Websites help identify trustworthy businesses
By Jenn Sharp, The StarPhoenix April 19, 2012
Sara Wheelwright began Trusted Saskatoon less than a year ago and launched Trusted Regina on Monday. The websites are a service directory of businesses Wheelwright and her staff have fully researched. Trusted partners are held accountable for their business dealings and contribute tips and advice to the website for consumers. Along with the sites are blogs full of mystery shopping reviews conducted by the Trusted staff and a YouTube channel. Here, Wheelwright tells StarPhoenix business reporter Jenn Sharp how she's grown her business so fast and why she started it.
Q: What's the concept of Trusted Saskatoon?
A: I thought there was a gap in the market. I have an 18year background in advertising. I wanted to provide something that works for the public - an agency that finds businesses that deserve the promotion and informs the public about them in a different way. People are going online for answers now. We want to make the whole process simple. We chose the 40 most-used advertising categories. When they go to our site they have a choice of a maximum of three in each category. We try to find different personalities for mortgage specialists and real estate agents. We also demand a lot from the Trusted partners. We become a group that works for each other. If any of the partners lets us down it affects everybody. They're contracted to uphold the five Trusted guarantees. They're told that if we get a complaint and it's found they've done something with intent or lost integrity, they'll be removed immediately from the site. We don't mess around.
Q: Why do you only have three per category?
A: We're trying to make the process easy. If you have 10, how do you choose? The listings are very comprehensive. The testimonials are from surveys we do with clients. We ask for 25 clients' names and numbers from each of the businesses. We then call a portion of them and we're looking from good to great reviews. We're talking to the public and they tell us great stories about their dealings with the businesses. We use those testimonials to start off the listings - real testimonials from real people. I think we're the only place online that qualifies these testimonials because we're speaking to the people ourselves.
Q: How many staff do you employ?
A: I have four lovely ladies. Two are based in Saskatoon and two in Regina. As we expand, I'm going to be solidifying the province first of all and then going into Alberta, starting with Calgary, we'll be taking on more staff. There's a lot of work to signing up companies. We're constantly in touch with the partners and asking them for tips for the site. People do research online before they buy. It's much nicer to have people in Saskatoon or Regina giving potential customers tips before they buy. It's elevating our partners as the experts and getting them engaged with the public.
Q: How did you come up with the idea?
A: I moved here from England in 2006. When you immigrate to the middle of Canada, it's not worth the freight so I had sold everything I owned in England and came over with clothes and shoes - all the important things! I had to fill a house with everything. The excitement of shopping wore off because it's really not what it was when I was back in England and I knew the shops. It was so labour intensive. I stumbled upon some good ones but a lot of the smaller businesses don't have the budget to get your attention. I had some bad experiences. It's easy to do business when things go easy. Once things don't that's really the difference between a good and a great business. One of the things that I always speak about with the trusted partners is that nobody should be in a position of loss because they chose to deal with you. That's a foundation of Trusted Saskatoon.
Q: You're expanding rapidly - how have you done this?
A: Trusted Saskatoon launched May 30 last year. Scotia Bank is a preferred bank of immigration and they hand out flyers to immigrants that come to see them. We focus on everybody because everybody has those moments where a need arises and they don't know who to turn to. We also run ads on community radio on the weekend in every single foreign language show. On seven of the shows we have the ad voiced in the language of the show. An old marketing term is 'speak to the dog in the language of the dog.' One of the things that you miss as a new person coming to a new country is your language, your food and your music. That's a way to engage with the immigrant population who, a lot of the time, become insulated because they've been ripped off. We get a lot of people looking at auto repair and service too. A lot of our fans on Facebook are women. I think we appeal more to women because they tend to be the ones that do the calling. This started because I got ripped off when I first came here by a plumbing company. Thanks to that company that was the big kick to put this idea down on paper. I got a phone call from one of my contractors who's amazed at how many calls he gets - about one a day. He said that his business, since last year, has grown 400 per cent. He went from employing one guy to three crews. More importantly, he's making sure that he instils that integrity and honesty in the people that work for him. Those are the people that deserve this recognition.
Sara Wheelwright owns the websites Trusted Saskatoon and Trusted Regina. Photograph by: Richard Marjan, The Starphoenix ,