2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award Winners

We are proud to announce the six winners of the 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards. These award winners join the five recipients of the up-and-coming entrepreneur ‘Ones to Watch’ award category, which was announced in September 2020.

These winners are shining examples of the perseverance, ingenuity and grit it takes to be an outstanding entrepreneur. They have demonstrated that despite the challenges that have existed this year, the entrepreneurial spirit continues to thrive in Canada. This year’s winners and recipients span sectors that include healthcare services, engineering, beauty, technology, hospitality  and beyond.

“We’re honoured to celebrate the achievements of Canadian women entrepreneurs who have been critical to the success of our Canadian business community and economic growth,” says Greg Grice, Executive Vice President, Business Financial Services, RBC. “RBC is proud to partner with Women of Influence to put a spotlight on all of this year’s winners and finalists who have made tremendous contributions to their industries and communities through their work. Their leadership, commitment and entrepreneurial spirit serve as an inspiration for the next generation of Canadian entrepreneurs as they pursue their aspirations to be part of a resilient and thriving economy.”

Now in its 28th year, the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards program recognizes the country’s leading female entrepreneurs who have made impressive and substantial contributions to the local, Canadian or global economy. The judging panel of the awards program is comprised of 14 judges who are notably some of Canada’s top business leaders, including: Karen Brookman, Partner and Chief Innovation Office West Canadian Digital Imaging; Farah Mohamed, Senior Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, Policy & Public Affairs, Toronto Region Board of Trade, Elizabeth Dipchand, Intellectual Property Lawyer, Dipchand LLP and Paulette Senior, President & CEO, Canadian Women’s Foundation.

The official announcement of the 2020 award winners was made at the first ever virtual RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards gala that took attendees on a cross-country tour to discover the Canadian cities and towns where innovation is taking place. It was held on November 18th and hosted by Marcia MacMillan, Anchor, CTV News Channel.

This year, over 8,600 nominations were received recognizing women entrepreneurs from across the country.

The Gala also honoured the recipients of the Ones to Watch Award: Eno Eka, Eny Consulting Inc.; Jenn Harper, Cheekbone Beauty Cosmetics Inc.; Nadine Chalati, Chalati Lawyer Inc.; Rogayeh Tabrizi, Theory+Practice and Suzie Yorke, Love Good Fats.

“Now more than ever before, we are honoured to be able to recognize the incredible achievements and perseverance of this year’s award recipients,” says Alicia Skalin, Co-CEO & Head of Events, Women of Influence. “These women have faced the challenges of 2020 head-on, and seized the opportunities to continue to pave the way for women entrepreneurs across Canada; a strong testament to the bright future of Canadian business.” 

For more information on this year’s award winners, visit our RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards webpage

Meet Desirée Bombenon, CEO of SureCall and 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards RBC Momentum Recipient

Desiree Bombenon

With more than 30 years of experience in business and strategic leadership, Desirée is the CEO & Chief Disruption Officer at SureCall. Under her leadership, SureCall has been recognized for numerous industry awards for service excellence, ethics, and integrity. With an impact-driven vision, Desirée pivoted her company into becoming a Certified Benefits corporation (B Corp) in April of 2019. Her success was recognized with a 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award in the RBC Momentum category.

My first job ever was… working in a doughnut shop; I was allowed to eat as many doughnuts as I wanted, but it came off my pay and unfortunately most times I ate my pay cheque away!

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I realized that I had some very creative ideas and dreams, and I was willing to work hard to make them happen. I also enjoy helping others reach their goals and being an entrepreneur allows me to do that in a very meaningful way.

My proudest accomplishment is… being able to pivot my company to a purpose driven entity with full buy-in from my partner and team. This enabled me to create the Hero Girls program educating girls in underserved and developing communities. We have touched thousands of lives in many communities through scholarships, micro loans, and direct support. It’s been my life-long goal to bridge the gender gap through equitable education for all people. 

My biggest setback was… getting lupus at the young age of 30; I was incapacitated for nearly a year and many things were put on hold as I learned to deal with this autoimmune disease. 

