VANCOUVER, BC / ACCESSWIRE / July 20, 2020 / Jemilla Mills-Smith, Neighbourhood Creative
Uncertainty seems to be the norm these days; the Coronavirus has left a variety of businesses at a standstill, with many unsure of what the future holds. Growing from this uncertainty is entrepreneurial ingenuity, with the world’s entrepreneurs taking advantage of this time to showcase their business savvy.
Canadian entrepreneurs in particular are not backing down from the challenge of reinvention. According to a recent study, roughly 99.7% of all Canadian businesses are small-to-medium-sized companies that employ up to 500 hundred employees. Only 0.03% of Canadian businesses qualify as large enterprises, demonstrating that entrepreneurs initiating ventures of all sizes are integral to the Canadian economy. The resiliency of these entrepreneurs and employers during this time is integral, and we’ve selected 20 Canadians to watch and learn from as we head into 2021.
Serial Entrepreneur, Clearbanc Co-Founder, Dragon on Dragons’ Den
Photo: Michael Nage/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Michele Romonow may be recognized by many for her role as the youngest entrepreneur ever on CBC’s Dragon’s Den, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the 35-year old Canadian’s countless accomplishments. As the only Canadian on Forbes’ Millennials on a Mission, Romonow started her first venture while completing her engineering degree, graduating with $100,000 in profit. By 25, she was successfully running three companies, and by 33 she had started five profitable companies, including Clearbanc and Buytopia, both of which she co-founded and is president of.
New York Times #1 best selling writer
Photo: Instagram/Rupi Kaur
Rupi Kaur is a poet, illustrator, and author recognized for being at the forefront of Instapoetry. The 27 year old writer shares her material through both print and social media platforms, which has made her immensely popular among millennials. Kaur’s debut book, Milk and Honey, sold over 2.5 million copies and spent 77 weeks on the New York Times Trade Paperback Best-Seller list. Her work explores the topics of relationships, the immigrant experience, and sexuality, which has appealed to her audience through its enjoyable yet digestible delivery.
SmartSweets Founder and CEO
Tara Bosch’s success story as the founder of SmartSweets is one straight out of a Hollywood hit. The young entrepreneur discovered SmartSweets at the age of 21, successfully creating candies with 79-92% less sugar than traditional candy. By 2016, Bosch had dropped out of UBC and was selling the candies out of the back of her car to retailers she cold-emailed. In 2019, SmartSweets revenues surpassed $50 million, selling over 29,000,000 candy bags through more than 18000 retailers. Her ingenuity is providing candy-lovers everywhere with a healthy alternative to help them kick that sweet-sweet sugar craving once and for all.
Hootsuite Founder and CEO
Ryan Holmes is no stranger to the world of entrepreneurship. The BC-born CEO of Hootsuite started his first venture in high school and has since gone on to test the waters of a variety of ventures, including a pizza joint and a paintball company, before founding his most successful venture to date, Hootsuite. Hootsuite was launched in 2008 as a social media management tool and is recognized today as the world’s most widely-used management tool of its kind, boasting over 18 million users. Holmes is an entrepreneur that shares his genius with like-minded individuals, pushing for the success of the entrepreneurial community as a whole.
Divacup Founder and CEO
Photo: DivaCup Blog
Carinne Chambers and her mother, Francine Chambers, are disrupting the age-old industry of feminine hygiene through their invention and promotion of the DivaCup. Founded in 2003, the DivaCup’s reusable concept makes it far more environmentally friendly as well as affordable for women, who spend thousands of dollars on hygiene products throughout their lifetime. Today, the Ontario based invention is sold in 22 countries worldwide and is widely recognized and respected for the benefits it provides to consumers. Chambers has received several awards for her entrepreneurial success, including EY Entrepreneur of The Year for Sustainable Products and Services, EY National Special Citation Award for Industry Disruptor, and Chamber’s was named on Canada’s Top 40 under 40 list.
