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I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Eczema startups/ "How to create a thriving workplace culture"

Jul. 21, 2017 "Personal experiences spur eczema startups": Today I found this article by Elizabeth Olson in the Globe and Mail:

Entrepreneurs often driven to niche market because of close bond to someone with condition that lacks widespread efficient remedy

When Elizabeth Scott’s son, Harrison, was only a few months old, he had a red rash all over his body and was scratching himself almost constantly.

“Once, when I got him out of bed, he was bloody,” said Ms. Scott, who lives in Denver. That set her on a search to find out what was wrong and how to fix it. It turned out that her son had eczema, leaving his skin scaly and oozing.

The condition, which is also called atopic dermatitis and is often chronic, afflicts millions of children and adults. To ease their discomfort, an expanding number of small companies are offering therapy garments and non-chafing clothing as well as moisturizers and salves.

The niche market for eczema sufferers has thrived because there is no widespread safe and effective treatment. In March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a drug, Dupixent, to treat eczema so severe that it cannot be controlled with other treatments.

The condition afflicts an estimated 300,000 in the United States, according to Regeneron, the pharmaceutical company that developed the drug. But Dupixent injections, which have a list price of $37,000 (U.S.) annually, lead many eczema sufferers to seek less costly relief elsewhere, including opting for soothing and comfortable clothing sold on such sites as,, and

Eczema entrepreneurs are often driven by personal experiences that they or their family members have had with the skin condition. Joe Paulo, for example, created Smiling Panda clothing after he had eczema as a teenager. But he and others, including Ms. Scott, have found the path to a winning eczema product is not short or easy, in large part because there is no official testing process to get approval.

“Everyone’s eczema is different, and not everything works the same way on every patient,” said Julie Block, president and chief executive of the U.S. National Eczema Association, which tracks developments in the field but does not endorse products. The association does offer a “certificate of acceptance” for companies that can show they have clinical safety testing data for their products.

The only apparel company to earn the association’s grade so far is Ms. Scott’s AD RescueWear, whose wet-wrap therapy garments relieve itching by sealing in moisture. Medical studies have shown such therapy helps eczema sufferers.

Ms. Scott discovered the therapy while searching for a way to help Harrison, who will be 9 in September. As a baby, his eczema was so severe that he got a staph infection from scratching. Mark Ebadi, an allergist at the Colorado Allergy and Asthma Center in Denver who was treating Harrison, recommended wetwrap therapy.

Ms. Scott dressed her son in wet cotton pajamas, and – at Dr. Ebadi’s suggestion – taped her husband’s tube socks around her son’s hands for protection. But the wrapping was cumbersome.

“It was off-putting to wrap a child in damp clothing,” she said. “And cotton pyjamas got baggy, and my son would get cold. We needed something for him that was close fitting so it would be next to his skin.”

It took a lot of trial and error, but Ms. Scott, who is an interior designer, gradually developed a full bodysuit with flat seams – almost like a long-sleeve onesie – with covers her son’s nails. The suit has attached feet, similar to those found on infant and toddler pajamas, to prevent children from scratching their legs and ankles, where clusters of eczema are often found.

“I knew nothing about clothing manufacturing,” Ms. Scott said. Eventually, she found a family-owned company in Michigan that was willing to produce a run of her sample suit. It was made from the artificial fibre Tencel, which retains more water so the material holds its shape and stays closer to the skin.

She called the bodysuit the “Wrap-E-Soothe” suit, but customers later began calling it the rescue suit – a nickname her company quickly adopted. It sells for $109 for children. The product line later was expanded to include tops and pants, which cost $74.50, and sleeves, which cost $34.95, to cover children’s arms and legs.

Ms. Scott began selling the garments in 2012, the same year she teamed up with Anne McVey, an experienced marketer in Davenport, Iowa, whose daughter has eczema. To test reaction from doctors, they took samples to an annual meeting of allergy, asthma and immunology specialists, held in San Antonio, Tex., in 2013. The garments received good reviews, but Ms. Scott said it was an uphill climb to attract customers online because the product was little known.

