Finding Start Up Success

I interviewed Shawn Judge of DV Clothiers for a marketing video series and he told me how he started a custom men’s fashion company: He took a huge risk, made a fortuitous connection, and built a start up that makes men in Vancouver look good.

His story started five years ago with a vacation to Thailand, where on a whim, he bought his first custom made suits. He loved how the suits felt compared to his off the rack wardrobe. The compliments he received confirmed that a custom made wardrobe, not only felt better, it looked better.

Shawn decided to start his own brand and become a custom clothier for men, the only problem was, like many start ups, he couldn’t secure traditional financing.

Start-Up Gamble

He tried getting help through start up support government agencies and traditional financing, each time he came up against the same hurdle, he had no fashion experience. With an industry TradeShow in Bangkok coming up, he needed cash to get there and Shawn was not about to let his new dream fizzle out, so, he dug deep and came up with a risky idea – He’d sell custom suits without a supplier, samples, fabric swatches, marketing materials, specs, or any connections to help him get the product made, and, he’d ask people to pay full price – up front.

Shawn went to his friends, co-workers, and business connections and sold them a suit in either grey or blue, without knowing where he’d get the fabric or how they’d be made. In the end, he’d sold 20 suits and 30 shirts. Then, with his integrity on the line, Shawn went to the TradeShow in Bangkok where he discovered, he was in over his head.

A Fortuitous Meeting

Each booth was selling reams of fabric, but none at the smaller quantity he needed as a startup with only 20 suits and 30 shirts to be made. Things were not looking good, until he came across one booth where the guy behind the table was from Surrey, BC, about 20 minutes from Vancouver. After talking about the various places they’d frequented, Shawn was referred to the man’s uncle who could make the suits Shawn needed.

Once the kinks were worked out, Shawn was able to get his orders filled and made the connections he needed for future sales. Now his only problem was getting the suits home, a problem that was easily solved by buying two new suitcases from a store down the street.

Entrepreneur Success

Entrepreneurs take risks to make their dreams come true. They work hard with no guarantee of being paid, making the rent, or affording food. They go into debt, spend their savings, and do whatever it takes to get their dream off the ground. Some, like Shawn, get creative and make it work, others have to shut the doors before they were even opened.

What I love about Shawn’s story is he didn’t give up, he found a creative solution to a problem that stops most people from achieving success. He had integrity with enough people to fund his trip, buy the supplies, source the manufacturing of the product, and have 20 happy clients who referred more clients.

There are lots of reasons why one start up will succeed where another one will fail and the hollow advice being passed around in the form of motivational quotes will not make it any easier. Having connections, support, friends, and intelligent, successful people who can help, will give you a fighting chance.

Shannon Peel is a Professional Marketing strategist and Storyteller. Her company, Shannon Peel Marketing, helps Independent Professionals and Small Businesses define their personal brands and tell their story through different channels. Click to find out more:

The Entrepreneur Vancouver

33921621_10157368167345410_3706110649605029888_nWhat I learned at the Entrepreneur Vancouver Event where 24 local successful business people presented on their experiences.

No one could help but be impressed with the environment, mood, and tone of the event, which was top notch making attendees feel like VIPs. Everything from the red carpet, the free headshot, and ice sculpture in the foyer to the greenery, lighting, and multiple stations was well planned out to ensure optimum traffic flow, networking opportunity, and the feel of being at an extra special event.

The seating was casual with couches, outdoor U-shaped seating, comfortable chairs, and even a white hanging wicker chair straight out of the 70s. I spent the last couple hours trying not to fall asleep while lying on the comfortable pillow – I really need to buy myself something like it for my room.

What I learned:

Kelly Deck from Kelly Deck Design reminded me how much time, effort, and tenacity it takes to be successful. Staying kidless as long as possible is important to building a successful business as an entrepreneur. Support from family and the tenacity to keep going even when things happen that cause you to lose more than win for a short term, will bring opportunities in the longterm.

“Shine a bright light and it will attract people.” -Kelly Deck


Matias Marquez from Buyatab‘s story taught me that finding a need in the marketplaceand building a solution can bring you success, no matter how young you are. His business impressed me so much, I passed the name on to my 19 year old son to keep on his radar. I think he could learn a lot from Matias.

