Meet Melinda Ponting-Moore, Co-Founder & President of Craft Coast Canning Ltd.

Seeing a need for a professional packaging option on the “craft coast” — Eastern Canada — Melinda Moore co-founded Craft Coast Canning in 2017. The company supplies cans, packaging materials, graphic design, quality control, mobile canning, and laboratory services to businesses, from small craft breweries to international brands. A practicing lawyer since 2019, Melinda completed three degrees before her thirties, and started a holdings corporation which owns interests in a number of brands that promote female-entrepreneurship and environmental stewardship.

My first job ever was…Working in the family business, cleaning grease trays and chrome polishing airplanes. Sometimes running errands for the office. First external job was Blockbuster! Worked there through high school and one year of University.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… For me it happened organically since I was raised by entrepreneurs. We had an idea that was marketable, so jumping in with both feet to actualize that goal was only a question of belief in the concept. I was in a place (just having completed my MA while still in law school) where I felt like I was up for an ambitious challenge and able to wear more than one hat, and my husband and I worked together to balance our family resources to make the energy and capital intensive startup phase work.

My proudest accomplishment is… Of course, there are some legal files that I am extremely proud of, but I cannot ethically disclose. But professionally overall, I think my proudest accomplishment was the day I was selected as a finalist for this award. Until then I had not taken time to stop and reflect on what I had been working towards for the last decade. It is so easy to have tunnel vision day-to-day. This nomination was the first time I really stepped back and thought, “hmm… I think I’ve actually built something!” I am proud of getting here, and even more proud of the team is going to keep the companies’ momentum going!

My biggest setback was… There are so many! I think there was a real low when I left University after my Bachelor’s degree. I had always wanted to practice law, but also wanted to continue learning through research, and of course, I needed to finance it all. For a time had no idea how I would pull this off, and I lacked any direction and felt completely lost. I doubted my ambitions and questioned my abilities. Looking back, I think I felt like I was cookie dough, I needed to be baked a little longer to turn out the way I needed to.

I overcame it by… Pushing forward regardless, and trying again when possible. I reinvested in myself, and IMPORTANTLY asked for help! My husband (then boyfriend at the time) shouldered a lot so I could pursue my goals. I overcame any fear of pivoting and reorganized my plans as necessary. My mantra was taught to me from my mother… never be afraid to try, but always try. It saved me.

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… A google search does not show much about me. I have do not have many accolades to show. But I used to participate in a number of martial arts, I rescue animals on a 14-acre property in the sticks, I read books on theoretical physics for fun, I officiate weddings for charity, and I once spent three days straight awake watching all of the James Bond movies back-to-back. The point is, professionally I have a need to be hardworking in the face of challenges, and privately I spend time seeking out more challenges and tackling the ones that cannot easily be monetized. The latter is the part the internet will likely never see.

My best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is… Never be afraid to try, but always try.

The one piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… Stop. Breathe. And do not be afraid to ask for help.

Success to me means… Balance and the ability to actualize imagination. Success is different for everyone, but I believe if you can maintain your rationality and logic and apply your talents to the world that is success whatever dollar amount rests in your bank account.

I stay inspired by… The people around me. My mother, my husband, my step dad and brother, my in-laws, my friends, the memory of the amazing people who helped train my work ethic (my thesis supervisor Caroline Bassett, my Grandmothers Will Boer and Phyllis Moore, my Grandfather Edmond Boer, my Great Uncle Henri Boer, my dad Carey Moore), and my co-workers, employees and law clients. I constantly feel like I am being driven by their belief in my potential.

My next step is… Long term I plan on working on the balance component to my definition of success. Short and medium term, adjusting the business plans for our businesses to the new normal of our economic activities. In particular, reorienting the direction of our businesses that pivoted as they were deemed essential services during the pandemic for sustainable growth, and finding ways to reconnect with some projects that were dropped as a result during this time. In particular I have had an animal rights opportunity that had been pushed to the side during the pandemic and I would love to reinvest my efforts in to helping see that project move forward.  

Meet Hyla Nayeri & Adrien Bettio, Co-Founders of 437

Best friends Hyla Nayeri and Adrien Bettio launched 437 (previously known as 437 SWIMWEAR) after a summer of travelling across the Amalfi Coast and indulging in everything their hearts desired. The one issue they faced: finding swimwear that could keep up with their craving for adventure and carbs. The two set out to design a bikini that would accentuate their waist, elongate their legs and never stop them from grabbing that second serving of spaghetti bolognese. They launched the brand in the summer of 2017 out of the townhouse they lived in during their last year of university, 437 Johnson St.

