On March 8th, 2022, International Women’s Day, there were a plethora of exciting stories shared around the world showcasing women making big changes for other women. With a variety of funds starting solely to support female founders, it’s a great time to be a woman trying to start a business, especially in Canada.
Here at BHive, we have the opportunity to work with many powerful women making changes in their Industries and lifting up other women. Read on to learn about some of our leaders making changes in the Innovation District of Brampton.
Noora Sharrab | Mentor at Sheridan EDGE
Driving Social Change
Noora Sharrab is the CEO and Co-founder of the Social Enterprise Sitti, an Advisory Council member with UNHCR Canada, and an Advisory Council Member with WeConnect International (Canada).
She earned her master’s degree in political science from York University in Toronto, Canada, with a specialization in refugee and forced migration studies. In 2009, Noora co-founded Hopes for Women in Education (hopesforwomen.org) to support refugee and displaced women in Jordan with higher-education scholarships, skills training, and online language development (through Banaat Connect – banaatconnect.org).
Sharrab spent several years in Jordan working for UN agencies in the fields of education, international development, and disaster relief. Her strong involvement with Jordanian refugee populations prompted her to fundraise and construct a Women’s Centre in the Gaza Refugee Camp in Jerash, Jordan, which now employs over 34 full-time refugee women and men with disabilities. She has trained and worked with hundreds of refugees, resulting in the service of over 1000 refugees in the community.
In 2013, Sharrab cofounded Sitti (www.sittisoap.com), a Social Enterprise with the goal of empowering refugee populations to become self-reliant through employment and enhancing their ability to become financially independent and self-sustainable.
Sitti introduced Sitti Box (www.sittibox.com) in May 2021, the first-ever subscription box committed to ensuring refugee communities’ long-term viability through theme-based quarterly boxes for conscious consumers. Noora is a recent Canadian SheEO Venture Winner, as well as the recipient of the Muslim Awards of Excellence.
Female mentors are an essential part of making space for young women in all industries. Women gain insight into male-dominated spaces, and have champions that can use proven tactics like amplification in meetings, and refining their negotiation skills. We are proud that the Brampton Innovation District has a collection of women supporting businesses in their pre-seed development.
Priya Patel | Founder of Earth Analytics
Women-led Start-up Innovating Sustainable Development
Priya Patel (https://priyapatel.ca/ ), the founder of Earth Analytics, is on a mission to help urban planners design better cities using satellite remote sensing data. Harnessing high-resolution earth observation data can inform urban planning decisions. Patel has created statistical models that provide information on surface-level air pollution at a resolution far beyond anything modelled by satellites.
Earth Analytics helps cities understand the areas with more significant air pollution so planners can refine their zoning and development plans. Patel has already worked with two cities – Toronto and Hamilton and is passionate about creating strategies to build sustainable, equitable communities around the world.
The Canadian economy is largely driven by SMEs, and two of the sectors with the highest growth firms include information and cultural services and professional, scientific, and professional services. The Brampton Innovation district is proud to have a network of women representing the true diversity of changemakers driving Canada’s economic growth.
Shirook Ali | CEO and Founder of Ecosystem Informatics
Raising money for a sustainable future
Shirook Ali (BSc, MSc, PhD, PEng, IEEE Senior Member) is an innovator and a technology creator with 20+ years of experience in the high-tech industry, 33 issued patents and over 150 publications to her name focused on wireless communications and intelligent systems.
Dr. Ali is also a proud educator and professor at Sheridan College and an Adjunct Professor at McMaster University. Prior to joining Sheridan College in 2016, she held the position of Technical Manager at BlackBerry leading a technical team to integrate new technologies into the BlackBerry phone. During her ten years at BlackBerry, Dr. Ali was part of the Advanced Technology team contributing to the vision for BlackBerry’s future products.
She currently is the CEO of Ecosystem Informatics Inc which she founded in 2019; a company providing a breakthrough technology presenting a paradigm shift in environmental monitoring powered by AI.
“We are in a seed round raising $1.5 million CAD. We are looking for investors that are also partners opening up doors for us and providing guidance through our journey. We are likely to go for our Series A in 2024. “
Ecosystem Informatics Inc (ESI) is an impact-driven innovation company. It offers cost-effective air quality and meteorological real-time monitoring and management to help control environmental impact, optimize operational efficacies, and boost production. ESI is filling the critical need for hyper-local data and insights. ESI’s product has many applications uniquely offering governments, industries and advocacy groups a tool to manage environmental impact and operational efficiencies, helping them achieve their sustainability objectives.
Currently, only 15.6% of Canadian SMEs are Female-led, and there are a variety of reasons for this. But, women being confident in themselves and looking to connect with women who can help propel them forwards and give them the support they need when launching will only help increase those numbers. Canada hopes to double the number of women-led SMEs in Canada by 2025, so now is the time to lean in.
Danielle Graham | Capital EIR at RVZ
Bringing Capital to Women-Led Companies
Danielle Graham, Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Phoenix Fire, Founder of Fierce Founders at Communitech, previously Board Member of Golden Triangle Angel Network (GTAN), Principal at Sandpiper Ventures and Dream Maker Ventures, Manager at OCI’s Market Readiness Fund and Consultant at Deloitte. MBA, MA and BA.
As the newest fund of Archangel, Phoenix Fire is an all-women investing team focused on women entrepreneurs. This is our solution to the gap in angel stage funding, enable champions. There are many more possibilities and opportunities out there, women are 50% of the population after all.
Women-led tech start-ups receive only 2.3% of global venture capital funds, meaning there’s a long way to go to bridge this gap. But if anyone can do it, it’s the ambitious women of the Brampton Innovation district.
Kristen Ferkranus | COO of BHive
Connecting driven founders with the right opportunities
Kristen Ferkranus has newly taken on the role of Chief Operating Officer of BHive, a Start-up Incubator launched by Toronto Business Development Centre and the City of Brampton. BHive aims to attract scalable and high-impact companies from around the globe and relocate them to Canada. Kristen served as a Venture Manager with Toronto Business Development Centre since early 2021, leading the charge to assess and prepare companies who wish to be part of TBDC’s Incubation Program.
Prior to joining the TBDC and BHive Ecosystem, Ferkranus worked in Venture Capital, Consulting with Deloitte and independent firms focusing on business processes, innovation and efficiency. Kristen holds an MBA from Schulich School of Business, has a passion for paving the way for the next generation of leaders and is actively involved in her alma maters as a guest lecturer and mentor.
Ferkranus has made it her mission to encourage conversations about seeking out diversity in the workplace. She is particularly interested in discussions around creating space for women and people who are neurodivergent. “I believe that everybody deserves a place at the table. There are so many benefits derived from having people on your team with different ways of thinking, so many ways to tackle a problem.”
Kristen Ferkranus also understands and appreciates the women who paved the way for her. Specifically in the Brampton Innovation District, Clare Barnett, Director of Economic Development with the City of Brampton, has done much of the legwork, which in turn has allowed Ferkranus the opportunity to achieve so much more in her future. “It’s exciting to see such a drive for innovation. You hear about cities wanting to foster economic growth, but in the Brampton Innovation District you see a city, leaders and community creating the support network to make that happen.”
As the old adage goes; If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. We are so inspired by the women here breaking barriers and creating more opportunities for others.
Inspired by the stories here and want to learn more about what the Innovation District is doing? Learn more about the area here, or contact us to learn more about how BHive is helping companies access and expand in the North American market.