2020 Women of Distinction Nominees | Entrepreneurship & Innovation

Recognized nationally, the YWCA Women of Distinction Awards honours individuals and organizations whose outstanding activities and achievements contribute to the well-being and future of our community.

Congratulations to the 2020 nominees in the category of Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

AMIEE CHAN

Amiee is President & CEO of Norsat International Inc., a leader in providing innovative communications solutions that enable transmission of data, audio and video for remote and challenging applications. With her strategic vision, Aimee revived a nearly insolvent company by expanding it into the export market and achieved innovative product development and consistent revenue growth. An accomplished engineer she holds three US patents and has been involved in high-level research teams such as NASA ACTS program. She is an inductee to the Women’s Executive Network Top 100 Award Winner Hall of Fame and led Norsat to win a BC Export Award for Advancing Technology Innovation. A champion for the advancement of women in traditionally male-dominated industries, Aimee mentors young women through Wired Women and Society of Canadian Women in Science & Technology.

TEARA FRASER

Teara is Founder and CEO of Iskwew Air, launched the first Indigenous woman-owned and operated airline in Canada. Teara launched her airline in an industry where less than 3% of executives are women and even fewer are owners. While a passenger in a small airplane in Africa, Teara discovered her passion for flight and at 32, obtained her commercial pilot’s license. In 2010 she started her first business, KÎSIK Aerial Survey Inc, which she sold in 2016. She launched Give Them Wings to inspire Indigenous youth with the possibilities of flight and provide a roadmap to achieving their goals. Teara is also the Founder of Raven Institute, an organization that hosts a gathering space, leadership programs and reconciliation efforts, including RavenSPEAK - a cohort-based learning program for Indigenous change makers. 

ELISE HUISMAN

Elise is Co-Founder and Director of Business Development at Arbutus Medical, a social purpose venture with the goal of improving access to safe surgical equipment around the world. Elise helped create an inexpensive but highly effective medical device to replace expensive and time-consuming orthopaedic drills that has made surgeries around the world safer and more accessible. Elise has led business development for the company resulting in more than 120% revenue growth from 2018 to 2019, while she single-handedly built the company’s veterinary sales division. Her vision helped expand the company’s mission of ‘safe surgery for all’ to include animals around the world. Elise has transformed from a Biomedical Engineer to a researcher and now to an entrepreneur leading business development for a profitable, mission-driven company in a male-dominated field.   

ELLA JOTIE

Ella is Co-Founder and CEO of Barre Fitness, the first barre focused studio in Canada. Of Barre Fitness’ six franchised locations, more than 90 employees and independent contractors, a staggering 97% are female. Ella has personally trained and mentored many female instructors and empowered the company's all-female franchise owners and she is in the planning stages of taking Barre Fitness across Canada. Ella developed a technique and form of working out that is unique, safe, sustainable, effective and fun and she fosters a supportive group fitness environment for women. Ella also founded the Raise the Barre Fundraising Program shortly after opening in 2010. Through philanthropic classes, events, workshops and partnerships, the fundraising program has raised more than $300,000 for charities across BC. 

CHRISTINA MARCANO

Christina is CEO and Founder of Silver Icing Inc., an innovative social selling platform that has revolutionized the way clothing is sold online. Christina created the company to empower women to become entrepreneurs as online stylists, providing an opportunity to earn self-generated income and connect with a strong and supportive community. Silver Icing developed a photo and review sharing app where stylists can find real-life photos to share with their customers, allowing customers to get fit advice for every body type. This approach has resulted in Silver Icing posting return rates 21 points lower than the industry average. Christina has grown the company to reach $18.5 million in sales, with more than 60 employees and has created a network of more than 5,000 stylists across Canada.

LAURA PATRICK

Laura is CEO and Founder of Kids Physio Group, which she started after realizing that children with chronic illness and sports injuries did not have access to the care they needed to reach their maximum physical potential and recover 100% from injury. Kids Physio Group is the first pediatric-specific physiotherapy clinic in BC. Since 2006, Laura has established herself as a business leader and she mentors other entrepreneurs to start their own pediatric physiotherapy clinics. To date, more than 15,000 children have been treated across six franchised Kids Physio Group locations throughout Canada. Laura has plans to open three more clinics in 2020 with the vision and plan to create quality, pediatric-specific physiotherapy clinics in every major centre in Canada.

ZAHRA RASUL

Zahra is Founder, Owner and Director of Rasul Learning Group Inc., an innovative full-service educational consulting company providing centralized services from admission assistance to academic support to career coaching to more than 1,500 students and their families in 15 countries. She is the first and only in her field to hire those with academic rather than business backgrounds to work with students, employing a diverse, highly educated team, experienced in a wide range of academic and research environments. Over the past 19 years, Zahra has helped more than 3,000 students realize their educational, career and life goals. Zahra believes access to education for all and does 35% of her work pro bono for students whose families have not had access to secondary or post-secondary education, Indigenous people and other marginalized groups.

MADELEINE SHAW

Madeleine is Co-Founder of Lunapads and uses her business to positively affect period poverty, menstrual equity and sustainable periods. The company’s menstrual health and education initiatives have impacted hundreds of thousands of marginalized girls globally. Lunapads does business in more than 40 countries and employs 12 people directly in Vancouver, as well as dozens more indirectly through its locally-focused manufacturing and supply chain. Lunapads’ Vancouver production is zero waste and the company was a founding Canadian B Corporation meeting the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. In 2014, Madeleine founded G Day, an event series and registered charity that supports girls’ self-esteem and family relationships. In response to the child care crisis, she founded Nestworks Workplace Society in 2016 to develop a chain of family-friendly workspaces.

MERIDETH SHUTTER

Merideth is Founder and CEO of PROtect. Smart Personal Safety, a personal safety platform she created after experiencing a terrifying experience at an open house as a real estate agent. Merideth saw the need for a system that works in real time and provides safety monitoring for employees by alerting specific PROtectors when the user is in danger or needs safeguarding. True to her vision to change the landscape of personal safety, Merideth created a giveback program to offer the platform to non-profits free of charge. Merideth demonstrates her passion for creating safe spaces and opportunities for women as 75% of her team and investors are women. She is one of the founding members of Women’s Equity Lab, a group of women that has pooled capital to create a fund to help others launch their start-ups.

Meet the 2020 Women of Distinction Award nominees in other categories.

This category is sponsored by
Clio