MEET THE 2021 COHORT
The ELLEvate Women Entrepreneurs Pre-Accelerator, a program by YES Employment + Entrepreneurship, includes 10 high-potential women from all sectors with a feasible idea or product who have what it takes to grow their business.
Founder, La Petite Vie Co.
Theadora Borck was born in Germany and moved to Canada when she was eight years old with her mother.
After earning her B.A. in Political Science from McGill University and gaining experience in kitchens in both Montreal and Hamburg, Germany, Theadora founded La Petite Vie Co., a plant-based and food-focused production company, last spring in Montreal. The company’s primary focus is oat milk and yogurt produced with Quebec oats and packaged in a sustainable way.
Theadora wants to provide workers with the ability to live the life they choose – for her, La Petite Vie Co.’s success will be designed by how many people are able to live well off of the success of the company.
Founder, Selfish Swimwear
Founded in the spring of 2017, Selfish Swimwear was created by fashion design graduate Naomie Caron.
Naomie always knew she wanted to start her own brand, and after exploring different categories of the fashion industry and collecting feedback from customers, she rose to the challenge of designing swimwear. Her research highlighted how much of a gap there is in the swimwear offering for comfortable, stylish, ethical, and sustainable swimsuits.
Selfish Swimwear’s high quality and designer styles have been recognized across media platforms including Elle Canada, Clin d’oeil, the Globe and Mail and Refinery 29, among others. Naomie is also proud to have received the Black Designers of Canada’s Award of Excellence, but what she is most proud of is making women feel good, conident and beautiful throughout their shopping experience.
Naomie named the brand Selfish because she wanted to influence women to stop caring about what others may say or think of them and just start enjoying themselves for the amazing human beings they are. Being Selfish is to be you no matter what!
Founder/CEO, The Fatshionista
After initially grooming herself for a career in medicine as an undergrad at Concordia University, Myriam Dimanche changed gears and transferred to the John Molson School of Business in 2003 as a Finance major with a minor in Electronic Business Systems.
After building her entrepreneurial experience in the private sector, as well as coordinating Dawson College’s AI Initiative, Myriam has turned her attention to launching a second business, The Fatshionista, an innovative online platform boosted by artificial intelligence. The platform will provide a space where shoppers can not only find flattering and affordable fashions, but also a supportive community that can influence the currently short-sighted and non-size-inclusive fashion industry.
The Fatshionista is for the fashionista on a budget, who knows that just because she’s thrifty doesn’t mean she’s cheap. It’s for the full-figured woman who deserves a closet filled with articles that don’t just fit but also flatter. More than just plus-sized, Myriam will tell you, “I am a Fatshionista”.
Founder/ Owner, CUEILLI
Tesia Hackett is the owner of Cueilli, a wild-crafted products business specializing in handmade, small-batch bitters from the Gaspesie terroir.
An avid wild-plant and medicine forager with a background in conservation, Tesia is an herbalist of Indigenous and settler ancestry hailing from Victoria, BC. After completing her formal studies under herbal Elder and educator Don Ollisin as well as with Pacific Rim College Online where she received her certification as a Community Herbalist, Tesia worked and later joined the board of Wildsight Golden, an environmental non-profit organization that works to maintain biodiversity. After delving into entrepreneurship ten years ago with a jewelry and leatherwork business in Mexico, Tesia discovered a deeper connection to the plant world while living off-grid in the boreal forest of the Yukon, gathering plants for food and medicine.
In recent years Tesia has been making and offering her wild-crafted herbal products. Humbled by the beauty and teachings of the plants throughout her personal journey of healing, she believes in honouring our connections to nature by creating living relationships to the land. This is the philosophy at the heart of Cueilli, which offers respectfully foraged products with the vision of becoming better stewards of the environment for future generations. A new mom, Tesia is running her business from Gaspesie where she envisions growing bountiful gardens, food forests and one day starting an outdoor school.
Guanbingxue (Shirley) Huang
Guanbingxue (Shirley) Huang is the founder of Pètience, a tech start-up that aims to provide a comprehensive, interactive, and user-friendly digital platform that eases the pet parenting process and connects pet parents to local pet service providers to bring benefits to both sides.
A designer who is specialized in graphic and website design and has experience in UI/UX design, Shirley’s engineering background has contributed to her problem-solving and analytical skills, and her ability to stay vigilant and critical in her entrepreneurship journey. As a pet-parent of a 2 year-old Shiba Inu, Shirley’s understanding of the difficulty and struggle in the pet parenting journey and her love and passion for pets motivate her to help shape a pet-friendly future.
Pètience was founded in December 2020 in response to increased pet ownership during the pandemic. Pètience’s vision is to build a post-COVID Canadian community that is filled with responsible pet parents and sustainable pet businesses, helped by mobile applications and web-based management software.
After completing the ideation and concepting stage, Pètience has received grants and sponsorship from McGill Engine to move on to the validating phase and build a minimum viable product (MVP). Shirley believes that the greatest gift comes from continuous learning and with their ability to learn, young entrepreneurs will persevere through most of the obstacles in their entrepreneurship journey.
