‘Made in Ottawa’ isn’t the tag you see on a lot of tech products, but a quick walkthrough of Powerstick.com’s office might change your mind.
“Coming in here every day is like coming into Santa’s Workshop,” says Nigel Harris, founder and CEO of Powerstick.com.
Centered around branding and building cool tech tools, Powerstick.com is best known for its eponymous product, the Powerstick. Part portable phone charger and part USB storage, the device sees use everywhere from folks in the office to U.S. Military soldiers in the field.
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Powerstick.com’s newest device is the Mosaic, a WI-FI accessible hard drive that allows multiple users to connect and stream content from a single device. Mosaic launches on Amazon Nov. 25.
Both products, like all of Powerstick.com’s goods, are assembled by hand onsite.
“Our customers expect longevity, quality in our company and our products,” Harris said. “Manufacturing here, we have a much better chance of standing behind (the products) and replacing them if they do become defective, which importers have great difficulty with if they’re having their products manufactured overseas with limited production runs.”
Quality assurance is also a huge bonus that comes along with the “Made in Ottawa” sticker. As CEO, Harris can walk a few metres down the hall from his office and oversee the entire production process.
In a world where competitive wages and taxes have sent most manufacturing jobs to Asia, Powerstick.com proves a unique case of keeping those jobs – and capital – right here in the Ottawa economy.
“People say, ‘How can you afford to do it Canada? Shouldn’t you do it in China?’” Harris said. “They don’t really understand all the component issues, the sourcing issues, the problems with quality … that you have with overseas imports.”
To be fair, Powerstick.com isn’t producing millions of products to store on mass retailer shelves. But there’s a number of huge benefits to building in Ottawa, Harris said.
Being NAFTA compliant, for instance, allows the company to avoid tariffs. Another is that markets that would otherwise be closed off to products produced in Asia – like Canadian labour unions and the US Military – Powerstick.com can freely access.
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“The labour force here in Ottawa is very well trained,” Harris said, “it’s very technical. A lot of our people come from the Nortel/Newbridge environment. They’re very skilled and it’s very easy to get the manpower we need.
“It’s very profitable, but it’s also an incredible amount of fun designing a products that everyone regards as cool tech toys.”