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October 5, 2016 | Entrepreneur in Residence | Comments (0)

Note: This blog was originally published on 30Mar2015.  It has been reposted here with permission from the author.


How do these three words intersect?

In 2013, Deloitte published the global Millennial Innovation Survey  with one of its key findings being that: “Innovation is considered to be one of the top three ‘purposes’ of business and just as important as profit.”  At a recent workshop at MaRS, Jennifer Rosart, Innovation Project Manager at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, posed the question: “What is the difference between improvement and innovation?” The smiles on the faces of the workshop’s participants indicated that it was a provocative question. Jennifer expanded on the hospital’s distinction between improvement and innovation by adding the word 'imagination'. Improvement is solving a problem with an existing technology or tool. Innovation is solving a problem by imagining a solution that does not yet exist.

In my work with entrepreneurship education, I was fortunate to be involved with an amazing array of companies and ideas. What I find fascinating about all of them is the human capacity to imagine a different way of being or doing. One impactful example of the 3 i’s in action is MaRS venture eSight. eSight’s goal was to give sight to those deemed legally blind. By imagining a solution that would enable users to have freedom, self-efficacy and confidence with seamless vision, the eSight team was able to innovate a hands-free, mobile and multi-use technology that allows users to move seamlessly through their activities! 

Entrepreneurs imagine a different future and find innovative ways to bring it to reality and to improve lives. If you want to innovate, here are some ways to get started. 

  • Respect your mistakes and learn from them.
  • Be a dissenter—but do not be the type who goes to jail!
  • Be the type of dissenter who questions existing models.
  • Embrace the unknown, don’t fear it.

Join us at the Toronto Reference Library on October 18; 6:30-8:00pm, for an Entrepreneur Panel Discussion, led by me! Hear the stories of various entrepreneurs and how they are changing the way things are traditionally done. 

Get one-on-one small business help by filling out an application here. Applications close Monday, October 31, 2016.



CARDonline Now Available at Toronto Public Library

October 1, 2016 | Christina | Comments (0)

Do you have a small business and would like to compare how much it would cost to advertise in various media; i.e. daily newspapers, radio, outdoor media and more? 

CARDonline, the Toronto Public Library's newest business database, can help. The database provides advertising rates, data and media planning information for advertising, marketing, PR and communiations professionals.

Searching is easy. Type a keyword(s) in the Search Field and limit by Category. Categories are All Categories, Advertising Agencies, Interactive, Magazines, Media Associations, Media Representatives, Newspapers, Other Advertising Media, Out of Home Advertising, Radio and Television

Keyword & Category Search

You can also browse by clicking on a Category or use the drop down menu.
 Browse or Category Search

On the Search Results page, results can be refined by clicking on the links to the left. Refine your search by Type, Province/State, Media Representative, Publisher, Format, Language or Ethnicity. In the example below, results are limited to Polish language newspapers in Toronto.

 Refined Search

To view a listing, click on the selected title. Individual listings include Contact Information, Material Address, Issuance & Closing, Advertising, Rate Card, Position Charges, Mechanical Specifications, and Circulation.

To print a listing, click on Printer Friendly.

CARDonline is available in the Business Department at the Toronto Reference Library and North York Central Library. Ask at the Information Desk for assistance.

Meet Sima Gandhi at the Entrepreneur-in-Residence Launch

September 26, 2016 | Alessya | Comments (0)

Sima Gandhi, EIR
Sima Gandhi

On Wednesday, October 5th, 2016, CBC business commentator, Michael Hlinka, interviews Sima Gandhi, Toronto Public Library's Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR). You are invited to come and meet Gandhi, founder of riince.

Sima was raised in an entrepreneurial family and started her career in the family business of commercial lighting manufacturing at Solera Corp. She has a varied background in private sector startups, spanning several industries including manufacturing, education and construction. The Skylar Project was a social purpose business Sima was involved in, with the objective of building sustainable housing solutions in emerging economies.

As part of the business acceleration team of MaRS’ Entrepreneurship Programs, Sima facilitated and managed relationships with Regional Innovation Centres and Campus Linked Accelerators to make MaRS educational content and experiential workshops accessible. Most recently, Sima founded riince, designing and manufacturing an innovative kitchen utensil addressing the changes in social norms towards eating environmentally friendly proteins and super-seeds.

