The Edmonton stop on the Meshwest tour got off to a great start this morning, focusing on transforming start-ups into successful businesses. Ali Asaria, CEO and Founder of Well.ca, a now-successful online health and beauty store, kicked things off in an intimate Q&A about how he got started and how his company rose to the top. He spoke about building his uniquely Canadian brand through personal touches like hand-written notes for every customer, informal and friendly communications and creating the kind of corporate culture that makes Well.ca a place people want to work. At the heart of Asaria’s success is his ability to build meaningful relationships with customers and employees alike. For customers, Well.ca’s personal and warm customer service practices keeps them coming back time and time again. For employees, a fun and supportive corporate culture makes going to work each morning a pleasure. At the end of the day, these relationships have transformed Well.ca from start-up to the largest Canadian online health and beauty store.

The next session brought three successful start-up entrepreneurs together to discuss the highs and lows of nurturing start-ups in Canada. Duleepa Wijayawardhana, founder of Empire Avenue, Maura Rodgers, founder of Strutta, and Jevon MacDonald, founder of Golnstant and StartupNorth.com, shared their experiences as start-up entrepreneurs and the unique challenges facing the Canadian start-up community. From raising money to finding talent, the panellists agreed that getting a start-up off the ground in Canada is much harder than it is in the U.S., but they also agreed that just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile to jump in if you’ve got an idea you believe in.

Meshwest delegates will no doubt walk away from this morning’s sessions with practical advice that they can use in the context of their own start-up ventures and a renewed sense of determination to make it happen!

Next up: Can open data spark citizen government?