Georgian’s Henry Bernick Awards celebrate innovative entrepreneurs

Innovative entrepreneurs and startups were celebrated recently at the 2024 Henry Bernick Awards held by Georgian College’s Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre (HBEC).

These prestigious awards recognize the most impactful entrepreneurs and startups that have demonstrated excellence and strive to make a meaningful impact in our community. 

A group of people stand in a row on a stage. Signage reads: Henry Bernick Awards.
The 2024 Henry Bernick Award winners, nominees and presenters.

“We are incredibly proud of this year’s winners. Their passion, ingenuity and hard work exemplify the spirit of entrepreneurship that we strive to cultivate at HBEC,” said Dr. Mira Ray, Executive Director of Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Georgian College. “All of the nominees and award winners are not only achieving great things for themselves but are also making a positive impact on our community and beyond.”

A person stands at a microphone at a podium and smiles facing a crowd of people.
Dr. Mira Ray, Executive Director of Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Georgian College, hosting the 2024 Henry Bernick Awards.

At a packed venue, keynote speaker Justice Faith Betty, co-Founder of Révolutionnaire, changemaker and social entrepreneur, shared the importance and power of dreams.

“Dreams fuel revolutions,” she said, reflecting on her personal experiences building a youth-led movement to explore how we can all dream bigger and with purpose, and then combine our sparks of inspiration with our dreams to fuel revolutions.

A person speaks into a microphone at a podium.
Keynote speaker Justice Faith Betty at the 2024 Henry Bernick Awards at Georgian College.

HBEC is a catalyst for entrepreneurial growth and development providing support, resources, and mentorship to budding entrepreneurs and established businesses alike. This year’s awards, held May 30, celebrated the remarkable accomplishments of individuals and teams who have shown outstanding leadership, creativity, and dedication.

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees of this year’s awards.

Award winners: 

Student Entrepreneur Award: Carter Duggan, Big Influence Marketing 

Big Influence Marketing helps businesses attract, engage and influence customers and stakeholders using digital content. Its specialized approach combines strategy consulting with content creation services to help clients optimize their messaging and identify key channels for their content. 

Community Entrepreneur Award: Wesley O’Leary, owner/operator, North Pro Home & Cottage Services

North Pro Home & Cottage Services was founded in February 2022 by Wes O’Leary with the hope of alleviating home and business owners from dangerous ladder climbing and cleaning in Oro-Medonte. O’Leary built a team of pressure washers who matched his passion for detailed work. After establishing a strong reputation for pressure washing in Oro-Medonte, North Pro Home & Cottage Services has expanded to include Christmas lights installation and more.  

Entrepreneurs’ Champion Award: Craig Busch, CEO Busch Systems, Founder of the Sandbox Centre 

As a blue-sky thinker who leads through design, Busch is passionate about enabling others to do better, create better, and think better in all aspects of life. Whether he is creating ground-breaking products or envisioning more progressive ways to do business, he strives to develop ideas that inspire and enact meaningful change. Busch aims to make a difference with entrepreneurial efforts. Further, eight different Busch-founded companies have won Barrie Chamber of Commerce awards, demonstrating a commitment to fostering operational and cultural excellence. 

Special Award – Recognition and honour of exceptional dedication and unwavering support for newcomer, refugee and immigrant entrepreneurs: Cecilia Doucette  

HBEC team lost a bright light this year. Cecilia Doucette lost her battle to breast cancer in February. Cecilia loved sharing her passion and her own experiences with the hundreds of students and colleagues she met through her role as the International and Newcomer Entrepreneurship Coordinator at HBEC. She was excited by her work and running the XcelerateNOW program, where she helped to connect, empower and guide so many newcomers to our region. 

When Cecilia wasn’t helping newcomers with their learning and entrepreneurship journeys, she was also an entrepreneur. As a professional photographer, Cecilia shared the beauty of the world through her eyes, as only she could capture it. Cecilia was the proud recipient of the 2021 Simcoe County Newcomer Recognition Award for Entrepreneurship, an award that recognized her dedication and commitment to celebrating Latin culture and building community through her work in the region. This special award, received by Cecilia’s family, honours her and the tremendous impact she had on so many of us.    

All nominees

Student Entrepreneur Award: 

  1. Mona Shoar – Moralucci 
  2. Carter Duggan – Big Influence Marketing (winner)
  3. Jahvon Peters – ACADEMIS 
  4. Harmandeep Kaur, Neha Sharma, Sachin Dankar – Career Connections 

Community Entrepreneur Award: 

  1. Wesley O’Leary – North Pro Home & Cottage Services (winner)
  2. Chad Solomon – Biskane Inc 
  3. Miguel Abascal – Thrive Faster 
  4. Ricardo Irivarren – Miski Brewing Company Corp 
  5. Carmen Bautista – Green Parenting 

Entrepreneurs’ Champion Award: 

  1. Jesse Kerr – The Sandbox Centre 
  2. Teresa Snelgrove – Founder of 7 startups, co-founder of Timonthy’s Coffees of the World 
  3. Tim Newton – Manager of the South Georgian Bay Small Business Enterprise Centre 
  4. Craig Busch – CEO Busch Systems, Founder of The Sandbox Barrie (winner)

About Georgian’s Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre:

The Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre at Georgian College is dedicated to fostering a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem. Through its various programs and services, HBEC supports entrepreneurs at all stages of their journey, from ideation to growth and scaling.

The centre provides access to mentorship, networking opportunities, funding resources, and educational workshops designed to equip entrepreneurs with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.

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