BC Day falls on the first Monday of August every year and offers BC residents a time to celebrate the many contributions of the province’s diverse residents. To help commemorate the day, we’re highlighting 10 BCIT alumni-owned businesses making a difference in British Columbia. From an Indigenous-owned wellness brand to a company committed to protecting oceans across the globe, these alumni-owned businesses are leaving a positive imprint in the province and beyond.
Sisters Sage is a women-owned Indigenous brand, based in East Vancouver, that hand-crafts wellness and self-care products inspired by Indigenous culture and traditions. Sisters Sage was founded by BCIT Operations Management alumna Lynn-Marie Angus and her sister Mellisa-Rae as a way to help others while showcasing their culture and gaining financial independence. The company offers artisan soaps, bath bombs, salves, and smokeless smudge that honour the ancestral teachings of sage, cedar, sweetgrass, lavender, and more.
2018 BCIT Distinguished Award recipient Mischa Steiner is CEO and founder of Awesense, a Vancouver-based clean tech company offering an electrical distribution monitoring solution that could yield enough data to inform decisions on future optimization. The company brings its solutions to clients around the globe. To date, Awesense has removed an estimated 2 million tonnes of CO2 from the environment. In the process, the company has identified how to reduce the need for traditional power generation and modernize the grid for a future with renewable energy.
In 1999, Red Seal Joiner and ex-ballerina Brandy Kawulka founded Wood Be Art Renovations with her husband, Paul Keller. Wood Be Art is a high-end custom woodworking company located in New Westminster. Since opening, the business has flourished, diversifying to offer contracting and renovation services. In 2021, she established the Brandy Kawulka Joinery/Carpentry BCIT Bursary to support students in need and women in trades.
Nigel Bennett is a BCIT Mechanical Engineering alumnus and founder of Aqua Guard Spill Response Inc., a company that provides state-of-the-art oil spill response solutions around the world. Aqua Guard started when Nigel’s friend approached him with a rudimentary prototype of an oil spill skimming device made of a large Tupperware tub with a plastic brush and hand crank. They refined the device and began successfully selling it to organizations across the globe. It has been involved in combatting most of the world’s major oil spills in recent history.
Computer Systems Technology Indigenous alumnus Rob Schulz was inspired to help Indigenous-owned businesses during the pandemic. He discovered that almost all Indigenous businesses are small or medium in size and often lack ‘digital infrastructure’ (e.g., broadband internet, e-commerce capability) making it difficult to ‘pivot’ online during the pandemic. After consultation with his Indigenous mentors, he founded Shop First Nations and created the Shop First Nations website, Facebook page, and group. This platform will continue to amplify Indigenous brands and provide e-commerce solutions to Indigenous businesses as the economy re-opens.
BCIT carpentry alumnus and Gold Seal Project Manager Joe Geluch took over Naikoon Contracting from his father in 2009. He relaunched the company with a sustainability focus, building zero-energy buildings and passive house standard homes. Today, Joe has received more than 40 awards for Naikoon Contracting. He is most proud of awards that recognize the company’s sustainability and community involvement and celebrate his team, which continues to grow.
In 2017, Marketing Management alumna Sarah Henderson founded Hudson and Oak, a female-run company selling modern minimalist planter pots and non-toxic homeware sourced locally in Vancouver and designed with sustainability top of mind. All packaging is made from 100-per cent post-consumer materials in Vancouver in support of Sarah’s company goal to be single-use plastic free by the end of 2021. Sarah also publishes articles on her website offering tips for a more sustainable household.
Jennifer Patterson is a proud BCIT alumna and one of two vice presidents on the BCIT Alumni Board of Directors. She is also co-founder of Cityscape Management Ltd., which specializes in construction management, strata maintenance and repairs, commercial tenant improvements, and residential construction and renovations. Improving something that already exists (rather than building new) excites Jennifer. At Cityscape, which she runs with her husband Dave Patterson, she continues to do just that.
Thomas Tong is a BCIT alumnus and the founder and CEO of Vancouver-based Polyga, a company that develops 3D scanning and measurement technologies supporting a range of industries from dentistry to film. His proprietary technology, costing thousands of dollars per unit, is used by clients worldwide, from manufacturers to medical practitioners. Polyga’s unique scanners and software allow clients to reverse-engineer technology—basically, allowing them to scan a three-dimensional object and analyze, manipulate, and adjust it on the computer.
Independently operated and family-owned, Quails’ Gate Winery was founded in 1989 and is led by BCIT alumnus and CEO Tony Stewart. Tony takes pride in his family’s wine-making history. With more than 200 acres of vineyards, Quails’ Gate have been leaders in the development of Canadian viticulture practices. The company is part of various sustainability initiatives working to make wine production sustainable now and in the future.
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