Top Ottawa Entrepreneurs Collaborating to Give Back to the Community

Originally published here by the Kanata-Carleton Small Business Network  (KCSBN)
From right to left: Jarrod Goldsmith, Dylan Black, Santa, Michael Wood (December 14, 2019)

What do you expect three top Ottawa entrepreneurs will be doing on a cold Saturday in December in the midst of the holiday season? I would say anything from shopping for gifts, to pitching their services, to dining out with friends and family. However, that is not what Jarrod Goldsmith, Michael Wood and Dylan Black were doing at all. Actually, these three were at the Canadian Blood Services in Ottawa, not only donating blood but also hosting a blood drive to raise awareness and attract donors on a cold December day. Their act of kindness definitely caught our attention and we wanted to know what drove them to do it, so we joined-up with them to learn more.

By the time we got to the Blood Service Center on Carling Avenue the place was full of staff, volunteers, friends, reporters, as well as other entrepreneurs who stopped by to show their support – even Santa and Captain America were there to cheer the donors! We sat down with each of these entrepreneurs to know more about their businesses, humble beginnings, key achievements, some challenges along the way, and their desire to help the community.

We started with our friend Jarrod Goldsmith, the founder and owner of Sax Appeal (Canada’s Premier Saxophone Ensemble) and eSAX (a renowned entrepreneur networking community).

Can you tell us a bit about your business and what made you start?

I started Sax Appeal in 2011 as a unique all-saxophone band. This was an entirely new concept as most people have never heard of a group like this before. With a specialty of performing background jazz or classical ambiance music for events like cocktail receptions, weddings, gala’s etc, it was very difficult to create a market for this kind of band. So I started networking to get gigs and haven’t looked back! That is why I started the networking community eSAX to bring together small businesses to help them connect within the entrepreneur eco-system. (And always having Sax Appeal provide elegant jazz music while people network is a nice touch)! Little did I know that the appetite in Ottawa for such a networking community was huge and we were supplying a much-needed demand for personal connections.

What would you consider your major achievements?

I have received many business awards over the past eight years that I am very proud of, but my greatest achievement so far had been supporting other entrepreneurs establish the right connections to grow and scale their business. “I just love it when people make connections through me; it makes the hardship worth it.” For eSAX, my major achievement must have been having Brett Wilson (Dragons’ Den emeritus), Bruce Linton (original CEO of Canopy Grown (on the day that cannabis became legal in Canada), and series entrepreneur Steve Cody (who launched Ruckify) all be featured speakers at the October 2018 eSAX event. We had over 600 people!

What would you say were the main challenges facing you as an entrepreneur?

When you have just started your business, you are everyone at once because you cannot afford to hire help. So you end up being the receptionist, the window washer, the accountant, the web developer, the graphic designer, the sales person and the president. It is time consuming! Most of us are familiar with the concept of ‘boot-strapping’, but until business really takes-off, we have no choice to literally do everything. It’s very time-consuming.

You are a very busy man, what makes you organize this blood drive on top of everything else?

Saving lives by donating blood is one of the most unselfish acts someone can do. When I talk about eSAX being a community-driven organization, it’s events like this that make it all worthwhile. About three years ago I collaborated with my friend Michael Wood (who I understand you are interviewing next), to organize a blood drive to help our mutual friend Stu Schwartz, the MAJIC 100 morning radio host who was going through cancer treatments at the time. We have been organizing these blood drives together since then, and now Dylan joined us but I will let him tell you why himself.

After talking to Jarrod, we started chatting with Michael Wood, the founder and owner of Ottawa Special Events, a Professor at Algonquin College, and a renowned Canadian musician.

What made you start a business during the peak of your musical career?

I was very lucky at a young age to do what I love, touring in a band while playing music and visiting the world. In 2009 when I decided to settle down in Ottawa, I realized there is not a good one-stop shop to host big events – where clients can rent everything they need from tables and projectors to lights and mobile stages. Therefore, I decided to launch Ottawa Special Events and the rest as they say is history.

What would you consider your major achievements as an entrepreneur?

In less than ten years, we grew to 35 full-time staff and we became an award winning party, event and audiovisual rental company. In 2019 alone, we organised key events for the city of Ottawa, including the Tulip Festival, Latin Sparks, Sense Soiree and Capital Pride, just to name a few.