Sara Padidar and her partner Katie Reiach of Talk Shop, shared their story about losing passion for the business and how to get it back. The most important lesson they learned was understanding the data and positioning their business based on the numbers to find solutions to make life easier and more profitable. As a data geek, I concur with this advice.

Karri Shuerman’s story is something out of a movie or fictional novel. She’s someone I’d love to sit down with and listen to all her stories about life, love, and her business Chambar. Some people have the most interesting stories and she is one of them.

“If you learn to relax, you will float to the top” – Karri Schuerman

Joseph Tolzmann’s story of an immigrant with no english was a lesson in miscommunication. Communicating with employees, customers, and strategic partners is vital to avoid costly mistakes and keep clients happy. Especially when you own a restoration company.

AJ Woodworth of the Glamoury shared her interesting story of leaving a career in the entertainment industry and finding opportunities by networking with the right people.

Sean Millington is another person who has countless interesting stories to share. His career spans professional sports, film, and business. Once you hit a certain level of success you will find it hard not to be lonely and isolated. Every Entrepreneur struggles with the isolation of the position.

Carla Heim of BDC informed the audience about B corp certified businesses, which use business as a force for good in this world and are well run and transparent.

“Entrepreneurs believe their responsibility is larger than just making money.”

-Carla Heim

Elizabeth Reid of Boughton Law gave the audience some free legal advice when it comes to employment contracts the termination clause is the most vital clause.

Julianne Keu of The Incubator shared her struggle with depression. Many Entrepreneurs suffer from it due to the amount of effort, work, and lack of self care. It isn’t easy to own a business and be responsible for others. It can result in some dark moments in our lives.

Jason Baudreau of Vela Wealth‘s story was filled with inspiration when it comes to finding your passion in life. His top advice was to never stop learning and to bring closure to things in your past so you can move forward into your future.

I totally identified with Julie Kim‘s story about parents who want to push you into a mould that you don’t fit into and caring insecurity into everything because their voices tell you that you aren’t good enough to be in the big leagues. Not to mention the limiting beliefs of others in your industry who give advice that has you second guessing what is appropriate and what is not.

“Struggle is not a Virtue” – Julie Kim


The guys from the Daily Hive were interviewed by Sharad Khate about why they started their digital media company, what they learned, and why they remain loyal to Vancouver. This local to national success story is an example of content inbound marketing success. Their company continues to stay true to their values.

Cybele Negris is the most impressive women I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and surprisingly, she struggles with imposter syndrome. This lady, who runs a successful internet business, has won the top 100 Most Influential Women in Canada enough times to get into the hall of fame, the top 40 under 40 a few times, and the top 100 profitable companies awards on more than one occasion, along with a host of other impressive awards, feels like an imposter. The lesson I learned from this – keep showing up, even if you don’t believe you belong in the sandbox.

Rob Madsen of U-lock Storage told his story of being a second generation Entrepreneur in his family business. He believes in helping his employees find their passion and then help them to live that passion, even if it has nothing to do with his business. Sounds like a good place for people to work at.

Almost Perfect

This quality event was almost perfect, it missed the mark by not attracting a diverse enough audience of entrepreneurs. Most everyone I met were employees of the sponsors and not entrepreneurs themselves. The majority were millennials with few mentors in the room.

Will I go back? Yes. I found that I learned enough to get motivated and push through to find opportunities. There were lots of nuggets of advice to help business owners move their business forward. They only need to get the word out, considering it was only their 2nd year and the room was packed… they are doing a good job.

Their website

Shannon Peel is a Professional Marketing Manager and Storyteller. Her company, Shannon Peel Marketing, helps Independent Professionals and Small Businesses define their personal brands and tell their story through different channels. Click to find out more:

Vancouver Webfest & Stories

I was honoured when Vancouver Webfest sent me a message on Twitter asking if I’d like to cover their event with a Press pass. I went for all three days to get as much content and story as I could for my Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram profiles. It’s been a few days since this years event ended and I have reflected on my time there.


