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Following a record-breaking 9,000 nominations, the 27th annual RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards honoured 23 outstanding finalists. A shimmering celebration of accomplishment, the event was also a call to share all stories — of success, failure, struggle and triumph.

The RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards (CWEA) is the premier national award program celebrating the achievements of the country’s most successful and inspiring women business owners. As the principal program of Women of Influence, one of North America’s leading organizations dedicated to furthering women’s career advancement, the Awards honoured 23 outstanding entrepreneurs at Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York Hotel on November 20, 2019.

Now in its 27th year, and with over 9,000 women nominated this year, two things have become clear: More and more women are changing the face of industry, community and leadership, and more people recognize the collective impact female entrepreneurs are having on Canada.

A Celebration with a Purpose: Pay It Forward

CTV news anchor Marcia MacMillan hosted the Awards, which included keynotes from HGTV Canada’s Sarah Baeumler as well as Jacqui Allard, executive vice president, personal financing products at RBC, who recognized the achievements of Canada’s women entrepreneurs.

“Canada is home to 1.4 million women entrepreneurs with businesses that generate $117 billion economic activity a year[1],” she told CWEA honourees and their families, “And nearly two-thirds of women-owned businesses turn a profit in just two years.”

“These are impressive numbers to say the least,” Allard noted, “but it’s only part of the story. While women-owned businesses deliver almost twice as much revenue per dollar invested, studies show that entrepreneurs in both Canada and the U.S. with at least one female founder receive less than 16 per cent of all venture capital funding. And this percentage drops to less than 8 per cent per cent when considering companies with only female founders[2],” Allard continued.

Highlighting that mentorship is a huge differentiator for success, Allard called upon the group to pay it forward. “You are the role models for your peers, your colleagues, and the next generation. We need to lift each other up, advocate and champion one another’s successes.”

Part of that effort includes putting forward an honest and transparent narrative at events like this, according to Janet LePage, founder of Western Wealth Capital.

“The number one thing people don’t talk about in entrepreneurship is you’re going to fail a lot. It takes a lot of courage to dust yourself off, take a deep breath, and choose to keep fighting for something you believe in,” adds LePage. “But I promise you, on the other side of that failure is the success that feels so much greater than the failure you felt along the way.”

This Year’s Top Women Entrepreneurs

Six award categories honoured the women already making an impact early in their entrepreneurial careers, as well as those who have been building, shaping and challenging norms for years.

Ones to Watch Award: Recognizes women who have demonstrated incredible potential through their innovative ideas, keen business sense and solid plans for future profitable growth. The award is open to those who have been in business more than 1 but fewer than 3 years.

2019 Winners:

●Bean Gill, ReYu Paralysis Recovery Centre

●Melissa Kargiannakis, skritswap

●Melinda Rombouts, Eve & Co Cannabis

●Dr. Dina Kulik, Kidcrew

●Lisa Ali Learning, AtlanTick Repellent Products Inc.

Diversity Institute Micro-Business Award: Honors entrepreneurs who own and operate small businesses generating annual revenues under $1 million and have demonstrated successful growth.

2019 Winner: Kelly Ann Woods, Gillespie’s Fine Spirits Ltd, Boozewitch Beverage Company, Switch Beverage Co.

Start-Up Award: Celebrates the achievements of an entrepreneur who — in three to five years — has developed her business into one that’s ready for the next level of growth. Her business has been profitable since inception and her business plan demonstrates sustainable growth.

2019 Winner: Jayne McCaw, Jayne’s Cottages

RBC Momentum Award: This award recognizes the entrepreneur who has delivered 10% or more growth over three or more years, and has created a flexible and responsive business that can adapt to changing market environments and leverage opportunities for continued growth.

2019 Winner: Janet LePage, Western Wealth Capital

Social Change Award: Awards a leader of a registered charity or not-for-profit dedicated to social change — someone who has garnered extraordinary support from the community by being champions for philanthropy and volunteerism in Canada.

2019 Winner: Geetha Moorthy, SAAAC Autism Centre

TELUS Trailblazer Award: Celebrates a woman who has recognized a new market, product, service or technological advancement, and led the way via originality, quality and successful management.

2019 Winner: Carinne Chambers-Saini, Diva International Inc.

“For almost 20 years, we have been on a mission to revolutionize menstrual care around the world and provide a healthier, more environmentally friendly option,” said Chambers-Saini.

Syntax Strategic Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award: Awarded to the entrepreneur who, through timely innovation, strategic thinking and smart execution has built and managed one or more successful businesses over a period of 10 years.

2019 Winner: Brigitte Jalbert, Les Emballages Carrousel Inc.

Les Emballages Carrousel Inc. (Carrousel Packaging) is Quebec’s largest distributor of packaging products — and the ultimate family success story. Having joined the company in 1986 — and taken over as president in 2011 — Brigitte Jalbert had a strong desire to ensure the sustainability of the company her father founded. Not only has she successfully guided the company, she has done so while maintaining a human and mobilizing culture.

All the award nominees and winners demonstrated grit, commitment, and an almost super-human well of perseverance. They have also shown how winning in business can make positive changes in the world.

“As we embark on the start of a new decade in 2020,” said Alicia Skalin, Co-CEO & Head of Events, Women of Influence, “The successes achieved by this group of innovators and change makers is a strong testament to the bright future of Canadian business.”

Sources:[1] Women of Influence/RBC report

[2] The CS Gender 3000: the Reward for Change, Credit Suisse Group AG Research Institute, 2016 REPORT

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