Business advocate Wood, prominent chef Vettorel among Algonquin's 2021 Alumni of Distinction

Okpik Consulting CEO Crystal Martin-Lapenskie and Mercury Filmworks also on prestigious list of winners
Michael Wood
Business advocate and Ottawa Special Events co-founder is a recipient of this year's Algonquin College Alumni of Distinction Awards. File photo

A pair of prominent Ottawa entrepreneurs, an eastern Ontario consultant and advocate for Indigenous communities and a leading animation studio are among this year’s recipients of Algonquin College’s Alumni of Distinction Awards.

Michael Wood, the co-founder of production equipment rental firm Ottawa Special Events, will receive the school’s Business Award, while Adam Vettorel, the co-owner of well-regarded local restaurants North & Navy and Cantina Gia, is the winner of this year’s Apprenticeship Award.

In addition, Okpik Consulting president and CEO Crystal Martin-Lapenskie is the recipient of the Community Services Award and Emmy-winning Ottawa animation firm Mercury Filmworks has been named Alumni Employer of the Year.

Wood – who announced earlier this month he was selling his stake in Ottawa Special Events – emerged as a tireless advocate for small businesses during the pandemic. 

"Small business is crucial to our landscape."

The 1997 graduate of Algonquin’s tourism and travel services management program has been in contact with countless business owners and government officials over the past 18 months, championing the causes of restaurateurs, fitness centre owners and others whose enterprises were decimated by the COVID-19 crisis.

“Small business is crucial to our landscape,” Wood, whose own company saw its revenues nosedive 96 per cent last year after the pandemic wiped out virtually all live events, told OBJ last fall.

Over the past year and a half, the former musician and part-time instructor in Algonquin’s music industry arts program has testified virtually before the House of Commons and presented before Ontario’s standing committee on finance and economic affairs. 

Wood has also hosted numerous online roundtable discussions, involving as many as 100 local small businesses, en route to connecting more than 50,000 people to ministers, MPs and MPPs.

Vettorel, a 2007 graduate of Algonquin’s cook apprenticeship program, opened Cantina Gia in the Glebe last October amid the second wave of COVID and managed to navigate the new business and Centretown’s North & Navy through one of the most turbulent periods the industry has ever experienced.

Inuit youth advocate

Vettorel has also launched a podcast – At the Pass with Adam Vettorel – in which he talks with prominent chefs in the Ottawa restaurant scene.

A graduate of Algonquin’s social service worker program in 2013, Martin-Lapenskie launched Okpik Consulting in Eganville in 2017. Since then, she has travelled around the world to work with Indigenous leaders, elected officials and others in an effort to highlight pressing social justice issues facing Inuit youth.

With a blue-chip client list that includes Disney, Netflix, Apple, Amazon, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros., Mercury Filmworks has grown to more than 350 employees in Ottawa – 94 of whom are Algonquin alumni.

The studio has a long history of hiring and mentoring Algonquin graduates and has supported successful fundraising efforts for the school.

The awards, which honour 10 alumni for outstanding professional and community contributions, will be presented in a virtual ceremony on Sept. 30.