CITP Spotlight: Leah Sanford – Principal & Co-Owner, Kelford Inc.


Earned her CITP®|FIBP® designation: September, 2022

Leah Sanford has a long-time passion for marketing. She enjoyed her corporate marketing role before taking the leap into entrepreneurship. She now helps other entrepreneurs take their brands global.

Her husband, Joel Kelly, shared Leah’s passion for marketing. He dreamed of starting his own business, and together, they built Kelford, Inc.

Through their company, Leah and Joel work with entrepreneurs to help define and articulate their unique value, and then demonstrate it to their very best customers. She finds joy in helping entrepreneurs from Canada and beyond change the world by helping them communicate in a way the world understands.

“An entrepreneur just has this creative mindset of seeing past the obstacles and wanting to try new things. There’s this creative, innovative space that just clicks a little different for an entrepreneur, and it’s so fun to work with.”

Leah strives to infuse fun and creativity into the process of helping entrepreneurs uncover their goals, define their value, and demonstrate it at a distance. So they can keep going, keep growing, and keep building a business they love.

If a business is online, it’s potentially international

Based in Canada, Kelford Inc. is both a local and an international business, thanks to the ease of connecting online.

“We often work with folks who are located here in Canada but sell around the world,” Leah explained.

“We’ve had many clients around the world trying to enter Canadian markets or other global markets. For us, it’s all about demonstrating your value, globally.”

Whether a business owner offers professional services, or artisan-made products via e-commerce, or deep-tech solutions, they may benefit from global trade training.

“Shopify changed the game, and Amazon before that. And Etsy has been this beautiful creator space on a smaller, more personal, artistic scale of what’s possible. It doesn’t have to be down the street anymore. The pandemic really opened that up from on a global corporate scale.”

Leah developed a more global approach from the Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) designation and international business training through the FITTskills program.

CITP Banner image - business woman on a call

A resource that helps open doors

“I would absolutely recommend the FITTskills program to people who love long-term learning. The program is comprehensive – so in the long term, everything stacks really nicely.”

When the world slowed down during the COVID-19 pandemic, Leah decided to invest time into professional development. Invest Nova Scotia offers training and other resources for entrepreneurs including FITTskills training as a FITT educational partner. Leah took advantage of the opportunity and enrolled in the FITTskills International Sales & Marketing course.

“It felt like this little serendipitous moment that kicked me off on the right journey.”

That moment led Leah toward earning the CITP certification. She found the designation and the FITTskills program incredibly practical and easy to apply to real-world situations. In addition to knowledge, it also helped hone her mindset.

“It’s been a confidence boost. It obliterates that imposter syndrome feeling! It’s a great anchoring ground of knowing what I’m doing. I have the FITTskills textbooks to go back to. I have the knowledge base to go back to. I have the resources to draw on, and the connections that it’s opened up have been brilliant.

The program also offers moments of connection and the chance to network with other professionals and expand valuable international connections. Leah even found a new client who was a classmate in the same FITTskills course. She indicated that when looking for partners, the CITP designation acts as a green flag.

“I know that there’s been a vetting process in that credential. It’s a credential that has a governing body and there’s something really beneficial to that. When you’re evaluating apples to apples, this one suddenly is a little more nutritious.”

Paying it forward and building up other entrepreneurs

Leah jumped at the opportunity to help other aspiring entrepreneurs through the Lab2Market program. This federally backed, multi-agency partnership encourages master’s, doctoral, and postdoctoral-level researchers to gain tools that may help them take their expertise and innovations to the marketplace. Leah is a facilitator in the Lab2Market Oceans programs, through Memorial University.

“We’re focused on ocean innovation and technology. Students are bringing forward ideas and products such as oil spill clean up breakthroughs, improved safe navigation through icy waters tools, new marine coatings, etc. The program is comprised of brilliant students, many international, exploring how they might enter a global market—seeing if there’s a market for their idea. And we educate, and hopefully inspire, them to build businesses and take their innovations forward, while supporting them as they go through the roller coaster of emotions in customer discovery!”

Leah credits both completing the FITTskills training and earning the CITP designation for preparing her to help these scientists develop business skills and entrepreneurial mindsets.

Whether local or global, it’s all about relationships

Leah found that her relationships with clients don’t end with the initial project developing a marketing position and strategy. She likes to keep in touch with clients as they implement their strategy. Kelford also offers a daily inspirational positioning newsletter.

“For us, it’s natural to stay in touch and celebrate their wins. And on the flip side ask, are you struggling with anything? Just let them know we’re here.”

Over the years, Leah and Joel worked with dream clients including Big Cove Foods of Nova Scotia. They came to Kelford with a goal of bringing their spice blends from a local product to stores across the country. After exploring their goals and aspirations, Kelford helped them create an actionable marketing strategy.

As they implemented the plan, they found their voice and fun in their marketing, and were able to focus on demonstrating their value to their best customers. And with that focus, they saw pick up from stores across the country as well as growth in their online sales. As they’ve grown, their social impact has grown too—participating in ‘1% for the Planet’ where they donate to charities, and  prepare fresh meals and munchies to Viola’s Place, a homeless shelter in their community.

She sums up her ideal client as, “the entrepreneur who has an ambition that speaks to their soul, has a product or service that can do good out in the world. And then is really crafty, creative, and wants to do something more than for the hustle, more than for the dollars, but something they want to stick with for a really long time because it makes them happy. And that happiness makes their customers happy. That’s the dream.”

“When you go out somewhere to sell your product, it’s not over when you make the sale. Now we have to prove that we’re going to stick around, that we backup our product and our commitments, that we are here with the customer service.”

Looking toward the future in a changing world

Adaptability is crucial for entrepreneurs in an ever-changing market. Leah appreciates having the course text, case studies, and videos available as reference resources whenever new challenges and opportunities arise.

“So, what you knew and what you did two years ago is different now. What I would have recommended two years ago is different now. A marketing strategy I write this year is going to be different from the one I write in a year from now because of how the market changes.”

Leah envisions a future where Kelford, Inc. further expands its portfolio of client collaborations from all over the world. The choices when selling globally can be overwhelming. The knowledge and resources gained through the FITTskills program and validated through earning the CITP designation provide building blocks for success.

“My experience working toward and earning the CITP has been wonderful in terms of knowing “how can we leverage our skills, the tools that we know are out there?” It’ll always be just the two of us, but how do we grow that impact that we’re able to have? And we are really looking at that on an international scale now.”

Want to connect with Leah? LinkedIn: Leah Sanford

Learn more about the CITP®|FIBP® designation


Advance your career and build your professional credibility in the field of global business by earning the Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) designation.

Why Earn the Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) Designation?

The Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) designation is the world’s leading professional designation for the field of international business. So whether you’re new to global trade or have over a decade of direct experience, you’ll find the CITP designation can help advance your career and build your professional credibility.

The CITP designation sets you apart in the competitive international business industry because it’s proof you possess the competencies global business experts have identified as being essential for a successful career in international trade. It also recognizes your dedication to ethical business practices and ongoing professional development—both of which are desirable traits for today’s global business practitioners.

*Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) is trademarked for use within Canada. FITT International Business Professional (FIBP) is trademarked for use internationally. Both reflect the same FITT-certified designation. 


Click here to take the next steps to your CITP designation

About the author

Author: Samantha Sied

Samantha is a freelance writer who is fascinated by how technology helps people connect around shared interests and do business internationally. Her background includes journalism, event planning, social media, and content marketing.

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