Innovation In Spades – Blog

Maximize Opportunity (others drop in your lap)

In line at SportChek Stockyards

What did I do on my long weekend? Stand in a line for SportChek Stock yards grand opening sale.

Standing in line with a bunch of strangers isn’t my ideal Saturday off, but a pair of $125 shoes for $45, yes please; or at least that was the plan…

With a $1,000 gift card up for grabs, the line started at 9pm and the winners left with 7 stuffed bags of sporting goods and TONS of socks. For 3 college age kids with their fold up chairs; the $80/hr in loot they walked out with was likely well worth the wait. Waking up a bit lazily on the long weekend I was about number 120 in line at 0830, which I was OK with.  One gift card with a minimum value of $25 each, one card per household, I still had a shot of saving $25 extra off  the 50% shoes I wanted.

Being in line got me thinking;

“Why aren’t all the stores in the plaza maximizing the opportunity SportChek is giving them!?”

By the time 10am rolled around, there were literally 300+ people in line. A major local radio station was there chatting up the crowd and giving live plugs for the grand opening over the airwaves, and the line kept growing. The parking lot was baron, except for SportChek customers.

Stockyards PlazaStockYards is a new plaza with new stores opening every week and most people don’t even know which stores are open yet, except for sandwich boards on the sidewalk.  I feel a lot of the Stockyards tenants missed a big opportunity to connect with their community. After standing in line for hours,  people might need coffee from Second Cup tucked around the corner, or Mechies frozen yogurt to help cool off. With Chipotle and Hero Burger “Coming Soon” – this was a great chance to tell the neighbourhood “Hey, we’re coming here’s a coupon for when we’re open!” and get the crowd SportChek brought to their doorstep to become their customers.  (Personally I would have loved it if Menchies came around with trays of those little sample sized 1oz yogurt cups, and a coupon… but that’s just me)

This was an eye opener to always be aware of your surroundings. It’s a principle as true in business as it was in the Marines. If there’s an opportunity,  take it.  SportChek sent out 50,000 flyers within a 5km radius of the store announcing their Grand Opening creating a perfect marketing opportunity for the plaza’s other vendors, many of whom are franchisees and may have smaller marketing budgets.  It doesn’t matter what size business you manage, you always need to focus on being innovative with your marketing, customer service, pricing and products to get to the front of the line of competitors in a customer’s head.

Drake OVO / Bounce  Branded Lint RollerA great example of maximizing a marketing opportunity came for IKEA in Toronto earlier this year. During Game 2 of the Raptors NBA playoff win, just about  every Canadian news agency captured a photo or video of Raptors’ Global Ambassador Drake lint rolling his pants during the game. The next day,  Ikea announced they would be outside the arena handing out lint rollers for the following home game. Ikea’s  publicity stunt prompted an official response from the Raptors stating they were not in relationship with Ikea. What they didn’t say, was that Drake’s lint rolling was setting the stage to hand out promotional OVO / Bounce branded lint rollers in the 416 section at Game 5 #nolint. Ikea’s quick response maximized an opportunity Drake dropped in their lap and stole the show before the official promo was announced. (Photo credit – Toronto Raptors Twitter) Read the Toronto Star’s coverage of the lint rolling here.

Back to SportChek – would you believe the gift cards ended two people in front of me! Their marketing worked and I still ended up getting the shoes.  More importantly, I wrote most of this blog while in line because I realized a valuable lesson:

Always push to innovate by maximizing every opportunity your competition,  friendly or otherwise drops in your lap.


Innovate Summer! #CoolestCooler

It’s Friday, and I am beyond ready for the weekend!  In fact, I was ready for the weekend on Monday when I had the idea for this post.

Yesterday the “Forbes Thought of the Day” came from Charles M. Schwab,
“the best place to succeed is where you are with what you have.”

Coolest Cooler
The Coolest Cooler (Kickstarter Photo)

It’s very likely a thought like that which inspired Ryan Grepper to innovate summer and come up with the “Coolest Cooler.”  That’s what I thought, a Cooler cooler?  If you haven’t seen it yet; this cooler comes with a blender, bluetooth speaker and USB charging station and is built for an awesome summer day out.  Grepper took we he had, an sunny summer day, a sucky cooler and an innovative idea and put it all together to make the coolest cooler.

