How Edmonton Made is boosting local business

Part talent scout, part cheerleader, Laura Masyk is an unabashed booster of local entrepreneurs

A year-and-a-half ago, after having honed her skills at local marketing firms such as Top Draw and Calder Bateman, Laura Masyk (Marketing ’09) was in the enviable position of choosing between two job offers.

One was from a major philanthropic organization looking for a communications adviser. The other was from the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, which wanted her to champion local entrepreneurs through a program called Edmonton Made. Both offered the potential for the positive community impact Masyk needed to make. The difference was that the latter wanted reshaping. Masyk made her choice, and took on the role of program manager at EEDC. Now she’s helping make small businesses, and perhaps Edmonton, more successful.

Laura Masyk, program manager, Edmonton Made, Edmonton Economic Development CorporationThe job

Masyk is both talent scout and cheerleader. After refining Edmonton Made’s mandate to raise the profile of local businesses dealing in everything from printmaking to plumbing, she now identifies candidates according to four criteria:

  • They must be headquartered in or within 100 kilometres of Edmonton
  • They need to be directly supportive of the region in some way
  • They must demonstrate high quality
  • They must collaborate with other companies in the program.

    Then, she shares their stories on the program’s website to introduce them to new audiences.

“We wanted to make sure that the little guys in the business community were having a voice."

“We wanted to make sure that the little guys in the business community were having a voice and that we were giving them as much exposure as we could,” she says. The ultimate goal is growth, she adds. Edmonton Made businesses get connected to resources that will help them scale. “We’re trying to find more businesses to export.”

The challenge

Mostly, Masyk is a department of one. That makes connecting and reaching out to potentially thousands of businesses a problem of logistics, but it’s one she feels is best handled one handshake at a time.

The advantage

Edmonton seems ready for an entrepreneurial renaissance, says Masyk.

“With the decline in oil, I feel like there’s a big opportunity to start something new. We have a strong entrepreneurial spirit. It needs a little fostering and cheerleading and it would just take off.” She feels that shoppers’ attitudes are shifting as well. “People want to buy local and support their small business community. We want to make that really easy.”

Edmonton seems ready for an entrepreneurial renaissance.

The reward

Masyk’s job could be seen to produce a trifecta of winners:

  1. Consumers. Christmas is coming. Masyk and her team release a new Edmonton Made Gifted catalogue every fall and pack it with something for everyone to wear, eat, display or use.
  2. The city. Masyk believes that the diversity of businesses in the Edmonton Made stable is in turn “helping to diversify the economy.”
  3. Masyk herself. “I like being able to spotlight these people who have worked really hard and sometimes don’t get as much exposure as they should,” she says. “I love that I feel that I’m making an impact and actually helping people.”

Gifted - the Edmonton Made Catalogue

Launched in 2017, Gifted is the cataloge of Edmonton Made, a program designed to support and promote local businesses.

Released annually just before the holiday shopping season, the book (and its online companion) make it easy to buy from entrepreneurs based in the greater Edmonton area.

Choose from handcrafted baby books, pour-over coffee stands, barrel-aged gin and a few hundred other items that you simply can't get anywhere else.

Curating the catalogue is one of program manager Laura Masyk's favourite jobs of the year. "I love being able to make these businesses feel really special,” she says - and, perhaps in part because of the exposure, a little more sustainable.

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