It’s not every day that an entrepreneur hopes to get the boot, but such was the case at Exploriem’s Bootstrap Awards on Thursday.
The ceremony honours self-capitalized startups aged seven years or less that have received no more than $650,000 in external funding.
“It’s this generation that will carry Ottawa’s economy into the future, and it doesn’t take many entrepreneurs to change a city,” said Bruce Firestone, founder of local entrepreneur network Exploriem. He listed former Cognos CEO Michael Potter, Claridge Homes Group of Companies founder and president Bill Malhotra and serial entrepreneur Terry Matthews as examples.
Calling the event “the Oscars for startups,” Mr. Firestone said that many people he meets don’t understand the possibility of bootstrapping a company, despite the fact that in an informal survey he conducted of American tech startups, 91.6 per cent were self-funded – a number Mr. Firestone estimates is even higher in Canada.
With 112 nominees in 13 categories, the event continues to grow each year – up from 93 submissions and 12 awards in 2012.
Liam Martin, chief marketing officer and co-founder of Staff.com, took home the gold-painted boot trophy for Best Business Model.
Founded in April 2012, Staff.com claims to be the first online staffing agency, sourcing labour from all over the world to international companies operating remotely.
While Mr. Martin is based in Ottawa, employees (of which there are now 47) operate in nine different countries. The cost of the company’s domain name and back-end technology are the largest investments Staff.com has had to make, allowing the company to be profitable already, Mr. Martin said in an interview with OBJ.
A major differentiator for the company is that it doesn’t offer contract workers, only full-time salaried employees.
“With (our competitors), you get a website built. On Staff.com, you get a web designer, someone to help build the company with you, someone you can invest in, and someone that we hope will be with you for years,” he said.
Proudly cradling his new Bootstrap Award, Mr. Martin said his goal is to come back next year and get another one, to create a set of gold boots to wear.
“I think it would be fantastic if I could get a pair of them,” he said.
Amanda May Beaubien took home the award for Top Female Entrepreneur for her business Amanda May Lingerie that opened two weeks ago with a bricks and mortar shop on Dalhousie Street and an online store selling undergarments in sizes difficult to find in most local shops.
“I started this store because I wasn’t able to find what I wanted in Ottawa so I was doing my shopping outside of the city,” Ms. Beaubien said. “But I love this city, and I want other people to stay in it and shop at home.”
Her goal is to open another store in three years and bring on a staff of full-time employees to help her run the existing shop.
Without providing specific numbers, Ms. Beaubien said the company has been doing more business than she expected after opening only a fortnight ago.
“We started off with a bang, and I just hope it keeps up,” she said.
Gold, bronze and silver awards were presented for each category, along with two honourable mentions. The recipient of the final award, the Fastest Growing Startup, is yet to be announced. The finalists are 360pi, Napkyn and Simple Story Videos. The winner will be announced at Exploriem’s Thirsty Thursday event on March 21 at its incubator in the Lee Valley Tools building on Morrison Drive.
Winners of the 2013 Bootstrap Awards:
1. Buckwheat Pillow Canada
Innovation in Engineering and Technology
3. NorDocs Technologies Inc.
Lead to Win Award
2. Insight Design Labs
Best Mobile Application
2. Energy Mobile
People’s Choice Award
2. G24 Hockey
Best Guerilla Marketing
2. Mold Busters
Bootstrap Capital Innovation
1. Napkyn Inc.
Best Sales/Value Proposition
1. Edge to Epic
2. Gnowit Inc.
3. Renting Well
Top Female Entrepreneur
1. Amanda May Lingerie: Amanda May Beaubien
2. Shoebox-Be-Gone: Angele Lafond
3. AroundTown Gift Cards: Lauren Ierullo
Top Teen Entrepreneur
1. Electrosesh: Brad Campbell
2. Ridgeside Swimming: Heather Wilcocks-Gynn
3. Fundraising Campaign: Olivia Zed
Best Business Model
2. Anticipate Law
Customer Service Award
1. Blue Gypsy Wines
2. Simple Story Videos
3. Dilys Anne Hagerman, Mortgage Alliance
Fastest Growing Startup
- Napkyn Inc.
- Simple Story Videos