According to Kickstarter with over $7 MILLION in pledges, the Coolest Cooler is the third most funded Kickstarter campaign ever, and it still has over a month to go!  But it was no picnic for Grepper to get to this stage.  As a self proclaimed “professional inventor,” in his first attempt at kickstarting the cooler, Grepper staked his reputation on The Coolest Cooler 1.0 (video Coolest Cooler 1.0). His plan was to use his model and success as an example to other inventors he was training. But then he got the Kickstarter grey line of death… Coolest Cooler Fail 2

I guess that’s what happens when you try to launch a cooler in the middle of winter.   After being a backer of 23 projects, including six that had to do with summer, Grepper felt he had his pitch ready to go.  If you check out Coolest Cooler 1.0 ( #failedattempt ), you’ll notice that it has a lot in common with the latest iteration of the Coolest Cooler, except yCoolest Cooler Failou had to order in November / December 2013, for delivery in August 2014.  In December I’m thinking about Christmas presents, not summer planning.  This round you order in summer, for delivery next winter…  “Timing” will likely be the most popular chapter in Grepper’s Ted Talk and book (as that’s where most Kickstarter rockstars end up).  Stonemaier Games blog has actually given this some thought in their “Kickstarter Lesson #109: Seasonal Timing” post – worth a read.

Kicktraq estimates that the Coolest Cooler will be the MOST funded Kickstarter campaign with $21 million in sales, based on current volumes.  With the long weekend coming up, who knows.  To double pledges of the #1 Pebble, and #2 OUYA, would be quite a feat, but we did see both of their sales take dips after fast launches and huge finishes.  Timing may not ALL be on Grepper’s side as he goes for the record.

The full version of this blog, including some interesting points on Bunch O Balloons and an extended version of “Reality Check” can be found on my Linkedin Profile or check out my other posts here on innovation (warning – one’s a rant).


Reality Check: I used to think of myself as an “ideas guy” until I discovered most of my amazing ideas were already taken! Crowdfunding has really helped people get their ideas to market, like with the Coolest Cooler and Bunch O Balloons.  While we aren’t all inventors, we all have different areas of skill and expertise that are ripe for innovation, just like summer, and summer has been around FOREVER!   Never stop believing, never. stop. innovating.


Contribution Breeds Intrapreneurship

Disclaimer: This blog starts out as a bit of a rant but can hopefully lead to some successful results in every area of your life by contributing!

If you were given the opportunity to choose which industry you worked in – would you take it? What if you were given the resources to build a product to showcase to a perspective client or employer and you could select which industry you wanted to target?  Do you think you would have a better chance creating something where you get to choose your audience, or when someone else chooses for you?

That’s exactly what I thought!  Well at least I thought everyone would jump at that opportunity to choose what industry to work for, but apparently I was wrong; I mean, 23 – 1 wrong.

This week the second half of the ‘summer semester’ at University of Toronto began and my first class was “Advanced Web Design (CCT460),” held at Sheridan College.   I began to get excited as the instructor listed off the semester’s team projects: build a widget, build a theme, build a plugin, build and present a website.  What a great opportunity!  As a marketing manager, these were all things I had contracted out in the past and I was now going to learn pieces of the process of what it was really like to build these tools.  And the best part, we got to choose which industry we wanted to create these tools for, giving us the opportunity to add something to our creative portfolio we could showcase to future prospective employers.  At least that’s how I thought it was going to go when the instructor said that for our team projects we could:

A. Choose our own industry to develop projects for.
B. Choose from a list of industries the instructor would provide.
C. Be assigned an industry by the instructor.4% Chose To Contribute

Out of 24 in the class, 23 chose B and I was the only one to choose A!  To say I was flabbergasted was an understatement.  How could / Why would you not take the opportunity to choose your own adventure?

Being fair I understand that it is an academic environment, but this is the best time to practice life; when the stakes are controllable.  My theory is to never pass up an opportunity to contribute.   Dan Schwabel, in his Forbes article Why Companies Want You To Be An Intrapreneur, writes about how contribution leads to innovation and intrepreneurship.  Some of his examples are pretty big deals; 3M Post-It Notes, Google Mail, and aircraft designs at Lockheed Martin, all came from employees contributing ideas, fuelling a culture of innovation.  Thinking on my past ten years of work experience, it’s amazing how many times I’ve sat in meetings and the question “does anyone have any ideas” was responded to with crickets.