Sima holds a degree in International Relations from the University of Toronto, and is a member of Founder Institute and Founder Dating.

The 2016 Entrepreneur in Residence Launch is on:
Date: Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Time: 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm
Place: Atrium - Toronto Reference Library
No registration required.

Visit the Entrepreneur in Residence web page as well as the Business & Personal Finance blog for upcoming EIR programs during the months of October and November across the city. All EIR programs are free.

Discover how to apply for upcoming free one-on-one business advice sessions with Gandhi.

For other Small Business programs throughout the Toronto Public Library system, visit the Small Business Programs & Seminars web page.

From Idea to Innovation

September 19, 2016 | Alessya | Comments (0)

Sima Gandhi, EIR
       Sima Gandhi

Sima Gandhi, TPL's Entrepreneur in Residence and founder of riince, will be showing us how she took an idea in her mind and transformed it into an innovative physical item. She discusses her new product and the process of: problem solving, solution conceptualization, validation, manufacturing and distribution.

This talk will be occurring at three locations across the city:

1. Tuesday, September 27         

6:30 - 8:00 pm 

Fairview Branch - Room 3


2. Wednesday, September 28    

6:30 - 8:00pm 

Toronto Reference Library - Hinton Theatre

Guest speaker: Lee Cadesky, C-fu FOODS


3. Thursday, October 6              

6:30 - 8:00pm

Albion Branch - Auditorium

These events are free and all are welcome.

If unable to attend, visit the Business & Personal Finance blog for advice written directly by Sima!

Remember to check out the available resources for entrepreneurs and/or small businesses in relation to raising money for your small business at Toronto Public Library. And if you're interested in more workshops across the city, take a look at our small business programming.






Budgeting for Post-secondary Students

September 11, 2016 | Raya | Comments (2)

Starting college or university is stressful enough without having to worry about money too. Dealing with exams, papers, classes and work doesn't leave much room to think about your finances. However, by creating a budget you can make your life less stressful. A budget shows you how much money is coming in and what goes out for bills and expenses. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has a student budget worksheet that can help you with your financial planning. There are many ways to save money every day and it doesn't need to be painful. Consider the following tips:

1. Course materials

Textbooks can be a huge expense when starting a new school year. Look for second-hand textbooks at your university bookstore, at student-run co-op bookstores, on kijiji and various other online websites like

2. Food

Cooking meals for yourself is really the cheapest alternative. Watch for grocery store specials. Cook in bulk and freeze extras. This way nothing gets wasted. Pack lunches for yourself instead of picking up those grab and go eats. And, remember to never go shopping when you are hungry. This is the way non-essentials end up walking out the door with you.

3. Entertainment

The cost of socializing can really add up. But this doesn't mean that you shouldn't ever go out or entertain your friends.  Organize potluck dinners where everyone brings a dish. Take advantage of free events on campus. Most importantly allocate a certain amount of "fun money" per week that fits in with your budget and be sure to stick to that amount.         

4. Clothes     

Save money on clothing by buying second-hand or in discount stores. Find extra discounts by shopping online. Some online retailers will send you discounts if you sign up for their email list. Or host a clothes swapping party for a fun and cheap alternative to shopping.

5. Credit cards

If you don't have cash to buy something, don't buy it. Buying on credit only delays the inevitable. When that bill comes in at the end of the month, you may not be able to pay it all off and interest charges will start to accumulate thereby affecting your credit rating. 

6. Discounts and sales

Many shops and restaurants offer discounts that may come in the mail or via email.  Get a SPC card for savings at numerous retail outlets, check out sites like Shoestring shopping for warehouse sales in your area, as well as other discounts and coupons.


For more tips on how to save money, check out the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada and take a look at the following books for more information on how to be a financially savvy student:

More money for beer How not to move back in with your parentsSink or SwimSaving for school

The essential guide to paying for university 1000 best smart money secrets for studentsThe smart savvy young consumerLiving well, spending less

Evening Films at the Toronto Reference Library - Sept. to Dec. 2016

September 1, 2016 | Christina | Comments (0)

Projector                                                Photo Credit:  Geralt

Come and join us for free viewings of films and documentaries with themes around STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math), Finance, Careers, Innovation, Imagination, and the Human Spirit.  

