AIR MILES® for Business praises outstanding entrepreneurs at inaugural Small Business Achievement Awards

TORONTO, Feb. 24, 2014 /CNW/ - Today, the AIR MILES® Reward Program celebrated the winners of the first annual Small Business Achievement Awards at a special ceremony held at the Toronto Board of Trade. Awards were presented in five categories: Small Business of the Year, Start-up of the Year, Innovation of the Year, Social Impact and Youth Entrepreneur of the Year.

Small businesses account for more than 98 per cent of all companies, playing an important role in job creation. Of the total economy, small businesses in the private sector accounted for about 30 per cent of GDP, while medium-sized and large firms accounted for 9 and 36 per cent of GDP respectively1. The public sector accounts for the remaining 25 per cent. On average, Canadian small businesses create a little over 100,000 jobs each year2.

The winner of each category will receive an invaluable mentorship from one of North America's top business leaders, 10,000 AIR MILES reward miles and will be profiled in the April issue of Canadian Business magazine.

Kevin O'Leary, Chairman, O'Leary Funds, and a seasoned veteran in providing valuable guidance to small business owners across the country, opened the ceremonies with a keynote speech peppered with colourful Dragons' Den anecdotes, and sage advice culled from his own experiences. Later, attendees were informed by panel discussions featuring representatives from Google Canada, Facebook Canada, Twitter Canada, BMO Bank of Montreal and American Express Canada, on relevant small business ownership topics.

There are hundreds of thousands of AIR MILES Collectors in the Program who are small business owners. With approximately 48 per cent of Canada's workforce employed by a small business, these leading entrepreneurs help drive the economy. "We need to continue to support our entrepreneurs if we want to safeguard Canada's future," says Kevin O'Leary. "Providing practical advice and mentorship can help make their ideas a reality and, coupled with support from AIR MILES for Business, which offers small business owners benefits and rewards to support their businesses, it's a winning combination."

The deserving winners of the 2014 AIR MILES Small Business Achievement Awards, and their business mentors are:

Small Business of the Year: North Strategic - Toronto, ON; Mia Pearson and Justin Creally, Co-Founders
North Strategic is a dynamic public relations and communications agency that helps leading brands build bold programs that are strategic and social by design. Founded in 2011 by Mia Pearson and Justin Creally, the business has achieved tremendous success to-date, generating marketing impact for a roster of Canada's top consumer lifestyle brands. The agency is recognized as an innovator in the marketplace with a business model and approach that challenges the status quo.

  • Small Business of the Year Mentor: Howard Grosfield, President & CEO, American Express Canada

Youth Entrepreneur of the Year: Lawn Troopers® - Brampton, ON; Matt Hill; Founder
Lawn Troopers provides comprehensive residential and commercial lawn care services.. Matt is an inspiring young entrepreneur who started his business at age nine, caring for the lawns of three neighbours.. From there, his continuous passion for great service allowed him to grow a part-time summer business into an outstanding year-round operation. With a degree in engineering, Matt applies his training in systems, data analysis, and efficiencies to generate profitability. Now with an enthusiastic management team, Lawn Troopers consists of 40 extraordinary employees, serving thousands of customers in the Western GTA.

  • Youth Entrepreneur of the Year Mentor: Kevin O'Leary, Chairman, O'Leary Funds

Innovation of the Year: Menyou - Toronto, ON; Thaves Ponnampalam and Ara Ehamparam, Co-Founders

Menyou is an interactive tablet menu application that provides customers with a way to order food in restaurants by tablet device. For diners, this means an enhanced, positive experience while dining out; for restaurant owners, this means increased revenue, efficiency in the ordering process and key analytics capabilities that could streamline operations and future marketing efforts. Founded in 2012, Menyou currently has four employees.

  • Innovation of the Year Mentor: Dorothy Dowling, Sr. Vice-president, Marketing and Sales, Best Western International

Social Impact: North Shore Sports Medicine - North Vancouver, BC; Paige Larson, President and CEO
North Shore Sports Medicine offers physiotherapy, acupuncture, aquatic rehabilitation, Pilates, bike fitting and kinesiology services in three clinics in North Vancouver. The company integrates social responsibility firmly into its business model and has provided hundreds of hours of free service to dozens of local teams, schools, healthcare initiatives, events and charities to-date. Founded 28 years ago by President and CEO, Paige Larson, the company has grown from a single physiotherapy clinic with two beds to three clinics with 23 beds, offering a locally-unrivaled range of services to a substantial client roster.

"In order to make impact, the business has to be out there - not just as a sponsor (of events) - but physically there," advises Paige to other entrepreneurs seeking to make a difference. "A bi-product of giving back like this means you will bring in more customers, which is a win-win. Being out there in the community will also increase job satisfaction of your employees."

  • Social Impact Mentor: Bryan Pearson, President & CEO, LoyaltyOne

Start-up of the year: Village Brewery - Calgary, AB; Jim Button, Co-Founder
Village Brewery was founded in 2011 with the simple goal in mind of gathering people around community.  The company operates exclusively in the Calgary area, using locally-sourced ingredients wherever possible, maintaining a high-quality product and a strong relationship with partners, all while investing 10 per cent of the bottom line into the community. The six founding partners bring a combined 150-plus years of industry experience, including Co-Founder Jim Button, who is backed by 15 years of experience and passion for the industry.

"My advice to other start-ups is do what you enjoy and the money will come later. Recognize that money is one objective - but always put the quality of the service first," says Button. "And being part of today's event was an honour and opportunity," he adds. "It's not every day you get to learn and network with some of North America's most well-regarded business leaders."

  • Start-up of the Year Mentor: Steve Matyas, President, Staples Canada

AIR MILES for Business provides Canadian small business owners with the means and opportunity to reward themselves, their businesses and their employees, offering a dynamic online destination with a range of content and rewards, including: merchandise, special discounts and invitations to business-focused events.  Membership also provides access to valuable tips and information that can help propel their businesses forward. Canadian small business owners can sign up for

AIR MILES for Business, find out about benefits and learn more by visiting airmiles.ca/business.

About the AIR MILES Reward Program:
Founded in 1992, the AIR MILES Reward Program is Canada's premier coalition loyalty program with more than 10 million active Collector accounts, representing approximately two-thirds of all Canadian households. The AIR MILES Reward Program allows Collectors to earn reward miles simply by doing their everyday shopping at more than 240 leading brand-name Sponsors, representing thousands of retail and service locations across Canada and leading global brands online. The AIR MILES Reward Program also allows Collectors to indulge in more than 1,200 leisure, entertainment, merchandise, travel and a range of accredited, environmentally-friendly lifestyle rewards. With AIR MILES Cash, Collectors can also have the flexibility to instantly redeem their AIR MILES reward miles in-store towards many every day and high value purchases like gas, grocery, drug store items and home improvement purchases at participating Sponsors.

1Statistics Canada, The Growth of Large Firms in Canada, 2008, and calculations by Industry Canada
2Industry Canada, Small Business Branch, Key Small Business Statistics - August 2013, http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/061.nsf/eng/02806.html

®™ Trademarks of AIR MILES International Trading B.V. Used under license by LoyaltyOne, Co.


SOURCE: AIR MILES Reward Program

For further information:

Leanna Rizzi
Environics Communications
416-969-2824
lrizzi@environicspr.com


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