Ottawa’s Fastest Growing Companies: Arctic Leaf is heating up

Arctic Leaf
Josh Garellek, founder of Arctic Leaf. Photo by Mark Holleron.

Each year, OBJ recognizes the region’s rapidly growing firms with its Fastest Growing Companies awards. The aim is to honour the city’s top performers for substantial, sustainable and profitable growth. Recipients are ranked by their three-year revenue growth. They must have had revenues of at least $100,000 in the first of those three years under consideration. Revenues must have risen to at least $500,000 in their most recent fiscal year. The companies will be profiled online in the coming days and recognized at a cocktail reception on May 23 at Kanata co-working space Head Office Ottawa. Click here for info.

One of a multitude of Ottawa tech companies that have sprung up in the wake of Shopify’s rise to e-commerce superstardom, Arctic Leaf believes it’s ready to graduate from supporting player to a leading role.

The firm that began life in 2010 as a Montreal mobile gaming studio called Arctic Empire has evolved into a one-stop shop providing services ranging from website design and app development to graphic design and branding. Now at 40 employees and growing, the firm works with Shopify among other partners to serve hundreds of customers across Canada and the United States.

“A lot of clients that are coming to us, it’s because they have a challenge,” says founder Josh Garellek, who moved to Ottawa in 2012 and brought his startup with him. “They haven’t been able to solve that challenge somewhere else, or they’re looking to do something slightly different or something outside the box.”

After steadily building its customer base for years, Garellek’s venture took its growth to another level in 2017 when it merged with California-based NewLeaf.

Arctic Leaf

Year founded: 2010

Local headcount: 20, with another 20 in the United States

Three-year revenue growth: 227.46%

2019 ranking: #6

Garellek hit it off with NewLeaf’s founder, Jonathan Coy, after they worked together on various app development projects. They soon realized their two ventures complemented each other: while Arctic Empire specialized in creating custom apps, NewLeaf focused on e-commerce.

A few discussions later, a transborder partnership was born.

“We just put a deal together on a handshake agreement, and that was it,” Garellek says.

Today, the affable 35-year-old entrepreneur likes to refer to the combined entity as a “tech powerhouse,” and he might be onto something.

Arctic Leaf has become a go-to e-commerce website builder for companies in a growing number of sectors, particularly niche sports apparel and equipment firms such as California-based surf clothing manufacturer Birdwell and TrainingMask, which makes high-tech breathing aids designed for NFL players and other high-level athletes.

The company recently moved its headquarters to a new office in Centretown, and it runs its U.S. operations out of NewLeaf’s former home base outside Los Angeles. With the eastern and western regions of the continent covered off, Arctic Leaf is aiming to open another office in Austin, Tex., in the near future to service clients in the central time zones.

Arctic Leaf has also begun branching out into the software-as-a-service space, recently taking home a 2019 Bootstrap Award for PartnerPortal.io, a SaaS platform that helps clients track how much business sales partners are generating.

The company still gets most of its clients through referrals and word-of-mouth, but Garellek isn’t shy about extolling ArcticLeaf’s virtues. He says the organization is well on its way to becoming a 100-person company.

“We’re kind of almost at a point where we can’t hire fast enough right now,” he says. “It’s a good problem to have, but it’s a challenge for sure.”

After what he called a breakout year in 2018, Garellek feels ArcticLeaf has started to hit its stride.

“We want to be the biggest and the best in the industry,” he says matter-of-factly. “We’ve built this machine, and now it’s just about pushing volume through it. We just want to keep the momentum going and keep growing.”