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Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards 2023

2023 Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards winners

The 2023 Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards were presented to five local business people – Basavaraj Halli (farmNXT, GoFor Delivers &, Dr. Helen Tang (Helen Tang Real Estate), Amit Chawla (Capital Home Medical Equipment), Ty Arslan (Auspice Safety Inc.),– whose business success and spirit have contributed to the local economy and serve as an inspiration to new Canadians to start their own businesses.

Among the five recipients was Drayton Mulindabigwi Jabo (The Novas Group), the first-ever recipient of the Youth Immigrant Entrepreneur Award. This category shines a spotlight on promising young newcomers who have recently embarked on their entrepreneurial journey. It celebrates their passion, creativity, success achieved to date, and potential to become future entrepreneurial leaders.

The 11th annual edition of this awards ceremony was held on November 10, as part of the TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) Entrepreneurship Summit 2023. 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.

Basavaraj (Raj) Halli, CEO and Co-Founder, farmNXT, GoFor Delivers &

Basavaraj (Raj) Halli

Raj moved to Canada from India in 2011, originally working for a Mississauga-based technology company. Within a few years of his arrival, Raj became a permanent resident of Canada and started his first Canadian company, farmNXT, in July 2015. Providing comprehensive farm management software that offered planning, tracking, resource management, CRM and other services, farmNXT attained significant success, with deployment in four different continents within its first nine months of existence.

Raj then moved on to Co-Found another new business, GoFor Delivers, in August 2016 in Ottawa. GoFor focused on providing last mile, last minute logistics services and has had exceptional success in acquiring elite customers like Home Depot. Raj and his team secured $60 million in venture capital funding, and the company currently employs over sixty full time employees.

Encouraged by GoFor’s success, Raj took on a new challenge of building Saveplex, a company focused on building AI Driven Supply Chain Management solutions for Small to Medium-Sized Businesses (SMBs). Saveplex’s AI prowess, enables businesses to enhance operational efficiency, forecast sales, curtail fulfillment costs, and proactively ward off fraud.

As of fall 2023, Saveplex is building, a transformative AI driven supply chain management platform for the eCommerce / Direct-to-consumer (D2C) landscape. With a strong foundation in Canada and a steadily expanding customer base, Saveplex is on the cusp of making a global mark in this sector.

Headquartered in Ottawa, three co-founders and over twenty consultants are currently working full-time with Raj with the potential addition of ten more AI developers and data scientists. Raj’s multiple business ventures have significantly impacted Ottawa's economy by generating numerous employment opportunities.

In addition to his entrepreneurial successes, Raj is an active member of the Indian community. He volunteered to lead an organization that brings together people speaking the “Kannada” language of India in Ottawa, helping them connect to their culture while supporting their integration into Canadian society.

Dr. Helen Tang, Founder and CEO, Helen Tang Real Estate

Dr. Helen Tang

Helen was born in China and arrived in Canada in 1996. Equipped with her Masters in Engineering, Helen earned her Ph.D. in Computer Engineering at Carleton University in 2005. Up until 2020, Helen worked for several organizations in Canada and the US, including the Department of National Defence and Alcatel-Lucent.

It was in 2020, Dr. Tang founded Helen Tang Real Estate. The results since then have been nothing short of remarkable, with consistent growth year over year. In her relatively short time in real estate, her team has helped over one thousand families with their real estate transactions, which ranks her in the top 1% in Ottawa in both volume and units sold.

Helen has assembled a diverse and multicultural team of eight agents and six support staff. Collectively, these staff speak seven languages, including Chinese, Turkish, Farsi, and Filipino. This commitment to diversity ensures the local community is served inclusively and effectively to the highest standard. Helen also provides Co-Op working opportunities to twelve high school students from diverse backgrounds, empowering youth and creating opportunities for the next generation of talent.

Helen has also fostered growth and efficiency within her industry in a number of innovative ways. She has attracted new immigrants to Ottawa through seminars, helping them settle and invest in the city. Her “Business Network App” has been used to create cross-marketing opportunities with over one hundred partners. And Helen supports our business ecosystem through collaborations with local businesses for things like marketing materials, community events, renovation projects and integrated solutions.

Helen's deep love for our city is evident in her community engagement and advocacy efforts. She holds numerous leadership positions, such as the role of manager at the Ottawa office for “”, a non-profit that supports women in entrepreneurship, and has supported causes like fundraising for the “Glebe Senior Center”. Her efforts were recognized earlier this year with the "Outstanding Community Contribution Award" by Senator Victor Oh.

Amit Chawla, Founder Founder & President, Capital Home Medical Equipment

Amit Chawla

Amit is originally from India, where he grew up and completed a degree in Engineering. He arrived in Canada in 2007, completing his executive MBA in finance at Queen’s University. His desire for continuous growth, innovation and new challenges led him to start his own business in 2010 with the establishment of Capital Home Medical Equipment.

Founded on the principles of fairness and selection, CHME is a Medical Supply Store that offers high-quality solutions in wellness and healthcare. From mobility to sleep and everything in between, Amit has worked hard to make the latest products available for the treatment of various medical conditions. 

Amit contributes to our economic ecosystem by buying locally whenever possible, but also imports some of the best in-class solutions from other countries. Examples include innovative respiratory solutions, incontinence products and high-quality hospital beds from Spain and Germany. He promotes and sells all of these products using CHME’s strong eCommerce platform, which has greatly supported business growth for manufacturers. Powered by Shopify, Amit’s efficient online business model also supports a modern inventory management system.

Amit employs a workforce of fifteen employees, and was recognized by Employment Ontario for his commitment to diversity with the “Employment Equity Award” in 2018. He also has a passion for supporting youth. He supports a local high school Co-Op program, mentoring students interested in eCommerce, accounting and business, taking on average two students per year.

In addition to his business successes, Amit is an avid philanthropist. CHME provides free wheelchair and walker repair at retirement homes and long-term care centers. It supports military members who require mobility and medical supplies. And Amit has sponsored children with brain injuries by providing free equipment.

Ty Arslan, Founder & President, Auspice Safety Inc.