I overcame it by… having a very supportive family and team at work. I started a regular health and fitness regime, watch what I eat and stay out of the sun to avoid flare ups. Giving up some of my favorite things seems inconsequential when your health is at stake and people are depending on you.

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that I was an air force cadet when I was younger, and I have jumped out of a plane! 

When starting my business, I wish I knew… that no matter what, the sun will still shine the next day so get on with life and don’t sweat the small stuff. I spent too many sleepless nights worrying instead of keeping my eye on the big picture; I had to learn to just trust my instincts and believe. 

My best advice for people looking to grow their business is… don’t hold back. Take some risks because nobody ever grew a business without taking risks. It may not always work out and in fact you will fail along the way, but there are necessary lessons that come with failure necessary to grow your business, and more importantly to grow your leadership skills. 

A great leader is… someone who knows that their job is to create more great leaders to support and nurture others to success, and to give back selflessly to their communities. A great leader always sees a bigger purpose behind everything they do.  

The future excites me because… I still feel like it can be designed and that we are really starting to see the beginning of a cultural intelligence renaissance like we have never seen in our lifetime. I have great faith in future generations, the glimmer of a world that is peaceful and equal is on the horizon. 

Success to me means… being responsible for my own happiness and speaking my truth. It also means making a meaningful difference in the lives of others through good work, a bigger purpose, and leading with love. 

Meet Saba Chishti, Co-Founder of Choice Health Centre and 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards, Momentum Finalist

Saba Chishti is a physiotherapist and co-owner of Choice Health Centre, where she works collaboratively with her team to provide high-quality and smooth care to her clients. Whether as a young athlete or a business owner, Saba has always understood the important role of physiotherapy in the overall health and ability of a person to achieve their goals in their day-to-day life, which ultimately led her to co-founding her own health centre. 

My first job ever was… working at the farmers market with my father selling food that we prepared the night before 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I love change and I love to solve problems becoming a business owner presented me with the opportunity to play to my strengths and present me with daily challenges while fulfilling a need within the community.

My proudest accomplishment is… how quickly I was able to help grow Choice Health Centre; creating 20 new jobs in the last 5 years has been a great sense of pride and accomplishment for me. 

My biggest setback was… HR. Growing a team that fast did present challenges on how to ensure regular communication and how to continue with the values we set out for the company.

I overcame it by… getting proper coaching. Learning how to manage a team of 20 was essential to our continued success. 

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that in the Grade 9 production of Alice in Wonderland I played Alice, and though that I might grow up to be an actor. 

When starting my business, I wish I knew… how important it is to delegate to those who are better at the things you are weak in and who are likely more enthusiastic about that type of work than you. Once I started to do this, I found the quality of work was higher and my time was freed up to do what I do best grow the business. 

My best advice for people looking to grow their business is… to hire the right people, don’t just fill a role as needed. The right people in the right roles will be dedicated to your business, take pride in their work, understand your values and goals and help you achieve them. That is the fastest way to grow. 

A great leader is… someone who is open to being vulnerable, and has a willingness to learn and constantly improve themselves to better serve others. 

The future excites me because… of the unknown. Even when you have a strategic plan in place how that will exactly play out is unknown and the future is filled with all sorts of possibilities. COVID is a great example of how you have to navigate the times and can learn so much while doing so, opening new opportunities. Success to me means… a life of fulfillment. What fulfills someone is very unique, it can be family, money, experiences, however it is important to know what fulfillment means to you and to work towards attaining that.

Meet Dr. Erin Kempt, Co-Founder of Choice Health Centre and 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards RBC Momentum Finalist

Dr. Erin Kempt-Sutherland is a Doctor of Chiropractic and co-owner of Choice Health Centre. As a young competitive gymnast, chiropractic helped Erin overcome various injuries and provided her with wellness and performance care to attain optimal health and perform at her best. Erin co-founded Choice Health Centre in 2009 after having worked in various multidisciplinary clinics in Ontario and Nova Scotia since she graduated from university in 2004. 