My first job ever was… 

For Hyla: Hostess at Boston Pizza 

For Adrien: Sales support intern at Hugo Boss 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… 

For Adrien & Hyla: We weren’t passionate about the career options business school showcased, so we decided we wanted to do something we are passionate about. We saw a gap in the industry and decided to take a chance and start this swimwear business to create swimwear that flattered all bodies 

My proudest accomplishment is… 

For Adrien: Making Forbes 30 under 30 this past year was a dream come true! This has been on our vision board since day one 

My biggest setback was… 

For Hyla: Our new manufacturer in New York fled overnight with $40,000 from our company and we never heard from them again! 

I overcame it by… 

For Hyla: Re-evaluating the swimwear we had and turning versatility into one of the core pillars of our brand. We started tying the tops backwards and figuring out ways to reinvent our existing inventory to brand ourselves as a swim that could be tied various ways. 

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… 

For Hyla: How much I love reading, I’m an avid reader of finance, self help and wellness books

My best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is…

For Adrien: Don’t take everything so seriously. I think we were raised with so many high expectations put on us, and so much pressure to follow the traditional, linear route of excelling in school, then getting a secure job, then buying a house and starting a family. At 18, rather than having to look forward and make sure I was taking everything seriously so that I could follow that path, I should have been trying new things and having adventures. Life is short, everything works out as it should, and enjoying everyday by living in the present moment is the thing I wish I knew. 

The one piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… 

For Adrien & Hyla: The importance of balance in your scheduling. Since day 1 of starting 437 we have prioritized balance in our lives. That meant sleeping enough, eating properly, working out, spending time with friends and family, and having personal downtime (on top of all of our work of course). We have had weeks, even months, where we feel like work is a non-stop grind. 

I stay inspired by… 

For Adrien & Hyla: We get countless emails, dms and messages about how someone has never felt wearing a bikini before and now feels empowered due to the way the suits are designed, the fabrics we picked and the messaging behind the brand. It is definitely something that we are so proud of and inspires us to keep working hard and inspiring more woman to feel their best selves. We attribute this accomplishment to our eye for detail and how focused we are on the design process alongside our design team. We always try on every style on a fit model from size XS to XXL and we don’t go into production unless every size feels extremely confident in their produced sample. 

My next step is… 

For Hyla & Adrien: We hope to focus on geographic expansion. Currently we only focus on the US and Canadian market (although we sell internationally they are not our focus of growth currently). This has been great because there are so many consumers that we still have yet to reach in these markets so there’s still a lot of room to grow. However in order to hit the next revenue milestones we want to begin to focus on geographic expansion to English-speaking locations such as the UK and Australia.

Meet Nicole Janssen, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of AltaML

Nicole Janssen is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of AltaML, a Canadian artificial intelligence scaleup that designs and implements applied AI solutions for businesses, helping them identify where AI and Machine Learning (ML) technologies can be applied to improve their day-to-day operations. Nicole is also actively involved in helping Canadian business leaders understand the importance of ethical AI, and has been recognized by AI Global for this work. Prior to AltaML, Nicole co-founded Janalta Interactive Inc., an online media company as well as Stratus Holdings Inc., a private real estate investment firm. Active in her local community, Nicole currently serves as a Director at Innovate Edmonton.

My first job ever was… Bookkeeper at my mom’s company 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I grew up around entrepreneurs so it seemed natural for me. That being said, I might have taken a different path had it not been for participating in the Junior Achievement Company Program in high school. This experience allowed students to collaborate over several months to build a company together. The first step is always the hardest, and I was lucky to take my first leap into entrepreneurship in such a supportive environment. 

My proudest accomplishment is… My two children. They are both beautiful, inside and out. 

My biggest setback was… Being diagnosed with epilepsy. Lack of sleep and stress are two seizure triggers for me, which can be difficult to avoid as an entrepreneur. 

I overcame it by… Adjusting my perspective; I chose to look at epilepsy as a signal instead of a setback. I have something that tells me right away if I push too hard or don’t take the time I need to process. It is also a clear reminder that people face diverse constraints that might not be apparent on the surface, and that we all need to extend a little extra kindness. This awareness elevates my ability to lead, by demonstrating and communicating the importance of life balance. 

