Entrepreneur of the Year 2015: Real Estate and Construction finalists

Renee Wasylyk (WINNER)
CEO, Troika Management Corp.

Renee Wasylyk is proof that you don’t need a business degree to achieve business success. The CEO of real estate developer Troika Management Corp. had a bachelor’s degree in religious studies, a master’s in theology and a six-week unpaid internship working for a project manager at a private real estate developer, the Irvine Company in California, before forming her own industry consulting business. “I started the company in 1998 out of necessity; I needed a job. Consulting was something that I could do with little kids,” says Wasylyk, who had one child at the time and a second one on the way. Six months into consulting, she started working on a business plan for her own development company—conducting interviews with people across the industry to learn more about the “pitfalls and profits” of the market with the aim of becoming a full-service developer and builder.

Wasylyk gave herself five years to get the business up and running, but she started amassing properties within a year and launched the company within three. Fifteen years later, Wasylyk has turned Kelowna-based Troika into one of the few full-service real estate development companies in Western Canada—focused on everything from land acquisition to construction to sales and marketing— with revenues of more than $35 million and 17 projects across B.C., Alberta and Manitoba. Despite repeated warnings for a housing correction in Canada, Wasylyk believes developers who are in touch with their market will continue to do well.

“One of the reasons that the housing market is overheated [in some Canadian cities] is because we haven’t been able to keep up with the demand,” she says. “That, for us, is a positive because it means the more that we create—yes, it might be sold at a lower price point—but the more we create, the more we are actually supplying to the housing demand and keeping this attainable and affordable. Where it gets dangerous is when we don’t have enough supply and we get into bidding wars.”

While the real estate development business remains risky, Wasylyk prefers to view it another way: “Entrepreneurs don’t see risk… they see opportunity and what’s missing. That enables us to move into environments where we can make things happen and propel things forward.”

Raoul Malak (FINALIST)

CEO, The Ansan Group

When some people think of the construction industry, strong customer service doesn’t usually come to mind. Raoul Malak has made it his mission to change that. The CEO of the Richmond-based Ansan Group has been repeatedly saying please and thank you to his clients since taking over the traffic and construction company 12 years ago–a politeness he developed working in hotels for 16 years. He says his industry has suffered from a lack of professionalism, training and decorum.

“I wanted to influence the construction side of the business by providing hotel service,” says Malak. “When someone gives you money, the reply always should be, ‘Thank you very much. What else can I do for you?’ That’s the principle we follow.” Changing the workplace culture wasn’t easy, he says, but the results have been remarkable. The company has grown from 50 employees and $1.5 million in sales in 2003 to more than 400 employees and $30 million in sales today. His goal is to hit $50 million by 2017, through both internal growth and acquisitions. 

Nicholas Boyd (FINALIST)
President, Fusion Project Management

If you’ve set foot in a funky office space in downtown Vancouver lately, chances are Fusion Project Management Ltd. was behind it. The Vancouver-based design-build project management company has planned and designed office space for Hootsuite, Sony Pictures Imageworks and other corporate clients in the technology, entertainment and real estate sectors. The company, founded in 2005 by Nicholas Boyd, helps its clients suss out the best office space, plan its design along with outside teams and then determine the budget required to pay for it. The trend toward attracting and retaining talent with a functional office space has propelled sales, which are up more than 20 per cent each year since 2012. “People are trying to figure out how to create an environment that is going to promote productivity and longevity of staff. Space is a canvas for that.”