team. Anthony brings deep expertise in sustainability, branding, and management consulting to his role, allowing him to help Bullfrog’s commercial customers integrate their sustainability goals into their overall business strategy. He also advises clients on best practices in communicating sustainability initiatives to internal and external stakeholders including employees, supply chain partners, and customers.

bullfrogpower_logo_jpegAbout Bullfrog Power:

Bullfrog Power, Canada’s leading green energy provider, offers renewable energy solutions that enable individuals and businesses to reduce their environmental impact, support the development of green energy projects in Canada and help create a cleaner, healthier world. As a Certified B Corporation, Bullfrog Power meets higher standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. Thousands of individuals and businesses in Canada are doing their part to address climate change and air pollution by choosing green energy with Bullfrog Power. Learn how Bullfrog Power works with small business.

Organizing your startup

Welcome back to your second edition a multi-part series on the topic of tasks you should be adding to your “start up to do list”. The tools we provide you will be either information, resources or food for thought. We want you to protect your business straight from the get go.

Last week we discussed starting your small business checklist, this week’s topic: organizing your startup. So let’s get started with continuing your checklist. Make sure to click the links for important how-to’s and expanded information.

☐ Do you have a mentor that can help you or your employees?
☐ Are you asking yourself if your business should be a sole proprietor, partnership or incorporated.
☐ Do you require resources to conduct market research?
☐ Who are your customers and what are their demographics?
☐ Have you identified what will make your idea unique, have you written your value proposition?

You may have missed our previous blog covering the first five tasks for your to do list. Catch up by clicking here.

And remember, take some time to share it with your social community using hashtag #MyStartUp #SmallBizChecklist.

As a Canadian independent business owner, you have support! Our Business Counsellors can help you with live one-on-one help and advice. If you haven’t yet, join 109,000 other entrepreneurs who belong to CFIB. If you’ve been in business for two years or less, you can join for free via CFIB’s My Startup program.


CCesaresar Gomez-Garcia has been with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business for six years. His current role at the CFIB is helping members with their questions on compliance. These questions can range from employment standards to health and safety, as well as complicated red tape situations that small businesses face. His passion is reading and writing about entrepreneurship. Learn more about Cesar via LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter @josuegomezg.

How to deal with returns, refunds and exchanges at your business

The holiday shopping frenzy has come to a close and with that comes a few headaches and hassles for small business owners, specifically retailers. It is no surprise, then, that at this time of year CFIB’s small business help line gets an uptick in calls about return and exchange policies. What are your rights? What are best practices? What are tips and tricks for handling long lines, which can result in disgruntled customers?

So what you do as an independent retailer? Are you required to have a return, exchange or refund policy?

This question prompted me to conduct research to determine if there are any provinces that required this practice as mandatory. As I suspected, most provinces do not have an “official” mandatory policy. You as a business owner must establish your own guidelines.

When establishing your return and exchange policy, you should ask yourself the following important questions:

  • Do my customers understand what is a final sale?
  • Do my customers receive a gift receipt – if so, what does that mean to the individual receiving the gift?
  • Can my customer return the product for their money back?
  • If my customers wish to exchange a product, what does the product need to have intact (price tag, receipt, etc.)?
  • Should I choose to issue a refund in a form of a store credit?
  • How do I rectify any complaints, if this was an online purchase?
  • Overall, how do I manage complaints, feedback and comments?

While considering this list of questions, do so with more than the immediate bottom line in mind. There are other important factors, such as:

  • How do I keep my brand and reputation intact?
  • What do I want the customer experience to be?
  • What can I do to ensure that returns/exchanges do not interfere with long-term or budding relationships?

In a Forbes article, Customer Experience is the Future of Marketing, Daniel Newman wrote “Marketing research has discovered that it takes 12 positive experiences to repair the damage caused by a single unresolved negative one. In today’s competitive business environment, even one negative experience is enough to lose a customer forever because people now are less tolerant toward poor encounters than ever before.”

With that in mind, here are 3 important areas to cover when forming your returns, refunds and/or exchange policy:

  • Clarity: Ensure your customers can see and read your policy (cash register, posted at store, on receipt, website online) and your employees fully understand what’s expected of them.
  • Trust: Perhaps the customer has lost their receipt, will you honour the request? Will it be case by case? Do you need to train employees?
  • Expectations: Some key items must be present, if you require them such as tag, receipt, within a period of time or same credit card/debit card etc.

Once you have a return, exchange or refund policy in place, honour it. Not honouring it can result in complaints to the Consumer Protection of your province.

Important Note: if you’re a member of the CFIB, contact your business counsellor to find out details about the Consumer Protection in your province.

