The 2022 Halifax Business Awards

The 2022 Halifax Business Awards

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Contributors:

The Halifax Chamber of Commerce Team

The Halifax Chamber of Commerce is pleased to present this year’s Halifax Business Awards finalists. Presented by longtime supporters of the business community, RBC, the awards showcase Halifax’s best and brightest business leaders and entrepreneurs. This issue is dedicated to the hardworking and innovative people behind these remarkable business ventures. We hope you enjoy getting to know them, and we hope their vibrancy shines through these pages.

To learn more about the finalists, please visit:
halifaxchamber.com/awards

All photos by Paul Darrow.


New Business of the Year Finalists


New Business of the Year Finalists

Tiffani Young, Natural Butter Bar

What inspired you to open a new business?

I was inspired to open Natural Butter Bar after meeting many people in Atlantic Canada who struggled to find healthier and affordable products for their hair and skin. Inspired by tutorials, I wanted to embrace my natural curls, with natural products, but found myself purchasing expensive ingredients or products from outside the Maritimes.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

Starting Butter Bar and building the brand was a great accomplishment. But one accomplishment that always makes me smile is launching our Braille labels and improving our website to be more accessible. We speak about being inclusive and we wanted to also do it and we will continue to do it. Look out for our universal packaging coming soon.


Cathy Akinkunmi, Eunoia Lifestyle Shop

What is one thing people may not know about your business?

Even though we are a retail model, we also have a serviced-based offering. We offer services like designing event backdrops using our biodegradable balloon and party decorations, centerpiece design, and garland with faux florals. Included in our services, we also offer installation on-site at your event!

What is your proudest accomplishment?

Being able to be a part of the main street business, and provide visibility to new BIPOC businesses by providing shelf space for their hand-made products, providing feedback for product improvement and seeing their growth.


Taya Skeete, Taya Ties

How did you get your start?

The official start of my business was when I was able to be part of The North End Business Association’s Taking BLK Gottingen Market. They gave me my first opportunity to sell products on a larger scale in my community and this is where I officially launched my business. Since then, I have only seen my business grow!

How can we encourage youth to explore entrepreneurship as a possible future career?

I believe more exposure to people in different types of businesses in school would allow kids to see different possibilities for their future. Since being part of St. George’s YouthNet, Hope Blooms, BBI- BIJ Camps, I was exposed to a lot of people in business that I wouldn't have known otherwise. I am grateful for all the exposure they gave me.


Jo Hamilton, Jo to the Web Solutions

How did you get your start?

I designed my first website 20 years ago. It’s always been a passion of mine, but I never formally pursued it. When COVID hit, I wanted to help the community. I became certified in Responsive Web Design, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, SEO and Digital Marketing. Using my technical skills and 15+ years of business development experience, I was now able to help companies who were impacted by COVID emerge from the pandemic while also doing something I love.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

The impact my websites are having on the businesses I’m helping. One client said that the website paid for itself in a week!


Victoria Herron, The Highlander Spa

What inspired you to open a new business?

The Highlander Spa has been a dream of my Dad’s for many years. People in my family are notorious for having “bad” (calloused) feet. As a man getting a pedicure, traditional spa environments were never completely relaxing, often very bright and almost clinical. The Highlander is a place where the mood is comfortable, the colours darker, and you can have a drink at the bar: a place to relax and receive top level service.

Where do you see your organization in ten years?

Our dream for The Highlander is to franchise. Open locations in other major cities in Canada and beyond!



Small Business of the Year Finalists


Small Business of the Year Finalists

Dennis Mbeba, Delectable Desserts Inc.

What brings customers back to you?

We bake everything from scratch with the best quality ingredients, all of our products are tastefully and professionally decorated, and they really add something special to a celebration. We always strive to offer our customers a wonderful experience. A combination of quality and care keep our customers coming back.

If you could follow in the footsteps of a successful business, which would it be and why?

We love the way Made with Local has grown their business while maintaining their core values and organizational philosophy. We believe it is important to source our supplies locally, to grow with the community, and to offer a learning environment for those seeking job skills.


Rob Gillan, Red Ear Media

What would you say is your organization’s proudest achievement?

We’ve been told repeatedly that our customer service, our care, and our attention to detail are second-to-none. We’re extremely proud that the hard work we put into each project is being recognized and appreciated by our client base.

If you could change one thing about your business and had the resources to do so, what would it be and why?

We’d love to have the team size to be able to bring our mentality of creating real value to more clients across the region and across Canada. Our success to date has been fueled by a sense that every client and project deserves thoughtfulness and attention to detail, and being able to provide that service on a larger scale would be a great achievement.


Temi Ologbenla, Temi Bakes

How is your business contributing to making Halifax a better place?

Temi Bakes is a forerunner in the industry. We launched the first, fully functioning online store for cakes. This was especially beneficial and convenient for customers when lockdowns were imposed in 2020. They could order celebration cakes for their bubbles and schedule contactless deliveries.

Does your business engage youth and/or immigrants? What does that bring to your business?

I am passionate about the advancement of diversity and inclusion in Canada. I would not be where I am today if it were not for the shoulders of black mentors. I want future BIPOC generations to be inspired by my achievements and to know that they can attain all of this and more. I speak with fellow BIPOC entrepreneurs to empower, coach, and help brainstorm ideas to move us forward. I also provide consultation in the hopes that more change will come soon.


Joyce Liu, Lumi Studios

Where do you see your organization in 5 years?

In 5 years, I aim for Lumi Studios to expand regionally, to have multiple teams across Canada working on larger projects together. I hope to build a strong platform that serves as a bridge, connecting people with where they live; helping people to get to know their neighbours; making them curious about their surroundings; and providing them with solutions in regards to community.

Why did you choose Halifax?

I chose Halifax because of the people here. This answer hasn’t changed since I came here 10 years ago. People in Halifax have warm hearts, and strangers are always smiling. People have more energy to look around and take in their surroundings. The community here cares about the growth of others.


Omar Soliman, Couryah Inc.

(Not Pictured)

How is your business contributing to making Halifax a better place?

We offer innovative solutions and making grocery delivery a convenience rather than a “luxury.” Our mission is to redefine convenience in the on-demand delivery experience through sustainable development in the community. That includes promoting our partners and adding value to supporting local.

Where do you see your organization in 5 years?

Our vision is to take Couryah Nationwide and be the Canadian on-demand delivery platform for grocers, restaurants, and local businesses.



Export Business of the Year Finalists


Export Business of the Year Finalists

Georges Hanna, Smart Income

What inspired your company to become involved in export?

The limitation of local markets in terms of size, population, high competition, and the fluctuation of the economy, got us thinking about how to reach customers outside our geographical borders. We understand that the current economy is the digital knowledge economy. For that, we use the latest Neuro-Psychology systems and methods in business to reach clients overseas digitally and teaching other local businesses and local professionals to do the same.

What do you enjoy most about working with international markets?

The learning curve is the most enjoyable part of doing business with different cultures. Plus, the opportunity is huge in terms of sales and profit compared to staying only local. Reaching different markets online makes competition almost obsolete. We can sell to countries and areas we have never thought of before.


Rebecca Cable Munroe, Admiral

What inspired your company to become involved in export?

Admiral is not an exporter in the traditional sense. We’re not shipping products or goods overseas, rather we’re exporting homegrown skills and talents to benefit an overseas insurance clientele. We handle roughly 30% of customer contacts for our UK parent firm’s 6 million home and automobile customers. By leveraging a reputation for great service, Admiral UK leans on the Halifax entity to play a critical role in growing their domestic insurance foothold.

Why did you choose Halifax?

As the largest municipality east of Montreal, it made sense for our organization to establish a presence in Halifax based on ease of access from the United Kingdom, but also because of Halifax’s reputation of offering amazing hospitality/quality of service which is of huge importance to our overseas customers and positive word of mouth brand traction. We want to provide a memorable customer journey and our Halifax team makes that happen every day.


Tony Schellinck, Focal Research Consultants

What do you enjoy about working with international markets?

Working with operators around the world, we all have a common goal, making gambling safer. We are doing that for hundreds of thousands of people each day. Our clients are invested in our success and provide feedback, so we continue to innovate and improve. We are continually meeting with and working with people around the globe that have similar mindsets. Together we are making an impact.

