The Air Miles Reward Program named its winners of the first annual Small Business Achievement Awards at a ceremony in Toronto today.
Awards were presented in five categories: Small Business of the Year, Start-up of the Year, Innovation of the Year, Social Impact and Youth Entrepreneur of the Year.
Well-known “dragon” from CBC’s Dragons’ Den Kevin O’Leary opened the ceremonies with a keynote speech “peppered with colourful Dragons’ Denanecdotes, and sage advice culled from his own experiences.” As well, a panel discussion on small business ownership featured representatives from Google Canada, Facebook Canada, Twitter Canada, BMO Bank of Montreal and American Express Canada.
The winners and their business mentors are:
Small Business of the Year: North Strategic – Toronto, ON; Mia Pearson and Justin Creally, cofounders
North Strategic is a dynamic public relations and communications agency that helps leading brands build bold programs that are strategic and social by design. Founded in 2011 by Mia Pearson and Justin Creally, the business has achieved tremendous success to-date, generating marketing impact for a roster of Canada’s top consumer lifestyle brands. The agency is recognized as an innovator in the marketplace with a business model and approach that challenges the status quo.
- Small Business of the Year Mentor: Howard Grosfield, president & CEO, American Express Canada
Youth Entrepreneur of the Year: Lawn Troopers® – Brampton, ON; Matt Hill; founder
Lawn Troopers provides comprehensive residential and commercial lawn care services.. Matt is an inspiring young entrepreneur who started his business at age nine, caring for the lawns of three neighbours.. From there, his continuous passion for great service allowed him to grow a part-time summer business into an outstanding year-round operation. With a degree in engineering, Matt applies his training in systems, data analysis, and efficiencies to generate profitability. Now with an enthusiastic management team, Lawn Troopers consists of 40 extraordinary employees, serving thousands of customers in the Western GTA.
- Youth Entrepreneur of the Year Mentor: Kevin O’Leary, chairman, O’Leary Funds
Innovation of the Year: Menyou – Toronto, ON; Thaves Ponnampalam and Ara Ehamparam, cofounders
Menyou is an interactive tablet menu application that provides customers with a way to order food in restaurants by tablet device. For diners, this means an enhanced, positive experience while dining out; for restaurant owners, this means increased revenue, efficiency in the ordering process and key analytics capabilities that could streamline operations and future marketing efforts. Founded in 2012, Menyou currently has four employees.
- Innovation of the Year Mentor: Dorothy Dowling, sr. vice-president, marketing and sales, Best Western International
Social Impact: North Shore Sports Medicine – North Vancouver, BC; Paige Larson, president and CEO
North Shore Sports Medicine offers physiotherapy, acupuncture, aquatic rehabilitation, Pilates, bike fitting and kinesiology services in three clinics in North Vancouver. The company integrates social responsibility firmly into its business model and has provided hundreds of hours of free service to dozens of local teams, schools, healthcare initiatives, events and charities to-date. Founded 28 years ago by president and CEO, Paige Larson, the company has grown from a single physiotherapy clinic with two beds to three clinics with 23 beds, offering a locally-unrivaled range of services to a substantial client roster.
- Social Impact Mentor: Bryan Pearson, president & CEO, LoyaltyOne
Start-up of the year: Village Brewery – Calgary, AB; Jim Button, cofounder
Village Brewery was founded in 2011 with the simple goal in mind of gathering people around community. The company operates exclusively in the Calgary area, using locally-sourced ingredients wherever possible, maintaining a high-quality product and a strong relationship with partners, all while investing 10 per cent of the bottom line into the community. The six founding partners bring a combined 150-plus years of industry experience, including cofounder Jim Button, who is backed by 15 years of experience and passion for the industry.
“My advice to other start-ups is do what you enjoy and the money will come later. Recognize that money is one objective – but always put the quality of the service first,” said Button.
- Start-up of the Year Mentor: Steve Matyas, President, Staples Canada