Press Release: Call for CWEA Nominations

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

In Celebration of International Women’s Day, Women of Influence Launches the Call for Nominations for the 25th Annual RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards

 

 

TORONTO – MARCH 8TH – In celebration of International Women’s Day, RBC and Women of Influence are announcing the call for nominations for the 2017 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards (CWEA). Now celebrating its 25th year, these awards provide national recognition to Canada’s most accomplished and impactful women entrepreneurs, whose successful businesses and influence contribute so much to the local, national and global economy.

“RBC remains dedicated to helping create opportunities for women entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, which is why we’re proud to work with Women of Influence again to launch this year’s RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards,” said Neil McLaughlin, executive vice-president, Business Financial Services, RBC. “We believe that achieving gender equity is both the smart thing and the right thing to do and key to Canada’s future economic development and prosperity. We’re committed to ensuring that women have the resources they need to play an active role in that future.”

To date, over 25,000 women from their early twenties to their mid-eighties, from every sector of the economy, have been nominated for these awards. Over 126 Awards have been presented for outstanding entrepreneurial achievement. The following awards are presented: Micro-Business Award, Staples Start-Up Award, RBC Momentum Award, Social Change Award, TELUS Trailblazer Award, and the TEC Canada Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship.

The potential boost to economic activity by tapping into the entrepreneurial spirit of women is significant and could sustain women as a source of economic growth in Canada for decades to come.

“The innovation, passion and determination of women entrepreneurs both deserves and needs to be recognized and celebrated,” said Alicia Skalin, Co-CEO, Head of Events and Programming, Women of Influence, “Not only are they contributing greatly to the economy and impacting their communities, they also serve as role models to other aspiring female business owners. They are proof that dreams are achievable.”

 

To nominate, please go to http://www.womenofinfluence.ca/rbc-cwea.

 

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For interview requests or further information please contact:

 

Aylanah Whitten

416-629-9144 | awhitten@womenofinfluence.ca

 

Rob Merk

416-955-6665| rob.merk@rbc.com

 

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 the professional advancement of Canadian women.

 

ABOUT WOMEN OF INFLUENCE

Women of Influence, now in its 24th year, is North America’s leading organization of its kind. Offering solutions to further women’s advancement, including courses in executive leadershipglobal events, and print and digital content, Women of Influence annually reaches over 200,000 professional women and men across North America and internationally. Signature events include the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards and the Women of Influence Luncheon Series. For more information, please visit www.womenofinfluence.com.

 

ABOUT RBC

Royal Bank of Canada is Canada’s largest bank, and one of the largest banks in the world, based on market capitalization. We are one of North America’s leading diversified financial services companies, and provide personal and commercial banking, wealth management, insurance, investor services and capital markets products and services on a global basis. We have over 80,000 full- and part-time employees who serve more than 16 million personal, business, public sector and institutional clients through offices in Canada, the U.S. and 35 other countries. For more information, please visit http://www.rbc.com/.‎

 

RBC helps communities prosper, supporting a broad range of community initiatives through donations, community investments and employee volunteer activities. For more information please see: http://www.rbc.com/community-sustainability/.

 

Advice from the Micro-Business Award Finalists: 2016 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards

The Micro-Business Award proves that small businesses can still have great impact and contribute to innovation in Canada. This award category honours small businesses generating annual revenues under $1 million (with a steady growth rate) in any industry and at any stage of business.

 

We’ve asked the winner of the award and the finalists in this category for their best advice for other entrepreneurs:

 

 

Finalist: Kim Hall, Physio2U

Physio2U is an innovative health-care company which provides in-home physiotherapy services, which are historically received in a private clinic, hospital or rehabilitation facility. People who suffer from injuries or diseases that limit their mobility and independence are often unable to get to a clinic or facility for treatment that they desperately need; with Physio2U, Kim Hall has helped people overcome the barrier to access of physiotherapy services by making it possible for treatment to be received in a location that is convenient to the client. 

Q: What did you learn in your first year of business? 

A: The small business community in BC is incredibly supportive and there are so many wonderful resources available to new entrepreneurs. No MBA’s are necessary in today’s day and age to be a successful business owner.

 

 

 

Finalist: Diana Goodwin, AquaMobile Inc.

AquaMobile is North America’s largest at-home, on demand swim lesson provider, with over 1500 certified, experienced and insured swim instructors in cities across Canada and the US who come to your home or condo to teach private swimming lessons in your own pool. They leverage their own proprietary tech platform to instantly match a certified and insured AquaMobile Instructor with each student based on age, skill level and time preferences, ensuring each customer has a five-star experience.

Q: What is the one piece of advice you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs? 

A: Focus. It’s so easy to get distracted along the entrepreneurial journey, but if you do one thing, and do that one thing very well, you have a much higher chance of succeeding.

 

 

 

Winners: Isabelle and Marie-Hélène Primeau, Premier Continuum Inc.

Premier Continuum Inc. (PCI) specializes in the field of Resilience, Business Continuity, Emergency Management, IT Disaster Recovery and Integrated Risk Management. Isabelle and Marie-Hélène offer the cloud based specialized software in addition to our consulting and training services to help prevent, prepare, respond and recover to any type of consequences that could deeply affect a business of any size, such as loss of premises, loss of IT, loss of key personnel / abnormal absenteeism and supply chain disruptions. 

Q: What do you wish you knew in the beginning?

A: We wish we had known that even as experts in risk management and business continuity, we had to learn how to take risks in business. While being conservative has provided stability and longevity, we should have taken more risks in the business, in particular in order to bring our software faster to the market.