Harvard’s MBA website states, “in every case, class, event, and activity, you are asked not only to study leadership, but to demonstrate it.”  So I’m taking that as a personal challenge, and encourage you to do the same.  In every case, class, event and activity, how are you leading, contributing and innovating?

My activation for the day: putting together six industry sectors and a couple of sub-sectors that the six groups in my CCT460 group can choose from (to potentially be added to the list our instructor puts together).

    1. Entertainment
      Music / Concerts
      Movies / Television
      Professional Sports (league / team) *
    2. Government
      Municipal / Provincial / Federal
      (sub categories are literally endless)
    3. Transportation
      Commercial Travel (vacation / airline / train / bus) *
      Commuter Travel
    4. Technology
      Data Management
    5. Medical
      Home Care
      Independent Dr / Dentist Office
    6. Financial
      Investment Firms


PHP Login Page: BatTeam

Deliverables: Create a website that contains a PHP Login System which displays a user’s details once they are logged in.

Project For: Sheridan College – CCT 360 – Intermediate Web Design
See It Live* // Check my code on GitHub

Project Requirements:
Project must contain the following pages built in PHP
1. Homepage + Login Page
2. User Registration Page
3. Registration Confirmation Page
4. Login Failed (wrong username / password)
5. User Profile page / Edit details – only viewable to logged in users.

PHP Login

Login To BatTeam

Fighting Crime is easy with BatTeam

Login / Join

Incorrect Info

Write PHP code to inform users when they enter wrong username or password.


Find where to fight crime or edit BatTeam details.

Incorrect Details!

Wrong info - you won't catch Joker like that!

Toronto Police Crime Stats

"Find where to fight crime" linked to Toronto Police Services.

Logout Screen

"When you're ready to fight crime again."

Ultimate Responsive Image Slider Plugin Powered By Weblizar

Grade: 70% (after handing it in TWO days late; so really, it was a 90!)

Not being a designer and being very new to the ‘web developer’ space when assigned this project,  the learning curve felt steep.  It was a toss up as to which part of the project was most enjoyable; developing the content architecture and story boards or earning daily badges on CodeAcademy.

* I know you want to join the BatTeam, however please note it is hosted on Sheridan’s student servers, so at one point it may no longer be hosted to free up band width for new creative geniuses.   Batman logo and Joker images property of DC Comics.

Linkedin Professional Publishing

Linkedin Professional Publishing Invite
Linkedin Professional Publishing Invite

It finally came!  Remember when Gmail was by referral only?  While a student at MiraCosta College in Southern California, my world changed when a friend from Berkely invited me to Google Mail in January of 2005, it felt like I had to wait forever for it.

Now after Linkedin Professional Publishing has been out for four months… I finally got my invite!  Check out my first test post on Linkedin’s publishing platform.  It’s not WordPress, but it’s also not meant to be; the same way Linkedin isn’t Facebook.  Even the name “Professional Publishing” carries on with the Linkedin brand of being a place where professionals connect.  I’m very excited about this new content oriented direction Linked in has finally chosen to take.

(PSSST – if YOU want Linkedin Professional Publishing – CLICK HERE)

While every social media platform seems to be in constant flux with new features, new privacy policy, new layout, etc, Linkedin has primarily stayed the course.  There haven’t been too many dramatic shifts with Linkedin, or at least it doesn’t feel that way, which is refreshing.  To be fair, I haven’t been an avMy First Linkedin Publishing Post!id Linkedin user and only truly paid my profile the attention it deserved after entering my third year at the University of Toronto. As a Digital Enterprise Management student I was inspired by one of my management course facilitators, Professor Parveen Gill, an HR professional, when she stated Linkedin was a ‘must have personal branding tool.’

Being the millenial that I am, I always felt Linkedin constrained users, “you can say what you do” and that was about it. There was no real place to add legitimate content.  My resume is what it is; a collection of interesting jobs and extravagant experiences that don’t seem to fit together. To be fair, not many people know what to do with someone who has an athletic, military, non-profit, event planning, and media / marketing background, but if I can get to the interview phase, that is my time to shine :).  I feel this new Linkedin Publishing Platform will give me the opportunity to pre-interview and hopefully be able to showcase my skills and knowledge in a new light.