Each film will be shown in the Hinton Learning Theatre on the 3rd floor at the Toronto Reference Library. Starting time is 6:00 pm on each date. Dates are:

Friday, September 2 - Planet of the Apes (1968)
Three American astronauts crash on a planet where the inhabitant-rulers are civilized, articulate apes who hunt humans like animals.

Friday, September 9 - The Salt of the Earth
For the last forty years, the photographer Sebastião Salgado has been travelling through the continents, in the footsteps of an ever-changing humanity. He has witnessed some of the major events of our recent history, international conflicts, starvation and exodus. He is now embarking on the discovery of pristine territories, of wild fauna and flora, and of grandiose landscapes as part of a huge photographic project, which is a tribute to the planet's beauty. Sebastião Salgado's life and work are revealed to us by his son, Juliano, who went with him during his last travels, and by Wim Wenders, himself a photographer.

Friday, September 16 - That Sugar Film
One man's journey to discover the bitter truth about sugar. Damon Gameau embarks on a unique experiment to document the effects of a high sugar diet on a healthy body, consuming only foods that are commonly perceived as 'healthy'.  Through this entertaining and informative journey, Damon highlights some of the issues that plague the sugar industry, and where sugar lurks on supermarket shelves.

Friday, September 23 - Sicko
Writer/producer Michael Moore interviews Americans who have been denied treatment by health care insurance companies - companies who sacrifice essential health services in order to maximize profits.  The consequences for the individual subscribers range from bankruptcy to the unnecessary deaths of loved ones.

Friday, September 30 -  Taking Root
One person can make a difference! Taking Root tells the dramatic story of Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai whose simple act of planting trees grew into Kenya's "Greenbelt Movement" - a globally recognized movement for which this charismatic woman became an iconic inspiration. Taking Root details how Maathai mobilized women to rally against deforestation, poverty, embedded economic interests, and government corruption - becoming a national political force that helped to bring down Kenya's 24-year dictatorship. Taking Root captures a world view in which nothing is perceived as impossible.

Friday, October 7 - The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
Boundary-pushing Oscar-nominated filmmaker Morgan Spurlock explores the world of product placement, marketing and advertising in POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, a film that was fully financed through product placement from various brands, all of which are integrated transparently into the film. While using brands in film promotion is not new for Hollywood, it certainly is new territory for the documentary format. Spurlock exploits the phenomenon to new heights, with everything from branded pizza boxes and in-flight film promotions to branded-everything in-film.  

Friday, October 14 -
This documentary introduces the people, stories, and challenges behind the creation of an internet business. At the core of the story are two lifelong friends who quit their day jobs to start this business. Specifically, the film shows what they had to go through to secure capital funding.

Friday, October 21 - The Chocolate Farmer
This full-length documentary takes us to an unspoiled corner of southern Belize, where cacao farmer and father Eladio Pop manually works his plantation in the tradition of his Mayan ancestors:  as a steward of the land. The film captures a year in the life of the Pop family as they struggle to preserve their values in a world that is dramatically changing around them.

Friday, November 4 - Pipelines, Power and Democracy
When it comes to fossil fuels, political power doesn't always lie where we think it does.  Over the course of two years, director Olivier D. Asselin documented the growth of an anti-pipeline movement in Quebec that rekindled a sense of collective purpose and solidarity. The result is a film that urges action at a time when our planet's fragile ecological balance is threatened by those who embrace economic growth at any cost. In partnership with the National Film Board of Canada.

Friday, November 18 - Queen of Versailles
The Queen of Versailles is a character-driven documentary about a billionaire family and their financial challenges in the wake of the economic crisis. With epic proportions of Shakespearean tragedy, the film follows two unique characters, whose rags-to-riches success stories reveal the innate virtues and flaws of the American Dream. The film begins with the family triumphantly constructing the biggest house in America, a 90,000 sq. ft. palace. Over the next two years, their sprawling empire, fueled by the real estate bubble and cheap money, falters due to the economic crisis.  Major changes in lifestyle and character ensue within the cross-cultural household of family members and domestic staff.

