IEF’s flagship program, the Canadian Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CANIE) Awards, presented in partnership with UPS, celebrates and honours outstanding Canadian founders belonging to equity-seeking and/or racialized communities who demonstrate excellence in innovation, sustainability, social impact, community leadership, and business achievement.
We are thrilled to recognize the four incredible finalists from each 2023 CANIE Award category! Each talented finalist demonstrates strength in innovation, sustainability, social impact, community leadership, and business achievement.
Global Export Business Owner of the Year
Avigail Lynch (she/her), founder, Modestly Yours
Nestled in the heart of Canada’s serene Prescott Windmill Point resides a woman-owned global enterprise that has taken the world by storm with its mission to provide the ultimate comfort and style. Founded by Avigail Lynch, Modestly Yours offers an exclusive array of heirloom clothing, evoking the essence of eras past through intricate details in clothing that is made to last.
Avigail’s adventure began with a dream of creating heirloom quality clothing. Once employed by a law firm as a governance guru, she made the switch into fashion by embarking on a quest to craft women’s clothing that resonates with those who desired quality and value over mass fast fashion production. Sending out beautifully crafted packages from Ontario to consumers globally, her clothing line has become increasingly sought after.
Modestly Yours is a promise of refined beauty with a reminder of times past. Its treasures boast an array of dresses to sleepwear that resembles a lullaby. Each piece is an ode to meticulous craftsmanship, tailored for comfort and longevity.
Beyond borders and boundaries, Avigail’s journey spans the globe to gather the finest materials, joining communities together internationally. She champions global initiatives in her search for new artisans and in her charitable initiatives. Each item comes together to create the heart of her enterprise, with threads weaving color, light, sustainability, beauty, and comfort, each made to last, perhaps into the next generation!
Candina Elendu (she/her), founder, True North Women’s Safety Apparel Ltd. (TNWSA)
Candina Elendu is the founder and President of True North Women’s Safety Apparel Ltd. (TNWSA). As a Canadian and woman-owned company founded in 2020 in Regina, SK, TNWSA’s mission is to support women working in the trades, non-traditional occupations, healthcare, and other hazardous environments by offering high quality safety clothing and workwear specifically designed to fit women’s bodies.
Candina loves commerce, is solutions-oriented, and has always had an entrepreneurial mindset. Candina was inspired to improve and increase the accessibility of safety workwear for women after becoming increasingly aware of the difficulties women face in sourcing the required safety apparel needed to perform their jobs safely and confidently. Her business venture supports her values in empowering women by tackling one of the inequities that hard-working, highly competent, and skilled women face in male-dominated industries.
TNWSA’s vision is to improve the occupational health and safety for all women working trades, non-traditional trades, healthcare, and other hazardous environments.
Purushothaman Cannane, founder, Greenii Inc.
Greenii Inc. is an innovative startup that has developed a unique solution to solve the plastic bag and traditional brown paper (kraft) bag problem by converting discarded paper waste into paper bags without any chemical processing.
There is a big problem with traditional brown paper bags. Many traditional kraft paper bags available on the market add toxic chemicals and require cutting down trees for new pulp, rendering them environmentally harmful. Greenii collects clean paper waste such as newsprints, magazines, and flyers from retail chains, libraries, paper mills, distributors, retailers, and households. Greenii does not bleach, pulp, or add any chemicals in the making of its products.
Selling to over 300 buyers from Canda, USA, and Italy, Greenii Inc. is also the first company in the world to successfully build a semi-automatic assembly line to make over 500 paper bags per hour using paper waste irrespective of its thickness, fold, size, or bind.
As a serial entrepreneur dedicated to solving both social and environmental problems, Purushothaman is deeply committed to making a difference in his community and the world by both reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and in supporting members of vulnerable communities. He has partnered with Metroworks Employment Centre to employ and empower individuals belonging to racialized and/or equity seeking groups in Canada.
Tina Luu (she/her), founder, Fable
Tina’s journey as an entrepreneur began with her background in web development, a path she pursued to combine her technical skills with her love for creating and building. From there Tina decided to launch her own business, and in 2019, Fable was born—a brand that designs and crafts sustainable homeware for environmentally conscious consumers.
Fable’s goal is simple: to help people feel right at home. Through ethical craftsmanship and sustainable practices, Fable creates timeless everyday pieces that inspire and elevate the experience of living at home. Fable partners with makers who share its commitment to exceptional craft, quality materials, and ethical employment, empowering their customers to feel inspired by their purchase.
Fable started out with ethically sourced dinnerware made at a zero-waste facility in Portugal using locally sourced and recycled clay. After great success, Fable expanded their product range to include a full suite of tableware and home decor pieces—and this is just the beginning!
