How to Nominate or Apply for the 2013 Awards
Visit www.theawards.ca for eligibility requirements, award categories and information about the selection process. Then submit a nomination form before the May 17 2013 deadline. All nominees will receive an application package which must be completed before July 29, 2013.
Remember that you can nominate yourself and/or other successful women entrepreneurs. Although the nomination deadline is not until June, 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!
||In applying for the Innovation Award, we portrayed how innovation is inherent in everything we do, not just in the products we produce.
Andrea Feunekes, 2005 Intel Innovation Award Winner
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 have worked.
- “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 own patents.”
- 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 accomplishments.
- “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