In December 2019, the ThriveNorth program successfully completed its five-year mandate. Managed by Futurpreneur Canada, the program helped young entrepreneurs in Northern B.C. launch and grow their businesses by connecting them with resources, financing and mentorship.

After months of hard work and preparation, it came down to 14 finalists – 12 businesses – pitching at the 2018 ThriveNorth Business Challenge for a chance to win a share of $35,000 to support their small business dreams in Northern BC.

To mark the first year the Business Challenge was expanded to Northeastern BC, the Finals event was held at the Lido Theatre in Fort St. John.

The countdown to the Finals started with a full day of rehearsals, which included a walking tour of local businesses. The young entrepreneurs had the opportunity to meet the owners of ideal OS (office solutions), Scoop Clothing and Canadian Grind Coffee and Tea Company, each of whom shared unique insights and perspectives on achieving small business success in their community.

The finalists pitched for their chance at the $10,000 per category cash prize to our judging panel of successful entrepreneurs and business experts, and had another chance to impress at the evening pitching event for the $5,000 People’s Choice Award.

Following a thorough and dynamic deliberation process, in addition to a total of more than 1,200 public votes made online and in-person, we are excited to present our 2018 ThriveNorth Business Challenge Winners!

Best Growth Opportunity (18-39): a business currently in operations looking to expand through increased staff, new locations or now products and services


Jessie Taylor, Mama G’s Country Kitchen (Chetwynd)

Jessie Taylor and business partner Gwen Taylor are the proud owners of a tiny red travelling food trailer called Mama G’s Country Kitchen in Chetwynd, BC. They travel around Northern BC to many rodeos and festivals during the summer months, bringing back that home cooked experience people are craving at these busy events. This is their 4th successful year and busier than ever! They are hoping to expand their operations by selling their homemade salad dressings.



Best New Business (18-28): a business at any stage prior to launch or within their first 12 months in business, by an entrepreneur between the ages of 18 and 28

Holly-Anne Ritchie & Shay Bergunder, BowTie (Dawson Creek)

Shay Bergunder and Holly-Anne Ritchie together are BowTie. Using their differences as well as their similar passions, they create, coordinate and clean up events. They also have personalized BowTie Party In A Box for the bored, busy or uninspired. They hope to cultivate a relationship with the community while having more time for their families. Looking to the future, they also hope to be able to supply rental of tents, photo booths, lighting as well as many other event related items.



Best New Business (29-39): a business at any stage prior to launch or within their first 12 months in business, by an entrepreneur between the ages of 29 and 39



Stephen Beard, Beard’s Brewing Company (Fort St. John)

We are passionate about our community, we are passionate about beer. Stephen and his family started on this adventure last November and it’s been quite the experience! They purchased used brewing equipment from an expanding southern BC brewery and brought the first taste of fresh, locally crafted beers to northeastern BC. Stephen is so excited to have the opportunity to give back to this amazing community that he grew up in and show his kids that anything can be accomplished with passion and hard work!



People’s Choice Award: The entrepreneur who received a combination of the most online and in-person votes

Axel Whalen, Tiny Life Supply (Smithers)

Axel has always been guided by his passion for the environment. Following his studies in mechanical engineering, Axel gained experience working as both a tree planting foreman and a railway engineer before discovering the tiny house movement. Axel fell in love with the combination of architecture, design, and sustainability, and in 2015 began building a tiny house of his own. In response to the difficulty he had sourcing premium supplies and appliances, Axel founded Tiny Life Supply in 2016.



Congratulations to all our finalists, who each also received a surprise $1,000 cash prize!

The Business Challenge provided an exciting opportunity for young entrepreneurs in Northern BC to explore and discover their business dreams and potential. But for the finalists, the Challenge proved just as valuable for learning, networking and fostering a supportive network and strong sense of community among aspiring business owners united in their desire to thrive as entrepreneurs in Northern BC.

Special thanks to BDC and our partners, judges, speakers, staff at The Lido Theatre and everyone who supported and helped make this event a success.

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