If you’re not a member of the CFIB, click here to obtain details as to your local Consumer Protection office.


CesarCesar Gomez-Garcia has been with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business for six years. His current role at the CFIB is helping members with their questions on compliance. These questions can range from employment standards to health and safety, as well as complicated red tape situations that small businesses face. His passion is reading and writing about entrepreneurship. Learn more about Cesar via LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter @josuegomezg.

Canada Summer Jobs 2017: Deadline extended to February 3rd

As a startup business, you may be interested in hiring a student for the summer. Have you considered applying for the federal government program to alleviate the costs of hiring employees? Checkout the Canada Summer Jobs 2017. Created for employers with less than 50 employees.

Does your business fit one of the following categories?

  • bodies, incorporated or unincorporated, including partnerships and sole proprietorships
  • cooperatives
  • self-employed persons
  • Aboriginal organizations established on a “for-profit” basis
  • federal Crown corporations operating in a competitive environment and not ordinarily dependent on appropriations for operating purposes as indicated in Schedule III, Part II of the Financial Administration Act
  • provincial and territorial Crown corporations recognized as operating in a competitive environment and not ordinarily dependent on appropriations for operating purposes
  • private health and educational institutions; and
  • independent owners of franchises

In order to hire student, student must:

  • be between 15 and 30 years of age at the start of the employment
  • have been registered as full-time students in the previous academic year and intend to return to school on a full-time basis in the next academic year
  • be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or person to whom refugee protection has been conferred under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act; and
  • be legally entitled to work in Canada in accordance with relevant provincial or territorial legislation and regulations

Your application must be submitted by 23:59 (Pacific Standard Time), on February 3, 2017 (extended from January 20, 2017).

Read through our CFIB website to find out more.

Attention Canadian Entrepreneurs: Start Your Small Business Checklist here!

Like many people with an idea and ambition, there are probably a lot of questions running through your mind about diving into entrepreneurship. Financial resourcing, finding customers, creating a logo and building a website, are just a few examples. All questions that come to mind are not to be feared, but they have to be prioritized. Do not be afraid to admit that the journey to success can seem intimidating.

Starting a business can seem simple when you’re still in the concept stage. This is partly because many well-meaning friends and family like to offer advice like, “…it just takes registering a business, a website and social media accounts! Go for it!” There is, however, much more to it than that.

This is where I come in. I have heard from countless small business owners concerned about the impact that regulations make and the toll it takes on their daily operations – simply because they may not know where to start. Take for example, did you know that there are rules relating to marketing, advertising and sales?

So what can I offer you?

Over many years CFIB business counsellors have written amazing web posts regarding these issues. For the next several weeks, we will be providing you with a list of 7 important considerations that can help you regardless of how many years you have been in business .

Take some time to share it with your business friends and hashtag #MyStartUp #SmallBizChecklist.

Add this week’s topics to your to do list:

☐ Do you understand the rules relating to marketing, advertising and sales?

☐ Have you considered the risks if you post an image online without permission?

☐ Not sure where to begin with your social media? Click here.

☐ Do you understand what misleading advertising is?

☐ Do you need more information about Trademarks and Patents?

If you are a member of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and have questions regarding this information  call your regional business counsellor.

If you have been in business less than two years, sign up today for six months free membership to CFIB through the CFIB MyStartup program.


CesarCesar Gomez-Garcia has been with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business for six years. His current role at the CFIB is helping members with their questions on compliance. These questions can range from employment standards to health and safety, as well as complicated red tape situations that small businesses face. His passion is reading and writing about entrepreneurship. Learn more about Cesar via LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter @josuegomezg.

Thornhill Mega Networking Event

This networking event is ideal for entrepreneurs and business professionals looking to connect with other like-minded professionals in the Greater Toronto Area. Bring your business cards and be prepared to make plenty of new connections!

Thursday January 26, 2017 from 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM EST

Register Now!

Event  Agenda:

Morning Workshops run from 10:00am – 1:00pm
Networking Tradeshow runs from 1:00pm – 4:30pm

Morning Workshops:

Jill Schoenhofer, Well Connected
Vito Marchese, Constant Contact
Bob Weese, B2B Sales Connections
Followed by Q&A / Chat with the speakers

To view the full morning agenda, click here.

Early Bird (before Jan 6) $10+tax
Online, in advance: $20+tax
Day of Event / At the Door (Cash)
(if available): $40+tax
Use CFIB’s 50% discount code for all admission: CFIB

The Avenue Banquet Hall
1600 Steeles Ave West
Thornhill, ON L4K 3B9