Vote for British Columbia's finalist for the $100,000 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award
VANCOUVER, June 3, 2015 /CNW Telbec/ - The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) announced today that the turning-point project "Freshly Baked," submitted by local businesswoman Silvia Martinelli Waqued, will represent British Columbia in the finals for the 2015 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award.
Silvia's project will help her company, S&B Gluten Free (Otimo Brazilian Cheese Puffs), take its popular ready-to-bake gluten-free Brazilian goods to store shelves across Canada and in the U.S. To claim the BDC Young Entrepreneur Award $100,000 grand prize and fund this project, Silvia needs votes from Canadians from coast-to-coast.
"Gluten-free" has become a buzz-word in recent years. However, for people with real digestive issues and allergies related to this protein, common to many grains such as wheat, finding gluten-free options isn't a matter of choice but of necessity. When Silvia launched her business, all she wanted to do was bring to Canada the definitive taste of home that she missed. In the process, she also discovered an amazing competitive advantage, as the traditional Brazilian recipe for pão de queijo, or cheese bread, calls for flour made from the manioc root, which is naturally gluten-free.
"Everybody in Brazil eats these" says Silvia. "Practically every country in South America has some version of cheese bread. At the beginning, I wasn't sure if Canadians would like it as much as we did. Then, at the first tradeshow, we sold 500 bags of our cheese puffs in four hours. Moms and kids loved them. But then the real challenge came in finding the right place to produce in volume, where we wouldn't have to worry about contamination with wheat flour."
Commercially made gluten-free baked goods are usually expensive and often can't compete with wheat flour in terms of texture and freshness. With her savoury treats, Silvia has tapped into a market hungry for better choices. She sees an opportunity to expand beyond local markets in southern B.C., but to do so she must ramp up production and meet additional regulatory requirements for packaging.
Increasing production capacity isn't as simple as just buying more commercial bakery equipment from a local supplier. Working manioc dough on a large scale requires specialized equipment to flash-freeze the puffs and, in the process, improve product quality and shelf-life. It's also important for Silvia to be able to market her puffs as gluten- and GMO-free, which requires additional testing and certification. And to ship outside B.C., she must redesign her packaging to be multilingual. With all these pieces in place, Silvia estimates an eight-fold increase in production, which would give her credibility with grocery chains in Canada and the U.S.
"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, Marketing and Public Affairs at BDC. "With her gluten-free ready-to-bake goods, Silvia is giving people with dietary restrictions new food options and educating North American consumers to expand their palates with tastes from other parts of the world."
"This is bigger than cheese puffs," says Silvia. "I want to bring other Brazilian foods to Canada and teach people how they can use ethnic ingredients like manioc flour in their own cooking. Vote for us so we can help more people with special dietary needs discover how they can still enjoy savoury and delicious foods as good as homemade."
Voting for the 2015 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award contest runs from June 3 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.
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% of each project's final ranking, and the public vote will account for the remaining 50% of the ranking. www.bdc.ca/yea
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
SOURCE Business Development Bank of Canada
For further information: Maria Constantinescu, Senior Advisor, Public Relations, BDC, [email protected], (514) 496-7146