The search for qualified candidates for the premier national awards recognizing the achievements of women entrepreneurs - the 2008 RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur Awards - is underway. RBC Financial Group is pleased to be the lead sponsor of these preeminent awards, now in their 17th year. Do you or someone you know meet the eligibility criteria? If so, we'd like to hear from you, whether your business is local, regional or national. Our goal is to put a spotlight on the accomplishments of Canada's most successful women entrepreneurs and help you all shine.
How to Apply for the 2008 Awards
Visit www.theawards.ca for eligibility requirements, award categories and information about the selection process. Then, download and submit a nomination form before the July 2008 deadline. All nominees will receive an application package which must be completed before August 2008.
Remember that you can nominate yourself and/or other successful women entrepreneurs. Although the nomination deadline is not until July, the sooner you submit nominations, the better, because that allows extra time for nominees to prepare and submit an impressive application.
Check out tips and insights from past winners and submit your nomination today!
History of the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur Awards
Since 1992, the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur Awards (CWEA) have paid tribute to Canada's most successful female entrepreneurs for their important contributions to the Canadian and global economies as well as to their communities. Each year, a team of 16 national judges, all of whom are successful businesswomen themselves, review the applications and select the winners. In addition, a rigorous due diligence process takes place, including a review of financial statements, site visits and reference checks, before winners are confirmed.
"Judging the applications for this prestigious award offers a glimpse into the exciting variety, overall successes, accomplishments, diversity and ingenuity of Canadian women across the country," says Andrina Lever, Awards Selection Committee representative. "We have the best women entrepreneurs capable of competing anywhere in the world."
One of the most exciting developments over the years has been the growth in size and scope of the businesses these women are operating. Initially, most of the businesses applying for an award were small, but today revenues range from $250,000 to over $500 million. There has also been an increase in the number of female entrepreneurs succeeding in 'non-traditional' industries such as finance, film, construction, oil and gas, and transportation.
To date, over 5,300 women ranging from their early 20's to their mid-80's - from every sector of the economy - have been nominated for these awards, of which 88 have been presented. Last year saw a record 875 nominations. The 2006 awards and winners included:
- RBC Momentum Award - Susan Niczowski, Summer Fresh Salads Inc., Woodbridge, ON
- Deloitte Start-Up Award - Tracy Gray and Suzanne Mick, Discover Wines Ltd., Kelowna, BC
- BDC Exporter Award - Kyle MacDonald, Phoenix Interactive Design Inc., London, ON
- Intel Innovation Award - Yvonne Tollens, ComputerAid Professional Services Ltd., Okotoks, AB
- Bell Trailblazer Award - Lola Rasminsky, Avenue Road Arts School, Toronto, ON.
- Energy Savings Group Lifetime Achievement Award - Lisette (Lee) McDonald, Southmedic Inc., Barrie, ON
“Since RBC has had a long-term commitment to help women start and grow their businesses, it is a wonderful opportunity to support these prestigious and always much-anticipated awards once again,” says Rina Pillitteri, Director, Small Business Client Strategy, RBC Financial Group. “We were delighted with the record-high participation of so many women across Canada and look forward to a growing pool of nominees.”
Why RBC Financial Group Sponsors the Awards
- To honour and showcase successful women entrepreneurs across Canada
- To advance women's business and personal networks
- To provide significant profile and visibility for women and their businesses
- To create additional opportunities for women business owners to actively participate on for-profit and non-profit boards, government committees and/or industry associations
- To increase the number of role models and mentors for all entrepreneurs, both male and female
“We believe that, as Canadians, we have an obligation to support women who are working to achieve their dreams and to improve their communities by helping them to start and run successful businesses,” says Joanne Gordon, Vice President of Media and Entertainment, RBC Royal Bank.
Resource: Awards DVD
RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur Awards DVD
A special DVD is available featuring the 2006 RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur Awards, vignettes of the 2006 winners sharing their successful stories and business advice, and other information that can help you grow and promote your business.
Looking to motivate yourself or others to apply for the Awards? This is an excellent resource. Those nominated will automatically receive this special DVD.
Top 10 Secrets to Preparing a Winning Awards Submission: Past Winners Share Their Insights
The RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur Awards celebrate successful women-owned businesses of all types and sizes right across the country. Previous recipients say that winning one of these awards has boosted their profile and market presence and opened the door to new business opportunities.