 


 

The collective impact of our country’s female entrepreneurs cannot be overstated. The RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards is the premier national awards program celebrating the achievements of the most successful in this inspiring group. Now in its 24th year, over 120 women have been recognized for demonstrating excellence—from economic growth to social change, from local to global reach, across multiple sectors. We’re honoured to shine a spotlight on them.

 

 


Advice From the Deloitte Start-up Finalists: 2016 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards

The Deloitte Start-Up Award celebrates the achievements of a woman who, in three to five years, has developed her business into one that’s ready for the next level of growth. Since starting out, these three finalists have been successful in building a profitable business with a comprehensive and sustainable plan.

We’ve asked this year’s winner and finalists for their best advice for other entrepreneurs:

 

Finalist: Marlo Brausse, Barre Body Studio

At Barre Body Studio (BBS) Marlo Brausse offers fitness classes that are a combination of Pilates, yoga and dance, with a focus on building long, lean muscles, tightening, toning and strengthening the core. Using mostly body weight, light free weights, and resistance bands, participants endure high repetitions to exert muscles to the point of fatigue, making this a highly effective fitness class. But, because it is choreographed to upbeat music and performed in a highly motivating group environment, it is equal parts FUN! Barre Body Studio also offers a teacher training program, and to date has held nine teacher training programs and have trained instructors across Alberta and British Columbia, a priority for Brausse whose goal is to ensure that the principles of barre are carried over in a safe and well-executed manner.

Q: What would you tell to a room full of aspiring entrepreneurs?

A: Being an entrepreneur takes self-discipline, sacrifice and a lot of passion.  Nurture your employees, your brand and your business community; learn what you don’t know and ask for help – you will be surprised by how far these practices will take you.

 

 

 

Winners: Angela Marotta & Melissa Paolicelli, Two Sisters Vineyards

Two Sisters Vineyards, owned by sisters Angela Marotta and Melissa Paolicelli, is a private, family-owned corporation with a purpose to offer a full service prestige destination winery with on-site tasting and retail, restaurant, corporate facilities and offices located in a desirable area of Niagara wine country. It operates from a 76-acre estate in historic Niagara-on-the-Lake. From the start, the vision was to craft Ontario ultra premium VQA wines comparable to international benchmarks.

Q: What is the one piece of advice you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs? 

A:

Melissa – Regardless if the market sways due to various economic factors, never sacrifice the the quality or the standards of your product.  Evaluate other areas of the operation before you cut costs on production standards.

 Angela – Take it slow. As women and mothers, we cannot to everything well all the time, you are a better decision maker when working from a clear focused mind than a foggy confused mind.

 

 

 

Finalist: Melanie Caines, Nova Yoga

Nova Yoga is an award winning business that serves up yoga to clients in fresh and exciting ways, with Director Melanie Caines offering multiple styles and levels of yoga at St. John’s, Newfoundland studio, with the aim of making yoga interesting to everyone and accessible to all. Nova Yoga also offers people the opportunity to explore their yoga practice in the comfort of their own home, at work, or on the go through various initiatives that allow home access to Caines’ instruction. Nova Yoga’s local and international yoga retreats are rejuvenating and healthy vacations, including meditation, yoga twice a day, fresh healthy food, excursions, and rest and relaxation, all in a beautiful environment and surrounded by like-minded people. 

Q: What do you wish you knew at the beginning?

A: Work smarter, not harder! It’s a great reminder and crucial in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed and burnt out.

 

 

 


 

The collective impact of our country’s female entrepreneurs cannot be overstated. The RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards is the premier national awards program celebrating the achievements of the most successful in this inspiring group. Now in its 24th year, over 120 women have been recognized for demonstrating excellence—from economic growth to social change, from local to global reach, across multiple sectors. We’re honoured to shine a spotlight on them.

 

 


Advice from the RBC Momentum Award Finalists: 2016 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards

The RBC Momentum Award Finalists are entrepreneurs that have overcome obstacles, capitalized on opportunities to deliver 10% growth or more, and have done so for more than three years. Through their expanded management, empowered employees, and demonstrated success, these entrepreneurs have created a flexible and responsive business that is able to adapt to changing market environments and leverage opportunities for continued growth. 

 We asked this year’s winner and finalists for their best advice for other entrepreneurs.

 

Winner: Kate Ross LeBlanc, Saje Natural Wellness

Saje Natural Wellness provides 100% natural product solutions that help the body detoxify and recover from the elements’ harmful effects. Their extensive product line includes natural remedies for a variety of everyday health concerns, including headaches, stress, allergies, colds, and more, with a vision of global wellness inspired by Ross LeBlanc’s husband’s own health challenges and chronic pain and her own love for retail. Their mission is to connect people with the healing power of plants, through living, sharing and inspiring holistic wellness daily.

Q: What do you wish you knew at the beginning?

A: That it’s ok to be a leader. Growing up in a small town, I had a few painful experiences early on around standing out too much, and in many ways I resisted my own growth into leadership. I wish I had known earlier that it could be so incredibly rewarding; that ‘boss’ and ‘bossy’ are not the same thing. Yes, it’s a big responsibility to help shape someone’s career, but moreover: it’s an honour and I wish I had started this part of my own development earlier.

 

 

Finalist: Alyssa Furtado, Ratehub

RateHub.ca is an online platform that aggregates and compares mortgage rates, credit cards and other financial products offered by Canada’s major banks, neighbourhood credit unions and brokers. Furtado’s service allows Canadians to compare thousands of rates from hundreds of providers, with a few easy clicks, saving them time and empowering consumers to better evaluate their options so they can make smarter financial decisions.

Q: What would you tell a room full of aspiring entrepreneurs?

A: I would tell aspiring entrepreneurs to start today. Launching a business and taking on substantial financial risk only gets harder as we get older. Your job and salary become harder to walk away from and life’s responsibilities from mortgage payments to growing a family only increase over time. The younger you start the more risks you can take.

