Meet Brigitte Jalbert, President of Les Emballages Carrousel

Brigitte Jalbert

President, Les Emballages Carrousel

Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award Winner

Brigitte started working at the family business during her summer breaks, in the photography and communications department. In 1986, she joined the team full-time, and for 25 years, she worked her way up the ranks. In 2011, Brigitte was appointed as president of Les Emballages Carrousel, managing a company with a turnover of $110 million and 272 employees.


My first job ever was… A summer job in a convenience store located in Old Boucherville.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I felt a strong desire to ensure the sustainability of the company my father founded.

My proudest accomplishment is… The successful transfer of the company to the next generation while maintaining a human and mobilizing culture.

My boldest move to date was… Creating a VP Sales and Marketing position and having 2 sales managers who were also shareholders of the company report to that new position.

I surprise people when I tell them… That I did boxing and skydiving!

My best advice to people looking to grow their business is… To surround yourself with good people, to practice true listening and to be confident.

My biggest setback was… I hired and tolerated for too long a person who proved to be harmful to the company.


“Surround yourself with good people, to practice true listening and to be confident.”


I overcame it by… Trying several approaches to improve his behaviour, including external coaching, but finally, our paths had to separate.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… Do yoga, meditation, jogging, paddle boarding, gardening and cooking…with my daughters!

I stay inspired by…  Seeing the people around me fulfil themselves and gain self-confidence, especially young people.

The future excites me because… I still have so many beautiful and good things to accomplish.

Success to me means… Feeling fulfilled, free, happy and being helpful to people around me, making a difference in their lives.



Meet Carinne Chambers-Saini Founder of Diva International And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards TELUS Trailblazer Award Winner

Carinne Chambers-Saini

Founder, Diva International

TELUS Trailblazer Award Winner


Carinne Chambers-Saini has led a 15-year journey to create and market the revolutionary product and brand, the DivaCup. As the only real innovation in feminine hygiene in decades, the DivaCup has completely disrupted the industry by providing the most eco-friendly, clean and comfortable way to address menstrual care on the market today. In addition to working towards her business dreams, Carinne is also a wife and mother of two kids, who continually motivate her to push for more.


My first job ever was… working as a fifteen-year-old at my mother’s retail jewelry kiosk in our suburban mall.

 I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I was inspired by my mother and father’s entrepreneurial spirit—and I always knew I wanted to follow in their footsteps.

My proudest accomplishment is… creating a company that has changed the way people worldwide handle their menstrual experience.

I surprise people when I tell them… that I’m a dance mom, on the road on weekends to competitions with my 9-year-old daughter Maliya.

My best advice to people looking to disrupt the status quo is… to be persistent and to push past fear, never allowing the naysayers to stop you from pursuing your dream.

My best advice from a mentor was… to celebrate the small victories, savouring each step along the way, even if it feels like your miles away from your goal.


“Surrounding yourself with a tribe of people who are just as passionate about your vision as you are will go a long way toward helping you stay committed.”


My biggest setback was… experiencing executive burnout during the same period I had two children in quick succession.

I overcame it by… prioritizing my health and self-care, while trusting the team around me to provide needed support.

I never go a day without… reminding myself how grateful I am.

If I had an extra hour in the day I would… take a Salsa class!

I stay inspired by… reading health, leadership, parenting and/or spiritual-based books that help me become the best version of myself

The future excites me because… when it comes to menstrual care, we’re creating An Inner Revolution for people everywhere, and we’re really just getting started!



Meet Jesse Finkelstein Founder of Page Two And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards TELUS Trailblazer Award Finalist


Jesse Finkelstein

Founder, Page Two

TELUS Trailblazer Award Finalist


Jesse Finkelstein and Trena White have 35 years of combined experience in book publishing. The pair worked together at D&M Publishers until 2012, when the company went into creditor protection. With their backs against the wall, they choose to take a leap of faith and found Page Two — a company that helps non-fiction authors navigate all of their options for publication, and helps organizations with their publishing activities.



My first job ever was… camp counsellor at a bilingual camp. I loved helping kids build friendships with one another across a language gap, forging lasting bonds while they learned English or French and breaking down the “two solitudes” barriers we often experienced growing up in Quebec.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I was convinced that there was a better way to provide an exceptional publishing experience to subject-matter experts, thought leaders, organizations, and other entrepreneurs, and I knew that no one else was doing it the way that I wanted to. I also saw an opportunity to build the company with the person I admired most in the publishing landscape: Trena White, who is Page Two’s co-founder and the best business partner anyone could ask for. The mutual admiration and respect that Trena and I have for one another is the heart and soul of Page Two, and I believe that it’s laid the foundation for our success. 

My proudest accomplishment is… learning to own my sense of accomplishment and ambition as an entrepreneur, and doing it while raising a family. When we launched Page Two, my kids were old enough to understand that I was doing something bold and new, as well as trying to earn a good living for our family, and I know they appreciate that even though I’ve chaperoned very few school field trips and always take my laptop to hockey practice. They see that I can take great pride in work and great joy in raising them, and those things aren’t mutually exclusive. That feels like a big win for me.     

I surprise people when I tell them… I used to be terribly shy and introverted. I worked hard to overcome that and now I love reaching out to new people and spending time among strangers who might become colleagues, clients or friends. This is a good thing because Page Two depended on my (and my business partner, Trena’s) ability to do that!

My best advice to people looking to disrupt the status quo is… hold on to your vision, but not dogmatically. As a disruptor, you’ll face naysayers and others who resist the way you’re challenging their practices and assumptions. Listen to the thoughtful ones; their responses will help you refine your offering so that it’s even stronger than it otherwise would be. And of course let yourself be uplifted by those who believe in you from the beginning – they’re the wind in your sails.

My best advice from a mentor was… my mom told me that every problem will have its own solution (which I call faith), and my dad told me that people will respect me if I stand up for myself, even if it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient for them (which I call chutzpah). Those two pieces of advice have guided my life and career, especially in challenging moments. 




“Self-care is a big buzzword these days in business and only now am I realizing how critical it is for my own sense of peace and well-being. Sleep, exercise, healthy food, and downtime — they are not optional.”



My biggest setback was… working at a company that went through a bankruptcy process. It was heartbreaking to see the end of a beloved independent publisher and it was a time of great professional strife for all of us who worked there. 

I overcame it by… relying on the wisdom of a great mentor and role model, Anne Giardini, who phoned me as soon as she heard the company news. She told me that if I could hang on through the grinding months ahead as we dealt with selling assets and dealing with creditors while losing our jobs, I would find it to be an invaluable learning experience that would help me build more resilience than I even knew I had. She was right; I think that experience emboldened me and gave me the courage to become an entrepreneur.

I never go a day without… feeling grateful for the privilege of the loving, prosperous family into which I was born, and feeling grateful for my mental health and that of my kids. 

If I had an extra hour in the day I would… read for fun instead of for work! 

I stay inspired by… spending time among my female friends and colleagues. Their strength, resilience, and creativity are astounding and I love learning from them.

The future excites me because… Page Two has been very successful in its first six years yet I feel like we’re just getting started. We now have an amazing team who are poised to run the company so Trena and I can find new ways to build on and refine our offering. Recently, one of our employees said she feels that the possibilities at Page Two are “limitless” and it thrilled me to think that our team members feel that way too.  



Meet Trena White Founder of Page Two And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards TELUS Trailblazer Award Finalist


Trena White

Founder, Page Two

TELUS Trailblazer Award Finalist


Jesse Finkelstein and Trena White have 35 years of combined experience in book publishing. The pair worked together at D&M Publishers until 2012, when the company went into creditor protection. With their backs against the wall, they choose to take a leap of faith and found Page Two — a company that helps non-fiction authors navigate all of their options for publication, and helps organizations with their publishing activities.


My first job ever was… working in a berry-processing plant in my hometown in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. It was mind-numbing work and physically tiring to stand up at a conveyor belt for hours on end, with the shifts ending in the early-morning hours. It taught me about perseverance and opened my eyes to my own privilege because I was just working there for a summer, not for a career. 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I had worked in book publishing for many years and believed that if we created a new model that engaged the author in a meaningful way from the very beginning of the publishing process, extraordinary things might result. I also met the right person at the right time, my brilliant now co-founder and dear friend Jesse Finkelstein, which made launching a company seem possible after years of my private dreams of starting something. Together we shaped the vision for what Page Two has become.

My proudest accomplishment is… building a thriving book publishing company while raising two little boys (now 3 and 6). That’s also been my biggest challenge, and I learned early on the best way to reduce my anxiety and guilt about whether the business or the boys were receiving my attention at any given moment was to create clear boundaries: for the most part, when I am with my boys I am unavailable for work, because I want to give them my full focus.

I surprise people when I tell them… that we started to build Page Two when my first son was two months old and I was still adjusting to motherhood.

My best advice to people looking to disrupt the status quo is… to stay focused on solving your ideal customers’ problems with the status quo. We’ve refined our model and our offering many times over the years in response to feedback from our customers, both on our own services and on their other publishing experiences.  

My best advice from a mentor was… from my dad, who has emphasized over and over indirect advice to me and through stories from his own career the importance of building a team you can trust – and then supporting them however you can so they can do their best work. My mom always told me “You can do anything you set your mind to,” and I think I absorbed that belief in the power of determination and hard work.


“Self-care is a big buzzword these days in business and only now am I realizing how critical it is for my own sense of peace and well-being. Sleep, exercise, healthy food, and downtime — they are not optional.”


My biggest setback was… experiencing the bankruptcy of a company that I previously worked for. 

I overcame it by… starting to think about what my own business would like if I were to launch one

I never go a day without… feeling grateful for my co-founder and the unfailing support of my husband.

If I had an extra hour in the day I would… daydream more.

I stay inspired by… each conversation I have with an author about their big ideas. Publishing non-fiction books is humbling because I’m constantly connecting with people who are far smarter than I am. For me, it’s a great joy to be surrounded by leading experts with deep knowledge in their fields, and it’s a privilege to learn something new from each of them.

The future excites me because… we have made it through the chaotic start-up years and we have an incredible team who are exceptionally talented and creative and are bringing Page Two into its sophomore stage.  



Meet Natalie Voland Founder of Gestion Immobilière Quo Vadis And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards TELUS Trailblazer Award Finalist

Natalie Voland

Founder, Gestion Immobilière Quo Vadis

TELUS Trailblazer Award Finalist


With a background in social work, Natalie Voland created a unique vision using real estate projects as a tool of economic development and urban regeneration, leading to the creation of over 3,000 new jobs. A Quebec leader in social innovation, Natalie works collaboratively with strategic partners to redevelop communities — earning her B Corp Certification based on her triple bottom line practices. A faculty professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, she has developed a new paradigm of real estate called Yield Development.