She did not share specific numbers, but Ms. Scott said sales increased 70 per cent last year – to around 10,000 items – over 2015. Repeat customers, the eczema association’s certificate of acceptance and a medical product billing insurance code have all helped raise the site’s visibility and attract business, Ms. Scott said.

“We’re aiming for 100,000 pieces annually,” she added, noting that the site is adding garments for adults.

Mr. Paulo, 23, has already made some inroads with adults seeking relief with his Smiling Panda brand, which he started after getting eczema on his arms. The eczema appeared after he moved from California to Philadelphia in 2012 to attend college.

His eczema, he said, “got significantly worse” when he had to wear professional clothing during college internships. When even bedsheets began irritating his skin, he started researching the properties of different fibres and how clothing was made.

He chose a bamboo-cotton blend for his clothing because bamboo fibre is soft and cotton fibre allows a closer fit, he said. He began cutting and stitching his own shirts, with flat seams and no tags.

When he wore his shirts to bed, he said: “I went from having a really tough time falling asleep to having no trouble at all.”

"How to create a thriving workplace culture": Today I found this article by Jeff Cates in the Globe and Mail:

Jeff Cates is president of Intuit Canada.

The Canadian workforce is changing at a breakneck pace and many business leaders are struggling to keep up. We know that retaining our best talent is paramount to maintaining a competitive edge and that keeping employees satisfied isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s how we drive growth.

As more Canadian professionals join the growing ranks of the self-employed – our research projects that full and part-time freelancers, independent contractors and on-demand workers are expected to make up to 45 per cent of the workforce by 2020 – it’s becoming increasingly difficult for leaders to create a culture and employee engagement model that keeps workers of all types happy, loyal and fulfilled.

Regardless of the industry in which you operate, your organizational structure or your company size, the best companies build a culture where employees trust senior leadership, have pride in what they do and enjoy the people they work with.

Recently, Great Place to Work released its annual list of the 2017 Best Workplaces in Canada. Canada is home to many wonderful companies leading the way in employee engagement. Here’s what we’ve learned about maintaining a happy, healthy and productive workforce in today’s shifting landscape.

Earn your employees’ trust – and keep it

Trust is one of the most important ingredients in a company’s success. Earning the trust of your consumers, clients, shareholders and most importantly, your employees is non-negotiable, especially in the era of social media where stakeholders can voice opinions publicly in real-time.

When employees have trust in their organization, they are inspired, motivated and confident in leadership’s decisions even in times of uncertainty. According to a recent study examining the connection between trustworthy leadership and productive employees, 45 per cent of employees say lack of trust in leadership is the biggest issue impacting work performance.

Bryson Insurance is a great example of how to inspire confidence in company leadership. Every employee is provided monthly individualized coaching where they self-discover opportunities for growth, highlight challenges and create long-term goals.

Want to promote trust within your organization? Create a culture of transparency. Solicit input from employees of all levels in major business decisions; communicate your business strategy and roadmap; paint a clear picture of what your company stands for and what you hope to achieve; encourage employees to communicate openly with their managers.

This allows you to keep a close pulse on employee morale and address concerns directly before they spiral into larger issues. Even more important, your workers will feel that their voices are heard and valued.

Once you’ve earned employees’ trust, you need to ensure that you keep it. This means making a conscious effort to lead by example, act on intentions and set achievable goals to ensure promises are kept.

Celebrate achievements outside of the workplace

These days, work-life balance and flexible work schedules are table stakes for leaders looking to create a thriving workplace culture. If you really want an engaged, well-rounded and fulfilled workforce, celebrate your employees for who they are outside of their professional roles.

Shining a light on individuals’ unique interests and accomplishments and encouraging employees to get involved in their communities fosters pride in being part of your organization, beyond the work they do.