Vancouver Webfest is a festival of short films that are released digitally online and not through traditional channels. The submitted episodes played in three theatres, with free bags of popcorn, through out the first two days, giving judges time to determine the winners for the various categories.

Along with the screenings were workshops, panels, and keynote speakers comprised of producers, business leaders, and influencers. What I found most impressive was the amount of women leaders who were there to share their stories and offer support to the webfest’s 5th year.


The Press

When I first arrived, Regina, their PR person, asked if there was anyone I wanted to interview. My first reaction was panic. Interview? I’m supposed to interview people? I don’t know what I thought I was expected to do, but interviewing people had not crossed my mind.

I’m a promoter. An observer. A storyteller. Not a journalist.

I started by recording a live Facebook Video that people engaged with and did another selfie video to post on social media. I Tweeted a lot. I used my social media platforms to tell people about the event, show what was happening, and promote it as much as I possibly could. After all, they’d been kind enough to ask me and gave me a press pass to boot, the least I could do was my absolute best to spread the word.

New Advertising

During my time in workshops, listening to keynotes, and taking in the various panel discussions, I realized that there is a huge opportunity for marketing professionals who embraced the Webfest’s attendees online short story telling skills.

Traditional advertising on TV media channels will have to change as people turn away from cable for the convenience of online streaming subscriptions. With less people watching mainstream programming on the big networks, the ROI of commercials is decreasing, while the pricing goes up to cover the increasing costs of running a traditional media business.

Those companies who turn to web based series storytelling will benefit from lower costs and better messaging through storytelling. Whether they sponsor an influencer or create a web series around their product, service, or industry stories, they will find an audience who engages with their programming.

Got Personality?IMG_0873

If you are an Independent Professional with some personality, you could create yourown channel and web series to tell stories about your industry, clients, products, or services.

For example: A Realtor could host his own List it or Love it type show with a stager then add drama, cause that is what reality TV does, and voila your own Real Estate Channel starring you. All you need is a bit of cash, a camera man, and a writer who understand how to write for Reality TV, that is to start… If you start seeing success, then you can decide if you need a director, producer, better equipment etc.


They hosted it at the Vancouver Convention Centre with floor to ceiling windows displaying the panoramic view of Burrard Inlet, Stanley Park, and the North Shore mountains and all. It was a reminder about why we pay high prices to live here. There were people from Toronto, the US, Australia, Malaysia, South Africa, Japan, Mexico, and I’m sure other places I was unaware of, at the webfest. Vancouver did not disappoint with two out of the three days being clear and sunny to show off it’s jaw dropping views.

Digital Storytelling

Video is one way to tell stories online and considering that YouTube is the #1 actively used social media site in Canada, it is a huge opportunity for anyone who can create quality and interesting stories. As a writer, I am overwhelmed by the collaboration, planning, and resources it takes to create a quality short film. The attendees are passionate about creating videos and anyone who wants to use video to promote themselves, should consider a more creative storytelling method, which these folks are experts at.

The Gala

The red carpet gave everyone an opportunity, if they wanted it, to get their photo taken in Hollywood style. The MC was hilarious and kept everyone on their toes with his antics. The love and support in the room created a positive energy where everyone supported winners and losers alike, at least the laughter, applause, and congratulations coming from everyone made it feel that way.


IMG_0878I was impressed by the organization of the event, the attendees, and the speakers. They showcased women leaders in the industry, the speakers were well spoken and provided great tips, advice, and insights. The quality of the movies from all over the world was eye opening and the ability to connect with various financiers, producers, and talent is valuable for anyone who wants to work in the film industry.

Webseries enable people who want a career in film making the ability to show their skills, talents, and personalities, which will sell them to those in the entertainment industry at a fraction of the frustration. By building personal brands through content these film makers are making a name for themselves and the future is opening up opportunities for them. This Festival gives them the awards to stand out and the connections to help get them to the next level.

Thank you to Vancouver Webfest for inviting me to cover the event and I hope that you will continue to grow your festival for years to come.

