YES ELLEvate Women Entrepreneurs Pre-Accelerator 2022 Cohort
Darlenne Chidean, Lara Emond, Sally Guga, Teresa Hunkeler, Cristina Sanchez Luna, Joanna NNotkin, Sazini Nzula, Shaleen Ratansi, Alison Revine, Mariam Saad

The YES ELLEvate Women Entrepreneurs Pre-Accelerator supports 10 high-potential women from all sectors with a feasible idea or product who have what it takes to grow their business.


Darlene Chidean, Founder & Owner 

Petites Pousses 

Darlene Chidean’s passion for nature, plants and gardens started at a very young age, as they make her feel alive, free, and creative. Today she is concerned about good eating habits while being socially responsible and environmentally conscious.  

After several years of working in Sales, Procurement and Product Marketing, a major event in 2021 gave Darlene the opportunity to redefine her career with a project that would be close to her heart and values.  

In September 2021, Darlene created Petites Pousses, which allows consumers to grow delicious vegetables in the comfort of their home. Its first product, the Champibox: a reinvented mushroom grow kit for gourmet mushrooms, launched in November 2021. Petites Pousses’ mission is to bring the garden into the home with products that are aesthetic and delicious while being functional and eco-responsible. Darlene’s’ goal is to combine all these benefits and offer products to consumers that bring food to the table all year round that can be grown indoors. 


Lara Emond, Founder 


As founder of Nordet & Co, a marketing strategy and graphic design firm, Lara Emond has worked with and mentored young entrepreneurs and leaders of the fastest growing organizations in Canada as well as internationally.  

Motivated by a lack of transparency in the period product industry as well as a dearth of affordable, beautiful, clean, and sustainable options for period products in Canada, Lara founded Frankie. Frankie is a line of safe and beautifully designed period products made from 100% organic, ethical, biodegradable and sustainably sourced cotton. Their goal is to create the most sustainable and beautiful period products out there so that girls, women and people who bleed can reach their full potential. 


Sally Guga, Founder 


Sally Guga has worked in various industries as a graphic designer, while also freelancing and running related graphic design businesses on the side. 

As an immigrant mother, Sally noticed that she had very little support compared to the help that she would have received as a new parent in Kenya. Believing that parents are better equipped to take care of their precious little ones when they have extra assistance and feel supported, Sally founded Herawa at the beginning of 2022.  

Herawa is a gift registry marketplace that offers both new and seasoned parents vetted services that will help to ease their early days with the baby. Services include housekeeping services, meal planning and prepping services, day and night time nannies, and doula services, and aim to promote the emotional, physical, and psychological well-being of families.

Teresa Hunkeler, Co-Founder 


Teresa Hunkeler is the co-founder of TourBird Technologies, a startup that provides a software platform for self-guided audio walking tours.  

Teresa’s background is in software development and product management, with a strong emphasis on design and usability. She’s held senior positions in start-ups as well as large organizations, and has brought several new products to market while working with international customers. Teresa has a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering as well as an MBA from Concordia, and holds several patents.  

A passionate traveler, Teresa loves exploring cities on foot – a factor which helped drive TourBird’s conception. TourBird is still in an early phase: there are two co-founders, and the initial demo software is available. Ultimately, TourBird aims to create an easy and engaging way for locals and tourists to explore and discover places, with no need to download apps, or for service providers to have specialized downloadable apps.  


Cristina Sanchez Luna, Founder  

Aluna Eternal Gifts 

Cristina Sanchez Luna is the founder of Aluna Eternal Gifts, an e-commerce business offering real flowers that have been preserved to last for years without the need for water. Based in Montreal, Aluna ships across Canada and beyond.  

Born and raised in Ecuador, Cristina moved to Canada to pursue university studies in 2015. She obtained a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in both Marketing and Management from Concordia University in 2020.  

A passionate entrepreneur, Cristina has long been inspired to follow in her mother’s footsteps of setting up a successful business. With the creation of Aluna Eternal Gifts, she is realizing her dream through the introduction of a unique, innovative, and more eco-friendly product from her hometown to the Canadian market.  


Joanna Notkin, Founder  

Zoe Ford Catering 

Joanna Notkin founded Zoe Ford Catering, a high-end catering company dedicated to serving beautiful, classic food with a twist, over 12 years ago. 