My first job ever was… raking wild blueberries in rural Nova Scotia. I was 12 years old, and it was the only job I could get (other than babysitting) at that age. A school bus came to pick me up at my house at 6 am and dropped me back off at 5pm. The rate was something like 50 cents an 8L bucket. I was tough but I was very, very small — probably 80 lbs and 4 foot nothing. I think I lasted 2 days and only made $10 for those two full days! 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I have a creative side that needed to be fed. Before going into chiropractic school, I chose the profession because I knew it would fulfill both my love of science and need to help people, as well as put me on the cutting-edge of health care. I also knew it was one of the only health care professions where there were no salaried positions (at that time), and everyone made their own opportunities through hard work and creativity. This spoke to me from a very young age, and as an 8-year-old I actually began envisioning my future health care clinic as a beautiful space for healing, wellness and innovation. 

My proudest accomplishment is… being able to prove myself that you can have a successful career and a successful personal life. My generation of little girls were raised to believe that we could “have it all” but as we grew into young adults, this societal message changed and reality was forcing many to choose between career and family. I will never forget the high school philosophy teacher who lectured, “you can’t have the BMW and the kids” — which was the first time I’d heard that message — and it shocked me into making decisions for years to come that ultimately led me to the work-life balance I enjoy today. 

My biggest setback was… probably this year, with Covid-19 forcing us to shut down our clinics, including our newly expanded clinic, which was a considerable risk even in pre-covid times. I overcame it together with my partner and team by setting a calm and focussed precedence, working diligently each day to brainstorm ways to keep Choice top of mind for our clients, and working on developing new business — such as an online shop and virtual assessments and treatments — to keep the company alive. As business leaders we attended webinars about leading a team through this crisis. We worked harder than ever to ensure our success. 

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I grew up sailing and living abroad aboard my family’s sailboat in the summers. This is not the bliss you may picture — our engine caught fire in the middle of the English Channel, and we were in an unexpected gale on the North Sea!   Through this form of travel, I was exposed to different cultures, adventure and danger. As an older teen, I worked as crew for 2 years on Bluenose II, representing our country through sailing internationally, an amazing experience that also put me in a few dangerous situations that altered my perspective on life to this day. 

When starting my business, I wish I knew… how much of an impact I could make on others’ lives and the growth I was capable of creating in the business so I would have been more confident and taken more risk in the early years. I would have followed my intuition, started Choice sooner after graduation, began as a bigger clinic, and grown the company at a more aggressive rate in those first few years.   

My best advice for people looking to grow their business is… “it isn’t what — it’s who.” You need to focus on and ultimately find that right person who can bring your business to the next level. A new piece of technology will not help you if you do not have the right people administering it. Similarly, the right partner, assistant or consultant will bring you to the next level by fulfilling a skillset that you struggle with, allowing you to focus on putting your unique abilities to work.   

A great leader is… someone who makes a positive impact, however seemingly insignificant on each person they interact with throughout their day. Great leaders are excellent listeners, empathetic, intuitive and act with integrity. A leader is passionate about her cause, unwavering in her purpose and someone whose actions lead to outcomes extending far beyond herself. 

The future excites me because… it is just so darn bright! It is a very exciting time in history to be a chiropractor in Canada. I am grateful to now have the tribe behind me that I need to support Choice’s future growth and my own personal and professional growth. I am excited to witness Choice’s mission unfold — that of changing the face of health care, one successful patient outcome at a time.

Success to me means… accomplishing your goals without losing yourself or any of the relationships you care about in the process. Success is being able to look back on your actions from that place of accomplishment with confidence that you acted with authenticity and integrity throughout the process.

Meet Kristi Herold, Founder of Sport & Social Group and 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards RBC Momentum Finalist

Kristi Herold is a natural born entrepreneur whose passion for business and helping others led to the establishment of Sport & Social Group (SGG), an organization that helps people stay active, make friends, and build meaningful connections. With 45 full-time and over 250 part-time employees, the SSG now has over 130,000 participants playing sports annually.

My first job ever was… finding used golf balls at the golf course across the street from my house. I would find them in the woods, the ditch or in the pond I would wade around barefoot and pick them up with my toes then clean them off and sell them to the golfers at the second tee. 