Benefits of Being a Winner
- “It’s the mot meaningful award I’ve ever won and a big win for Phoenix. To receive national recognition of achievement for what it takes to compete globally is pretty special!” Kyle MacDonald, Phoenix Interactive Design Inc. (2006 Export Award Winner)
- “The benefits are more than we could ever have imagined. Winning gives you credibility at a different level. We got incredible press and lots of hits off the RBC Women Entrepreneurs web site.” Suzanne Mick, Discover Wines Ltd. (2006 Start-Up Award Winner)
- “The thing that I’m quite thrilled about as a result of winning the award is that I was invited to join two groups of really remarkable women - Women Presidents’ Organization and the International Women’s Forum. I also received a tremendous write up in the Globe & Mail.” Lola Rasminsky, Avenue Road Arts School, (2006 Trailblazer Award Winner)
- “Being recognized is absolutely fantastic and it was great to meet the other wonderful winners.” Susan Niczowski, Summer Fresh Salads Inc. (2006 RBC Momentum Award Winner)
- We’ve certainly received a lot of recognition and media attention. I’ve never had the opportunity to deal with media, so it’s been a good growth experience. I’ve also met some wonderful people because of the award, which has shifted and broadened how I think.” Yvonne Tollens, ComputerAid Professional Services Ltd (2006 Innovation Award Winner)
- “There have been many spin-off benefits. Having the opportunity to speak about what we’ve achieved has increased my confidence. I’ve conducted media interviews and the mayor of my city gave me an Award of Excellence. A high school group even interviewed me…which was a lot of fun.” Sherri Stevens, Stevens Resource Group (2005 RBC Momentum Award Winner)
- “I’ve received lots of media attention, including CBC-TV, TVO and print media nationally. And it’s reconnected me with people from my past - I even heard from my journalism college professor from 20 years ago. I’ve also been invited to join the Women Presidents Organization (WPO) and have been appointed to the national First Nations Governance Institute Board of Directors.” Lynda Powless, Turtle Island News (2005 Trailblazer Award Winner)
- “Because the award is high profile, our company has received a lot of attention, which has been good for our team since it reinforces we are doing the right thing. The media profile also makes it easier to talk to people and they are quicker to respond.” Andrea Feunekes, Remsoft Inc. (2005 Innovation Award Winner)
- “Getting this kind of professional recognition
is terrific! Not only have I made excellent contacts through
the process and received great press, but it’s nice to
take things up a notch and be able to say that our small
Canadian company is in this league. ” Marianne Bertrand,
Muttluks Inc. (2002 Innovation Award Winner)
Even 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award winner Wendy McDonald, founder of BC Bearing Engineers Ltd. – who has won multiple awards, including an Order of Canada honour, during her 61-year entrepreneurial climb in a male-dominated industry – sees the value. “It’s a wonderful award for achievement over the years and so nice to be recognized this way.”
The bottom line? It’s well worth it to apply!
Tips for a Winning Submission
We asked past winners for their insights on how to submit
a successful application. Here is what they shared with us:
- Be professional in your presentation.
- Follow the guidelines.
- Engage your staff.
- Provide proper background.
- Find your story.
- Tailor your submission to the category for which you are nominated.
- Write in a friendly, upbeat style.
- Include powerful collaterals and endorsements.
- Be prepared to be audited if you are chosen as a finalist.
- Don’t be shy!
1. Be professional in your presentation. Your application
reflects you and the professionalism of your company. That
means no hand-written submissions, spelling mistakes or typos.
Remember that these are premier awards and it takes time
to submit the application properly. If you do not have the
time, consider hiring a freelance writer or professional
marketing firm to help you, especially if your expertise
is not in marketing. You’ll need to give good input and be
sure that the final submission is a true reflection of you
and your business.
- “The earlier you get started, the better. It’s good to draft it, set it aside, and come back to it a few times as you will think of other things to add.” Suzanne Mick, Discover Wines Ltd. (2006 Start-Up)
- “I asked both my husband and a close friend for help, mostly because I’m not very good at blowing my own horn. Like a lot of other women, I tend to downplay my accomplishments, so by getting input from males who cared about me, I probably highlighted more positive things than I would have otherwise.” Lola Rasminsky, Avenue Road Arts School, (2006 Trailblazer Award Winner)
- “Set aside enough time to prepare. I spent two days.” Lynda Powless, Turtle Island News (2005 Trailblazer)
- “I used the services of a marketing expert
to go through my material and balance the accomplishments
and the journey of the company and me. I could not have
done it myself. And, being a technical person, I would
never have included certain things, such as our patents,
that I was told later weighed in my favour.” Joanne Papari,
Biochem Environmental Solutions Inc. (2004 Innovation)
2. Follow the guidelines. Ensure you provide the length
and style specified in the application rules – i.e. 10 pages,
double-spaced, 12 pt type and maximum five exhibits. You
can include three references - good sources include your
banker, accountant, suppliers who have helped you, and professionals
in your industry who know you well and with whom you may
- “I packaged it professionally and included photos of myself and the business, copies of the newspaper, and photocopies of certificates and awards. I also included written external references from business owners, elders, council members and my RBC Royal Bank manager.” Lynda Powless, Turtle Island News (2005 Trailblazer)
- “I am a very visual person and presentation
means a lot to me and obviously meant a lot to the judges.