Shannon Peel is a Professional Marketing Manager and Storyteller. Her company, Shannon Peel Marketing, helps Independent Professionals and Small Businesses define their personal brands and tell their story through different channels. Click to find out more:

When Connection Works

As a startup solopreneur with few connections I decided to try networking meetings. I went to as many as I could find and guess what… I wracked up my credit card with breakfasts, lunches, fees, etc. I thought I was wasting a lot of money and a lot of time, then something happened.

story (1)

One week, I started getting clients through referrals from a person I met at a networking group, Tammy of Boljuncic Financial. I have been helping her stay focused, motivated, and define her brand, along with developing a strategic plan of action to move her business forward. She loves networking in the real world and I am fortunate that she ‘loves’ me so much.

I found cheerleaders in a small business owners like, Robin, and Lisa, a client in Karen, and so many wonderful people who are connecting with each other in the real world. Some people are friendly and want to genuinely help others to shine, others are connectors and are passionate about being able to be a resource of introductions between people. Unfortunately, most people are pushing the business card industry to high profits by throwing theirs around and collecting as many as possible. They don’t get much more than a larger card collection out of networking.

I have found a few groups that work

Andrew is a friendly older man who runs a networking group in Coquitlam and has asked me to present to the group a couple of times about topics on social media. My presentations are filled with stats, questions, advice, tips, and ideas so everyone in the room can leave with value. I am fortunate to have met Andrew because he likes to help others shine.

Then there is the super connector – George, he is a passionate networking individual who runs my favourite networking group. This group has a long list of wonderful people who actively connect with each other. The group itself is casual, fun, and entertaining, a great start to my Friday morning.  George promotes a healthy referral and networking environment by using technology and leading by example, because he actively connects people on a regular basis.

Then there is Marilyn.

When I first met Marilyn, she reminded me of my grandmother. My grandmother was a remarkable woman, a journalist, a model, a business owner, and actively involved in developing the social organizations in our small town of 2 000 people, in an out of the way place. She was elegance and class all rolled into one. So trust me when I say, that anyone who reminds me of her, has something extra special about them.

For some reason Marilyn and I both wanted to connect and find a way to work together. It took a few weeks, but we finally met for coffee, we were in for a surprise. We started talking and it was like talking to an old friend. I loved her stories of being a single mom in Vancouver, starting a business that she loves, and connecting with people. Then she asked me where I grew up.


I grew up on a mountain and a lake 20 – 30 minutes out of a small city of 2 000 people. Why do I call it a city? Because it was incorporated in 1906, the year my great grandfather built his fancy Sears catalogue house behind my other great grandparent’s home. At the time it was the economic hub where the Shuswap met the Okanagan in BC’s Interior, however, due to the railway being built and a Native Reserve placed around half the town, trade and industry moved south. The city emptied and to this day, Enderby remains the smallest city in the Okanagan.

Considering the size of the town and that a large portion of the population has stayed there, you can imagine my surprise when Marilyn told me she grew up in Enderby a decade before I was born. She went to school with my dad’s cousin and knew a lot of my family’s life long friends. She knew my dad and my dad remembered her and where she lived, I don’t think my dad ever really forgets anything.

We sat and talked about this small town and what it was like living there during two different times. She left for Vancouver around the year my mom’s family came to town and took my mom took her place within the class.

Finding common threads in our story created a stronger connection than trading business cards and giving each other a wave each week. It takes extra effort to be vulnerable enough to ask to meet for coffee and then spend time sharing your story to someone you don’t know. However, once you find that common thread, you build the most important part of connection – trust.

The common thread that I share with Marilyn created a connection that is leading to a project and a strategic partnership between us. I’ve been able to introduce her to a couple of my clients who share the same target market and am hoping together they can find a connection to their shared target market.

Networking in the Real World Works

In a world where everyone is focused on digital connections and getting the largest following possible, it is important to remember that real connection happens in the real world. Using digital marketing to tell your story, develop credibility, and make virtual connections is important, but don’t forget to take the next step by connecting in the real world.