Friday, November 25 - Maxed Out
Maxed Out takes viewers on a journey deep inside the American style of debt, where things seems fine as long as the minimum monthly payment arrives on time. With coverage that spans from small American towns all the way to the White House, the film shows how the modern financial industry really works, explains the true definition of "preferred customer" and tells us why the poor are getting poorer while the rich keep getting richer. Hilarious, shocking and incisive, Maxed Out paints a picture of a national nightmare which is all too real for most of us.

Friday, December 9 - The Big Short
When four outsiders saw what the big banks, media and government refused to, the global collapse of the economy, they had an idea: The Big Short. Their bold investment leads them into the dark underbelly of modern banking where they must question everyone and everything.

Friday, December 16 - Jane's Journey
More than 20 years ago, Dr. Jane Goodall, now 75, decided to give up her career as a primatologist, as well as her private life, in order to devote all her energy to saving our endangered planet. Since then she's been spending 300 days a year scouring the globe on her mission to spread hope for future generations. She has taken on the responsibilities of a UN Messenger of Peace, and has been honored with countless awards. In Jane's Journey, we accompany her on her travels across several continents, and receive unprecedented access to her intense and exciting past. From her childhood home in Bournemouth, England, we embark to Gombe National Park on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, in Tanzania, her second home. It's where she began her groundbreaking research nearly half a century ago.

Disruption Diary - Entry #2

August 23, 2016 | Entrepreneur in Residence | Comments (0)

I’m excited to be the Entrepreneur in Residence for Toronto Public Library’s 2016 Small Business activities. I’ll be writing some general blog posts with my ideas about the Start-Up Ecosystem as well as this Disruption Diary, describing my personal experience with the evolution of riince from idea to innovation to ... ???  Follow along ... we are in the middle of an amazing journey!

In Disruption Diary entry #1, we went over the discovery of a problem and the start of an idea to solve it. 

Disruption Diary #2 – Is there Value?  

Analyzing whether I had identified a widespread problem, determining who feels the pain of the problem and how my solution solves the problem are the critical next steps I needed to work through in deciding whether to go forward with riince.

I started by asking myself a few questions:

  1. Who would use this type of tool?
  2. How do I describe the solution?
  3. What is the benefit of using it?

I started writing down the answers to these questions, my own ideas and those of the people close to me:

Who is it for?

I identified my daughter as the type of person who would eat the foods this tool is designed for (ancient grains and seeds such as quinoa and dry pulses like lentils). So the initial profile was:

But then I realized this person may not be the one actually doing the cooking! Therefore, they wouldn't be the ones feeling the pain of having to clean the grains, seeds and lentils. The profile then expanded to:

Describing the solution

The main reason the idea of riince came to be was because I found it very inconvenient to clean quinoa with the tools I already had in my kitchen. I needed to prepare two cups, but the strainer I had could not accommodate that amount. Once the quinoa was cleaned (in 1/2 cup batches) about 10% of it remained stuck to the strainer! This meant I had to use a silicone spatula to get all the grains out of the strainer. When it was time to clean up, the sink was filled with the three tools I needed to do this one step of the food preparation –- measuring cup, strainer and spatula.

Describing the solution was not too hard:

  • One tool to replace three
  • The essential tool for the job of cleaning grains, pulses and seeds


When I looked at the benefits of the tool, it was a long list! I found it very easy to think of benefits when I looked at it as something that would add value to the consumer:

  • Time savings
  • Right tool for the job
  • Easier cleanup
  • Promotes healthy eating
  • Promotes green lifestyle (plant-based protein)
  • Good for the planet (plant-based protein)

Value Proposition

At the end of this exercise, I came away with several value propositions. I used this phrase as a template:

For (target customer), riince is important because it (how) and allows you to (benefits).

