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Young Ontario entrepreneurs honoured at Sault ceremony
20180620-2018 Ontario Startup Canada Award Winners-DT
2018 Ontario Startup Canada Award winners Ryan Janzen, Yumi Lee, Ariel Mashiyev, Erin Stephenson, Brandon Hebor, Laura Plant Hasanbegovic and Steven Bourne at an award ceremony held at The Machine Shop, June 20, 2018. Darren Taylor/SooToday

StartUP Sault Ste. Marie and the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation hosted the 2018 Ontario Startup Canada Awards Wednesday, celebrating the accomplishments of some of the province’s best and brightest (and youngest) entrepreneurs.

The award ceremony, held at The Machine Shop, was emceed by Village Media’s Jasmyn Rowley.

“I think there’s been a lot of support in the past few years for female entrepreneurs in particular, so I’m really pleased to see that continue,” said Kitchener’s Erin Stephenson, co-founder, Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of DOZR (pronounced ‘dozer’), who won the Woman Entrepreneur Award.

“There’s systemic discrimination that is well known toward women when it comes to receiving financing for their business’s great to have more visible examples for other women and young girls (to be inspired by),” Stephenson said, speaking to SooToday.

DOZR, Stephenson’s company, is an online marketplace for heavy equipment rentals needed for construction projects.

Toronto’s Ryan Janzen, TransPod co-founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO), picked up the Innovation Award.

“The TransPod system we’re designing is a vehicle that can travel at over 1,000 kilometres an hour (620 miles per hour),” Janzen explained. The TransPod a fully electric-powered capsule, much like a passenger train car, designed to carry 27 passengers.

Janzen said the TransPod system would be ideal for passenger travel between places such as Toronto and Windsor.

Far from being a pie in the sky idea (or in this case, pie on the rails), Janzen said “we’re working with larger and larger prototypes in a multi-year process,” hopeful TransPod will be zipping along rails by the late 2020s.

“We have collaborators in Italy and France and they’re now working with us on some of our systems...we’re working on a test track design in France which is three kilometres long. We’re getting together financing to support this,” Janzen said, adding his company is also in talks with Canada’s Ministry of Transport.

Located within The Machine Shop complex is the Sault’s own Millworks Centre for Entrepreneurship.

What is Stephenson and Janzen’s advice for young, local entrepreneurs?

“My advice is find something you’re passionate about and take the plunge and go for it. You’re more likely to weather the storms and ups and downs that come with being an entrepreneur when you’re young,” Stephenson said.  

“My advice is to be willing to try things on your own and with very talented other people because there are so many people who want to develop something new but they are afraid of learning the skills involved in doing that,” Janzen said.

“Be willing to just explore and find something you’re not just moderately good at, but find that exact thing you can do extremely well.”

Stephenson and Janzen, two of 10 regional winners honoured Wednesday, will now be evaluated by the National Adjudication Committee, which includes some of Canada’s leading entrepreneurship and industry experts. The national winners will be celebrated at the Startup Canada Awards Grand Finale in Ottawa Oct. 18.

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Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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