Ty Arslan

Ty arrived in Canada in from Turkey in 1977 and obtained a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from Simon Fraser University. After working on the west coast, he returned to Ottawa where he ultimately founded Auspice Safety, a Canadian health & safety consulting company serving clients in the public and private sectors and across all industries in Canada.

In business for over thirteen years as of 2023, Auspice Safety is a one-stop shop in the fields of health, safety, wellness and ergonomics. Offering a complete suite of consultative, programming and training solutions, Ty’s diverse team of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals pride themselves on their knowledge, experience and efficiency.

Auspice Safety has experienced growth since inception, developing a comprehensive network of trusted and experienced partners across Canada. This includes recognized experts in the medical, professional and safe-work fields, such as doctors, kinesiologists and chiropractors. Auspice Safety Inc. utilizes this network to serve customers in every region of the country and deliver the appropriate guidance in each province and territory.

Through his work, Ty makes great efforts to support our local economic ecosystem – where possible, he purchases equipment locally and promotes it to his clients across Canada. Ty also provides an invaluable economic benefit to various employers, employees and families, who – through his work – sustain fewer injuries and accidents, remaining more productive and profitable. He is also an innovator – his firm is moving more into the digital space, creating safety portals and apps and moving away from traditional hand-written hard copies.

Just last year, Ty’s experience and skills were recognized when he was awarded OHS Canada Magazine’s “Safety Professional of the Year” for Canada.

Drayton Mulindabigwi Jabo. Chairman & CEO, The Novas Group

Drayton Mulindabigwi Jabo

Born in 2001 in Rwanda, Drayton immigrated to Canada at age 8 with his family, consisting of two siblings. This early experience of adapting to a new culture and environment fueled his drive and perseverance. Driven by a love for challenges and a relentless commitment to learning, Drayton then embarked on an educational journey in the realm of “Health Sciences”. As though being a student wasn’t enough – Drayton is still a in his fourth year at the University of Ottawa – he has also taken on the challenge of entrepreneurship.

For the past two years, as of 2023, Drayton successfully led the company “20 Today 20 Tomorrow”, which has since evolved into “The Novas Group”. Established with a mission to redefine the landscape of venture creation, The Novas Group has evolved into a dynamic and forward-thinking organization, making a profound impact on diverse sectors.

At its core, The Novas Group is a one-stop-shop for venture creation, offering an array of service-based solutions that encompass management consulting, ideation, design, and media. The company's comprehensive approach is tailored to meet the multifaceted needs of clients, providing strategic support from concept to execution.

The company's innovative spirit is evident in its foray into technology with the launch of a ground-breaking solution to simplify access to mental health resources. This initiative aligns with a broader commitment to societal well-being and showcases The Novas Group's dedication to leveraging technology for positive social impact.

Beyond the realm of business, The Novas Group has ventured into the world of media with the introduction of an innovative live talk show. This platform serves as a dynamic space for youth change-makers to connect, share ideas, and thrive. It not only amplifies the voices of the next generation but also contributes to Ottawa’s culture.

One of the distinguishing features of The Novas Group is its commitment to diversity and inclusivity. With a team of over twenty-five members, predominantly talented youth making waves in their respective fields, the company mirrors the vibrancy of Ottawa's cultural fabric. Many team members share immigrant backgrounds, reflecting a commitment to fostering a workplace that celebrates diverse perspectives and experiences.

Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards 2022

Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards 2022 winners

The 2022 Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards were presented to three local business people – Emilio Escobedo (Margarita Restaurant; Mona’s Taqueria, La Chingadera and Margarita Express), Sergey Poltev (CAPITALTEK) and Ravinder Tumber (Host India) – 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 10th annual edition of this awards ceremony returned to an in-person format, held on October 28, as part of TiECon Canada (The Indus Entrepreneurs) 2022. 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.

Emilio Escobedo, Owner, Margarita Restaurant, Mona’s Taqueria, La Chingadera, Margarita Express

Emilio Escobedo

Emilio was born in the state of Hidalgo, Mexico, where he developed his passion for Mexican cuisine by helping his mother preparing and selling meals and organizing events.

Arriving in Canada in 2017, Emilio opened his first restaurant, “Margarita” on December 5th, 2019. With strong community support and despite challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Emilio managed to open three more businesses: “Mona’s Taqueria” in 2020, “La Chingadera Mexican Market” in 2021, and “Margarita Express”.

“Margarita Restaurant” is a modern place that mixes elements of traditional Mexican cuisine with avant-garde international cuisine, offering a gourmet concept.

“Mona’s Taqueria” offers Mexican fast food.

“Margarita Express” is located at the Embassy of the United States of America and offers meals for executives.

“La Chingadera” is a grocery store that distributes Mexican and Latin American products.

Emilio's businesses have become an important source of employment here in our city. His workforce of at least 40 staff can be attributed to the innovative strategies he implemented to establish, strengthen and expand his businesses in restaurant and retail.

He and his businesses are a significant contributor to our local economic ecosystem, where he buys more than $15,000 CAD per month from local providers such as Produce Depot, Black Rapids Beer, the Glebe Meat Market and others, in the acquisition of supplies.

Emilio’s businesses have become a meeting point for a great diversity of groups from the capital region's community.

He has also been a pillar in the community, organizing cultural events in association with the Mexican Embassy with the LGBTTTIQ+ community. He is also committed to our environment, using reusable and recyclable packaging minimizing waste through the donation of avocado pits.

Sergey Poltev, Founder and CEO, CAPITALTEK

Sergey Poltev

Sergey was born in Russia in 1983 into a family of two working engineer parents who nurtured and encouraged his strong interest in science and technology. He started fixing computers when he was just 12 years old.

After earning a Masters in Computer Science, Sergey decided to pursue his dream to start a new life in a different country, moving to Ottawa in 2005. Working two jobs while studying, he graduated with Algonquin College with a Certificate in Information Systems Security in 2007. 

In 2008 he started CAPITALTEK to provide IT services for Small and Medium-sized businesses in the Ottawa Area. The company operated on a small scale for a decade, but by 2019 Sergey was able to substantially grow the firm through internally generated funds. CAPITALTEK now employs 20 full-time employees, has over 250 monthly paying Ottawa clients and generates over $1 million in yearly revenue.