Unbounce Founder and CEO
Photo: Ben Nelms/National Post
Canadian entrepreneur Rick Perreault founded Unbounce in 2009 in Vancouver, BC. The tech solution launched in 2010 to assist businesses in driving leads, sales, and customers through effective landing pages. Perreault is infamous for, “zigging when others zag” (self-proclaimed) in terms of his leadership tactics at Unbounce. All this zigging is proving to be beneficial for the company’s success, which brought in a revenue of $7 million in 2014 after only four years of official business. Today, Unbounce continues to provide its customers with measurable conversions, effectively benefiting their e-commerce platforms. Through providing customers with user-friendly options to build, launch, and customize their landing pages for any campaign, the expense of middle-man developers and the hassle of tech bottlenecks is spared.
Kate Ross-LeBlanc and Jean-Pierre LeBlanc
Saje Wellness Founders and CEO’s
Kate Ross and her then-future husband, Jean-Pierre Leblanc, founded Saje in 1992 based on two principles: no ugly chemicals, and lots of community service. Their Vancouver based essential oil empire has grown immensely since, with 71 locations across North America, and continues to embody these two principles of expansion. The business began with only eight products and boasts over 500 products today, offering anything from Stress Release essential oils to chemical-free mirror cleaner. With their head office still located in Vancouver, and 59 Canadian locations, the Ross-Leblanc’s amazing entrepreneurial success is responsible for employing hundreds of Canadian’s from coast to coast.
Jamie Cormack and Lyndon Cormack
Photo: Tanya Goehring
“Every business starts with a problem, ours was simple: Backpacks were boring,” proclaimed Herschel co-founder Lyndon Cormack. Finding a solution to this simple problem has skyrocketed Herschel’s success since its discovery in 2009. Through the development of aesthetically pleasing backpacks, luggage, and other accessories, the brothers provide the everyday traveler with thoughtfully designed items to accompany them on their daily journey. The Vancouver-based startup has been 100% self-funded from conception to completion, quite the impressive feat given that Herschel currently has over 9000 points of distribution in over 90 countries and 72 monogram stores.
Dave Lane and Jeremy Guard
Photo: Escape Route
Founded in 1989 by Dave Lane and Jeremy Guard, Arc’teryx was built on the belief that, “the only way to build the right gear for this environment was to build the company in this environment.” The Vancouver based startup did just that, continuing to operate out of their Vancouver headquarters decades later. Over the years, they’ve acquired a cult following of consumers obsessed with the brand, which offers premium outdoor technical apparel made to withstand the coastal mountain environment inherent to the area. The success of their venture, which boasts 32 brand stores and 3000 retail locations across 40 different countries, proves that buyers are not deterred by the USD $1000 price tag on a typical Arc’teryx jacket.
Adam Doran and Michael Doran
Aclarus Ozone Co-Founders
Photo: Megan Edge
Cousins and co-founders, Adam Doran and Michael Doran started Aclarus Ozone in 2011 on the belief that “clean water changes everything. Aclarus Ozone makes it easy.” Based out of Peterborough Ontario, the Doran’s had the vision to provide a water-treatment method that was eco-conscious, yet effective. Their solution can be scaled to treat the water of single-family homes and industrial operations alike. On June 11th, the duo won the 2020 Water’s Next Award at the 11th annual Canadian Water Summit, proving that their invention is receiving national recognition, and will be changing the face of water treatment first locally, and soon globally.
Project Life Mastery Founder
Photo: Project Life Mastery
Stefan James established Project Life Mastery in 2012 as an online coaching service dedicated to empowering members through powerful self-development advice, content, and coaching. Through a focus on a variety of areas including health, fitness, emotions, mindset, relationships, financial freedom, passive income, online business development, and spirituality, James works with participants to master their own lives. Today, he’s the successful founder and owner of several online businesses, including Kindle publishing, selling products on Amazon and Shopify, affiliate marketing, creating and selling information products, coaching and consulting, and a variety of other areas.
Honeycomb Hospitality Founder
Photo: Honeycomb Hospitality
Matthew Tsoumaris co-founded one of Toronto’s most loved culinary and hospitality groups – Honeycomb Hospitality. The Toronto native is an avid world traveler, a bonafide culinary and nightlife aficionado, and a serial entrepreneur. Tsoumari has been instrumental in elevating Toronto’s culinary and nightlife scene over the past 15 years and before the creation of Honeycomb Hospitality, Tsoumaris helped lead the creation of more than a dozen entertainment venues. Everleigh, Wildflower, Cheval, Valdez, 1812, the Ballroom Bowling, Cobra, and Digital Dreams festival are all establishments within Tsoumaris’s impressive portfolio and are integral entertainment venues in defining Toronto nightlife.