 

 

Finalist: Sylvia MacVey, G. E. Barbour

G E Barbour Inc (Barbours) is a 149 year old food processing, family owned corporation, traditionally focused on servicing the regional Atlantic Canadian retail market with forays into the Canadian and US private label markets. Under MacVey’s leadership, Barbours has established itself as an innovative co-packer and product development partner in Canada and the US.

 

 


 

The collective impact of our country’s female entrepreneurs cannot be overstated. The RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards is the premier national awards program celebrating the achievements of the most successful in this inspiring group. Now in its 24th year, over 120 women have been recognized for demonstrating excellence—from economic growth to social change, from local to global reach, across multiple sectors. We’re honoured to shine a spotlight on them.

 

 


Advice from the Telus Trailblazer Award Finalists: 2016 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards

The Telus Trailblazer Award honours an entrepreneur that is a true trendsetter. She has recognized a new market, product, service, technological advancement, or opportunity and has bravely led the way. She has demonstrated outstanding leadership within her company and market, and has set standards for originality, quality and successful management. These entrepreneurs are mentors, visionaries, leaders, and successful businesswomen of their industry.

We asked this year’s winner and finalists what advice they would give to another entrepreneur facing uncertainty about their own trailblazing idea:

 

Eva Sun, The Rice People

Food processors aren’t generally associated with being leading edge trailblazers – but Eva Sun’s company is different. With a motto of Respect, Integrity, Care and Share, The Rice People’s commitment to their customers, partners, and global community.  Rice is a common staple that most people take so easily for granted, but rice is actually a much varied resource with much room for quality enrichment, especially in Canada. From farm to fork, it is Sun’s passion to make rice with accountable and consistent quality. They carefully source globally for the most reliable quality, eco-friendly raw material from eight countries. 

 

 

 

 

Nancy Simonot, NKS Health

NKS Health is a specialty pharmacy that focuses on a few chronic diseases and creates patient programs to improve the patient’s health quickly and maximize their outcomes. Expert pharmacists start with triaging the patient with a home visit where the patient can be referred to Simonot’s allied health care team including nurses, dieticians, occupational therapists and social worker for consultation. NKS Health continuously meets with leading researchers in teaching hospitals to update our programs and ensure patients benefit from the latest findings, and host monthly events where patients can participate through webinars including exercise and relaxation techniques to treat chronic diseases whose symptoms can be exacerbated by stress. NKS Health’s ultimate goal is to improve patient outcomes, and are unique in Canada as no other pharmacy offers this kind of care.

Q: What advice would you give to another business-woman facing uncertainty about her own trailblazing idea?

A: You will know if you are in the right place when you land your first few contracts and the high that you feel at that moment. These are the best moments. They will help you get through the challenging times.

 

 

 

Beth Hatt, Aquila Tours

Since opening their doors in 1982, Aquila has been on an incredible journey to being recognized as an innovative leader in the tourism industry. Today, Aquila’s area of excellence is concentrated on cruise, delivering shore excursions to cruise lines when they anchor in the Bay of Fundy. Each year, Aquila creates engaging experiences for almost 60,000 travellers cruising our shores, and tour guides, operators in our programs. At the encouragement of top executives at major cruise lines, Aquila established Aquila’s Center for Cruise Excellence in 2007, offering workshops and customized training programs to Tour Operators, Ports and Destinations around the world. In 2010, Aquila developed Tour Guide Excellence, the first online International Certification program designed specifically for tour guides in the cruise industry. As the official training partner of the FCCA (Florida Caribbean Cruise Association), Aquila’s training programs have been endorsed by all the major cruise lines for their certifications to Tour Guides and Tour Operators. Today, Aquila is seen as the standard for Shore Excursions and Tour Operations worldwide.

 

 

 


 

The collective impact of our country’s female entrepreneurs cannot be overstated. The RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards is the premier national awards program celebrating the achievements of the most successful in this inspiring group. Now in its 24th year, over 120 women have been recognized for demonstrating excellence—from economic growth to social change, from local to global reach, across multiple sectors. We’re honoured to shine a spotlight on them.

 

 


Advice from the Social Change Award Finalists: 2016 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards

The Social Change Award celebrates an exceptional leader of a not-for-profit or charitable organization that is dedicated to helping others help themselves. These leaders assist in social change and improving the quality of lives around us, not to mention garnering extraordinary support from the community by championing philanthropy and volunteerism in Canada.

We asked this year’s winner and finalists for their best advice for other entrepreneurs:

 

 

Finalist: Dianne Fehr, Immigrant Access Fund

Each year, thousands of internationally-trained immigrants arrive in Canada with dreams of building a successful life for themselves and their families. Often, they arrive with excellent skills, education and experience, but face barriers to securing employment in their field and languish in unemployment or “survival” jobs. A significant barrier for many lack of funds to pay for the Canadian licensing/training they need to work in their field. IAF removes that financial barrier through a character-based micro loan program, with the vision of skilled immigrants being equitably integrated into the workforce and contributing their expertise to Canada’s economic and social success.

 

 

Finalist: Patricia Pottie, Strongest Families Institute

Strongest Families Institute is a federally incorporated not-for-profit institute that delivers evidence-based mental health programs to children, youth and families from a distance. Dr. Patricia Lingley-Pottie, President and CEO, is a passionate academic and professional who has dedicated her career to improving the lives of children and families through innovation. SFI’s groundbreaking distance-delivery system removes barriers that prevent families from accessing traditional mental health services. It provides, effective evidence-based and cost-efficient programs, when and where families need help. It achieves consistently strong clinical outcomes and high levels of family satisfaction.