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… my Dad was an entrepreneur who made family and lifestyle a priority. He was always home for family meals, he would watch me compete in sports and come to school events even midday as he was in charge of his own schedule. He ingrained a strong desire within me to be responsible for my own destiny and I aspired to create a similar lifestyle for myself. 

My proudest accomplishment is… when in 2018 the Sport & Social Club had it’s 100,000th team sign up to play in our leagues. Hitting this mark meant the organization I had started in 1996 had positively impacted the lives of over 1.3 million participants. This was an exciting accomplishment knowing we are impacting the physical and mental health of so many individuals in such a positive way. 

My biggest setback was… COVID-19. Over the last 3.5 years, we have completed 8 acquisitions, working to diversify our business across Canada and the US. In early March 2020 we were working on 2 significant sized acquisitions, that would have doubled the size of our organization when the pandemic hit. Due to the nature of our business we were hit extremely hard. The next 12-18 months will be challenging, but we will rebuild. 

I overcame it by…  taking swift action and cutting all costs possible, most painfully, the immediate layoffs of 26 of my staff all back once the wage subsidy was announced. We stayed true to our purpose of ‘connecting people through play’ and pivoted to start a new revenue stream, offering fun remote events for corporations. While we have not fully ‘overcome’ the effect of COVID-19 on our business, after 24 years of running a profitable business, I know we will rebuild. 

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know…  that laughing and spending time with people who make me laugh is my favourite pastime. I have a passion for family, travel and adventure. I learned how to play guitar in my 40s. I had a secret childhood dream to act on Broadway – instead I helped start a community musical theatre troupe for adults. I’ve helped produce and perform in 11 musical theatre productions and raised over half a million dollars for charity in the process. 

When starting my business, I wish I knew…  that a successful entrepreneur is best to not complain about problems, as business is the definition of problems. Better to recognize that the people who do best in business are not the ones with the least problems but rather those that have the most fun solving the problems in the most creative way with the best people. 

My best advice for people looking to grow their business is… remember you cannot manage what you cannot measure. Focusing on topline revenue growth is important however it is important to do so smartly a great key metric to keep a pulse on is revenue/employee. Further, word of mouth will always be the best form of advertising, so do your best to treat customers like gold. 

A great leader is… someone who has a ‘never give up’ attitude – when at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. A great leader is not afraid to make mistakes and own them. As humans we learn the most from our mistakes. Great leaders set the example that we are better to try and fail than to not try at all, as long as we learn from our trials going forward. 

The future excites me because… I believe that people need human connection and people need to play. While the COVID-19 pandemic has created a huge setback for my organization, after 24 years of running a profitable business, I’m confident that we will rebuild! I believe we have a strong team and I am excited to one day be able to say the Sport & Social Group is getting one million people off the couch and playing annually! 

Success to me means…  loving what I do so much that I’m excited to get up every day and get at it! I am incredibly grateful that my work is connecting people through play and reminding everyone of George Bernard Shaw’s famous quote, “We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” Success to me means leaving a legacy that has positively impacted millions of people’s physical and mental health.

How Janet LePage built a $2.5 billion real estate empire in six years.

By Karen van Kampen

 

The night before Janet LePage was set to return to work after maternity leave, she sat on the floor of her daughter’s room and cried. She had a tough decision to make, one that would change the course of her life. Should she leave a good pension and steady paycheque to follow her passion and make a career out of investing in real estate? 

“I would be leaving everything,” she says. “It was terrifying.” The next morning, Janet quit her job and never went back to the corporate world. 

Six years later, Janet has built Western Wealth Capital into a global equity platform for real estate investment. With more than $2.5 billion in transaction value, the Vancouver-based company is the eighth largest private foreign buyer in U.S. multi-family real estate. As CEO and co-founder, Janet has garnered national recognition and accolades, including the 2019 RBC Momentum Award — a category of the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards that honours an entrepreneur who has created a responsive business that can adapt to changing market environments and leverage opportunities for continued growth.  

When people ask Janet how she built her award-winning business, she’s open about the challenges. A new business isn’t profitable on day one, says Janet. This often means staying at your full-time job while building your next career in the evening and on the weekend, which Janet did for five years. “You work two jobs. My day job was from seven to five and then my next job started,” she says. “You don’t get a free ride becoming an entrepreneur.”  