Sergey is also generous with his time and resources. He volunteers with Invest Ottawa and occasionally hosts their monthly educational webinars to brief Ottawa business owners about technology, cybersecurity, cloud computing and more. He is an active member of the Ottawa Board of Trade and uses Ottawa-based suppliers for his monthly services to help clients in Ottawa. He also writes and publishes a weekly technology newsletter on LinkedIn

Sergey works with the local organization In-TAC (the International Talent Acquisition Centre) with whom he has delivered presentations to over 100 immigrants to share his story, inspiring a number of the attendees to start their own businesses in Ottawa. Many of these entrepreneurs continue to reach out to Sergey for ongoing business advice.

Sergey is passionate about inclusion and has hired a diverse workforce. For instance, females comprise roughly 44% of his internal & outsourced team whereas the average ratio is 25% for the IT sector.

Ravinder Tumber, Owner and Operator, Host India

Ravinder Tumber

Ravinder is originally from the Punjab region of India, completing his Bachelor of Commerce there before arriving in Canada in 1988. Ravinder and his wife, Gurdev ultimately settled in Ottawa in 1990.

He and Gurdev pursued their passion for cooking, which led them to open their own restaurant, “Host India” on Montreal Road in 2022, specializing in North Indian cuisine.

Under Ravinder’s stewardship, Host India has experienced consistent year on year growth from an initial annual turnover of $250,000 in 2002 to the present CAD $2.5M gross annual sales. Today, it is the largest Indian restaurant in Ottawa, with 140 seats.

It has also grown its physical footprint: Two banquet rooms were added to its original location in 2018 – one on the lower floor with a capacity of 108 seats and one on the main floor with a capacity of 32 seats.

Additionally, a second location, with a capacity of further 90 seats inside and 30 seats on the patio, was added in Ottawa South in March 2021.

Over the years, branching out from what was primarily a dine-in restaurant, Ravinder has built multiple related business lines including a significant commercial catering arm and a sought-after banquet service offering. The business caters roughly 50 events each calendar.

The business is fully committed to hiring locally and Ravinder works exclusively with local talent and small businesses for the operations and growth of his business. Across the two locations, the business currently employs over 20 people.

Ravinder is very active in the local startup community having served on the Orleans Chamber of Commerce and the Indo-Canada Ottawa Business Chamber (ICOBC). And the Tumber family support a number of philanthropic causes having, for instance, established the Tumber Family Fund with the Ottawa Community Foundation, which supports a variety of local charities.

Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards 2021

Prix aux entrepreneurs immigrants d'Ottawa 2021

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, 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 (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 (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:

Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards 2020

Each year the City of Ottawa recognizes the success and contributions of individuals who were born outside of Canada and now make Ottawa their home. The awards have been presented annually since 2012. The 2020 Awards program was cancelled due to COVID.

The awards are presented to select individuals who make a considerable contribution to the Ottawa economy, with a focus on:

  • Impact on the local economy and community
  • Hiring, sourcing and purchasing locally
  • Exporting goods or services from Ottawa
  • Attracting tourists or investment to the city
  • Launching new and innovative businesses in Ottawa
  • Mentoring other entrepreneurs
  • Helping other businesses succeed by providing time, expertise or knowledge
  • Getting involved in, or giving back to, their community

Check back to to learn more.

The winners are announced at TiE Ottawa’s annual entrepreneurship conference, TiECon Canada in November.

Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards 2019

The 2019 Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards were presented to four local business people – Dr. Ellie Ardakani, Ray del Cojo, Andre Richards, and Robert Watt – whose business success and spirit have contributed to the local economy and serve as an inspiration to new Canadians to start their own businesses.

Don Herweyer, Robert Watt, Andre Richards, Ellie Ardakani, Ray del Cojo and Jim Watson

The award ceremony was held at the Brookstreet Hotel on November 1, as part of the TiECon Canada (The Indus Entrepreneurs) Conference breakfast. 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. Ellie Ardakani

Dr. Ellie Ardakani is an Iranian Canadian scientist and Energy-Tech entrepreneur. In 2009, she moved to Canada to fulfill her academic and professional aspirations in the Energy sector. A couple of years after, she received her doctorate in geophysics from the University of Alberta and joined the workforce in the Canadian Oil & Gas industry.

Passionate about innovation and creating opportunities, in 2017, she cofounded Meta Innovation Technologies Inc., a successful Energy-Tech company to develop the first simulation-based technical training platform to power Oil & Gas technical professionals with intuitive learning, shaping the future of professional development in Energy.

She believes a society moves forward when inclusion collides with innovation and integrity. She continually volunteers for programs through scientific and professional societies that are focused on raising awareness of challenges that women encounter in geoscience-related careers worldwide. In fact, Ellie is currently the Vice Chair and Chair-Elect-2020 of the global Society of Exploration Geophysicists – Women’s Network.

Ellie also plays a role in the Ottawa community with supporting peers and brand-new entrepreneurs through community programs such as Invest Ottawa-organized panel discussions and a newly launched program called “Ladies Who Launch” that encourages open and inclusive conversations and support for female entrepreneurs.

Ray del Cojo

Ray is a co-founder and CEO of Lightenco, an Ottawa based company seeking energy savings to fight climate change.

From Mexican origins he immigrated to Canada in 2008 accompanied by his wife. With a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from the Tec de Monterey in Mexico, a M.Sc. in Digital communications and technology from Chalmers University in Gothenburg, Sweden, he has developed experience as a cost reduction and design engineer in the electronics market, in global sourcing and enterprise startups. He started Lightenco with his two partners, Steve Hubbard and Eduardo Vargas in 2011 where he has been the Engineering Director since inception.

With an entrepreneurial spirit, he has participated in other start-ups and is highly active motivating youth to become entrepreneurs. He was one of the members of the Canadian delegation participating at 2018’s G20 Young Entrepreneur’s Alliance in Argentina. He is recipient of the 2018 Forty Under 40 awards in Ottawa, and proactively seeks involvement in activities or endeavours which allow fighting climate change through energy savings, clean energy & technology. He is passionate about golf, cycling and currently resides in the national capital region with his wife Marilu and 2 children, Sebastian and Daniel.

