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Small business finds its sea legs in the Las Vegas desert

October 6, 2022

Focusing sights on the horizon, Canvasea sees smooth sailing towards new international business prospects. 

When Stanley Wu, Co-Founder of Canvasea Interiors Inc., was invited to CGLCC’s 2022 Las Vegas Trade Mission, he was surprised by the offer. Even though Canvasea has been a CGLCC Certified Supplier for two years, he was not aware of all the opportunities this provides to LGBT+ owned companies. These include, among other benefits, exposure to unique purchasing opportunities and contracts with larger international corporations through the Global Program.

The CGLCC, in partnership with the Trade Commissioner Service of Canada, sent 13 businesses to the 2022 NGLCC International Business & Leadership Conference in August. Small companies such as Canvasea were able to connect on a more direct level with some of the largest names in US and international business. 

Stanley wasn’t sure what to expect going to Vegas. He thought what they offered at Canvasea was very specific to his local market, but he still approached the Trade Mission with an open mind. 

“When I first arrived over there, I had this mentality of custom work, like custom-made…and I was like ‘well, who am I going to sell it to?’ Because it’s really locally-based.” 

“When I first arrived over there, I had this mentality of custom work, like custom-made…and I was like ‘well, who am I going to sell it to?’ Because it’s really locally-based.” 

Stanley Wu, Canvasea

Stanley had prepared a brochure of everything that Canvasea does, but it was primarily focused on the marine products they currently offered. 

“We do industrial sewing, and we focus more on the marine sector,” Stanley said. During the Trade Mission registration process, CGLCC’s Global Program Manager, Cass, asked Stanley why this was, and if there were other sectors he could work with. Stanley shared that historically they secured between 12 and 14 months of work by participating in an annual Vancouver Boat Show, but that otherwise there was no limit on which sectors they could work with.  

Curious to see what could come from this encouragement, Stanley spoke with his partner and co-owner of Canvasea and decided “to give it a shot” and head to the trade mission. On the first day, at the Kellogg’s sponsored CGLCC breakfast with other Canadian Suppliers and Corporate partners, Stanley says he stumbled over his pitch during a round table introduction, still feeling rocky and adjusting to a new environment. After breakfast though, he said to himself “you know what? I’m here already; just go for it!” 

He changed his plan, mustered up his courage, and approached a director of supply from a major international bank. This director seemed to be more interested in Canvasea’s potential abilities to create unique client gifts than their boating-related products. 

After this conversation, Stanley realized that he “can’t just be so fixed into selling what we do…, but instead sell the skills that we have and the products that we can create.” 

In rethinking his strategy for the rest of the mission, Stanley adapted his pitch to market the industrial sewing capabilities of Canvasea and highlighted the company’s skillset to appeal to a wider range of clientele. He was able to open more doors to explore different products that Canvasea could potentially provide to clients, and realized that “there is another world out there of people that need our service.” 

By the end of the conference, Stanley and Canvasea found their sea legs. They met with major players in all industries; not just marine manufacturers like they would have normally met staying within Canadian borders. 

Navigating New Waters

Stanley learned that it was not just a question of marketing Canvasea’s products, but rather the skills the company can provide. While they sell quality marine covers and other nautical fabric-related products, their sewing and manufacturing skills and capabilities are widely transferable.

“I realized that we can continue to do our boutique, custom, high-end work for marine, but then I can also get our factories over here to make pillows, or patio cushions,” he said, “we now know that there is an opportunity to grow and expand.” 

Stanley credits CGLCC’s Global Trade Program with introducing him and his business to this new world of perspectives and opportunities, as he says he didn’t know much about this area of business until he attended the Trade Mission. 

Cass says “what’s great is that with a little encouragement and coaching, and by facilitating an opportunity to try something new in his business, Stanley and Canvasea were able to demonstrate the value of programs that give LGBT+ businesses and entrepreneurs the chance to grow. During the Trade Mission Stanley even started passing his learnings forward to other delegates, offering his experiences as a way for others to learn more quickly. We’re better together.” 

Finding access through the program to government and other agency funding to support his business’ scale up, Stanley is now feeling more comfortable pitching to even larger fish. He continues to build upon the relationships he made in Las Vegas, and has gained a new perspective on the importance of attending these global Trade Missions.To find out more about CGLCC’s Global Programs, visit our website

Discover the benefits of going Global.

Our Supplier Diversity and Global programs provide numerous opportunities for LGBT+ owned businesses to connect and expand their networks and international market availability.