Finalists fêted for Ottawa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award

Winners will be named at Women's Business Network's BYA Gala on April 19

Mercedes dealership Star Motors of Ottawa cleared out its showroom Tuesday night to make room for the large social gathering it hosted for finalists of this year’s Businesswoman of the Year Award.

The two-hour reception – which included valet parking, of course – brought together the corporate sponsors, along with members of the BYA nominations and selection committees and previous recipients, to meet and learn more about the hardworking and accomplished award contenders. 

Winners will be announced at The Businesswoman of the Year Awards Gala taking place at the Infinity Convention Centre on Thursday, April 19.

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The 2017 finalists are, in the Emerging Entrepreneur category: Donna Baker, co-founder of Keynote Group; Lindy Ledohowski, CEO of literacy software company EssayJack Inc; and Ilona Garson, founder of Jet Black Hair & Studio.

Selected as finalists for the Professional category were: sports medicine physician Renata Frankovich from MEDSPORT Ottawa, chiropractor Nathalie Beauchamp, owner of Santé Chiropractic and Wellness Centre; and Gowling WLG law partner Karen Hennessey.

In the Organization category, it’s: Linda Eagen, president and CEO of the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation; Kelly Stone, executive director of the Canadian Association of Family Resource Programs, and Tina Sarellas, regional president of Royal Bank of Canada .

In the Established Entrepreneur category, the selection committee narrowed the choices down to: Anna Belanger with Anna Belanger & Associates; Carley Schelck, co-owner of The Urban Element; and Cathy Hay from Hay Design.

Back to emcee the reception was well-known writer, publicist and self-described “show off” Julie Beun. She spoke of the inspiring concept of women helping women.

“The way women do business is that we pull up those behind us and we push up those ahead of us,” said Beun.

Among this year's 12 finalists for a Businesswoman of the Year Award are, from left, Cathy Hay, Anna Belanger, Kelly Stone, Linda Eagen, Carley Schelck and Donna Baker. Photo by Caroline PhillipsBYA Finalists Cocktail ReceptionBYA Finalists Cocktail Reception

Also in attendance was honourary chair Solange Tuyishime, president and CEO of Elevate International, an organization dedicated to advancing leadership and economic empowerment for women and girls, both within Canada and globally.

From presenting sponsor BMO was Katherine Scarlett, head of divisional operations for Eastern Ontario. She spoke of her bank’s commitment to working with and supporting businesswomen. She shared some applause-worthy statistics: the share of wealth controlled by Canadian high-net-worth women is forecast to grow from $1.2 trillion in 2014 to $2.7 trillion by 2024. As well, 53 per cent of female business owners have investable assets of more than $1 million.

BYA Finalists Cocktail Reception

A new report says female entrepreneurs lead 50 per cent of all new businesses, own close to half of all small and medium-sized Canadian enterprises and create more jobs than male entrepreneurs. Female-led businesses also have higher survival rates than those led by men.

Yet the report also found that the current policy and discourses surrounding innovation understate contributions from female entrepreneurs, largely because they aren’t as involved in tech.

BYA Finalists Cocktail Reception

This year marks the third and final year that the gala is being chaired by Ottawa chiropractor Nicole Fournier, from Wellness House Chiropractic and Massage Therapy.

It’s been a rewarding experience, she told

“I love meeting all these women and hearing their inspirational stories. They have a certain spark that leaves you feeling so energized.”

BYA Finalists Cocktail Reception

She also said that it’s necessary to have business awards that specifically recognize women.

“Men have an easier time getting to the top of the corporate ladder,” said Fournier, who’s expecting her second child this spring. “You see it all the time, where a woman has to work a little harder to get herself to a certain level while a man gets there a little easier and quicker.  Unfortunately, business is still a man’s world.”

It’s no flip of the coin to choose the BYA winners; it’s a rigorous and lengthy process that’s kept fair and confidential. Each category has a five-person selection committee that picks three finalists in each of the four categories, based on the submitted applications. There’s then another committee that whittles the selection down to the four award winners. The nominations committee, which coordinates the selection process, is chaired by Kimberley Farr, manager of commercial banking with CIBC.

Star Motors handed out swag bags to guests on their way out the door but, sadly, none contained keys to a brand new car – or even a gently used one.

BYA Finalists Cocktail ReceptionBYA Finalists Cocktail ReceptionBYA Finalists Cocktail Reception


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