Andre Richards

Andre Richards is an Ottawa based start-up founder, supporter and tech enthusiast, originating from the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago, with close to nine years of experience growing and scaling early-stage companies. His previous company Kintelligent Systems, created biomechanics tools, targeting researchers. He then co-founded Micrometrics in 2013 to help businesses and retailers better engage their customers and collect useful feedback.

Since then Micrometrics has grown into a full-fledged experience management platform, used by the world’s top brands, and trusted by thousands of customer-focused associates to build lasting relationships in locations across the globe. Their platform is also used locally and by several provinces across Canada, helping travel hubs and organizations better understand their passengers and improve as travel destinations through CX innovation. Micrometrics has also been recognized by Best Ottawa Business Awards with the award for “Next Big Thing”.

Andre is an active supporter of local up-and-coming businesses, providing mentorship both to individuals and programs such as University of Ottawa’s Startup Garage, Canada Learning Code and others. He has also been featured in several podcasts highlighting entrepreneurship in Ottawa, and spent time with local organizations such as the Ottawa Mission and Bruyere Hospital.

Robert Watt

Robert Watt, as well as being President of the most recognized heritage masonry restoration company in Canada, is an internationally renowned educator in heritage stonemasonry techniques, and an engaging storyteller and raconteur, who is also in possession of what has been described as “the finest singing voice in traditional music- anywhere”.

Apprenticed at age sixteen in his native Scotland, Bobby Watt was head hunted at 21 to come to Canada and help build the Carrara marble on First Canadian Place in downtown Toronto.

He has risen to the rarefied ranks of being one of the most respected stonemasons in North America and President of the top-ranking Heritage Masonry company RJW Stonemasons. He has spent the last thirty plus years restoring historic buildings and monuments all over Canada, the United States and the Caribbean, including the massive restoration of the West Block on Parliament Hill, and the construction of the new Visitor Welcome Center just completed.

At present, RJW Stonemasons have crews working on Parliament Hill in various locations, in Calgary restoring the historic City Hall, and in PEI working on Province House.

Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards 2018

The 2018 Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards were presented to six local business people – Raman Agarwal, Donna Baker, James Baker, Karla Briones, Hamed Zadeh and Huiping Zhang – whose business success and spirit have contributed to the local economy and serve as an inspiration to new Canadians to start their own businesses.

2018 Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards were presented to six local business people

The award ceremony was held at the Brookstreet Hotel on November 2, as part of the TiECon Canada (The Indus Entrepreneurs) Conference breakfast. 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.

Raman Agarwal, President & CEO, Akran Marketing

Raman Agarwal, President & CEO, Akran Marketing

Raman Agarwal founded Akran Marketing in 1997 to cater to clients across North America in many sectors, including all levels of government, education, oil and gas, finance, and sports.

Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) honoured Raman with the PPB Best Bosses Award. Raman is an alumnus of Canada's Top 40 Under 40, recognized for running one of Canada’s 100 Fastest Growing Companies by Profit Magazine, and for leading one of the 100 Best Managed Companies by the Financial Post. Akran Marketing was selected by the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) as one of the top 50 Best Places to Work (number one in Canada), and honoured by the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce as a Mid-Market Company of the Year. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) honoured Akran Marketing with the Torch Award for Marketplace Excellence, in recognition of their superior commitment to exceptional ethical standards.

His innovative ideas have made him a sought-after advisor and mentor by other individuals and organizations. Akran Marketing donates 10 per cent of all net revenues to the Akran Foundation, a non-profit Canadian charity that supports a wide range of charitable initiatives including health, education, environment and community support.

Donna Baker, Managing Partner, and James Baker, CEO, Keynote Group

Donna Baker, Managing Partner, and James Baker, CEO, Keynote Group

James and Donna Baker co-founded Keynote Group in 2015 to help organizations find and retain the talent they need to succeed. Keynote has quickly grown to a leading executive search business that combines innovative artificial intelligence, team dynamic analysis and recruiting with dedicated post placement support. In addition, they have created three new business lines, Keynote Recruiter, Keynote HR and Keynote Artificial Intelligence Technology (KAIT).

Since its inception, Keynote Group has been awarded Best New Business at the Best Ottawa Business Awards (BOBs) in 2016, Best New Business by West Ottawa Board of Trade in 2017 and Family Enterprise of the year in 2017. In 2018, the OBJ recognized Keynote as the Fastest Growing Business in Ottawa and Donna was awarded Businesswoman of the Year and joined James in the Forty Under 40 alumni.

The Bakers are active supporters of local community initiatives including the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, Queensway Carleton Hospital Foundation and Ottawa Heart Institute.

Karla Briones, Founder, Karla Briones Consulting

Karla Briones, Founder, Karla Briones Consulting

Karla Briones is a Mexican-Canadian serial entrepreneur with businesses in retail (Global Pet Foods Kanata and Hintonburg) and the restaurant industry (Freshii Westboro). In her newest venture, Karla Briones Consulting, she coaches new immigrants on how to become successful entrepreneurs in their adopted country. She is in the process of creating a digital platform, New Canadian Entrepreneur, which will house Canadian business environment education, resources and mentorship targeted to newcomers in the pre-arrival, settlement and integration stages. She hosts Immpreneur Canada, a podcast that interviews successful business people that talk about their journeys from immigrants to entrepreneurs.

Karla recently joined the team of independent business advisors at Invest Ottawa - a free service provided to local aspiring and current entrepreneurs needing support. She actively gives back to her community and is a business mentor with Futurpreneur Canada and local community groups.

Hamed Zadeh, CEO, SINIX Media Group

Hamed Zadeh, CEO, SINIX Media Group

Hamed Zadeh is the owner of SINIX Media Group, which helps clients launch or grow their businesses with high-quality printing solutions, versatile branded displays and elegant LED signage.

In 2010, Hamed co-founded his first company, later rebranded as Ottawa Print Services. As the Chief Executive Officer in 2013, Hamed ventured beyond print services by being first to market in Ottawa with reflective signs for night-time branding. Between 2015-2017, he introduced other signage innovations, a range of corporate promotional products, and custom Canada 150 pins and medals. In 2018, Hamed restructured to launch SINIX Media Group with subsidiaries Ottawa Print Services, MiNiBillboards and SnapLite.

