Edge to Epic founder Joelle Parenteau used to work in the insurance industry, as she told us over coffee in Toronto, and it was as boring as it sounds. But one thing in particular bothered her, before she started her Ottawa-based startup that leverages group insurance and perks plans for smaller businesses.
“I quickly got frustrated because I was delivering quotes that weren’t affordable to small businesses, and on the flip side I had delivered larger business quotes, and I thought it was unfair,” said Parenteau. “Working with smaller business owners I was frustrated because there was very little I could do to make a difference, because they have no bargaining power.”
As the Ottawa native said, you can’t walk into a bank and ask for a better rate when you’re representing two people. So she left the insurance world and thought up the idea that “unites startups and small business in order to leverage our collective purchasing power so that we can access prorated services that are typically reserved for large corporations.”
For example, the company’s members currently enjoy group discounts on medical and dental plans, custom health benefits, business insurance, home and auto insurance, telecom discounts, travel discounts, “essentials” discounts like shipping, office supplies, IT services, trademarks and more. It even provides its members with travel discounts from Porter Airlines, Via Rail, Priceline Hotels, Discount rental, Park N’ Fly and more.
“We’re basically helping the smaller guy get a leg up and be able to compete,” said Parenteau.
The startup was founded in January and already it’s close to breaking even. The biggest decision currently is whether to continue building out the business or go after funding, and Parenteau told us she’s thinking long and hard. In the mean time, Edge to Epic cut a deal with the National Angel Capital Association (NACO) to provide its services for the 2000 accredited angel investors coast to coast, who many of which also run their own small businesses. It’s also currently in talks with several Canadian startup accelerators and innovation hubs to offer its services.
Parenteau said that after she left insurance, she found that in fact many service providers were “very keen” on accessing the small business and startup world, from the sheer quantity potential in the exploded space. “collective buying groups, are very prevalent in other industries and yet there’s a massive gap in the small business startup space, so we said anybody can join our group irrespective of size, location or industry, no membership fee and we’ll deal with the providers,” she said. “So we got their attention pretty quickly.”
The founder also said that typically chambers of commerce and business associations focus on advocacy and training, and less so on member benefits. “We said we’re going to focus solely on that and we’re going to do a great job at it. And because I came from the insurance industry I knew what the margins were and I knew what strings to pull to make it happen.”