Indigenous Entrepreneur of the Year Award
Brad Robinson (he/him), founder, Thrive Tours
Brad Robinson is an Indigenous artist with a BA in Native Studies from Laurentian University, and co-owner of Thrive Tours in Baawaating (Sault Ste. Marie), Northern Ontario.
Inspired by a commitment to reconciliation and ecological stewardship, Brad contributes his artistic vision and cultural understanding to Thrive Tours. Thrive Tours align closely with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, offering transformative experiences that connect participants to Mother Earth and each other.
Thrive Tour’s eco-friendly activities span kayaking, woodland painting, and Indigenous Food Sharing, serving a diverse clientele from Southern Ontario tourists to U.S. educational tours and local First Nations.
With a focus on holistic wellness, Thrive Tours aims to be more than just a tour company: they strive to create a sense of belonging and mutual respect among all participants, emphasizing the significance of dialogue for marginalized First Nation communities and those committed to the path of reconciliation.
Chelsee Pettit, founder, aaniin retail inc.
Chelsee Pettit is an Anishinaabe member of Aamjiwnaang First Nation and the innovator behind aaniin retail inc., Canada’s first Indigenous department store concept. aaniin (which means “hello” in Anishinaabemowin) began as an Indigenous streetwear brand, which focused its attention on Ojibwe syllabics to create visibility, and to inspire conversations about Indigenous languages.
Each aaniin retail clothing item includes a QR code or NFC tag on the label leading to a webpage explaining the meaning, allowing the wearer to carry on the conversation. In growing the brand,
Chelsee came to recognize the need for Indigenous businesses to be promoted and sold without relying on non-Indigenous owned channels. Her mission is to help reclaim the Indigenous economy through fashion and commerce by taking back space – both physical and digital – using the 100% Indigenous owned retail experience she has curated.
Chelsee now stocks over 40 Indigenous brands at the aaniin brick-and-mortar storefront and online, with a goal to reach 100 brands on aaniin’s online platform for the 2023 Holiday season. While aaniin has been an overwhelming success so far, the journey is only beginning, with a goal to become a household name and a Canadian omnichannel icon!
Leigh Joseph (she/her), founder, Skwálwen Botanicals
Leigh Joseph, whose ancestral name is Styawat, is the ethnobotanist, researcher, activist, and Indigenous founder of Sḵwálwen Botanicals. She is also a mother and wife, a daughter and community leader whose aim is to help heal the intergenerational effects of cultural trauma within the Squamish Nation by learning, working with and preserving Indigenous plants, and carrying them forward into the modern world.
Leigh holds a BSc in Botany, MSc in Ethnobotany and is completing her PhD in Ethnobotany. Her bestselling book, Held by the Land: A Guide to Indigenous Plants for Wellness, is part narrative, part field guide and recipe book that draws on her lived experience as an Indigenous woman, her training in Western Science, and her cultural journey toward identity. Leigh approaches the natural world gently and respectfully, harvesting with techniques applied to all of her products that are ethical and sustainable.
Sḵwálwen Botanicals (skwall – win) is a luxury Indigenous brand creating botanical skin care products. Honouring traditional Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) plant knowledge, Sḵwálwen Botanicals incorporates sustainably harvested and sourced plants and organic, high quality ingredients. Each product has a Squamish name to honour the place where this plant knowledge comes from.
Sḵwálwen’s botanical-based products carry the richness and potency of the natural world, without any harsh chemicals, phthalates, synthetics, or parabens. Sḵwálwen represents more than skincare. It is a ceremonial offering of Indigenous plant wisdom that keeps ancestral tradition alive.
Vanessa Marshall, founder, Jack59
Vanessa has always been passionate about sustainability and social issues. As a driven entrepreneur, she wanted to start a company that had an incredible impact on her Indigenous community. Vanessa is that person who asks you if you remembered your reusable shopping bag and will educate all in her presence about recycling.
Vanessa learned a lot of Jack59 formulations from women in her community and their knowledge of local plants. Being raised by a sustainably oriented community, reducing waste, and caring for the earth is in her culture and family.
With so few all-natural haircare products that offer a high-performance experience, Jack59 is on a mission to develop a line of products that not only delivers quality but supports the healing of our planet at the same time.
Jack59 is committed to using plastic-free production processes and packaging, biodegradable, vegan and cruelty-free products that are uniquely formulated to care for all hair types based on science and research. We exist to provide safe and effective products – safe for humans, animals, and the planet.