Along the way to success, what would you say were the main challenges?

When we started the business we were only two people, but the demand grew quickly and it was very time consuming to do everything ourselves. We needed to find the right team that reflected our value of putting consumers first. Our key to success from the get-go are our exceptional customer service and my knowledge of Google and Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which drove the company to the top.

All this success, why are you organizing this blood drive?

As Jarrod mentioned earlier, three years ago our friend Stu Schwartz, the MAJIC 100 morning radio host needed cancer treatment. The music industry here is a close-knit family so we got together and used our collective networks to help raise awareness of the need for blood donation. It was an amazing experience, we felt compelled since then to continue on our mission of leveraging our voices and networks to help the community.

At the end, we sat down to interview Dylan Black, who is not per se an entrepreneur but embodies the entrepreneurial spirit, and through his media platforms (boom 99.7, Rogers TV) and YuK Yuk events has helped so many small business entrepreneurs in Ottawa to grow.

What made you start focusing on small business entrepreneurs?

I have been in the radio business since 1997, when I was still in high school, but I would say I started getting into the entrepreneur world about four years ago when I became an MC at several corporate events and an affiliate member in many boards. I noticed that these small businesses need a voice to grow and get the word out, at the same time they cannot afford marketing and advertisements when they are operating on a start-up budget. Therefore, I started using my platform either boom 99.7 or Rogers TV to support them. In short, I do it because “I want to use my voice for good.”

What would you say the entrepreneurs’ biggest challenge today?

Promotion, getting the word out and their name recognized. It is not easy being heard and seen when there are many budding companies around. To get them seen is my mission. “I welcome entrepreneurs who reach out to me, if they do not it is a missed opportunity”. For example, I can help their charity events, which in turn helps them get their business recognized.

What would you consider to be your major achievement?

In 5 years, I collected $15,000 through the Movember campaign, raised over $3,700 for the Breast Cancer Society of Canada through boom’s #buzzforboobs campaign, and raised close to $10,000 for various charities including “Tysen’s Mission to a Million”. I also was honoured to win the United Way 2015 “Community Builder Award”, among other prestigious award.

However, my biggest achievement I would have to say is my son Maxwell James, who was born in 2017 and named after Order of Canada recipient Max Keeping and my father James. Raising my son with the values of giving back to the community is the legacy I want to leave him with.

Why are you participating in this blood drive and will you do it again?

I have donated blood 90 times since high school but this is the first time I participate in a blood drive. I want to do this in memory of my father, James Barton, who passed away at the Heart Institute this summer and needed blood transfusion. I think it is very important to have the blood drive in Christmas where people are in their most charitable spirit. As you can see, it is a great success. Over a hundred people stopped by today to show support, volunteer or donate. We collected 80 units of blood and each unit saves three lives. If you do the math, we managed to save 240 people in one day. That is a successful day worth celebrating, and we intend to do this again.

We finished this interview with these three amazing entrepreneurs feeling so inspired to do more to help the community. We actually invited and offered to help them host their next mega blood drive here in Kanata, and they seem all in. Until then, please visit the Canadian Blood Services in Ottawa or call 1-888-2-DONATE to book your next appointment today!

Originally published here by the Kanata-Carleton Small Business Network  (KCSBN)

Mentorship award to honour memory of Ottawa business leader Peter Stewart at eSAX

Mentorship award to honour memory of Ottawa business leader Peter Stewart

Peter Stewart

An Ottawa business leaders will have his name and memory honoured in a new mentorship award sponsored by numerous local organizations.

The Peter Stewart Business Mentor of the Year Award will celebrate the longtime Orléans business leader’s contributions. The award will be given to a member of the newly-merged Ottawa Board of Trade who has proven to be a leader and mentor in the community for a number of years.

Stewart told OBJ then that more businesspeople in the city should recognize the value of spending time with other companies.

“Too many businesspeople don’t get involved in their community and miss out on opportunities. They miss out on talking to other businesspeople and they miss out on hearing how other businesspeople are having the exact same struggles that they are,” he said.

Stewart died earlier this year after a battle with esophageal cancer.

Nominations are open until Sept. 23 for the award, which is sponsored by eSAX, Invest Ottawa, the Ottawa Community Loan Fund, Collabspace and the Ottawa Public Library.

