For Tonia Jahshan, entrepreneurship is literally her cup of tea. After sipping on a cup of Cream of Earl Grey made with loose tea leaves, Jahshan was so inspired that she created Steeped Tea so others could share in the experience of such rich flavors. Along with her husband, Hatem, Jahshan has established a business that allows tea-lovers to enjoy a quality product and empowers others to become entrepreneurs, as well. With the help of investors David Chilton and Jim Treliving of CBC’s Dragons’ Den, as well as other investors and consultants, Steeped Tea has grown in Canada and the US.
Shahrzad Rafati is founder and CEO of BroadbandTV, a Vancouver-based digital entertainment company that is the third largest video property in the world, following only Google and Facebook. Entrepreneurship is in Rafati’s blood; her parents and brother are also entrepreneurs, and she started her company right out of school when online video was still a new concept. Realizing the need to connect content owners, content creators, audiences, and advertisers, BroadbandTV pioneered a technology and business model in which all parties benefit. Her passion lies in empowering this generation of content creators by giving them the tools they need to succeed.
Stephanie Ciccarelli believes in the power of voice. The co-founder and chief brand officer of Voices.com first developed her business idea with her husband, David, on the back of a napkin in their kitchen. The company, headquartered in London, Ontario, is now the world’s largest online marketplace for voice actors and voice-actor employers. Ciccarelli is considered one of the most connected people in the industry and for more than two decades has used her voice to empower women through spoken word, written word, and song. Her podcast, Sound Stories, brings high-profile creatives together to help others improve their craft.
In 1995, at just 20 years old, Mandy Rennehan founded Freshco, the first full-service, 24-hour, on-call retail maintenance provider with full coverage across Canada and the Eastern U.S. As she explained in The Globe and Mail, she named the company Freshco because she was a fresh female face in a male-dominated industry. Today, Freshco is the most successful retail maintenance and construction company in Canada with clients including Tiffany & Co., Apple, Nike, The Gap, and more. Rennehan created the Chris Rennehan Scholarship, named for her late brother, to help women and youth become more involved in trade, and she is a partner of the Conestoga Women in Skilled Trades (WIST) certificate program.
In today’s business world, online presence is key, and no one understands that better than Krista LaRiviere, CEO and co-founder of gShift. A proven entrepreneur, gShift is LaRiviere’s third digital marketing company. In 2009, she and co-founder, Chris Adams, put their passion for the digital space into developing the software platform, which simplifies digital marketing. Their Web Presence Analytics platform has since been adopted by more than 10,000 brands in 22 countries. LaRiviere also volunteers on the board of directors for SEMPO, a global nonprofit organization serving the search and digital marketing industry and the marketing professionals engaged in it.
Susan Niczowski’s passion for recreating family recipes with simple and real ingredients that are easily found in your kitchen is what led her to create Summer Fresh, which she founded with her mother in 1991. When Summer Fresh first began, they only had 18 recipes; today the company has more than 2,000 products, including dips, salads, snacks, and easy meals. Niczowski’s vision has always been to give people quality food they can enjoy with their loved ones without having to spend hours in the kitchen.
Jenny Bird grew up in Elora, a tiny, beautiful town in Ontario. Having always desired to create something reflective of her personal philosophy, she founded jewelry company Jenny Bird in 2008. Each piece is of the highest quality but sold at a fair price. Bird’s husband, Adam, joined as president of the company in 2011, and they have since grown the label into a sought-after international brand sold in more than 600 retailers worldwide, with showrooms in Toronto, New York, Paris, Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta, and Chicago.
Cassandra Nordell, co-founder and CEO of William Standen Co., is a firm believer that good design can inspire people to change the way they live. The company is a leader in green design and the first certified eco-friendly custom cabinet provider in Southwestern Ontario. Nordell’s path to entrepreneurship started early when she would help at her parents’ excavating company in Sarnia. Today, she leads the fourth fastest-growing company in Canada in consumer services and construction. Whether it’s designing a space to empower an individual or volunteering with charitable organizations, Nordell is most passionate about making a difference.