Meet Canada’s EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2021 national award winners

Congratulations to Canada’s EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2021 and to the ten National Award Winners. More than just a backbone, entrepreneurs are the gas pedal that can navigate change and accelerate growth.

Transformational goals require a transformational approach. For more than 20 years, Carl Hansen wondered how to channel his science and engineering experience into improved health outcomes on a global scale. Then he decided to reimagine the very structure of the pharmaceutical industry.

The result? AbCellera — an enterprise dedicated solely to the pharma discovery process. Moving away from traditional, vertically integrated pharma company structures, Carl invented a new way of operating with services specifically designed to accelerate the discovery of human antibodies that can be developed into medications.

Today, Carl and the AbCellera team have enabled and accelerated the development efforts in partnership with leading biotech and pharma companies around the world. AbCellera’s highly specialized services have brought hundreds of new products to market, including the first antibody therapy to earn FDA Emergency USE Authorization for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) in the United States.

This unstoppable entrepreneur is poised to continue transforming the pharma landscape for many years to come.

See Carl's video

Judi Hess | Copperleaf

Culture is the connective thread that defines and unites an organization. That philosophy has guided Judi Hess’s career since the get go. For the last decade, it’s also powered her dramatic turnaround of Copperleaf, a provider of decision analytics software solutions.

The result? Since joining the organization in 2009 and leading a strategic transformation focused on people, products and partnerships, Judi has grown Copperleaf’s gross revenue from $1m to $44m. That includes driving a 167% increase in revenues over the last three years alone — which makes Copperleaf one of the Financial Times’ Fastest-Growing Companies in the Americas. Copperleaf recently completed its initial public offering – a significant milestone and a testament to the hard work of Judi and her entire team.

Today, Copperleaf helps organizations manage more than $1.5t of infrastructure around the world. Under Judi’s leadership, the team has redefined its brand as a service provider shaped by people who care deeply, products that deliver exceptional value and partnerships that stand the test of time. And it’s all down to Judi’s fundamental belief that the right corporate culture can change everything.

Rizwan Somji | Cymax Group Technologies

Changemakers are uniquely positioned to channel lessons learned into progress made. At every stage of his entrepreneurial journey, Rizwan Somji has committed to testing, failing, learning and moving forward. That perspective has enabled him to completely change the trajectory of Cymax Group Technologies, which builds tech to support exceptional online e-commerce experiences.

The result? Drawing on his experience launching what would become a $25m business at the age of 19, Rizwan has completely rebuilt Cymax since joining the company. By spotting and seizing opportunities to evolve the business from boutique marketplace to innovative enabler of online retail sales, he’s helped Cymax establish a new brand in the marketplace.

Now, Cymax successfully manages vendors from end to end, so those retailers can focus on doing what they do best: making really good products. And under Rizwan’s leadership, Cymax is making the most of artificial intelligence behind the scenes to incubate new service offerings that will continue to change e-commerce for the better.

Clay Purdy | Fluid Energy Group Ltd.

Serial entrepreneurs are a uniquely powerful force, pulling yesterday’s experience into tomorrow’s opportunity. As a founder of ten companies, Clay Purdy has built his career by doing exactly that.

The result? Clay’s most recent business, Fluid Energy Group Ltd., draws on his decades of industrial experience to develop safer, more environmentally-friendly chemical technologies. By building an internal community of self-driven employees, Clay encourages continuous innovation that’s now producing green chemistry solutions capable of maximizing energy efficiency and sustainability. Fluid has 140 granted and pending patent applications and more than 80 trademarks for proprietary technology to its name.

Today, Clay’s business spans five international regions, more than 100,000 square feet of research, production and manufacturing space, and above all, a tightly united team of over 100 employees working together towards an influential common goal.

Geoffrey T. Martin | CCL Industries Inc.  (TSX:CCL.B)

Geoff Martin will tell you he got into the labels business by accident. When he left college to join a rock band, this young risk-taker never imagined he’d ultimately reinvent the world’s largest label company.

