EOY Winners Past & Present: How they did it

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Entrepreneur Of The Year's Pacific Region awards, we asked several EOY winners to share the stories of their success


BCBusiness + Ernst & Young

As the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year awards for the Pacific Region mark a quarter-century, we offer insights and success stories from EOY winners past and present

It’s no secret that British Columbia is home to some of the most ambitious, creative and daring business minds in the country. From billionaire Jim Pattison to fashion mogul Brian Hill, there’s something about the Pacific coast that nourishes a particular kind of entrepreneurship—the kind that dreams big, wins big and gives big. For 25 years, the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year awards program has recognized the best and brightest B.C. has to offer, honouring nearly 240 winners to date.

Lui Petrollini, EOY program director for the Pacific Region, says the province’s winners do have certain things in common. “They all have a vision. They all give back to their communities, and they tend to be very good people managers,” the EY assurance partner reflects. “They begin with a vision, and they take a lot of risks and sacrifice a lot to get where they are. How many times have I heard stories where, from a financial standpoint, the entrepreneurs have leveraged everything they own, including their homes, to pursue a dream? And the people that we’re honouring have been successful in achieving their dreams.”

The winners receive more than recognition; they become members of an elite group, with opportunities to forge new connections among a global network of EOY alumni that extends to 145 cities in some 60 countries. Regional winners compete on the national stage, and national champions vie for the ultimate prize: EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year.

With a program of such breadth and scope, says Petrollini, EOY winners past and present have come to represent the best in business and entrepreneurship around the world. “It’s become known as the only truly global awards program of its kind, and it’s brought the top entrepreneurs forward to share their stories,” he observes.

EOY honorees gain access to exclusive events such as the annual EY Strategic Growth Forum in Palm Springs, California, a five-day November conference featuring renowned figures from business, entertainment and philanthropy. In 2017, speakers included NBA Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O’Neal; Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft; and 2017 World Entrepreneur Of The Year Murad Al-Katib, president and CEO of Regina-based AGT Food and Ingredients Inc.

What makes the EOY awards unique is not only their global reach but also how winners are selected. Judging is done by independent panels comprising business and community leaders, educators and past award winners. Looking beyond financial performance, the judges also measure success by considering innovation, vision, integrity, leadership and entrepreneurial spirit. Categories vary slightly from year to year, reflecting changes in the business climate, but they span technology, mining, business-to-business, business-to-consumer, agriculture, financial, retail, services and—more recently—social ventures.

Suzanne Siemens, CEO of reusable menstrual-pad company Lunapads International Products Ltd., says the EOY 2017 special citation category for Social Entrepreneur provided a compelling opportunity to take part. “[The category] spoke more to looking at business from a values perspective and not just a bottom-line, top-line perspective,” she explains. “My own personal goal as a business leader is to inspire other businesses by showing that you can combine business and social impact and create greater good.”

As entrepreneurs who also happen to be women, Siemens and her business partner Madeleine Shaw are part of a group that Petrollini hopes will play a bigger role in EOY. “B.C. is doing a good job of nominating women, but we can always do better,” he notes. “We would love to have more women entrepreneurs in the EOY program, because that ultimately helps support diversity here in our province.”

Being part of the awards can help propel a business to even more success. “The connections that were created [through EOY] were incredible, and some of my colleagues now are a direct result of that award and exposure,” says Renee Merrifield Wasylyk, another female entrepreneur and 2015 EOY Pacific region winner in the Real Estate and Construction category. “It took my business, and me as a leader, to a different level.”

Besides a greater female presence, Petrollini anticipates more social ventures coming to the fore. “One of the objectives coming from entrepreneurs in Gen Y and Gen Z is that they want to work in an environment where they feel they’re being socially responsible,” he says. “Entrepreneurs aren’t only focused on being successful, but also on providing balance in people’s lives,” Petrollini adds. “The value systems in each generation are completely different, and you see that reflected in the entrepreneurial environment that we exist in.”

As the Pacific Region EOY awards begin their second quarter-century, one thing is clear: B.C.’s entrepreneurs exist in an increasingly borderless world where digital technology is transforming business. “Thirty years ago, the Internet didn’t even exist,” Petrollini points out with a laugh. Join us as we celebrate some of the province’s biggest successes, whose stories help inspire the next generation of leaders with global ambitions.

Click the links below to read profiles on some past EOY winners:

Renee Merrifield Wasylyk
Allen Eaves
Madeleine Shaw and Suzanne Siemens
Terry McBride

And click here for an EOY timeline.

EY is now accepting nominations for its 2018 Entrepreneur Of The Year awards. 

To participate, visit ey.com/ca/eoy

Created by BCBusiness in partnership with Ernst & Young