The 2021 Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards were presented to four local business people – Dr. Aali Alizadeh (Giatec Scientific Inc.), Ihsan (Sam) Habbal (Lunch Lady Ottawa West & Sweet Hits), Maryam Yazdani, (GenesisLink Consulting Services) and Dragan Veljovic (Maplesoft Consulting and Fontana NBG) – whose business success and spirit have contributed to the local economy and serve as an inspiration to new Canadians to start their own businesses.
The virtual award ceremony was held on November 23, as part of TiECon Canada (The Indus Entrepreneurs) 2021. TiE is an international association that has chapters in cities around the world, including Ottawa, which provide a network to help entrepreneurs connect, share leading practices and mentor new entrepreneurs.
Dr. Aali Alizadeh, CTO, Giatec Scientific Inc.
Dr. Aali Alizadeh is the CTO of Giatec Scientific Inc. and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Ottawa. He has over 15 years of experience in the development and commercialization of technologies related to concrete materials. He co-founded Giatech Scientific Inc. in 2010 with the vision to revolutionize the concrete industry. With exports to more than 80 countries and its sensors used in over 8,000 construction projects, Giatec is a fast-growing Canadian tech company and a world leader in concrete IoT and AI solutions.
Giatec is a global company revolutionizing the construction industry by bringing smart testing technologies and real-time data collection to the forefront of every jobsite. Giatec’s suite of hardware & software products has leveraged advanced technologies such as; AI, and Internet of Things (IoT), including: wireless concrete sensors, mobile apps, and advanced non-destructive technologies (NDT) to drive innovation throughout concrete’s lifecycle and reduce concrete’s carbon footprint.
With its headquarters in Ottawa, Giatec Scientific Inc. employs a dynamic team of over 70 employees. They view a workplace culture that values its employees as more than a statement but the engine that drives Giatec's growth and development. With a culture that prioritizes acceptance, creativity, empowerment and integrity, they are the model of a truly diverse and inclusive company. Its a testament to their values when they strive to live out the message, “we value our employees, not only for what they do, but also for who they are.”
Prior to co-founding Giatec, Dr. Alizadeh co-established the Construction Materials Institute at the University of Tehran, which strives to provide knowledge-based services and efficient technologies to the construction industry as well as to equip engineers of the future with superior skills and expertise in concrete durability, performance and various technologies.
Sam (Ihsan) Habbal
Sam was Born in Beirut, Lebanon, where she studied Communications at the Lebanese-American University and worked in news production for 15 years at different well-known TV channels, before immigrating to Canada in 2003. In Canada, she went to college to study Business Administration, where she graduated with Honours. Following that, she pursued her passion and love for business, art and food which led to her building two successful businesses, The Lunch Lady of Ottawa West (2015) and Sweet Hits (2021). The Lunch Lady of West Ottawa and Sweet Hits employ twelve staff members (including cooks, cleaners, drivers, food prep staff, and an administrator).
The Lunch Lady began by providing school lunch service and meals to childcare centres, camps, seniors, families and the greater community. The Lunch Lady serves 35 local schools in the west end with plans to expand to the east end. All products are purchased from local farmers or retailers. It has grown outside of Ottawa, supported by an amazing network of franchise partners, who deliver their programs in over 150 local communities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sam adapted this business by delivering meals direct to clients at home. The business is committed to creating and supporting a sustainable network of caring local businesses who deliver innovative and wholesome meal programs that both delight and nourish those they serve.
Sam launched her second business, Sweet Hits, during the pandemic to provide food solutions for all special occasions from birthday, first communion, graduation, to celebrating any holiday. Sweet Hits grew from a few customers to over 1200 within six months and continues to grow. This service includes elegant displays & food art in a box. These individually designed boxes are made with care and according to the highest standards of health regulations. Within the first six months, the business grew from just a few customers to over 1200 and continues to grow. Sam pivoted her business model to serving prepaid catered boxes to enterprises meeting virtually, so that social gatherings could still take place in an innovative fashion.
Sam has also assisted those in need by providing complementary catered boxes to local organizations such as women shelters, hospitals, food cupboards, shepherds of good hope. Sam's businesses employ newcomers, especially women, which helps them better integrate into their new community. She also sublets her commercial kitchen when she's not using it to newcomer entrepreneurs to help them reduce overhead cost while launching their small businesses.
Mary (Maryam) Yazdani, Founder, GenesisLink Consulting Services
Mary Yazdani is an innovative and performance-driven Entrepreneur with a deep passion for technology and business. She has a Masters Degree in Computer Engineering and possesses more than 15 years of experience managing all aspects of business development.
As the Founder of GenesisLink Consulting Services, Mary contributes greatly to the local entrepreneurial community by helping new immigrants develop new innovative business ideas, establish and run a business or expand a current business in Canada. GenesisLink works with experts in different fields in R&D projects to create innovative business ideas based on Canada’s top priorities, including: health, technology, biotechnology, education and environment. It also delivers marketing, management, financial and technology services to small-medium size businesses.
Although Mary only registered GenesisLink as a business at the beginning of the pandemic, the business grew by 300% in 2021, a time during which she successfully hired full-time employees, part-time employees and many local contractors.
She previously worked as an Operations Manager and Project Manager for other IT companies in Ottawa. She is highly passionate about helping others regardless of age, race, gender and nationality. Since arriving in Ottawa, she has actively supported many newcomers in the community and participated in mentorship programs.
Dragan Veljovic, Founder, Maplesoft Consulting & Managing Director, Fontana NBG
Dragan’s most successful venture was Maplesoft Consulting, Ottawa’s premier consulting company, which he founded in 1996. He managed and grew Maplesoft Consulting by 30% annually to $28M of revenue in 2008, when he sold it. The company provided between 250 – 300 high paying jobs to its Ottawa-based consultants and contractors at any point in time during its growth period, processing over 1,500 contracts annually. These consultants were supported by the permanent staff of 20+ employees.
From the outset, the company was involved in the Ottawa community by supporting its high-tech talent to get high paid consulting opportunities. It also supported various charitable causes and sports teams, including the Ottawa Hospital Foundation.
With a Masters Degree in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering background, Dragan spent his career in Asia, Europe and North America delivering IT solutions and management consulting with Accenture and Unisys Corporation.
Dragan truly believes in sharing his experience and wisdom. Over his lifetime he has mentored several dozen professionals, budding entrepreneurs and youth. Dragan is a Charter member of TiE, international non-profit organization that fosters entrepreneurship in Ottawa – Gatineau as well as around the world.
Dragan is the Managing Director of Fontana NBG, LLP , US based real estate investment firm.
For more information regarding the Ottawa Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards, email: email@example.com