The result? From jumping on an entry-level job moving label printing machines on the shop floor to leading that company’s European operations, Geoff consistently identified synergies where others did not. That ability has fuelled his growth with CCL, where he’s applied his entrepreneurial spirit to drive organic and inorganic growth and create new, industry-first product offerings every step of the way.

Now, Geoff is President and Chief Executive Officer of CCL Industries Inc., and an entrepreneur committed to fostering innovation by keeping this international organization true to its startup roots and people-first culture.

Michael Serbinis | League

Bridging passion and purpose can unlock innovative ways of getting things done. For entrepreneur and inventor Mike Serbinis, that’s meant connecting his passion for physics with his goal of empowering people to be active advocates and participants in their own health care.

The result? Mike founded technology-focused health company League in 2014. By putting healthcare back into the customer’s hands, his organization empowers providers to reach consumers at a time in history when affordability and access to health and wellness has never been more critical.

Looking forward, League is an anticipated unicorn, with a visionary business model poised to reach $1b in revenues over the next 10 years. It all began with this NASA award-winning entrepreneur’s commitment to working hard at something he felt passionately about and generating results from there.

Bert Mucci | Mucci Farms

New industries offer a wide canvas for any entrepreneur willing to take a chance. With a passion for the agriculture that defined his immigrant family’s success in Ontario, Bert Mucci studied accounting — but longed to move into the fast-growing greenhouse hydroponics industry.

The result? Kickstarted by a small family loan and a leap of faith, Mucci Farms is a testament to Bert’s belief in the farmer-first mentality. Employees work together like a family to achieve ambitious goals — and it’s working. Bert has built one of the largest greenhouse growers in North America, with more than 300 acres of land and $500m in annual revenues.

Today, Bert continues to focus on taking calculated risks to further expand across Canada, the United States and Mexico, while remaining committed to the farmer-first mentality that’s always defined the Mucci brand.

Louis Têtu | Coveo Solutions   (TSX:CVO)

The toughest problems represent the greatest entrepreneurial opportunities. That’s something entrepreneur Louis Têtu has proven again and again.

The result? Louis has now taken two tech companies from startup to standout. He mobilized his entrepreneurial spirit as co-founder of Taleo, acquired by Oracle in 2012 for US $1.9b. Now, as CEO of Coveo, he’s built a machine learning team and is leading the company’s massive investment in the cloud. Under Louis’s leadership, Coveo has become a world leader in the application of artificial intelligence.

By transforming the company from within to consistently respond to changing consumer needs in innovative ways, Louis has propelled Coveo to the top — and he’s not stopping there. Louis remains committed to sustaining momentum in pursuit of explosive future growth.

Madeleine Paquin | Logistec Corporation   (TSX:LGT.A)

Entrepreneurs can be born or made. Madeleine Paquin’s story bridges both perspectives. When her father’s health propelled Madeleine into an executive-level role at her publicly listed family business, she was only 26. Even so, the transformational influence she’s had on the organization has made the company what it is today.

The result? Logistec — which offers specialized services for the handling of bulk cargo and containers at 53 ports and 79 terminals in North America — has overcome significant challenges to achieve remarkable growth under Madeleine’s leadership. From game-changing acquisitions that now represent 300 times the value originally paid, to effectively managing the greatest supply chain disruption in modern history, Madeleine is the architect behind Logistec’s monumental progress.

Today, Madeleine is extending her entrepreneurial impact to the sector itself. The innovative services she is driving forward are enabling Logistec to expand into new areas and address environmental concerns. Her entrepreneurial accomplishments are also creating new ways of operating across the industry, underscoring Montréal as one of the world’s best maritime shipping facilities.

John Williams | Nutra Holdings

Spotting a gap in the market can open the door to entrepreneurial success. When John Williams couldn’t find the kind of health supplement he needed to fuel his power lifting goals, he decided to make one himself.

The result? John set out to create a platform for fueling peak athletic performance through the world’s highest-quality sports nutrition portfolio. Since founding Nutra Holdings in 2014, he’s grown a business that spans more than 100 products, millions of customers and multiple brands.