The journey began in 2008, when Janet hired a coach to learn about the real estate industry. She then bought two single-family homes in Phoenix, Arizona. A year later, Janet devised a business plan to flip houses in Phoenix. But she needed $10,000 to get her idea off the ground. She presented the plan to her dad and he said, “if you beat me at crib, I’ll lend you ten grand at 18 per cent interest.” 

Over the next two years, Janet bought 58 Phoenix properties at auction, fixed them up and quickly sold the turnkey properties at the same price as neighbouring foreclosed houses. In 2011, Janet says the margins were becoming too thin. So she shifted her investment strategy and bought her first apartment building at auction, a 23-unit property near the University of Arizona. A year later, Janet purchased a 200-unit building in Phoenix. The $5-million cash close was the deal that propelled her career in real estate investment.  

With two young children, Janet knew that she had to choose between real estate and her full-time position as a senior marketing manager at a major North American construction company. “I was terrified that my children would derail my career, and they did the exact opposite,” she says. “They were hands down the best thing that ever happened in my success because they forced me to choose.” 

With her experience investing in real estate as well as some savings in the bank, Janet says she took a “calculated risk” and launched her business with partner David Steele. 

 

“You have to break every norm you thought possible of what a mother or a woman should be, you cannot fit a norm and be powerful. They don’t co-exist.” 

 

Her eight years in the corporate world “was a grooming on how business works,” says Janet, and her hands-on experience with corporate structure and controls provided a solid foundation to build her business. Western Wealth has created a strategy in which repeatability enables scalability. Once a property is purchased, a series of uniform interior and exterior upgrades are made. Keeping to the same colour palette and fixtures tightens the timeline for renovations and speeds up the process of listing units on the rental market. This creates wealth and reduces risk for investors. 

“There’s also probably some mom card being played throughout how this company was built,” says Janet. Property upgrades include lighting in parking lots to create a safe environment for women, and umbrellas at playgrounds offer a shaded place for kids to play. Every time a $600 washer/dryer is installed in a unit, this increases the market value of a property by $10,000. These upgrades also improve the lives of residents. 

While Janet says she is in the business of creating wealth for her investment partners, she adds, “you can create more wealth by doing good. That was the big ah-ha.” Generally speaking, the primary goal in real estate is to make money. Janet is working to change this outlook in her industry. “You can improve the lives of the people who work and live in your community while creating wealth,” she says. “It’s not an either/or.” 

Satisfied employees work harder and happy residents aren’t compelled to move. The less turnover, the less money it costs to operate a property. To date, Western Wealth Capital has acquired over 16,500 apartment units in Arizona, Texas and Georgia. The company employs 40 staff across its Vancouver and Tempe headquarters, 50 in-house property management and 400 employees across its third-party-managed properties. 

One day Janet was visiting a Phoenix property and noticed that many of the children boarded their school bus without backpacks. When the kids returned home that day, there were backpacks filled with school supplies waiting for them, and the “We’ve Got Your Back” program was born. Today, backpacks and school supplies are provided to all children living in Janet’s properties. 

With less than three per cent of women in executive roles in real estate investment companies, Janet often reflects on being a strong role model, especially for her kids. She talks to her daughter about finding success on her own terms. “You have to break every norm you thought possible of what a mother or a woman should be,” says Janet. “You cannot fit a norm and be powerful. They don’t co-exist.” 

Announcing the 2019 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award Winners

Last night we celebrated the 27th annual RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards, and today we are proud to announce the six winners of the 2019 awards. These award winners join the five recipients of the up-and-coming entrepreneur ‘Ones to Watch’ award category, which was announced in September of this year. This year’s winners and recipients span sectors that include finance, hospitality, technology, paralysis recovery, cannabis, packaging, fine spirits, and much more.

 

 


 

 

 

“Entrepreneurial trailblazers are defined by their relentless pursuit of innovation and excellence, and their perseverance and courage to challenge the status quo,” said Greg Grice, Executive Vice-President, Business Financial Services, RBC. “There are countless women entrepreneurs who have made their mark in Canadian business by exemplifying these qualities, and their journey serves as an inspiration to the next generation of entrepreneurs. Today, we’re proud to showcase and celebrate their stories and achievements as we recognize the winners of this year’s RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards.”

