Gala honours Forty Under 40 recipients

The region’s best and brightest young business minds got a rare chance to kick back Thursday night when OBJ and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce celebrated their achievements at the annual Forty Under 40 gala.

By Marc Shaw

The event at the Hilton Lac-Leamy was emceed by TSN 1200’s Ian Mendes and CTV Morning Live’s Lianne Laing, who handled her duties with aplomb despite suffering a bout of laryngitis.

“I wasn’t going to miss tonight,” Ms. Laing during a break in the festivities. “It’s an incredibly special night and there are so many amazing people that are being honoured. When I got asked to do this event, it was no question.”

The awards have honoured Ottawa’s young business crowd for 19 years. This year’s eclectic group of recipients included CEOs, painters, brewers, writers and health professionals, who were whittled down from an initial group of more than 200 nominees.

Decked out in black ties and evening gowns for the dinner and awards ceremony in the Hilton ballroom, this year’s winners were happy yet humbled to receive some well-deserved recognition for their accomplishments.

“I’m definitely one that doesn’t take credit for things,” said recipient Carey Assaf, 34, who is co-owner of Kardish Health Food Centres. “It’s a nice feeling to be recognized. I think seeing the other 39 people, you get to realize how similar you are. Hearing the stories of all the other people is pretty cool.”

The evening included a performance from the Hitmen Drumline group before the recipients were called to the stage to receive their awards, with the action divided up by various videos produced by the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management.

Winners were met with cheers from their peers as screens on each side of the ballroom displayed tweets with the #ott40 hashtag.

“Look at this wonderful room. They’re leaders already,” said Sophia Leong, director of the Telfer Executive MBA program and one of the award presenters.

“This is a fantastic community to be a part of, so I encourage you to add value to your community. We always think about making money. Money is great – I love money – but it’s adding value that is more fantastic.”

As Ms. Leong noted, Forty Under 40 honours aren’t awarded solely based on a recipient’s business acumen. Applicants are judged on a 40-point scale that includes community involvement in addition to expertise and business accomplishments.

Former prime minister Joe Clark, whose daughter Catherine was among those receiving an award Thursday night, addressed the crowd and offered some sage advice, urging Ottawa’s young business leaders to keep an open mind and be willing to adapt to change.

“I was under 40 myself once,” joked Mr. Clark, who famously took office as prime minister the day before his 40th birthday. “Things we thought we knew no longer apply. You can reach a much wider world, but it won’t be the world we know now.”

A full list of winners can be found in OBJ’s June 6 issue.