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… A lot of things! Caring for my horse gets me through the toughest of times; I love to get outside on my bike and have cycled from Jasper to Banff twice; my favorite drink is a Boulevardier; an organized pantry always makes me happy. 

My best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is… Don’t wait. The longer you wait the more reasons you will find not to take the leap.

The one piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… Commit to “no” to protect the most important “yes’s” 

Success to me means… I have a vision statement I keep in my wallet that reads: 

Celebrating each moment by choosing happiness. Living a life of trustworthiness, loyalty, honesty and competence. Having a healthy body through physical exercise and proper nutrition. Nourishing the mind through continual learning. Creating and maintaining healthy relationships with myself, my husband, children, family and friends; always sharing my love. To inspire everyone who has come in touch with me to live a life of fulfillment using their full potential. But most importantly, knowing when to put all that aside and just enjoy a good glass of Cabernet! 

I stay inspired by… My children. I want to build something that contributes to making Canada a country full of opportunity so that when the youth of today are grown, they have extraordinary opportunities right here at home. 

My next step is… Continuing to push towards our company mission of Elevating Human Potential through Applied AI and being ready for the next curveball!

Rencontrez Isabelle Dion, PDG Boost Affaires Inc.

Isabelle Dion cumule plus de 25 ans d’expérience en communication et en service client. Sa volonté ferme de donner un élan à ses affaires la motive à créer Boost Affaires avec une associée d’expérience, en 2012. C’est à la fin 2016 qu’Isabelle reprend seule l’affaire. La mission de Boost Affaires: Ouvrir des portes à de nouvelles opportunités d’affaires B2B par une approche téléphonique rigoureuse, humaine et audacieuse basée sur une écoute authentique.

Mon tout premier emploi était… Caissière dans un dépanneur tout près de chez moi. J’ai obtenu cet emploi en prenant  une marche un dimanche de Pâques. J’ai parlé au propriétaire qui m’a embauchée sur le  champ!  

J’ai décidé d’être en affaires parce que… Comme un oiseau, la vie m’a fait tomber du nid pour que je vole de mes propres ailes….  On m’a référé mon premier client au moment où je venais de terminer un emploi et c’est  ce qui m’a lancée en affaires.  

La réalisation dont je tire le plus de fierté, c’est… D’être certifiée BonBoss et d’avoir persévéré comme entrepreneure depuis 14 ans maintenant. J’ai une équipe formidable avec laquelle j’ai créé une relation étroite. C’est  fantastique d’être sur notre X, de se réaliser et de permettre à ses collègues de participer  activement à l’atteinte de la vision d’entreprise. 

Mon plus gros incident de parcours fut lorsque… J’ai eu une associée de 2012 à 2016 et que j’ai dû racheter ses parts dans l’entreprise.  C’était prévu, toutefois, c’était pour moi une démarche de haute importante. J’allais de  nouveau être l’unique décideur de l’entreprise et assumer la pleine réalisation de ma  vision d’entreprise. 

J’ai surmonté le tout en… Étant accompagnée d’un mentor avec qui j’ai pris le temps de revisiter mon plan, mes  aspirations, mais surtout, de prendre mon courage à deux mains pour poursuivre mes  ambitions de croissance pour mon entreprise. 

Si vous me cherchez sur Google, vous ne saurez sûrement pas que… Je suis une passionnée de voyages et de découvertes, j’ai d’ailleurs travaillé de  l’Argentine et du Brésil à distance avec mon équipe. Mon côté aventurier, m’amène aussi à partir de façon spontanée selon l’inspiration du moment. J’aime avoir ma moto, traverser les frontières quand c’est possible. Ça me permet de ressentir la liberté et l’accélération qui sont une source de bonheur pour moi.  

Lorsque je me suis lancée en affaires, j’aurais aimé savoir que… Ma vision allait se réaliser et que pour cela je devrais y consacrer plusieurs années. J’ai  fait preuve de beaucoup de résilience. J’étais loin de me douter que mon entreprise serait  ma plus belle école et que mes succès comme entrepreneure seraient mes plus belles  réussites et source de fierté.  

Le meilleur conseil que je pourrais donner à ceux et celles qui veulent faire croître  leur entreprise, c’est… Que selon moi tout est possible. Pour y arriver il est important d’être ouvert, à l’écoute de  ses instincts, à l’affût des opportunités, se fixer des objectifs et y croire.  

Un grand leader est une personne qui… Inspire son équipe à se dépasser et à s’investir dans les défis de l’entreprise, mets en  valeur les forces de ses employés, développe une belle relation avec eux. Fais confiance  et encourage l’autonomie ainsi que le sens des responsabilités et possède une grande écoute. Les gens accompagnés d’un grand leader diront « Nous l’avons fait nous-même » et c’est ce que je prône dans mon entreprise.  

J’entrevois l’avenir avec enthousiasme, parce que… Je suis fière de mon équipe, de ce que nous accomplissons et des valeurs que nous  vivons. J’aime relever des défis et surprendre les gens en atteignant les objectifs fixés. J’aime réunir des employés de talents et les voir se déployer. C’est ensemble que nous  réussissons! 

Pour moi, avoir du succès, c’est… D’avoir de l’impact pour nos clients en ouvrant pour eux la porte à de nouvelles  opportunités d’affaires. De contribuer à bâtir des entreprises, et ce, par des relations authentiques, gagnant-gagnant. D’atteindre nos objectifs avec une équipe heureuse,  engagée et performante. 

Meet Evelyne Nyairo, Founder of Ellie Bianca

Evelyne Nyairo is the founder of Ellie Bianca, an all natural, environmentally sustainable, and socially conscious skincare line. Named after her daughter, the brand was inspired by Evelyne’s deep desire to bring change to the women of the world. She has over fifteen years experience working globally in Environment and Social Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement, which has helped her develop authentic relationships that now allow her to source natural, sustainable, and ethical ingredients.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted to be creative with solutions without any limitations. I always wanted to provide solutions for Africa in the oil and gas sector. Years ago, I found myself doing fieldwork among the most beautiful wild mango trees in Chad. Not one to waste an opportunity for an incredible fresh fruit, I was introduced to a family where the mother and kids proceeded to expertly climb the trees in the hot sun to harvest mangoes for me to eat. Towards the end I was told to pay the husband when it was the wife that had picked the mangoes. I felt a knot of anger in my heart as I customarily handed the money over to the man, and I was motivated to help improve the lives of the women there. That is when I decided to start Ellie Bianca, a natural skincare line built on the pillars ‘Kind to Your Skin, Kind to the Earth, Kind to Women.’

My proudest accomplishment is… To see my daughter start university. I’ve had a lot of business accomplishments, but the bottom of it all is to see my daughter work being her own person. Holding Ellie 18 years ago ignited my passion to raise her to be a smart, happy and well-adjusted young woman with a successful future. Determined to ensure that gender inequity, bias, or prejudice of any kind would never hold me or my daughter back from reaching our desired vision or happiness, today I am so proud to see Ellie on the path to achieving that dream!

My biggest setback was… I never see setbacks as challenges and believe in living a life of no regrets. I see setbacks as an opportunity to comeback and ask myself how do I make the best out of a challenge. 

I overcame it by… I actively shift my mindset when presented with a challenge by looking at it as an opportunity to learn. With every challenge there’s an opportunity of a comeback.

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I was born in a rural village in Kisii, Kenya and went to an all-girls boarding school. My clan is called the House of Wealth hence I aim to upload my clan’s legacy with my entrepreneurial experience. 

My best advice for small business owners is… If your dreams are not scaring you, they’re not big enough. Be scared but do it anyways

The one piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… Taking time for oneself and scheduling time in my calendar for selfcare

When starting my business, I wish I knew…  To reach out for help. There’s a lot of help by both the government and various other organizations who are there to support entrepreneurs. I’d been doing it all by myself and I wish I had tapped into the resources out there to grow earlier and not done it the hard way

The future excites me because… Each step in this journey is getting us closer to building a billion dollar business. While the journey is not easy, our resilence is inspiring hope in others along the way.  

Success to me means…To me success is not just meeting the financial goal but the ability to give back to others along the way, even if it means having a positive impact on one person to reach their full potential.

Meet Xenia Chen, Founder of Threads

Xenia Chen is the founder of Threads, a direct-to-consumer tights and hosiery brand with a mission to make luxurious and high-end hosiery affordable to everyone. Threads has been featured in FLARE, NBC, FASHION Magazine, CBC The National, and several other media publications. Prior to Threads, Xenia worked in private equity and investment banking at top firms in Toronto and New York for 5 years, over which time she worked on transactions and mandates with a combined value of over $12 billion.

My first job ever was… Lifeguard/swim instructor.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I faced an everyday problem/frustration that I knew so many other women were also facing. I had this burning desire to fix it and come up with a solution!

My proudest accomplishment is… Launching Threads with my own personal savings and bootstrapping the company to what it is today. 

My biggest setback was… The COVID-19 pandemic. Being a young business in an industry that depends on people getting dressed up (either to go out or to go to work) was not easy. 

I overcame it by… Nurturing existing customers and finding new, unexpected customer groups and launching new products. A true testament to the idea that sometimes, the best ideas can come out of times of incredible challenge. 

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I love cooking! My idea of the perfect night is cooking up a great meal with my husband and having our friends over. 

My best advice for small business owners is… Be open minded when listening to other people’s advice but be discerning about which pieces to actually take and implement. Trust your gut. 

The one piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… Take time to rest. It’s so important but I definitely need to be reminded of this at times. 

When starting my business, I wish I knew… Failure is not the opposite of success: it’s a stepping stone to success. 

The future excites me because… There’s so much possibility! We’re living in such a great time in history right now where we have so much knowledge at our fingertips – you can essentially learn anything off of YouTube and the internet and that is really exciting to me. 

Success to me means… Creating a life that you truly love and enjoy. And personal growth – accomplishing things that you, at one point, didn’t think was possible or in the cards for you. There’s no better feeling than looking back and knowing that past-you would’ve been so proud of present-you. 

Meet Connie Stacey, founder of clean energy technology company Growing Greener Innovations.

Connie Stevens

Meet Connie Stacey, Founder and President of Growing Greener Innovations (GGI) Inc., an award-winning clean energy technology company based out of Edmonton, Alberta. With a BA from the University of Alberta and 20 years of experience in the IT and computer programming sectors, Connie founded GGI in 2014, intent on creating a generator that was silent, cleaner, and safer, free of fumes and carbon emissions. Since creating GGI’s patented GRENGINE™ solar battery generator, Connie and her company have expanded into the battery energy storage sector. In addition to being President of GGI, Connie is on the steering committee of NAIT’s Centre for Grid Innovation, is a frequent speaker at cleantech events, and has been the recipient of several awards herself, including the Alberta Business Award for Woman Entrepreneur of the Year.


My first job ever was… Camp Counselor for the YMCA Summer Camps in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted to use business as a way to create positive social change.

I founded Growing Greener Innovations because… Once I learned about global energy poverty and realized the technology I was inventing could make a real difference, I felt compelled to take the leap and build my new technology.

My biggest setback was… People had a hard time seeing a woman inventing new battery technology — there was a lot of skepticism. 

I overcame it by… I kept talking to and meeting as many people as I could, trying to find believers who would support me and I looked for alternative ways to get past the barriers I came up against.  

I’m passionate about cleantech because… I believe that cleantech is not just imperative for the environment, it is imperative for people. Clean air, drinkable water, sustainable food —these are essential for our planet, and they are essential for all people. 

My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is… Stick with it! There will be so much to learn in the beginning and so many obstacles to overcome, but if you believe in yourself and stick with it, you will get through it. 

“I believe that cleantech is not just imperative for the environment, it is imperative for people. Clean air, drinkable water, sustainable food —these are essential for our planet, and they are essential for all people.” 

The thing I love most about what I do is… I can’t pick one! I am picking two things. One, I love talking to people: My colleagues, our customers, our vendors, and everyone and anyone with interest in cleantech. Two, I love inventing; I love the process of unravelling a problem and finding innovative ways to solve those challenges.

If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be… The love and support of my friends and family. Many of them did not understand the deep technology I was building, but they believed in me and made sure I knew it. 

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I am a huge fan of Star Wars and all things geeky! My coffee mugs are Star Wars, I have a Rey bobblehead on my desk, and I even have rebel alliance cufflinks! I spend my (few minutes of spare time) making 3D prints and toys for my kids and I love it! 

I stay inspired by… Spending time with my kids. I have three beautiful children and they remind me of how important it is to leave the world a better place than we found it. I want them to enjoy the beautiful planet we inhabit and truly be equal with all of the people who live on it. 

The future excites me because… Now that we are moving from development into commercialization, we are truly starting to see the positive outcomes our work can create. Knowing we are on the brink of so many positive results is unbelievably exciting, and I cannot wait to do even more!