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Bloor West Village : Innovation + Job News

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Local retailer wins at first ever Canada Post E-commerce Innovation awards

When one thinks of cutting-edge retail, Canada's trusty old mail carrier service doesn't easily come to mind. (Do you even remember the last time you bought stamps?)

It's not just anecdotal, the sense that we're relying on Canada Post less than ever—in 2011 the services registered its first annual loss in 16 years, ending up more than $250 million in the red. As with many older institutions, Canada Post is trying to navigate the digital era, and figure out how it can sustain itself through these changing times.

One initiative: a new emphasis on retail services—that is, on helping retailers do their business. To mark some new successes in that field, last week Canada Post gave out its first ever E-commerce Innovation awards, to several Canadian retailers that "excel at giving Canadians what they value most in the online shopping experience." Among those winners: Toronto-based Rent frock Repeat, which will receive $10,000 in free shipping services, $20,000 in free marketing services and a Canada Post delivery truck wrapped with promotional information about their business. (A total of $1 million in prizes were awarded to five companies.)

"We're an online retailer that rents dresses instead of selling them," explans co-founder and CEO Lisa Delorme, who started the business with a friend in May 2011. They were both invited to a wedding, didn't want to spend money on dresses "that might only  come out of the closet once or twice." They came across a dress-rental company in the United States, but were quickly frustrated to learn that they didn't deliver to Canada. "We were tired of waiting for someone else to do it" locally, says Delorme, and so the two friends decided to start their own company here.

Like so many of us, Delorme also didn't consider Canada Post to be particularly innovative in the retail space. The awards, however, seem to mark a real attempt to take innovation more seriously—she was surprised at how well-produced the awards night was.

"I give them kudos that they're recognizing that there's a birth of online retailers," she says. "They see it as the future of Canada Post as well, so I think it's a kind of rebirth for them as well."

As for Rent frock Repeat, their current staff complement of three can't keep up with orders. Delorme says they will "definitely will be hiring" in the near future, likely including a director of technology as well as stylists and marketing staff.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Lisa Delorme, Co-Founder and CEO, Rent frock Repeat

100km Foods among six Toronto companies to get local food funding

The local-food distribution company 100km Foods Inc was launched in 2008 by Paul Sawtell and his partner Grace Mandarano from their Indian Grove home near High Park, in connection with the growing popularity of the locavore movement and in accordance with "Local Food Plus" guidelines. The pair built a network of farmers near the GTA and supplies restaurants and caterers. This year, Sawtell says, he expects sales to top $1 million.

Last week a bit of help growing the company even more arrived in the form of a $171,000 grant from the provincial government's Greenbelt Fund. "When we buy Ontario, everyone wins. It strengthens the local economy and supports our farmers," said Carol Mitchell, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, in announcing the grants. "Through this program, we are increasing the amount of local food in the kitchens of our hospitals, schools, daycares and other public institutions, providing our patients and families with fresh, local Ontario food."

100km Foods was just one of six Toronto organizations to receive funding through the project. The others were Dana Hospitality, George Brown College, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Scarborough Hospital and St. Michael's Hospital.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Sources: Melissa Zanette, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs; The Globe and Mail
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