Shannon Peel is a Professional Marketing Manager and Storyteller. Her company, Shannon Peel Marketing, helps Independent Professionals and Small Businesses define their personal brands and tell their story through different channels. Click to find out more:

Talented at Connecting

IMG_0653I hang out and work out of a coffee shop called The Good Sunshine Cafe here in South Surrey.

There are plenty of good coffee shops in the area to choose from, I live in Canada’s version of Seattle after all. The Good Day Sunshine Cafe isn’t the easiest place to find, it isn’t in the main part of the larger shopping areas, you don’t drive by and see it on a regular basis because it isn’t on any main road. It’s not well known. There is nothing from the outside that makes you think, “I have to try out this place and make it my destination location.” However, it has one thing that no other coffee shop in the are has – It has Kris.

After my first encounter with Kris, I knew that I was going to host all my South Surrey #MarketAPeel Brainstorms and drop ins there. It was going to become my coffee shop hang out

The other day I was sitting with a group of women talking, because you know thats what we do, and I mentioned that I was going to be talking about Kris in my connection series. A wonderful lady immediately agreed that he was amazing. She goes to the coffee shop for paint nights and the women, love Kris.

She thinks some show up just to see him.

What he has is the ability to immediately connect with the customers and make them feel welcome. He is happy to see them and naturally wants to enhance their experience. He knows his product and can describe his favourites to you in a way that makes you open your wallet and buy even though you know your waistline doesn’t need any extra treats. It’s that extra. He naturally gives the customers an ‘extra’ experience that feels tailored to them. He remembers you, suggests new things to try, and gives that extra bit of excitement to the transaction.

The biggest difference I see is his natural ability to talk to people and describe the food and drinks he serves, as if he were telling a story. He is genuine, knowledgeable, positive, and friendly. He doesn’t shy away from eye contact. He fills the space he occupies and welcomes you to share in an experience of coffee, treats, and community.


In contrast, I have been to coffee shops where the staff makes you feel like you are wasting their time, causing you to feel unwelcome in their establishment. This discomfort has the opposite effect of connection because your defensive barriers instantly go up. I don’t know if these people are truly unfriendly or their shyness comes across that way.

For example, it is hard to make a connection with my daughter, she has been told that kids think she is either a snob or mad at them for some reason. My daughter is neither, she is a true introvert who listens more than she talks and is shy when people she isn’t comfortable with are around. However, once she knows you, she is the hoot of the party, funny, smart, and the one her good friends seek out when in crisis. In contrast my son is the complete opposite. He is a true extrovert who is the life of the party the minute he walks in and he knows a lot of people because he instantly connects to them and they trust him immediately with their problems.

I don’t know if it’s something you can learn or if its all about personality. Maybe by the end of the month I will have figured out Kris’ secret.

Do you know anyone like Kris?

If you are ever in South Surrey on a Wednesday morning drop into the Good Day Sunshine Cafe and have a latte with me so we can brainstorm about why some people make instant connections, while others struggle.

Shannon Peel is a Professional Marketing Manager and Storyteller. Her company, Shannon Peel Marketing, helps Independent Professionals and Small Businesses define their personal brands and tell their story through different channels. Click to find out more:

What is Connection?

In today’s world we are more connected to our devices than we are to the people around us.

Connection at it’s core is the spot where two things join to complete a circuit. Electronics can’t work without strong physical connections between all the parts in the circuits. If one connection is broken, the whole device doesn’t work. I want to take a deeper look at this word to find out how people connect in a technological dependent world and how we can form better connections to become successful in business and life.

April is about Connection

I’ve been thinking a lot about connection again, so I am dedicating a month to exploring the word, the concept, the action. I will be writing about connection here and linking other posts about connection to this post for you to use as a resource on the topic, scroll down for links to other posts, articles, podcasts, videos, and books that explore the idea of connection, what it is, why we need it, and how we can get better at making it.

I will look at our connections to family, friends, coworkers, and the people around us. Our connection to media, technology, and the things around us. Most importantly, I will dive into our connection with ourselves and how connection effects our health.

Follow me on social media to be part of the research process and I encourage you to be a part of the conversation too by engaging with your thoughts. Connection is too important to ignore.


