Entrepreneur of the Year 2015: Business-to-Business finalists

Christopher Krywulak (WINNER)
President and CEO, iQmetrix

Christopher Krywulak became an entrepreneur because, as he puts it, he needed a place to work where he could “fit in.” After struggling through the structured classroom environment as a kid, the Saskatchewan-born businessman knew an office job wasn’t his style; nor was the Regina-based steel plant where he worked with his father for a couple of years after high school. “All that was left for me was a start-up business,” he says.

Krywulak used the money he earned from the steelworker job to bootstrap his first business in 1990, a car-phone installation company. That eventually transformed into a wireless retail chain in his home province of Saskatchewan, known today as Jump.ca. It was while building that cellular products business that Krywulak came up with the idea for his next venture, iQmetrix, which creates point-of-sale and other retail management software for retailers, mostly in the wireless sector. Long before data became a critical tool in the retail business, Krywulak was using spreadsheets to track sales activity at Jump.ca. He developed a deep interest in analyzing data and how the results could drive sales. “The transformational power of metrics in an operational system is what inspired me,” says Krywulak. He moved iQmetrix to Vancouver in 2010, to attract more talent, and has been expanding the business ever since.

Today, iQmetrix has more than 300 employees and has been lining up clients both in and outside the wireless business, including brands such as Under Armour, Samsung, Verizon and Glentel. Gross revenues increased by 25 per cent to $108 million in 2014, up from $62.6 million in 2011, and the company has no debt and no outside investors. Krywulak says part of his business success stems from the discipline he developed as a world-class martial artist and captain of the Canadian National Taekwondo Team in 2004 and 2006. That includes tactics to conserve energy, as well as problem-solving under pressure. “When you’re in the ring, you push yourself physically and mentally to an edge. It’s a developmental skill that I can then take into business.”

Delna Bhesania / Barry Ward (FINALISTS)

Founders, Bardel Entertainment

Delna Bhesania knows it sounds flaky, but it was a visualization seminar she took in her early 20s in Vancouver that spawned the idea to start her own animation studio. Her soon-to-be husband, Barry Ward, was skeptical of the idea at first but agreed to get on board and leverage his past experience in Toronto and Montreal with large animation companies such as Nelvana. In 1987, the pair opened Bardel Entertainment in Vancouver. It started as a family business making handcrafted animation and quickly evolved into a digital studio with facilities across B.C. and big-name clients such as Nickelodeon, Disney, Cartoon Network, DreamWorks and Warner Brothers. “We’ve been lucky to get work from all of them,” says Bhesania, highlighting major productions such as Nickelodeon’s long-running animated series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Cartoon Networks’ primetime series Ricky and Morty. Over the past two years, Bardel has grown from 150 employees to over 600, while operating revenues have tripled in each year.

Harvey Tremblay (FINALIST)
President and CEO, Hy-Tech Drilling Ltd.

Harvey Tremblay was a carpenter building work camps for mineral exploration companies in the 1980s when he decided to give drilling a try. He got hooked on the new trade and fascinated by the equipment used to poke holes in the earth. But he also saw deficiencies in the drill–so he designed his own. Tremblay says nobody was asking for a new drill, “but I could see that if we could build something lighter and stronger, that had more capacity and was more mobile, it would have an advantage.” Since he founded Smithers, B.C.-based Hy-Tech Drilling Ltd. in 1991, the company has seen annual sales grow from $100,000 to $60 million by 2011, with its proprietary Tech 5000 drill used by mining companies across Canada and Western Europe. Business has slowed somewhat in recent years–the result of a slump in commodity prices–but Hy-Tech is diversifying into U.S. markets to maintain much of its momentum.