George Sully standing with his arms crossed.
Business Growth
Min Read

The Power of a Network

Consider who you’re making connections with in your circle. The right people who share your creative vision, work ethic and success can help take your small business to new heights.

For entrepreneurs, the road to success looks like a lonely one. But it doesn’t have to be. And to reach your next level, goal — or whatever it is — it’s easier when you’re doing it with those supporting you. For a serial entrepreneur like me, I’ve found that your business is only as strong as the people you work with along the way.

Success is impossible to achieve on your own, and I’m no exception. A lot of people have helped me along the way to help turn Sully & Son Co. into one of Canada’s top premium accessory and footwear brands.

I want to share some of the lessons I’ve learned about surrounding yourself with the right people, both personally and professionally, and how networking and collaboration has helped me take Sully & Son to its next.

Tip 1:  Strategic Collaboration

Collaborations are an incredibly valuable way of introducing your brand to potential customers in new, unexplored demographics. Finding a brand that shares your values and is working towards the same goals as yours can be a challenge, but if you have a product or service you can stand behind, you’ll draw the attention of potential partners that will be a good fit.

It isn’t easy to find that perfect partner without having a solid grasp of what it is you do best. Find your thing and use it to stand out from the crowd. Because once you do – collaborations can really take your growth to another level.

There’s never a bad time for a brand to try and form a strategic partnership. As long as both parties can fulfill their part equally, there’s no question that it will be a mutually beneficial situation: a true win-win.

Tip 2: Bringing on your brand champions

It’s important when finding people to promote and grow your brand, that they actively want you to succeed as much as you do.

And when it comes to presenting your brand to the world, your brand champions become even more integral. Here are some tips I’ve learned about finding vendors and collaborators to work with to help make my brand shine.


When finding the right stylists for your products, try to seek out those with some good credentials. Stylists that have more experience tend to have more access to what we are constantly looking for the most, and that’s exposure. Most importantly, access to the right opportunities can lead to the right personality endorsements.

If you’re working with someone new and on the rise, just make sure you have great chemistry and that their hunger to prove themselves (and ultimately your brand) feels right.


There are thousands of talented photographers out there and choosing the right one for you might feel impossible. But that’s where social media can be your best friend. There’re plenty of professional photographers who use specific hashtags – such as #advertisingphotographer or #photoshoot – that could be a good avenue to finding someone you’d like to work with. On the flip side, your social pages are also a great way to showcase the creative vision of your brand to photographers interested in working with you.

Brand Reps

You can’t be multiple places at once, so when you’re able to find someone to carry your water in different markets, it can be a true game changer. Again, it’s about finding the right people who you jive with and get a good sense that they’re actively part of your team. Start by doing your research. You’ll be surprised what you can find online if you actually take the time to look. The fashion landscape is ever changing and so are the reps that are constantly looking for new product!

Press & PR

There are lots of ways to hustle and get your name out there. I know people who approach journalists, bloggers, and influencers in hope of getting your brand out there. I’m fortunate to be at a stage where I have a publicist who handles those matters for me now, but if you’re new to the industry, I suggest focusing on your social media and making sure its tight! These days press will come to you if you have the right stuff.

Tip 3: Support Networks


Having a supportive family network has benefits that go just beyond your business’s bottom line. When your family is in your corner cheering on your success, any challenge becomes more manageable. My family cheered me on from day one. They’re entrepreneurs themselves, they always got it and have supported me 100%.

But what about working with family? I think you can tell from the name of my company that I’m all about working with family. My son may only be two and a half, but I can already see the budding entrepreneur in him. I can’t wait to see where it takes him. They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and in this case, that couldn’t be truer! He’s well aware of what his daddy does for a living and he’s right there in the mix with me. I look forward to seeing his creative genius flourish regardless of the direction it takes him.


The business community is just that — a community. That means there are a wealth of resources to help business owners manage challenges, get advice, and find collaborators. Finding that community and the tools that come with it is a definite key to success.

It’s a different landscape now. When I started out, there was a lack of information; a lack of knowledge. But resources like DHL Mentorship are special because it’s information, tips, and advice coming from people who’ve been there before. It’s the coolest thing to get that type of information readily available to people like myself who are always learning, listening, and trying to find a better way to do what we do.

Tip # 4 Networking, Networking, Networking

Surrounding yourself with knowledgeable, supportive, and like-minded people is a major step towards finding your next. The power of connecting with people and growing your network cannot be overstated.  The vision for your business may come from one person, but the more people who share it, the more likely you are to succeed.