Social Media – I will be posting questions about connection for us to explore this idea and learn from each other. Drop by and be a part of the conversation. – Comments may be used in future blog posts, podcasts, or social media posts.

pexels-photo-267350.jpegMarket A Peel Facebook Group

Shannon Peel Marketing Page 

Market A Peel Twitter

Market A Peel Instagram


Blog Posts – I will be writing about connection as I dive deeper into it’s meaning and why it’s so important to us as human beings.

person-woman-apple-hotel.jpgDisconnected in a Connected World – Are we connected or disconnected in today’s tech connected world?




Podcast – I will be talking about connections and interviewing people about their thoughts and how they use connection to become successful in today’s world.


Instant Connection





Shannon Peel is a Professional Marketing Manager and Storyteller. Her company, Shannon Peel Marketing, helps Independent Professionals and Small Businesses define their personal brands and tell their story through different channels. Click to find out more:

Sales – Oh God Shoot Me Now!

There is only one reason small businesses fail — NO SALES.

Without sales there is no cashflow and without cashflow there is no business. Most small business owners and entrepreneurs are not professional sales people, they are better at doing what they are selling, not selling what they do.

Smile n Dial

My wonky career path has included professional sales, the smile and dial numbers game sales. I was kicking butt good at smilin and dialin, finding the decision maker, and getting in the door to meet. I had no problem making 40-60 dials a day, regardless if the product was Advertising, Online Review Platform, Financial Planning products, or Chinese Pump Jacks and Oil Pipe. I built qualified lists, found business, and even closed sales.

Today, I am standing on the cliff edge knowing that the only way my business will succeed is if I get on the phone and make appointments to talk to people about their personal branding to help differentiate them from their competitors. I know what my target market looks like, I know where to find their contact information, I know how to build a CRM database to manage these cold leads and guess what —

I’m frozen.

It’s not the sub zero temperatures that have gripped the Vancouver area that have me covered in ice… It’s fear. OMG – I’m scared to pick up the phone and ask someone to meet me.

How did I go from a kick butt cold calling appointment setter to frozen solid on a cliff’s edge? What’s different?

Well, the product I am now selling is – me – and I’m not confident enough.

Selling myself, sounds so dirty, like I should have a 1-900 number or be working some corner in DT East Van. I know I’m not the only woman to have an issue with self confidence and selling her services in a crowded marketplace. It’s one of those things we were taught not to do as young girls – “Don’t be too loud.” “Don’t toot your own horn.” “Don’t be so full of yourself.” Little boys were to cultivate confidence, we were to cultivate coyness and virtue.

My confidence has taken a hit from all the rejection, broken promises, disappointment, and crap life has heaped on me the last five years.

I know I’m good at what I do. I know I’m smart enough. I know I’m qualified. I know I have the credentials. I know that I work hard to ensure my clients succeed. I know I have a service Independent Professionals need at a price they can afford… I know all of this and more – However, I don’t want to hear “no” when it comes to selling myself. I’ve heard you aren’t good enough too often the last five years.

The Big Thaw.

Time to get over myself and stop coming up with excuses about why I can’t get on the phone and start calling my target market. It’s the only way small businesses can start, by knocking on doors and making calls.

The only way to cure myself of this affliction is to do it. To create a list of targeted Independent Professionals, pick up the phone, and dial. Once I’ve made the first appointment, I know I will be back, kicking butts and taking names.

All I need

My time is limited and what I sell is my time, so, I only need the following:

4 Monthly Marketing Management Clients
5 Personal Branding Consulting / Coaching Clients
12 Grape Peel Marketing Group Clients
The odd project management client would be nice too

So, I won’t have to smile n dial for long.

The time is now and now is the time.

UPDATE: I did not cold call… I advertised free brainstorming sessions on certain days and people came to me. My confidence is increasing and soon I’ll be back to kicking butt while smiling and dialling.

Photo on 2014-04-17 at 12.25 PM

Shannon Peel is a Professional Marketing Manager and Storyteller. Her company, Shannon Peel Marketing, helps Independent Professionals and Small Businesses define their personal brands and tell their story through different channels. Click to find out more: