Who will be the 2015 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award winner?

It’s time for Canadians to vote: 10 finalists in the race for $100,000 grand prize

Montreal, June 3, 2015—Canadians can begin casting votes today at www.bdc.ca/yea in the 2015 BDC Young Entrepreneurs Award contest organized by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC). Ten finalist turning‑point projects from across the country are competing for the $100,000 Grand Prize and a second prize of $25,000 in consulting services from BDC.

“Canadians from all across the country can vote daily to support the projects they believe deserve to win the $100,000 grand prize,” says Michel Bergeron, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Public Affairs at BDC. “All of our finalists are dedicated entrepreneurs with a clear vision and a decisive action plan to propel their business to new heights. Your votes, Canada, have the power to take one of these turning‑point projects from the drawing board to reality.”

You can vote once a day for a project of your choice, from today until the close of voting on June 17, at noon EDT. The winner and the runner up will be announced on June 22. Receive BDC Young Entrepreneur Award updates via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and visit bdc.ca/awards to learn about other ways in which BDC recognizes Canadian entrepreneurs.

Making the grade

Selection committees across Canada met to review the BDC Young Entrepreneur Award applications. The judges looked at the quality and feasibility of each turning‑point project, as well as its potential to improve the company’s growth. A national committee evaluated the quality of each finalist project and assigned a ranking that will be combined with the public vote. The national committee evaluation is weighted to account for half of each project’s final ranking and the public vote will account for the remaining half.

Meet the Finalists

Newfoundland & Labrador

Farm to Table, Melissa Butler, 34, Real Food Market, St. John’s
With a short growing season and reliance on imported food transported by ferry from the mainland, Newfoundlanders don’t have many local options when it comes to fresh and organic produce. Melissa’s Real Food Market retails fresh organic produce, organic and grass‑fed meats, wild fish, vegan and vegetarian foods, and gluten‑free options to cater to a growing clientele of health‑conscious customers. She now needs more capital to engage in a multi‑step effort to create a sustainable food system on the island that will include investing in local greenhouse operations for year‑round vegetable production.

Prince Edward Island

Oyster Rush, Martin O’Brien, 29, Cascumpec Bay Oyster Company Ltd., O’Leary
Martin is riding a wave of popularity for PEI shellfish with a premium product that’s in high demand with discriminating consumers in Ontario and Quebec. A technological and competitive divide between large bulk producers—who use sizing and grading machines—and smaller players—who still rely on manual processes—prevents Martin from taking full advantage of the business opportunities out there. He needs fresh capital to purchase a grading machine that would allow him to boost production and meet the growing year‑round demand for his oysters.

Nova Scotia

Bionic Boost, Chris Cowper‑Smith, 30, Spring Loaded Technology, Halifax
Chris can literally put the spring back in your step. His team has developed the world’s first bionic knee‑brace technology that enhances strength, reduces fatigue and increases stability. This compact and lightweight brace can help everyone from healthy athletes, labourers and military personnel to people with various forms of movement disability. Demand is already flooding in from customers and clinicians around the world and Chris now needs new capital to invest in the manufacturing equipment he needs to scale the business, increase production by a multiple of six and bring to market later this year an affordable, life‑changing product that’s accessible to people around the world.

New Brunswick

Curb Appeal, Philip Curley, 23, HotSpot Parking Inc., Fredericton
Philip is on a mission to transform downtown parking from a hassle into an opportunity. His mobile payment solution helps businesses keep customers in the store longer by shielding them from expired meters and parking tickets. It also doubles as a marketing platform that helps businesses engage with consumers and encourage purchases. About 10,000 users are already using Hotspot across the Maritimes and two U.S. cities. Philip needs capital to expand his business and prove his technology in a major new market—Toronto—as the next step toward a larger North American rollout.


To the Test, Olivier Marcotte, 33, Nucleom Inc., Quebec City
Olivier is pushing the boundaries of non‑destructive testing to safeguard the operation of critical infrastructure such as nuclear reactors and pipelines. His team works in Canada and around the world, primarily on Canada’s world‑renowned CANDU reactor technology, to ensure these workhorses of the nuclear‑power industry continue to work safely. Olivier needs new capital to expand his team and invest in new technology to take advantage of new contract opportunities in international markets and transfer his expertise to other fields such as the petrochemical industry.


Advanced Manufacturing, Matt Rendall, 31, Clearpath Robotics, Kitchener
Matt and his team are automating the world’s dullest, dirtiest and deadliest jobs with intelligent service robots and autonomous vehicles that can figure out their own way to complete a task and operate safely around human co‑workers. They need fresh capital to invest in software and hardware development, as well as market research, so they can tap into a new market opportunity with great growth potential: material‑handling in industrial markets.


Top Dog, Laurel Skuba, 31, The Pawsh Dog Inc., Winnipeg
Laurel is ahead of the pack when it comes to helping busy people do well by their furry friends. Staffed and open to clients 24/7, Pawsh provides luxury dog daycare, hotel, training and salon services. The latest addition, The Pawsh Dog Wellness Centre, goes beyond pampering to help dogs struggling with mobility issues due to aging, injury or disease maintain an active, pain‑free lifestyle. To meet regulatory requirements and provide affordable services, Laurel needs the capital to bring on board a sports medicine and rehabilitation veterinarian partner certified to provide specialized medical services, and also invest in canine physiotherapy and rehabilitation equipment currently not available in Manitoba.


Eco Thrills, Jori Kirk, 33, Cypress Hills Eco-Adventures Ltd., Maple Creek
Jori is taking eco‑tourism to new heights in a province known best for flat vistas where earth meets sky. His adventure company operates two sites for zip‑line canopy tours in Saskatchewan, including in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, a unique ecosystem that is the highest point in Canada east of the Rockies. His team emphasizes environmental protection, sustainability and public education, with a portion of the company’s revenue supporting its own not‑for‑profit charity, Eco‑Adventures 306 Foundation. Jori now needs capital to expand the amenities and attractions at his base camps to attract more visitors and, in the process, also generate more funding for the Foundation’s work to create a healthier planet.

Market Restaurant Calgary - VanessaAlberta

Market Fresh, Vanessa Salopek, 28, MARKET Restaurant (Market Eatery Inc.), Calgary
Vanessa and her team are setting the bar for supporting Calgary area food producers by cooking with fresh, seasonal and local products. Almost everything is made in‑house and customers can also purchase many of the restaurant’s signature items to take home. With growing demand for homemade products and retail items, the restaurant needs more kitchen space and a storefront to keep up with volume. Vanessa needs fresh capital to move the restaurant’s butchery, bakery and preparation of homemade ingredients to a different location that would also serve as a retail storefront.


British Columbia

Freshly Baked, Silvia Martinelli Waqued, 31, S&B Gluten Free Inc. (Otimo Brazilian Cheese Puffs), Vancouver
Silvia is tempting taste buds with a unique taste of Brazil that just happens to intersect Canadian demand for gluten‑ and GMO‑free baked goods. The secret is in the flour—gluten‑free manioc root flour, which is used to make a centuries‑old Brazilian delicacy known as pão de queijo, or cheese bread. Silvia’s cheese puffs have brought new taste sensations to Canada but she now needs to invest in food‑processing equipment and acquire the certifications to scale production and tap into the big retail leagues across North America.

About the BDC Young Entrepreneur Award contest

Created by the Business Development Bank of Canada in 1988, the BDC Young Entrepreneur Award contest pays tribute to remarkable Canadian entrepreneurs between 18 and 35 years of age. Ten finalists were selected to compete for a $100,000 grand prize. A second prize of $25,000 in consulting services will be awarded to the contest runner‑up. A national committee evaluates the quality of the finalist projects and gives each finalist a ranking that will be combined with the public vote. In 2015, the national committee evaluation is weighted to account for 50% of each project’s final ranking, and the public vote will account for the remaining 50% of the ranking. www.bdc.ca/yea

About BDC

Canada’s business development bank, BDC, puts entrepreneurs first. With almost 2,000 employees and more than 100 business centres across the country, BDC offers loans, consulting services, growth and business transition capital, securitization, as well as venture capital to more than 30,000 small and medium‑sized companies. Their success is vital to Canada’s economic prosperity. To learn more, please visit www.bdc.ca