What is your organization’s biggest achievement to date?

From 2014-2020 Focal embarked on a collaborative journey to develop the ALeRT BETTOR Protection System, a practical tool to help operators in preventing and reducing gambling risk and harm. Trial outcomes exceeded expectations for compliance setting new standards for player protection with ALeRT now deployed in over 100 locations around the globe and growing.


Lindsay Coshell, AquaClean

What is your organization’s biggest achievement to date?

Signing a deal with Mark’s Jumpstart Campaign with our Screen Clean Cleaner is our biggest achievement. We are been given the opportunity to partner with them and donate back $40,000.00 to Canadian communities to help put kids back into sports. To date we are the largest Atlantic business to do this.

Do you have any advice for other businesses that want to start exporting?

Start slow, ensure you do your research, and lean on all resources. There are so many great courses and conferences to help you as a business be successful. We have been so fortunate to have NSBI, EDC and TSC to offer great programs and assistance to get you into the marketplaces you want.


Ryan Thompson, CGI

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the local business community?

Our 335 Halifax Members contribute to sports, associations, schools and business groups. CGI Atlantic is also a major sponsor of immigration, in non-COVID periods, bringing dozens of new Canadians to Halifax each year. Our business model is designed to ensure that we are close to our clients and communities and we embrace our responsibilities to contribute to the continuous improvement of the economic, social, and environmental well-being of the communities in which we live and work.

Do you have any advice for other businesses that want to start exporting?

Canada, and in particular Halifax, Nova Scotia, is a great place to engage with other markets. If you have a good product or service that makes a positive impact on individuals or businesses, Halifax has all the key elements to interact with the world.



Not-for-Profit Business of the Year Finalists


Not-for-Profit Business of the Year Finalists

Natasha Chestnut, Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia

What is the key to a successful and meaningful not-for-profit?

The key to a successful not-for-profit is staying in touch with the needs of your audience and being able to deliver meaningful programming and information that leads to support, education, and change. Not-for-profits do incredibly valuable work and are often working with very limited resources, so it’s important for them to stay focused on their key initiatives that support their mission and visions.

How can the business community help support your growth?

Supporting local for food and beverage and having business meetings in various restaurants/establishments can help us grow. Restaurants can have the perfect atmosphere for meeting up, brainstorming ideas and celebrating successes. For our association, sharing information and programs that support our industry can be very helpful. Red-tape reduction and working on regulatory issues that inhibit development could also be hugely beneficial to us.


Carole Cooley, Kids Help Phone

What would you say is your organization’s proudest accomplishment?

COVID-19 brought a wave of mental health challenges never seen before in our lifetimes, but we remain open 24/7 to every person in need. In 2020, we met record surges in demand and had over 4.6 million interactions with young people, compared to 1.9 million in 2019. As the pandemic persists, we continue to grow and innovate to meet young people in their digital worlds. No matter the issue, the time of day or night, we are there — always.

How can the business community help support your growth?

Kids Help Phone has the vision, track record, and plan to affect real change for the well-being of Canada – but we cannot do it alone. We have a history of sustaining partnerships that drive meaningful change and save lives. The business sector plays a critical role in health promotion and outreach, and galvanizing the country in support of youth mental health.


Robin McNeil, St. John Ambulance

What is the key to a successful and meaningful not-for-profit?

At SJA, we have a strong belief in our mission, vision, and values, which allows us to enjoy a strong and sure-footed decision-making ability. We have over 600 dedicated volunteers making a difference in their communities everyday, Volunteer Medical Responders provide life-saving first aid at community events and Therapy Dog handler teams provide therapeutic visits to seniors and others who benefit physically and psychologically from animal-assisted therapy.

How is your organization contributing to making Halifax a better place?

Overcoming the pandemic and supporting the safe reopening of the city and the province were at the heart of our mission in 2020-2021. We participated in the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s efforts in establishing rapid test sites around the HRM. Our volunteers ensure the safety and wellbeing of crowds attending events. Our Therapy Dogs volunteered to help those with needle anxiety at COVID vaccine clinics.


Heather Byrne, Alice House

How can we engage youth to become not-for-profit leaders?

We need to be vocal about the benefits of working in the not-for-profit sector that are beyond a paycheck. The satisfaction when you know that the work you are doing will make a difference in the lives of people never gets old. That said, we also have to make sure folks in the not-for-profit sector can make a reasonable, market-level wage.

How did COVID-19 impact how you offer your services?

Our service delivery is in person engagement, counselling, system navigation, and support for isolated women who had to flee their homes due to violence. The pandemic caused further isolation and restricted access to all services. Alice House mobilized quickly to ensure families had access to services, school, and public health information. We also developed a food security delivery service to ensure everyone had access to nutrition and basic needs during lockdowns.


Lori Barker, Ronald McDonald House Charities Atlantic

What would you say is your organization’s proudest accomplishment?

While there’s nothing that makes our team prouder than being able to support Maritime families with sick children during incredibly difficult times, 2021 has been a particularly special year. Despite the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, we successfully launched and are near completing a $24 million capital campaign to build a new Ronald McDonald House, expected to open in 2023. This has been possible thanks to the incredible generosity of our Maritime community.

How can we engage youth to become not-for-profit leaders?

Engaging youth to become not-for-profit leaders starts by educating them about the critical role the sector plays in advancing societal issues, and showing them how they can be part of the solution. Volunteering is a great first step. Knowing you’ve made a positive difference in someone’s life is incredibly rewarding work.



Innovative Business of the Year Finalists


Innovative Business of the Year Finalists

Nicholas LaValle, Clean Valley CIC

What advice would you give to another business that wants to embrace innovation?

Innovation is not brought forward by a singular entity. Innovation takes collaboration from a large array of vested community members. That array sees four pillars of involvement — industry, government, academy, and investors — working together. An effectively innovative business embraces each of those pillars.

If you had the resources, what is the one thing you would change about your business?

An individual wears many hats at a start-up company. This can cause burnout of key employees, who otherwise would not be experiencing burnout. Employee turnover is a plague of the start-up industry. With the necessary resources, I would expand our human capital, implement outlandishly favourable benefits, and bring in sustainable practices for both our infrastructure and our personnel.


Laura Simpson, Side Door

What inspired your business’ innovation efforts?

Necessity! Our core function was in-person shows, so when everything stopped, we went online and sought to create the most connective, unique experiences possible. Artists mainly depend on live performance revenue, so we knew getting this right was essential. Now we can support any kind of show in any kind of environment for audiences all over the world. After more than 1000 shows since the pandemic began, we have huge experience to build on.

How can we engage youth to become innovative leaders?

I’m a deep believer in travel to spark new ideas and creative processes. Spending time outside of the classroom, outside of our regions/countries, and outside of our comfort zones helps to see things in a new light. I also believe if we gave youth more agency, we’d see more change sooner. It’s not just ‘amazing’ when a youth has a great idea, they should be taken seriously and given resources to make their dreams a reality.


Sean Monkman, CarbonCure

What is your organization’s proudest accomplishment?

While there are several key milestones for CarbonCure, we are particularly proud that we were one of two winners in the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, a global competition which challenged participants to develop breakthrough technologies to convert carbon dioxide emissions into usable products. Having our technology recognized on a world stage helps advance CarbonCure's mission to reduce carbon emissions by 500 million tonnes annually across the concrete supply chain.

What is something new that’s happening at your company?

CarbonCure recently entered a strategic partner agreement with Astec Industries, a leading global manufacturer of specialized construction equipment. This agreement is particularly exciting for CarbonCure as it will expand and accelerate CarbonCure’s market penetration via one of North America’s largest comprehensive concrete equipment manufacturers.


Colin Gillis, Smarter Spaces

What is your definition of innovation?

Innovation is not about technology. When Smarter Spaces started, we would do hour-long presentations about 3-D scanners and drones and what they are capable of doing. In the last 24 months, we may have talked about the technology twice. Innovation is about solving problems for our clients they don't even know they have. We help them understand the potential of their buildings by providing clarity of their assets and keeping their community safe.

How can we engage youth to become innovative leaders?

We need to engage youth in areas they are passionate about. Not every student is going to care deeply about environmental causes, for example, but you may ignite innovative and passionate leadership in them through sports, art or music. We often encourage youth to try new activities, but how often do we encourage them to be innovative and make the experience better?


Stephanie Holmes-Winton, CacheFlo

(Not Pictured)

What is your organization’s proudest accomplishment?

We created a standardized process for behaviour-based cash flow management. Until 2013 when we launched the Certified Cash Flow Specialist (CCS) designation, most financial professionals had little to no access to education or tools to provide cash flow advice to their clients. Today, we can support professionals and the public through financial education and cash flow tools, so people can get more life from their money.

What is something new that’s happening at your company?

Expanding access to our digital financial education and tools to employees is new for CacheFlo. We’ve spent nearly eight years training financial professionals online, and thousands have accessed our content in various ways over the years. But it wasn’t until 2021, with the release of our Financial Capability Program, that we could put our behaviour-based education and tools directly in the hands of individuals.



Business of the Year Finalists


Business of the Year Finalists

Jennie Dobbs, Morris East Restaurant + Wine Bar

What one piece of advice would you give to a new business?

Open yourself up as much as possible. Talk about your idea with friends, families and colleagues and then listen. Listen more than you talk. You never know who might unlock something for you, whether it’s a connection, an idea or solution. Just be open to your network and community and listen.

What is something new that’s happening at your company?

We are launching a craft spritzer drinks business named “Drink Sprizzi,” which showcase premium Nova Scotia fruit. They are perfectly blended, low alcohol sippers with gentle sparkle and tantalizing fruit flavours. These spritzers are a vibrant yet casual beverage that perfectly bridge the gap between beer and wine.


Paul Empey, Precision BioLogic

What is one thing people may not know about your business?

Given that we specialize in frozen diagnostic products for laboratory use, we’re definitely not a household name in Halifax. So, it may come as a surprise to hear that we are successfully competing with – and out-innovating – much larger, multinational organizations. And, that our reputation as a leader in our industry has allowed us to attract five of the world’s top key opinion leaders to our Scientific Advisory Board.

What is something new that’s happening at your company?

We’re doing a lot of investing right now. Investing in our people and in our R&D capabilities. We have developed a formal Leadership Training Program for our employees to build the skills needed to take the company to the next level. We’ve also reinvigorated the spirit of innovation at Precision BioLogic and it’s paying off with the launch of several new ground-breaking products in recent years.


Crystal Craig, The Village Veterinary Group

What would you say is your organization’s biggest achievement?

Rapid growth in response to the surge in demand for veterinary care over the past two years; by investing in and growing our team, avoiding all layoffs during COVID, expanding service offerings along with opening two new hospitals. All while maintaining our high customer service standards and excellence in care.

Why did you choose Halifax?

Halifax is the perfect balance of both a big and small city. As the largest city in Atlantic Canada, there is possibility for growth in all areas of HRM and there still continues to be ample business opportunities here. In this new reality of human resource shortages Halifax is a desirable place to live and raise a family.


Colin White, WLWP Wealth Planners | iA Private Wealth

What one piece of advice would you give to a new business?

Know your ‘why’. Knowing why you’re embarking on something is a very powerful tool. However, if your why is wanting to make a lot of money while not working very hard, that’s probably a bad why. In our case the why is sincerely wanting all Canadians to have a better experience in the financial services realm. Sincerely trying to make every client’s situation better and help them to avoid unscrupulous players, and organizations or products that would be to their disadvantage.

What is one thing people may not know about your business?

No member of our team is on commission, and no one owns a client relationship. We function as a true team, holding our clients’ experience and positive outcomes as the only true measure of everyone’s success. The one and only metric our team is held accountable for, and tracks, is client contact.


Lorna MacMillan, Parkwood Home Care

Why did you choose Halifax?

Halifax is second to none. The city is vibrant and growing. There is so much opportunity in Halifax and it is great to know that Parkwood is contributing to that growth. Halifax is home to my husband Mark and our two university age children (Jake and Rachel). In fact I named the business Parkwood Home Care because Parkwood is the street I live on. It’s a beautiful city, the people are great and the business community is strong.

How can we continue to build a vibrant downtown core?

