The Pulse: May 29, 2024

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  • 17°C: A mix of sun and cloud. 30% chance of showers late in the morning and early afternoon. Risk of a thunderstorm early in the afternoon. Wind becoming northwest 30 km/h gusting to 50 in the morning. High 17. UV index 5 or moderate. (forecast)
  • Black/Red: The High Level Bridge will be lit black and red for World Preeclampsia Day. (details)
  • 6:30pm: The Edmonton Oilers host the Dallas Stars at Rogers Place for Game 4 of the NHL playoffs third round. (details)

A smiling person looks into the camera while tucking their hair behind their ear.

UpRow launches 2.0 as it eyes Inventures pitch and international expansion

By Colin Gallant

Hot on the heels of investment successes, UpRow has launched the 2.0 version of its app marketplace that assists newcomers, all in the lead-up to its pitch at Inventures in Calgary and a trade mission to London.

Founder and CEO Kelise Williams, who emigrated from Trinidad and Tobago with her family five years ago, created UpRow because of her own "rocky" experience.

"When I first landed in Canada, we never had credit cards (before). I didn't know that hotels needed a credit card to put on file," Williams told Taproot. "Hence, my first night in Canada, I spent the night in the lobby of a hotel."

Like many an entrepreneur, Williams saw a problem and set out to fix it. That led to the launch of UpRow, a facilitator for newcomers to access businesses and services, about two years ago.

"Since then, we have had 5,000-plus early adopters using the platform, helping us to validate the idea," she said. "It has been amazing."

Williams has developed her startup with the help of the Velocity stream of Alberta Catalyzer and Alberta Accelerator by 500, two programs launched as part of the Alberta Scaleup and Growth Accelerator Program. Those efforts paid off when the Edmonton Edge Fund awarded UpRow $100,000 to help integrate artificial intelligence into UpRow 2.0.

"The real gem behind UpRow is we use AI technology like a search engine to match people with services that they need," Williams said. "We are saying, 'Hey, it looks like you need this service, this person is offering a discount for newcomers, maybe you should check it out.'"

Discounts with partner businesses make up the other main new feature in UpRow 2.0, launched on May 25 with a virtual event for existing users and at an in-person event at Edmonton Unlimited on May 27. UpRow doesn't charge its users. Instead, it makes money from charging the partner businesses included in its directory and its discount program.

"We are targeting persons who don't have any established buying patterns," Williams said, explaining why companies want to be in UpRow. "Newcomers, when introduced to (a business), if it's a reputable source … they tend to be a customer of that company for a lifetime. You're getting very, very loyal customers."

Williams is in the due-diligence process to receive up to $51,000 from femme-focused investor The51, because she was a winner during the organization's pitch competition at last year's Inventures.

She hopes lightning strikes twice at the Inventures Startup Pitch Competition on May 29. There, Williams will pitch for $10,000 in the "Tech Triathlon: Quantum + AI + IoT" track. Hers is one of six Edmonton companies vying for a prize at Alberta Innovates's annual conference on tech across industries at Calgary's TELUS Convention Centre from May 29 to 31.

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Headlines: May 29, 2024

By Mariam Ibrahim

A newspaper clipping that reads, "Urges stop to confectioners, cafe licenses"

A moment in history: May 29, 1934

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1934, some concerned citizens were calling for Edmonton to have fewer candy stores.

The call came from W.A. Gunn, a representative for a group of wholesalers in the city. Gunn wasn't a dentist. Instead, he expressed concerned that the swelling number of confectioners might result in too few customers to keep them all afloat, as well as push down wages (he argued the same was likely to happen for cafes.)

The idea of the city straining under too many candy shops sounds odd — especially when one considers this happened during the Great Depression, when luxuries like candy would seem like an obvious thing to cut to save money. But in reality, candy sales boomed in many places during the 1930s. Confectionaries were relatively cheap businesses to start and ingredients were often cheap to buy. And candy was even marketed as a cheap alternative to actual meals.

It's hard to pin down exactly how many confectioners were in business in Edmonton in 1934. But it wouldn't be surprising if Edmontonians turned to candy to help them through the tough decade. The city has always had a bit of a sweet tooth.

In Edmonton's early years, general stores commonly made candy and sold it along with other goods. As the city grew in the early 1910s, though, dedicated candy kitchens opened, many of them along Jasper Avenue, to create homemade chocolates and confections. Edmonton's biggest sweet success story got its start around then when the Pavey Candy Company opened in 1914.

Pavey quickly made a name for itself. Within a year, the company had gained a reputation for its high-quality candies, including its lemonade powder, buttercups, and "sherbitt powder," as the Edmonton Bulletin reported.

But over the 1910s, Edmonton's candy makers weathered hard times, including the need to find alternative ingredients due to rationing and restrictions during the First World War. But the 1920s saw success return, particularly for the Pavey Candy Company. It expanded not only the variety of confections it offered but also where they were sold. Before too long, Pavey was exporting its candy and chocolates all over Western Canada from a small brick building on Jasper Avenue. The demand was so great that the company built a larger facility east of downtown.

Pavey wasn't the only candy company to strike it big with sweets, though. By 1945, Edmonton had at least five sizeable companies dedicated exclusively to treats. Most made chocolate, with one cookie company among them. So strong was the city's sweet tooth that in 1940, Edmonton children joined a national strike when chocolate bar prices rose by a few cents.

Dedicated confectioners and candy shops continued to be a common sight in Edmonton into the later part of the century. But, eventually, they began to shut down, crowded out by changing retail habits and national and international brands that could take advantage of mass production.

Still, Edmonton's love of local sweets has never fully disappeared. The city still hosts several specialty candy shops, which often deal in higher-quality or difficult-to-find confections. Local chocolatiers also continue to form a small but successful industry in the city, though they are now dealing with record-high prices for cacao following shortages this spring.

This clipping was found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse of @VintageEdmonton.

A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: May 29, 2024

By Debbi Serafinchon

Here are some events happening today in the Edmonton area.

And here are some upcoming events to keep in mind:

Visit the beta version of the Taproot Edmonton Calendar for many more events in the Edmonton region.