Okay, so you’ve got a promising start-up business idea. Now what? For these 10 Quebec based women, it took commitment, resilience, a dash of flexibility, and a whole lot of self belief to take their vision to the next level.
On September 17, we had the immense pleasure of celebrating the first ever ELLEvate Pre Accelerator for Women Entrepreneurs, a program by YES Montreal which SAP Labs Canada proudly supports. SAP Labs Canada is at the forefront of entrepreneurship, partnering with YES’ ELLEvate program to support the growth and success of women entrepreneurs and promote diversity. ELLEvate helps women entrepreneurs build their network and knowledge in a stimulating, growth oriented, diverse and inclusive environment, supporting them as they bring their ideas to fruition. “Our goal is to support over 1,000 women to launch or grow their businesses,” pledges Aki Tchitacov, YES Executive Director. “SAP Canada is one of our long-term partners stepping up and helping us to support this program.”
This pioneer event commenced with a moving message from The Honourable Mary Ng. She affirmed her commitment to gender equality and steadfast belief in breaking down barriers to create pathways for success, stating, “Organizations like YES are essential to empowering women.” The road to the rest of this evening was paved by the work of the 10 featured women entrepreneurs. This inaugural cohort from all walks of life pitched their impressive business ideas to a panel of judges, including SAP Director of Innovation Projects, Amer Chebaro of Labs Montreal. The level of diversity and high potential across all pitches were just as inspiring as the women who spearheaded them – with backgrounds in science, tech, and business.
The range of business models included ideas like a 3D medical animation service, ocean botanicals skincare line, plant based subscription service, prescription birth control platform, next-gen classified ad marketplace, trip planning app, legal automation software, online clothing exchange, and high quality insect pet food. However, one similarity shone through. Each woman clearly identified a problem themselves or their peers were currently facing, and believed in their vision to solve it. Judge and Managing Partner of Brightspark Ventures, Sophie Forest encourages participants to, “Follow your dream through passion, patience, and perseverance. Keep on going because you can get there.”
Selecting a winner was no easy feat, with two initial two-way ties for first and third place, causing judges to retreat into their deliberation chambers. In the end, three women walked away with over $20,000 total in awards. Julie Tzeng, Founder of Arshae, took the well deserved top spot for her zero waste footwear business idea, combining fashion and 3D printing. “What you wear says a lot about you,” says Julie. “Fashion is one of the most pollutive industries, especially shoes.” This footwear line aims to inspire a new era of conscious fashion. Her team targets the full carbon footprint of a shoe, using 3D printing to create a patentable assembly process and design with only 3-5 shoe parts, avoiding toxic materials. This is a service Julie believes can transform the supply chain.
Second Place Award – Aliyeh Rasooli zadeh, founder of Triple F Group – ($7,500)
Beyond the rankings, many found value through the amazing community they developed – from the women, coaches, and mentors – who together, are smashing silos and moving the dial on female powered businesses. “Grow your network, you’re surrounded by incredible women and support,” Amer encourages. Each woman took away key lessons to apply to their visions, such as:
- Trust the process and enjoy
- Take a step back sometimes to work on the business rather than in
- Don’t be afraid to share your ideas – feedback will help you improve
- Your idea can change but your vision is most important
- Shut off the voice of doubt and refocus
Congratulations to all the powerhouse women entrepreneurs featured at this event! Your female comradery and enthusiasm are truly empowering. As Amer said it best, “You will throw a seed that grows into a tree one day.” At SAP Canada, we embrace and encourage different perspectives and believe we are made stronger by bringing together our unique blend of cultures, ages, genders and experiences. That’s why we understand the importance of investing in female start-ups, and are excited to continue helping push forward impassioned ideas that spur innovation.
What does tomorrow look like for these ELLEvate graduates? For some, it’s straight to the test kitchen to prep, or time to take a stay-at-home honeymoon, or back to the lab to analyze cells. Whatever it may be, this is only the beginning of their journeys.