Now in its 27th year, the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards program recognizes the country’s leading female entrepreneurs who have made impressive and substantial contributions to the local, Canadian or global economy. The judging panel of the awards program is comprised of 12 judges who are notably some of Canada’s top business leaders, including: Françoise Lyon, President & Managing Partner,  DGC Capital; Karen Brookman, Partner and Chief Innovation Office West Canadian Digital Imaging;  Karen Greve Young, CEO Futurpreneur and Paulette Senior, President & CEO, Canadian Women’s Foundation.

The official announcement of the 2019 award recipients was made at the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards gala, which was held on November 20th and hosted by Marcia MacMillan, Anchor, CTV News Channel. 

Following yet another record-breaking year of over 9,000 nominations, the 2019 award winners are:

  • Kelly Ann Woods, Gillespie’s Fine Spirits Ltd, Boozewitch Beverage Company, Switch Beverage Co., Squamish, BC, Diversity Institute / Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub Micro-Business Award 
  • Jayne McCaw, Jayne’s Cottages, Port Carling, ON, Start-Up Award
  • Janet LePage, Western Wealth Capital, Vancouver, BC, RBC Momentum Award
  • Geetha Moorthy, SAAAC Autism Centre, Scarborough, ON, Social Change Award
  • Carinne Chambers-Saini, Diva International Inc., Kitchener, ON, TELUS Trailblazer Award
  • Brigitte Jalbert, Les Emballages Carrousel Inc., Boucherville, QC, Syntax Strategic Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award

The Gala also honoured the recipients of the Ones to Watch Award: Bean  Gill, ReYu Paralysis Recovery Centre; Melissa Kargiannakis, skritswap; Melinda Rombouts, Eve & Co Cannabis; Dr. Dina Kulik, Kidcrew and Lisa Ali Learning, AtlanTick Repellent Products Inc. 

“We are proud and honoured to recognize the incredible achievements of this year’s award recipients,” says Alicia Skalin, Co-CEO & Head of Events, Women of Influence. “As we embark on the start of a new decade in 2020, the success that has been achieved by this group of innovators and change makers is a strong testament to the bright future of Canadian business.” 

For more information on this year’s award winners, visit www.womenofinfluence.ca/rbc-cwea.

View the full press release in English or French for more information.

 

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.

 

 

How Marjorie Dixon is redefining the journey of fertility

 

Marjorie Dixon knew from a young age that she wanted to get into reproductive medicine. It was her experience running a cycle monitoring centre — and going through three rounds of IVF herself — that led her to open her own holistic clinic, Anova Fertility and Reproductive Health. A recent winner of the RBC Momentum Award, her business has been growing rapidly, and redefining caregiving in the fertility space.

 

By Karen van Kampen

 


 

In grade 10, sitting in the library of her Montreal high school, Dr. Marjorie Dixon stumbled upon an article that would change her life. It was a story celebrating the 10th anniversary of the first baby conceived through in vitro fertilization. A story of hope, possibility, and the future of reproductive medicine. “I thought, this is me. This is my life,” says Marjorie. “Still to this day, when I think about what I do, I’m astonished.”

Marjorie’s career is its own story of inspiration. She has made it her mission to offer equal access to fertility care, regardless of a person’s orientation, identity, geography or socioeconomic status. Her company, Anova Fertility and Reproductive Health, uses the most advanced technology and a holistic approach to patient care. She has created a Canadian business with a global reach — with patients as far as Japan, Australia and Qatar — and an impressive track record of growth.

Her success has not gone unnoticed. As owner and founder, Marjorie was the winner of the 2018 RBC Momentum Award, granted to an entrepreneur who has delivered 10% or more year-over-year growth for at least three years while creating a flexible, responsive business that adapts to a changing market.

While Marjorie didn’t set out to become an entrepreneur, she says she always wanted to be a reproductive specialist. As a little girl, Marjorie spent countless hours in her dad’s laboratory where he taught high school reproductive biology. “I’m an obsessive learner,” she says. “I love to learn.”