Prince’s Trust Canada Veteran Entrepreneur Award
Frédéric Verville (he/him), Co-founder, Floèm
Frédéric Verville, an impassioned and dedicated entrepreneur, leads Floèm with a vision focused on technological efficiency and an admiration for the boreal flora of Canada. Holding a master’s degree in theology, and with 11 years of service in the Canadian Armed Forces, Frédéric has developed strong leadership and expertise in supply chain management and data analysis. He innovated by developing a customized Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) management system for the manufacturing field, a key to the growth and success of Floèm.
Frédéric’s passion for nature and his desire to share the boreal flora motivated him to co-create Floèm with his wife, highlighting local ingredients. Floèm’s unique infusions made from Labrador leaves reflect the founders’ love for the nature, the great outdoors, and the riches of the Northern boreal flora. The bold blends, handpicked, are an exploration of the beauty, creativity, and authenticity of nature. Frédéric’s experience and strategic vision guided the technological development of the company.
Jeffrey Moorhouse (he/him), founder, Eco Mulch Farms Inc
In 2004 Jeffrey Moorhouse enrolled in the Royal Canadian Airforce (RCAF) and spent 15 years serving our country as a pilot on the CC130J Hercules. Throughout his career he participated in numerous operations both domestic and abroad. In 2019 Jeff made the decision to leave the RCAF and embark on a new life journey with his wife and three children.
Having spent the first half of his career serving Canada, Jeff wanted to find a way to help serve our planet. Since the days of owning a small lawn cutting business in high school, Jeff had always dreamt of owning his own fully established company. After much research and planning, Eco Mulch Farms Inc. was born in 2020!
Eco Mulch Farms is an innovative company that utilizes natural products in the landscape and agricultural industry. Eco Mulch Farms develops and distributes natural landscape mulches, custom soil blends, and innovative erosion control products. Recently Eco Mulch Farms began distribution and will begin production of worm castings products for greenhouses and the agricultural industry. Eco Mulch Farms strives to utilize our Earth’s natural resources more respectfully and efficiently. Eco Mulch Farms grew significantly in the first three years, diverting tons of underutilized natural resources into products that have helped improve both residential and commercial properties, the environment, and soil health.
Jill McLellan (she/her), co-founder, End of the Leash Pet Boutique (EOTL)
Jill McLellan is a driven entrepreneur with a deep love for animals and a strong commitment to pet welfare. After her 9.5 year career in the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves, Jill’s motivation to become an entrepreneur stemmed from her desire to make a tangible and positive impact on the lives of pets and their owners. Witnessing the joy that pets brought to people’s lives, she recognized the need for a pet boutique that not only offered high-quality products but also prioritized the well-being and happiness of animals. Driven by this vision, she embarked on her entrepreneurial journey with business partner Tina McNish to establish their enterprise, End of The Leash Pet Boutique.
End of the Leash Pet Boutique (EOTL) is a bustling community centre dedicated to all things pets! It serves as a go-to hub for pet information, resources, and initiatives, fostering a close-knit community. EOTL prioritizes pet happiness and well-being, ensuring families have easy access to all essentials for their furry friends.
Jill and Tina bring over 40 years of combined expertise in dog training and the pet industry. EOTL offers diverse training, including puppy, obedience, behavioral, service dog, and therapy dog training through their not for profit initiative. Their standout approach relies on positive reinforcement techniques, creating a joyful and healthy learning atmosphere that strengthens the pet-owner bond.
Peter MacInnis (he/him), founder, Bee and Thistle Winery Inc.
Following 20 years of service in the Royal Canadian Navy, Peter embarked on an entrepreneurial adventure. Inspired by skills taught in the military, and further motivated by a diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in 2014, Peter led Bee & Thistle Winery’s development and incorporation as a value-added agri-business for his family’s fruit orchards.
Bee & Thistle’s branding highlights Peter’s family Scottish heritage, which includes featuring the clan seat Kinlochaline Castle in Morvern, Scotland. Honoring the MacInnis clan motto “E Labore Dulcedo – from work comes pleasure,” Bee & Thistle has won 16 prestigious awards, including NYIWC Canada Fruit Winery of the Year in 2021 and 2022.
Bee & Thistle Winery has innovated the wine industry, developing a new and provincially approved wine fortification process, and through the development of their proprietary Haskap MIST™. Bee & Thistle’s current product lineup includes eight table wines, one beverage, and two fortified wines.
Peter’s advice for those seeking a career after Canadian military service: discover your passion, work with supportive agencies to reach your goals, and trust in the abilities developed by your training.
Entrepreneur of the Year Award
Brttany Charlton (she/her), founder, Ohh! Foods
Ohh! Foods is passionate about creating healthy, delicious, and convenient snack options that are accessible to everyone. Ohh! Foods products are all plant-based and free from gluten, dairy, and nuts, making them perfect for people with dietary restrictions or anyone looking for healthier snack options.
