The 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year Awards contest is now closed.
Be sure to check back in late September when we announce the winners.
Nima Tahmassb (sogoodtobuy)
In 2006, Nima began selling car accessories on eBay to support himself while finishing his university degree in Montréal. As a result of his early online success, Nima was offered North American distribution rights for a manufacturer of air conditioners and ductless heat pumps. Though cost-effectively shipping large appliances would be difficult, Nima saw the category as an unexplored area of opportunity. During the early days, eBay was Nima's main source of sales, and profits were used to build out other initiatives to help fuel growth - a warehouse, marketing and advertising, and, eventually, a company website. The business started taking off in 2008, but shortly after, it was hit by the effects of a recession when his manufacturer went out of business. Nima reacted by finding a new supplier, but this time around, he created his own in-house brand to protect his business from future manufacturer changes, as well as give him the freedom to expand his brand's product offerings. Last year, Nima unexpectedly found himself contributing to recovery efforts in Texas from Hurricane Harvey. Learning that the affected region was unable to purchase power generators locally, and that Americans were turning to eBay to buy much-needed supplies at competitive prices, Nima's team quickly sourced in-demand items which they offered with free, expedited shipping. Today, Nima runs a multi-channel, multi-million dollar business, operating out of four warehouses across North America. His once-side business on eBay has become Canada's top online air conditioner brand.
Mike Maguire (motomike_canada)
After running a pizza shop in Ottawa, Ontario for a decade, Mike traded in his apron to pursue his passion for cars. He got a position in the parts department of a local car dealership where his entrepreneurial instinct led him to opening an eBay store to sell the company's deadstock inventory. He saw products begin to move off the shelves to customers not just across the country, but around the world, so he doubled down on his ecommerce efforts. Realizing that he could further capitalize on his interest and expertise in sourcing motorcycle and car parts, Mike left the dealership a couple of years later to embark on his own eBay venture. Clearing off shelves in his own garage for his new business, he began sourcing rare, obsolete and liquidated parts for cars and motorcycles and created eBay listings that offered international shipping. Quickly, he found himself selling to customers across the globe, and his sales more than tripled within the first three months. Today, over 75% of Mike's sales are to buyers from international markets including Japan, France, Germany and the UK. His inventory portfolio has grown along with his export sales, and he now also caters to ATV, snowmobile and boating enthusiasts. His eBay business has grown from two shelves in his garage into a 3,000 sq. ft warehouse in the span of three years, and he's on track to double his annual sales in 2018.
Matt Dirk (silvergoldbull)
When Matthew joined the Silver Gold Bull team in Calgary, he had one objective - expand the bullion business's online presence to broaden their customer base. He believed bullion, a traditional business-to-business industry, was primed to tap into the consumer market thanks to ecommerce, and he saw an opportunity to show consumers how purchasing precious metals could be both fun as well as a smart, secure investment. While Silver Gold Bull was selling to traditional clients through their own website and over the phone, Matthew saw eBay as the right channel to penetrate the untapped consumer market. He initially established a store on eBay.ca, offering bullion products with consumer appeal like Canadian maple leaf coins and retro imprinted gold coins. Instantly, he saw the consumer business take off - shattering the company's eBay sales goals in the first few weeks on the site. To continue the growth and amplify the company's international presence, Matthew opened an additional store on eBay.com to cater to US customers, and has plans to open additional eBay stores soon. The company's online sales are up 400% with total eBay sales anticipated to hit the $8 million mark by the end of the year.
Vasilios Sakellaropoulos (universaldatasupplies)
Vasilios began selling computer printer ink and toner cartridges out of his friend and business partner's parents' basement. They sourced their inventory through traditional avenues and acquired customers through cold calls and telemarketing, but their low margins and customer base couldn't turn a profit. Getting online for both sourcing and selling inventory was pivotal for them. It allowed the pair to refine their inventory strategy and leverage the secondary market while also facilitating their expansion into the US—a strategy that turned their business around, quickly. Today, they run a multi-million-dollar Business & Industrial retail operation that includes multiple sales channels, a 3,500-square-foot retail and warehouse space, and six full-time employees.
Kalina Koleva & Maria Petrova (RunwayCatalog)
Kalina and her mother Maria turned their passion for fashion into a full-time online business that now employs all of the women in their family. Leveraging their relationships with Canadian brands and wholesalers, they began selling moderately priced shoes and accessories to customers across Canada. However, their business took off when they tapped into international trade opportunities facilitated by online marketplaces. Today, 95% of their sales are from outside of the country; Kalina and her team regularly sell to markets including the US, the Middle East, and Europe, and their inventory includes everything from Canadian products to high-end global brands. The success of their multi-million-dollar online business is just the beginning, as they are now leveraging some of the profits to start their own Canadian fashion label.
Charles Chiu (Refurbio)
Three years into working for a consumer electronics refurbisher and retailer, Charles realized that the company's stagnant online consumer business offered a tremendous opportunity for growth. By reviving this channel, Charles understood he would be able to generate a steady incremental sales stream to compliment the company's existing B2B-focused, omni-channel business. Leveraging online marketplaces, he tapped into key retail moments like back to school and holiday, offering highly competitive pricing on refurbished, "good-as-new" big-ticket tech items that came with full factory warranties. He also participated in online deal programs, like eBay Deals, for additional promotion and exposure of his price-competitive inventory. With continued triple-digit online sales growth in the domestic market, the online consumer channel has now become one of the primary sources of growth for the overall business, and Charles is starting to direct his efforts to increasing export sales for further growth.
Yossef Vidal (watchvendor)
Yossef and his wife Shoshana started selling cell phones on eBay, but quickly added watches to their inventory after research showed they were in high demand with limited competition. He and Shoshana quickly expanded their offerings to include name-brand jewellery, sunglasses, and handbags. Since 2013, they have more than doubled their yearly sales and have brought on three full-time employees to help them keep up with increased demand for their products. To date, their cumulative sales have amounted to more than $10 million.
Nadia Shuaib (budget_electronics)
Nadia started Budget Electronics as a cell phone accessories wholesale business out of her apartment in 2014, primarily selling inventory to local retailers. Since she began selling on eBay, she has grown her product portfolio by more than ten times, and has opened a 3,500 ft2 warehouse that also functions as a brick-and-mortar store. To date, her online sales have grown on average of more than 1,000 percent year over year, and she is projecting sales upward of $1 million in 2017.
Adrien Lavoie (boardshopw)
In 2011, Adrien started his business in the basement of his parents' house selling skateboard-related merchandise. He began selling online through eBay and quickly saw success, allowing him to build a 2,100 ft 2 brick-and-mortar store. Since then, Adrien has evolved his business to focus on sneakers. Selling globally is the key to Adrien's success: 90 percent of his sales are from outside of Canada, and he regularly ships items to more than 45 countries. To date, he has sold more than $1 million worth of shoes and apparel on eBay, and his year over year sales continue to double.