The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) will honour 11 of the country’s most successful young entrepreneurs tonight at the 23rd edition of its Young Entrepreneur Awards (YEA) held in Saskatoon.
“Young entrepreneurs make an important contribution to their respective communities and to Canada’s economic prosperity. This year’s YEA winners have turned innovative ideas into commercial success stories,” says BDC President and CEO Jean-René Halde. “They are all passionate about what they do, are motivated by challenge and ready to expand their businesses into new markets. BDC’s Young Entrepreneur Award winners give us every reason to be optimistic about the future of entrepreneurship in Canada.”
This year’s YEA winners were chosen based on the originality of their business concept, as well as their company’s success, growth potential and social involvement. The provincial and territorial selection committees also considered the entrepreneur’s, the number of years he or she has been in business and any special challenges that were overcome.
Two special awards, sponsored by Deloitte and Cisco, are also being presented at tonight’s ceremony. The Deloitte Social Responsibility Award honours a YEA winner whose company promotes community well-being, sound human resources management or environmental protection. The Cisco Innovation Excellence Award goes to the YEA winner who has expanded his or her business through innovative practices, creativity or originality of product and services.
BDC’s 2011 Young Entrepreneur Awards winners
British Columbia: Arnold Leung, 25, Appnovation Technologies, Vancouver
Open source—the technology that powers social media—is Arnold Leung’s ticket to success. After graduating from the University of British Columbia, where he started a web development business with two friends, Arnold struck out on his own in 2007. With 30 employees, Appnovation specializes in open source websites and iPhone applications and has annual revenues of more than $1 million. Arnold was also selected for Business in Vancouver magazine’s 2010 Top 40 under 40 list.
Alberta: Jason Parks, 31, Profab Welding Ltd., Grande Prairie
After leaving school in his teens and leaving behind his dream of being a professional hockey player, Jason turned to welding, his other passion. Beginning with one truck in 2003, he used his flair for equipment design and his natural business instincts to land a major contract in the oil services industry. When the recession hit in 2007, Jason seized the opportunity to diversify his business and expand operations from northern to southern Alberta. Having secured international patents for some of his products, Jason is now searching for global business opportunities.
Saskatchewan: Rachel Mielke, 30, Hillberg & Berk, Regina
With plenty of creativity and just as much marketing savvy, Rachel turned her teenage hobby of making jewellery into a lucrative, high-profile business. Her handmade creations gained international attention when they were selected for the gift bags distributed at the 2008 Academy Awards. Rachel wants her Hillberg & Berk jewellery line to become a major Canadian fashion brand and appeared on CBC-TV’s Dragons’ Den, receiving financing from business mogul and philanthropist, and fellow Saskatchewanian, W. Brett Wilson.
Manitoba: Mark Kohaykewych, 33, Todd Jenkyns, 34, and Peter Chedley, 34, Jenkyns Electric Ltd., Winnipeg
Mark, Todd and Peter founded Jenkyns Electric to bring energy-smart power solutions to industrial customers in Winnipeg and remote communities in northern Manitoba. Their company stands out in a crowded marketplace because of its solid reputation for customer service and environmentally friendly practices. Jenkyns Electric is certified with the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program and recently added data services to its mix of customer offerings.
Ontario: Jeremy Gutsche, 32, Trend Hunter Inc., Toronto
An innovation enthusiast and natural-born entrepreneur, Jeremy is the brains behind TrendHunter.com, a website that tracks hot trends in pop culture, technology and fashion. Trend Hunter’s platform brings together data from 40,000 contributors around the world, then hyperlinks the research and compiles it into value-added trend reports. The website attracts 35 million views a month, and some of its content has gone viral. As an author and keynote speaker, Jeremy makes regular media appearances.
Québec: Steve Couture, 35, Frima Studio inc., Quebec City
In 2003, Steve founded Frima Studio with two partners and turned it into a leading game developer on platforms ranging from the Web, consoles and mobiles, to handheld devices and TV. After investing hundreds of thousands of hours in research and development, Frima has won acclaim for its hit creations, including A Space Shooter for 2 bucks!, Pocket God on Facebook and Zombie Tycoon, and for its major youth brand products. The company has more than 260 employees and is focused on bringing entertainment to screens both big and small—from IMAX to iPhones.
New Brunswick: Pierre Martell, 29, Martell Home Builders, Moncton
After founding Martell Homes in 2006, Pierre introduced a web-enabled customer interface and transformed the house purchasing experience for new home buyers. Martell Homes offers clients a 99-day construction guarantee for homes of 2,000 square feet or smaller and consistently delivers them on budget. Client satisfaction is so high that Martell Homes won the Atlantic Home Warranty Customer Choice Award in 2010 and 2011.
Nova Scotia: Anaïs Guimond, 32, Atlantic Cirque Agency and School, Halifax
Intrigued as a young girl by the artistry of Canada’s internationally renowned Cirque du Soleil, this former bungee-trapeze performer opened a circus performing arts school in 2002 in a province and in a language that were new to her. Residents in the Halifax-Dartmouth area quickly embraced her ideas and enthusiasm, and Atlantic Cirque soon had 150 attendees at weekly classes. In addition to circus arts, the school offers summer camps, workshops and corporate team-building programs. Anaïs is currently producing the company’s 10-year anniversary show and plans to expand her popular cirque school concept into other markets.
Prince Edward Island: Rachelle Wood, 29, Rachelle Wood Nutrition Inc., Charlottetown
Rachelle launched her nutrition practice in 2005 to help people lose weight and develop a healthier relationship with food. Her 52-week online SeeResults program features recipes and customized meal plans, self-help advice and one-on-one coaching. Her success has attracted interest from other nutritionists, and Rachelle has developed a software version of SeeResults that sells across Canada. With an eye on continued growth, she is developing French and Spanish versions of her program, as well as iPhone and BlackBerry applications.
Newfoundland and Labrador: Greg Hanley, 31, Hanley Construction and Renovation Inc., St. John’s
Greg recognizes a competitive advantage when he sees one, and was quick to bring green, environmentally friendly construction standards to the first-time, residential housing market. After starting a renovation business in 2001, Greg moved into new home construction before diversifying into land development and excavation services. Using insulated concrete building forms that are well suited to Canada’s harsh climate, Hanley Construction and Renovation provides energy-efficient products that reduce energy consumption and cut costs.
Yukon: Cole Hodinski, 33, Horizon Helicopters, Whitehorse
Cole established Horizon Helicopters in 2007 after working as a pilot in North America and Asia. While vacationing in Yukon, he recognized an opportunity to fly light aircraft and serve the territory’s air transportation market. He introduced helicopters with improved operational and safety performance, and low fuel consumption. With a roster of experienced pilots, Horizon now serves clients in such sectors as mining, mineral exploration, environmental assessment, tourism and medical evacuation. Cole’s goal is to deliver a sustainable helicopter service to Yukon.