Now in its fifth year, the Small Business Challenge is the annual contest, conducted in partnership with The Globe and Mail, that showcases Canada’s brightest entrepreneurs and helps the winner overcome their biggest challenge with a $100,000 grand prize from Telus.
Five businesses – four based in Ontario and one in British Columbia – were selected as semi-finalists from more than 3,300 entries received between March and May from small businesses across the country, which is more than three times as many entries as last year’s contest.
“Despite the many challenges that small businesses face, the huge number of entries we received this year demonstrates that there’s no shortage of Canadian entrepreneurs willing to step up and play a crucial role in creating jobs and supporting our economy,” said Suzanne Trusdale, vice-president of Small Business Solutions at Telus.
This year’s five semi-finalists are:
AquaMobile Swim School (Toronto). AquaMobile Swim School specializes in sending qualified swim instructors to clients’ home pools for private lessons. With more than 750 instructors and operations in Ontario and 15 U.S. states, they have the largest footprint of any at-home swim lesson provider in North America. The company is seeing increasing demand for their services and would use the $100,000 to accelerate their expansion into new markets.
BakerStone International (Toronto). BakerStone designs and creates innovative cooking and baking products. Their flagship product, the BakerStone Pizza Oven Box, has revolutionized outdoor grilling by transforming backyard BBQs into stone ovens capable of baking artisan pizzas in minutes. The product is sold in more than 25 countries and the company would use the $100,000 to fund an aggressive marketing campaign to drive sales in their largest market, the U.S.
MyBabbo (Toronto). MyBabbo is an online service that enables funeral directors to easily create legacy photobooks, video tributes and custom stationary for their clients. The company has experienced exceptional growth over the past three years and would use the $100,000 to enhance their digital presence and expand their product offering to include memorial websites that allow families to share photos and stories of their loved ones.
Pathcore (Toronto). PathCore is focused on helping pathologists find cancer more effectively, efficiently and accurately. The company develops digital pathology software solutions designed to improve how pathologists diagnose the disease. Pathcore recently completed a successful deployment at a leading research hospital in Toronto, and would use the $100,000 to turn their solutions into cloud-based offerings that could be sold to laboratories around the world.
WTFast, (West Kelowna, British Columbia). WTFast makes massively multiplayer online (MMO) games run faster through their innovative Gamers Private Network service. Their technology optimizes online connections for MMO gamers while also making them more secure. The company currently serves more than 800 MMO games and has five patents pending, and would use the $100,000 to accelerate research and development activities and more quickly commercialize their offering.
This year all semi-finalists are guaranteed an award from Telus.
The winner will be announced on September 17.