After three months of intensive preparation, the 10 women selected to participate in the ELLEvate Women Entrepreneurs Pre-Accelerator program, run by YES, pitched their businesses to a panel of local business leaders and investors on Thursday, September 9, with $21,000 in prize money on the line.

Three judges, Marie-Agnès Chavane (Desjardins), Denise Branco Gonçalves (SAP), and Philippe Telio (Startupfest), had their work cut out for them in choosing the evening’s winners from the 10 dynamic business pitches presented.

Winners of the ELLEvate Women Entrepreneurs Pre-Accelerator program. Taylor Pogue, Tesia Hackett, Lemali Pathirana.

Taylor Pogue, Founder of Buttery Foods, a ready-made meal service that provides busy families with delicious, well-balanced meals that are easy to reheat, took home the evening’s top prize of $10,000. “Honestly, there are no words to describe how this feels,” says Pogue. “The real win was the program itself – the support, the after-hours calls, the access to established entrepreneurs. Getting access to that kind of network is really hard for new entrepreneurs – You can’t set a price on a good network!”.

Taylor founded Buttery Foods with a passion for cooking and a desire to give families the time that they would have spent meal planning, shopping, and cooking back. After studying at Le Cordon Bleu in London, Pogue launched Buttery Foods early last year.

This summer’s cohort was the second for YES, a charitable non-profit that provides free and low-cost resources, tools, and strategies to improve employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for Quebecers. The Pre-Accelerator program, which offered participants the education, tools, resources, network, and hands-on experience needed to enter the accelerator system in Quebec with their best foot forward, is part of a wider range of support and services launched under the ELLEvate banner late last year.

The ELLEvate program aims to increase the participation of women in Quebec’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, where they currently represent only 16% of small and medium business owners. Funded by the Government of Canada’s Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES), with the support of SAP Labs Canada, additional support for the Pre-Accelerator came from the City of Montreal and Desjardins.

The full list of winners for the 2021 ELLEvate Women Entrepreneurs Pre-Accelerator Demo Day follows:

Get more information on the ELLEvate program here.