 

 

 

Winner: Jennifer Flanagan, Actua

Actua is Canada’s largest science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education outreach organization engaging 250,000 youth each year in transformational experiences that help them achieve their potential. Actua’s delivery model includes a network of 34 university and college based STEM outreach organizations and its own outreach team, together delivering programming in 500 communities across every province and territory. Actua’s focus at the national level is on engaging Canada’s most underserved youth populations with the most innovative content in order to contribute to the diversity that is needed to drive social and economic innovation in Canada.

 

 


The collective impact of our country’s female entrepreneurs cannot be overstated. The RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards is the premier national awards program celebrating the achievements of the most successful in this inspiring group. Now in its 24th year, over 120 women have been recognized for demonstrating excellence—from economic growth to social change, from local to global reach, across multiple sectors. We’re honoured to shine a spotlight on them.

 


Advice from the PROFIT Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship Finalists: 2016 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards

Through timely innovation, strategic thinking, and smart execution, these three finalists have launched—and built one (or more!) successful companies with a track record of growth, profitability, industry leadership, as well as breaking new ground. Through their drive, managerial acumen, and leadership traits, they have generated exceptional economic growth and social change.

We asked this year’s winner and finalists for their best advice for other entrepreneurs.

 

 

Finalist: Margot Micallef, Oliver Capital Partners

Founded in 2003, Oliver Capital Partners Inc. is a successful merchant bank that to date has invested in broadcasting, publishing, real estate, food manufacturing and restaurant brands. Through these investments, OCP oversees directly and indirectly over 2,300 employees and over $600 million in revenues. OCP’s investment strategy is two-fold: invest in the debt of well-run companies with strong cash flows and invest in the equity of troubled companies which can be turned around.

 

 

Finalist: Michelle Gerrard, Neepawa Home Hardware

Neepawa Home Hardware Building Centre is an independently owned building centre and hardware retail location that is part of the Home Hardware dealer co-operative. The store Gerrard purchased in 2003 had been on the market for 10 years, and was in danger of closing. Gerrard believed it was in the best retail location in Neepawa, and just needed a facelift with refreshed product offering to be viable. In a small, rural community such as Neepawa, Gerrard feels it’s important to have as many retail options within the community as possible to keep the community thriving, which was the driving decision behind expanding the business in 2010. 

 

 

Winner: Kathy Gregory, Paradigm Quest

Founded by Gregory after being let go from her position in the world of finance, Paradigm Quest Inc. is the fastest growing mortgage company in Canada, providing a one-stop solution from origination to providing cost effective back office mortgage solutions to lenders, which enables them to proactively respond to market conditions, lead the market in innovation, and ultimately provide the mortgage consumer with greater choice and an unparalleled mortgage experience. Paradigm is recognized by major Canadian financial institutions as a leading BPO in the financial services sector and has signed major outsourcing contracts with Canadian chartered banks.

 

 

Related: 22 Lessons from Successful Entrepreneurs

 

 


 

The collective impact of our country’s female entrepreneurs cannot be overstated. The RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards is the premier national awards program celebrating the achievements of the most successful in this inspiring group. Now in its 24th year, over 120 women have been recognized for demonstrating excellence—from economic growth to social change, from local to global reach, across multiple sectors. We’re honoured to shine a spotlight on them.

 

 


Winners Announced for the 2016 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards!

RBC CWEA Winners

We are excited to announce the winners of our 24th annual RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards!

The CWEA awards recognize the country’s leading female entrepreneurs who have made impressive and substantial contributions to the local, Canadian or global economy. This year’s judging panel was comprised of twelve of Canada’s top business leaders, including: Ian Portsmouth, Publisher & Editor of PROFIT Magazine; Tracie Crook, COO of McCarthy Tétrault LLP; Rajini McRae, Senior Director, Pricing and Treasury Relations, RBC Royal Bank and; Raymonde Lavoie, Co-Founder and Partner, DesArts Communication.

Our judges selected six ventures and the eight incredible entrepreneurs behind them as the recipients of the prestigious awards, which span across six distinct categories. The winners include two business partnerships comprised of sisters; the founder of Canada’s leading wellness brand; and the CEO of one of the country’s leading mortgage firms with over $20 billion dollars in assets.

 

 

This year’s winners are:

 

ADP Micro Business Award

Isabelle Primeau & Marie-Helene Primeau, Premier Continuum Inc., Montreal, QC

 

 

Deloitte Start-Up Award

Angela Marotta & Melissa Paolicelli, Two Sisters Vineyard, Niagara Region, ON

 

 

RBC Momentum Award

Kate Ross Leblanc, Saje Wellness, Vancouver, BC

 

 

Social Change Award

Jennifer Flanagan, Actua, Toronto, ON

 

 

TELUS Trailblazer Award

Eva Sun, The Rice People, Richmond, BC

 

 

PROFIT Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship

Kathy Gregory, Paradigm Quest Inc., Toronto, ON

 

“RBC is honoured to recognize women entrepreneurs and their immense contributions in the Canadian and global economies,” says Neil McLaughlin, Executive Vice President, Business Financial Services, RBC. “Through their passion and dedication, these dynamic women are leaving their mark on the marketplace and their communities. They are an inspiration for other Canadian business owners.”

Congratulations to our winners! We are proud to honour your achievements and continue to be inspired by your success.

 

 

Five Things Every Aspiring Entrepreneur Should Know

cwea finalists headshots

 

Building a successful venture is no easy task. We asked five of our RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards finalists for their best advice to share with aspiring entrepreneurs. What we learned? A little bit of confidence and a lot of help will take you far. 

 


Meet the Experts:

Alyssa Furtado, Ratehub.ca
Kate Ross Leblanc, Saje Natural Wellness
Kim Hall, Physio2U
Nancy Simonot, NKS Health
Diana Goodwin, Aquamobile

 

 

1. Start today.

Alyssa Furtado, Ratehub.ca: Aspiring entrepreneurs should start today. Launching a business and taking on substantial financial risk only gets harder as we get older. Your job and salary become harder to walk away from and life’s responsibilities, from mortgage payments to growing a family, only increase over time. The younger you start the more risks you can take

 

2. Believe in the concept.

Nancy Simonot, NKS Health: Believe in the concept. Many days it will feel like you are being pushed backwards instead of forwards but if you believe in what you are doing and persevere, you will also have amazing days when it all comes together for you.

 

3. Ask for help.

Diana Goodwin, Aquamobile: I wish I knew about the extent of resources that exist for entrepreneurs in Canada, through government and nonprofit programs, in the form of grants, skill development and expertise. It took me a long time to get the lay of the land but once I did, it was extremely helpful.

 

4. Don’t be afraid to lead.

Kate Ross Leblanc, Saje Natural Wellness: It’s okay to be a leader. Growing up in a small town, I had a few painful experiences early on around standing out too much, and in many ways I resisted my own growth into leadership. I wish I had known earlier that it could be so incredibly rewarding; that ‘boss’ and ‘bossy’ are not the same thing. Yes, it’s a big responsibility to help shape someone’s career, but moreover, it’s an honour and I wish I had started this part of my own development earlier.

 

And lastly…

5. Limits don’t exist.

Kim Hall, Physio2U: No MBA’s are necessary in today’s day and age to be a successful business owner.

 

Read more advice for entrepreneurs from our Deloitte Start-Up Award finalists.

 

Canada’s Top Women Business Owners

Each year we recognize Canada’s leading female entrepreneurs. These women have not only made substantial contributions to their local community—they’ve also influenced the Canadian and even global economy.

Eighteen women were selected from a record-breaking 5,000 nominees to become the finalists for the 2015 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards. Their companies range from boutique construction firms to Canada’s most well-known seal of approval for children’s products. Together, these women manage more than 900 employees and earn over $130 million in gross profit. We asked them to share the story of their journey to success—and the key lessons learned along the way.

Early bird pricing now available for our 2016 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Gala (Prices go up July 15). 

By Meghan Jeffery


 

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DELOITTE START-UP AWARD
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Wendy McClelland
President & CEO, Vets to Go Inc.
WINNER

After Wendy returned from maternity leave, she found it difficult to organize her work schedule around her family—including her children and her pets. Realizing that other mothers were likely in a similar position, Wendy created Vets To Go: the first veterinary service in Canada offering home visits. Vets To Go began as a small startup in Calgary and has since expanded to three surrounding cities, and has also extended their offerings with a new Private Surgery and Wellness Centre in Calgary.

Q: If you were in a room full of entrepreneurs, what is one piece of advice that you would give?

A: Get help before you think you need or can afford it. This goes for both business help (such as hiring a receptionist) and personal help (like hiring a housekeeper.) Starting a business is not a one-woman show—you have to guard your time and focus it on the highest leverage and value activities if you are going to grow successfully.

“I’ve learned that success comes from choosing a very small number of essential ideas and focusing on them, while saying no to many more.”

Noemie Dupuy
Founder & Co-CEO, Budge Studios
FINALIST

Noemie’s winning business idea was inspired by the release of the iPad in 2010. While her daughters, aged one and three, were obsessed with the device, there was a noticeable lack of content designed for them. Noemie decided to solve the problem by creating a children’s app development company. Budge Studios now has a user base of more than 100 million children worldwide, and partnerships with Nickelodeon, Disney, Mattel, Warner, Ludorum, DHX Media, Crayola, Sony and Iconix.

“At the beginning I was shy and modest, and I thought it was better to have “realistic” dreams. I’ve learned that dreaming big sets you up for bigger achievements.”

Lisa Jacuniak
Co-Owner, Paris Crane Inspection
FINALIST

After a demanding career in the oil and gas industry, Lisa co-founded Paris Crane Inspection Services with her brother-in-law, Richard, and found her true calling as an entrepreneur. With Lisa’s business and finance background combined with Richard’s 25 years of crane and hoist experience, she knew they had a winning business model—and she was right. Lisa humbly credits her success to their team, growing from ten customers in the middle of the 2009 recession to over 500 customers to date, and a recent expansion into Nunavut.

“Build your plan, and work your plan every day. Success will follow!”

 

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RBC MOMENTUM AWARD
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Allison Grafton
President & Co-Owner, Rockwood Custom Homes
WINNER

Allison left her high-profile career in the world of investment banking to follow her passion of home building and design. After renovating over a dozen luxury homes in her “spare” time, Allison witnessed first hand the lack of business sophistication and customer care of other builders. She started Rockwood Custom Homes with a mere $5,000 investment, and capitalized on her solid financial and design expertise to give her company a competitive edge in Calgary’s luxury development market.

Q: What is your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

A: Follow your instinct. As an entrepreneur, I’ve always trusted my gut when making important decisions. It’s the times I haven’t that I erred. Also, expect to work tirelessly. It is the reality of entrepreneurship. For the first few years, you will be working around the clock to make your business succeed. Love it. Embrace it. Know that you are doing this to ensure your future success.

“Constantly evolving and improving the processes of your company across all areas—finance, accounting, operations, customer service—is the key to growth.”

Mene Conley
President & Owner, Mom’s Group of Companies
FINALIST

Mene’s original goal was to simply survive and be self-employed. Currently owning four incorporated (and successful) companies, it’s safe to say she’s surpassed her original aspirations. Mene purchased her first restaurant, a business that had previously gone bankrupt, in 1979 and from there grew her love of entrepreneurship. Mene’s most successful company to date is Mom’s Place Limited, which has survived and profited for 36 years through recessions, high interest payments, and the changing economy. Mene credits her success to education, perseverance, and hard work—values she inherited from her mother.