After graduating from McGill University’s School of Medicine, Marjorie did postgraduate training in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Toronto. She then pursued a subspecialty in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Vermont. During a gynecology internship at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Marjorie earned the nickname Gyne Spice for singing in the operating room.

As a fertility specialist at Sunnybrook (where she is still an active member of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology), Marjorie is known for belting out the tunes including Queen, Air Supply and Stevie Nicks. Marjorie also takes song requests from patients and has their favourite music playing when they wake up from anesthesia. And she gives women “fertility lucky socks” so their feet don’t get cold in the stirrups. One sock reads “hope trust” while the other reads “baby dust.”

Her thoughtful, patient-centric approach can partially be attributed to being a patient herself. After undergoing IVF three times, Marjorie knows first-hand how stressful the fertility journey can be. Her experience running a cycle monitoring centre also highlighted how the medical system was disjointed, with patients having to travel to a variety of fertility sites for different services. “Continuity of care is a critical thing,” says Marjorie, “particularly when you’re dealing with women’s health.”

 

“When you find your solid group of peeps, lean on them hard and use them. People say it takes a village. It totally takes a village.”

 

It was the start of her entrepreneurial journey. Marjorie envisioned patient-focused fertility care under one roof, delivered by the same team of care providers to create a calm, comforting environment, “because the journey of fertility can be disarming on the best of days and disenfranchising overall,” she says.

Marjorie was also determined to be a culturally conscious and sensitive provider so that everyone could identify with their caregivers. “The fertility journey is the ultimate equalizer,” she says. “If you look in our waiting room, we have people from all ethnicities and religious backgrounds, and they sit together with one thing in common: they just want a legacy of their own. A family of their own.”

In 2016, she opened Anova. Launching with nine staff, Marjorie had to learn how to manage her own practice. She hired an operations manager, set up an electronic medical records system and continuously set new goals and created new strategies to keep moving forward. Most importantly, she kept her thoughtful approach; for example, Marjorie gives each of her “baby graduates” a onesie that reads, “I’m so cool I used to be frozen. Made with a lotta love and a little science.”

She also relied on a solid business plan. “You can’t pull it out of the sky and say, I think this should work,” she says. Anova Fertility now has more than 80 employees, offering a range of services that include cycle monitoring, IVF, and diagnosis of menstrual disorders. There is also the Anova Integrative Wellness group of naturopathic doctors, massage therapists and acupuncturists.

The road to success “hasn’t been this Pollyanna-esque perfect path,” says Marjorie. To succeed, you need grit and determination — which she certainly has. (When Marjorie was a kid, her dad used to say, “If you want to get Marjorie to do something, tell her she can’t.”) And you need to recognize the demands of an entrepreneurial life, she adds. “You can’t have it all, but you can definitely design life the way you see best for you,” says Marjorie. “You can have a family and work and follow your passion and do great things. You just have to make a path. Nothing happens by accident.”

It’s also important to ignore the “propaganda,” warns Marjorie. “Your competitors will propagandize and deprogram some of your novel thoughts, and discourage as opposed to mentor and build you,” she says. “When you find your solid group of peeps, lean on them hard and use them. People say it takes a village. It totally takes a village.”

For Marjorie, it’s incredible to think that before she opened the doors to Anova Fertility, “there were no babies growing on the sixth floor at Yonge and Shepherd,” she says. “Now every day in their sweet way, little cells are dividing into people. It’s fantastic. It really is.”

 

 

 

2017 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur RBC Momentum Award Finalist: Kara Angus

 

Kara Angus

CEO, Go Go Group Inc.

RBC Momentum Award, EAST

Go-Go Group, launched by founder Kara Angus at just 22 years old, is made up of four divisions: Go-Go Gymnastics, Go-Go Events, Go-Go After School, and Go-Go Pre-School. From empowering and encouraging New Brunswick communities to participate in active and healthy lifestyles, to providing exciting event entertainment and much-need pre- and after-school programming, Go-Go Group services over 5,000 students annually, and employs over 100 young leaders.