For example, Grant Thornton has recently launched an initiative to recognize employees making a positive impact outside of the workplace, encouraging people to take up new passion projects or charitable efforts.

This year, the company launched an annual award to honour three Grant Thornton team members who make significant and sustained volunteer contributions to organizations in their community. Award recipients received a $2,500 grant from the Grant Thornton Foundation to designate to a charitable organization of their choice.

You want curious, well-rounded individuals from different backgrounds to bring a diverse breadth of perspectives for your organization. Showing your employees that you’re proud of their achievements encourages these pursuits and helps create a culture where people are in turn proud to work for you.

A healthy workforce is a happy workforce

Forty-seven per cent of working Canadians consider work to be the most stressful part of daily life. This is deeply troubling to me. To a degree, stress is an inevitability for all professionals, but your employees should never have to choose between professional success and emotional well-being.

If the companies on this year’s list of the Best Workplaces in Canada have one thing in common, it’s their emphasis on healthy living. After all, both physical and mental health are powerful tools against burnout and stress.

At Intuit, employee physical and emotional well-being is a top priority and I’ve learned that empowering employees to pursue healthy lifestyles pays dividends when it comes to morale, retention and productivity.

In addition to our onsite gym, we provide onsite biometric screenings and offer a fitness reimbursement program for gym memberships, exercise classes, meditation classes and weight loss programs. We also have an activity program where participants receive a fitness wearable and can earn rewards for increasing their physical activity.

Creating a positive workplace culture which your employees can be proud to be part of doesn’t happen overnight, and it can’t be viewed as a series of employee engagement initiatives, social committees or quirky perks.

To become a great place to work, leaders must put their employees first and place their fulfillment and well-being at the heart of every business decision. When workplace satisfaction is a core pillar of your business strategy, your employees will take notice. That’s how you earn the trust and loyalty of your best performers for the long-term.

1 day ago

Jeff rightly reminds us that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for leaders to create a culture and employee engagement; and it's only going to get worse. This is the backlash from a technology driven lifestyle that has often unperceived consequences in the way we relate to others. I believe the answer to employee engagement is in the strength of the relationships we build at work. It's not WHAT you fish for, it's WHO you fish with!
1 Reaction

1 day ago
No - it's about how you treat people.
1 Reaction

On-Line Reader
1 day ago

In reply to:

Jeff rightly reminds us that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for leaders to create a culture and employee engagement; and it's only going to get worse. This is the backlash from a technology...
No. Its more to do with having an office full of temps and contractors.
Most temps and contractors will do their job as best they can. But there is no long term loyalty and if you have a constant flow of people coming and going, I'd say the chances of having a 'strong corporate culture' (except a 'Militaristic' one where everyone keeps their heads down and does their job) are remote.
1 Reaction

1 day ago

Too many companies think the solution is creating a "hip" open concept office, some going so far as to convert a warehouse space. But that usually results in a work environment that is noisy, distracting, and uncomfortable. In truth, it doesn't matter whether you work in a cubical, or in a high-rise office tower, if you are doing work that is rewarding and have confidence in management and the company.

On-Line Reader
1 day ago

> These days, work-life balance and flexible work schedules are table stakes for leaders looking to create a thriving workplace culture.

>If you really want an engaged, well-rounded and fulfilled workforce, celebrate your employees for who they are outside of their professional roles.

This is a bit of a weird paragraph as it seems to be slamming two different ideas together and (seemingly) suggesting one follows the other.

Chances are, if you have a lot of temps and contractors, yes they probably would like some flexibility if they are working shifts

But I can't see how a temp or contractor would care about whether or not "work" is interested in what they do outside of regular hours. And I suspect a lot of full time employees would prefer to keep "work" separated from their personal lives.
And if you are employing a lot of temps and contractors, don't expect them to care much about your company as they won't once their contract runs out.


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