Our office is in the downtown core and we love it. We can continue to build a vibrant downtown core by remaining positive — we must all support and contribute to the local economy. It is essential to be open to welcoming all people. I also think it’s important that we all be involved. Halifax is an incredible community and only getting better.



Business Leader of the Year Finalists


Business Leader of the Year Finalists

Paul Empey, Precision BioLogic

What’s your favourite part about Halifax?

Halifax has such great future. The opportunities to develop and grow our business community is at an all-time high. We have so much to offer. Think about our quality of life, employment opportunities, universities, a vibrant port for import/export, and our talented employee base. In my opinion, our growth is unlimited if we take the time to focus on it.

What leadership advice would you give an up-and-comer?

On your journey, never lose sight of what your goals are. Your mentors will be your greatest resource to help you learn and grow. Employees are your most important asset. Take care of them, support them, take genuine interest in them, and never take advantage of them. Your success depends on them.

What’s next for you?

I believe there is so much more to accomplish at Precision BioLogic. Our future is bright, and I believe the sky is the limit. I want to continue to build upon this looking at new technologies and opportunities to support our industry.


Ann-Marie Flinn, Champion Foundational Change Agency

What steps does Halifax need to get to the next level?

I’m passionate about supporting local and supporting women owned/operated businesses. In Halifax and beyond, we must continue to amp up the volume around supporting local. Small local businesses are the lifeblood of our communities. While they may be small, they have a huge ripple effect in our communities, our families and our economy. The more we can create exposure and promote local, the more we ALL will thrive.

What’s something new that’s happening at your organization?

2022 is going to be an incredible year for my agency. Be on the lookout for new programs that will focus on mental wellness and psychological safety in the workplace. There will also be a Champion Transformation Program to kickstart 2022 which will help you stay healthy all year long, I will also be repeating the incredibly popular Champion Yourself to Wellness Women’s Retreat in June. I have many international keynotes lined up plus my corporate work with some incredible local and global organizations.


Kathleen Jay, Maplewave

What would you say is your biggest accomplishment to date as a business leader?

When Maplewave was awarded the American Psychological Association (APA) Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in Atlantic Canada in 2017, and then went on to win for North America in 2018. It was a wonderful recognition of the incredible work our teams do everyday to ensure our employees are our top priority.

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever been given?

“A fish rots from the head down.” Your leaders should be naturally passionate about people, and genuinely care about their challenges and their ambitions. Protecting your tribe of people is a responsibility, and it should always come first.

If you weren’t in this line of work what would you be doing?

Leading a non-profit organization. Having purpose in my work is paramount for me, and I’m excited by motivating others for a common cause.


Tia Upshaw, BLK Women in Excellence and Top Notch Cleaners

What leadership advice would you give an up-and-comer?

The leadership advice I would give would be: This is not going to easy, this is not going to a beautiful process, you will have sleepless nights, you will want to give up, BUT don’t! It is so sweet when you get to the other side! If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Why did you choose Halifax?

I didn’t choose Halifax, Halifax chose me! This is home, this is my community, this is where my roots are, and I will continue to drop seeds throughout Halifax as long as I can.

What would you say is your biggest accomplishment to date as a business leader?

My biggest accomplishment to date as a business leader would be mentoring and coaching 41 black women to help them build their start-up businesses. I have accomplished this through rigorous 16-week workshops, coaching calls, mentorship initiatives, community education on entrepreneurship, and building a genuine support system for them.


Rebecca Cable-Munroe, Admiral

What’s your favourite part about Halifax?

The diversity in this city is truly remarkable and such an integral part of our business community. It leads to bold ideas and viewpoints which benefit all industries. Embracing our differences is an important part of being successful and Halifax is fortunate to be able to tap into a deep cultural well that has produced a rich and vibrant private sector.

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever been given?

Do the right thing — not the easiest or cheapest. The return on your investment far outweighs any quick fixes.

What’s something new that’s happening at your organization?

This year we committed $250,000 to help non-profits and community groups in our region that have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. We’ve forged stronger relations with our LGTBQ and Indigenous communities, as well as shelters for the housing displaced and more. Over 30 organizations will have benefitted from Admiral’s COVID Support Fund by year’s end — a testament to the strong emphasis we place on being a community minded business.


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