Entrepreneur of the Year 2014: Emerging finalists

Lisa Tuningley | BCBusiness

Lisa Tuningley (WINNER)
President, T-Rail Products

Lisa Tuningley, president of railway services T-Rail Products, says “rail has been around so long that it’s gone quiet in our minds”—quiet, that is, until something big happens. “Unfortunately in our business, when bad things happen they’re tragedies,” she says, referring to the fatal 2013 derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. “But every day good things happen, and they go unnoticed.”

The 41-year-old Delta native has made it her mandate to be a part of that good—and to curb the bad. Her Surrey-based firm functions as a middleman for companies building private rail lines that lack the knowhow—say, a potash company looking to transport its goods from central Saskatchewan to the nearest Canadian Pacific line. Tuningley’s firm finds the right specialists—each project has unique needs—and secures building materials while ensuring the line is built efficiently and, all importantly, as securely as possible. Aside from safety concerns, an out-of-service railway can cost a company millions. “We help alleviate any potentials risks,” she says.

And clearly, there’s a market for it. Her company, which launched in 2010 with just two employees, doubled revenue in its second year and continues to double sales projections on a regular basis, according to Tuningley. These days, T-Rail brings in $16 million in annual revenue and has a dozen employees. She says it’s important to balance rapid growth with building a strong team that has an unwavering focus on quality.

Tuningley’s other aim is personal: finding time to enjoy Vancouver’s outdoors again. This year has been an especially busy one for her, so she wants to get back to hiking and “trying to surf—which basically means getting beat up by the waves.” But that suits her just fine. “When difficult things happen, I’m like, Yes—this is a chance to grow.”

Vern Brownell (FINALIST)
CEO, D-Wave

Quantum computers may sound like science fiction, but for Vern Brownell, CEO of D-Wave Systems, they’re a business. D-Wave’s customers include Google, NASA and Lockheed Martin, and already the company’s $10-million machines can finish tasks faster than traditional computers in controlled, albeit scientifically controversial, tests. The Burnaby-based company, which graced the cover of Time this February, is hoping the medical and finance industries will adopt its technology in the near future. “Five years from now, the services we provide will be available through the cloud for any developer,” Brownell says. As for the 55-year-old Boston native, running D-Wave has “been the most invigorating thing I’ve done in my career.” What’s more, he’s fallen in love with Vancouver: “I’m becoming a Canadian citizen in order to stay.”

Franck Point (FINALIST)
Owner, Faubourg Paris

Call it a mid-life crisis, but six years ago Franck Point realized he needed to leave France and become an entrepreneur. “Vancouver is booming,” the 48-year-old says, adding that Europe is less open to new ventures. “My business would never be successful in France.” And so, a decade and a half after his first visit, Point moved his family to Vancouver and in 2010 opened a Parisian bakery, Faubourg, on 41st Ave. in Kerrisdale. Faubourg has since expanded to three locations, its most recent opening this past February, and now has 75 employees. Point is considering Toronto and Seattle next, and then who knows. He’s open—for the most part: “I would never consider Europe.”