OBAA 2019 Finalists: Young Entrepreneur of the Year AwardNovember 1, 2019
Since 1983, The Ontario Business Achievement Awards (OBAAs) has been the most recognized industry gala in the province with a single focus on celebrating business success. Throughout the evening, we will celebrate our spectacular Ontario business community, highlighting the incredible innovations and achievements of each one of our 2019 OBAA finalists. Join us on Thursday, November 14 as we reveal our winners at Beanfield Centre in Toronto!
Presenting: The Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award
The Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award recognizes an Ontario entrepreneur who has successfully built a unique and game-changing venture.
Finalist #2: Intuitive Shipping Inc.
Industry: Shipping Solutions
When did your organization first open its doors? What motivated you to get into business?
Intuitive Shipping launched on November 15th, 2017, though our journey started nearly a decade prior. A question I get asked daily is “why shipping?”. What’s interesting is that while we operate in the shipping space, our software is a hybrid between marketing and insurance software; we give online merchants the ability to charge their customers the right price for shipping at checkout. The result? Predictable profits on every transaction, and the confidence to scale globally.
Personally, I’m 6′ tall, so I have always struggled with finding clothes that fit my body. I could typically find them in USbased stores online, though they either wouldn’t ship to Canada or the cost to ship was sometimes twice the cost of the item I intended to buy. It wasn’t until my mid-20’s that I recognized the gap; these online stores don’t have the ability to charge their customers the right price for shipping at checkout. As a result, they are unable to sell to certain locations, or simply overcharge for shipping to ensure they won’t incur a loss at the Post Office. This problem gets in the way of thousands of online stores from being able to reach their full potential. This is what drives me to push further every day.
In 2011, my co-founder/CTO/husband, Joel, was going night skiing with a friend who needed more control with how his customers were charged for shipping at checkout. His friend was continually charging an incorrect amount for shipping and would regularly be eating into his well-earned profits to cover some of the customers’ shipping costs. Joel decided to build a solution and place it for sale in the OpenCart Extension Store. Within the next 4 years, what was known as Advanced Shipping PRO (ASPRO) became the top rated App in its class until the OpenCart ecommerce platform lost market traction.
In late 2016, with our son Theodore barely 2-months-old, we decided to pivot and build ASPRO for the fastestgrowing ecommerce platform in the world; Shopify. On November 15th, 2017, Intuitive Shipping officially launched in the Shopify App Store.
Smaller shops, including my own parents, use Intuitive Shipping to protect their profits at checkout. Larger, established companies such as Fortnite, Elderly Instruments, and State Bicycle use us to do the same.
When factors helped contribute to the success of your organization?
Pace, Teamwork, Network, and a Genuine Hustle.
Entrepreneurship is touted in the media as glamorous, but it’s not until you’re in the game that you realize how much grit it takes to persevere. While you have to act fast, it’s equally as important to pace yourself because the entrepreneurship journey is a marathon, not a sprint. We’ve made a conscious effort to say “no” to anything that is not within our mission and vision, and we’ve acknowledged it’s okay to take a weekend off to recuperate.
We are nothing without our team, and collaboration has made us infinitely better than we would be otherwise. One of my core competencies is building great teams, and I’ve done just that at Intuitive Shipping. We work closely with our team and encourage them to voice their concerns and ideas so we can offer the best service and product. We regularly pull different departments into meetings they would usually not be involved in, and this has been a huge benefit to our growth; we always get to see multiple perspectives.
We have an incredible network that supports us in everything we do, and part of that network is our family and friends. My co-founder is my husband, and together, we own 100% of the company and pay ourselves low salaries to grow the company. We also have a toddler, and without our families who generously watch our son when we are at evening events or at conferences, I don’t know how we would have made it this far.
Most days, time escapes us. Most weeks, I blink and it’s Friday already. We genuinely love what we do and we ensure the time we’re putting into our business is quality time. Time will pass regardless of if you’re doing something you love, so you may as well hustle for your dream.