Brittany’s inspiration to create Ohh! Foods was sparked at the age of 18 after developing a serious peanut and tree nut allergy. As Brittany learned to accept the fact that she could no longer enjoy some of her favourite snacks and food as she did in the past, she had difficulty finding nut-free snacks that had the same taste profiles she loved.
From her lived experience and her drive to solve this problem for others, Brittany began making and perfecting her own healthy, delicious, nut-free snacks. This was the starting point for her in creating Ohh! Foods, with the aim of making the world a little safer and a lot sweeter with vegan, gluten free, and allergy friendly snacks.
In addition to purchasing online, you will find Ohh! Foods products in Walmart Canada, Healthy Planet, Whole Foods, and other many retailers across Canada.
David Cash, founder, Cash Labs
Cash Labs is a leading force in bringing Web3 endeavors to market, offering a wide range of services to Fortune 500 brands and beyond. Cash Labs services include Strategic Advisory Consulting, Curation + Artist Brand Partnerships, Go-to-Market Full Service Communications, 360° Production Services, Productized Services, and Education Onboarding Corporate Training. Cash Labs offers a range of training services to ensure smooth onboarding into anything Web3, AI, and beyond.
David Cash, the founder and CEO of Cash Labs, is a visionary entrepreneur with a passion for digital innovation. With over six years of experience in commercial photo/video production and a master’s thesis on NFTs and DeFi, David has a unique blend of creative and technical expertise. His work has been featured in international outlets from Vogue to MTV to Netflix, and he has guided Fortune 500 companies and leading brands on their digital transformation journey.
David’s entrepreneurial journey was sparked by a desire to redefine the intersection of fashion and technology. He saw the potential of the Web3 space to transform industries and create new opportunities for innovation and growth. This vision led him to establish Cash Labs, a pioneering agency in the Web3 space, and to launch initiatives like Metaverse Fashion Week.
Ellen Graf-Martin (she/her), founder, Graf-Martin Communications
Ellen Graf-Martin is the President and Chief Marketing Strategist at Graf-Martin Communications. This Waterloo Region-based marketing agency is a WBE Canada-certified, women-owned enterprise dedicated to equipping social enterprises and non-profit organizations to do more good.
Ellen Graf-Martin’s journey as a founder began in October 2008, in the midst of the global recession. Beating incredible entrepreneurship odds, Graf-Martin Communications is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year as a result of Ellen’s dedication, resilience and grit.
Having started her career by serving as a volunteer with an international charity, it was natural that the agency Ellen created would serve the betterment of her community – locally and globally. Since 2008 the team at Graf-Martin has worked to strengthen organizations committed to hope, generosity, and justice by providing integrated brand engagement strategy and implementation services. The Graf-Martin team coins this specialized service as Marketing for Good.
With less than 1% of North America’s creative, marketing, and ad agencies owned and operated by women, Ellen is a change-maker who is passionate about mentoring the next generation. She is dedicated to serving under-resourced sectors by acting differently, and delivering inventive, impactful, long lasting solutions to her non-profit and social enterprise clients.
Natasha Ferguson (she/her), founder, ETHELFOX CONSTRUCT GROUP
Natasha Ferguson is the founder of ETHELFOX CONSTRUCT GROUP, a full-service construction and development company providing clever construction, build and distinctive design services for residential homeowners. ETHELFOX CONSTRUCT GROUP one of the only women-owned and operated construction companies in Canada.
Before devoting herself full-time to ETHELFOX CONSTRUCT GROUP, Natasha worked in marketing and advertising for 15 years, supporting many popular brands as a creative and technical project manager and director.
Natasha’s love for the trade developed as a young child, thanks to her father who would take her to his job sites and allow her to discover while he worked. Now, as the Lead General Contractor of her company, she has several trades under her construction belt, including carpentry, drywall, tiling, hardscape, landscape, and framing. This has allowed her to become a strong mentor and teacher within the construction industry.
Natasha is also an avid supporter of women in the trades and is the co-founder of the non-profit organization, A Women’s Work, which provides support to women who are looking to begin a career in the trades. At A Women’s Work, once students complete their 5-step career journey they are placed at ETHELFOX CONSTRUCT GROUP and other supporting companies to develop construction experience. Natasha’s mission is to increase the number of women employed on construction job sites by 20% by the year 2030, which will help to solve Canada’s current labor shortage within the industry.
Congratulations to all the 2023 CANIE Award finalists! Each finalist will receive a professionally produced business promotions video and a story-telling campaign by the charity.