Now, John’s staying true to that founding principle to continue setting and achieving ambitious growth goals. Under his entrepreneurial leadership, Nutra is innovating products — and the distribution channels that take his ever-expanding line to market. John’s focused on becoming the world’s number-one sports nutrition company, and is well on his way.

Congratulations to the regional winners of Canada's EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2021 program.

National judges

The success of the program relies on the efforts of our independent panel of judges. These past Entrepreneur Of The Year Award recipients and civic and community leaders devote significant effort to review and deliberate the merits of each nominee. We deeply appreciate their dedication to this process.
EY - Photo of Denis Larocque

Denis Larocque
Major Drilling Group International Inc.
President & CEO

How does entrepreneurial ambition help create global unity?
Lots of times, entrepreneurs are born from finding a creative solution to a problem we all face, and with globalization, we have seen a lot of solutions to world problems come from entrepreneurial ambitions.

EY - Photo of Kristi Miller

Arlene Dickinson*

What role do entrepreneurs play in helping Canada reach an innovation economy?
It is no secret that Canada is a country rich in raw ingredients. From natural gas to precious metals, full potential can only be reached when talented individuals turn them into products or find alternate uses. To that end, entrepreneurs are the most important element of the Canadian economy. When an entrepreneur creates a successful business, they generate incremental wealth for the country, which contributes to the tax base and helps fund social programs we as Canadians hold so dear. These programs, in turn, create a strong education system that produces world-class engineers, scientists, and businesspeople who push potential and create innovation in their respective fields.

EY - Photo of Germain Lamonde

Germain Lamonde*
Founder & Executive Chairman

Could the toughest times inspire the greatest solutions?
Challenges & tough times might “break” some… but it “makes” true entrepreneurs by bringing heightened motivation, creativity, and teamwork.

EY - Photo of Kim Mason

Kim Mason
Private Banking, RBC Wealth Management
Royal Bank of Canada, Senior Vice President & Head

Could the toughest times inspire the greatest solutions?
The toughest times spark innovation – and they need to.  With entrepreneurs in close proximity, those sparks of innovation become the beginnings of new solutions – that then give birth to new business.

EY - Photo of Wes Hall

Wes Hall*
Kingsdale Advisors, The BlackNorth Initiative
Executive Chairman & Founder

How can we better enable diverse entrepreneurs to achieve scale and growth?
Diversity is key to prosperity. Diversity makes good business. However, entrepreneurs of the BIPOC community do not always get the tools they need to succeed. We also do not always get access to the capital we need in order to get started. BIPOC individuals would greatly benefit from mentorship – and that is why my team at BlackNorth work tirelessly to provide this service to individuals right here in our own communities. Generally speaking, the BIPOC community are viewed as a “risk” when thinking about investments or loans when in reality it should be looked like an opportunity. Leaders undisputedly need to start thinking differently.

EY - Photo of Linda McCurdy

Linda McCurdy*
K-Bro Linen Systems Inc. 
President & CEO

How has adversity of the pandemic been a springboard for growth?
Adversity during the pandemic has been a springboard for growth by accelerating existing trends. For companies that held a strong leadership position before the pandemic, my experience is that this position has been further strengthened as a result. Conversely, the pandemic has posed an existential threat to many weaker industry players.

EY - Photo of Ali Pejman

Ali Pejman
Fort Capital Partners
Managing Partner

How will entrepreneurial ambition help regenerate economies?
Entrepreneurs are the drivers of the economy. Without their leadership, our economy goes nowhere.

EY - Photo of Chris Huskilson

Chris Huskilson

What do we need to do to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem that’s reflective of the makeup of our economy?
We need to support and promote people to reach for their dreams and make sure we fill the gaps in our ecosystems to make this possible.

*Entrepreneur Of The Year Alumni

Meet the regional judges:  Pacific  |  Prairies  |  Ontario  |  Québec  |  Atlantic


National sponsor