The inaugural recipient will be announced at eSAX on Oct. 17, 2019

More information on the award can be found here.

July 2019 Event Photos

April 2019 Event Photos

Event April 17, 2019


Hope everyone made some great connections @ the April 17, 2019 eSAX event! Feel free to tag yourself or anyone else you recognize!! This is how eSAX makes networking work!!

A Profile of eSAX and Sax Appeal Founder Jarrod Goldsmith

A profile of Jarrod Goldsmith

By Jennifer Leblanc

Youtube: Celebrating Entrepreneurship Featuring Jarrod Goldsmith via MDK Business Law. On Jarrod Goldsmith’s Youtube Channel

Jarrod Goldsmith, 43, has led a successful and fulfilling career in both music and entrepreneurship here in Ottawa.

Goldsmith has kept busy running a unique band called Sax Appeal as well as organizing the eSAX trade show every three months.

Goldsmith is well known in his community as a result of running for city council for the Orleans ward. “17 candidates running in Orleans is a record, it’s never been seen before. It just seemed like the right time in my life to go make more of a difference outside the business community.” He said. Goldsmith has always kept up to date and deeply involved in his widespread work.

Goldsmith began with school and music. The entrepreneur didn’t start out knowing what he wanted to do. In fact, there were no set plans for the future. He first picked up the sax in 1986 and knew that he enjoyed music even if it wasn’t something he thought of making a career out of.

After high school, Goldsmith only knew he liked music but didn’t decide to go into it at that time, rather, continued his studies. Instead he went into business at Marianopolis College, Quebec’s pre-university CEGEP program. Goldsmith came to realize he didn’t like it and that it wasn’t the course for him. In his second to last semester he branched off to anthropology. In his last semester Goldsmith took up archaeology courses which led to a McGill undergraduate degree in archaeology, and a further Master’s degree from the University of Alberta.

While greatly enjoying archaeology and music, Goldsmith didn’t see a future in either. Archaeology did, however, lead him to travel while working on digs. Goldsmith got the chance to spend a summer in both Europe and Japan, even earning school credit through McGill University. He enjoyed the experience in Asia so much that he decided to extend his stay and found a second excavation to work at. When money started to run out, Goldsmith took up teaching english as well as working at a sleep away camp for a few days. Goldsmith remembered the experience as a good one and feeling lucky to get the opportunity.

After school Goldsmith moved back to Montreal and stayed with family. He struggled to find a job and settled on being a public security officer for his municipality. That all changed in 2001 when Goldsmith met a woman at a concert that he was performing in. Him on saxophone and her on clarinet. The two connected and started dating. Soon after, she was accepted to the University of Ottawa, Goldsmith made the decision to move with her and look for work there.

While in Ottawa, Goldsmith searched for a job in museums to go with his archaeology background but had no luck. He pursued a career in the government and ended up working from contract to contract, all the while trying to earn a permanent position so he could advance. He later left this to follow other work and became an entrepreneur. “I was happy to work as hard as I could so that I could prove myself. But it wasn’t until I became an entrepreneur that I realized I’m doing it for myself now.” Goldsmith said. “I don’t have to appease other people. I want to keep doing what I’m doing so I stay in business in the future.”

Goldsmith shifted to change his life and start down his own path. He was determined to break away from work he didn’t enjoy and make a future out of his passions. He thought that there was more to life then practicing getting better at the sax or studying artifacts behind a desk for hours. Though joking, he did confirm he likes rocks more than most people.

Goldsmith set out to make a career in music.

Photo by Claude Brazeau Photography on Jarrod Goldsmith’s website

He came to build up his band Sax Appeal and worked to do everything he could to get the name out in the world. He knew that getting into music would be a tough road. “My parent’s still think I’m crazy going into music. But I wanted to make it work so I went into the band treating it as a full time business,” Goldsmith said.

Goldsmith quickly realized that an all-saxophone band wasn’t something people saw often and would never be hired for gigs. The average person isn’t familiar with this type of ensemble. Sax Appeal performs mostly background ambiance jazz, classical or Christmas music. One of his favourite gigs is for the Gatineau hot air balloon festival that they play every year. He explained how the balloons inflate and start to drift off to their music. Another of his favourites is for Manotick’s Women’s Day. Every year they are hired to walk up and down Main Street, while going into boutiques to perform and celebrate the day. Goldsmith believes they bring a warmth and experience to every event that always creates a special atmosphere. Their style of tuxedos and fedoras has become a signature and easily recognizable across the city.

Goldsmith enjoys making people’s lives better when he can. He explained how playing music allows him to do that. An experience that he appreciates is playing for retirement homes or long term care facilities. Usually residents in those facilities do not get the chance to see live music. He found that people suffering from dementia may not always fully be aware but they love the music. “Sometimes they cry, they dance and it’s just so much fun to see,” he said. “I was never in it for the money, I didn’t start Sax Appeal to get rich. And believe me, going into music is tough for anybody even if you’ve been around for a long time. Most of us struggle.”

Goldsmith also started up eSAX, a trade show and networking opportunity for other entrepreneurs. He always wanted to help small businesses to succeed and bring together a community. He eventually found that there was a need for an organization such as eSAX. Goldsmith hosts the events every three months, allowing for over 300 entrepreneurs to gather on a regular basis. Goldsmith continues to promote his work and bring awareness to both entrepreneurship and Sax Appeal through posting hundreds of YouTube videos and public speaking.

Jarrod Goldsmith at the last eSAX event taking place at Lansdowne Park. There was a pause in the conversation for a pick of a winning ticket.

While frequently having Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson attend, he’s also had big names such as W. Brett Wilson who was on Dragons’ Den for three seasons. He also had Steve Cody speak on launching his new business Ruckify, an online marketplace for safe rentals. Another popular guest was Bruce Linton; owner of Canopy Growth, the largest cannabis producer in Canada which is actually located in Smith Falls, about one hour from Ottawa by car. Linton spoke on Oct. 17, 2018, which just happened to be perfect timing as that was the day cannabis became legal in Canada. He’s also had experience being an ambassador for all the local area Chambers of Commerce and served on the Board of Directors for the Orleans Chamber of Commerce.

Goldsmith has always been a big supporter of helping people. One such case was when an Algonquin student approached him with help doing a documentary. Wasim Baobaid reached out to Goldsmith via LinkedIn while enrolled in the documentary film course at Algonquin. Goldsmith was quick to help and allowed Baobaid to do a documentary on Sax Appeal. Years later the two still keep in touch and frequently work together. Baobaid was able to get his start with Goldsmith and worked with him on creating his first promo videos. “He’s really on top of everything around him, he’s so organized. I asked his mother one day how he got that way, she said she taught him,” he said. “Down to earth, humble and is always willing to offer what he can. He’s straight forward. When you see him that’s him. If he can do it he will do it, if he can’t he’ll tell you and find ways to help.”

This wasn’t Goldsmith’s only connection to Algonquin. He has also been invited to regularly speak for several different courses, chatting about entrepreneurship, networking and music. He’s also done workshops and spoke to students about entrepreneurship, networking and music.

Another colleague is Shawn Shoesmith who got his placement with Goldsmith while in the event management program at Algonquin. Shoesmith is another student who later stayed working with Goldsmith and has had many opportunities through him. “He’s very personable and he’s all about making those connections in every way possible,” Shoesmith said. “It helps huge, anyone he interacts with has huge ramifications on their life and on their progress.”


Originally posted at

Event October 17, 2018

Hope everyone made some great connections @ the eSAX October 17, 2018, Fireside Chat event! Feel free to tag yourself or anyone else you recognize!! This is how eSAX – The Entrepreneur Social Advantage Experience makes networking work!!

Event July 11, 2018

Hope everyone made some great connections @ the #eSAX July 11, 2018 Pitchfest event! Feel free to tag yourself or anyone else you recognize!! This is how eSAX – The Entrepreneur Social Advantage Experience makes networking work!!

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Hope everyone made some great connections @ the #eSAX April 2018 event! Feel free to tag yourself or anyone else you recognize!! This is how eSAX – The Entrepreneur Social Advantage Experience makes networking work!!

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Hope everyone made some great connections @ the eSAX January 10, 2018 event! Feel free to tag yourself or anyone else you recognize!! This is how eSAX – The Entrepreneur Social Advantage Experience makes networking work!!