My first job ever was… my first official job was working at a video store where they also sold ice cream at a mall that was close to where I grew up.  I had many smaller jobs like babysitting and childcare since I was 11 years old. I wanted to work at the video store as I wanted to learn how to sell and be part of a vibrant community- everyone wanted to hang out at the video/ice cream store and I was in the full action.  I got to understand the preferences of the customers, and have suggestions for them when they came in. I learned the ropes on the paperwork, ordering, profit margins and “up sales”. I was 16, I was in a car accident that severely damaged my leg- my employers and the staff were super supportive during my surgeries and held my position for me until I was ready to come back to work.  I learned what loyalty was in business even in such an entry position, that when I came back to work early on crutches as I wanted to show the team my dedication to them. These valuable lessons helped me to become the leader that I am today- my team and their wellbeing is at the core of our company.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… entrepreneurship chose me.  I was a social worker in the health system for trauma and critical care, and my father fell ill and asked me to come to work in his Real Estate company. I agreed to come for one year “to help out”, as long as my social values would not change because I was going into Real Estate Development.  I had a pencil, calculator, and a stubborn will not give up. With zero training. I was not aware that companies I just took over were actually in precarious condition financially, that we had difficult staff and a negative partner, matched with being severely underfunded. So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.  The school of hard knocks almost knocked me out so many times, yet the loyalty of the staff and our growing client base made me get up every morning to show that socially responsible entrepreneurship is the solution to growing social and environmental crises. I chose to use my social values to push forward “re-inventing” that Real Estate and demonstrate that you can make a profit while serving the communities that we work in.

My proudest accomplishment is… hard to say what my proudest moment is; because there are many.  I have dedicated the last 23 years of my business life to lead by example and to make decisions that if reported back to my daughters, I would be proud of. I am proud that I choose to give my staff the room to be their own leaders and entrepreneurs in our company so we together that create a meaningful life in and out of the office.  However, when I teach or give speeches on my work, and someone comes up to me and says that my road has inspired them to work differently, or create their own company, or that in a dark moment, something I said to them made them get up and keep going to the path that they have chosen for themselves.  I could also add that I am proud when my two daughters see my example that life is not fair, that it’s hard but worth to stick what you believe in as my greatest accomplishment.

I surprise people when I tell them… that, even today, after all these years and leading a successful business that creates inclusive communities and new jobs, I count my accomplishment how many “no’s” I have turned into “yes’s”.  It always seems that people think you are an overnight success; that took 23 years in the making. It never becomes easy to be an entrepreneur; the very nature of being a business leader is that you must continue to innovate, adapt to continuing market conditions, so you are never “done”.

My best advice to people looking to disrupt the status quo is… to understand your responsibility as a trailblazer or a disrupter.  You must understand the “why” of what you wish to use business to solve and then figure out the “how” along the way.  However, this concept that it’s ok to fail is a fallacy: pivot, don’t fail- one road does not work, try another. To compliment this point, my follow up advice is- “never disrupt without replacing a solution to what you have disrupted”.  When you disrupt and walk, you have left a vacuum to showing what does not work in an industry that can lead to instability. As an entrepreneur, it is our job to find other ways and solutions.

My best advice from a mentor was… Nelson Mandela said many amazing things, however, my favourite advises from him is the saying “ It always seems impossible until it’s done”.  When you think of that for a moment, you can realize that looking back some of the best solutions to challenges are obvious. However, when you are in the thick of a huge new innovation or disruption of an industry, many traditional forces will push back at you.  The more successful you are at moving the ticker a little, the more you will get push back from the industry leaders that stand to lose market share because of your ideals. Like for us in Real Estate, we are proving that you can make market-rate returns and have a triple bottom mandate that includes social and environmental leadership.  Traditional forces in Real Estate often would see the concept of “profit now” as their rule of thumb. Then they would set up a foundation to funnel tax credits to donate to the very causes that they have been partially responsible for creating through their industry decisions. Mission alignment in investment strategies are now bearing the time of day- market-driven consumer and employee choices are making many industries realize the impact that they could have that could be positive and lucrative.


“You must understand the ‘why’ of what you wish to use business to solve and then figure out the ‘how’ along the way.”


My biggest setback was… oh gosh, there are so many!  I would say access to capital and finance our Real Estate projects were my biggest setbacks in realizing our projects.  We do not fit in the box of “Mr. Credit” in underwriting, and if our projects don’t get funded, we cannot make the impact that we can make.  The biggest recurring challenge is to convince people that doing right in business is actually a lower risk than traditional industries. The social values we hold will also not allow us to fail.  So over time banks and lenders are starting to realize the value of the B Corp movement as an asset to reducing their risk to be paid back their loan.

I overcame it by… I had a three-tiered approach. At first, I used many awards to demonstrate the ability of my company to be a credible leader in the industry. Over time we were awarded accolades in building reconversions, to community development, to sustainable leadership strategies, to entrepreneurship awards to show that we are making a difference. These awards we won continued to grow in stature and scope and helped the bankers to realize that we were moving forward and would not go away. I also chose to have private investments, even ones that were aggressive because an interest-only, non-recourse loan is better than closing my company. The last approach was to be the best in the industry and get our occupancy rates to speak for themselves. We are currently holding a 165,000 square feet waiting list, all our 1.5 million square feet of our current portfolio are rented and we are in final stages to launch three new projects that are another 1 million square feet of socially inclusive, environmentally responsive constructions.

I never go a day without… having great conversations with my daughters.  They are my inspiration and my grounding force. They guide me with their world views and make me realize why I do what I do.

If I had an extra hour in the day I would… funny enough, if I had an extra hour in a day I would sleep!

I stay inspired by… teaching our work to others.  I teach in universities, speak to community groups, work with urban planners, and entrepreneurs.  These experiences often always teach me more just by forcing myself to stay current and challenged.  My speeches also allow me to see many other cities and I use those opportunities to learn new best practices in our field of Impact Real Estate that I can apply to my own work in my company.

The future excites me because… as we finally see the momentum of “Using Business As A Force of Good” as the motto of the B Corp movement.  We are finally not “crazy” but “inspirational”. We have an amazing and growing team, bankers and investors that have seen our success and are working with us to scale our work.  The phone is ringing off the hook for new projects and we can apply our knowledge to new challenges while our prior projects continue to prove through the test of time that our type of Real Estate makes great returns, loyal clients and staff and moves the ticker for social inclusion and making a statement to attack the growing climate crisis.  It’s a win-win-win-win proposition we are offering. We hope that our hard work for all these years will trailblaze the road for others to follow and inspire others to make their own way without having to leave their values at the door to their office. It’s a very exciting time for us!



Meet Geetha Moorthy Founder of SAAAC Autism Centre And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Social Change Award Finalist

Geetha Moorthy

Founder, SAAAC Autism Centre

Social Change Award Finalist


Geetha founded the South Asian Autism Awareness Centre (SAAAC) in direct response to the growing need for awareness and support for South Asian families impacted by ASD and related developmental disorders. The centre began with two families, a handful of volunteers, and minimal resources. Today, it’s a full-fledged centre composed of a multidisciplinary team and more than 200 volunteers, serving 300 families impacted by autism.


My first job ever was… accounting Clerk at John Keels Holding Company in Sri-Lanka

I chose my career path because… my path to my current career was never really linear. Growing up I wanted to be a doctor, but that wasn’t in the cards so I entered into accounting. Being an accountant helped me provide for my family – but finding my passion came later in my life as my family life settled. I wanted to help families to be independent and making changes within our community was very rewarding. With that, SAAAC was born.

My proudest accomplishment is… is growing the SAAAC Autism Centre from just a handful of families and volunteers from the basement of my home to serving over 400 families and training 150 volunteers annually in our 11,000 sq. ft facility.

My boldest move to date was… quitting my job as a controller to run a not-for-profit organization, with no pay, and no experience in the field of developmental health services

I surprise people when I tell them… that I had no real knowledge about autism before starting the SAAAC Autism Centre, and that it was my classical dance organization that drove me to my first encounter with individuals with autism.

My best advice from a mentor was… my greatest mentors were my parents. Their generosity, hard work, and thoughtfulness have significantly developed my character. Their advice to me was that our actions matter – that even if you are helping just one person, that thoughtful action helps create a ripple effect that can be felt far and wide. Because of my parents, I know that the work we are doing at the SAAAC Autism Centre is not just helping children and youth with ASD, but also helping build a more supportive and inclusive society.


“Why are you doing this? If the answer you provide moves you to action, that is all you need to move forward.”


My biggest setback was… starting my life again in Canada as a refugee after fleeing Sri Lanka’s civil war. 

I overcame it by… relying on the support of my family and friends was one of the biggest ways I overcame the initial shock of arriving in Canada as a refugee. Also, the opportunities given by Canada made me a better and stronger person

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… dance more 

I stay inspired by… continually engaging with the children, families and volunteers at the SAAAC Autism Centre. Hearing their stories, seeing their growth, and helping them accomplish their goals, keeps me inspired every day. 

The future excites me because… I get to work collaboratively with incredible stakeholders to find solutions to help children and families living with ASD. There is a lot of work to be done within the ASD landscape in Canada, and working collectively with passionate, intelligent, and creative people to positively impact lives is incredibly exciting for me. 

My next step is… to help build our Centre’s capacity to begin international development work. There are many countries around the world that have little to no autism support capacity. It is my hope that the SAAAC Autism Centre can facilitate partnerships and help build meaningful services that can provide under-resourced communities access to critical ASD support. In addition, I will look to fuse my two passions: arts and autism support. In the coming years, I, along with my team, will look enhance our art-based programming to provide greater opportunities for artistic growth. The programs will look to highlight student development and skill through various public performances such as music and art exhibitions. Look for us on Broadway when we complete the first all-Autistic cast musical!



Meet Laurel Douglas CEO of Women’s Enterprise Centre And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Social Change Award Finalist

Laurel Douglas

CEO, Women’s Enterprise Centre

Social Change Award Finalist


Laurel Douglas is the CEO of Women’s Enterprise Centre (WEC). WEC is a non-profit organization devoted to helping BC women launch, lead, and scale their own businesses. Under Laurel’s leadership, WEC has become recognized as one of the leading business resources for women entrepreneurs in BC, and a best practice internationally. WEC provides business loans up to $150,000, advisory services, skills training, mentoring, and resources to women who are starting or growing their own business.


My first job ever was… selling vegetables at the Kitchener-Waterloo farmer’s market, starting at 6 am every Saturday morning. I was proud of my ability to pick up a handful of green beans and have it weigh exactly a pound! 

I chose my career path because… I like to help people and create lasting social value.

My proudest accomplishment is… raising my children. There is no real playbook for what you encounter as a parent. My kids are both in their early 20’s now and I’m very proud of each of them.

