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3 Entrepreneurs Awarded Catalyzing Grants at TEF Pitch Competition

On Tuesday, June 4, five emerging social entrepreneurs pitched their early-stage business ideas to a panel of expert judges at TEF’s pitch competition, each seeking to secure up to $10,000 to further develop their idea.

The Pitch Competition was the culminating event in TEF’s spring ESE Idea Accelerator program, which supported a cohort of 20 individuals and organizations to develop early-stage employment social enterprise ideas. Employment social enterprises are businesses, that create employment opportunities for people facing barriers to the labour market, including newcomers, people with disabilities, and people who have had engagement with the justice system.

On Tuesday evening, three entrepreneurs were selected to receive ‘Catalyzing Grants’ – grants of $5,000 – 10,000 to complete a feasibility study and business plan to further develop their employment social enterprises.

The selected winners were: 

  • Murwan Khogali Ali, an independent entrepreneur, who pitched Infiniguard, a security company that will employ priority youth from Regent Park, who are facing barriers to the labour market. The ESE will aim to provide both transitional and long-term employment for the youth as security professionals at festivals and events and for private industry (e.g. building security, construction site security). 

  • The Redwood, an organization that provides support for women and their children fleeing abuse. The Redwood pitched Women on the Move Trades, an employment social enterprise that will provide HVAC services (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) for both residential and commercial customers. The enterprise will employ women who are survivors of domestic violence who are facing barriers to the labour market, and are seeking long-term employment within the trades.

  • Aerissa Roy-Dupuis, an independent entrepreneur, who pitched Insight Games, an accessible games company that will employ people living with Blindness, Partial Sight or Deafblindness. The ESE will create board and card games that are accessible to people with sight loss, by using braille, large printing; and by substituting 3D-printed physical board game pieces for inaccessible board game elements. 

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The pitch competition was judged by four expert judges, including Levi Cooperman, the Co-Founder and VP Operations, of FreshBooks, the world’s #1 cloud accounting software designed exclusively for small business owners; Myrna Angelica Coca Paz a Spanish language interpreter with Interpreter Services Toronto, an employment social enterprise that employs newcomer women; Stachen Frederick, the Executive Director of the Weston Frontlines Centre, an agency that runs an employment social enterprise; and Paul Chamberlain, Manager of TEF, at the United Way of Greater Toronto.

The competition also featured great pitches from two other independent entrepreneur teams, who were unsuccessful in securing Catalyzing Grants. Family entrepreneur team, Nicole, Jo-Anne and Tamara Doray, pitched Against The Grain, an employment social enterprise that will produce vegan breads using surplus, fresh produce, and will employ women with disabilities facing barriers to the labour market. Additionally, entrepreneur CG Chen, pitched Ample Labs, an employment social enterprise that will create employment opportunities for youth experiencing invisible homelessness through an enterprise that will create chatbot solutions for non-profit organizations and municipalities.

The competition was hosted by TEF, a program of the United Way of Greater Toronto. TEF receives support from the Sherman Foundations, which provides resources to run the Accelerator program, and provide the catalyzing grants to the selected entrepreneurial teams.

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