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Meet Cohort 17: The Future of Innovation

Updated: Jun 11

As we wrap up another cohort of our Accelerator program at Venturepark Labs, we're thrilled to introduce the remarkable entrepreneurs of Cohort 17! Over the past few months, these innovative minds have been hard at work transforming their bold businesses. From gourmet food and groundbreaking beverages to pet wellness products, this cohort represents the best in creativity, resilience, and entrepreneurial spirit.

Celebrate their journey with us as we showcase the incredible brands that have emerged from our program. Each story is a testament to the passion, perseverance, and the power of community support. Get ready to be inspired by the talented individuals who are shaping the future of the consumer packaged goods industry.

Read on to discover the unique stories of each member of Cohort 17. We can't wait for you to meet the next generation of trailblazers making their mark on the world.

Kreg and Lee-Anne Alde founded Friceys to uphold the multigenerational legacy of their farm near Beaverlodge, AB. Their family has been nurturing quality berries and supporting local communities for years. Now, they're on a mission to share the lesser-known haskap berry with the world in the form of delectable, sweet treats known as creamsicles. Kreg, a fourth-generation farmer with expertise in sales and project management, and Lee-Anne, with a background in agricultural labs and safety, have blended their creative and managerial talents in their berry orchard. Since 2020, they've embarked on a culinary journey, crafting creamsicles to introduce the haskap berry through comforting and familiar flavours. Their venture, Friceys, is a true family effort. Together with their children, Nevada and Konnor, actively supporting the business, reflecting their dedication to quality food, local community support, and family unity, they are making the world a little sweeter, one haskap berry creamsicle at a time.

Located in the heart of Muskoka, ON, Grazyna Szawlowski, the founder of North Hound Life, is revolutionizing pet health with an array of natural herbal and nutritional supplements for dogs. Born out of a desire to meet the growing demand for natural pet supplements, North Hound Life is dedicated to holistic pet care, offering whole-food-based supplements that promote overall well-being. The brand has quickly become a trusted name in the industry, with a commitment to quality and a passion for enhancing the lives of dogs and their owners. Grazyna's vision is to provide pet owners with the best natural health solutions, ensuring happier, healthier lives for our four-legged friends, and she is set to expand the product range across North America.

Based in Vancouver, BC, Jordan Caron and John Wong, the visionaries behind Rebound, are set to revolutionize the protein beverage industry. Combining Jordan’s tech-savvy entrepreneurial spirit with John’s financial experience, they’ve crafted a delicious, recovery-focused protein drink that caters to the needs of active individuals — their sugar-free beverage packs 20g of protein, perfect for supporting a healthy lifestyle. Currently, in the pre-launch stage, Rebound will be ready to hit the shelves of major Canadian retailers in early 2025 and aims to impact the market significantly.

Located in Burlington, ON, Sanathan Kassiedass, the founder of Red Cap Hot Sauce, is transforming his father’s unique pepper sauce recipe into a beloved household brand. A technologist and urban planner by trade, San has embarked on a mission to share this distinctive flavour with the world. With roots in Trinidad, he meticulously validated the market and refined the flavour through extensive taste tests before launching Red Cap Hot Sauce. San’s vision extends beyond business success; he aims to make his products synonymous with quality, celebrate his heritage, and give back to the community through charitable initiatives.

Kristeva Dowling, a Vancouver, BC, native and mead-making master, embarked on her journey into liquid artistry after a bountiful honey harvest from her humble beekeeping hobby. Alongside her husband, Eric, she discovered a passion for mead that surpassed commercial offerings. Since 2020, their meadery, Stolen Harvest in Grovedale, AB, has gained multiple awards for its distinctive flavours. Driven by a commitment to sustainability and ethical beekeeping, Kristeva’s dedication to quality and a love for experimentation inspire a new era for mead enthusiasts.

Located in Toronto, ON, Gertie's is a dessert venture that captures the sweet nostalgia of childhood memories. Founded by Ryan Campbell and named after his mother, Gerda (affectionately known as Gertie), the company debuted its signature pie in December 2020. This beloved treat combines the creamy richness of peanut butter mousse with the delicate smoothness of mascarpone cream, quickly becoming a favourite. Alongside his fiancée and branding expert, Sara Steep, Ryan seized the opportunity to create something special. Together, they envision taking Gertie's beyond Canadian borders into the U.S. market, capturing a universal love for peanut butter and pie. As Gertie's continues to thrive, Ryan and Sara are focused on laying a solid foundation for the business, actively exploring expansion opportunities to make Gertie's a household name in premium desserts.

