We are excited to announce the graduates from our seventh cohort!
The cohort includes five innovative companies in the consumer goods food and health space which were selected from 100 applicants from across Canada. The companies were chosen based on their product, sales and market potential and have each received a $150,000 investment from District Ventures Capital in exchange for a minority equity stake in their company.
The investment includes access to District Ventures Accelerator’s five month program – the only of its kind in Canada that helps the companies increase their sales, marketing, distribution and ultimately valuation. For the past five months, the founders have connected to business, mentorship and marketing support along with brokers, distributors and retailers to help them grow to a national level. Their graduation is officially marked at Demo Day on June 26, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pitch their businesses for continued investment and distribution from industry heavyweights.
Give a big round of applause for Cohort Seven, and meet them below!
Achieve Wellness Spa (Fort McMurray, AB)
A physiotherapist by trade, co-founder Alethea Austin witnessed the direct effects of a broken health and wellness industry first-hand. During her first few years in physical therapy, Austin saw that profit was becoming a priority over patient care and identified the need for a model that would put client needs and overall wellness first. This made Alethea and her husband Tom take the leap into entrepreneurship and open their first Achieve Wellness Spa in 2014.
Achieve Wellness is an award-winning luxury medical day spa that combines multiple disciplines, including traditional spa treatments to mainstream medical services, to help guests achieve better health and an improved quality of life. “One of our greatest achievements was being named as one of the Top 25 Spas in the country by the Spa Industry Association of Canada,” said Austin.
After a successful four years, the duo opened their second location in 2018 and continue to grow rapidly. “Through the District Ventures program, we were able to learn how to align with the right people, and have a clear plan in place so you can quickly achieve your business goals,” added Austin.
Borderland Food Company (Calgary, AB)
Borderland Food Company was a started by a love for health and a need to bring consumers more affordable health foods. Borderland produces high-quality bone broths for people along with a line for their pets. Their unique flavours using chicken, beef and bison make it easy to sip as-is or mix with any dish.
Owner and bone broth guru, Whitney Turcato, is on a mission to make it convenient for people to feed themselves and their pets. “As someone who doesn’t have a background in business, being able to grow my company to a level where I’ve attracted partners like Arlene Dickinson is definitely my biggest achievement,” said Turcato.
Turcato’s favourite part of the program was accessing District Ventures’ mentors, who provided her with industry experience, insights and advice to help her grow. “One of the biggest revelations for me was learning to measure success in my company using tangible metrics. This isn’t easy to do when you’re a one woman show, but I can see the value in ensuring that we know empirically what the impacts are of each input to the business,” said Turcato.
Borderland Food Company broths are currently available in over 180 stores across Canada.
Flourish Pancakes (Toronto, ON)
Founder Andrew Maida started Flourish Pancakes last year in Toronto out of a need for convenience and necessity. When he was 21, he moved out of his parent’s house and began to cook for himself – often turning to the traditional toaster waffles. Andrew’s brother soon supplied him with a healthier protein pancake recipe that put flavour first and the rest was history. Flourish Pancakes offers 23 grams of protein and 9 grams of fibre per serving with its natural ingredients including non-GMO Canadian whole wheat flour and premium New Zealand whey protein.
In the first year of business, Maida, now 23, has his product on the shelves of over 750 retailers across Canada. “I’ve met a lot of Canadians who have been positively affected by my products,” said Maida. “It’s my biggest achievement and it’s very fulfilling to know my products are helping people.”
Being able to connect with the other entrepreneurs, mentors and facilitators has been Maida’s favourite part of the program. “Building a business can be a very lonely process. It’s great to have someone to share your wins and losses with. I think we’ve all become a big family.”
Graydon Skincare (Toronto, ON)
Graydon Moffat is the founder and ingredient anthropologist behind Graydon Skincare. Born an entrepreneur, Graydon pursued the paths of food business proprietor, designer and yoga practitioner before launching the plant based skincare company in 2012. She’s infused her experience in working with raw, fresh and healing ingredients throughout each of her previous journeys to develop a green beauty brand that brings efficacy and transparency to natural skincare.
Graydon Skincare partners with superfood farmers and blends their oils and extracts with clinically-proven actives to deliver products which readily work to support and improve the skin. “I’m lucky to feel like we have already achieved a tremendous amount given that we are still quite small,” said Moffat. “But most of all, it’s the steady stream of testimonials we feel very fortunate to receive. When I read that we have helped our customers to profoundly improve and heal their skin I am truly humbled.”
Being a part of District Ventures helped Moffat realize that she’s not on this journey alone. “Even though all the brands in the accelerator were very different, I realized that start-ups share a lot of the same pain points and while working together we learned a lot from each other and took pleasure in helping each other grow our respective businesses,” said Moffat. “It was a very collaborative and supportive environment, and I’m super excited for Demo Day because I know it’s what I need to do to grow!”
You can purchase Graydon Skincare products online and in over 100 stores across Canada and the U.S.
Zak Organics (Moose Jaw, SK)
Zak Organics is a fourth generation family-run farm and a producer of certified organic snacks. The Zak family farm transitioned into the organic and snack food industry after they saw the growing demand for high quality Canadian food products.
“We are proud to have created a healthy and tasty snack with clean, sustainable and traceable ingredients,” said co-founder Allen Zak. “The quality of our products, along with the transparency and authenticity of our brand, have helped us bridge the gap between farmers and consumers.”
Zak Organics produces the world’s only certified organic, whole green pea snack. In addition to being a good source of protein, the natural snacks contain no artificial colours, flavours, or preservatives and are free from dairy, nuts, and gluten.
Through the District Ventures program, Zak learned the importance of marketing for early stage food companies. “The most surprising thing we learned at DV is that marketing your brand and product is critical for the success of a young food company,” said Zak. “It doesn’t matter how terrific your product tastes and how healthy it is, if consumers don’t recognize your product and brand, they hesitate to purchase.”
You can find Zak Organics in over 700 stores across Canada.
Read more about our graduating cohort on CNW here.