Hamed’s products have been featured at many high-profile events in Ottawa such as the Canadian Tulip Festival, Capital Pride, Glowfair, The Great India Festival, Escapade Music Festival, Ottawa Veg Fest, the Best Ottawa Business Awards, the 2017 JUNO Awards, and the 2017 Grey Cup.

Hamed gives back to the community by hosting regular group meetings to mentor emerging entrepreneurs and help newcomers with language interpretation and cultural integration.

Huiping Zhang, President, Wintranslation

Huiping Zhang, President, wintranslation

Huiping Zhang is the founder and president of wintranslation, an award winning translation company with specialization in Indigenous Languages, such as Cree and Ojibway.

Huiping is a member of Entrepreneurs Organization Ottawa, part of a global organization with over 12,000 members. Her community involvement include board positions with the Canadian Language Industry Association and EO Ottawa. She has given many speeches to newcomers to Canada through LASI World Skills and to translation students on building career success.

Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards 2017

The 2017 Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards were presented to five local business people – Sadaf Ebrahim, Andrew Ralph, David José Seba, Riven Zhang and Javed Chowdhury – 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 award ceremony was held at the Infinity Convention Centre on November 3, as part of the TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) Conference breakfast. 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.

Sadaf Ebrahim

Sadaf Ebrahim
Capital Events Ottawa

Sadaf Ebrahim is the owner and operator of Capital Events Ottawa, a proud Pakistani immigrant and a very proud Canadian who has a passion for improving the socio-economic fabric of Nepean. Sadaf has been an active community leader and event organizer. Over the past two years, she has brought people of all faiths and cultures together for events such as the Mother’s Day Expo for the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, the Nepean–Ottawa Career Fair, and the Ottawa Community Eid Bazaar. 

Andrew Ralph

Andrew Ralph
Signal 88 Security

Andrew Ralph is founder and president of Signal 88 Security of Ottawa and Director of Business Development of Signal 88 Security Toronto. Both companies are locally owned franchises that form the Signal 88 LLC Global Network. Andrew was born in Manchester, England in 1985 and arrived in Canada in September 2015. He established Signal 88 Security of Ottawa to provide a safe and secure environment for communities and businesses to thrive, and is proud to create jobs for Canadian citizens, newly-landed immigrants and international students. 

David Seba

David José Seba
Quelque Chose

David José Seba, originally from Caracas, Venezuela, is the owner of the popular pastry shop Quelque Chose, which opened its first retail store in Vanier in 2015. The store is now an Ottawa destination, attracting residents and tourists from far and wide to try its macarons, pastries and smoothies. Early on in 2017, Quelque Chose opened a second location in Westboro on Richmond Road, and is slated to open a third location in the ByWard Market by the end of 2017. 

Riven Zhang

Riven Zhang
Motion Pay Technology Inc.

Riven Zhang is the founder of Motion Pay Technology Inc., located in Ottawa. Motion Pay is a one-stop total payment solution that enables merchants to accept China Renminbi cross-border payments with highly secured smart point of sale terminals and a backend server platform located in Canada. Zhang is proud to hire locally, help international students, sponsor and organize community events, and donate to local charities. 



Javed Chowdhury
Quality Meat and Foods

Javed Chowdhury launched Quality Meat and Foods in 2013 as a small operation that has now grown into a larger company. QMF now offers a wide selection of meats, rice, spices and Halal certified products. QMF employees are all Ottawa residents, and their wholesale meats are sourced from local Ontario farms. Chowdhury gives back to the community by supporting the Ottawa Food Bank, the Gloucester Food Cupboard and sponsoring events for the Gloucester Gentlemen’s Senior League.

Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards 2016

The 2016 Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards were presented to four local business people – Alvaro Pombo, Claudia Arizmendi, Seema Aurora and Aydin Mirzaee – 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 award ceremony was held at the Brookstreet Hotel on November 4, as part of the TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) Conference breakfast. 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.

Alvaro Pombo
Founder and CEO – ProntoForms

Alvaro Pombo brings 28 years of leadership and telecommunications experience to ProntoForms. As CEO and Founder, he plays a fundamental role in financing and driving strategy. He is active in research and development, product strategy, and business development.

Prior to founding ProntoForms, Pombo was Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Vice President (VP) of Global Information Technology for the Carrier Internetworking Division of Alcatel-Lucent. He joined the company via its acquisition of Newbridge Networks (Feb 2000; $7.1B). Pombo had been CIO, VP of eCommerce, Director of Electronic Marketing, and Latin American Sales with Newbridge. Under his leadership, the company's e-business organization gained recognition as one of the highlights of the acquisition and helped establish a service-oriented IT model for the company.

Pombo has served as consultant to Palm and other technology leaders, and continues to help nurture entrepreneurs and innovation. Pombo holds several patents and was a winner of the Ottawa Business Journal's 40 Under 40 in 2000. He holds a BS in Computer Engineering from Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Colombia. Additionally, he holds an MBA from the University of Ottawa and an executive degree from Georgetown University.

Claudia Arizmendi
Founder – The Cupcake Lounge

The Cupcake Lounge is owned and operated by Claudia Arizmendi. Claudia was born in Mexico where, coincidentally, two of the world's most important baking ingredients -- vanilla and chocolate – actually originated. After moving to Canada more than 20 years ago, Claudia graduated from the Baking and Pastry Arts Program at Algonquin College and opened The Cupcake Lounge in May 2011.

As a Latin American business woman, she has hired more than 100 people from all kinds of backgrounds and walks of life to work in her business. These include immigrants from around the world and most of the company's employees are young women under the age of 25 and are students. All bakers are eligible for employee benefits which is not common in the food services industry. The Cupcake Lounge sets an example by using environmentally-friendly and recyclable products wherever possible. The bakery also supports many very deserving local charities, including: Crohn's and Colitis Canada The Canadian Cancer Society; CHEO; The Ottawa Hospital Foundation; The Ottawa Humane Society; The Royal Hospital, and; The Shepherds of Good Hope.

