Perseverance and overcoming obstacles are common traits among the city’s rising business stars.
This year’s Forty Under 40 recipients include individuals who turned around an insolvent eatery, took a cannabis company public and secured $1 million in pre-sales through a crowdfunding campaign.
In this group of Forty Under 40 profiles, we meet this year’s recipients from the retail and consumer goods sectors:
Tara Barnes, vice-president of marketing, Manitobah Mukluks
For nearly a decade, Tara Barnes has led the marketing efforts behind Manitobah Mukluks, growing the brand’s national recognition and elevating Indigenous voices in the community.
She was instrumental in launching the brand 10 years ago, creating a stronger online presence for the business and rethinking how the company was selling products.
In 2019, Barnes spearheaded a new sales strategy, establishing 18 new pop-up retail stores, offering customers a new shopping experience.
With her guidance, the business continued to develop its direct-to-consumer sales approach, both online and in-store.
Barnes’ innovative sales approach also allowed the company to hire more than 100 new part-time staff, 80 per cent of whom are Indigenous.
She’s prioritized working collaboratively with Indigenous communities, creating social impact through marketing efforts and wider recognition of the history behind the brand.
She has participated in the Aboriginal Women's Business and Entrepreneurship Network’s annual conference in Ottawa both as a speaker and a mentor and continues to work with ME to WE, a social enterprise encouraging young people to inspire positive change in their communities and abroad.
Ricardo Evangelho, owner, Hit Point Press
From co-founding a successful digital agency to growing a $500 business into a multimillion-dollar company, Ricardo Evangelho is what you would call a serial entrepreneur.
After leaving his initial startup career at Arctic Leaf, which he co-founded in 2010, Evangelho leaned into his passion for tabletop gaming and sold a few hundred dollars worth of Magic: The Gathering cards in order to fund an idea he had of a product line of gaming and role play accessories.
After some initial success and interest from the community, he used crowdfunding websites as a marketing tool, landing more than $1 million in pre-sales. His approach to marketing through other sites such as Reddit and Twitter, YouTube sponsorships and releasing free trial versions of products created buzz around his new business, and saw his Kickstarter campaigns fully funded in a matter of hours.
In under five years, he grew the company – Hit Point Press – into a fully staffed operation, expanding from one employee to six staff members operating out of a nearly 7,000-square-foot warehouse space.
Evangelho also leverages the Hit Point Press brand in fundraising efforts for local charities and artists and dedicates his time to Minpinerie Dog Rescue, where he volunteers and fosters dogs in need.
André Grzela, owner, Beachcombers Hot Tubs
When André Grzela made the decision to leave a career in municipal politics and start his own business back in 2016, he jumped in feet-first and never looked back.
Now, four years into his entrepreneurial journey, he has grown the Beachcombers Hot Tubs Orléans business beyond even his own expectations.
Within three years, Grzela’s firm was recognized for its rapid growth within the global company and received the exclusive rights to sell Beachcomber hot tubs in Ottawa.
With business booming, he expanded the store in 2019, acquiring an extra 3,000 square feet of space to accommodate the significant growth as he continued to foster an online presence to stay in touch with customers. He expanded his product lines by adding gazebos, wood-fire grills and a full turnkey delivery and installation service.
However, like many other local business owners, Grzela had to rethink his sales approach with the emergence of COVID-19.
His team developed an online sale system within 36 hours of the lockdown order and has continued to serve its clients throughout the pandemic – never losing any revenue along the way.
Grzela is an active member of the Orléans business community, sitting on the board of the Heart of Orléans BIA and participating in various community charity events such as Walk/Run for the Cure.
Monica Kunstadt-Landon, CFO, Kunstadt Sports and Ski Show
Since she was 15 years old, Monica Kunstadt-Landon has played a role in her family-run business, Kunstadt Sports. However, in the last few years as CFO, she has guided the company into a new era of success and expansion.
The year 2019 was big for the company and for Kunstadt-Landon personally. She completed a multimillion-dollar commercial banking change for the business, while also assisting in the purchase of new real estate property for the company – which now has four locations.
Through opening more stores and reaching a broader audience, Kunstadt-Landon also played a major role in the company’s double-digit revenue growth in the same year.
Outside of the family business, she is the director of the Ottawa Ski, Snowboard and Travel Show, which she has also expanded by securing 20 new vendors. She is the organizational brain behind the event, securing locations and registering more than 150 exhibitors every year and acting as the main contact for communications and logistics planning.
She continues to share her passion for sport and activity with the broader community, serving as the program director at the Calabogie Ski Club for the last four years and devoting her time to a local children’s football club, serving as the team manager.
Andrew Scott, owner / CEO, Pita Pit
When Andrew Scott took on the challenge of buying a Pita Pit franchise in 2007 while he was still attending classes at the University of Ottawa, he had no idea that just over a decade later he would be expanding his franchise to four locations.
Business was tough for Scott at the beginning, as he would spend all of his time outside of school working at the restaurant trying to increase revenues at the previously insolvent location. However, by 2013, he had more than doubled sales and has continued to ride the wave of success ever since.
Despite facing leasing issues and having to change the location of one of his restaurants, Scott persevered and opened four Pita Pit restaurants across the city in five years.
He has continued to innovate, creating a winter delivery program that doubled his revenue in two years.
He also restructured the company’s HR, financial and operating systems to allow for future growth through an initiative he now calls LeaderShift – a program he teaches to other owners to help them scale up their business.
Scott is committed to the advancement of the local business community and serves as a director on the Ottawa Board of Trade, and was the former chair of the Orléans Chamber of Commerce.
Jennifer Welsh, CFO, Indiva
As the guiding force behind Indiva’s financial success, Jennifer Welsh helped elevate the cannabis company’s branding, bringing the business – and revenues – to new heights.
Welsh was responsible for creating the company’s financial structure, building it from the ground up and ensuring the team had a proper resource planning system in place.
She played a pivotal role in acquiring millions of dollars in equity financing for the business and in commercializing the company’s key product – cannabis edibles.
Her diligent planning and securing of capital ensured the company’s solvency during the nearly four-year process and set the business up for future growth and success.
Overseeing the finance, IT and HR functions of the company, Welsh helped grow the business from a startup to a multimillion-dollar company in a matter of years.
She was instrumental in taking the company public in 2017 and has continued to strengthen its place in the Canadian economy ever since.
Welsh continues to use her financial prowess outside of work, serving as the treasurer of iSisters Technology Mentoring, a charity aimed at empowering women through technology. Since joining the program’s board two years ago, she has helped increase the number of women reached to more than 3,000.