“Believe emphatically in yourself and your ability to make your vision a successful reality. Do it with passion, determination, and perseverance. The world is waiting for you to make a difference!”

 

Shastri Ramnath
President & Principal Geologist, Orix Geoscience
FINALIST

Shastri combined her passion for geology and creative thinking to develop a boutique geoscientific service to the mining and exploration sector. Her company, Orix Geoscience, has truly filled a gap in the marketplace by combining established manual methods of geological interpretation with newer 2D and 3D visualization methods. Under Shastri’s influence, Orix Geoscience has successfully expanded their service base to include field management of drilling and mapping programs, scanning of historical datasets, and the development of new software programs. Shastri is proud to note their workforce is primarily women, and the young, entrepreneurial culture within her team has set the company up for long-term success.

“Life is short, being an entrepreneur is incredibly demanding, and it’s a lot easier to invest your heart, soul, and financial future when you’re doing so in the company of people you respect and enjoy.”

 

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TPH CHARITABLE GIVING AWARD
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Marcia Nozick
Founder & CEO, Eastside Movement for Business and Economic Renewal Society (EMBERS)
WINNER

EMBERS (Eastside Movement for Business and Economic Renewal Society) was sparked from a conversation Marcia had with a resident of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside who struggled on and off with alcoholism. The biggest problem in this disadvantaged neighbourhood? Employment. Marcia started EMBERS Staffing Solutions to focus on finding jobs for people coming out of addiction, recovery, and prison who were sober and struggling to find employment due to their past. EMBERS has successfully supported hundreds of people who are eager to get back to work.

Q: What do you wish you knew at the beginning?

A: When you’re starting from scratch, you need to take time to build the right team. Find people who are equally driven by your purpose but bring different skills, talents, and expertise to the table.

“Whether you call it your purpose, your “why,” or your passion, don’t lose sight of what drives you and your business. When the going gets tough, your passion and purpose will be a source of strength that reminds you it’s all worth it.”

 

Sharon Wood
President & CEO, Kids Help Phone
FINALIST

While holding titles like CEO of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and Director of the Trillium Foundation is impressive, Sharon’s work as President and CEO of Kids Help Phone is important beyond measure, for the unique need the organization fills. Kids Help Phone is Canada’s only national helpline for kids, and under Sharon’s guidance, now a global knowledge-leader in youth mental health and well-being. Kids Help Phone not only helps youth across Canada, it is continually increasing its ability to reach youth by incorporating new means of communications, including message-based services and Live Chat, projects made possible under Sharon’s fresh take on leadership.

“Don’t be afraid of failure. Failure isn’t the end. It’s the starting point for the next idea, the next improvement, the next chance to think, plan, and implement differently by incorporating your lived experience.”

 

Millie Colbourne
CEO, Breton Ability Centre
FINALIST

Millie leads by example. As a caring and compassionate individual, it’s only natural she became CEO of Breton Ability Centre, an organization that provides support for those living with disabilities. Since 2012, when Millie jumped from senior administrator to CEO, her focus was to guide the transformation of Breton Ability Centre from a medical model to a social model, allowing individuals residing at their Centre to live socially inclusive lives. She’s accomplished that and more. The company is now recognized as a leader in service to persons with significant disabilities, including autism and other behavioural disorders, an accomplishment that inspires her to passionately pursue her journey.

“Confidence and self-esteem and knowing your value are important so you never sell yourself short.”

 

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TELUS TRAILBLAZER AWARD
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Janice Larocque
President, Spirit Staffing and Consulting Inc.
WINNER

Janice set out to bridge the gap between corporate Alberta and Indigenous people. As a manager at an Aboriginal Employment and Career Centre, Janice was alarmed by the challenges professional Aboriginals were faced with when applying for corporate positions. Janice founded Spirit Staffing, an Aboriginal-Women owned employment and training agency to help solve the issue. Spirit Staffing proudly employs 65 Aboriginal contractors and has placed over 1,000 professional Aboriginals in lucrative careers. Spirit Staffing helps small to large international companies achieve their diversity hiring initiatives and recruit top talent to assist their team.
Q: What do you wish you knew at the beginning?

A: “Life balance is necessary for success. As a single parent, I learned this the hard way while launching my company and going to school. My daughter pushed me to create balance in a chaotic world, which I still practice every day.”

“It is important to understand your strengths and weaknesses. Fill those gaps with positive people who believe in your vision and will help you excel your business.”

 

Aneela Zaib
CEO & Founder, emergiTEL
FINALIST

With experience in the IT and telecom industry, Aneela saw firsthand the struggle tech employers had trying to find skilled employees. emergiTEL’s multifaceted approach to recruitment allows for highly accurate placements and ultimately, a better outcome for the employer and the employee. emergtiTEL’s model ensures the company stays current with industry trends, allowing them to truly excel in the world of tech. While Aneela started emergiTEL from her basement in 2006, by 2009 she was already named one of seven preferred staffing suppliers for Telus and by 2011, chosen as Rogers preferred staffing partner.

“If you have an idea for the world to see, then put it out there and move forward. You have nothing to lose, because losing only comes from not trying at all.”

 

Judith Bobbitt
President, Oceans Ltd.
FINALIST

When Judith realized government departments and universities traditionally carried out ocean research for offshore users, failing to meet the requirements of the private marine sector, she set out to capitalize on this gap in the marketplace. Oceans Ltd. is an ocean research and tech company that provides marine weather forecasting, physical oceanography, environmental studies, iceberg profiling, and fish health assessment. The company’s combined expertise of physical oceanographers and meteorologists has led to several technological advancements, including 3-D iceberg displays in near real-time and highly advanced biomedical research using extracts of bioactivity in cold-water seaweeds. After 34 years in business, Oceans Ltd. continues to disrupt the private marine sector—for the better.