As part of the 2012 Latin American Heritage Day in Ottawa, Claudia Arizmendi was selected as Latin American Entrepreneur of the Year for her entrepreneurial contributions to benefit others in the Latino and Canadian communities of National Capital Region. At the 2015 Prix d 'excellence Awards Gala, the Regroupement des gens d'affaires (RGA) named The Cupcake Lounge a winner in the "Best Small- or Medium-Sized Enterprise of the Year" category in the Ottawa-Gatineau area. Claudia feels very blessed to live peacefully in Canada, to pursue her dreams, and she loves Ottawa and the National Capital Region.

Seema Aurora

Seema Aurora was born in Budapest, Hungary to an Indian Diplomatic family who went on to live in nine different countries growing up. Arriving in Toronto, Canada in 1976 and graduating from Seneca College specializing in International Business along with Ryerson University business courses in 1980, Seema went on to a successful career in corporate management in Toronto and Ottawa.

In 1990, Seema established TAG HR headquartered in Ottawa with two employees to a current staff of 45 in-house employees and over 500 offsite consultants. Specializing in IT and professional staffing, TAG HR is the leading supplier to the Federal Government since the 1990s. TAG HR works nationally in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal creating many jobs in Canadian markets.

TAG HR has led the industry by adopting best practices in hiring, with over 20 varied ethnicities in their internal staff and more in the larger offsite consultant base. 85% of the TAG HR internal management and 55% of the offsite consultants are women. TAG HR is also a wheel chair friendly facility.

Seema is also co-founder of Turtle Island Staffing, an Aboriginal Staffing firm specializing in placing qualified Aboriginal candidates.

Seema has served on the Invest Ottawa HR Working Group in 2015 and she is currently serving on the University of Ottawa Brain and Mind Research Institute Board and on the Queensway Carleton Hospital Foundation Board.

Business and community involvement is key to Seema's passion for fostering relationship building from working with the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and sponsoring sports teams, funding drives, festivals, both in Ottawa and other locations in Canada as well as supporting charities such as Child Haven, CHEO, Heart & Stroke Foundation, United Way, Muscular Dystrophy Foundation, Canadian Diabetes Foundation, and Children's Wish Foundation of Canada.

Aydin Mirzaee

Aydin Mirzaee is a co-founder of Fluidware in 2008 which was responsible for running two very successful SaaS businesses: and

The company was bootstrapped and grew to a $12M run-rate and over 90 people in staff. After 6.5 years, Fluidware was acquired by SurveyMonkey (the world's leading online survey company). Aydin then served as General Manager of FluidReview within SurveyMonkey.

Aydin is also the co-founder of, a non-profit organization with the vision to create a community of young entrepreneurs in every city around the world.

Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards 2015

The 2015 Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards were presented to three local business people – Dr. Nishith Goel, Dr. Maria Rasouli and Moe Abbas – 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 award ceremony was held at the Brookstreet Hotel on October 30, 2015, as part of the TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) Conference breakfast. 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. Nishith Goel – Cistel Technology

Dr. Goel is the CEO of Cistel Technology, an Information Technology company he founded in 1995 which has operations in Canada and the U.S. A veteran technology executive and entrepreneur, Dr. Goel is also co-founder of CHiL Semiconductor, iPine Networks and Sparq Systems.

After his early education in India, Dr. Goel earned his MASc in Electrical Engineering and PhD in Systems Design Engineering from the University of Waterloo. Dr. Goel began his professional career at Bell Northern Research in Ottawa in 1984 before moving on to Northern Telecom in 1988.

Dr. Goel has served on the Board of Directors of several technology companies including Chil Semiconductor, Sparq Systems, iPine Networks and Enablence. He has also served on the board of directors of the Community Foundation of Ottawa, the Queensway Carleton Hospital Foundation and the Indo-Canada Ottawa Business Chamber. Dr. Goel served as Chair of the Queensway-Carleton Hospital Foundation in 2009-2011, and Chair of ICOBC in 2009-2010.

Dr. Goel is currently a member of the board of directors of Carleton University’s Canada India Centre of Excellence and is Chair of the Board of Directors of Queens University’s Centre for Energy and Power Electronics Research.

Dr. Maria Rasouli – Escape Bicycle Tours

Dr. Maria Rasouli is an immigrant from Iran with a PhD in Organizational Psychology from Carleton University. After working as a university lecturer and consultant for several years, she decided to pursue her passion for cycling and outdoors by founding Escape Bicycle Tours.

Escape Bicycle Tours leverages on Ottawa’s world class cycling infrastructure and promotes an environmentally friendly and a physically healthy way of travelling and sightseeing. Within only one season it has been rated on TripAdvisor by its guests as one of the top 2 out of 45 tours and activities in Ottawa. This has been accomplished by offering cycling as a healthy and active alternative for tourism in Ottawa, instead of taking bus tours or driving to the major attractions. Escape has contributed to Ottawa's start-up culture by putting Ottawa on the map and creating for travellers', a bicycle friendly community and destination where everyone (families, retirees) can safely cycle and truly see Ottawa at its best.

She pursues and advocates active lifestyle by carefully planning and executing cycling trips as means of recreation, tourism and sightseeing. Maria has been an advocate for diversity in her consulting career and now in her business by encouraging newcomers to integrating recreation especially cycling in their life in Ottawa.

Maria has mentored over 150 professional newcomers to Ottawa in the last 6 years for their career development and establishment in Canada either as a volunteer or employee (Program Manager, Trainer, Researcher, Consultant) at several organizations serving the Ottawa immigrant community.

Maria Rasouli has volunteered with Recycle and is a Board Member of Capital Velo Fest.

Moe Abbas – Ottawa General Contractors and Bumpn Inc.

At 19 Moe founded his first two companies. Since then he has founded or co-founded over a dozen local startups which over the last 10 years have employed thousands of local residents.

In 2007 Moe founded Ottawa General Contractors (OGC). OGC has generated over 30 million dollars of economic benefit to the Ottawa economy. Over 100 trades, suppliers and employees are able to provide for their families from OGC. All labour and materials are sourced locally. OGC creates an economic benefit to its clients who have the additional value of their home improvements in equity.

