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Pulling one out of the bag

October 12, 2022

Purush Cannane, Greenii owner

How GoodSpark Grants are helping one entrepreneur turn clean paper waste into eco-friendly bags—and how others can emulate his path to success.

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

That message from Apple CEO Steve Jobs during a 2005 Stanford University commencement address resonated halfway around the world with a budding entrepreneur searching for his next big idea. Sixteen years later, Purush Cannane was one of 150 successful entrepreneurs to have his hard work recognized and receive a Desjardins GoodSpark Grant. 

It wasn’t until Cannane and his family moved from India to Brampton a few years after Jobs’s commencement address that he experienced his first spark—a moment of clarity which came at an unlikely source: his wife’s baby shower.

“I noticed my mom used leftover gift bags from our wedding for guests who came that day. Their reaction was one of appreciation and gratitude that we were mindful about reducing waste and saving money,” recalls Cannane. He decided to use the auspicious event as a springboard for his new venture.

When the Canadian government announced its plan to ban single-use plastics in 2019, the mechanical engineer—who had worked previously at Rogers and IBM—saw a challenge that begged for a solution.

“We had recently moved to Nova Scotia, where Dalhousie University, through its Launchpad Accelerator, had an open call for innovative ideas. I came up with the concept of repurposing clean paper waste from newsprint and flyers into paper bags,” says Cannane. “I made some prototypes and took them to a Halifax farmers’ market. They sold out in one hour! I knew we were onto something.” Greenii was born.

Leading into the spring of 2020, he thought success was “in the bag,” but a worldwide pandemic was a major obstacle that would test his resolve and his resourcefulness.

“We had no sales for several months and things were looking grim, but deep down I knew we could make this idea fly. I spoke to my business mentor and she thought there might be an opportunity for us turn this into a social enterprise, where we could team up with a local employment program aimed at immigrant women to provide jobs to newcomers who have language barriers.”

Cannane invested in his community, providing a few weeks of training and hiring 6 women as independent contractors to work out of their homes, which in turn helped him manage his workload.

While things were looking up, money was still tight. Cannane’s business mentor suggested he apply for a GoodSpark Grant, noting that Greenii’s focus on sustainability, innovation and making a local impact made the company a great candidate. 

“I was at Costco when my phone rang and I thought it was a prank at first,” remembers Cannane. “An entrepreneur is always somewhere between confidence and fear on the spectrum of emotions, but this was validation that we were on the right path and were doing a good thing.”

Since receiving the $20,000 grant earlier this year, Cannane has developed a semi-automatic assembly line that allowed him to go from producing 50 bags per hour to 800 – a 1600%, increase in efficiency and a step towards eventually moving into a standalone facility. According to Cannane, the assembly line has been “effectively used for business growth,” and allowed the company to sell nearly 55,000 paper bags with zero external advertising. And with a growing list of customers consisting primarily of independent shop owners, his long-term goal is to supply corporate offices and become a household name in Canada for gifting and packaging needs. He also has an eye on developing a licensing model that would fuel further growth.

Greenii owner Purush Cannane receiving cheque from DFSIN Advisor Daniel Lomas

“Our economy wastes a lot of clean paper and we believe a tree saved is equal to a tree planted. Our purpose is simply to do our part to build a strong community and a sustainable business.”

Desjardins is again calling for applications for GoodSpark Grants, to support 150 more small businesses like Greenii that make a big impact by investing in sustainability, innovation, employment, and giving back to their communities. This year will mark the 3rd edition of the GoodSpark Grants program, launched by Desjardins in 2020 to provide support for small businesses. The organization is committing $3 million in grants to recognize deserving business owners across the country who make a local impact and could use financial support to keep their businesses growing.

Who knows? When you already have such a big appetite to make a difference, maybe it’s best to stay foolish.

Business owners interested in learning about this year’s GoodSpark Grants program can find out more and apply at Applications are open now until November 6. 

To learn more about Greenii, visit External link. This link will open in a new window.