Designs of a True Business

For this blog, I’d like to talk about one of the first suppliers that I used when I was starting up my second business, Minus H2O.

As many of you know Minus H2O manufactures super-concentrated cleaning products. The company began as a passion product with the goal of reducing carbon emissions and plastic solutions, while simultaneously saving consumers and businesses a significant amount of money on their cleaning supplies

In the early days of Minus H2O, one of the many items on my to-do list was to create labels for our various products.  At the time, we had already designed a company logo, but as I was learning more about this new industry, I realized that labels for bottles were a whole separate area of design.  Since I’ve always felt that it is better to use somebody who has prior experience with specific projects, off I went in search of someone who has designed labels for consumer packaged goods.

Through another one of my colleagues, I was introduced to a gentleman by the name of Oneil Lewis, who worked as a freelancer graphic artist….specializing in consumer packaged goods.  Oneil manages his own company, Simple Representations, and I’ve been using his services, from time to time, over the past three years.

Amazingly, Oneil and I have never met in person.  The first time, we connected was on the phone and he simply asked me for some information about the company, the text for the label (he even suggested I include such item as ingredients, descriptions, and instructions), and lastly that I sent him to send him the company logo.  A few days later, and the first version of the label arrives, and he’s nailed it….capturing 90 percent of what I needed, leaving only a few minor modifications to be done.

In more recent times, I faced a challenge where somebody had asked me for a prototype of a package that we presently don’t have.  Since the package also requires a label, I called up Oneil and told him that I needed some help in mocking something up.  Since he knew that I really didn’t have much of a budget, he simply asked me to pay him if and once I was successful in getting the contract.

Rather than just a supplier, Oneil is the definition of a true partner.  He looks out for my well-being and tries his best to help me put my best foot forward,. because he knows that if I succeed, he succeeds.  It’s always great to work with someone in a business who is enthusiastic, talented, and a pleasure to deal with.  Thanks for everything, Oneil.


Simple Representations
Oneil Lewis
416-509-0299

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A Blast from the Past

Bally - Pinball Machine - Bobby Orr Power Play - 1977 | HockeyGods

This post will be something a little different, but I’m always trying to give a shout-out to businesses that offer great service.

Not everyone knows, but many years ago, maybe due to nostalgia or trying to hold onto some of my youth, I bought a full-sized Space Invaders video game and a full-sized Bobby Orr pinball machine.  At the time I purchased the machines I was still living at home, so my business partner put up with my nonsense and allowed me to keep them in the boardroom.

Just to take things to the next level, I reached out to Bobby Orr, himself, and asked if he could possibly come by my office to autograph the pinball machine.  Much to my delight, he said the next time he was coming to Toronto, he would stop by my office.  A couple months later, all of a sudden, my receptionist comes into my office saying that there was a Bobby Orr here to see me (as an aside, the receptionist was much younger, and had no idea who Bobby Orr was).  I immediately came out of my office, greeted him, and took him into the board room where he signed both the playing surface and side of the pinball machine.

A few years later, when we ended up moving offices, I needed to come up with a place for the two machines to go and took up a family member’s offer to store them in an area of their building that was unused.

Fast-forward to the present day, and I was told by my relatives that I had to move the machines as they were going to be renting out the space. When I came by to move the machines, my heart sank.  Even though I had left them well protected, unbeknownst to me someone else moved them to a different room and the glass artwork (the main front panel is known as the back glass) of the Bobby Orr pinball machine had been broken into about 15 different pieces. This machine was about 40 years old and I was at a loss as to how I could possibly fix it.

I started doing some research and learned a heck of a lot more than I ever knew about pinball machines (look forward to another blog about this). After searching all over North America. I was directed to a place in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia called Classic Playfield Reproductions. Upon doing some more digging, I discovered they have the licensing rights to reproduce the various parts of a pinball machine  (including the backglass artwork).  Talk about a niche market!.

I reached out to them by email, got a very quick reply, and seeing how I was in Canada, they did me a favour and reduced the cost which was originally in US dollars. I placed my order online and not three to four days later, a UPS package arrived and very tightly, carefully, and safely packaged inside, was the back glass for my pinball machine.

I did a side-by-side comparison and the artwork looked bang-on!  Even the part of the artwork that had a mirror backing matched (there was another supplier who indicated their mirror looks more like a grey / silver paint).  It was so closely matched that you couldn’t tell it was a reproduction.