Honeycomb, circa 2016, was built with a unique mandate: to create a differentiated hospitality management company ensuring people come first. Tsoumaris led Honeycomb in the creation of four of Toronto’s most popular and highly coveted culinary and nightlife venues: Baro, Petty Cash, Dasha, and the Citizen. With a team of 250+ employees, Honeycomb provides exceptional experiences that manifest into lifelong memories for the 5000+ guests that frequent its establishments weekly.
JDG Hospitality Co-Founder and Serial Entrepreneur
LinkedIn: Steve Georgiev
Steve Georgiev has an eclectic taste of innovative businesses and projects comprising his portfolio. Georgiev’s career began with his own logistics business and has resulted in a progressive portfolio of creative ideas that are continually executed into large scale businesses. Georgiev is one of the co-founders at JDG, an innovative hospitality group which owns and manages multiple nightlife and restaurant venues. He’s also the co-founder of Mr. Black Technologies – a comprehensive venue management software used worldwide – and co-founder of Dinner with a View – a touring international dinner festival that’s the largest of its kind in the world.
Currently, Georgiev is in the process of building a cannabis brand that will be launching in ten retail stores in the near future, with expansion plans in place following the launch. The current pandemic inspired him to put together Lmnts Studios – a hot yoga and fitness pop-up event – in just three weeks, which went viral worldwide. With over 21 years of business experience, Steve Georgiev’s ingenuity consistently results in multi-million dollar businesses, where innovation is priority and success is always the norm.
Style By Khalifa Founder
LinkedIn: Afnan Khalifa
One thing about growing up in an immigrant family? You work like your life depends on it to give back some freedom to the family that worked so hard for you, a concept Afnan Khalifa knew when coming to Canada. Being raised in the Middle East and moving to Canada in 2016 was not an easy transition. Working multiple jobs in serving, managing, and fashion styling left Khalifa drained by that “norm” lifestyle at the age of 21. She refused to let her age be a barrier to the financial freedom she knew she was capable of achieving.
There spawned her career in trading and network marketing: making 6 figures in just six months – yeah, you read that right, six months – she immediately harnessed her knowledge she gained from her work at Kuvera and began educating those around her. She mentored over 200 people to learn how to trade in the financial markets during the COVID-19 crisis, helping them adapt to the new normal and take control of their lives. With businesses in over 20 countries and features on notable platforms like Business for Home, she’s taking her expertise and success globally to help individuals and families live life on their terms.
Simplex HR Founder
If there were ever a living success story, it would be Zohaib Aziz. This multi-hyphenate of a man is a President, a CEO, a podcast co-host, and a cancer survivor. After leaving his pursuit of law amidst recovery and entering the HR industry, his rapid success led him to create Simplex HR, one of the fastest-growing recruitment companies in the GTA. With the pandemic affecting jobs and employment worldwide, this would be a crippling blow for most – but this only solidified Zohaib’s newest endeavor. He launched HIRINT: a recruitment company for the tech industry – and with technology being more important than ever before, HIRINT came at the perfect time.
Not only has Zohaib championed the pandemic to assist job-seekers in the tech industry, but he has also helped highlight the successful young individuals of Toronto on the It’s Simple podcast. Maneuvering uncertainty isn’t new to Aziz – and if his CV is any indication, handling uncertainty with success isn’t either.
Hot Box Toronto Founder
Photo: Hot Box Toronto
Retail sales are forecasted to take a hit by the end of the year. But contrary to this prediction, consumer sales are still booming, with the US Census Bureau reporting a 17.7% rise in US consumer spending in May compared to April. Before there was a pandemic accelerating the growth of online businesses, Christopher Solhi was disrupting the Canadian retail sneaker/clothing industry with an innovative app that promised sustainable revenue growth and authentic interactions. Hotbox, circa 2017, is Canada’s #1 Buy/Sell/Trade store that takes the traditional pawn shop model and applies it in-store and online – letting customers buy and/or sell sneakers and streetwear apparel whenever and wherever they want nationwide.
