Ask the Advisory Board

BCBusiness Advisory Board

Advice on teaming up with an accelerator, finding skilled labour and social media for small business

Q: “I keep hearing about the incubators that are helping B.C. entrepreneurs connect with mentors and cash. How can someone who doesn’t hang out in Gastown get their great tech business idea supported and land on an accelerator’s radar?” —Steve, White Rock

A: Maura Rodgers, Founder, Media Inc. and Launch Academy, a B.C. networking event for tech entrepreneurs

Top accelerators like GrowLab in Vancouver and TechStars in the U.S. receive applications from entrepreneurs all over the world. In fact, more than 50 per cent of GrowLab applicants have been from out of province. So you don’t have to hang out in Gastown to get your idea supported and funded. You do need to focus your energy on building a great team and product.

That said, I think you should take advantage of some of the networking and mentorship events in the city. Creating and nurturing relationships does matter and will help you attract talent, win customers and, ultimately, grow your business.

Q: “I’m having a hard time finding skilled labourers to work three-month-long stints in remote northern B.C. An acquaintance suggested I consider newly immigrated Canadians looking for opportunities. Where can I start looking?” —Richard, Maple Ridge

A: Kimberly Hall, Director, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, B.C. Division

Using newly immigrated foreign professionals is a great place to start because often these individuals are looking for opportunities to gain experience in a Canadian workplace. You can post jobs, free of charge, to many immigrant services societies such as MOSAIC, SUCCESS and ISSBC. The website lists several other potential partners that have access to skilled labour pools. If you contact these organizations directly, you can develop strong, mutually beneficial relationships.

Further to that, you could revisit your recruiting efforts to create a pull strategy for your job postings, clearly outlining why you’re an attractive employer for a challenging position to fill. Do you offer incentives such as a completion or referral bonus? Do you provide travel and accommodation?

These suggestions should help close your skilled-labour gap and guide you to building a new network of labour resources.

Q: ”I’m a local retailer specializing in garden and landscaping supplies in an isolated town in the Interior. We often have last-minute sales that we want to promote to towns within a 50-kilometre radius. What social-media channels work best for doing so?” —Carly, Nelson

A: Chris Staples, Founder, Rethink Communications Inc.

People won’t hear about your last-minute deals if they’re not connected with you. To grow your audience, you need to engage your existing fans.

Start with sharing content like garden ideas or tips in a way that’s visual, likeable and sharable. There are many platforms available that are perfect for this, like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

Here are three places you may have some low-hanging fruit:

Email list: Build a strong email database and share a newsletter of weekly deals with a local focus. Partner with businesses around you to share the cost and connect with their customer base.

Facebook: Pay to promote your posts when you have shared content that has resonated. For a small fee you can leverage the networks of your fans by paying to reach their friends.

Other paid media: For a surprisingly low cost, help your deals reach people who care about saving money by using deal-of-the-day sites, Facebook offers and promotions in popular e-newsletters. Alas, the social web isn’t the Field of Dreams. We can’t build something and expect people to come overnight, but try a few things, glean some learnings and constantly evolve.