Now I know not everyone has a pinball machine and requires the services of this company, but it’s cool to see the niche workings of a business like this…and from a Canadian town….the home of Sidney Crosby, no less.  In fact, maybe they’re on to something, as it seems that what’s old is new again, and I am hearing of more and more people who are buying pinball machines for their homes and offices (you can get some for as low as $500.00)

To the folks at Classic Playfield Reproductions who helped me out when I was stressed about finding a critical part to my machine, and for taking such good care of me, thanks for everything!

Classic Playfield Reproductions
https://classicplayfields.com/

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Slam Dunk Customer Service

Toronto Raptors Official NBA Basketball Team Logo "We The North" Poster - Trends 2021

In my more recent blogs, aside from highlighting local businesses, I have attempted to feature companies from other parts of Canada or from around the world.  While this particular business does have a showroom in Toronto, the majority of the business they do is online, and most of their products are shipped to international destinations.

The Sports Poster Warehouse is owned by a gentleman who I’ve personally known for many years, Neil Flagg.  Given Neil’s passion for sports, when he finished school he set up his own company which as the name would suggest, specializes in sports-themed posters.  Neil sells anything from older, hard-to-get, vintage posters, to posters of today’s most popular players and teams.  In fact, his products are so up to date that usually within a few hours of a championship trophy being awarded (i.e. Superbowl, World Series, etc.) Neil will have posters in stock.

In addition. Neil also offers a number of health-related posters that are not strictly sports-related, but athletic in nature. His tens of thousands of posters are easily grouped into categories on his website and range from as little as five dollars to as much as $20.00, and all sorts of points in between.

The website is easy to navigate, and you can place your orders 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Depending on where you live, you could get your posters delivered in as little as 24 hours or a bit longer.

There’s always someone available to answer questions on the phone, and Neil specifically is knowledgeable—not with just his business, but sports and sports trivia as well.

While a lot of his business comes from individuals who just want to put a poster up in their room, he also sells to businesses like sports bars, gyms, and offices.

Many years ago, I remember having posters of my favourite teams and athletes up in my room, and despite technology, it seems that this is still something that many people like to do.  Check out his website and throw him a sports trivia question while you’re at it.

The Sports Poster Warehouse
416-696-8353
sportsposterwarehouse.com/

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You Can’t Beat the Smell of a Classic Bookstore

6 of the best used bookstores in Montreal | Curated

Hello blog readers!  It’s Miriam again and I have once again pushed David aside to share with you my SQM Pick!

I am so happy that summer is here.  Not because I am going anywhere or doing much of anything….the pandemic saw to that.  Since we are spending lots of time at home, I am, however, enjoying the effort that David and I have put into our backyard – new cushions for the outdoor furniture, new string lights, a bonfire pit and a hammock that my 14-year-old daughter loves to lie in and read under the shade of a tree.

While my girl loves to read – she doesn’t do it very often.  During the school year, homework becomes a priority, guitar lessons take over and playing competitive soccer three to four times a week, doesn’t leave a lot of downtime for pleasure reading.  With overnight camp closed for the summer of 2020, she has rediscovered her love of reading, with the help of a little store and a little tale that goes back 14 years to the small town of Bracebridge, Ontario.

We are one of the lucky ones, as my parents have a cottage in northern Ontario.  Every year, since Talia was a baby, we would go up on summer weekends and would inevitably end up walking around town.  It is there that we discovered the Owl Pen Bookshop, a used bookstore with all the charm that you would expect in cottage country.  Talia was always allowed to go in and choose herself a book and it became part of her cottage ritual.  Even when David and I didn’t go up with her and she went with my parents and her cousins, a trip to the Owl Pen was always worked in.  Fast forward to present day and the love affair with this bookstore has found renewed life in a pandemic era, where summer camp has to wait until next year and cell service at the cottage is seriously spotty.

It began a few weeks ago, when my parents were heading up north and we were still not “bubbling” with them yet.  Talia asked me if we could call Owl Pen and find out if they had books that she wanted and then maybe “my grandparents could do a curbside pick up for me”.  I called the store and Katherine (she and her husband took over the family store from her in-laws) answered the phone.  I explained that I was from Toronto and my daughter was a huge fan of her store.  I gave her a list of books that Talia wanted, she went to the shelf, pulled them all down for me, took an e-transfer payment, wrapped them up and brought them out to my mom when she pulled in front of the store.  Since then, Katherine has kept her eyes out for books that are on Talia’s list, puts them aside and even suggested reading that she thought Talia would enjoy.  When we head up north, our first stop is always the Owl Pen to pick up my daughters curated reading material.  