The unique experience, fair prices, and rare finds led Hotbox to earn over seven-figures in revenue during the first year of operations, and substantial growth year-over-year. Their niche service lets sellers and buyers exchange cash or trade value on the spot without compromising on quality rare sneakers. Solhi managed to expand from a single 190 square foot retail store to over 2000 square feet across two locations in just three years and has 100% organic transactions with notable celebrities and athletes consistently. With an online store, two brick-and-mortar stores, and an app, Hotbox is a shopping experience Canada has never seen before. Solhi took his love for streetwear culture and capitalized on a lucrative sector of the retail industry, avoiding compromised sales, even during points of high trepidation.
Wav Entertainment Founder and CEO
Photo: Wav Entertainment Inc.
Tory Lanez, Tyga, A$AP Rocky, and Juicewrld – all of these names are sure to be on heavy rotation in your music playlist. Well, Kane Wav has opened up for all of them, adding this commendable accomplishment to his long list of accolades. The Musician, Founder, and Business Owner of Wav Entertainment, New Wav Enterprises & Imperium Global Group Inc., wants to inspire through his music and add value with his business, and this desire only heightened with the COVID-19 lockdown.
Seeing a need for PPE, he and his partner, Julian Dipaola, supplied over 10 million masks, 50 million gloves, and 500,000 gowns both nationally and globally. With networks growing and demand increasing, both men partnered on Imperium Global Group Inc: a global trades company with an exceptional network and in-depth knowledge of international markets. The industries of PPE and music are polar opposites, but Kane Wav combined his business acumen and love of music with a desire to help out during difficult times. But Kane Wav is not one to succumb to the ‘shoulds’ – a man who believes humankind is a creator of circumstance, not a creature of it, and that we all write our own futures.
Roger Sabat is a serial entrepreneur who’s navigated his way around the block a few times already, having built a multi-million dollar business from scratch. He is now using his tech startup, Biiibo, to revolutionize the construction industry. Biiibo is a simple and easy way to get building materials on-demand, which is a saving grace in the GTA.
Toronto has the most construction activity, and with the construction sector accounting for over 7% of Canada’s national GDP, entering the market was not only a smart move but also a highly lucrative business decision. If there’s ever a way to revolutionize the Canadian construction industry, it’s to make it more easily accessible. With operations in the most active construction capital in the country, Sabat’s delivering well on his mission. Despite having launched in the middle of the pandemic, Biiibo is off to a great start and Sabat already has his eyes locked on expanding his platform to other cities across North America.
AT Institute Canada Founder
Photo: AT Institute
Multi-tasking is difficult for many – but Andrey Czupiel has mastered it. It’s not every day you hear of someone founding a company like the Appliance Technical Institute of Canada while completing a degree in psychology and a diploma in nursing. Through all this, Czupiel managed to assist in making Toronto Appliances Services Ltd. one of the highest performing appliance servicing centers in Southern Ontario. That’s no easy feat. AT Institute focuses on HVAC and Appliance Serving, and can teach its students nationwide via sponsors like Samsung Canada, Whirlpool Canada, and LG Canada, to name a few.
With the wake of the pandemic, Czupiel has pivoted to retrofit the Institute’s training to incorporate a blended learning model that allows students to access their training via electronic and online media along with their infamous face-to-face practical teaching. It takes advantage of the platforms that are blowing up during this time of uncertainty and assures its students that the quality of their education will not be compromised. To succeed, you have to make lemonade out of lemons and Andrey Czupiel is making it ever so sweet.
Founder and CEO of Neighbourhood Creative
Ernesto Gaita has done and seen it all: from promoting events in his formative entrepreneurial years to attempting his first entrepreneurial endeavor. It wasn’t until he met his current co-founder, Anthony Sorella, that it all came together. The two co-founders, along with Anna Maria Gaita, formed Neighbourhood: a full-service creative agency dedicated to connecting brands to their customers.
Not only has this fostered success with big-name partnerships – like the Moustache Project with Movember Canada – and led to further business endeavors – like the Money Buys Happiness podcast and the Piadini by Monti restaurant, but it has solidified Gaita’s place in the entrepreneur greats. And with a career of creating connections, and touting a diverse network of people that can’t be ignored, Gaita is steadily moving on up.
You may also be interested in reading:
How to Bring Your Canadian Small Business Online
How Real Retailers Are Using Digital Tech to Beat the Pandemic
What is Go Digital Canada and is it Right for Your Business?
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