Examples of Value Propositions for riince:

  1. Riince is for all cooks who are looking for a simple way to prep small pulses, grains and seeds. Riince allows you to measure, rinse and dispense these small foods quickly and easily.
  2. For all green eaters, riince allows you to measure, rinse and dispense your high protein, low carbon grains and seeds with one easy utensil.
  3. For health conscious eaters who want to ensure contaminants like dust, arsenic and pesticides are more thoroughly cleaned. Riince allows you to measure, rinse and dispense with one simple tool, making prep faster, easier and cleaner.
  4. For healthy people wanting to more thoroughly remove saponins, bacteria and pesticides from grains, seeds and pulses, Riince is a patented device that allows you to measure, rinse and dispense with one simple tool. Enjoy your grains faster, cleaner and simply.

Disruption Take-Away #1:  If you are experiencing a problem, others probably are too.  The solution might be a viable product or business idea.

Disruption Take-Away #2:  I was challenged to express why my product was unique. Refining and experimenting led me to a variety of possible Value Propositions.

Next Step:  Testing the Product Concept with customers (before investing too much money).

P.S.  In doing this work, I was able to add more descriptors to my WHO list. I added vegans, vegetarians and environmentalists. At this point, my focus was still largely on quinoa. Some of the company names I started experimenting with were Quinoash and Cleanoa.

P.P.S.  Resources for working on your Value Proposition:

  1. Value Proposition Design by Alexander Osterwalder.
  2. This video from MaRSDD.


Hi everyone, Librarian Alessya here again! Don't forget to click on the links in this blog, as many will lead you to library resources to further your knowledge on that topic. Also, Sima suggested a great book regarding The Value Proposition. If it piques your interest and you want to read more, try one of these:

Creating & Delivering the Value Proposition Global Account Management The Retail Value Proposition The Dollarization Discipline



The Road to Early Retirement

August 11, 2016 | Raya | Comments (0)




Let's face it, we all dream of retiring early and enjoying the fruits of our labour. Be it at age 35, 40 or 50, retiring early requires essentially the same kind of planning. According to Bryan Borzykowski, personal finance writer and editor, retiring early isn't nearly as difficult as we think. With some careful planning and a good savings regime, you will be well on your way to making your dream a reality.

Borzykowski suggests the following five steps to help you achieve your goal:

1. Save, save, save

In order to retire early you need to have enough money and this means aggressively putting money aside in a separate account. You still need to cover your current living expenses but anything beyond that should go into a retirement account.

2. Invest in equities

Saving money is one thing, but your money has to grow, too. Playing the stock market can be tricky, but it really is the only way to build up enough wealth to retire early and comfortably. Consider putting your money into dividend-paying companies and then reinvesting those payouts into more stock.

3. Use your RRSP

Making contributions to your RRSP gets you a nice refund cheque. If you want to retire early, put that refund back into your retirement account. More savings=more stock.

4. Be cheap

Cut out things like restaurant visits, new cars and designer clothes. Use your local library to borrow books, magazines and DVDs. Try using Groupon, Craigslist and discount grocery stores to get better prices on the stuff you need. Retiring early means making sacrifices now.

5. Create the perfect plan

Create a plan and stick to it! Keep an eye on your investments to make sure they are performing the way you want them to. Your early retirement plan should help you save enough money each month to reach your goals.


Retiring early isn't for everyone, but if that is your goal and you don't know where to start, check out these helpful books and DVDs (for free!) at the library:

The essential retirement guide Free at 45How to retire the cheapskateEarly retirement extreme

Stop working too, you still can Retirement revolutionRetire smart, retire happy52 ways to wreck your retirement




Disruption Diary 1 - The Idea

August 8, 2016 | Entrepreneur in Residence | Comments (0)

Hi everyone, it's Sima, TPL's 2016 Entrepreneur in Residence. I am excited to blog about my personal experience with the evolution of riince from concept to prototype to ... ??? Follow along...we are in the middle of an amazing journey!

RiinceThe idea for riince was ‘cooked up’ in the kitchen with the help of my teenage daughter and a little entrepreneurial spirit. My daughter loves cooking and she follows many food channels, bloggers and feeds, and is always trying new ideas and recipes. I’m her sous-chef in the kitchen, and when she became vegan, she started experimenting with grains and seeds.