During the pandemic, and while she was featured on Top Chef Canada Season 8, Joanna pivoted to bring her food into the homes of Canadians via baking mixes. With previous entrepreneurial success in the textile and jewelry industry, Joanna has a good sense of what people want and how to make the critical connection between product and emotions. Her line of baking mixes is now sold across the country, as well as in the US.  

During the pandemic she became a “celebrity chef” by accident, cooking for the Canadian Prime Minister a couple of months before the pandemic and working her way into the homes of Canadians who stood behind her as the show’s self-taught underdog. Now Joanna’s philosophy is to bring bakery-quality baking to every home in North America and to help create memories across generations.  


Sazini Nzula, Founder 

Dr. Sazini Consulting 

Dr. Sazini Nzula is a mother, an Author, a Speaker, and a Special Needs Families Consultant. She who founded her practice to inspire parents to discover healthy perceptions of themselves as confident, knowledgeable experts who can guide their child and family towards the lives they had always imagined. 

Dr. Nzula is a firm believer that parents are the experts when it comes to their child and have the greatest impact on their child’s development and well-being. In 2013 she became the first parent worldwide certified as a Qigong Sensory Treatment Therapist with the aim of not only helping her own children but also of providing other parents without access to therapy, with a parent-delivered, research-based intervention.  

As a scientist with a PhD in Medical Microbiology, Dr. Nzula promotes therapies that are based on solid research evidence and not on hope and dreams alone. She was inspired to write her book: Beautiful Inside and Out, What You Ought to Know About Autism, How to Embrace the Unique Way Your Child is Flourishing, to help parents who are struggling to come to terms with their child’s diagnosis. 


Shaleen Ratansi, Founder 

Aiya ayiA 

Shaleen Ratansi is the founder of Aiya ayiA, an ethical, plant-based luxury handbag brand disrupting the fashion industry.  

Aiya ayiA is a circular company that repurposes leftover agricultural materials to create zero-waste, clean fashion. The brand is purpose-driven and built to give back, with a portion of profits donated to organizations that help rescue girls and women from abuse & poverty and provide them with support, education, and tools to empower them to mold their own future. 


Alison Revine, Co-founder & Operator 

Flōt Frame 

Alison Revine is the co-founder and operator of Flōt Frame, a goods company that offers a flexible, quick, and affordable solution to framing canvas artworks.    

Equipped with an educational background in marketing and fine arts, Alison is creative and has an in-depth understanding of business strategy and sales. Her years of experience in business development within Top Tier FMCGs (products that are sold quickly and at a relatively low cost) have enabled her to develop a strong foundation in business fundamentals.  Adaptable by nature, she excels in ambiguous environments where out-of-the box thinking is an asset, and leverages her process-oriented background to drive action.   

Alison has always had a deep passion for the arts. As she navigated her professional career in sales, she maintained her personal relationship with art by painting in her spare time. After discovering the need for affordable, quality framing options for canvas art, Flōt Frame was created to bridge the gap between quality and cost. Offering a high-quality framing solution at a fraction of the cost of a professional service, Flōt Frame also offers a path towards sustainability via a unique mechanism that allows for endless reuse of the frame across multiple art pieces.  


Mariam Saad, Co-founder and CEO 


Mariam Saad is passionate and determined to find scientific biological solutions to help address several challenges facing our world today.  

As a doctoral student, Mariam has received the prestigious FRQNT scholarship and has several scientific contributions to her credit, including publications in renowned journals. As an ardent science communication advocate, she has also won both the first prize and People’s Choice Award at her faculty’s 3-Minute Thesis competition. In 2021, Mariam got bit by the entrepreneurship bug and served as a part-time consultant for the start-up IHRD (Impactful Health Research and Diagnostics) and successfully completed the Quebec Scientific Entrepreneurship (QcSE) Program.  

Realizing that there is a lack of tools available for efficient, cheap and accessible allergen testing, Mariam partnered with two innovative scientists with the goal of developing biosensor technologies that would empower people to make informed decisions. Together they launched Apsen Biotechnologies Inc. (ApsenBio), which aims to provide safe, user-friendly, and portable allergen testing for foods.