Connect. Learn. Grow. Mentor.


On September 29, the small business community of Elgin County and St. Thomas gathered at the Elgin County Railway Museum for the annual Bridges to Better Business event; the first in-person, indoor event for the SBEC since pre-pandemic for an incredible celebration of local food and small businesses. While accommodations needed to be made to fit the event into the current public health guidelines, a partnership with local food promotion group – Relish! Offered the opportunity to highlight local fare in a new way. The group combined elements of a traditional charcuterie board with other cold items like gazpacho, salad, and dessert highlighting more than 20 local food operators and producers in a package dubbed a “Snack Cuterie Box”.

Speaker, Barb Stegemann of The 7 Virtues gave an inspiring talk sharing her business journey applying the philosophical principles of the great philosophers and building the confidence to empower oneself to keep moving forward in the journey – a message that couldn’t be a more timely encouragement to small business owners.

Small Businesses are at the heart of our community and we value the contribution that every business makes. 2021 has continued to bring challenges to our small business community in St. Thomas & Elgin County. In those challenges, we saw many businesses face them head-on. Determined to do whatever they could to keep their head up. Our small businesses are here to serve the community and the community stepped up and wrapped around them in celebration and support. We want the community to know how much that has been appreciated. And we want our small businesses to know that we see their struggles and their triumphs and are here to support and celebrate at all times and in all circumstances.



THANK YOU to Social Entrepreneur and CBC’s Dragons’ Den Top Game Changer, Barb Stegemann, founder, and CEO of The 7 Virtues, for being our special guest in-person – FINALLY!

Barb first launched her perfume company, The 7 Virtues, out of her garage, armed with only a dream to help war-ridden nations rebuild. Just eight years later, it is now an award-winning social enterprise – supporting suppliers in countries such as Afghanistan, Haiti, and the Middle East – and the first and only Canadian brand to be sold through Sephora’s “Clean at Sephora” fragrance space across North America. Through her inspiring entrepreneurial story, Barb shares powerful messages of triumphing over adversity, and empowers her audiences to embrace their inner disruptor.

A newsmaker, Barb first became known to millions of Canadians when she landed a venture-capital deal on CBC’s hit show Dragons’ Den — the first woman from Atlantic Canada to do so. She went on to become the “Top Game Changer” in the history of the popular reality show for creating her social enterprise.

 Since then Barb and her hypo-allergenic fragrance collection have been celebrated in major media outlets around the world, including Vogue, Elle Canada, Fast Company, Forbes, The Cut, Women’s Wear Daily, The Globe and Mail, as wells as CBC, CNN, Bloomberg, and more.

 Barb has been named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women by WXN; won the Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year Award” in the emerging Entrepreneur category for Atlantic Canada; was ranked as one of Profit Guide magazine’s “Top 30 Cool and Fabulous Canadian Entrepreneurs”; and was also made the first female Honorary Colonel in the history of 14 Wing Greenwood base, Royal Canadian Air Force, completing her term in 2015.

Barb is also the author of the bestselling book, The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen, now in its 7th edition, and the subject of the feature-length, award-winning documentary Perfume War, directed by Michael Melski. Watch the film here.



Thank you to Relish for their support in pulling together more than 20 local small businesses for a delicious Snack Cuterie Box!




Each year, we have the opportunity to meet with some incredible people and it’s exciting to be able to honour a few of them with awards during Bridges to Better Business. It’s another way to show the Elgin and St. Thomas Small Business Community our support. Congratulations to the 2021 winners honoured at our September 29th event!

Elgin County Small Business Award – The Edible Journey
St. Thomas Small Business Award – Purely Wicked
St. Thomas Economic Development Award – Takumi
Elgin County Economic Development Award –Talbotville Berry Farm
Libro Small Business Award – Simply Pure Water
Downtown St. Thomas Award – CTP Computers
Inspirational Entrepreneur Award  – Natterjack Brewing Co.
Under 40 Award – Celtic Ridge Farm
Starter Company Plus Award – The Succulent Shed Co.
Summer Company Award – Fashion Kicks
Promising Start-Up Award –Lockwood Books
Lifetime Achievement Award – Railway City Brewing Co.


Events like this don’t just happen. It takes a village.

We are so thankful for Elgin County and St. Thomas for their ongoing support of the small business community and the support for events like this one. Thank you for supporting this event and the efforts of the Elgin/ St. Thomas Small Business Enterprise Centre to bring community together, even when we need to stay apart.






378 Talbot St.
St. Thomas, ON Canada
N5R 3L7

519-631-1680 ext 4503

“Creating an ecosystem where small businesses in Elgin County and St. Thomas can connect, learn and grow their business.”







8:30 AM – 4:30 PM

8:30 AM – 4:30 PM

8:30 AM – 4:30 PM

12:00 PM – 8:00 PM

8:30 AM – 4:30 PM

MON: 8:30A – 4:30P

TUES: 8:30A – 4:30P

WED: 8:30A – 4:30P

THURS: 12P – 8:00P

FRI: 8:30A – 4:30P