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Anita Wortzman Brian ScharfsteinBy MYRON LOVE Anita Wortzman would seem to be well suited for her new role as president of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba.

The President and CEO of Acumen Corporate Development Inc. was elevated to the JFM presidency in June for a two-year term.

The lifelong Winnipegger grew up in River Heights and graduated from Grant Park High School and the University of Manitoba. She began her working career as a lawyer with Aikins MacAulay and Thorvaldson in 1989. In 1998, she left Aikins MacAulay for Assante Corporation, where she was executive vice-president. In 2002, she joined Activa Consumer Promotions Corporation. In 2009, she founded Acumen.
“I saw a need for a corporate development service to help smaller firms looking to grow either organically or through merger or acquisition,” she says. “We are unique in what we offer. Many of our clients are in agriculture or manufacturing. We also work with some sports entrepreneurs. We have clients throughout North America.”

Wortzman has fond memories of growing up here:  BBYO, USY, sessions at B’nai Brith Camp, and especially summer after summer at the family cottage at Falcon Lake.
Her adult involvement in the Jewish community began when her daughters, Lexie and Haley Yurman (Wortzman is married to Ron Yurman) started school at the Gray Academy.
Wortzman spent eight years as a member of the Board of Jewish Education, including a term as President of the Board of Jewish Education.
She has been active with the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg and the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University.

Her first involvement with the Jewish Foundation was in the mid-1990s when she was a member of the Women’s Endowment Fund board.
She joined the Foundation Board about eight years ago.
She reports that the JFM currently has a capital fund of over $100 million. But the board and management of the JFM are certainly not content to sit on their laurels.
 “We held a strategic retreat in October focusing on governance, fund development and our vision’ she says. “We have also added marketing

and donor development positions.”

One of the outcomes of the retreat was a decision to reduce the size of the board to 12 members from 20 and give the board members more decision making responsibility. “We want our board members to be more engaged,” she says.
In terms of donors, she notes that the Foundation is going to be more flexible in working with donors to help them (the donors) achieve their charitable goals.

“We are also analyzing our fund development efforts to determine how we can become more effective and more successful in raising funds,” she says.
“I consider the Jewish Foundation to be one of the pillars of our community,” she says, “especially in ensuring the long term growth and sustainability of our community.”

Brian Scharfstein mentor to up and coming entrepreneurs

After 35 years in business as president of Canadian Footwear, one of Canada’s most successful independently-owned shoe stores, Brian Scharfstein has a thing or two to teach budding entrepreneurs – and there are a growing number of younger people who are listening.

In mid-November, Scharfstein was the keynote speaker at Global Entrepreneurship Week Canada. “Based on my speech, I received 22 follow-up phone calls the next day,” Scharfstein reports. “Within a week, I had met with half of them. They come from all walks of life.”

Scharfstein’s first bit of advice to entrepreneurs is to turn themselves into brand names. “I was sitting on a panel between Ace Burpee and Kevin Chief at the conference,” he notes. “They are successful in part because they have become well known. They have become their own personal brands.”

When Brian Scharfstein acquired Canadian Footwear from his late parents’ estate, the downtown shoe store had six employees. Today, Canadian Footwear has more than 100 employees working out of three locations in Winnipeg and one in Calgary.
Scharfstein attributes his and Canadian Footwear’s success to building a recognized brand.
“People come to us because we fit you,” he says. “But they also come to us because of the buying experience that we offer. There may be other stores that sell shoes. We provide a one of a kind experience and we establish personal relationships with our customers.”

Scharfstein, who is also a trained pedorthist, has also learned how to turn obstacles into advantages.
For example, last winter, New Balance, one of Canadian Footwear’s largest suppliers, informed Scharfstein that the company was not going to renew Canadian Footwear’s license for Alberta. New Balance is looking to open its own retail outlets.

“With that decision, combined with the downturn in Alberta’s economy, it didn’t look good for us in Calgary in 2015,” Scharfstein says. “What we did is rebrand our store. Due to our marketing efforts, we became a lot more successful and New Balance changed its position in terms of licensing. We are considering opening three more stores in Calgary.”

Scharfstein notes that the fastest growing aspect of Canadian Footwear’s operations is E-commerce. “It’s very exciting,” he says. “When a customer comes into one of our stores looking for a specific pair of shoes, if we don’t have it in stock at that store, we can now access the inventory at all our stores, and ensure delivery to the customer’s home by the next afternoon.”

Customers are also going to be able to shop online at all Canadian Footwear locations, Scharfstein reports.
“People are used to buying online today,” he points out. “They walk into our stores with their handheld devices knowing what they want to buy. We are introducing iPad technology into all of our stores so that customers can come in and scroll through our catalogues in the store. We are retraining our associates so that they will be able to help customers shop online.”

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