Yes, we could easily order these books online, but Talia, at 14 years of age, still loves the thrill of going to her favorite bookstore.  And I happily plunk down all the cash necessary to support her love of reading…and a small family business that provides outstanding customer service.

The Owl Pen Bookshop
58 Manitoba Street, Bracebridge, Ontario
705-645-1966
Ask for Katherine and remember: they only accept cash and e-transfer.

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Salbro Bottles…A Package Deal

As some of you know, not too long ago,  my business partner and I started a second business called Minus H2O, where we manufacture ultra-concentrated cleaning products. The company began as a passion project with the goal of reducing carbon emissions and plastic pollution, while also saving consumers and businesses a lot of money.

In the early stages of developing the product, we knew that we would need bottles, and one of my colleagues recommended I contact a local company, known as Salbro Bottles.

I first reached out to them a couple of years ago and ever since, they’ve been amazing to deal with.  I had originally explained that we were a startup, and were unfamiliar with consumer packaged goods. One of the owners and his colleagues walked us through the process of recommending bottles, sending samples, and assisting us in making the best choice possible for our initiative.

Since that time, Minus H2O has grown and Salbro has also been very good to us when we’ve had special requests or need special orders. They also took the time to help me with a presentation, where I needed 500 empty bottles to show a retailer how much plastic pollution they’ve been emitting.

Aside from their willingness to help, it’s great to be dealing with a company that’s looking ahead long-term. While many businesses these days would rather make money on the first sale, this company is determined to build a lasting, long-term business relationship.

Salbro Bottles has recently been purchased by TricorBraun, another packaging company, but the Toronto staff remains the same.  What’s even more important is that the company vision has remained consistent and they’ve been true to their word.  They’re just as helpful today as when I first met them.

If you’re ever in need of different bottles and packaging material in bulk, I highly suggest you give them a try!

Salbro Bottle
http://www.salbrobottle.com/
905-850-1190

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Pandemic Puzzles and Catello Toys

A perfect match: The health benefits of jigsaw puzzles

As the family puzzler, today I am tagging David out, so I can tag in, with an SQM pick of my own.  My name is Miriam.  I’m David’s wife and the Operations Manager, here at SQM.

While the rest of the world found jigsaw puzzles during the pandemic shutdown, I trailblazed many moons ago:  I am confessing to a long term love for puzzling.  I’m particular about my puzzles – they need to be busy with lots of detail to keep my interest piqued.  They should amuse me, keep me engaged and be something that I want to keep looking at.  I long since settled on Heye puzzles, as my jigsaw of choice.

Fast forward to the pandemic of 2020 and the world caught up to me. Puzzles were out of stock in every store, online and families were trading them as precious commodities.  And with good reason:  they are great indoor family projects (I say this and yet, neither David nor my daughter would deign to help me with one of them…), test your patience and work your brain.

I came across a fabulous company from Quebec, in my hunt for my perfect puzzle:  Castello Toy Store.  Their website was a breeze to navigate and was updated constantly, as stock fluctuated.  The prices were great (compared to other companies that saw an opportunity, charging outrageous prices at the height of the pandemic) and shipping was included.  Customer service was happy to speak with me, directly, to answer any questions that I had (bonus..in English!) and my puzzle was promptly delivered to my doorstep in just a few days.

Hopefully (with a little bit of luck and a lot of science), we won’t be forced back into a stay at home order.  Yet, even if we are taking baby steps to go out again and poking our noses outside, I will puzzle on in my pyjamas, with puzzles delivered right to me, from Castello Toys.

Castello Toy Store
www.castellojeu.com
1-855-538-3383

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And the SQM Picks Goes To…

A few weeks ago, I wrote about ways to support local, small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19.  Now, while you are supporting these businesses, I’d like to hear about them.

Maybe there’s a local restaurant that has been having a hard time, but still cooking up your favourite dishes?  Perhaps there’s an employee at a retail store that you feel has gone above and beyond the call of duty to get you what you’re looking for?  Or it could just be a business that regularly and consistently provides top-notch customer service.

Nominate any business…large or small….and I will try to feature them in an upcoming post of SQM Picks.

Comment below with your nominations!

Be safe and be well.

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