 

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

The advice I would give to aspiring entrepreneurs is to surround yourself with experienced mentors in each sector of business such as accounting, legal, human resources, marketing and management. So many talented and experienced mentors are willing to donate of their time to help you succeed — all you need to do is reach out and ask. You’ll most certainly need their guidance and experience many times along your entrepreneurial journey — trust me, with a supportive team, the bad days won’t be as bad.

 

How can a company prepare for the challenges that come with rapid growth?

I’m a strong believer in ensuring redundancy and overlap in each position of my organization; including my own. We do this by ensuring more than one person is trained on each role in our the organization. This has helped us immensely when having to ramp up quickly; but also in preparing for the changes that come with rapid growth including turn over.

Cash flow is also another large challenge with rapid growth — having money in the bank, or a line of credit to back you up in the event you need it. It’s crucial for survival. After all, the best growth plan in the world can (and often will) fail if you don’t have cash.

 


 

Who else are we celebrating? See all of the 2017 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award finalists.

 

 

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2017 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur RBC Momentum Award Winner: Mandy Rennehan

 

Mandy Rennehan

Founder and CEO, Freshco

Winner, RBC Momentum Award

Freshco is a boutique, trend-setting, construction and retail facilities maintenance firm comprised of three divisions: Maintenance, Projects and Reconstruction, offering customized, coast-to-coast, first point of contact service to clients across Canada and the Eastern United States. Its founder and CEO, Mandy Rennehan, left home at 18 years old with nothing but an old hockey bag and a smile, knowing that she loved to work with wood and was a quick learner, but had no formal experience or post secondary education. A natural urge to lead and hard working attitude inspired many entrepreneurial projects in my youth which ultimately lead her to start Freshco in 1995. Freshco approaches every job with creativity, integrity and transparency. With business relationships based on respect, hard work and loyalty, Mandy believes in really listening to clients and creating an honest partnership, in person, the ‘old fashioned’ way. This personal touch, coupled with Freshco’s modern technology offerings, talented staff and fun corporate culture are the keys to this thriving organization.

 

What do you wish you knew at the beginning?

It is okay (and often welcomed) to speak up to your male/female superiors (respectfully!) when you’ve done your homework and have serious value to add.

 

How can a company prepare for the challenges that come with rapid growth? Hockey gear! Just joking.

This is one of the trickiest areas to navigate — growing and expanding smoothly while still remaining consistent with execution and client service. My philosophy is plan for a tsunami, knowing that 9 times out of 10 you’ll only face a big tidal wave. Over prepare, anticipate the worst, then everything else is smooth sailing.

 


 

See all of the 2017 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award finalists.

 

 

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2017 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur RBC Momentum Award Finalist: Rachel Mielke

 

Rachel Mielke

Founder and CEO, Hillberg & Berk

RBC Momentum Award, WEST

Hillberg & Berk is one of Canada’s leading high-end jewellery brands that differentiates itself through an established mission to empower women, creating beautiful jewellery not only to help women capture their unique sparkle, but also to support causes dedicated to women’s empowerment. From design to manufacturing, eighty percent of Hillberg & Berk pieces are made at their Regina headquarters, allowing hands-on quality control throughout the manufacturing process. Their line is sold through 90 retailers across Canada, The Shopping Channel, five corporately owned locations in Saskatchewan and Alberta and at hillbergandberk.com. Hillberg & Berk’s philanthropy, which focuses on women’s empowerment, gives back (at minimum) 2.5% of profits annually to charities benefiting women worldwide. To help women reach their potential, they are committed to supporting causes that educate women and girls.

 

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

Find a great mentor who you really admire. Choose the things that they really do well both personally and professionally and try to learn how they mastered those skills.

 

How can a company prepare for the challenges that come with rapid growth?

Create a culture of agility and flexibility that allows you to quickly address the challenges and changes that constantly come your way. Hire people who are great problem solvers and empower them to make the decisions needed. As you grow, you will be your company’s biggest bottle neck so you must learn how to build the next level of talent early.

 


 

Who else are we celebrating? See all of the 2017 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award finalists.

 

 

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