Written by Diane Amato and originally published on the RBC website on Feb. 2, 2021
On November 18th, the 2020 RBC CWEA gala celebrated the remarkable achievements of Canadian women entrepreneurs. Although the event was held virtually, the stories of leadership and innovation remained inspiring and impactful.
The RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards (CWEA) are the pre-eminent national business awards recognizing the country’s leading female entrepreneurs. The awards are an initiative of Women of Influence, an organization dedicated to advancing women globally.
At the 28th annual CWEA gala, keynote speaker Demetra Streda, VP, Commercial Financial Services Strategy at RBC, emphasized the importance of recognizing the outstanding work of female leaders, founders, innovators and change-makers. “Celebrating and supporting women entrepreneurs — now more than ever — is the right thing to do,” she said. “In doing so, our communities thrive, our economy is boosted, and it provides opportunities for the next generation of young women.”
“There are very few career paths that demand more tenacity than getting a business off the ground,” she added, speaking to the finalists. “Thank you for exemplifying leadership and for the courage, creativity and resilience it has taken to get here.”
Hosted by CTV News anchor Marcia MacMillan, the first-ever virtual gala paid tribute to the country’s leading female entrepreneurs who made impressive and substantial contributions to local, Canadian or global economies. More than 500 online attendees were taken on a cross-country tour to discover the Canadian cities and towns where innovation is taking place — and to share the stories of the women who are driving it.
Celebrating the Top Women Entrepreneurs of 2020
This year, the program recognized its most diverse group of women yet, as finalists represented various ages, backgrounds, geographies and industries from healthcare to apparel, technology to hospitality, engineering to mining, and beyond.
The award winners announced on November 18th joined the five recipients of the up-and-coming “Ones to Watch” award category announced September of this year.
The 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award winners
Ones to Watch
Recognizing five up-and-coming entrepreneurs who may not meet other award criteria, this category highlights individuals who demonstrate incredible potential through their innovative ideas, keen business sense, and plans for future profitable growth. The award is open to those who have been in business for more than one but fewer than three years.
Winners: Eno Eka, Eny Consulting Inc., Jenn Harper, Cheekbone Beauty Cosmetics Inc., Nadine Chalati, Chalati Lawyer Inc., Rogayeh Tabrizi, Theory+Practice, Suzie Yorke, Love Good Fats.
Women of Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub Micro-Business Award
This award honours entrepreneurs who own and operate an impactful small business that generates an annual revenue of under $1 million. Evaluated on a micro level, the winner of this award can operate in any industry, at any stage.
Winner: Connie Lo and Laura Burget, Three Ships
Three Ships makes 100% natural, vegan, cruelty-free skincare products. A business that began around a kitchen table with $4,000 between the pair, Lo and Burget have grown Three Ships through grit and hustle. They are projected to hit $1.5 million in sales this year.
This award celebrates the achievements of an entrepreneur who has been successful in building a profitable business since its inception, and can share a comprehensive and sustainable business plan. The company must have been in operation for 3-5 years.
Winner: Sahara Sahidi, LUS Brands
LUS, which is short for “Love Ur Self” makes products for curly hair. When she hit a career roadblock, Sahidi decided to bet on herself and start her own company. After a shaky start, she got some expert marketing advice and the business began to gain traction. LUS is expected to reach $40 million in revenue this year.
RBC Momentum Award
Recognizes an entrepreneur for creating a flexible and responsive business that is able to adapt to changing market environments and leverage opportunities for 10% or more growth over three years or more.
Winner: Desirée Bombenon, SureCall
SureCall is a purpose-driven business process optimization company that provides global outsourcing services to organizations of any size. They have grown over 200% since launch, from a roster of 200 customers to over 1,200. Their approach attracts both customers and talent.
Social Change Award
This award recognizes an exceptional leader of a registered charity, social enterprise, or not-for-profit dedicated to a unique brand of social change. The entrepreneur has garnered extraordinary support from the community by being champions for philanthropy and volunteerism in Canada.
Winner: Sylvia Parris-Drummond, Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute
The Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute is focused on working with youth, young adults, and the community within the education system. All work is done from an Africentric perspective. Since becoming CEO in 2015, Parris-Dummond has taken a vision-forward, proactive approach, doubling funding, growing staff, and impacting 8,000 students.
Showcases a forward-thinking entrepreneur who has recognized a new market, product, service, technological advancement, or opportunity … and led the way. The recipient has demonstrated outstanding leadership within her company and her market.
Winner: Nicole Neuman, Synergy Engineering Ltd.
Nicole Neuman had to jump into the president role at Synergy Engineering very suddenly at a time that was very difficult for the company – and just prior to COVID hitting. Working in a field that does not typically make space for females, Neuman encourages all women to “not be daunted by male-dominated fields. If you have gumption and intelligence, go ahead and pursue what satisfies you.”
The recipient of this award has built and managed one or more successful businesses over a period of 10 years. With a proven track record of growth, profitability, and industry leadership, this entrepreneur’s work has generated an uncommon degree of economic growth and has shown to possess leadership traits others aspire to have.
Winner: Mandy Farmer, Accent Inns
Accent Inns is a 34-year-old B.C.-based business with eight hotels across the province. From 2013 to 2020 Farmer led the business and doubled revenues and profits. When COVID-19 hit, they asked the community how they could help. Accent Inns partnered with the United Way, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to put nurses and other frontline workers in their hotels for free.
The women recognized at the 2020 CWEA gala are not only exceptionally accomplished, but they also possess an almost super-human level of drive that has led them to astounding levels of success.
Congratulations to all 2020 winners and finalists!