• Futurpreneur(s) and partners

Celebrating our 20th Anniversary Award Winners

Lauren Marinigh | June 3, 2016

This year, Futurpreneur Canada is celebrating its 20th anniversary. In 20 years, we’ve supported over thousands of entrepreneurs, and have had hundreds of volunteer mentors who have helped support those entrepreneurs. To celebrate the amazing and dedicated entrepreneurs that we’ve seen come through our doors over the last 20 years, we thought this was an excellent time to acknowledge and reward some of those stand-out business owners and their businesses.

This past week at our Action Entrepreneurship Canadian Summit in Toronto, we brought together hundreds of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and partners for two days of networking, professional development opportunities, and of course, celebrating entrepreneurship in Canada and our 20th anniversary. As part of our two-day events, we held an awards lunch that recognized three outstanding entrepreneurs, as well as a stand out business mentor and community partner. Here were the results.


Entrepreneur of the Year Award, presented by Clearwater Fine Foods

This award recognizes an all-around superstar business and business owner. The winner demonstrates not only financial success, but also industry disruption, community involvement and leadership.

The recipient of this award is Kailey Gilchrist of NONA Vegan Foods Ltd., based in Toronto, Ontario. Kailey is the “sauce boss” of NONA Vegan, a start-up specializing in dairy-free, gluten-free, cashew-based cream sauces. Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs, Kailey has always had a passion for business. Her sauces are now sold across Ontario and you can also regularly find them at local food festivals and events.

Kailey was selected for this award because she demonstrates an incredible amount of leadership, perseverance and overall success as an entrepreneur. She’s filled a hole in a market with her healthy vegan sauces, and the sauces taste as great as they are for you. She is also deeply committed to the entrepreneurial community, and gives back by supporting and mentoring other young entrepreneurs.

You can read Kailey’s full story here, or watch it here.

A special shout-out to our finalists in this category: Jon Caldwell of Bonnie and Clyde Pet Goods and Dominque Leger of In Pursuit Mobile Boutique.


Grit Award, presented by Shopify

This award celebrates the kind of business success that comes from having “true grit”. The winner demonstrates creativity, ingenuity and resilience when faced with challenges.

The recipients of this award are Armen Bakirtzian, Andre Hladio and Richard Fanson of Intellijoint Surgical Inc. Intellijoint Surgical develops and commercializes the new standard in miniature 3D measurement. Its surgical Smart Tools enable surgeons and hospitals to improve surgical outcomes by reducing uncertainty and risk, while improving patient outcomes and economics.

The team at Intellijoint Surgical is made up of three graduates from Waterloo University with no medical background or entrepreneurial experience. They set out to undertake a major challenge—creating a medical device and putting it on the market. They overcame obstacles and went on to create a surgical device that is FDA-approved, has a Health Canada medical device license, and has been used successfully over 350 times. In just six years, they’ve grown from one desk, to a 10,500 square foot facility with 22 employees.

A special shout-out to our finalist in this category: Alex Drysdale of Crik Nutrition.


Beyond Borders Award, presented by Youth Business International

This award recognizes a business that has successfully expanded into new markets and has seen substantial business growth as a result. The winner demonstrates willingness to overcome fear and create value by bringing a product or service to a new market and creating jobs for others.

The recipients of this award are Olivier Dionne, Gwendal Creurer and Kevin Creurer of BecSoda Inc., a Quebec-based company offering a soda  made with local and certified organic maple syrup. Bec Soda is the only organic maple syrup soda in the world, does not contain any chemical or synthetic ingredients and is less sweetened than a generic cola.

Bec Soda took home this award because in just three years, they have done an incredible job of expanding into new markets. You can find their cola in shops and restaurants across Quebec, France, Switzerland and Belgium, and the team is currently working on expanding in the USA and Japan.

A special shout-out to our finalists: Shane Foran and Jason Readman of Vitaly, and Alexandre Mensi and Naomie Potvin-Bolduc of Mango Software.


Community Partner Award, presented by RBC

This award recognizes one of Futurpreneur Canada’s partner organizations for making a significant impact on entrepreneurs. The winner demonstrates outstanding partnership and community service by helping aspiring business owners find success.

The recipient of this award is CEED Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development based in Atlantic Canada. CEED has been committed to advancing and supporting the spirit of entrepreneurship in Nova Scotia for more than 20 years. The organization delivers innovative programs and services that empower individuals and communities to achieve their full potential.

CEED was selected as the recipient for this award because they are an exceptional partner to Futurpreneur and a fantastic support for aspiring young entrepreneurs on the East Coast. CEED has a provincial mandate to provide entrepreneurial programming across Nova Scotia, and in 2011 the organization stepped up to act as a community partner to serve people across Atlantic Canada. CEED’s programming and support reaches a population of 2.5 million people, many of whom did not already have an organization set up to help young entrepreneurs. CEED was recognized as an Outstanding National CYBF Community Partner in 2005, and have continued to honour that recognition ever since.

A special shout-out to our finalists: CAE Haute-Montérégie an Entrepreneurship Manitoba.


BDC Mentorship Award, presented by BDC

This award recognizes an outstanding mentor who is making a big impact on the growth and sustainability of small businesses in Canada by providing valuable advice and support to entrepreneurs.

The recipient of this award is Mary Jane Copps, Owner and CEO of The Phone Lady in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Mary Jane launched her first communications company in 1987 and, with a partner, grew it to a staff of nine. Selling her shares in 2001, she helped a wide variety of businesses grow revenue. In 2006, she introduced The Phone Lady brand, and has since worked with over 300 businesses, providing them with the skills to communicate effectively on the phone.

Mary Jane was selected for this award as she has been an entrepreneur for 29 years and has been actively mentoring other entrepreneurs for the past six. She is on the Board of Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Network Nova Scotia, and she volunteers as a mentor through Futurpreneur Canada. Mary Jane is committed to growing entrepreneurship and mentoring in the Atlantic provinces and across Canada, through earlier education and instilling a deeper understanding of how to grow successful businesses. Her mentees credit her with helping them to focus on what’s important and to building their confidence they need to make good decisions, particularly around marketing strategy and growth through sales.

A special shout-out to our finalists: Hamish Knox, Ray DePaul, Sylvie Tendler, Peter Brown and Dr. Tom Cooper. You can read more about all the finalists here.

Thank you to everyone who applied for the 20th Anniversary Awards. Your dedication and commitment to the entrepreneurial community does not go unnoticed!