How does your organization positively contribute to Ontario’s economy?.
Since February 2018, Intuitive Shipping has created 6 full-time careers in Niagara, all paid above the living wage. In regards to trade, with over 83% of our userbase located outside of Canada, we export our service to over 1000 merchants worldwide. Further to this, we empower small business owners to open their stores to the global market. If merchants can charge the right price for shipping at checkout, they can confidently sell to anyone in the world and maintain their margins.
On September 28th, we are launching our ‘Starter Plan’ at the Experience Your Life expo, which will be available to students of post-secondary institutions worldwide. This plan includes up to 1000 orders for $14.99 and will give them the ability to control costs and be their own boss.
What does being an OBAA finalist mean to you?
More than anything, being an OBAA finalist has forced us to sit down and reflect on all that we have accomplished. We have spent the better part of 3 years climbing a mountain and working to keep climbing higher, but it’s so rare that we take the opportunity to reflect on all of the work that has gotten us to this point. We have built software that organically attracted some of Shopify’s largest merchants, and we also calculate shipping for my parents’ handmade shop, Beau Cadeau. We have worked our asses off, yes, but we are also extremely lucky to be in our shoes.
We have attended pitch workshops, and each pitch coach has warned us to not publicize the fact that we are husband and wife co-founders. “Use your maiden name”, they would suggest, but we didn’t listen. Being an OBAA finalist solidifies the fact that a solid founding team doesn’t always look the same and that it’s okay to go against the status quo. If you believe something in your gut, listen to it; maybe you’ll shape the future of e-commerce with your best friend.
“Understanding our customers and their needs has been the key to achieving exceptional product/market fit, and we will continue to listen and value their feedback as we scale.”
Sharon Reeds, Co-founder & CEO
Finalist #1: iLobby Corp
Industry: Enterprise Visitor Management
When did your organization first open its doors? What motivated you to get into business?
While iLobby’s story began at its Toronto headquarters in 2015, it wasn’t until CEO Ariel Mashiyev joined iLobby in 2017 that the company would start to see the rapid growth and adoption of the platform. Mr. Mashiyev was drawn to the huge potential for the iLobby visitor management solution to become a platform to address complex inefficiencies and solve deeper business issues. While most competitors offered “off-the-shelf” software as a one-size-fits-all visitor management solution, Mr. Mashiyev envisioned opportunities within the enterprise market where strict regulations and corporate policies prevented competitors from offering a feasible alternative.
The app was originally developed as a digital sign-in kiosk for their client’s reception area, but it quickly became evident that there was a large demand for this solution as, at the time, the vast majority of offices and facilities were still keeping paper logbooks in order to track who was entering and leaving their building – a manual process for record keeping that proved cumbersome and time-consuming to review during audits or emergencies.
Mr. Mashiyev is driven by challenges and was excited to tackle designing a solution that solves legitimate business issues and impacts the day to day operations of large clients. Leveraging technology in order to bring about a new level of security and automation in buildings, he led the complete redevelopment of the platform from the ground up in order to meet the needs of enterprises. The result was a turnkey, “white glove” solution that streamlined the complex task of authenticating, validating, and logging the movement of visitors, contractors, employees, and deliveries – all into one simple-to-use solution.
Mr. Mashiyev’s new direction allowed iLobby to forge its path as a global leader in enterprise visitor management. And today, iLobby has become an integral part of day-to-day processes in Fortune 500 companies and major institutions, such as Toronto Pearson International Airport, Scotiabank, Canada Post, Manulife, Pepsi, Netflix, CBC, Unilever, LG, and many more.
Mr. Mashiyev and his team continue to develop more robust solutions by working side by side with industry leaders in access control, physical security, safety and site management to deliver fully integrated systems. iLobby continues to find new and innovative ways to solve complex problems, and to build solutions that support business activities through an array of cloud-based services and hardware components (kiosks and tablets) deployed at client sites. At the core, iLobby’s key differentiator is that the company goes beyond a software product, to offer a full-service solution to help meet the complex needs of the industries and clients that we serve.