Check out my first LinkedIn post and let me know what you think of the platform.


WordPress Theme Building – Cupcakes

Deliverables: Utilize CSS to transform an ugly theme into a small business website in WordPress.

Project For: Sheridan College – CCT 360 – Intermediate Web Design
See It Live* // Check my code on GitHub

Project Requirements:
Develop a website for a small business, develop whatever pages you think is pertinent to communicate message to target audience.

Design Elements:
As our class was before lunch, we were often hungry so we made a website on one of our favorite snacks – cupcakes!
Research showed that pink and brown were popular bakery colours, and worked with the images we found.
Site design – simplistic: Home, About, Contact, Blog (Cupcake Central).
The majority of the info (types of cupcakes, specials, etc) was all built into the blog and separated based on categories.

Cupcake Theme

Cupcake Theme Home Page

Develop "cupcake" oriented theme. Pink & Brown.

Find the Cupcake!

Contact is always important.

Telling the Story

For entrepreneurs, often times the story of why you are is as important as what you sell.

SEO Oriented Blog

Content Marketing, interesting updates.

Ultimate Responsive Image Slider Plugin Powered By Weblizar

Grade: 75% – eek. Had a few CSS errors. Learned a lot of lessons on that one 🙂

Not being a designer and being very new to the ‘web developer’ space when assigned this project,  the learning curve felt steep.  It was a toss up as to which part of the project was most enjoyable; developing the content architecture and story boards or earning daily badges on CodeAcademy.

* I know you want a cupcake now and to read our witty 2 Broke Girls style banter, however please note it is hosted on Sheridan’s student servers, so at one point it may no longer be hosted to free up band width for new creative geniuses.

Memorial Day 2014

There are some things in life you will always remember.
To all my brothers who came home; it was an honor serving with each of you.
Be it in the rear, or at the tip of the spear, you were the best brothers a Marine could ask for.
To the brothers who paid the ultimate sacrifice, it was an honor serving with each of you.
You will live forever in our hearts.

Unpaid Internships A Fading Star

The Toronto Star has recently taken the plight of popularizing “unpaid internships.” The Star’s author Heather Mallick went so far as to declare that “Unpaid Interns are This Generation’s Slaves.”  On March 31, 2014, Member of Parliament, Andrew Cash, “slammed” the Conservative government for their inaction on unpaid internships.  Combined could turn unpaid internships into a fading star.

MiraCosta Career Studies
Sam Dumcum – Mira Costa Career Studies flyer

Having both been an unpaid intern and managed unpaid interns, I can’t possibly agree with this proposition.  My unpaid internship at Triathlete Magazine (2005/6) set me up for LIFE. That may seem like a strong statement, but almost 10 years later I’m still benefiting from the six month experience. Being an intern injected my skills gained through education with innovation and put legs to my entrepreneurial aspirations.  It’s what empowered me to believing I could start my own media/promotions company and be like my hero and mentor Sean Watkins.

Sean Watkins
Sean Watkins – Triathlete Magazine

If I knew I would have gained from my internship what I did, I would have gladly PAID to be an intern. And to be fair, I have many friends who have paid for their internships. Sure I learned pieces of every part of the magazine industry; from purchasing paper in Belgium, to cutting edge podcast interviews (remember – it was 2005), but it was getting to work next to the brilliant Sean Watkins every day that was invaluable. Hearing him on the phone with clients, cutting out magazine ads and making ad books for clients;  getting coffee for other staffers and getting to chat to them about what they were working on, meeting the slew of professional athletes that came through the door on a weekly basis, it all totalled an experience money couldn’t buy.  Shortly after my internship I moved back to Canada to work at a radio station and my fellow intern, Brad Culp, became the EDITOR of the magazine just a couple years later!

To think that unpaid internships don’t pay huge dividends and don’t have value beyond dollars completely does not make sense.  My internship was incredibly educational and part of my MiraCosta College Communications program (Career studies flyer) . I would rather be close to the action and worked hard than treated like someone worth minimum wage.

May 21 – The Toronto Star talked about an upcoming intern study by Isabelle Couture and James Attield at University of Victoria, but I’ll wait til the study actually comes out before responding :).