“Evaluate the importance of your idea with respect to the goals you want to achieve.”

 

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PROFIT EXCELLENCE IN ENTREPRENEURSHIP AWARD
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Ann Kaplan
CEO & President, iFinance Canada Inc.
WINNER

Coming from a family of medical doctors, Ann was well aware of the demand to finance medical procedures not covered by public healthcare. Ann started iFinance Canada in 1996, providing loans to Canadians for medical, dental, veterinary, and more recently, home improvement and payday lending. Starting her company by personally knocking on doctor’s doors to register them for the program, Ann’s hard work paid off. Nineteen years later, iFinance Canada has processed nearly $1 billion in loan applications and 10,000 medical clinics offer iFinance’s patient financing options (under the company’s original name, Medicard.)

Q: How have you overcome your biggest obstacle?

A: My biggest obstacle was finding the balance between family and work. I never stopped to say either was impossible, but life kept happening and raising eight children while trying to build and expand a corporation was extremely challenging. Perhaps having so many challenges on my plate (as all working mothers do) helped me to become extremely organized, intuitive, and focused.

“Think big. If you are going for it, there is no limit.”

 


Ashley Rice
President, Techni-Craft Equipment Services Ltd.
FINALIST

Ashley and her husband started their commercial refrigeration business with one truck on the road and a small home office. Today, they have fifteen trucks on the road and their own building. Ashley has continually won large accounts with multiple national companies, including 7-11, Starbucks, Mac’s Stores, and Husky Energy sites, which have been awarded through their exceptional customer service and extended offerings. To support a changing marketplace, Ashley has morphed Techni-Craft from a refrigeration company into a full-fledged facilities management company, allowing it to become a one-stop shop for any convenience store in Alberta and Saskatchewan, with plans to expand into the rest of Canada.

“Just do it. Don’t over complicate things and don’t sweat the details, just continue to move forward and you will find that many of those things will fall into place as you go.”

 

Dolores Richardson
President, At Pac Auto Parts Inc.
FINALIST

After working in administration at her father’s auto body shop, Dolores was determined to lower the cost of aftermarket automotive replacement parts. In true entrepreneur fashion, she recognized the business opportunity and became a licensed automobile appraiser, the first woman in Quebec to hold the title. Dolores, alongside her father, created At Pac Auto Body Parts, a manufacturer and distributor of auto parts. Starting with a 6,000 square foot warehouse with 100 SKUs, they now have three warehouses with over 100,000 square feet and 28,000 SKU’s. A woman of many firsts, Dolores was also the first woman elected to serve as an executive board member on the Automotive Body Parts Association in the United States.

“Being a woman in a male dominated industry was an obstacle that I overcame with the unconditional support of my family and my constant drive to further my knowledge of the automotive industry.”

 

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MICRO BUSINESS AWARD
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Sharon Vinderine
Founder & CEO, PTPA Media Inc.
WINNER

Parent Tested Parent Approved (PPTA) isn’t Sharon’s first entrepreneurial venture. As an inventor of a baby product, Sharon realized the importance of having credible reviews (and approvals) from other parents and peers, and so set about creating a trustworthy rating system. With no credibility at the outset, PTPA is now one of the top three most recognized seals of approval in the US, and has an impressive community of over 70,000 families and over 42,000 authentic product reviews. Sharon was even approached by Disney (who acquired her biggest competitor) to purchase remaining assets after Sharon drastically impacted their market share after three years.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

A: “Never stop innovating. If you get too comfortable with the status quo, you provide your competition the opportunity to catch up to you or even exceed you.”

“I learned that I could be a risk taker while simultaneously being anxious and fearful of what the next day might bring.”

 

Andrea Heilemann
Owner, International Business Services Ltd.
FINALIST

Coming from a background in finance and economics, Andrea credits her company’s success to the goals she set in the beginning: credit rating, liquidity, and internal financing. Focusing on the distribution of high-end industrial tools in Canada and the US, the company has proudly earned the trust of three major innovative manufacturers in Germany—allowing them to be a leader in the North American marketplace.

“Don’t lose faith in the plan when the going is slow at first.”

 

Connie Parsons
Director, Connie Parsons School of Dance Ltd.
FINALIST

At 21 years old, Connie purchased her previous dance instructor’s company and began Connie Parsons School of Dance. Beginning with 85 students, in three years Connie tripled enrolment and moved into a bigger space. She then opened a second company, The Dance Spectrum Inc., purchasing a second dance studio and diversifying class offerings and genres. Not only are the students and parents happy—the company’s financials are in check, too.

“Don’t focus on the money, focus on doing your absolute best. Success follows hard work.”

 


A version of this appears in print in our Spring 2016 Women of Influence Magazine, Pages 34-42. 


Do You Know an Extraordinary Female Entrepreneur?

International Women’s Day is an important day at Women of Influence. Not only do we get a chance to celebrate how far we’ve come historically in gender equality and advancement—we get to reflect on what else we can do to improve the landscape.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we are launching the call for nominations for the 2016 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards. Now in our 24th year, these awards provide national recognition to Canada’s most accomplished and impactful women entrepreneurs, whose successful businesses and influence contribute so much to the local, national, and global economy.

“Helping women entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses is an important focus for RBC, which is why we’re proud to partner with Women of Influence to launch the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards again this year,” said Jennifer Tory, Group Head, Personal & Commercial Banking, RBC. “Canada’s future economic development and prosperity depends on the encouragement and cultivation of entrepreneurs and we’re committed to ensuring that women have the resources they need to play an active role in that future.”