Having said that, I also believe in keeping it simple and
easy to read. Sometimes less is more.” Lorraine Lush Mastropietro
(1994 Quality Plus)
3. Engage your staff.The application process is a terrific
way to get your employees involved in helping you and boosting
morale in your company.
- “I turned the application over to one of my key people. It’s hard for me to take credit for the work that I do and I probably would never have been able to state the case the way she did.” Yvonne Tollens, ComputerAid Professional Services Ltd (2006 Innovation Award Winner)
- “Involve your team. They have different insights and can add beneficial information to the package. Our Marketing Coordinator helped finesse it, our Controller provided the financial info, and our Operations Manager identified risks in business that we’ve overcome.” Sherri Stevens, Stevens Resource Group (2005 RBC Momentum)
- “Ask your bank manager what to highlight financially. Getting that financial advice was invaluable.” Lynda Powless, Turtle Island News (2005 Trailblazer)
- “The marketer on my team asked both our staff and outsiders to talk about what they thought of me as a leader, which was included in the application as a sidebar, along with their photos. I never would have thought to do this. As a matter of fact, I was hesitant to apply in the first place, but now I understand that although an award like this has my name on it, it isn’t just about me. It’s about the group and the fact that we could really celebrate together.” Andrea Feunekes, Remsoft Inc. (2005 Innovation)
- “I wrote the first draft and ran it by
my staff for their input...and even sent it to my mother,
who is one of my lenders and also a businessperson.” Marianne
Bertrand, Muttluks Inc. (2002 Innovation)
4. Provide proper background. Don’t assume the judges will
be fully familiar with you or your business. Be detailed
in your personal profile and business description, outlining
your business from a personal point of view. It’s key to
market yourself because it is the success of you as an entrepreneur
that is more significant for these awards than the success
of the company. And make sure you have a professional photograph
on hand in case you are chosen as a finalist.
- “This award is not about how much your
gross sales are…it’s about your story.” Carol Denman, Atchison & Denman
Court Reporting Services Ltd. (1993 Turnaround)
- “Present the information in the same format
as you would to raise funds. Assume that the reader knows
nothing of your industry and product and describe it concisely
and clearly. That will highlight your achievements, leadership
and vision…and the success your business has achieved under
your leadership.” Lee McDonald, Southmedic Inc. (2006 Lifetime Achievement and 1997 Competitiveness)
5. Find your story. Everyone has an interesting story to
tell, but sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees.
If you think of significant learning experiences you’ve had
along your path to growth, a story will inevitably emerge.
It can be helpful to find someone to draw it out.
- “Be upfront and tell your story. I focused on the growth of Summerfresh, and the success of that growth.” Susan Niczowski, Summer Fresh Salads Inc. (2006 RBC Momentum)
- “Try to make it an interesting narrative. You don’t want the judges to fall asleep!” Lola Rasminsky, Avenue Road Arts School, (2006 Trailblazer)
- “Make the style very personal and compelling. Tell a story.” Sharon McNamara, Kiln Art (2005 Start-Up)
- “Think about what is unique about you and the way you run your business. For me, it’s following my own path and commitment to the environment. That’s what I do and it works well. Be creative to really show who you are. It’s not just about numbers and data.” Andrea Feunekes, Remsoft Inc. (2005 Innovation)
- “I felt the judges focused on anecdotes that demonstrated why I felt I should win and how I overcame hurdles rather than on my background and resume. And I provided testimonials to back it up.” Lynda Powless, Turtle Island News (2005 Trailblazer)
- “The application process
was a very intense, soul-searching exercise and I learned
a lot about myself and my business just by analyzing what
I had written. What I did was take a tape recorder, sit
with my general manager and tell her my story (now 20 years
old). Then she did the written submission from what I had
recorded and from answers to the questions she asked me
during our talk.” Carol Denman, Atchison & Denman Court
Reporting Services Ltd. (1993 Turnaround)
- “Running your business may seem like nuts
and bolts, but how you deal with your employees and how
you deal with that piece of machinery that breaks down
is actually what may help you win the award. Everybody
has a product and there is only so much you can say about
your product – what is more important is telling how you
problem solve. People want to know what’s under the hood.” Marianne
Bertrand, Muttluks Inc. (2002 Innovation)
6. Tailor your submission to the category for which you
are nominated. First of all, make sure that you fit the category – for
example, Start-Up requires that you have been in business
for at least three years and, in the Lifetime Achievement
category, you are eligible even if you have had more than
one business in your 15 plus years. Whatever the category
for which you are nominated, study the definition carefully
and ensure copy is written to justify why you should win – for
example, in the Trailblazer category, ensure your application
highlights how you are ahead of the game and set trends;
and in the Momentum category, define an obstacle you have
faced and how you overcame it.
- Yvonne Tollens, ComputerAid Professional Services Ltd., winner of the 2006 Innovation Award, started the process intending to submit the application in a different category. Realizing that “we are constantly innovating”, she applied for the Innovation Award, focusing on how the company solves the unsolved and makes its technology work in the field.
- In applying for the 2005 Innovation Award, Andrea Feunekes, President of Remsoft Inc. – a leading developer of software and services for sustainable forest management – tailored her application accordingly. “We really tried to portray that the company is innovative not just in the products that we produce, which are unique in the world, but in the way that we do everything – from non-traditional marketing to the way we license our software.”
- Likewise, Marianne Bertrand, owner of
dog-boot manufacturer Muttluks Inc., ensured that her application
for the 2002 Innovation Award reflected all the innovative
things she had done. These included her donation of boots
for canine units searching the rubble after 9/11. “I also
talked about our innovations in financing, in customer
contact, in production and even in human resources.”
- For her 2005 Start-Up Award submission, Sharon McNamara of Kiln Art focused on conveying how she grew the company quickly and outlined the government resources she tapped into, such as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, to help accelerate that growth.
- When submitting her ‘Quality Plus’ application
back in 1994, Lorraine Lush Mastropietro, who owned a career
academy then, naturally focused on providing a quality
submission. “I used testimonials and external references
and also submitted the things I was most proud of in my
business – for example, our marketing material, the curriculum
in my colleges, the placement percentages of my students,
our affiliations with other organizations and information
on other awards and recognitions I had received in my province
and in my community.”
7. Write in a friendly, upbeat style. Be authentic and sincere
as this will shine through in your application.
- “Try to be creative. Stand out from the rest by telling your story from your heart, how it happened to you. It works.” Sherri Stevens, Stevens Resource Group (2005 RBC Momentum)
- “Focus on describing your business from
a personal perspective and do keep it positive. Many of
us have had some obstacles to overcome and perhaps some
nastiness with employees, competitors and, yes, even husbands.
It’s fine to mention these things in passing, but do not
dwell on them.” Carol Denman, Atchison & Denman Court Reporting
Service Ltd. (1993 Turnaround)
8. Include powerful collaterals and endorsements. Marketing
materials, media clippings and third-party support such as
client testimonials and reference letters are good to include.
But be selective and careful not to clutter your application
with too many - remember, a maximum of five such exhibits,
and no videos.
- Media savvy 2006 Start-Up winners Suzanne Mick and Tracy Gray enhanced their application with a press kit and customer testimonials.
- Because of the visual nature of her glass art business, Sharon McNamara of Kiln Art (2005 Start-Up winner) submitted her catalogue along with media articles about her and the company as well as testimonials from a range of customers.
- The inclusion of her patents was a good
strategic move in Joanne Papari’s submission (2004
Innovation winner). “The judges seemed to be impressed
by the fact that we had patents because women do not usually
- Muttluks President Marianne Bertrand (2002
Innovation winner) included a paw sizing chart as well
as a photo of herself on her motorcycle, along with her
dogs in the sidecar – a strong visual image and reinforcement
of what she is all about. “I think the judges look more
at you as a person than at your company.”
9. Be prepared to be audited if you are chosen as a finalist.
Ensure that your numbers are transparent and that you have
audited financial statements.
- “This can be expensive but it is worth
it to do it right from the beginning and to be ready for
the auditors. I completed my application with the help
of my CFO. It’s also important for the auditors to know
you’re confident. During the audit, you can be open about
any struggles – we all have these - but avoid sounding
like ‘woe is me’.” Kim McArthur, McArthur & Company
Publishing Ltd. (2001 Start-Up)
- “When the auditors came in, they talked to my bookkeeper and then I referred them to my bank manager, whom they visited.” Lynda Powless, Turtle Island News (2005 Trailblazer)
- “It’s important to understand what’s in your financials, so that you can answer any questions the auditors may have.” Andrea Feunekes, Remsoft Inc. (2005 Innovation)
10. Don’t be shy! This is your opportunity to step back,
take stock and applaud yourself for your hard work and achievements.
It’s a healthy exercise since women tend to undervalue their
- “Awards like this are so important for women. We do business differently. We’re fearless! Sometimes the rewards are few in entrepreneurship, so I encourage others to apply. It’s a great thing for you and your business!” Suzanne Mick, Discover Wines Ltd. (2006 Start-Up)
- “When I finished reading my application, I realized that I have really accomplished something. If you’ve been in business long enough, you’ve done quite a few things and, without writing it all down, you don’t think about what you’ve achieved.” Lola Rasminsky, Avenue Road Arts School, (2006 Trailblazer Award Winner)
- “This is one time you need to ‘blow your
own horn’.” Carol Denman, Atchison & Denman Court Reporting
Service Ltd. (1993 Turnaround)
- “Getting a proper writer and editor is
important because you may be too modest in putting forth
all the areas in which you are great.” Barbara Mowat, Impact
Communications Ltd. (1993 Impact on Local Economy)
- “I believe that all women entrepreneurs
deserve recognition and that it is ok for us to pat ourselves
on the back every now and then. By submitting my application,
I felt I was doing just that. When you are proud of your
accomplishments, why not tell the world about it!” Lorraine
Lush Mastropietro (1994 Quality Plus)
If at first you do not win, keep on trying! That’s the advice
of Suzanne Bernard Leclair, Founder of Transit Inc.Truck
Bodies, who joined the winners’ circle with her 2004 Lifetime
Achievement Award. Two-time applicant Lola Rasminsky, Avenue Roads Art School,
winner of the 2006 Trailblazer Award, echoes this. “Even if you put considerable
time and effort into applying and don’t win the first time, you will get something out
of completing the application that will surprise you. It will make you feel very good
about yourself.” Likewise, Marianne Bertrand, President
of Muttluks Inc., applied four times over several years before
clinching the 2002 Innovation Award that she coveted. “I
just kept fine-tuning my application and running it by my
PR consultant for input … and each time I learned to write
a little better and more concisely.” The moral: never give
up. And if you apply the tips you’ve read here, you’ll be
a step ahead in your pursuit of victory!
Visit www.theawards.ca for eligibility requirements, award categories and information about the selection process.
Completing the Financial Data Section of the Application
Many nominees have questions about the kind of financial information to be included in the application and why it is requested. Note that all financial information submitted is strictly confidential. Here are step-by-step instructions for completing the financial data section that you will find on page 1 of the application form:
- Record the first three items - Gross Revenue, Net Revenue and EBITDA - from your income statement:
Gross Revenue: Record the revenue amount before discounts for sales returns, allowances and any discounts offered
Net Revenue: Record the revenue amount after discounts for sales returns, allowances and any discounts offered
Note: Since some companies present revenues as gross amounts and others as net amounts, the two must be specified to ensure that the auditors clearly understand how you record revenues and will be in a position to compare apples with apples when assessing your business against others. Note that there may not be a difference in your gross and net revenues, particularly if you are a service-based business. But there will be a difference for any company that offers a trade discount or has returns - for example, publishing companies that record gross revenues when they ship out product to book stores, and then must record net revenues after adjusting for any returns.
EBITDA (earnings before interest on long-term debt, taxes and depreciation/amortization): Take your net earnings /income and add back any interest on long-term debt, depreciation or amortization, and taxes from the income statement.
Note: The EBITDA number is an industry standard used in evaluating companies. It provides a look into your operations and demonstrates the earnings on a comparable basis. Supply any necessary explanations here. For example, if you are an owner-manager taking advantage of tax-planning strategies such as bonuses, you may need to adjust for that.
- The numbers required for the following two items - current ratio and debt/equity ratio - are recorded on your balance sheet:
Current Ratio: Take your current assets and divide by your current liabilities. If the resulting number is greater than one, it indicates that you are financially soluble and have enough current assets to pay your current liabilities. If the number is less than one, you have a working capital deficiency and may not be able to pay your liabilities on a timely basis. A healthy business will have a ratio well over one, whereas a troubled company with negative working capital will be below one.
Debt/Equity Ratio: Divide your total debt (excluding accounts payable) by your total equity. This demonstrates how much you personally have at risk vs. the amount of capital invested by others in your business. The smaller the number, the more the company is at risk for financing the operations and growth. A larger number means that certain of the financing risks have been transferred to non-equity investors.
Percentage of Ownership: Indicate if you own the business 100%, or provide your share of the voting shares if you have partners.
Completing this financial data for your last three year-ends will go a long way in ensuring a solid application. You may also find it helpful to consult with your accountant or banker.
For more information about the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur Awards, visit www.theawards.ca