Raptors Game 5 Guest List: 10 Top Torontonians To Invite

The Toronto Raptors are looking very different on and off the court this year; however the fan base is looking pretty familiar. Under the fresh leadership of Tim Leiweke, the teams under the MLSE’s prevue have gotten fresh faces from the top down.  However in wanting to rebrand the Toronto Raptors as a premier NBA team, (with explicative attitude according to Masai Ujiri) the stands still look much the same; corporate fans on the bottom; die hard fans on the top scrambling for affordable tickets.

So far all the changes seem to be wins; the Raptors are in the playoffs, sponsorship dollars are up, revenue is up, and #WETHENORTH is trending on Twitter. But what about increasing the overall brand and feel of the new Raptors Fans; who does Toronto want to see in the seats next to them or at the very least on the jumbotron?

Raptors fans pass the flag at Game 1.
Raptors fans pass the flag.

At Game 2; the only ‘celebrities’ to make the jumbotron at the Air Canada Centre were Drake & Rob Ford. While Drake puts Toronto on the map, or at the very least on par with: Brooklyn Nets – Jay-Z, Detroit Pistons – Eminem, Atlanta Hawks – Lil’ Jon, Charlotte Bobcats – Nelly… If the Raptors want to be the “Place to Be, ” show off that these 10 Torontonian’s are in the house between now and the end of our playoff run and you’ll see twittersphere pick up some off court conversations that could turn into regular season sales because “did you see who was at the Raptors game” is great water cooler talk.

10. Rachel McAdams – willing to be seen around town the local sweetheart actress is likely at the games, having fun, just not able to be found by the camera’s because she’s actually wearing her white shirt, like a good Raptors fan.

9. #RookieBlue – Likely one of Canada’s most successful television shows, based on the precinct just down the street at 51 Division.  The cast and crew are all in Etibicoke filming, likely not hard to get a few recognizable faces down for a game.

8. Steve Nash – the face of Canada basketball for so many years. With the Lakers out of the playoffs Nash is due for a visit ‘home’ it would definitely be a shot in the arm to the rumour mill and perhaps bring some ‘age balance’ to Toronto’s young squad.

7.  Kevin O’leary – A familiar face to the business folks with “Lang & O’Leary” as well as the every day folks with “Dragon’s Den.”  You see him at TIFF and all the “it” spots in Toronto; makes sense to add Raptors to the list.

6.  Roberto Alomar & Michael “Pinball” Clemmons.  Seat these two icons next to each other for all the 30+ fans in the crowd and show solidarity outside the MLSE family.

5.  Tyler Ennis – 2014 NBA Draft Prospect: We need some NBA GTA representation up in here. Speaking at the George Brown “5 To Watch” Awards on May 1, he’s in town!  Representing big dreams from the big city; Tyler will likely be at the game and we hope to see him on the big screen.

4.  Elisha Cuthbert (& Dion Phaneuf) – These dynamic lovebirds represent both sports and entertainment and are definitely one of Toronto’s most talked about couples; especially after last years playoffs infamous stare-down.

3. Chris Hadfield – While you can never make enough “out of this world” jokes; Chris has shown that he can run with the big dogs at last years TIFF.

2. Mayor Rob Ford – Love him or hate him; he gets tweets out (the line for selfies with the mayor was longer than the beer line).

1. Drake – Global Ambassador of Cool for the Toronto Raptors and Toronto. Kind of a shoo-in. Would be amazing if during the playoffs he would announce the team. I mean, he’s practically on the court yelling at the refs as it is.

Drake Day RaptorsHonorable Mentions:

Patrick Chan – With this winter seeming to last forever; it seems like the Olympics were only yesterday. Being one of the few “Toronto” based athletes, potentially attending UofT this fall and beginning his potentially ‘post tights’ life; this could be a good place to be sited outside the rink.


Justin Beiber – Whether he’s wearing a Raptors or Nets hat; he’ll definitely get people talking.
Usually I’d say “all publicity is good publicity,” but Raptors have a game to win, don’t need deafening boos to flood the ACC (Unless they put Justin wearing a Nets hat on the jumbotron during a Nets time-out).

Job Seeking Out of Your Industry

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