In case you missed the Twitter buzz last night, we’re thrilled to share that
Rhyze Project Director Kristel Manes emceed the competition.
The culmination of months of planning, fundraising and hard work, the Rhyze Award Pitch Competition and Awards Ceremony was a huge success. This sold out event, held at the Arboretum, was the first women-only pitch competition in Guelph and Wellington County, with more than 130 community members, business leaders and entrepreneurs in attendance. The nine finalists were selected from nearly 50 highly qualified female entrepreneurs in the community.
We were wowed by how far our finalists have come in the short time leading up the competition, and proud to see the pitch coaching provided by Innovation Guelph mentors in action. The support and camaraderie demonstrated by our finalists re-affirms how important a strong peer network of women entrepreneurs is for our region.
Guest speaker Lynda Murray with Gillian Cuthbert, Meridian Credit Union, and Suzanne Bone, President/CEO of The Foundation of Guelph General Hospital and Innovation Guelph board member.
Judges for last night’s competition included Pam Banks, Executive Director for Mississauga’s Regional Innovation Centre; Julia Christensen-Hughes, Dean of the College of Business and Economics, University of Guelph; Shawn Clifford, Vice-President of Commercial Services, Meridian Credit Union; Jennifer Fletcher, Program Manager, Entrepreneurship & Applied Research at Conestoga College; and Kithio Mwanzia, Guelph Chamber of Commerce President & CEO.
Judges Jennifer Fletcher, Shawn Clifford and Julia Christensen-Hughes listen to a pitch from Natalina Campagnolo of La Cucina di Natalina Italian Cooking School.
[re]Fresh Juice Co. founder Whitney Douglas plans to use the cash award to invest in a walk-in cooler that will enable the company to scale their operations. [re]Fresh was also guaranteed a feature article in an upcoming issue of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce’s Moving Business Forward member magazine.
[re]Fresh Juice Co.’s founder Whitney Douglas
Second place was awarded to Guelph Community Acupuncture, provider of accessible, affordable group acupuncture treatments. Founder and registered acupuncturist Lisa Baird gave a solid pitch that earned the organization $5,000 for marketing and office supplies, as well as 10 hours of business mentoring from Innovation Guelph.
Guelph Community Acupuncture founder and registered acupuncturist Lisa Baird
Third place was awarded to The Children’s Art Factory (CAF), a creative studio space dedicated to preschool children. Founder Melissa Mazar (shown below) received $5,000 to expand the space, 10 hours of business mentoring from Innovation Guelph and $500 from Worth Communications to strengthen the CAF’s marketing and communications efforts.
The funds for the cash awards were raised earlier this year in a community crowdfunding campaign, facilitated by Innovation Guelph. While cash awards were distributed to the top three at the judges’ discretion, all nine finalists will receive 10 hours of business mentoring through Innovation Guelph – and we can’t wait to support them on their journey.
The Rhyze Award has been two years in the making and is truly a dream come true for all involved with the Rhyze Project. We are so proud of the finalists for sharing their entrepreneurial journey and taking advantage of this incredible opportunity to challenge themselves and grow their respective businesses.
With the completion of the Rhyze Award program cycle last night, we can now begin to measure the impact of investing in women-owned businesses in our community, while continuing to cultivate the programs, education and financial resources that will grow them in the years to come.
Thank you to all who have contributed to the success of The Rhyze Project over the past two years. Of course, there’s lots more where that came from! Stay tuned for more events and opportunities to connect with women entrepreneurs, learn from those who’ve walked the path and participate in the important dialogue around women’s economic empowerment in the coming months.
Follow @TheRhyzeProject on Twitter for updates on the project and women’s entrepreneurship in Guelph and Wellington County.
*Special thanks to photographer Corinne Taylor for capturing the excitement of the evening!