Northern innovators championed at Startup Canada regional event

'Blood, sweat and tears' go into these startups said Chris Lane, one of the winners at the awards ceremony in Whitehorse on Tuesday.

'Blood, sweat and tears' go into these small businesses, said one winner at Tuesday's awards ceremony

From left, Mike Russo, Alastair Smith, Jaret Slipp, Heather Dickson, Chris Lane and Bob Sharp collected awards at the Startup Canada awards ceremony in Whitehorse on Tuesday. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Yukoners whose innovative creations are already becoming known outside of the territory were recognized at an awards ceremony in Whitehorse Tuesday night.

It was organized by Startup Canada, an Ottawa-based not-for-profit corporation that provides consulting services to people starting their own businesses.

A variety of Yukon groups and businesses participated as sponsors and hosts. It's the first time Startup Canada has held an awards ceremony in the North.

Heather Dickson, the founder of Dickson Designs, was named the regional Woman Entrepreneur of the Year.

"To be recognized for this is amazing, I feel like it's not just a win for myself, it's kind of proof to tell a generation behind me you can make a career from your culture," said Dickson.

Heather Dickson, who won the regional Woman Entrepreneur of the Year award, wearing creations from her company, Dickson Designs. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Dickson creates and markets clothing based on her Indigenous heritage including Granny Hanky Headbands based on the colourful scarves often worn by elders.

The Entrepreneur of the Year award went to Chris Lane, a partner in growing Whitehorse-based information technology companies MakeIT and Northmark Ventures.

Lane, who is also president of the industry group TechYukon, says awards like these are appreciated by the recipients.

Chris Lane, regional Entrepreneur of the Year winner, is a partner in a growing Whitehorse-based technology business. (Chris Lane/CBC)

"You know, a lot of work's gone in to making this stuff available, a lot of people put their blood, sweat and tears into their work. It's good to have recognition," said Lane.

He also hopes the awards lead to new opportunities. 

"I think there's potential investors in here, I think there's government people that are going to see the benefits of a knowledge-based sector," he said.

Ski poles and coffee roasters 

Proskida, a Whitehorse-based company that is developing cross country ski poles that contain a device to measure a skier's performance day by day, was named Innovator for 2017.

Yukon-based startup company Proskida has designed cross country ski pole grips with embedded technology that can track an athlete's power and efficiency. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

Proskida co-founder Alastair Smith said the device measures the force and efficiency coming off of a skier's poles.

"Cycling, rowing — they all have this type of measurement. And those sports have all changed fundamentally in terms of how people train at the elite level, and even within the consumer level," said Smith.

He said a couple of European ski teams have signed on to help test Proskida's poles, and the company is also in talks with North American teams.

Other winners at Tuesday's event in Whitehorse included Bob Sharp, whose do-it-yourself greenhouse kits earned him the Senior Entrepreneur award, and Young Entrepreneur Mike Russo whose company Firebean Coffee Roasters sells coffee he roasts using a stationary bicycle.

Mike Russo roasting coffee beans, using a stationary bike. He won a Young Entrepreneur award. (Steven Hossack/CBC News )

Jerit Slipp accepted the award for Entrepreneur Support, on behalf of YuKonstruct, a Whitehorse-based community workshop that provides space, tools and expertise to people who want to make things.

The awards were for Northerners, but most of the winners were from Yukon.

The one exception was Nunavut-based Pinnguaq, which won the Social Enterprise award for its work building computer science skills across the territory.
Two Nunavut youth getting their code on during te(a)ch sessions. (Pinnguaq)

About the Author

Dave Croft

Reporter, CBC North

Dave Croft is a reporter in the CBC Yukon newsroom in Whitehorse. He has been been covering Yukon stories since 1990.

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