Forty Under 40 gala celebrates Ottawa's young business leaders

Some 675 people attend annual awards dinner at Hilton Lac Leamy

All the long hours, stress and sacrifices that go into building a business or career finally seemed worth it for the 40 young entrepreneurs and professionals honoured at a business awards dinner held Friday at the Hilton Lac Leamy.

The 21st Annual Forty Under 40 drew a particularly large crowd of 675 to this year's gala evening, organized by the Ottawa Business Journal and Ottawa Chamber of Commerce to recognize some of our city's young bright talent.

The winners made their grand entrance into the ballroom, getting their swagger on to AC/DC’s Thunderstruck. They walked single file from the stage to their seats, a few of them with cocktail drinks still in hand. 

Emceeing the awards dinner were CTV Ottawa News anchor Graham Richardson with Annette Goerner from CTV Morning Live.

Forty Under 40
From left, Brittany Forsyth, senior vice president of human relations at Shopify, with 2018 Forty Under 40 recipient Anna Lambert, director of talent acquisition, and her partner, Sam Gregg-Wallace, chief of staff to the company's COO,  at the Forty Under 40 gala awards dinner held at the Hilton Lac Leamy on Friday, June 15, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Sophia Leong, executive director of the University of Ottawa Telfer Executive MBA program, kept it real during a quickie Q&A that she and Telfer's dean, François Juliendid with OBJ publisher Michael Curran

“Stay hungry but also stay humble,” she told the winners, passing along advice from one of her mentors, the late Adam Chowaniec. 

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From left, François Julien with Michael Curran and Sophia Leong at the Forty Under 40 gala awards dinner held at the Hilton Lac Leamy on Friday, June 15, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Annette Goerner and Graham Richardson co-hosted this year's Forty Under 40 Awards, held at the Hilton Lac Leamy on Friday, June 15, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips.

The awards, handed out intermittently throughout the night, are likely destined to remain in the public eye, whether it be on a recipient's office desk, mantel or shelf.

“As long as it’s out of the reach of my two-year-old’s sticky fingers,” joked Forty Under 40 winner Julia Knox, 36, senior vice-president and chief purchasing officer at Giant Tiger, and the only woman on the executive team of the Ottawa-based Canadian company. The mother of two young children is also on the board of the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation and coaches her daughter's cross-country ski club.

She, like all the winners with whom OBJ.social spoke, was honoured to have been selected as a Forty Under 40 winner. Just the application process alone was rewarding, she said.

“You get a chance to step back and reflect on where you are at your life and what you’ve accomplished, and what you haven’t yet accomplished and where you might want to go.”

For her, the best part of the Forty Under 40 experience was getting to know the other recipients, who come from diverse backgrounds and industries.

Forty Under 40
From left, a pregnant Kimberley Hall (Cushman & Wakefield Ottawa) with fellow 2018 Forty Under 40 recipients Amy Porteous (Bruyére Continuing Care), Julia Knox (Giant Tiger) and Marlene Floyd (Microsoft Canada and co-founder of Dress for Success), at the Forty Under 40 gala awards dinner held at the Hilton Lac Leamy on Friday, June 15, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, 2018 recipients Chris Jerome (EY) with Andrew Balfour (Navigator) at the Forty Under 40 gala awards dinner held at the Hilton Lac Leamy on Friday, June 15, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Shawn Malhotra, a vice-president at Claridge Homes, was at the awards gala with three tables’ worth of supporters, including his wife, Louise, with whom he founded the charitable Malhotra Family Foundation.

“It’s always nice to be recognized but I think it’s a product of the people who help support you and guide you through the whole process, and get you to this point in your career,” Malhotra told OBJ.social.

He was talking about his dad, prominent developer Bill Malhotra, who attended with his wife, Romina Malhotra, and a group of their friends.