To date, over 20,000 women from their early twenties to their mid-eighties, from every sector of the economy, have been nominated for these awards. Over 120 Awards have been presented for outstanding entrepreneurial achievement. The following awards are presented: Micro-Business Award, Deloitte Start-Up Award, RBC Momentum Award, Social Change Award, TELUS Trailblazer Award, and the PROFIT Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship.

The potential boost to economic activity by tapping into the entrepreneurial spirit of women is significant and could sustain women as a source of economic growth in Canada for decades to come.

“The innovation, passion and determination of women entrepreneurs both deserves and needs to be recognized and celebrated,” said Alicia Skalin, Co-CEO, Head of Events and Programming, Women of Influence, “Not only are they contributing greatly to the economy and impacting their communities, they also serve as role models to other aspiring female business owners. They are proof that dreams are achievable.”

We are so thrilled to launch such an important announcement on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2016.

To nominate, please go to www.womenofinfluence.ca/rbc-cwea.


 

Click here read the official Press Release in French.

Click here to read the official Press Release in English.

Advice from the TPH Charitable Giving Award Finalists: RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards

The TPH Charitable Giving Award celebrates an exceptional leader of a not-for-profit or charitable organization that is dedicated to helping others help themselves. These leaders assist in social change and improving the quality of lives around us, not to mention garnering extraordinary support from the community by championing philanthropy and volunteerism in Canada. We asked their best advice for other entrepreneurs.

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Advice from the Telus Trailblazer Award Finalists: RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards

The Telus Trailblazer Award honours an entrepreneur that is a true trendsetter. She has recognized a new market, product, service, technological advancement, or opportunity and has bravely led the way. She has demonstrated outstanding leadership within her company and market, and has set standards for originality, quality and successful management. Theses entrepreneurs are mentors, visionaries, leaders, and successful businesswomen of their industry. We asked them what advice they would you give to another entrepreneur facing uncertainty about their own trailblazing idea.

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Advice from the RBC Momentum Award Finalists: RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards

These successful entrepreneurs have successfully overcome obstacles, capitalized on opportunities to deliver 10% growth or more, and have done so for more than three years. Through their expanded management, empowered employees, and demonstrated excellence, these entrepreneurs have created a flexible and responsive business that is able to adapt to changing market environments and leverage opportunities for continued growth.

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Advice from the Profit Award Finalists: RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards

Through timely innovation, strategic thinking, and smart execution, these three finalists have launched—and built one (or more!) successful companies with a track record of growth, profitability, industry leadership, as well as breaking new ground. Through their drive, managerial acumen, and leadership traits, they have have generated exceptional economic growth and social change. We asked their best advice for other entrepreneurs.

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Advice from the Micro-Business Award Finalists: RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards

The Micro-Business Award proves that small businesses can still have great impact and contribute to innovation in Canada. This award category honours small businesses generating annual revenues under $1 million (with a steady growth rate) in any industry and at any stage of business.

 

We’ve asked their best advice for other entrepreneurs:

 

 

Andrea Heilemann, Owner, International Business Services Ltd.

Coming from a background in finance and economics, Andrea credits her company’s success to the goals she set in the beginning: credit rating, liquidity, and internal financing. Focusing on the distribution of high-end industrial tools in Canada and the US, the company has proudly earned the trust of three major innovative manufacturers in Germany—allowing them to be a leader in the North American marketplace.

Q: What did you learn in your first year of business? 

A: To pay close attention to customer’s needs, to not lose faith in the plan and goals when the going is slow at first, and to not undervalue and undersell to achieve higher would-be revenues.

 

 

 

 

 

Sharon Vinderine, CEO, Parent Tested Parent Approved

Parent Tested Parent Approved (PTPA) isn’t Sharon’s first entrepreneurial venture. As an inventor of a baby product, Sharon realized the importance of having a credible product that has been reviewed (and approved) by other parents and peers, thus creating a trustworthy rating system. With no credibility at the outset, PTPA is now one of the top three most recognized seals of approval in the US, and has an impressive community of over 70,000 families and over 42,000 authentic product reviews. Sharon was even approached by Disney (who acquired her biggest competitor) to purchase remaining assets after Sharon drastically impacted their market share after three years.

Q: What is the one piece of advice you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs? 

A: Never stop innovating. If you get too comfortable with the status quo, you provide your competition the opportunity to catch up to you or even exceed you. 

 

 

 

Connie Parsons, Director, School of Dance Ltd.

At 21 years old, Connie purchased her previous dance instructor’s company and began Connie Parsons School of Dance. The company began with 85 students, and in only three years, she tripled enrolment and moved into a bigger space. On top of that, Connie opened a second company, The Dance Spectrum Inc., purchased a second dance studio, and diversified class offerings and genres. Not only are the students and parents happy—the company’s financials are in check, too.

Q: What did you learn in your first year of business? 

A: You need to be willing to put in an enormous amount of personal time and effort. In the beginning, I was the owner, the teacher, the manager, the director, the bookkeeper, and the advertiser. I had to learn to delegate, seek good people, and build a strong team. Success takes patience, perseverance, and a real passion for what you do!

 

 

 

 

 


 

The collective impact of our country’s female entrepreneurs cannot be overstated. The RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards is the premier national awards program celebrating the achievements of the most successful in this inspiring group. Now in its 23rd year, over 120 women have been recognized for demonstrating excellence—from economic growth to social change, from local to global reach, across multiple sectors. We’re honoured to shine a spotlight on them.

 

 


Advice from the Deloitte Start-Up Finalists: RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards

The Deloitte Start-Up Award celebrates the achievements of a woman who, in three to five years, has developed her business into one that’s ready for the next level of growth. Since starting out, these three finalists have been successful in building a profitable business with a comprehensive and sustainable plan.

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