My boldest move to date was… when I was in my mid-thirties, I quit my job in the UK and moved to a 10-acre property I had bought in the West Kootenay region of BC, where I didn’t know anyone and didn’t know how I’d make a living. 

I surprise people when I tell them… that I’ve ridden a bicycle across Canada (and it was uphill and against the wind all the way!)

My best advice from a mentor was… that being different can be a strength. When I was hired by the French company called Alcatel, I asked the Director why me- I was not an engineer, not French and a female. He said that’s why we wanted to hire me!  I’ve also learned to have a little fun every day, and remember to be thankful for it. In other words, embrace differences and cultivate gratitude.


“Model the behaviours and values you want from your people. Employ servant leadership. Always take the high road.”


My biggest setback was… probably when 6 people in my family died in a year, including both my parents. That derailed my life for a while, understandably… but I learned how resilient I am through that experience, and it helped me reevaluate my priorities and reinvent myself. 

I overcame it by… quitting my job and moving back to Canada, then changing careers. When your personal landscape is altered so dramatically, it’s time for reflection. I decided I wanted to spend the rest of my life back in Canada (after living abroad for almost 10 years), and that I wanted a life that was better aligned with my values. I’ve been leading nonprofits in the economic development field for almost 22 years. 

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… exercise by taking a walk in nature more often.

I stay inspired by… studying the teachings of great leaders, walking in nature, practicing my faith and participating in a couple of study and leadership peer mentoring groups.

The future excites me because… life is an adventure and there is always something new to learn.

My next step is … a new adventure. Always.



Meet Pascale Bouchard Executive Director of Leucan And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Social Change Award Finalist


Pascale Bouchard

Executive Director, Leucan

Social Change Award Finalist


A member of the Quebec Bar, Pascale practiced law for a little over a year before heading into management. She joined Leucan in 2015 as Director of Family Services, and a year later became General Manager. Leucan is a nonprofit organization that supports children with cancer and their families with tailored services and assistance through every stage of the disease. Pascale is recognized for her dedication to the Leucan families, and her leadership and commitment to the wellbeing and development of her team.


My first job ever was… apart from babysitting, in a McDonald’s restaurant. I was at the “oil station”, preparing tons of McNuggets. It was a short but very formative experience.

I chose my career path because… I needed to feel that my work had a concrete impact on people, and I also am driven by challenges. After 15 years as an Executive Director of not-for-profit organizations, working with abused women and cancer-stricken children, I still get plenty of challenges and I see our impact every day.

My proudest accomplishment is… I’m most proud of my three children. They are beautiful teenagers, on their way to becoming sensitive adults, open to the world and very aware of all the social and ecological challenges that we face. I like to believe that I played a role in it 😉

My boldest move to date was… submitting my application for an Executive Director position in a women’s shelter at the age of 27, without any experience in not-for-profit organizations, domestic violence or psychosocial intervention. At the time, the move felt natural. I only realized later on just how daring it was.

I surprise people when I tell them… that I was a singer in a band in my 20s.


“Don’t let limited financial resources limit you. Leverage your situation to be creative, agile and innovative.”


My best advice from a mentor was… “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” This quote from Richard Branson has really influenced my vision and the way I lead our organization.

My biggest setback was… my divorce.

I overcame it by… being well-surrounded and facing it one day at a time; some days, one hour at a time.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… start to meditate.

I stay inspired by… the families for whom I work: their courage, resilience and perseverance are truly a daily motivation and inspire me to give my best effort, no matter the challenges.

The future excites me because… I’m surrounded by a great team with whom I know we can achieve great things. They’re passionate, dedicated, competent and professional.

My next step is… convincing the Quebec government to fund our organization.



Meet Camille Jagdeo Founder of EDGE1 Equipment Rentals And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Momentum Award Finalist

Camille Jagdeo

Founder, EDGE1 Equipment Rentals

Momentum Award Finalist


Born and raised in Guyana, Camille moved to Canada in 1985 and attended the University of Toronto. Her defining moment in entrepreneurship was between 2014 to 2018, where she successfully defended her company’s name against US rental giant Hertz. Camille’s no-nonsense approach has earned her a reputation as a results-driven leader for her employees, as well as her clients. Today, her purpose and passion lie in mentoring her staff and giving back to her community.


My first job ever was… at Jubilee Industries. I worked in an empty warehouse at the age of 14 sorting donated clothing intended to be sold in third world countries. Providence Centre (geriatric care and rehabilitation facility). Shortly after my 16th birthday, I was hired at Providence Centre where I worked in food services.  After school and on weekends I worked in the cafeteria serving food to patients/residents.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… despite growing up with entrepreneurial parents, being an entrepreneur was not planned. An opportunity was presented to me.  I invested in an existing equipment rental company and shortly thereafter the person that ran the company passed away. I had no choice but to roll up my sleeves and learn the daily operations of the business. Almost 20 years later I still love going to work and am still excited to learn new things every day.

My proudest accomplishment is… facing American giant Hertz Equipment Rentals in a legal battle over the name of my company that lasted over four years. My stance and fortitude in defending my company and telling my story were the most rewarding.

My boldest move to date was… selling the name of my company for a substantial gain, to my competitor and rebranding my company.

I surprise people when I tell them… that I run a successful company in a predominantly male industry, supervising predominantly male staff and that I am not administrative support staff.

My best advice to people looking to grow their business is… plan properly for slow and controlled growth, and be prepared to dedicate your time and energy to your company.


“Plan properly for slow and controlled growth, and be prepared to dedicate your time and energy to your company.”


My best advice from a mentor was… at age 16 I met Catholic priest, Father John Donlin, while working at Providence Centre. He was the single most influential person in my life. The best advice from him was to always do the right thing and you will find success and happiness.

My biggest setback was… finding out after 20 years that my life partner had been cheating on me for years. It was and is the hardest thing I have ever had to overcome. I was left standing in a storm and working harder than I ever to rebuild my life.

I overcame it by… staying focused on my companies, treating the situation as a business transaction and removing the emotional devastation completely.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… spend my hour on the street with homeless people. I would talk to, walk with and hug a homeless person to reinforce that I see them, and they matter.

I stay inspired by… showing those that thought I could not succeed, that although I am a female in the construction industry I am successful. Getting to where I am today and being able to mentor people and bearing witness to organic growth in my companies.

The future excites me because… I am beginning to implement my vision of creating a company that I share with my employees. I have the most amazing team and truly believe if given ownership opportunities they will flourish.



Meet Janet LePage Founder of Western Wealth Capital And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Momentum Award Finalist

Janet LePage

Founder, Western Wealth Capital

Momentum Award Finalist


For the past decade, Janet has been focused on creating wealth through well-selected real estate investment. Under Janet’s leadership, WWC has placed more than US$ 408 million in private equity and acquired 58 multi-family properties, comprising more than 11,600 rental units, with a purchase value of more than $1 billion. Janet’s success has afforded her national recognition and several esteemed awards. She is also the co-author of Real Estate Action 2.0.

My first job ever was… I scooped ice cream in my small-town ice cream shop, I haven’t been a big fan of ice cream ever since as I ate a lot of it! It was called the ‘Ice-Creamery’ and it was in Christina Lake where my parent’s house was.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted to be available to raise my kids and do something I loved. I didn’t find that easy when I was working a corporate job that required me to be somewhere for 6 hours, and travel on their schedule instead of mine.

My proudest accomplishment is… I built a go-kart from scraps around a metal shop in grade 10, became an incredible welder and won (being the only girl in the class), auto mechanic of the year.

My boldest move to date was… Cutting the golden handcuffs and leaving my career with a one and two-year-old at home. I would have no medical, no benefits, everything that I thought was security, and just trying to start my own company.

I surprise people when I tell them… I grew up in a town with 10,000 people which only had one stoplight.

My best advice to people looking to grow their business is… Bet on yourself first. Everyone else is going to tell you why it can’t work, and you need to rebound from that and decide that it is going to work. Even when you fail, you are going to choose to make it a success.


“You are going to fall 100 times for every time you rise. Strength and growth are what you learn from the fall. Don’t hate the fall, embrace it because you are going to learn something from it that will allow you to rise.”


My best advice from a mentor was… you are going to fall 100 times for every time you rise. Strength and growth are what you learn from the fall. Don’t hate the fall, embrace it because you are going to learn something from it that will allow you to rise.

My biggest setback was… the first time we moved into a new city and we hadn’t done enough leg work to set up the foundation to move at the speed I expected us to move and so, I felt very disappointed. It has not been an ultimate failure, but in that moment, it felt like it was.

I overcame it by… investing time and building the foundation so as we entered other markets, we did have the right tools in place and moved at a more excelled pace.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… read a book.

I stay inspired by… watching the lives around me become better by what we do. That includes my co-workers, the residents in my properties and my children in watching their Mom be passionate about doing something she believes in.

The future excites me because… I don’t know what it will bring, but I know that I have the skills and a village around that no matter what we’re going to do, it will be great. When we fall, we will correct it because we have done it over and over again. I have not always had that confidence, but that really excites me.



Meet Youlita Anguelov Founder of AgroFusion And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Momentum Award Finalist

Youlita Anguelov

Founder, AgroFusion

Momentum Award Finalist


Youlita Anguelov moved to Montreal from Bulgaria in 1993 with her six-year-old daughter, two suitcases, and $500. After a decade of working hard to establish herself, she launched AgroFusion. Back then, she was the business and the business was her — in a small warehouse where she would pack products herself. Today, Youlita has a well-stocked 35,000 square foot warehouse, a team of 21 people and nine production lines.

My first job ever was… when I was 12 years old, I was an actress in a play that took place twice a week. My part was only 10 minutes and I made more money than the regular 2-week salary in communist Bulgaria.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because…  I worked for 8 years for one company and then 8 months for another one. I was always exceeding the expectations and still taking the initiative to do more but even with all these efforts, I found myself receiving little or no recognition. That’s when I decided to work for myself.

My proudest accomplishment is… to be living and working in this beautiful country and to have raised my daughter.

My boldest move to date was… business-wise, my boldest move was to upsize to installations that were 3 times bigger, meaning 3 times more expenses but now we’re the only ones in our field to have our own rail site. In life, it was to move to Canada alone with my 6-year-old daughter and only 500$ in my pocket.

I surprise people when I tell them… that I immigrated to Canada alone with my 6-year-old child and only 500$ in my pocket, without knowing anyone here and to an inexistent Bulgarian community in Montreal in 1993.


“Having a business implies serious daily problems and unexpected challenges, just don’t give up. Everything you need is around you, customers, business opportunities and money.”


My best advice to people looking to grow their business is… First, watch the expenses, especially the small ones that seem insignificant. Second, focus on the little things, the big things will come. Third, surround yourself with trustworthy people and delegate as much as you can. Fourth, jump in the water even if you don’t know how to swim.

My best advice from a mentor was… just build the monastery and the priest will come by himself.

My biggest setback was… to hire the husband of my best friend as general manager.

I overcame it by… letting him go and learning from my mistake that I should never mix personal with business.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… try to spend even more time with my daughter.

I stay inspired by… courageous people immigrating to North America with nothing and becoming leaders or successful entrepreneurs, especially women.

The future excites me because… of all the opportunities new technology can bring to help, optimize and simplify business.



Meet Lisa Ali Learning Founder of AtlanTick Repellent Products And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Ones To Watch Award Winner

Lisa Ali Learning

Founder, AtlanTick Repellent Products

Ones to Watch Award


Lisa’s business idea arose when her two sons were sick with Lyme disease. While focusing on the immediate care of her children, she developed safe, natural formulas to keep them from encountering future tick bites, the source of the disease. As her sons recovered, Lisa was able to devote more of herself to the development of AtlanTick, a tick safety company, determined to produce the first all-natural tick repellent registered with Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency.


My first job ever was… a paper route when I was around 10 years old.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I didn’t make a conscious decision about becoming an entrepreneur – it always strongly felt like the right direction for me so I took it.


My proudest accomplishment is… that’s hard to narrow down, but I am proud of a few things in particular. I was able to survive and provide for myself by selling my art, even having pieces commissioned by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to represent the Metis people of the region and to represent the apology ceremony from the federal government to the survivors of abuse at residential schools in NL. I’ve run a property management business for years, but I knew very little about it when I began – I learned fast, figured things out and saw great success. I am incredibly proud of AtlanTick, the growth of our company, and the impact we are having on tick safety research, development and bite prevention. Beyond all of these things, I am proud of my children and the relationships that are integral to my daily life. 

My boldest move to date was… deciding to tackle registration of our tick repellent formula with Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency. This is a very complicated, drawn-out and expensive process, and as such has deterred countless small businesses from similar pursuits. In this case, my stubbornness has served me as a strength.

I surprise people when I tell them… people are often surprised by the variety of businesses I’ve run, as they all fall into such different categories. People are also surprised that I don’t have a science background, but that’s never been a problem because we’ve got a great team of scientists from Acadia University with loads of applicable expertise helping us out.

I knew it was time to launch my business when… I realized the importance of and need for tick safety products, which was unfortunately made very clear when both of my sons became sick with Lyme disease as a result of tick bites.


“Problems tend to always work out when I remove my emotional self from the equation and look at the bigger picture.”


My best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is… you must truly believe that you can do anything you set your mind to. You must also ask questions and really listen to the answers. Being observant and listening are the first great tools in your entrepreneurial toolbox.

My best advice from a mentor was… my dad always told me that there is no such word as can’t. As a child, I would argue with him about that, but it has been one of my greatest lessons in life – we often create our own limitations and likewise can erase them by changing our attitude about things.

When the going gets tough, I tell myself… I tend to pull myself back, mentally, from the dilemma I’m facing and try to look at things from a broader perspective. When I do that I can see that problems are often nowhere as significant as I may have first thought, which allows me to then look for and find solutions. Problems tend to always work out when I remove my emotional self from the equation and look at the bigger picture.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… spend even more time with my family.

I stay inspired by… I have an innate and insatiable desire to learn, to figure things out, to solve problems. I’m inspired by challenges and possibilities.

The future excites me because… I know that the work we are doing is changing peoples’ lives. We are not only finding preventative solutions to a serious and growing health threat, but we are also contributing to the scientific community, learning things about tick physiology that have not been known or proven before now. We are determined to help people avoid the often debilitating and sometimes deadly consequences of tick-borne diseases, and that is something I feel incredible about.

My next step is… when the registration process is complete, Atlantick will produce the first highly-effective, natural-ingredient, Health Canada-certified tick repellent available in Canada… and we can’t wait!

Meet Dina Kulik Founder of Kidcrew And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Ones To Watch Award Winner

Dina Kulik

Founder, Kidcrew

Ones to Watch Award


Dr. Dina Kulik is a mother and Paediatrician in Toronto. With a focus on superior patient outcomes and education, Dina is one of Canada’s leading child health media experts, providing child health information to parents and the public through television, radio, and print media and via her thriving blog, She is the founder and CEO of Kidcrew, a multidisciplinary clinic for kids’ health. 


My first job ever was… I worked at Second Cup in high school. I loved serving tea and coffee and the chill environment that was created. The quiet times allowed me to study (such a nerd!)

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… when I see product or services that don’t exist, but I think should, I am compelled to make it happen.

My proudest accomplishment is… raising four thoughtful, kind, and sweet sons. I am proudest when I see them being a kind friend or being supportive brothers to one other.

My boldest move to date was… taking out a loan and building Kidcrew. The risk was my own, but it has paid back in spades. When I see families walk in and see how fun, bright and comfortable Kidcrew is, and seeing the kids playing happily and eagerly attending their appointments, it is certainly worth it!

I surprise people when I tell them… I am the mom of four young sons. I also run ½ and full marathons.

I knew it was time to launch my business when… I noticed a void in the market for fun, comfortable and entertaining medical clinics. I knew families and practitioners alike would love a clinic providing every service for kids all under one roof. 

My best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is… follow your sense of urgency. Too many would-be entrepreneurs wait and debate and run pro and con lists endlessly. If you have an idea and a way to make it happen, and the fire is under you, just jump in. It’ll never feel like the best time. You will always have doubts. But if you don’t jump, you’ll constantly second guess yourself


“Follow your sense of urgency.”


My best advice from a mentor was… trust your gut.

When the going gets tough, I tell myself… ‘Look how happy those kids and families are. Look how much you have reinvented how child health care is provided’. I could never go back.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… run farther each morning. 

I stay inspired by… hanging out with kids! Children are the most inspiring people. Children are optimistic, happy and eager for every adventure. A ride on the subway, a special moment with a loved one, a new friend; kids are full of excitement for change. More adults should live with this type of gusto in life. Chatting with a young child about what excites them always brings a smile to my face and inspires me to make their day even better.  

The future excites me because… they are so many possibilities! There are so many ways to make kids healthier, happier and improve their lives. Too few products and services exist for children and families that are created by a physician AND mom, and I hope to change the landscape. 

My next step is… so much is in store for me and my businesses! Additional Kidcrew locations are in the works, as is a skincare brand for children and families and a line of healthy, but tasty, kids snack food and drinks. I will also be launching a sleep program for tired parents in 2019. I have only just begun my entrepreneurial journey and can’t wait to see what the future brings!


Meet Melissa Kargiannakis Founder of Skritswap And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Ones To Watch Award Winner

Melissa Kargiannakis

Founder, Skritswap

Ones to Watch Award


Melissa Kargiannakis is the founder and CEO of Skritswap: a Silicon Valley venture capital-funded AI start-up that swaps complex jargon into plain, easy-to-understand language. Imagine a mortgage at a grade six reading level. In just nine months full-time at Skritswap, Melissa led the team to win the Top 20 Most Innovative Companies in Canada from the Canadian Innovation Exchange.


My first job ever was…Waitress and Lifeguard in Sault Ste. Marie.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… this is a product that the world simply needs. A colleague at MaRS Discovery District challenged me to consider: “Why not me? Who gives me permission?”My proudest accomplishment is… winning an award from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in 2015. 

My boldest move to date was… closing my whole pre-seed fundraising round in only 4 hours!

I surprise people when I tell them… I can sing opera.

I knew it was time to launch my business when… the XPRIZE for Adult Literacy came out in 2015, validating just how extensive this problem is. I was incorporated within a month of seeing the competition. 

My best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is… take one step every single day to move your business forward, especially if you are just starting out and perhaps even still working a day job; just one thing, every day.


“Take one step every single day to move your business forward.”


My best advice from a mentor was… don’t say too much all at once. Share one bit of information at a time, they will ask for more if they are curious.  

When the going gets tough, I tell myself… first, I have a good cry to let it out. Then I write in my notebook specifically for journaling my feelings about the company. Next, I call an advisor/mentor and friend to help remind me of the good times and why I’m doing this. After all that, then I tell myself that this challenge is completely surmountable and I can figure it out. When it gets really tough usually stepping away from work for at least a weekend or even a full vacation really helps me reset.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… probably just do more work. I already make sure I exercise, journal, meditate, and eat my healthy meals daily. It’s all about prioritizing your time, there’s no such thing as too busy. 

I stay inspired by… living in gratitude for how far I’ve come. And looking forward at all the possibilities on the horizon.

The future excites me because… I am creating the life I’ve always dreamed of that positively impacts others using tech to increase equity.

My next step is… showing people how we can simplify their information: if you work in the financial industry at a bank or insurance company and want to see the results – call me. I am also raising a Seed round this fall – call me if you want in.

Meet Benveet Gill Founder of ReYu Paralysis Recovery Centre And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Ones To Watch Award Winner

Benveet Gill

Founder, ReYu Paralysis Recovery Centre

Ones to Watch Award


Benveet has over 10 years of experience as an X-ray technologist specializing in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab. Her life was changed forever when she was paralyzed from the waist down and diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis in July 2012. After years of hard work with her trainer, Nancy, she has regained a lot of her strength and mobility. She co-founded a ReYu Paralysis Recovery Centre, offering neuro recovery through intense activity-based training programs.


My first job ever was… Health Care Attendant / Nurse’s Aide.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… my city was lacking in neuro-rehab options and the universe showed me that this was my path, THIS is why I was paralyzed. 

My proudest accomplishment is… opening ReYu. The awards I’ve won are amazing and I’m extremely proud of those but giving someone the opportunity to stand and walk again is incomparable. Having my clients tell me that they put their hair in a ponytail or were able to get back into their wheelchair after falling out or seeing a little kid take their first steps…these are moments that fill my heart and make me incredibly proud.

My boldest move to date was… I’ve had many bold moves in my life but the one that stands out the most was leaving my ex-husband after he beat me up for the first and last time. I have a zero-tolerance policy and I didn’t look back or give him any more chances. 

I surprise people when I tell them… my age haha most people guess that I’m 10 years younger than I am.

I knew it was time to launch my business when… my trainer at the time, now business partner got a full-time job offer in Florida. I knew I needed her more and she said she would only stay if we did something worthwhile so we pulled up our big girl pants and decided to change the game of neuro-recovery in Edmonton.

My best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is… NEVER GIVE UP! It will be hard, you will face tough times and tough decisions but believe in yourself and your goal. I also recommend having a business partner that balances you, find someone whose strengths are your weaknesses and vice versa. With this formula, you WILL succeed.


Keep your ego in check and know when to step aside and let someone else take the reigns.


My best advice from a mentor was… keep your ego in check and know when to step aside and let someone else take the reigns of your business. She told me “a good leader knows when their time is done and they let someone else take their ideas and business to the next level.”

When the going gets tough, I tell myself… you’re doing this for all the people with disabilities who don’t have support. You’re providing a service that is literally changing people’s lives for the better. Kids are walking because of you. Adults have confidence in themselves and are seeking opportunities to be more involved in the community. You tell everyone else to “never give up” so take your own advice and keep going!

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… play with my puppy! Since opening ReYu my quality time with him has decreased immensely, so I would take that time to cuddle him and play with him. 

I stay inspired by… the incredible stories of my clients. When they reach a milestone it gives me that extra push to keep going. When they tell me that their quality of life has improved and they are more confident my heart bursts. 

The future excites me because… there is so much potential for change in all aspects of neuro-recovery. We want to lead Canada into the future of neuro rehab. As technology improves and science proves that neuroplasticity is real, the potential is limitless. I want to change lives all over the world. I want everyone living with a disability to know that they CAN achieve more and they WILL if they never give up. 

My next step is… to continue to grow ReYu and change as many lives as possible. I will continue to motivate and inspire by sharing my story and those of my clients. We plan to change the way the medical system sees neurologic conditions, it’s not a death sentence there is always hope for recovery. I want to rid the world of the stigma surrounding people with disabilities, we are regular people too. I will continue to speak about racism and discrimination, by educating others we release the anger and hatred, therefore, decreasing it. 

Meet Melinda Rombouts Founder of Eve & Co Cannabis And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Ones To Watch Award Winner

Melinda Rombouts

Founder, Eve & Co Cannabis

Ones to Watch Award


After a series of agriculture businesses, Melinda tried a new hand — cannabis. She made history as the first woman founder and CEO to receive her cultivation license for cannabis under the Cannabis Act. Now leading a publicly traded recreational cannabis company, Melinda continues to guide the company to great success on the national and global scale.


My first job ever was… during summers, I worked for an Entomologist at the Ministry of Agriculture as a “bug counter”, which I was teased about, but through this position, I further developed my love for agriculture, growing and plants.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… it wasn’t really a conscious decision.  When I graduated from university, I had an idea and ran with it.

My proudest accomplishment is… the Eve & Co. team – I credit them with the success of our company.

My boldest move to date was… deciding to completely shut down our previous business to retrofit the greenhouse for Cannabis production.

I surprise people when I tell them… there is only about 6% of female leadership in the Canadian Cannabis Industry – it is a very male-dominated industry. Secondly, I have had many roles in our company including the Quality Assurance Person, Master Grower, and now CEO and President and was also initially responsible for security design, GMP facility design, completed the application on my own and wrote the Standard Operating Procedures.

I knew it was time to launch my business when… we realized how few female leaders there were in the industry which led us to ask if women’s needs would be addressed.  About 94% of Canadian cannabis leaders are male. Employees of licensed holders are approximately 71% male whereas Eve has just under 70% female employees.  We believe that this is an effect of female leadership and that there needs to be a change and inclusion of females for leadership positions in all industries.  Being predominantly female at all levels (leadership, board and team members), Eve is uniquely oriented and can authentically address what women want from their Cannabis products.

My best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is… trust your instinct. 

My best advice from a mentor was… surround yourself with people who will work hard and who believe in the company – the best team members are often those with determination.


“Surround yourself with people who will work hard and who believe in the company.”


When the going gets tough, I tell myself… things work out the way they’re supposed to.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… spend it with my kids.

I stay inspired by… looking at the new opportunities that are constantly arising in this rapidly expanding industry and considering the exciting possibilities for Eve & Co.  We are approached on a weekly basis with new ideas for product lines, partnership opportunities and new directions. My team also inspires me with their enthusiasm, determination and faith in our company. 

The future excites me because… there are so many possibilities in the works for Eve & Co. for global expansion and our product lines. Our team has purposely oriented itself to helping our customers by offering products that allow people to achieve a better life and in developing products to improve health and wellness.  We also see the possibility of doing much more with our company and intend to help women at all levels: to lift barriers and lift women. We are out to change the world.

My next step is… to move forward as quickly as we can with global expansion and distribution in the European market.  We are also investigating the possibility of growing into additional world markets. Currently, we are developing production partnerships in multiple European countries.  Once we have the Eve product lines fully developed and distribution of our products across Canada, we hope to bring Eve’s full product lines of topicals, edibles, beverages, concentrates and extracts to the world market as the foremost female-oriented Cannabis product lines.


Meet Jayne McCaw, Founder of Jayne’s Cottages and 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Start-Up Award Winner



Jayne McCaw

Founder, Jayne’s Cottages

Winner, Start-Up Award, Central


Jayne took inspiration from her love of cottage living and enjoyment of curating unforgettable family vacations to create Jayne’s Cottages — a full-service, luxury Muskoka cottage rental and concierge company. Starting with just a handful of cottages in 2014, her business has seen rapid growth. Today, she has over 60 employees and they manage almost 200 of the finest properties in the region.


My first job ever was… working at Tim Hortons. 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I always felt that I could offer so much 

more if I had more freedom and authority to act on my own thoughts and impulses than I could as an employee for someone else. I always felt stifled and constrained and thought I could do a better job for both my employer and the customer if I had the ability to do so. That being said, for most of my career, I enjoyed working for others and learning from my mentors and eventually giving the experience and courage to pursue entrepreneurship. 

My proudest accomplishment is… how the company has grown less than 5 years to employ 70 people – 50 people who live year-round in Muskoka, 20 seasonal employees from outside the region. Also, we now have 10 year-round employees.

I surprise people when I tell them… that my business is only 5 years old as it is now a fixture in Muskoka and is a large employer in the area. 

My best advice to people starting up a business is… utilize all the resources available to small businesses (grants, small business funding, college entrepreneurship courses, local employment and government agencies to support small businesses, chamber of commerce etc). I was not aware, and don’t think other small businesses are aware of how beneficial these resources could be and they have been very helpful to get me where we are now. 

My best advice from a mentor was… to listen to others and plead for understanding. Work with your stakeholders so everyone understands all sides. 


“I stay inspired by the joy I get from my employees who now have a stable job with our business and we can provide a fulfilling future for them in their home community.”


My biggest setback was… losing great staff during the summer season as they quit to accept year-round positions. 

I overcame it by… hiring my best staff on a year-round basis and not laying them off after the summer season even though I did not really have the income to support year-round employment. I feel responsible for their livelihood in this community where there is little year-round employment. I know that they are very committed to my company just as I have shown my commitment to them. 

I stay inspired by… the joy I get from my employees who now have a stable job with our business and we can provide a fulfilling future for them in their home community and continue to add more employment opportunities as we grow. 

If I had one more hour in the day… I would spend it with my 4 children and partner. 

The future excites me because… I love what I do and what I have achieved and know I can continue to grow with the help of my new software platform and my network of global property managers. We have the formula now to help more guests with great vacation experiences and more owners with safe additional income and look forward to growing this formula into other markets. And most importantly the future is exciting as we continue to expand our home base of this travel/tech company in the Muskoka community as we grow outside of Muskoka while providing employment and economic growth through our business success to our region. 

My next step is… doing what I do in Ontario in other popular global travel destinations. With an over 50% repeat guest rate and guests repeatedly putting their faith in Jayne’s Cottages for very expensive vacations, I am now working through my network of property managers globally to connect with and entrust these property managers with my guests who can guarantee a great guest experience. This will be facilitated by the launch of my software that will allow new property managers to easily onboard and market their properties to anyone associated with Jayne’s Cottages such as a hotel with properties, property manager with properties, real estate company with properties or a single property owner. 



Meet Kiely MacLean, Founder of RJ MacLean and 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Start-Up Award Finalist


Kiely MacLean

Founder, RJ MacLean

Finalist, Start-Up Award, West


A new player in oil and gas, Kiely Maclean is the co-founder of RJ Maclean Tank Services. Her business is a three-year-old innovation company focused on challenging the status quo in the energy sector with unique automated technology — using robotics, instead of people, to clean tanks. She is a passionate advocate for innovation in business, the environment, and promoting women in the energy field.


My first job ever was… Paper route; delegated to younger siblings.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… It’s not a decision, it’s innate. 

My proudest accomplishment is… Co-founding and growing RJ Maclean.

I surprise people when I tell them… My age.

My best advice to people starting up a business is… Have a clear vision, adapt but do not compromise.


“Have a clear vision, adapt but do not compromise.”


My best advice from a mentor was… ‘You can’t fail if you are always willing to get back up’.  

My biggest setback was… Access to capital.

I overcame it by… Perseverance, and finding the right business partners.

I stay inspired by… My team and our potential.

If I had one more hour in the day, I would… Walk the trails with my Husky.

The future excites me because… Extending RJ Maclean’s reach and innovation to other markets.

My next step is… Opportunity for international expansion of RJ Maclean!


Meet Nathalie Shtern Founder of DoughNats Bakery And 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Start-Up Award Finalist

Nathalie Shtern

Founder, DoughNats Bakery


Start-Up Award, EAST


Nathalie is a licensed criminologist who holds three university degrees but feels her true calling has always been in the kitchen. Prior to becoming a chef and entrepreneur, Nathalie devoted 15 years to leadership in her community. She founded and ran the Comfy Cozy Fund — a charity that raised over $1 million for the Montreal Children’s Hospital. In 2017, she launched DoughNats Bakery, selling bite-size gourmet doughnuts as well as a growing line of delicious mini baked goods.


My first job ever was… working at a summer day camp while I was a student.  Although I was not pursuing a career path, or working in a related industry to my studies, I had the most magical times working those summers. I discovered that I loved children, that I loved organizing and that the skills acquired managing others would prove very valuable in my career. I realized then that my job was to model good behaviour and be someone the kids can look up to. I ended up running the camp, as the director by the time I was 18 years old and continued to do so until I entered into my professional field during the summers while in university.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I never decided to be an entrepreneur. It just happened. I came from a professional and academic world, where my previous career was governed by rules, code of ethics, forms, policies, theories and research.  When I started my bakery after culinary school, I viewed myself as an artist and a creator, but initially, I did not consider myself an entrepreneur.  What I do and the way I lead comes naturally to me. I was just being true to myself and my values. The company and brand that I created is a reflection of who I am, not a set of best business practices or rules that I followed.  At first, when people started to refer to me as an entrepreneur and ask me for business advice, it took me by surprise. I do not believe that one can simply decide to become an entrepreneur. There is no manual, theory or training that can prepare you for this world. You become an entrepreneur because you follow your passion, vision or dream and you are prepared to take a risk and fall on your sword for what you truly believe.

My proudest accomplishment is… I have been blessed with many accomplishments throughout my life that I am incredibly proud of and extremely grateful for. My proudest accomplishment is definitely my family. More gratifying than anything I have ever done or accomplished or awards or degrees that I have received.  First off, my husband and the relationship I have with him. We have been together for 25 years now and have built an oasis in our home. A place of love and safety and lots of action-packed days.  We have 5 incredible children, each special in their own right. Raising them has been my life’s work and anything I have done outside of raising them has been icing on my delicious cake that is my kids. They are 10, 16, 19, 21 and 23 years old. They make me proud every single day and this pride follows me wherever I go and is imbued in everything I do.

I surprise people when I tell them… a lot of things. I guess the biggest surprise is that I have not been doing this my whole life and that I had another career before I decided to go to culinary school and start over.  I am a licensed criminologist and hold 3 university and post-university degrees. After having a career, I decided to focus on raising my children. During that time I ran and founded a charity, I held leadership positions on civic and educational boards and served as president a couple. In fact, I was awarded a Jubilee medal by the Queen of England in recognition of my community work. I decided that my career goals should keep evolving alongside my personal development. Being a woman, I have always felt that I can accomplish anything I wanted to- that there was nothing ever holding me back. So jumping into the culinary world felt very natural to me.

My best advice to people starting up a business is… to surround yourself with qualified advisors who are willing to assist you and leverage their time very seriously. Gather all the information you can by researching all aspects of the market into which you are entering and test your product or service thoroughly before exposing it to customers.  Preparing yourself adequately prior to launching is critical to success. Although you may not be able to anticipate everything that will arise after you launch, once you dive in there is no looking back. You must be prepared to roll up your sleeves and do whatever it takes to build your business. You have to be prepared to fall on your sword and tweak and adjust as you go. Do not lose track of who you are and what you believe in. Let your internal voice serve as your guide when making a decision. If you have strong, clear intuition, listen to it. My inside voice has always been my guide and has allowed me to proud of every single decision I have made, even if some were not traditional paths to follow.

My best advice from a mentor was… from a woman mogul and business owner. Her words were so powerful as they resonated with me as a business owner, as a mother, and as a member of my community. She said “do not build your business to take you to places that you are not comfortable with. When planning, instead of planning for what seems right for the business only, plan for what feels right for you and for the people that you love, as well as for the business. So when looking back at your business in 5 years, look at your life and make sure that your life can accommodate the plans you have set or your business.” Especially as a woman, this was wonderful advice, as I was able to reject offers that would have grown us too fast, too soon and in turn, would have made my loved ones pay the price for my absence. I do not see this advice as a limitation, but rather an opportunity that enables me to remain in control of my destiny.


Do not build your business to take you to places that you are not comfortable with. When planning, instead of planning for what seems right for the business only, plan for what feels right for you.”


My biggest setback was… at DoughNats has been in keeping up with the increasing demand during the hypergrowth phase that we experienced since opening. The challenge of scaling production and increasing quantities while not compromising quality, while hiring more people, while expanding to a bigger location, while continuing to innovate and create new flavours and recipes and products, while training staff and developing systems and protocols… all at the same time! Since we needed to hire quickly, I was focused on hiring people with specific training and skillset to keep up with our growth and to move us along. I was looking for staff with a certain amount of pastry skills, academic certification, training and bakery experience. I put personality and character on the back burner and figured the environment would adapt to this person’s approach, work ethic and outlook. I was mistaken.

I overcame it by… recognizing one valuable thing: that skills are teachable but attitude, accountability and loyalty are innate. If you hire people with great attitudes who want to learn and grow, you can teach them everything. You can mould do-ers into leaders, you can develop experts with time and careful attention to detail. The one thing you cannot teach is character. You cannot teach values and integrity. Now my hiring is governed by the following: I can teach anything to someone with the right attitude, similar values, integrity and a solid character; however, I will never be able to teach integrity, attitude or character to someone even with the most talented skillset.

I stay inspired by… my immediate surroundings. While at the bakery, watching my staff in our uniforms, listening to them laughing while they work, or gathering in the staff room to taste something, during our staff meetings, and especially watching them interact with the customers, offering samples or enthusiastically describing flavours and seasons. I am also inspired by our customers; our first-time customers who have visceral reactions to tasting our DoughNats or cookies and our returning customers who continue to come back and marvel with pride at our brand, at our esthetic in the bakery and at our innovative flavours. It validates that I made the right decision to open and keeps me inspired to continue to work, to expand and to innovate. At home, I am inspired by my family. By the way, they look at me with pride that I was able to successfully pursue my dream. It has helped reinforce the notion that they too can do anything they want. And in some way has reduced the pressure on them to be everything they need to be right away. They now recognize that they too will grow and adjust their paths.

If I had one more hour in the day, I would… call it the Nathalie Hour. It would be an hour of doing nothing intelligent or productive. I would either watch a mindless television show, take a walk, take a bath or simply stay in bed or sleep. It may sound ridiculous or juvenile, but I feel that balance is required for true success in one’s life. Although I believe that every hour of the day should be spent productively and responsibly, reinvesting in ourselves and nurturing relationships with our loved ones is of equal importance.   

The future excites me because… it’s beyond exciting in so many regards. Watching my business evolve from an idea into a full-fledged and profitable business has been nothing short of magical. I see boundless opportunities to expand DoughNats across North America and to continue to express my creativity and grow the products we offer our customers. With our 8th product season launching, we are excited to introduce our new flavours and to continue to innovate and push the boundaries.

My next step is… to execute our expansion plan in order to meet our ever-increasing demand. This will require multi-tasking and growing the skill set of our team because we plan to expand our current reach by opening another retail location in Montreal, expanding our e-commerce reach to include shipping across Canada and the US as well as expand our wholesale presence with non-perishable items in grocery stores.


Meet Kelly Ann Woods, Founder of Gillespie’s Fine Spirits, Switch Spirit Free & Boozewitch and 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub Micro-Business Award Winner



Kelly Ann Woods

Founder, Gillespie’s Fine Spirits, Switch Spirit Free & Boozewitch

Winner, Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub Micro-Business Award, WEST


Her passion for food and drink came from a “live off the land” way of life in rural Quebec, where she grew up on a hobby farm until the age of 17. Today, Kelly is an internationally recognized beverage coach, teacher, and consultant, a past food and beverage columnist, as well as a regular presenter on Saturday Sips on Global TV. After becoming certified in distillation, Kelly began Gillespie’s Fine Spirits in 2014, which is now the umbrella to Boozewitch Beverages, Switch Drinks, and an award-winning cocktail bar.


My first job ever was… With a little encouragement from my mom, I sold refreshments at her weekly softball games, a fold-up card table with an array of popcorn, freezies and juice. 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I was born an entrepreneur. I have always wanted to leave my stamp on the world, inspire others and contribute positively to society. This is the best way I know how to do that.

My proudest accomplishment is… It is a real toss-up between managing to get a distillery open against all odds and birthing my son at home. So, both my babies.

My boldest move to date was… The Johann Von Goethe quote “Be bold and mighty forces come to your aid…” is part of my personal manifesto. I rock bold all the time. I feel like it is the default program for being a woman in a male-dominated business.

I surprise people when I tell them… I grew up in the middle of the bush in a log house my family built. My closest neighbour was three miles away. You’d think I was a real city girl, but a back-to-the -lander is where I get my spirit.

My best advice for small business owners is… It’s not my advice. It’s Nike’s. JUST DO IT! You can spend your whole life trying to make it perfect, hemming and hawing and generally resisting your genius, or you can go for it. You will fail lots along the way, but the true test of your mettle is how you rise.

My best advice from a mentor was… I was lucky enough to have two dads that I adored. They are both in spirit now, so an old friend who is a savvy businessman and watched me grow up has been named “sub-dad”. About 25 years ago he taught me:
1-Show up on time
2-Do what you say you will do
3-Finish what you start
4-Always say please and thank you
5-Never give up


“Success to me is a moving target. I think my biggest success is finding the joy and beauty in the journey.”


My biggest setback was… Strangely the single biggest thing that catapulted my business forward. It’s a long story, but it has to do with “trusted advisors”, a huge financial loss and the ending of a marriage/partnership.

I overcame it by… Leaping. I was on the precipice of crumbling and instead, I just held my breath, dug deep and went for it. “Boldness has genius power and magic in it”…. More of that Johann Von Goethe quote!

I never go a day without… Hugging my kid, drinking lots of water and sleeping at least 7 hours a night. Those things to me are pure magic.

The future excites me because… I feel like as a woman in her 40s, I have less @#$%s to give and more courage and self-worth than ever. Look out world!

Success to me means… Oh, the elusive “success”. Success to me is a moving target. I think my biggest success is finding the joy and beauty in the journey. Love and gratitude in my heart, a calm mind in the face of daily challenges and being a positive influence in the lives of others.




Meet Connie McInnes, Founder of RSTUDIOS and 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub Micro-Business Award Finalist



Connie McInnes


Finalist, Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub Micro-Business Award, EAST


Connie hails from Halifax, Nova Scotia and is the creator and founder of RIO Halifax, an avant-garde studio specializing in pilates, yoga and movement classes and ROGUE, a kickboxing and circuit training studio. Connie has been an ambassador for Lululemon Athletica, as well as several other local brands. She also teaches at events, retreats, and festivals throughout Canada and Internationally.


My first job ever was… Coaching Gymnastics.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted to do it my way.

My proudest accomplishment is… I was part of a National Award campaign earlier this year recognized for our contribution and involvement in the community. It was the first time business in Atlantic Canada had been recognized and selected as one of 7 businesses in North America. As part of the award, they made a massive contribution to an organization I am passionate about and to feel in that moment that I had done something that made a difference and opened opportunities for others… that was the best feeling.

My boldest move to date was… Having a goal to open one studio by the age of 30 and instead, opening 3.

I surprise people when I tell them… I built the vision for my business five years before it opened- it took me four years to save the money to do it. Businesses don’t just happen. When the doors open, the journey is already well on its way.

My best advice for small business owners is… Follow your gut.

My best advice from a mentor was… If you cant 10x yourself you can’t 10x your business.


“It is equally important to grow the self, as it is the business. It takes a huge investment of time and energy to push yourself forward through the downward spirals.”


My biggest setback was… Setbacks are what lead you to success. They were all big, they were all worth it.

I overcame it by… Never giving up on my thirst for knowledge, surrounding myself with supportive people, always seeing the silver lining.

I never go a day without… Coffee. movement. working.

The future excites me because… It is so unknown. There is so much opportunity. There is so much to be done.

Success to me means… Making an impact.


Meet Angelica Demetriou & Megan Kalaman, Founders of Kalaman + Demetriou (K+D) and 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub Micro-Business Award Finalist



Angelica Demetriou & Megan Kalaman

Founders, Kalaman + Demetriou (K+D)

Finalist, Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub Micro-Business Award, CENTRAL


In 2017, Megan and Angelica joined forces to launch the national, full-service art consulting firm, K+D. Prior to partnering, Megan worked in the visual arts industry for fifteen years and had been running a cataloguing business since 2013. Angelica had a decade of senior-level experience in the art and business sectors, and specialized in corporate art consulting, communications, and business development.


My first job ever was…

Angelica – working as a cashier at a local food store when I was 14 years old.

Megan – as a cashier at McDonald’s.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… 

Angelica – I had a big vision and strong business values and was determined to prove to myself and others that I could build a successful company founded on principles of integrity, transparency, authenticity and reciprocity.

Megan – a gap in the market presented itself — so I took a leap of faith and started to fill that gap 6.5 years ago!

My proudest accomplishment is… 

Angelica – that I found a way to leverage my skill set, network and experience to launch and lead a company that is changing the art landscape in Canada.

Megan – creating jobs in the visual arts sector across Canada.

My boldest move to date was… 

Angelica – taking a calculated risk and walking away from secure employment to become an entrepreneur.  

Megan – setting up my original business (Kalaman Art Collection Management) for success so I could take maternity leave and start my second full-time job as a mom to my awesome daughter.

I surprise people when I tell them…

Angelica – I’m in my young thirties and have built a successful business in the arts.

Megan – that I am a co-founder of a company that provides services in the visual arts sector.

My best advice for small business owners is… 

Angelica – listen to your gut and surround yourself with positive people who challenge, inspire and support you.

Megan – follow your gut; it is right every time.

My best advice from a mentor was… 

Angelica – from one of the partners at PLANT Architect who said: “There’s always room for style.” — words that have inspired me to develop a polished brand for K+D and approach all aspects of our work with a curatorial eye and regard for the finest details.

Megan – don’t focus on any potential competition or losing talent; focus on what you have now in front of you and the goals you are looking to achieve.


“Be present. Be mindful. And remember that while becoming an entrepreneur can be an immensely challenging feat, it is also a liberating, empowering and incredibly rewarding pursuit.”


My biggest setback was… 

Angelica – less of a setback and more of a signal to recalibrate as I found myself working in a toxic environment with no chance for positive career growth.

Megan – wanting to start a family while also running a small business on my own.

I overcame it by… 

Angelica – reminding myself that in order to grow as a professional and cultivate my potential I needed to find more fertile soil.

Megan – working with a business coach to make and follow a solid plan that would allow my business to continue to thrive while I went on maternity leave. 

I never go a day without… 

Angelica – taking a moment to appreciate the amazing people in my life.

Megan – starting my day with yoga and meditation.

The future excites me because…

Angelica – this is only the beginning; I’m just getting started!

Megan – my business partner and I share a long-term vision for success and together are growing an exciting company that is establishing new standards in our field.

Success to me means… 

Angelica – living a full, extraordinary life while leaving a positive imprint on the world and enriching the lives and stories of others. 

Megan – leading a team of talented people who are excited by the work that we do at K+D, who are engaged and passionate about their jobs, and who are contributing to the growth and success of our company.



Announcing the 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award Finalists!

This year marks the 27th year of recognizing the top women entrepreneurs in Canada. We are thrilled to be celebrating another influential collection of business owners. Representing diverse industries and business sizes, and hailing from across the country — here are the 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award Finalists.



This was a record-breaking year for the program with over 9,000 nominations from across the country. After an intensive judging review, 18 finalists were selected across six legacy award categories. An additional five recipients were chosen to receive the Ones to Watch Award, which recognizes entrepreneurs who have launched businesses that have made an incredible impact in fewer than three years.

These exceptional women were chosen for their accomplishments in a diverse group of industries including finance, oil and gas, publishing, technology, construction, hospitality and health services.

“We are honoured to celebrate the accomplishments of our 2019 award finalists,” says Alicia Skalin, Co-CEO, Women of Influence. “These entrepreneurs have applied their intelligence, dedication and ingenuity to challenge the status quo of their industries. As we approach the end of the decade, the 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award finalists are an exciting representation of the growth and innovation that is to come for Canadian business.”

The winners will be announced and celebrated at the 27th Annual Awards Gala, on Wednesday, November 20, 2019 at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto. Keynote remarks will be shared by Jacqui Allard, Executive Vice President, Personal Financing Products, RBC.

The RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards recognize female business owners from across Canada who make impressive and substantial contributions to the local, Canadian or global economy. Candidates share a strong entrepreneurial vision and a relentless passion in pursuing their dreams. These awards recognize businesswomen from three major regions across Canada: East, Central and West.

“Women entrepreneurs are a powerful force in driving Canada’s economic growth and innovation agenda. Their leadership and economic participation generate more than $148 billion a year and their trailblazing efforts serve as an inspiration for the next generation of Canadian entrepreneurs to rise to their potential,” said Greg Grice, Executive Vice-President, Business Financial Services, RBC. “In recognizing the tremendous accomplishments of Canadian women entrepreneurs and celebrating their stories through initiatives like this — and many others at RBC — we hope to accelerate our collective progress on the advancement of women in business.”

All nominees are required to submit thorough applications, which are reviewed and judged by a panel of prominent business leaders and subject to a due diligence performed by KPMG.

Without further ado, here are our 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards program finalists and recipients:


The 2019 Recipients of the Ones to Watch Award are:

Benveet Gill, ReYu Paralysis Recovery Centre

Melissa Kargiannakis, skritswap

Melinda Rombouts, Eve & Co Cannabis

Dina Kulik, Kidcrew

Lisa Ali Learning, AtlanTick Repellant Products Inc.

The 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award Finalists are:


Diversity Institute Micro-Business Award

West: Kelly Ann Woods, Gillespie’s Fine Spirits Ltd, Boozewitch Beverage Company, Switch Beverage Co.

Central: Megan Kalaman & Angelica Demetriou, K+D (Kalaman + Demetriou Inc.)

East: Connie McInnes, RSTUDIOS


Start-Up Award

West: Kiely MacLean, RJ MacLean

Central: Jayne McCaw, Jayne’s Cottages

East: Nathalie Kaspy-Shtern, DoughNats Bakery


RBC Momentum Award

West: Janet LePage, Western Wealth Capital

Central: Camille Jagdeo, Edge1 Equipment Rentals Inc. 

East: Youlita Anguelov, AgroFusion

Social Change Award

West: Laurel Douglas, Women’s Enterprise Centre

Central: Geetha Moorthy, SAAAC Autism Centre

East: Pascale Bouchard, Leucan


TELUS Trailblazer Award

West: Jesse Finkelstein & Trena White, Page Two

Central: Carinne Chambers-Saini, Diva International Inc.

East: Natalie Voland, GI Quo Vadis

Excellence in Entrepreneurship

Central: Anna Eliopoulos,

Central: Margot & Marion Witz, Elizabeth Grant International

East: Brigitte Jalbert, Les Emballages Carrousel Inc.


The 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards are presented by Women of Influence. Award sponsors include RBC, TELUS, Diversity Institute and our official Due Diligence partner, KPMG.


View the full press release in English or French for more information and join in the celebration by purchasing your tickets to the 27th Annual Awards Gala on Wednesday, November 20, 2019 at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto.


How Toni Desrosiers found success fighting plastic pollution with Abeego, the first beeswax food wrap

When she first launched Abeego, Toni Desrosiers was met with skepticism — people couldn’t imagine giving up plastic wrap. She persevered through the challenge of creating a new market, and now the award-winning entrepreneur can boast years of explosive growth, and her reusable beeswax wrap can be found in more than 1,500 stores, 40 countries and hundreds of thousands of kitchens worldwide.



By Karen van Kampen



In 2008, when Toni Desrosiers launched Abeego with the first beeswax food wrap, “people literally laughed in my face,” she says. “They thought it was just ridiculous.” It was too hard to imagine replacing trusted plastic wrap with a reusable, all-natural alternative. 

“We all have an intimate relationship with plastic wrap, even if we don’t realize it,” says Toni. “It’s something that’s been passed down from your mother. Nobody questions it because it’s been so habitual for the last three generations.” 

Eleven years later, with food waste and the plastic environmental crisis looming, Abeego is successfully taking on the multi-billion-dollar plastic wrap market with its mission to “keep food alive.” 

The average household throws out 40% of its fresh food, “and it’s no fault of theirs,” says Toni. “It’s simply because people don’t understand how to keep food alive once it’s been picked, pulled or plucked. With Abeego, you get to eat the food that you buy,” explains Toni. “You eat it all.” 

Fresh food has always been an integral part of Toni’s life. Growing up in Olds, Alberta, Toni was given her own garden plot to tend where she grew strawberries and peas. Her mother was an herbalist who made tinctures, teas and natural remedies. 

At 24, Toni moved to Mexico, living in small beachside communities in a camper van with only the necessities. Toni shopped locally at small butchers and tortilla shops and fruterias. The experience “taught me to be fully aware of my surroundings, as risk and opportunity are around every corner,” she says. 

The following year Toni returned to Canada, enrolling in a holistic nutrition program at Ottawa’s Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. Completing the two-year program in six months, she graduated in 2005 at the top of her class. Her next move was to Victoria, B.C. where she took a job at Lifestyle Markets. Working at the natural food store helped Toni realize that fresh food is the best supplement for good health. 

An entrepreneur at heart, Toni says “I was always thinking about what business I could create that would solve a different problem.” Her big idea came after asking herself, “If nature was going to wrap food in my kitchen, what would it look like?” Toni knew that plastic wrap wasn’t the answer. “There isn’t a single peel, skin or rind in the natural world that is air tight and transparent,” she says. Toni set out to make an all natural, reusable, breathable food wrap to keep food fresh. 


“We all have an intimate relationship with plastic wrap, even if we don’t realize it,” says Toni. “It’s something that’s been passed down from your mother. Nobody questions it because it’s been so habitual for the last three generations.” 


After extensive experimentation, Toni invented a formula of beeswax, tree resin and jojoba oil that created a sealable barrier akin to plastic wrap while also keeping food fresh. In 2008, Abeego was born in Toni’s kitchen.

Offering advice to other inventors, Toni says, “You might have an idea that’s going to change the world. But if the market is not ready for your idea, it might take either a really long time and a ton of work — and if you believe in it, keep going — or it might never go anywhere.” 

Despite initial customer skepticism, Toni never gave up. In fact, meeting customers face-to-face proved to be one of her most valuable marketing experiences. Toni quickly realized that she couldn’t position Abeego as an alternative to plastic wrap. 

“Immediately I could see people put up their defensive guard,” she says. “They felt attacked, guilty, afraid.” So Toni created a positive marketing message by focusing on how people could make a lasting change. 

Starting a business is very challenging, says Toni, especially when you are creating an entirely new category. “It took a lot of storytelling, convincing, and trust from people who were willing to give it a shot,” she says. 

Around three years ago, customers began adopting a more open, environmentally conscious mindset. At the same time, competitors entered the market. “At first I was terrified,” says Toni. But Abeego was ready. With systems in place to scale quickly, they could easily handle the volume of new customers. 

“When you set yourself specific boundaries and then give yourself the freedom to build within those boundaries, you build something sustainable and scalable,” Toni says. 

Abeego has had 100% year-over-year growth for the past two years, and is on target to double again in 2019. Its reusable beeswax wrap can be found in more than 1,500 stores, 40 countries and hundreds of thousands of kitchens worldwide. The success has been recognized: Toni was the 2018 winner of the TELUS Trailblazer Award, granted to an entrepreneur who has identified and captured a new market while setting standards for originality, quality and successful management. 

For Toni, the journey is more rewarding than the destination. Looking back, she says, “I’d tell my younger self to enjoy the doing, because just trying to get to the end goal is thankless. It’s just too hard. You have to enjoy the things that you’re doing along the way, regardless of the outcome.”

How Joanna Griffiths took Knixwear from an idea to a million dollar company in just five years

Joanna Griffiths launched Knixwear when she became aware of a need in the market for underwear that could handle “little leaks.” She solved that problem, and for the next five years focused on building a brand that helped women get over their insecurities and facilitate conversations. The strategy paid off. Not only is Knix a wildly successful global business — they sell an item every 10 seconds — Joanna can feel good about having a positive impact.



By Sarah Kelsey



When Joanna Griffiths launched Knixwear in 2013, she never anticipated the company would achieve the success it has — and in only five years. Starting out as a crowdfunding campaign, these days one Knix item is sold every 10 seconds. In 2018 alone, the company launched six new products, 18 new colours, acquired over 300,000 new customers and shipped over 500,000 packages.

Part of the reason Joanna feels her company is doing so well is because she made it a priority to create something that addressed a real problem. “Life is so much easier when you are selling something that a large number of people need,” she explains. “We started with leak proof underwear. Was it a sexy idea? No. Was it needed by millions and millions of people? Yes.”

But it is more than meeting a need that has led to Joanna’s success — she’s also striving to change people’s lives. In October Knix launched #FacesofFertility: a series of articles, videos and social conversations about fertility, infertility and their impact on women. Over 1,500 people shared their personal stories with Griffith’s team. The content will soon become a podcast.


“I want to inspire other businesses and leaders… to give back and to make a positive impact on their community — locally or at a scale of tens of thousands of women globally.”


“We really found our voice in 2018,” Joanna says. “We pushed ourselves. We did a lot of team-building, and inevitably what happens is a lot of building the boat while you’re on it. You’re doing everything at once. I think what I’m really proud of is that we’re constantly evolving.”

She’s also incredibly proud of how her and her team strive to “mirror the world,” and to give back to the community.

“There are a few things we’ve been doing since 2013, like showcasing diverse body types and featuring real women in our ads and sharing their stories in a much bigger way, that have shown us some great results. We want to continue to do that and to reach new markets,” she notes, adding 2019 will see the company launch their first swimwear and maternity lines. “Our success has really surpassed anything I had anticipated.”



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It also earned her and her team a 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award in October 2018. “I think when you first start a company you read about these awards and you put them on a pedestal. To kind of be at the stage now where we’re getting that kind of recognition, it’s insanely valuable,” she says of receiving the Staples Start-Up Honour in October. “It’s amazing to know that people are connecting with the work we’re doing.”

Griffiths says it wasn’t until a couple years ago that she started to see the potential of Knix as a brand. Minor successes started to happen, sales began to grow and, eventually, the work became less about her and her goals, and more about doing work that would have a positive impact on the world.

“What I want to inspire other businesses and leaders to do is to give back and to make a positive impact on their community — locally or at a scale of tens of thousands of women globally,” she says. She also wants small business owners to know that though her company is successful now, she still has good days, and bad ones.

“At the RBC awards ceremony I bumped into people I had met before — other female business  founders — and I chatted with one woman who was having a hard time. I told her, ‘I cried last week!’ I have hard days, too, because being an entrepreneur is hard. It’s part of the process.”

She adds: “If you’re feeling like it’s challenging, that’s because it is. If running a business was easy, everyone would do it. I’ve been at this for five years, and I still haven’t figured it out. But what happens over time is you build up your resistance. Troubleshooting gets better. You build your confidence.”

You also learn how to fight for something bigger than you.

“It’s about facilitating conversations, and getting over insecurities and pushing boundaries. And when you’re operating in that space, anything is possible.”


Join us at the 2019 Premiere of the Women of Influence Evening Series on March 7th, for a rare opportunity to learn how Joanna leveraged an unmet consumer demand to revolutionize the $250 billion underwear industry. Whether you’re a fan of Knix products, or an entrepreneur looking for insight into identifying consumer demands and positioning your brand for growth, this is an exceptional opportunity for you!


‘Name Her, Nominate Her’ Campaign Has Officially Launched

 The ‘Name Her, Nominate Her’ Campaign has officially launched as the 27th Annual RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Call for Nominations Officially Open. If you know a Canadian female entrepreneur that deserves some recognition — find out how to nominate her below.



RBC and Women of Influence are announcing the call for nominations for the 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards. This year’s Name Her, Nominate Her campaign marks the 27th year of the awards which provide national recognition to Canada’s most accomplished and impactful women entrepreneurs, whose successful businesses and influence contribute significantly to the local, national and global economy.

Canada is home to over 1.4 million women entrepreneurs and 47% of small and medium-sized businesses are now owned by women, generating over $117 billion per annum of economic activity in Canada. Moreover, 63% are likely to turn a profit with adequate funding in just two years.

Since its inception, over 32,000 women have been nominated for the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards and over 170 Awards have been presented for outstanding entrepreneurial achievement. We are calling on all corporations, organizations, and individuals to champion this cause and help us recognize and give a voice to the outstanding work of female entrepreneurs across the entire country and in all industries.

“We have some incredibly talented women across the country who are trailblazing, inspiring and leading future generations to drive innovation, economic growth and social progress,” says Greg Grice, Executive Vice President, Business Financial Services, RBC. “It is important that we recognize and celebrate the significant impact that their passion, dedication and contributions have had in the business community. RBC is proud to work with Women of Influence again this year to launch the 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards to recognize the next generation of exceptional women in business.”

Each of these prestigious awards is tailored to recognize women from all sectors of the economy and at all stages of business growth. They include: the Ones to Watch Award, Micro-Business Award, Staples Start-Up Award, RBC Momentum Award, Social Change Award, TELUS Trailblazer Award, and Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award.

“Successful entrepreneurship requires more than a great idea – it demands tenacity and tireless dedication,” says Alicia Skalin, Co-CEO, Head of Events and Programming, Women of Influence. “Through the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards, we recognize a diverse group of Canadian business leaders who have successfully navigated the challenges of entrepreneurship to become powerful innovators in their industries.”

If you know a Canadian female entrepreneur who needs to be recognized nominate her now.



Seven outstanding female entrepreneur winners awarded out of a record-breaking 7,400 nominees




TORONTO, NOVEMBER 21st, 2018 – The 26th annual RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards, presented by Women of Influence, have named seven winners of this year’s prestigious awards. They join the six recipients of the new up-and-coming entrepreneur ‘Ones to Watch’ category, announced earlier in September. This year’s winners and recipients span sectors that include innovative apparel solutions, trailblazing food conservation, next-generation fertility treatment, progressive childcare and much more.

“RBC is honoured to celebrate the achievements of Canadian women entrepreneurs who have been instrumental in driving business success in Canada,” says Greg Grice, Executive Vice President, Business Financial Services, RBC. “We’re proud to put a spotlight on this year’s winners who are exceptional leaders, innovators and rising stars. Their leadership, passion and entrepreneurial spirit serve as an inspiration for the next generation of Canadian entrepreneurs to pursue their aspirations and be part of Canada’s thriving business community.”

Now in their 26th year, the awards recognize the country’s leading female entrepreneurs who have made impressive and substantial contributions to the local, Canadian or global economy. We are honoured to have a panel of 12 judges that is comprised of some of Canada’s top business leaders, including: Karen Greve Young, CEO Futurpreneur; Bonnie Foley-Wong, Chief Investment Innovator, Pique Ventures & Founding Investor, Pique Fund; Paulette Senior, President & CEO, Canadian Women’s Foundation and Karen Brookman, Partner and Chief Innovation Office West Canadian Digital Imaging.

The announcement was made at a gala reception on November 21st, hosted by Marcia MacMillan, National TV News Anchor, Host and Reporter, CTV News Channel.

Following yet another record-breaking 7,400 nominees, this year’s winners are:

  • Glain Roberts-McCabe, The Roundtable, Toronto, ON, Micro-Business Award presented by Diversity Institute & Magnet Export Business Portal
  • Joanna Griffiths, Knix Wear Inc., Toronto, ON, Staples Start-Up Award
  • Dr. Marjorie Dixon, Anova Fertility and Reproductive Health, Toronto, ON, RBC Momentum Award
  • Latha Sukumar, MCIS Language Solutions, Toronto, ON, Social Change Award
  • Toni Desrosiers, Abeego, Victoria, BC, TELUS Trailblazer Award
  • Victoria Sopik & Jennifer Nashmi, Kids & Company, Toronto, ON, Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award

The Gala also honoured the recipients of the Ones to Watch Award, Presented by Kate Latos, Ecofence and Decking Ltd.; Jessica Ching, Eve Medical; Humera Malik, Canvass Analytics; Thao Nguyen, Bonbon Collections Inc.; Sonja Mills & Alicia MacDonald, Port Rexton Brewing Company Ltd.

Alicia Skalin, Co-CEO and Head of Events and Programming, Women of Influence Inc., congratulated the winners for their incredible achievements, and for inspiring future generations of female entrepreneurs. “The incredible growth of our program reflects the increasing number of successful women-owned businesses in our country and the growing diversity in industries across Canada. The 2018 winners have turned their personal passions—from art and fashion to development to medicine – into thriving businesses. They have earned the esteem of their peers and their communities and are truly paving the way for future female entrepreneurs.” explained Ms. Skalin.

For more information on this year’s award winners, visit


About the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards

The RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards are the pre-eminent national business awards recognizing the country’s leading female entrepreneurs. The awards are an initiative of Women of Influence, an award-winning organization dedicated to advancing women globally.


About Women of Influence Worldwide Inc.

Women of Influence, now in its 24th year, is one of North America’s leading organizations working towards gender equality in the workplace — by empowering individuals. Through our events, content, awards, courses and coaching, Women of Influence annually reaches a community of over 300,000 professional women and men across Canada and internationally. Providing insights and inspiration, sharing the stories of extraordinary women, and creating opportunities to connect — we are making change happen for women, today. For more information, please visit


For interview requests or further information please contact:

Amanda Kruzich, Women of Influence, 416 456 8633,

Yuri Park, RBC, 437 229 2742,