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Award recipient Shawn Malhotra with his father and mentor, Bill Malhotra, at the Forty Under 40 gala evening held at the Hilton Lac Leamy on Friday, June 15, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Forty Under 40 recipient Pierre-Olivier Charlebois (reDock Inc.) with his wife, Dr. Stephanie Archambault-Leger, at the Forty Under 40 gala awards dinner held at the Hilton Lac Leamy on Friday, June 15, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Forty Under 40
From left, award recipient Liz Ellwood (Fertility Match Canada) with co-founder and fertility consultant Lisa Casselman at the Forty Under 40 gala awards dinner held at the Hilton Lac Leamy on Friday, June 15, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

This year, more than 170 applications were submitted. They were narrowed down to 100 finalists for the judges to independently assess and rank.

Choosing this year’s winners were Ottawa Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Ian Faris; Michael Curran and OBJ print editor David Sali; Soloway Wright LLP partner Iwona Albrecht; chartered professional accountant Robert Rhéaume and government affairs practitioner Patrick Dion.

Forty Under 40
From left, Tom Manley, senior principal at Bridge Growth Partners, with Marie Boivin, former chair of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce (OCC), along with Randi Sherman and her husband, EY partner Ian Sherman, current chair of the board of the OCC, and Krys Albrecht and his wife, Iwona Albrecht, one of the judges for the Forty Under 40 Awards, at the awards dinner held at the Hilton Lac Leamy on Friday, June 15, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Ottawa chiropractor Sasha Hamid, an associate at the Byward Chiropractic Clinic, nominated herself this year after not winning in 2017.

“I said, ‘I’m going to do it. I have one year left; I’m 39. If it get it, I get it. If I don’t, no regrets’,” she told OBJ.social.

Her “nothing to lose” attitude paid off. Not only was she happy to have been chosen but she knew she was in the right profession.

“I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she told OBJ.social.

Forty Under 40
From left, Caitlin Crooks and her wife, Sasha Hamid (Byward Chiropractic Clinic), a recipient of a 2018 Forty Under 40 award, at the Hilton Lac Leamy on Friday, June 15, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Many of the winners have already achieved great success in their careers during a phase of life that's particularly demanding, whether it’s due to family life, volunteer activities or other commitments.

Take, for example, 2018 Forty Under 40 recipient Ray del Cojo, engineering director at Lightenco, a fast-growing company that helps businesses reduce lighting costs and cut down on energy consumption.

He puts in long hours during the week, and sometimes on weekends, too. He and his wife also have two children — a four-year-old and a six-month-old baby. So exhausted is del Cojo that, by nightfall, it's not unusual for him to conk out while reading a bedtime story to his eldest.

Winning a Forty Under 40, added the Mexican-born entrepreneur, "makes it worth it; all the sacrifices you're making."

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From left, 2018 Forty Under 40 recipient Ray del Cojo with his business partners Eduardo Vargas and Steve Hubbard, who won the award last year, at the Hilton Lac Leamy on Friday, June 15, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

For Stayci Keetch, CEO and creative director of her own video production company, Eyes on Ottawa, the gala was a much-needed night out for her and her husband, fellow entrepreneur Alex Proulx. They’re also parents to two young kids.

“It’s nice just to be able to relax and enjoy myself and celebrate my accomplishments,” she told OBJ.social.

The gala turned out to be a date night that she’ll not soon forget; she and her husband won the raffle prize of two plane tickets to any of Air Canada’s destinations in Europe.

Forty Under 40
2018 Forty Under 40 recipients Stayci Keetch (Eyes on Ottawa) with her loving husband, Alex Proulx, at the Forty Under 40 gala awards dinner held at the Hilton Lac Leamy on Friday, June 15, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Micheal Burch, managing partner of Welch LLP, with Forty Under 40 recipient Kyle Turk, the firm's director of accounting and marketing, and his wife, Courtney, at the Forty Under 40 gala awards dinner held at the Hilton Lac Leamy on Friday, June 15, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Michael Whitcombe, senior partner at law firm McMillan LLP, with 2018 Forty Under 40 recipient Sandra Sbrocchi, a lawyer with the firm, and her husband, Eduardo Caldarelli, at the Forty Under 40 gala awards dinner held at the Hilton Lac Leamy on Friday, June 15, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips