This is a guest post by Elis Ashlene Prasad who was my intern from January to May 2023. Elis is completing Humber College’s Advanced Public Relations Diploma Program and will graduate June 14, 2023.
“The nerve wracking but fulfilling internship assignment that changed my outlook on uncomfortable situations.“
My Internship Assignment
Completing an internship is a final semester requirement to graduate from Humber College’s Advanced Public Relations Diploma.
In January of 2023, I was excited to become an intern for Mary-Ellen Hynd whose business is Mary-Ellen Hynd Coaching and Consulting. Her website felt joyous and insightful. In our interview, I felt like she cared about me and my future.
When we started working together, Mary-Ellen asked me what I wanted to learn through my internship. I put together a short list that included improving my communication skills in professional settings and better understanding and developing my creative process.
To support this learning, she suggested that I attend the Dragons’ Den Market to meet and interview business owners and write a blog post. I was familiar with the Dragons’ Den television show so was intrigued and excited by this opportunity but also nervous!
About the Dragons’ Den Market
The Dragons’ Den Market was a first-time event, open to the public that featured 30+ of the most innovative businesses featured on Dragons’ Den. It was an opportunity to touch, feel and purchase products as well as talk to vendors about their time in the Den and their experience taking their products from inception to consumer-friendly success.
Initial Trepidation – Entering the Market
It was a gloomy afternoon in February when I arrived at the CBC Toronto Atrium. I was nervous and thought to turn back more than once, but I didn’t want to let Mary-Ellen down. She was excited for me to take on this assignment and share my experience.
Entering the Market, I was immediately overwhelmed by the roomful of strangers. My pre-meditated speech raced through my head. “Hi, I’m Elis, a new public relations intern from Humber College. I was hoping that you could tell me a little more about your business for a blog post I’m writing about small businesses.”
Eventually I built up the courage and approached a booth selling “Charmy” dog food. Anything dog related brings me comfort so it felt familiar. It turned out to be the perfect ice-breaker!
Charmy Pet Box
Zach Sheng the owner of Charmy Pet Box welcomed me with a big smile and didn’t hesitate to answer any of my questions. I learned that Zach created his all-natural cat and dog food to preserve the lives of pets after his family dog passed away from diseases stemming from consuming highly processed kibble. Touched by this story, I bought some treats for my furry friends at home and continued on.
Salem’s Lott Hot Sauces
Next up was Salem’s Lott Hot Sauces where I was welcomed by Jeff Salem, the owner who is from my hometown of Brampton. I discovered that Jeff is a world traveler who has visited 75 countries! On his travels, he tasted many different flavours which inspired his curated line of delicious hot sauces. As someone who carefully reads the ingredients of every product I buy, I really appreciated the all-natural, no preservatives and gluten free aspect. I bought the two spiciest flavours ‘Be Careful’ and ‘Six Feet Under’ for my dad who adores spice. Love you dad!
The Good Pantry
Finally, The Good Pantry’s colourful booth caught my eye. I was warmly greeted by the three sister owners, Lucy, Anne and Rose who provided samples of their all-natural, gluten free, zero preservative buttercream frosting. They shared their personal story of starting out in a small kitchen to their frosting being on the shelves of five major grocery chains across Canada. I bought some frosting which was the perfect accompaniment for the all-natural brownie mix I had at home.
All Natural Solutions – A Common Theme
The common theme I noticed throughout the entire Market was small Canadian businesses taking the “all-natural” route. This is noble work when you consider that ultra-processed food and drink products dominate the food supply in Canada.
About 75% of Canada’s food supply is packaged, processed food items. Of particular concern is the increased consumption of “ultra-processed,” ready-to-consume foods, which are typically energy dense with high fat, sugar and sodium content.
The health of Canadians lies in the hands of those producing what we consume. I felt so proud and appreciative of these business owners for taking the step in the right direction – for pets too!
Newfound Confidence – Leaving the Market
As I left the Market, I felt completely different than when I arrived. I felt a sense of accomplishment and newfound confidence as a result. Proof was the big smile on my face!
That afternoon, I learned that an assignment like this doesn’t have to be scary. People are very willing to talk and share their stories as well as kind and supportive of students starting out in their careers.
I am so glad Mary-Ellen encouraged me and couldn’t wait to turn my findings into a blog post and spread the word about the wonderful Canadian small businesses that I discovered.
The next venture of mine will certainly not be so daunting.