About the Author

FGI Visionary Award Winner, George Sully is best known as the original maker of the Star Trek Discovery Starfleet boot. Sully is also a Bata Shoe Museum inductee, the creator of Black Designers of Canada, and co-founder of House of Hayla and his newly minted accessory brand Sully & Son Co., which can be found in both Hudson’s Bay and Harry Rosen.

Learn more about George Sully at Sully & Son Co. or on Instagram at @realgeorgesully

Business coach Kelsey Reidl tips for small business marketing
Business Growth
Min Read
Top 5 Tips for Small Business Marketing Success

If you’re feeling stuck when it comes to growing your small business and reaching more customers, I just want you to know you're not alone.

Every small business goes through their ups and downs and faces their unique challenges, but it's how we respond during those tough times that really matters.

Uncertainty, anxiety and moments of feeling ‘stuck’ can be a great opportunity to take stock of your business and make changes that will help you grow and move out of your current rut.

Here are 5 tips for getting out of your funk when things get hard in the small-business world:

1. Tell your story, share the ‘why’ behind your business and bring your customers behind-the-scenes.

Having a personal connection is one of the most important factors in building customer loyalty and fostering relationships, so don't be afraid to let your guard down and share some of your personality with the world. It could be the key to success for your small business.The key is authenticity — especially in this day and age.

Some ideas on how you can do this include:

  • Sharing the story of why you do what you do on podcasts, social media (Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.), blog posts or other relevant forums.
  • Document the behind-the-scenes of a real day in the life of running your business. Your customers will find it relatable and interesting to see you in your element
  • Update the “about us” section of your website to include points of connection and to harness the emotions of your readers. Dig deep and share who you are and why you started your business.

2. Pay attention to current events, relevant themes and ongoing conversations occurring around Canada and the world, and consider how you can align your product or service against them.

Whether it’s going through your Twitter feed before you start the day, listening to daily news recap podcasts in the morning, or having a subscription to a newspaper, it's important for small business owners to keep an ear to the ground. Not only will this help you understand what's happening in your industry and the global market, but it can also help you position your business against them.

For example, if there's a global event like The Olympics happening, consider showcasing some of the products or services that relate to peak performance, training or preparing for such a big event.

Or, if there's an upcoming holiday like Valentine's Day, consider which of your products or services are giftable.

Keep your eyes open and stay ahead of the game — it could mean all the difference for your business.

3. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new strategies, while doubling down on the ones that are already effective.

If you’re not seeing the growth you're hoping for this year, it might be time to experiment with new marketing and business strategies.

Don’t be afraid to fail forward. Even if a new initiative you put into place doesn’t give you the results you were hoping for, at least you’ll have learned that much more about your business (and what does and doesn't work).

As many businesses — large and small — have invested more in their digital offerings, consider following suit with more online marketing tools, like posting TikTok videos, writing weekly blogs or creating content for your Facebook group.

Or maybe there’s an opportunity to experiment with in-person workshops, partnerships with other local businesses or writing a column in a local newspaper. You will never know what the magic formula is until you begin experimenting. There might be something that massively increases awareness of your business that you haven’t even considered yet.

Start with a brainstorm and don't be afraid to take a risk or three. Your small business will thank you.

4. Use The Relationships Matrix™  to explore new connections.

Using this matrix, finding leads and exploring partnership opportunities becomes less worrisome and much easier to do.

It’s like looking through a microscope at all of your business growth leads — one where all of your prospects are made visible right in front of you. Here’s a visual of what The Relationships Matrix™ looks like:

You’re simply exploring potential:

  • Dream clients or customers — people who are likely to shop with you
  • Industry peers — small businesses with complimentary services or adjacent brands who you could cross-promote with
  • Strategic partners — large organizations that could endorse your small business

And you’ll consider each of these categories in terms of Past, Present and Future.

  • Past - who are people from the past that fit this category?
  • Present - who are people that you’re currently connected to that fit this category?
  • Future - who is on your ‘dream connection’ list and where do they hang out?

Download a free template to start filling out The Relationships Matrix™, click here.

5. If you’re still feeling stuck, ask yourself: “When was the last time I had fun with my business?”

Believe it or not, having more fun with your daily tasks can actually help increase productivity and encourage new ideas.

Get silly on your social media, encourage your employees to take a mid-day dance break, and have conversations with customers with the goal of surprising and delighting them.

Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and infuse more fun and play into your workday to try something different — you may be surprised at just how successful you can be by increasing the joy-factor in what you’re already doing.

When your business is stuck or stagnant for too long, it can feel like there’s no way out.

But if we take a step back and assess our current situation objectively, we may find that these tough times are an opportunity for change, to make positive changes, and get on track again.

Be sure to connect with me on Instagram @kelseyreidl and let me know which strategy was the most helpful to you and your business.


About The Author

After a decade of working with some of Canada’s top food brands, Kelsey is now the founder of Visionary, Inc., where she provides clarity and easy-to-follow frameworks for those who are looking to take an entrepreneurial leap in their own life.

Her signature weekly business coaching mastermind called The Visionary Method™ is a place for motivated, driven & growth-minded individuals to receive expert mentorship while they launch their next side hustle or business.

Kelsey also hosts a Top Podcast on the Canadian Entrepreneurship Charts called Visionary Life. In each episode, she chats with online business owners, brand builders, marketers and entrepreneurs to dissect their success and their wisdom.

Kelsey lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband and rescue pup, Abby.

Jill Van Gyn reflects on aquiring Fatso and the work to expand the brand - all while looking forward to USA expansion
Going Global
Min Read
What’s next for Fatso? Expanding their appetite and their business into the US.

It all started after a year and a half of being unemployed. Thirty-five years old, a Master’s degree, and no job prospects in sight. In 2013, I set out to make good on a promise I had made to myself after I got my political science degree — I wanted to work for an international organization somewhere far away and do some good with my life.

Well, life happens, doesn’t it? I had been job hunting for far too long and was close to throwing in the towel. I took a job trying to help franchise a local health food restaurant to pay the bills. Not my dream job but time was running out to make a move.

That’s where I found Fatso. We were selling it at the restaurant and the feedback from customers was incredible. Fatso, incredibly delicious peanut butter that was enriched with all sorts of good fats including MCT oil, coconut oil, chia and flax, was selling like hot cakes! The name was brilliant, the formulation was a solid concept, but the business owners were not doing it justice.

One day I got a call from a fellow retailer who knew how much I loved the brand. They told me that the business was going under, and this was my chance to rescue it. I snapped up the company (or at least the recipe, materials, list of suppliers, and the name) for the price of a used car. Fatso as we know it today was born, and I started the long uphill climb towards relaunching the brand.

Let me be clear, I had no idea what I was doing. I had no experience in business or peanut butter for that matter. All I knew was that this little peanut butter had legs and I had to make the best of it. Thankfully, I had a solid background in research owing to my graduate degree, so I set off to figure out how to build a business, starting with a Google search: “how to start a business.”

First off was the minutiae of business: the business licence, the insurance, the trademarking, and incorporation. Then I dug into the fun stuff: I reformulated the recipe for scalability with the help of a nutritionist, solidified a co-packer (making it myself was sticky business, to say the least), rebuilt the retail relationships, and launched a new and improved social media presence and website.

For the first two years I learned the ups and downs (there were many downs) of running this business. I demoed my product every weekend for two years straight, knowing that if I could just get this peanut butter in people’s mouths, they would buy it. I was right. The sales began to grow and with the sales came new listings from bigger retailers. Before I knew it, I had a viable and growing business, and I was able to look in my rear-view mirror knowing I had made the right move.

Today, Fatso is a national brand, and it’s still growing. We are in stores right across the country, including Whole Foods, Sobeys, and Loblaws. We now have two nut butter lines, including three peanut butters and three almond and seed butters. It has been 5 incredible years. We still have a lot of work to do in Canada, but now it is time to turn our attention to a new market, the United States.

The US market for a brand like mine is incredibly seductive. The market, the opportunity, and the stakes are enormous. The state of California alone is equivalent to the entire Canadian market. The money to be made in the US is truly what drives brands to reach across the border. Incredibly successful brands like RX Bar, Smart Sweets, and Skinny Pop have hammered the US market and achieved exits that land in the hundreds of millions. All you need is skyrocketing growth, unimaginable success, and no missteps, right? The thinking for many brands is, “if it can work in Canada, it can work in the US.” And, oh, how the mightily ambitious can fail.

