June 5, 2105, St. John’s, Nfld. — An innovative East Coast greenhouse project is among the finalists in this year’s Young Entrepreneur Award program sponsored by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC).
“Farm to Table,” submitted by local businesswoman Melissa Butler, will represent Newfoundland and Labrador in the finals of the 2015 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award.
The project will help her company, Real Food Market, invest in local greenhouse operations as part of its strategy to create a sustainable, year-around food system on the island.
To claim the BDC Young Entrepreneur Award $100,000 grand prize and fund this project, Butler needs votes from Canadians from coast-to-coast.
Butler’s passion for organic farming and fresh, local food started while she was completing her MBA in France. By the time she decided to start her own business in St. John’s, she had already built a network of contacts with natural food retailers across Canada.
It didn’t take long for customer demand to turn her organic grocery business from a small-scale home delivery and farmer’s market venture into a bustling bricks-and-mortar organic one-stop-shop health foods store.
“My customers are either health-conscious people who are already very knowledgeable about food and healthy eating, or people who are on the verge of making a positive lifestyle change and need information and advice,” she says.
“These are often women and people under 35 who value organic, non-GMO agriculture and fair trade practices.”
HEALTHIER FOOD CHOICES
In a province that has Canada’s highest rates of obesity and obesity-related illnesses, Butler is on a mission to educate more people about food and healthy choices.
With a short growing season and reliance on imported food transported by ferry from the mainland, Newfoundlanders don’t have many local options when it comes to fresh and organic produce.
Butler’s plan is to embark on a three-step effort.
• First, invest in local greenhouse operations to ensure a year-around supply of organic produce.
• Second, create a food-prep-and-preservation operation.
• Third, engage in a marketing campaign to educate consumers.
Not only would her strategy provide more residents with the tools for better nutrition, but it could also reduce Newfoundland’s reliance on grocery shipments from the mainland.
“Each of this year’s finalists has provided a compelling story about how their business stands at that crucial crossroads where the right mix of vision and action can secure future growth and success,” says Michel Bergeron, senior vice-president of marketing and public affairs at BDC.
“With her plan for a sustainable food system in Newfoundland and Labrador, Melissa is demonstrating how a local business can play a pivotal role in its community, in this case, by addressing a major health issue that affects her whole province.”
Voting for the 2015 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award contest runs through to June 17. To support your favourite project, log onto the contest microsite and vote once a day. Follow the contest through updates on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Visit bdc.ca/awards to learn about other ways in which BDC recognizes Canadian entrepreneurs.
The BDC Young Entrepreneur Award winner and runner-up will be announced on June 22. The runner-up will receive $25,000 in consulting services.
“It’s important that we promote buying local, eating fresh and healthy living,” Butler says.
“We see more and more customers coming in, especially new moms, who are particularly concerned about their food choices. Vote for us so we can give them the knowledge and the means to make the right choices and ensure their families live in a healthy way.”
ABOUT THE BDC YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR AWARD CONTEST
Created by the Business Development Bank of Canada in 1988, the BDC Young Entrepreneur Award contest pays tribute to remarkable Canadian entrepreneurs between 18 and 35 years of age. Ten finalists were selected to compete for a $100,000 grand prize. A second prize of $25,000 in consulting services will be awarded to the contest runner-up.
A national committee evaluates the quality of the finalist projects and gives each finalist a ranking that will be combined with the public vote. In 2015, the national committee evaluation is weighted to account for 50 per cent of each project’s final ranking, and the public vote will account for the remaining 50 per cent of the ranking.
Canada’s business development bank, BDC, puts entrepreneurs first. With almost 2,000 employees and more than 100 business centres across the country, BDC offers loans, consulting services, growth and business transition capital, securitization, as well as venture capital to more than 30,000 small and medium‑sized companies.
Their success is vital to Canada’s economic prosperity. To learn more, please visit www.bdc.ca.
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