Moe's current start-up, Bumpn Inc., is a location based social media app. It is the first consumer facing social media application to come from Ottawa. Over 14 people are employed in Bumpn and the team has created over a dozen patents. Bumpn is part of Invest Ottawa. The team holds weekly startup meetings for young entrepreneurs at their local office where they fire up the BBQ, drink beer and share entrepreneurship advice. Bumpn brings the silicon valley startup scene culture to Ottawa with its innovative work environment, and product offering.

Moe has been in the Ottawa community since he was a young child. He has hired and mentored immigrants, youth, and women. He has adopted multicultural work environments where over 75% of the staff are immigrants, youth and or women. Opportunity for those that are hungry, smart and fast has been the mantra that he shares with the Ottawa community. As a 29 year old Moe has not only initiated catalytic change in the Ottawa Community but is able to continue pushing change forward as an ideal role model for young immigrants.

Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards 2014

The recipients of the 2014 Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards were announced during a special luncheon event held in partnership with the Economic Club of Canada on January 29, 2015.

Anand Aggarwal, Manor Park Development

Mr. Aggarwal was born in a small village in India, and immigrated to Canada in 1967. He has spent the last 35 years as a real estate entrepreneur in the National Capital Region. He has parlayed his modest early acquisitions into on of the region’s most enviable multi-family residential portfolios.

As a true entrepreneur, Mr. Aggarwal continues to evolve, and in recent times, has broadened his approach to include assets across the real estate value spectrum, including office, retail, industrial and hospitality – all in Eastern Ontario, and always acting as a principal. In addition, he has a renewed focus development with a particular focus on mid-size, urban/brownfield infill opportunities.

Mr. Aggarwal is a graduate of IIT New Delhi in India, and the University of Alberta in Edmonton. He has been married nearly 40 years, has two children and four grandchildren. Mr. Aggarwal’s roots in the Ottawa community are deep. Most notable, he served on the Board of the Foundation of the Ottawa Heart Institute for over 10 years and has raised over $11.5 million during his time as Chairman of Dhadkan – a grassroots community organization in Ottawa that has partnered with the Heart Institute to increase awareness of heart disease in the Indo-Canadian community.

A. Haseeb Awan, BitAccess Inc.

Haseeb Awan is an electrical engineer by degree, and an entrepreneur by profession. He is co-founder of BitAccess Inc, a world leader in digital currency (Bitcoin) ATMs with a client base that has spread to 48 cities in 13 countries within only 12 months of launching. Mr. Haseeb has served in different capacities with multiple success startups and has won a number of awards for entrepreneurship. He moved to Canada from Pakistan in September 2010 as an international engineering student at the University of Ottawa.

Mona Kalra, Maple Care Physiotherapy Inc.

Mona came to Canada in 2002 after running a successful physiotherapy clinic in India for 7 years. Since her arrival she has not only obtained her license to practice physiotherapy in Canada, but she has also worked with her husband to build a stable and comfortable life for her immediate family while constantly striving to give back to the amazing Ottawa Community.

Mona runs her own successful physiotherapy practice, MapleCare Physiotherapy Clinic Inc., as a principal and a co-owner, providing services to Neurological, Orthopedic and Geriatric Conditions, both in the clinic and at patients home. Mona's special interests include working with Neurological Conditions like Stroke, Parkinson's disease and Multiple Sclerosis. Mona believes in professional development, lifelong learning and sharing her knowledge with other health care providers.

Mona has spent the last decade engaging, empowering and supporting a whole generation of local entrepreneurs and change agents through her active engagement with not for profit entities and the local community organizations. She has been an active volunteer and a vocal advocate for old age support, civic leadership, community giving and youth empowerment and together with her family she has supported over 18 charities and non-profits, both local and national, and a number of local educational institutions with her time and financial contributions.

Peyman Yazdani, Subway Restaurants

Like most entrepreneurs, Peyman got his start while still a youth living in Iran, selling items to street vendors. Following the Iranian Revolution in 1979, persecutions against members of the Baha’i faith was intensified, leading Peyman’s parent to make the decision to flee the country.

Along with his parents and sister, Peyman escaped from Iran in 1985 and lived in Pakistan for a year before being accepted to Canada, where the family settled in Ottawa with the support of an uncle. Peyman attended Plantagenet High School and Algonquin College, pursuing his studies in mechanical engineering. After months of unsuccessfully looking for a job in his field following graduation, Peyman started working as a sandwich artist. Soon, his natural abilities made him assistant and then manager of a store.

Owning a business has always been Peyman’s dream, and with the help of a partner, he opened his first Subway location in 1994. Since then, the partners have growth the business to 17 stores as of 2013. During these years, Peyman has never forgotten his own experience of arriving in Canada and not understanding the language or the culture. As a result, he has a passion for helping immigrants, whether his own staff or other hoping to open their own business.

Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards 2013

The 2013 Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards were presented to three local business people – Manu Sharma, Julia Chen, and Ysabel Li-Lopez – 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 award ceremony was held in Council Chambers at Ottawa City Hall on October 31, 2013, as part of the TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) Conference luncheon. 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.

Manu Sharma, OAK Computing

Manu Sharma came to Canada in 2002 as an international student and co-founded OAK Computing in 2007 – a software and development firm. Over the years, he has grown his business in terms of both the number of employees and annual revenues. In addition to his business contribution, Manu has volunteered more than 3,000 hours in the community, and mentors new Canadians to become entrepreneurs.

Julia Chen, Advanced Machine and Materials Incorporated

Julia Chen is the CEO of Advanced Machine and Materials Incorporated – a leading powder manufacturer in the Solar and Semiconductor industry. After five years of operation, the company has grown to $1 million in annual sales worldwide. Julia volunteers with the Hunan Fellow Association of the National Capital Regions of Canada, and helps to mentor other local immigrant entrepreneurs, especially women originally from China.

Ysabel Li-Lopez, Nurture-Elle

Ysabel Li-Lopez moved to Canada in 2006. Following the birth of her son in 2010, Ysabel started her e-commerce business. Nurture-Elle is a leading supplier of designer nursing apparel in Canada and the U.S. Ysabel also works full-time at the YMCA as a counsellor to help new entrepreneurs and existing small businesses.

Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards 2012

Past winners of this award include: Obaid Ahmed (OAK Computing), Dr. Supriya Mishra (visionTech4u), Vinod Rajasekaran (HUB Ottawa), Dr. Dipak Roy (D-TA Systems Inc.), and Valery Tolstikhin (OneChip Photonics Inc.).

Obaid Ahmed, OAK Computing

Obaid Ahmed is Co-founder of OAK Computing, located in the Byward Market. Obaid has managed several start-up companies in the software design and development field. He has founded DeenSoft, a software development firm that engaged and supported seven contractors, designers and developers; launched Islamic SMS which texted prayer time reminders to subscribers; created, a textbook rental system for students; developed Mazaydar, a Yelp-like website for restaurants in Pakistan; and co-founded Oak Computing in 2011, a full service software design and development company with its own proprietary web engine that allows end users to create and launch simple/elegant websites with minimal effort in less than 10 minutes. He has also mentored other businesses, giving advice and the benefit of his own experience, as well as space, resources and access to a network of contacts.

Obaid has not only given to the local entrepreneurship community, but also has donated a significant amount of pro-bono services to non-profit organizations in Ottawa, related to advancement/building of their technology at no cost, including for Apt613, CISED, Hub Ottawa and One Prosper. He is currently working with Hidden Harvest Ottawa as well as leading the design/development of Social Wallet, a mobile based micro-donation platform that will be released under the OAK banner in early 2013.

Dr. Supriya Mishra, VisionTech4U

Trained in India as a doctorate in chemistry, Dr. Supriya Mishra was offered a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto. In 2006, she and her family came to Canada, the “third stop” in their journey for a “change”. At Toronto, Supriya carried out frontier scientific research in the field of polymer chemistry developing environmental friendly materials and applying them in the automotive industry. But family has been the first priority in Supriya’s life. She came to Ottawa to join her husband and also helped his research group at the University of Ottawa to set up research to monitor environmental pollution by industrial tritium.

Supriya and her family became permanent residents in Canada in 2008 and launched her own IT consultancy firm, ‘visionTech4u’ where she became aware of local agencies helping immigrants to Canada. She quickly understood their financial constraints yet a strong demand for an efficient IT system. By her research into low budget IT solutions, she realized that contemporary developments in “Open Source technologies” could be very well implemented to these situations.

Supriya has devoted significant time and efforts to upgrade and maintain the IT infrastructures of local non-profits at highly subsidized fees. She has closely worked with them to improve their web presence by introducing “open source” solutions for building feature rich websites. Key local clients who were benefited by her innovation include Catholic Centre for Immigration, LASI Word skills, SalvAide Inc. and Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership (OLIP). She also encouraged and helped the URM Canada (a local community) and Daya Organisation for Children (a charity for children in Africa) who were struggling with financial constraints and lack of exposure.

Vinod Rajasekaran, HUB Ottawa

Vinod Rajasekaran has helped to create a physical space and a community of professionals and social entrepreneurs here in Ottawa. The HUB is a social enterprise with a mission to drive social innovation through collaboration. They deliver on this by: hosting inspiring spaces for individuals to cowork, host meetings, and connect; curating learning experiences to enable and support members and their organizations, and; by catalyzing connections and ideas between our members so that their social ventures thrive.

As a member among 30 Hubs in cities across five continents, HUB Ottawa is part of a broad global network, taking local action, to address environmental, social and cultural issues relevant at both the local and global scales.

Dr. Dipak Roy, D-TA Systems Inc.

Dr. Dipak Roy is chairman of D-TA Systems Inc., which develops sonar, radar, communications, and test and measurement applications for the defence and aerospace industry.
With 20 highly qualified professional employees, D-TA Systems is a major exporter that sources the bulk of their inputs locally. Prior to starting D-TA Systems, Dr. Roy grew another Ottawa company, ICS, to 60 employees before it was sold to GE Intelligent Platforms in 2003.

Dr. Roy has over 30 key technical publications and several patents to his credit. He is also a senior member of IEEE. He has been recognized nationally and internationally and has received numerous honours and distinctions, including:

  • Lockheed Martin (USA) award for excellence in LTS Sonar project performance, May 1992;
  • American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Award for the invention and standardization of FPDP;
  • Indo-Canadian Chamber of Commerce (sponsored by IBM) award for Technical Achievement, 2005;
  • Canadian Innovation Leader Award 2011, NRC;
  • Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal Award, 2012.

In 2007, Dr. Roy was appointed by the Government of Canada to the board of Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC). SDTC is a $1 billion dollar foundation that is involved in the development of clean technology companies in Canada. Dr. Roy’s term expired in 2011.

Dr. Roy is also an executive and a charter member of TiE (Talent, Ideas and Entrepreneurship) Ottawa, whose major objective is to help and mentor new entrepreneurs in order to create wealth in a socially responsible manner. Dr. Roy is a significant contributor to Carleton University, to the Elisabeth Bruyère Hospital, and many other local and international charities.

Valery Tolstikhin, OneChip Photonics Inc.

Valery Tolstikhin is a Founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of OneChip Photonics Inc., a developer and manufacturer of integrated photonics based optical components for telecom and datacom markets. Founded in 2006, the company currently includes 85 highly qualified professional employees and is a world leader in cost-efficient photonic integration. They are major exporters and source the majority of their inputs locally. With state-of-the-art technology, OneChip Photonics’ development and manufacturing of cost-efficient optical transceivers for massive access telecommunications and high-speed datacom markets, has attracted $70 million dollars in direct private investment.

Dr. Tolstikihn is active in supporting the local photonics sector, including engaging with the Ottawa Photonics Cluster and giving service to the Advisory Committee at Algonquin College. An industry veteran with a solid academic background and international credentials acquired through his work in Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden and Russia, he has a long track of achievements as innovator, team builder and entrepreneur. He started his first technology company back in his native Moscow, Russia, in 1988. After immigrating to Canada in 1997, he got involved with burgeoning Ottawa photonics community, working, consecutively, for the National Research Council of Canada, Optiwave, Nortel and MetroPhotonics. Dr. Tolstikhin has extensively published and patented in the area of integrated photonics, given numerous invited talks and chaired or served on program committees for many major international research conferences. He is an adjunct professor at University of Ottawa.