The sheer size of the US market is the critical problem here. Supply chain demands can be crippling, massive POs with late payout dates can bankrupt you, and a single misstep, like an ingredient recall or packaging issue can blacklist you in an instant. Canadians continue to see the US market as just a bigger Canadian market. This is truly the first mistake Canadian brands will make. The Pacific Northwest is like another country compared with the likes of Texas. California simply can’t be compared to Pennsylvania, Illinois, or Idaho.  Each region must be approached with a unique eye for the market and an understanding of what will work and what won’t work. Has Fatso achieved this? Truthfully, that remains to be seen. What we do know is we cannot superimpose our “Canadian-ness” onto a market like Texas because that simply won’t translate.

However, if you can enter the US and do it well, with an eye to sustainable growth, then the wins are limitless. The ability to grow your brand in one of the biggest consumer markets on the planet offers the ability to fully realize your brand potential. Of course, revenue growth is top of mind, but it also offers the potential for new product development, interesting brand collaborations, and new sales channels.

The US offers a unique opportunity for not just Canadian brands, but brands from around the globe that put all their chips on the table to vie for a spot on their shelves. The US market drives consumer trends, demands, and insights. We continually look to the US for innovation, particularly in the CPG food space, to see what the next big thing is going to be and what is going to drive the future. This is why brands with big ambitions want to test their metal in such a risky market. If you can make it in the US, your work is essentially done. The payoff is huge, the potential is real, and the sense of validation of ‘having made it’ can be found on the shelves in the US.

So, what is next for Fatso? We are among the ambitious, the bold and the risk-takers. However, we are keenly aware that we must take a sustainable approach. Fatso has started with the region that feels most like home: the Pacific Northwest. We understand this market. As a British Columbia- based brand, these are our people! In many ways we understand people from Seattle and Portland better than we do people from Toronto. Our strategy is to start on the west coast and expand from there. The California market certainly puts stars in our eyes, but we aim to grow as sustainably as possible.

We’ve always tried to practice the principle of “Inch-Wide, Mile Deep” — saturate each market before moving on to the next. We can try to practice this principle in theory, but the US market has a way of taking you on a bit of a roller coaster ride. One minute you’re in Whole Foods in Washington state and the next you’re getting listings out of Texas. It can be difficult to reign back in.

We feel that Fatso is ready for a US expansion and that the US market is ready for us. Over the next three years, we hope to move our brand down the coast into California and into parts of the midwest. I don’t know if it leads us to a big exit or if we simply continue to grow as a lifestyle brand and keep it in the family. What I do know is that the journey will be full of excitement, both predicted and unpredicted. We will have missteps, but we will have huge wins too. The only way to find out what the temperature of the water is to dip your toe in.


About the Author

Jill Van Gyn founded Fatso in 2016. She ran the business for a full 2 years as a solo entrepreneur before building her team in 2018. Today, Fatso is a nationally recognized Canadian brand that has expanded into the US through retail and e-commerce. In 2020, Fatso made the Maclean’s and Canadian Business Growth 500 List and in 2021 Jill was Business BC's Entrepreneurial Lead winner. Jill runs her business from the family farm in the Blenkinsop Valley where she lives with her husband, Chris, and 2-year old son, Remy. She is a passionate advocate for a range of social justice issues and aims to use her business as a platform for change.

Learn more about Jill Van Gyn at or on Instagram at @eatfatso

Tyler Hayward talks taking quality product photos for your business without breaking the bank.
Business Growth
Min Read
Levelling Up your Product Photography From Home

Photos make a huge impact on your e-commerce store, especially when your reach is beyond the city you live in and in-person retail is limited. When e-commerce photography is done well, it mostly goes unnoticed, but when done poorly, it stands out like a sore thumb.

E-commerce can be intimidating, and you might think you need fancy studio lights and highly technical knowledge to make your products shine, but let’s work with what you have and use some simple settings to get you going and level up your images.

Two things I want to stress about product photography is accuracy and uniformity. When I visit a site, images should be consistent in colour, exposure and cropped correctly. When viewing an item, the customer should receive it exactly as they see it, which is why accuracy in colours and scale is so important.

iPhones are powerful tools, and in some circumstances, you can get by with it to take photos. However, I’d still recommend a camera (whether that’s an old DSLR or a hand-me-down) that lets you have full manual control over settings to make this a bit easier. We’ll stay away from full auto mode here, and I’ll guide you through shooting manually.

The great thing about photography is, regardless of the camera, these principles are transferable among any system. Here are 5 strategies and settings to consider to make your images seamless and help sell your products:

*All images are straight out of camera with no retouching or editing unless stated

1. How to frame your products

Let's say you start with your kit lens included with your camera (generally an 18-55mm), you’ll want to zoom in (closer to 55mm) to avoid distortion and compress your subject. This will more accurately capture the scale of your product and allow you to have a smaller area of background to shoot on. The focus is placed on your subject and avoids any distractions in your space. Here, I’ve taped some white paper up against the wall and on top of a small table for my simple background.