Located in Calgary, AB, Dr. Yvonne Kangong and her husband Wilfred founded KFS Rx Meals to address the issue of diabetes. Dr. Kangong, a distinguished Obesity Medicine Specialist and Clinical Lecturer at the University of Calgary, brings her expertise and dedication to health and wellness to the brand. Recognized with an Honorable Mention for the Faculty Award, her contributions to medical education are noteworthy. Wilfred, co-founder of KFS Rx Meals, complements this with his extensive experience as a technology and enterprise solutions leader. Together, they are pioneering figures in the health and wellness industry, combining their expertise in medicine, technology, and health-food manufacturing. Their shared vision is to lead the sector forward, aiming to create a shift and make a lasting impact through their collective 30+ years of professional experience.

Salted Co., founded in the heart of Toronto, ON, was born from a spark of inspiration between friends Sarah Murphy and Sasha Seymour during an evening of cocktails. Their shared vision was to elevate the traditional cocktail nut mix into an essential element of refined social gatherings and intimate moments with loved ones. Salted Co.'s Fancy Cocktail Nuts are meticulously crafted in small batches, ensuring the highest quality and featuring delicious flavour profiles that complement an array of beverages. The selection includes Spanish Marcona and Valencia almonds, known for their rich texture and taste. It offers a culinary adventure with flavours ranging from the smoky depth of hickory infused with Lapsang Souchong tea to the balanced blend of sweet and savoury with candied rosemary and plump green raisins. Understanding the art of hosting, Salted Co. provides pairing suggestions on every package, making entertaining effortless. Sarah and Sasha's creations draw from the allure of European aperitif culture and the timeless elegance of old-school hotel bars, infusing their products with both glamour and simplicity.

Together in life and business, Isabelle Jolette and Nicolas St-Pierre founded SETA Organic fuelled by their shared passion for health and wellness. Their journey began three years ago in the cozy confines of their kitchen, where they concocted their first superfood blend. SETA's powders have a 100% plant-based composition, clear of any added flavours, gums, or additives, ensuring each sip is full of purity and potency. As they proudly manufacture their blends, Isabelle and Nicolas maintain an unwavering commitment to ethical sourcing. They carefully source ingredients from farms and partners dedicated to responsible farming practices, granting them full control and transparency over their supply chain. With aspirations reaching beyond their home province of Quebec, they aim to introduce SETA's superfood blends to health-conscious consumers across Canada within the coming year. 

​​In Calgary, AB, Tuesday Brewing Company is reshaping the beer landscape for connoisseurs seeking the taste without the alcohol. CEO Scott Sheppard, leveraging his extensive expertise in technology and consultancy, assumed leadership after the brewery's founder's untimely passing. Since then, he's played a pivotal role in capitalizing, restructuring, and propelling the brewery toward new heights. At the core of Tuesday Brewing's ethos lies a dedication to crafting tasty, health-conscious, non-alcoholic beer. Infused with important vitamins like Vitamin C and D and crafted with premium ingredients, their brews offer a refreshing indulgence. Tuesday's non-alcoholic beer lineup embodies a holistic brewing approach by reflecting their values of joy, mindful choices, wellness, and community. Embracing freedom, it inspires active living and fosters stronger communities through an inclusive, wellness-oriented brewing philosophy.

From Scarborough, ON, Kunal and Zahra Datta, co-founders of Squirrel’s Granola, exemplify the power of diverse experiences and a shared culinary passion. Their marketing, supply chain management, and digital advertising expertise positions them as leaders who mix creativity with strategic insight. Squirrel’s Granola stands out in the snack market with subtly spiced flavours inspired by the couple’s global travels and culinary explorations, celebrating international cuisine with every bite. Beyond flavour, Squirrel’s Granola offers guilt-free, plant-based snacks that are rich in protein and good fats, appealing to health-conscious consumers who don’t compromise on taste. Kunal and Zahra are paving the way for Squirrel’s Granola to become a household name in the realm of healthy, globally-inspired snacks.

From Vancouver, BC, Elaine Van and Cam Hoffman's Not Too Sweet venture showcases the transformative power of inspiration and the pursuit of perfection in beverage crafting. Their journey began during a smouldering German heatwave, where an encounter with a craft cola ignited their passion. Driven by this epiphany, Elaine and Cam returned home, dedicating themselves to creating a line of sodas that captured that moment. Through countless experiments and flavour combinations, Not Too Sweet was born, offering a range of craft sodas that go beyond the ordinary. Elaine and Cam envision a future where their sodas become central to people's stories and adventures, much like the craft cola was to theirs. With a commitment to quality, innovation, and a touch of nostalgia, Not Too Sweet is more than a soda company — it serves as a reminder to savour the moments that inspire us.

Saltwinds Coffee Company, from the Maritimes, is steeped in the rich historical tradition of coffee delivered by sailing ships to Canada when the beans naturally absorbed the ocean's essence. This unique flavour, born from the sea's salt and winds, is what Saltwinds Coffee Company strives to capture in every blend. Leading this venture is CEO Brad Rideout, a seasoned entrepreneur with over three decades of experience. His technological experience drives the company's hunt for excellence. Joining him is COO Laura Richard, whose PhD in Chemistry from Oxford University and scientific approach ensures that Saltwinds remains at the forefront of the coffee industry. Together, Brad and Laura blend their diverse expertise to steer Saltwinds Coffee Company towards growth. Their vision is not just about recreating a taste but about reviving a legacy, bringing to life a piece of history with every cup.

Riley's Kitchen, founded by Jennifer Giorgianni, a dedicated physiotherapist and a mother of two from Barrie, ON, specializes in healthy, plant-based meal solutions suitable for all ages, starting with the youngest family members. Launched in 2021 out of Jennifer's frustration with the sugar-filled and overly processed baby food market, Riley's Kitchen offers a nutritious alternative with its pancake mix tailored for health-conscious parents. Since then, the product line has expanded to include three wholesome products designed to support baby-led weaning and provide toddlers with healthy and enjoyable goodies. Crafted with simple, natural ingredients, these products are free from unwanted sugars and are rich in essential nutrients vital for growing children. By simplifying the cooking process without compromising quality, Riley's Kitchen sets a new standard for baby and toddler food, delivering delicious and healthy meals.

From Edmonton, AB, Birds & Bees Wine and Spirits is renowned for its rich mead-making tradition, producing high-quality alcoholic beverages. Founded by Shane Chrapko, whose deep roots in family farming instill a dedication to quality and sustainable practices, Birds & Bees has been using quality, Alberta-grown grain and fruit since its inception. The Chrapko family farm, first homesteaded in 1928 outside of Brosseau, Alberta, selects fruit, seeds, nurtures, harvests, processes, and packages their products to ensure complete control over every aspect. This meticulous approach allows them to deliver a premium product while always being mindful of their carbon footprint. With their signature blend of tradition and innovation, they continue to set the standard in the beverage industry.

Jackie’s Creative Cakes & Sweets from Scarborough, Ontario, is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit of its founder, Jackelyn Sagadraka. As a self-taught chef, Jackie pursued her desire to own a bakery as the demand for her cakes intensified. Since the bakery's opening in 2021, the brand quickly gained acceptance for its exceptional service and unique Ube-flavoured offerings, introducing the local community to the rich culinary traditions of the Philippines. The bakery’s signature Ube treats, loved for their sweet and nutty flavour, have become a pillar of its identity, attracting a diverse clientele and solidifying its status as a local culinary necessity. The overwhelming response to Jackie’s creations transformed the bakery into a local culinary landmark for cake and pastry lovers. Now, Jackie is ready to expand her brand with a line of retail-ready products, including an ube white hot chocolate mix, pancake mix, and jam, set to launch in major retailers in the fall of 2024. Jackie’s Creative Cakes & Sweets is more than just a bakery; it’s a brand that exudes passion, culinary expertise and dedication to community building.

If you find yourself relating to any of the brands in our Cohort 17 roster, open the door to your business expansion by applying to our Accelerator program. These 16 brands have proven that success is within reach. By joining our program, you can gain the support, resources, and community needed to excel in your business. Apply today and unlock your brand’s potential.



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