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Are business collaborations worth it?
The Coal and Canary and Cystic Fibrosis Canada Always Find Your Spark candle, one of a limited partnerships the Winnipeg-based company pursued recently.

Are business collaborations worth it?

By Gabrielle Piché

Always keep your spark.

Cystic Fibrosis Canada and Coal and Canary agreed to use this quote in their candle’s design. Coal and Canary, a Manitoban candle company, placed their company logo above the quote. Cystic Fibrosis Canada’s name shows below.

Careful deliberation went into the candle’s design — should both parties’ names show? What colours should be used? What font?

The same thoughtful intention went into the decision to work together. Business collaborations hold many benefits, but only when they align with companies’ brands and goals, Amanda Buhse, Coal and Canary’s co-founder and art director, says.

Her company has a waiting list of businesses wanting to collaborate. Coal and Canary only pursues two or three collaborations a year.

“If we were to take every single one that has approached us, yes, we’d be really busy and making money,” Buhse says. “Is that really what’s important? Is that really going to help our business? No, it’s actually going to harm our business.”

Buhse said she looks for companies that fit Coal and Canary’s brand. Often, collaborators will have a similar demographic or a new demographic the candle company wants to target.

Collaborations help you reach different markets, garner new ideas and build relationships, Buhse says.

“We definitely have helped each other and raised each other up that way, which I think is kind of the point of collaboration.”

Her company continues to work with organizations it’s made candles with years after the candles come out.

Building your network is one benefit of collaboration, according to Jill Earthy, the interim CEO of Women’s Enterprise Centre in B.C.

“Being an entrepreneur is hard,” Earthy says. “A lot of entrepreneurs feel alone, so being able to support each other is really critical.”

Companies who collaborate also leverage their partner’s strengths and have opportunities to reach a bigger market, she says. Collaborators can share marketing, administration and distribution resources.

Checking in with your company’s goals before beginning a collaboration is a good idea, offers Earthy. She calls it identifying your “why.”

“Setting that foundation up front is so critical,” she said.

It’s best to have a written document with companies’ goals, a timeline and expected outcomes in a collaboration’s initial stages, Earthy said. Otherwise, businesses can get misrepresented.

And if a collaboration seems like it won’t work, it’s okay to say no, says Earthy.

“Listen to your Spidey sense, your intuition and stay true to your goals and values.”

Manitoban businesses contributed to Love Local Manitoba’s COVID-19 care packages because the company — and final product — aligned with their businesses’ goals, says Peter Fehr, co-founder of Love Local Manitoba.

The care packages — filled with coffee, honey and broth, among other things — are delivered to customers’ doors.

“As a vendor, they get to be a part of that voice of local in Manitoba, so it has value to them to keep associating their brand,” Fehr says.

Collaboration has benefits in the online world too, he says. When Love Local Manitoba posts online, they’ll tag the vendors they’re showcasing. The vendors will share the post on their own platforms, exposing Love Local Manitoba to a new audience.

“It just keeps the brand top of mind for people,” Fehr said.

He said it’s best to over-communicate when collaborating with others.

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