2. When to take advantage of your window for soft, natural light

Take advantage of natural light if you’re not able to invest in studio or off-camera lighting. You’ll want to turn off any lights in your room to avoid colour cast or pollution and put your subject close to a window (no more than 2m away or the fall off from the light will be too dark). This works great on an overcast day, or if you have indirect sunlight. Try using a thin white bed sheet if you have direct sun to diffuse that harsh light.

I would use another piece of paper on the opposite side of the window beside your subject to fill in the shadows created by the single source window. Larger items will present more of a challenge here, so you might have to get creative.

3. How to maximize sharpness

The “f/“ number correlates to the size of the opening in your lens or what is known as the aperture. Lower numbers, like f/2,  denote a larger opening that lets more light into the lens However, this will result in shallower depth of field, such as less things being in focus.

You’ll generally want to use a higher number here (a smaller aperture) to make the opening smaller (try f/5.6, 8, 11) to maximize the sharpness of your product and retain more things in focus.

This will depend on how much light you have to work with as well, so having a tripod setup can be very helpful. It will help to keep everything consistent in the same place for uniformity and help avoid any camera shake from slow shutter speeds.

Using the 2-second timer here helps as well to avoid you pressing the shutter button and inadvertently shaking your camera during the exposure.

Turning on grids if your camera allows it will also help with getting things lined up in camera.

4. Getting the right exposure

I like to err on the side of overexposure. You can use the highlight clipping function or look at the histogram to make sure your background is bright, but you don’t want your product blown out. Alternatively your camera should have a meter in the viewfinder or on the back of the screen in the bottom centre with a “0” in the middle. This lets you know how close to an even exposure you are. If the arrow is to the right, you’re overexposing, and if to the left, you’re under-exposing.

ISO is the sensitivity to light of your camera sensor. Lower numbers, like 100 are generally preferable as you maintain sharper and cleaner images. That said, don’t be afraid to experiment and  increase them as cameras these days can handle noise quite well.  I would avoid too high ISOs, so consider staying below 1600 for the noise. Lower ISOs will produce better quality images. You can see in the above images I chose to use ISO 400, which let me use the ideal settings I was looking for. Since we are at the mercy of whatever the light might be like that day and we may want to use a smaller aperture, our ISO and shutter speed are going to be flexible. This is why having a tripod is helpful for those slow shutter speeds.

5. White balance and colour accuracy

I like to get things as close as possible in camera to avoid more work in post-production later. I would recommend setting your white balance to a fixed preset, ie. daylight to avoid colour shift variations that would occur if you were to leave it in auto and shoot multiple products. Having a grey card to set a custom WB here is preferred, but that’s a little more advanced. You want to have as neutral a WB as possible to avoid your product looking too blue or yellow.

If you do plan on editing your images afterward as well (which I would recommend), shooting on RAW if your camera allows it is necessary for the most information to be there when you do so. If you’re shooting only on jpeg, your images are already being compressed and will lack the latitude needed in post.

6. Iphone tips

Understandably, if all you have access to is an iPhone or smartphone camera, here are a couple of tips to help you out.

  • I would still recommend a tripod in this case for consistency, you’ll usually need a phone holder that can attach to an existing tripod.
  • Overlay grids when shooting in your camera app to keep things straight.
  • Turn your flash off auto and keep it off while shooting products.
  • Use the telephoto lens if your phone has one. (Don’t digitally zoom in)
  • In terms of exposure, my biggest tip is using the autofocus / auto exposure lock while shooting. This is usually done by pressing and holding your finger down on the object you’re focusing on for a short while and it should lock focus and exposure on that one spot. You can slide your finger up and down additionally to brighten or darken the image. I would shoot all my products after setting up that first shot for the greatest consistency.


About the Author

Tyler Hayward is a lifestyle and commercial photographer based out of Toronto, Canada, specializing in portraiture.

Born and raised in the city, Tyler has been telling visual stories in both film and digital for over 10 years. A self-taught photographer inspired by his community and peers, Tyler is keenly focused on education and collaborating with creatives in the city. He has formerly worked as the lead in-house photographer for both Canadian sneaker boutique Livestock and global fine jewelry brand Mejuri.

Learn more about Tyler at or on Instagram at @tilore

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