Mr. Mashiyev continues to spearhead the companyʼs market evolution, and to inspire his team to continuously break new records month after month. As technology evolves at a rapid rate, Mr. Mashiyev continues to challenge the status quo and is relentless in his determination to build out his vision.
What does being an OBAA finalist mean to you?
I am honoured to be nominated as a finalist for the OBAA Young Entrepreneur of the Year. iLobby has seen tremendous growth in just the past 2 years, and this nomination is an acknowledgement of the hard work our team puts in on a daily basis. It gives us an opportunity to reflect on our accomplishments and the level of growth we have achieved.
We believe that our 98% customer retention rate, year over year, is a testament to the meaningful contribution that we continue to make to enterprises as we provide a solution that has become an integral part of day-to-day operations for so many of our clients, which include Toronto Pearson International Airport, Scotiabank, Canada Post, Manulife, Pepsi, Netflix, CBC, Unilever, LG, and many more.
We have been leading the way in shifting the status quo of visitor management to a fully digitalized process. By optimizing the visitor sign-in flow, we have streamlined the collection of documents and signatures, depending on the reason for their visit. We’ve been able to deliver a simple experience for both visitors and employees, while providing advanced data and metrics to management, who use the data for audits, reporting, and decision making.
iLobby makes it easier to track everything entering and leaving your building and provides the central management of everything that is going on at your locations. It gives you the data and insight to more efficiently manage your facility, create better policies, and significantly increase physical security by integrating with access control and other security solutions.
The current version of iLobby is a full-scale enterprise-grade solution, already deployed within highly-regulated industries while meeting or exceeding various internationally-accepted standards and regulatory compliance requirements. The platform has become more of an integral security checkpoint and far less of the visitor logbook it was originally designed to replace.
We are proud of the work we do at iLobby and the level of service we provide to our clients, and it is a privilege to be recognized for it. Being a finalist acknowledges that we are successfully filling a large need in the market. Our team has persevered through challenges within new verticals and have adapted to changes in the market and client requirements. Looking back to even a year ago, we never would have predicted reaching this level of success, and this year, we are on track to see even bigger growth.
How does your organization positively contribute to Ontario’s economy?
iLobby’s rapid growth has led to the creation of new jobs that attract highly-skilled local talent to its Toronto headquarters, and today, the company has grown to 40+ employees. iLobby employs local talent, who live and spend time in the areas where they work, and as often as possible, local businesses are used as vendors and suppliers to keep revenues circulating within the local community.
Technology has made it easy to expand into global markets, and iLobby’s reach extends internationally to 40+ countries around the world. With almost 90% of the company’s income coming from exports of hardware and SaaSbased services, it has allowed iLobby to reinvest into the local economy and to continue to grow the Toronto-based team.
iLobby continually strives to contribute to the local economy, and recently started construction of their new headquarters which will also contribute taxes to support local infrastructure. The central and convenient location of the new building will make it more attractive to both students and seasoned professionals alike, and ensure that iLobby continues to attract top talent.
iLobby is proud of the diversity of people, backgrounds, and skills available in Toronto, and is committed to maintaining a diverse workforce which has been key to its innovation and growth. The company is proud to bring permanent, fulltime positions to Toronto and to give employees an opportunity to grow a career. Today, the key people who started in the early stages of the company, are now leading and growing their own departments. iLobby has consistently exceeded its sales goals month after month, and shows no signs of slowing down. The company is currently expanding aggressively into new verticals, and as the complexities of projects increase, iLobby has been creating more and more employment opportunities.
“iLobby has become a global leader in Enterprise Visitor Management by being adaptable and focusing on what our customers need in their business. This has allowed us to become an integral part of day-to-day operations in major banks, international airports, governments, manufacturers, and Fortune 500 companies alike.”
Ariel Mashiyev, CEO, iLobby Corp.