One day, she texted me and asked me to prepare some quinoa for her, for when she got home from school because she had a couple of new recipes to try out. As I was pouring the quinoa out of the bag into a measuring cup, I asked myself how she washes it before she cooks it? When I checked online, I read about saponins and how this natural detergent coats the seed. I thought it was pretty cool that it’s harvested for use in natural soaps, but I also realized it was a contaminant that needed to be rinsed off prior to cooking.

Preparing quinoa needed more attention and care than rice, which was our previous go-to. I realized there was no single utensil to do the job of measuring and cleaning while making sure that none of the washed seeds were lost down the drain. We looked at the tools in our kitchen drawer, and started imagining "this" scoop with "that" handle ... "this" size versus "that" size ... how to make it mechanical without making it complicated. Over the next few weeks, we continued to brainstorm the concept and our excitement grew. We realized we had conceived something unique, useful and easy to understand! Riince was our solution to combine the "Measure. Rinse. Dispense" steps and make the prep of grains, seeds and lentils fast and easy!

Disruption Take-Away #1:  If you are experiencing a problem, others probably are too. The solution might be a viable product or business idea.


Great story, Sima! TPL Librarian, Alessya, here. For anyone else with a budding idea or a general interest in entrepreneurship, check out some great resources available at Toronto Public Library such as:

Entrepreneurship: Owning Your Future The Idea in You Beyond the Business Plan Entrepreneurship for the Rest of Us


Next Step:  Develop a Value Proposition.

Canadian Business Lists Online

August 1, 2016 | Christina | Comments (0)

Paper Pen and Laptop                                              Photo Credit:  Pete O'Shea

Lists, lists and more lists. Today, there is a bounty of lists on numerous topics. Online searches can help you find lists but the task can be daunting. Many of the results might be irrelevant.  

If searching for Canadian business lists online, here are a few web sites that may be useful:

BC Business: Hot Lists
- BCBusiness Top 100 Winners and Losers
- B.C.'s Top 100 Companies
- B.C.'s 35 Most Influential Women
- B.C.'s 65 Most Influential Brands
- and more

Canadian Business: Rankings 
(links are located at the bottom of the landing page)
- Canada's Richest People
- Canada's Best Jobs
- Canada's Best MBA Programs
- Canada's Most Powerful Business People
- Canada's Richest Neighbourhoods 


To read online issues of Canadian Business, visit Flipster eMagazines. An active Toronto Public Library card is required. 


Entrepreneur Magazine: Top 50
- Top 20 Fastest-Growing Franchises of the Year
- also, check out specifc issues under Entrepreneur: Magazine such as:
  August 2016 issue: 50 Best Cities for Your Startup
  June 2016 issue:100 Brilliant Companies to Watch 
  January 2016 issue: 2016's Women to Watch


To read online issues of Entrepreneur Magazine, visit Zinio eMagazines. An active Toronto Public Library card is required.


August 01, 2016 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine  July 01, 2016 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine  June 01, 2016 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine

Financial Post
- Financial Post Magazine: FP 500 The Premier Ranking for Corporate Canada Rankings
- Profit 500: Canada's Fastest Growing Companies
- W100: Canada's Top Female Entrepreneurs

   Gold Trophy                                       Photo Credit: Wikirishiaacharya

In addition to online newspapers and magazines, award sites may help you find top Canadian entrepreneurs:

Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business:  Awards
- Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Relations
- Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame (ABHF): National Youth Aboriginal Entrepreneur Award
- Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame (ABHF): Lifetime Achievement Award
- Aboriginal Economic Development Corporation Award

Canadian Immigrant: Immigrant Stories: Top 25 Immigrants
- RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award Winners
- under the Immigrant Stories menu, click on Money & Business for additional stories on entrepreneurs

EY (Ernst & Young): Entrepreneurship
- Entrepreneur of the Year:  Canada's top entrepreneurs are arranged by region - Pacific, Prairies, Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic
- Entrepreneurial Winning Women

RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards

Welcome! We are specialized librarians in our business department and we write about current issues for small business owners and those interested in personal finance matters. For more information and resources see our Small Business & Personal Finance page.