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Entrepreneurs Embrace Both Social Media and ‘Old-School’ Promotion

Diversity of talent network at Richmond Hill ‘Creative Connected’ event

By Kristina Skorbach
Epoch Times Staff
Created: November 13, 2012 Last Updated: November 13, 2012
Related articles: Canada » Toronto
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Dmitri Shaffer, an LED lights specialist, stands next to his display table at the Creativity Connected event Nov. 9 at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts. Shaffer said that reaching out to customers through social media did not have an impact on his business. (Kristina Skorbach/The Epoch Times)

Dmitri Shaffer, an LED lights specialist, stands next to his display table at the Creativity Connected event Nov. 9 at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts. Shaffer said that reaching out to customers through social media did not have an impact on his business. (Kristina Skorbach/The Epoch Times)

Richmond Hill called out its creative community Nov. 9 at an annual event aimed at bringing together the area’s dynamic population of inventive talent.

The second annual Creativity Connected event at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts gathered artists, scientists, engineers, and other creative professionals to look at what they are doing now, and could be doing tomorrow.

Your fate will be determined by how quickly you adapt and adopt.

— Sarah Prevette, founder, Sprouter.com

This year’s focus is on innovation, technology, and design. Some 30 exhibitors and 150 attendees—a diverse crowd of painters, software makers, photographers, and more—came out to share ideas and network.

Richmond Hill is uniquely endowed with creative people. According to the town’s Economic Development Strategy, nearly 50 percent of the work force in Richmond Hill is employed in creative industries, ranging from the arts to media to engineering.

Keynote speaker Sarah Prevette took the stage with her passionate talk and a slideshow presentation called “The Revolution Has Started.”

Prevette is a Web entrepreneur and founder of Sprouter.com, an online network that connects entrepreneurs with giants in their industry for advice and insight.

She spoke on what it takes to set up a small business in the current economy and how the market is ready for “rebels with a cause.”

Prevette praised social media for its ability to engage customers and to provide personalized user experience that extends to mobile devices.

She also dubbed the recently introduced 3-D printer as the future of small businesses, enabling them to make their products in the comforts of their own living room.

“Your fate will be determined by how quickly you adapt and adopt,” Prevette said.

‘Old-School’ Way of Doing Business

While many in the audience were nodding and one man admitted to having a 3-D printer already installed in his home, some exhibitors told a different story of how they preferred doing business.

Carol Wakefield is a local writer who set up a table displaying her cozy mystery series. One of her books, “Art for Art’s Sake,” now has an e-book version, but Wakefield said she sells her other four novels through her website and word of mouth.

It was the first year that she and her husband, Jeff Wakefield, exhibited her novels at Creativity Connected.

Every artistic endeavour is a challenge.

— Carol Wakefield, author

“We’re kind of old school … we don’t tweet and we’re not on Facebook, we don’t do any of the social media stuff that we probably should be looking at, because I think that our heads are just too firmly grounded in old-school thinking,” she said.

“It is a challenge, but then, everything’s a challenge,” said Wakefield, who has spent most of her adult life illustrating books. “Every artistic endeavour is a challenge,” she noted.

Wakefield said she doesn’t make a living off her books and that almost no Canadian can, but she and her husband make historically themed souvenirs that they sell to museums across North America.

Keeping it Local, Personal

Another exhibitor, Dmitri Shaffer, is an LED lighting specialist. His company, evoLED, imports the lights from China and Shaffer then advises his customers on which light would be the best fit.

“Home Depot doesn’t provide the service that I do, so if you go and buy some [LED lights] in Home Depot and you bring them home, half of the time it’s not going to fit or you’re not going to like the colour,” Shaffer told an event attendee.

“I come in to your house or your business and I can see what you have there. And depending on what you have, I can recommend something and give you the estimate right away.”

Shaffer said competition doesn’t scare him, as there is an increased demand for energy-saving LED lights.

Talking about how he set up lighting at a customer’s cottage in Muskoka, Shaffer said the owner only needed energy from half of the solar panels he originally installed.

“This whole display, including these five lights and the lights underneath, is 45 watts,” Shaffer said as he pointed to his display of bulbs in various sizes and shapes emitting lights in different colours. He noted, however, that one of the bulbs in the ceiling was 50 watts.

Although he works from home, Shaffer said he can make a living from his small business and he is not too keen on promoting via social media.

“You need to invest lots of time in it, and this is not what I enjoy doing, so I stopped and [it] didn’t really make a difference for my business,” he said.

How does he prefer to reach out to customers? “I like to keep it local, I like to keep it personal,” Shaffer said.

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