Victory can take many forms when you’re running a company: the acquisition of a key client, the development of a groundbreaking product or service, the choice of the right partner. Sometimes, these wins are enough to change a company’s trajectory for the better. Here, members of the 2014 W100 ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs share the turning points that helped them build their businesses.
“Budge Studios was born from our first company, Wave Generation, a video game audio service company. Although profitable, we recognized that Wave Generation was not scalable. If we aspired to build a bigger and better business, we needed to embrace greater change—and, as a result, greater risk. It was 2010; the iPad was slated for release within a month, and I was raising young girls at home, so launching a company focused on kid apps was easy to wrap my brain around. That was my ‘a-ha’ moment. We hired our first programmer and artist and created a prototype. Then we leveraged an existing relationship we had with MegaBrands to secure a deal to develop an app for their brand. This kicked off a series of wins for Budge, including multi-product development deals with Nickelodeon, Warner Brothers and, ultimately, Disney.”
—Noemie Dupuy (No. 8), Budge Studios
“Becoming the agency of record for the Province of Ontario during the peak of the recession completely redefined our agency’s strategic plan, design and workflow. This is a very specific, high-volume and zero-fail account. Obviously, the account acquisition was an enormous revenue enhancer, but it was also a critical point of success in achieving our next-level ambitions, moving us from a boutique agency focused on recruitment advertising and employer brand design to a full-service, multi-faceted shop with a contract that spoke volumes about our capability, best-in-class business practices and profile within a very tight industry.”
—Viive Tamm (No. 59), Tamm+Kit
“Leisureworld’s acquisition of eight long-term care homes and four retirement residences from Specialty Care Inc. [in 2013] has been our greatest achievement in recent years. The acquisition brought 1,500 new employees to the company and made it the second largest long-term care provider in Ontario.”
—Lois Cormack (No. 16), Leisureworld Senior Care Corp.
“On May 17, 2011, FINRA (the U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority—the largest market regulator in the world) announced Global Relay as the exclusive message archiving vendor for the compliance program used by its 4,100 member firms. After an exhaustive three-year RFP process, we were chosen over the seven other leading vendors. It was the first time a regulator partnered with a technology vendor to offer compliance solutions to its members. To have this status granted by such an influential organization has driven the business of FINRA member firms toward Global Relay, and will continue to do so. It was a hugely significant breakthrough for our company.”
—Shannon Rogers (No. 1), Global Relay Communications Inc.
Read: Secrets of a Rainmaker
“Making PROFIT 500 ranking for the first time in 2013 was an amazing achievement for us. We’ve since entered the U.S. and have begun recruiting consultants there to join our growing team. Showing Americans that we made the list of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies is an indication of success, and the most proud moment of my professional career.”
—Tonia Jahshan (No. 6), Steeped Tea Inc.
“In 2011, we sold a portion of our company to a private equity investor. We had built up a branded freeze-dried product that was valuable to a strategic investor. This deal gave us the opportunity to realize some of our original investment and provide funds for future growth.”
—Karen Richardson (No. 31), Freeze-Dry Foods
“Our greatest achievement has been trademarking and formalizing our DNA/PRO methodology for analyzing salespeople. It has led to consistency among all our agents in how we analyze and assess salespeople across the company. It’s almost like our own internal ‘language.’ Our customers are now adopting it!”
—Sonya Meloff (No. 37), Sales talent Agency Inc.
“A few years ago we developed click-to-shop technology, which enables readers to shop right off the pages of our digital magazine. We were the first to launch this in Canada. That has led to other improvements in our media channel, which culminated in us winning Best Digital Magazine at the Canadian Online Publishing Awards in 2013.”
—Elen Steinberg (No. 40), SPP Marketing Services Inc. & Real Style Network Inc.
“A big achievement for us was earning preferred staffing partner status with two top telecom providers (Rogers and Telus) in Canada. This has allowed us to be one of the few suppliers to fulfill contingent labour requirements from these clients.”
—Aneela Zaib (No. 43), Emergitel Inc.
“Partnering with the International Congress and Convention Association helped us to create a worldwide customer base for our big data management software. In only a few months, organizations in cities around the world, from Amsterdam to Sydney, were using it to bring key scientific figures to their conventions.”
—Nathalie Lacoste (No. 46), Équation Humaine
“Implementing our ‘skill centre’ in both the U.S. and Canadian markets has been significant for us. We created this ‘virtual’ manufacturing facility to assist our Tier 1 & 2 automotive clients in securing and training the best team members for all their ongoing production needs.”
—Sherri Stevens (No. 55), SRG (Stevens Resource Group)
“In the past few years, the single greatest breakthrough has been developing a direct sales distribution program in the U.S. (We plan to launch it in Canada later.) Developing this model for sales gives us the incredible privilege of enabling women to change their lives while sharing the our products with the world.”
—Joanna Duong Chang (No. 92), Henkaa Inc.
“As a producer of niche products, our biggest achievement has been gaining distribution through mainstream channels. When we started out, we were seen exclusively as a ‘vegan’ company, then we got into other areas such as the nut-free, gluten-free and kosher. In recent years, we’ve started to be seen as desserts and baked goods producer instead of a specifically niche manufacturer. As a result, we now have a following well beyond the intolerant and allergic communities.”
—Ilana Kadonoff (No. 61), Sweets from the Earth
“In 2009, we delivered on our largest contract to date at that time, which was for the largest hospitality project in in the U.S. This was the first time we did uniforms for various hotel departments—not just their spa. At that point decided to change the company name from Spa Uniforms Inc. to Noel Asmar Group. This immediately opened the door to be able to serve the broader hospitality industry This was a turning point for our company.”
—Noel Asmar (No. 65), Noel Asmar Group Inc.
“We worked with Yahoo! on a groundbreaking research study about the effects of technology on our memory. It involved using new tools and complex methodologies in a very short timeline. It was a very stressful but rewarding project, which earned us a 2014 Marketing Research Intelligence Association Best in Class award.”
—Corrine Sandler (No. 68), Fresh Intelligence
“Our single greatest breakthrough has been the development and launch of our ninth generation of the XCode family—the world’s first and, currently, only commercially shipping system-on-a-chip to support ultra-high definition 4K and HEVC technology. This marks the ninth consecutive time we have achieved a production-ready chip on the first tape-out, an incredible achievement by our team.”
—Sally Daub (No. 76), ViXS Systems Inc.
“A big breakthrough for us was the development of an online panel of more than 15,000 Saskatchewan residents, each of whom has agreed to take part in research activities. Saskatchewan was a market large sample providers were not paying much attention to, and as such, we could not purchase sample data for our clients in this market. So we developed our own panel, and now offer our clients the benefits of online surveys.”
—Corrin Harper (No. 86), Insightrix Research Inc.