Owner, Toujours en Saison
After 20 years working as an airline pilot for major Canadian carriers, the pandemic gave Anne Moorhouse the opportunity to pivot and realize her dream of owning a business. Anne has always had a passion for environmental issues and believes that we must re-evaluate how we utilize our resources and reduce our waste as a society.
Toujours en Saison aims to reduce supply-chain food waste by providing a freeze-drying option within the existing perishable food supply-chain. Freeze-drying is an efficient dehydration process which freezes the product, creates a vacuum and then dries food via sublimation. This method allows fresh taste and colour – along with 97% of nutrients – to be retained with no preservatives.
Toujours en Saison will provide a way for farmers to maximize their harvests, and customers to taste the incredible offering of Quebec agriculture all year long. By saving produce from the landfill, Toujours en Saison will contribute to Quebec’s circular economy, and help show that businesses can be built with climate change mitigation as a priority.
Lemali Widana Pathiranage
CEO/Founder, Garden of Towers Canada
As a Master Certified Health Coach, Lemali Widana Pathiranage strongly believes that how we nourish ourselves has a huge impact on everything we do. We can experience and enjoy a higher quality of life both physically and mentally if we have the right knowledge on nutrition and “REAL” food that is affordable to all.
Lemali aims to facilitate both by growing highly nutritious fresh produce sustainably and right in our neighbourhood, by making this produce affordable to all, and by educating the younger generation to appreciate REAL food.
As a new Canadian, Lemali realized we are very much reliant on imports to feed ourselves. She was inspired to research options after seeing the high cost and environmental impact of these imports, as well as the impact a lack of fresh, flavourful and affordable produce had on society.
In her research, Lemali has found a system with the potential to grow 250,000 plants per acre and provide 10 times the yield of traditional systems, all with no soil or digging, no pesticides and 5% of the water normally required. This highly scalable system has endless possibilities for Quebec.
Founder/Owner, Buttery Foods
Taylor Pogue’s passion for cooking started at a young age, and after several years in the corporate world, she left her job and to pursue her lifelong dream of attending the top culinary school in the world; Le Cordon Bleu in London. After returning from culinary school, Taylor wanted to return to what she loved as a child – providing meals for her family and friends so they could focus on their careers, families and goals.
In January of 2020, Taylor started offering Buttery Foods; a ready-made meal service that provides busy families with delicious, well-balanced meals. Their goal is to provide families with more quality time by offering dinners, lunches and lunchboxes that are easy to reheat so that their clients can focus on what is most important, family.
Taylor is passionate about local and seasonal produce, a well-balanced plate and culturally diverse cuisines. Her goal is to give families the time that they would have spent planning their meals, grocery shopping and cooking back. Buttery Foods takes away all the stress of meal planning, allowing families to spend time doing what’s most important, spending time together.
Khushboo Vaidya is founder of EdCalibre, an adventure-based STEM learning application for school students.
After earning her MEng from the University of Waterloo and completing work experience in companies like Blackberry and Brock Solutions in Canada, Khushboo started a venture called Boarding Pass For Success in 2018. Through this platform, engineering students could schedule 1:1 mentoring sessions directly with industry experts in companies like Google, Amazon and iRobot to gain insights on how to improve their profile and develop skills for their career. They also conducted seminars and webinars for over 11,000 undergraduate students across India on topics like Engineering Innovation and Robotics, to inspire them towards application-based learning instead of theoretical learning. This is what ignited the idea for starting EdCalibre.
EdCalibre’s mission is to inspire students, especially women, towards STEM careers and to build a strong STEM foundation. EdCalibre provides a gamified and visual learning platform that helps students to relate concepts with real-world applications, including sustainable development goals.
With their application, students can develop a logical mindset, break career stereotypes, and have an engaging learning experience via adventure tasks. With a belief that school is the best time to adapt to new learning patterns, EdCalibre is aimed at both students and schools.
Founder, Geopolitica Technologies
Brittany Witham is the founder of Geopolitica Technologies, a consulting firm specializing in data science and machine learning solutions for geopolitical risk.
Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Brittany received her B.A. in International Studies from the University of Saskatchewan and started her career in economic development, equipping her with comprehensive knowledge of foreign direct investment and international business early in her career. She went on to obtain an M.A. in European and Russian Affairs from the University of Toronto in 2018, where she first discovered the potential of programming for political science and became fascinated with artificial intelligence (AI).
Over the past three years, Brittany has worked in many facets of the AI industry, from leading research and development of new AI products for video game developers to building automated data pipelines for business intelligence and managing software engineering and client engagement teams. In that time, she has honed technical skills in full-stack development, machine learning, and data engineering.
She recently struck out on her own to launch an online global event monitoring tool and deliver novel solutions to clients in the political risk and social enterprise sectors. Brittany is a firm believer in the potential for data-driven technologies for geopolitics and is excited to contribute to the many discoveries to be made in this space.