Calgary small business enjoying sweet smell of success

Building a successful business from scratch in Calgary during challenging times? It’s no sweat for sisters-in-law Pippa and Neige Blair, creators of natural deodorants.

Their company, Routine, is the 2019 ATB Small Business Calgary Award winner and they’ve expanded their line of natural oils and cream deodorants throughout Canada, the United States and are now selling world-wide.

Routine got its start as a pop-up business at Calgary’s Market Collective eight years ago. Despite the economy’s twists and changes, the business partners are showing no signs of slowing down.

And they have zero interest in moving outside of Calgary to manage their company’s fast-paced growth.

“It’s snowballing and it’s a supportive community,” said Neige. “Why wouldn’t we stay in Calgary? Why not here and why not create jobs in your community? There’s no reason not to. We have everything we need here; we have all the resources.”

The partners say they’re content to continue growing their family-based business from their hometown.

“Calgary is an incredibly self-sufficient city,” said Pippa. Everything you need you can get locally. You don’t need to go to Toronto or Vancouver for suppliers. There are incredible businesses that are here and because they’re hungry for business during a hurting economy, they will make things happen for you.”

To help with our city’s economic recovery, The City of Calgary is focusing on revitalizing its downtown and streamlining permitting processes to reduce barriers to success for business owners. One of the most notable changes is coming to The City of Calgary’s business licensing system in January 2020. Business licence fees will be reduced by 10 per cent and fees for moving businesses will be removed. These and more changes will save the business community up to $1 million a year, says The City’s Business and Local Economy leader Sonya Sharp.

“Having previously owned my own businesses, I can relate to what entrepreneurs experience. At the end of the day, business owners are taking great personal and financial risks, in the hopes it all works out,” said Sharp. “Routine is an example of a small business using the strategic advantages Calgary offers and is flourishing in this new economy. They are a great example of why Calgary is the best place to start and grow a business.”

While the face of oil and gas industry is definitely changing, entrepreneurs like the Blairs say it’s a good time to do business in Calgary.

“There’s a whole other community that is thinking outside the box after the downturn,” said Neige. “It doesn’t all have to be one thing. You don’t need to put all your eggs in one basket.

Diversifying is key, she said. “If you have a good you create here you can sell it in other communities, too. There’s always going to be economic downturns in all different pockets. If you can diversify, the ones who aren’t going through a downturn will lift you up.”

And that’s exactly what’s happening for Routine, which is expanding at a rapid pace.

“Calgary is an incredible city to start your product because people jump in and support it,” said Pippa. “Look what happened to us, we literally got into our first 100 stores in Calgary because people said, ‘I want this product I want to buy it so you need to carry it.’ The sheer amount of people who purchase our product and support us… it just makes sense for us to be here.”

Neige agrees Calgary is a great city for entrepreneurs.

“People here are hungry for different, for new. We’re the wild west – you can basically do whatever you want in Calgary. I feel like Calgary’s growing in such a positive direction in this community.”

Real estate prices, coworking office spaces, reasonable rent and vacancies are making it easier for new businesses to get started.

“There’s a good community to support you here,” said Neige. “You can start small and grow. You can test the waters and see how it works.”

The pair say those interested in launching a product they believe in need to take a chance and everything will follow.

“The hardest part for people is committing to that action,” said Pippa. “But do it. If you have a great product, people in Calgary will buy it and your company will grow.”

Learn more about The City of Calgary's Business and Local Economy program.