Gala RelèveON: 4 profitable younger Franco-Ontarian entrepreneurs

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TORONTO – The fifth RelèveON Awards Gala, held this Thursday in the metropolis of Ontario, awarded Soukaina Boutiyeb, Laurent Gérin, Estelle Chen and Jean-François Démoré, respectively winners in the inclusive leader, executive, professional and entrepreneur categories.

The jury decided: Soukaina Boutiyeb was elected Young Inclusive Leader for her dedication to her French-speaking community in Ontario and Canada in the sectors dedicated to women. Director General of the Alliance des femmes de la francophonie canadienne, she chairs the Board of Directors of the Association of Francophone Communities (ACFO) of Ottawa and the executive committee of the Center for Research in French-Canadian Civilization and Board of Governors of Saint Universidade Paulista.

She said she was surprised and delighted to receive the award. The Franco-Ottavian woman competed with Joëlle Kabisoso, who campaigns for access to justice for black girls and women, and Amy Sylla, creator of the Brown Sugar Talk platform, which gives voice to marginalized voices.

About 200 guests enjoyed the return of the gala in person. Image credit: ONFR+

Laurent Gérin won the Young Executive Award. Originally from Casselman, this engineering enthusiast works full-time for the start-up Clearcalcs, which automates engineers’ calculations. Under his leadership, the company grew from one to seven employees and continues to grow.

He reached the final alongside Éric Barette, cultural activities manager at the Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario, and Baptiste Bourquardez, director of immigration programs and services at the Collège Boréal.

Laurent Gerin. Image credit: ONFR+

In the Young Entrepreneur category, the award was given to Jean-François Démoré, a serial entrepreneur who launched and Innova Wealth Partners. A founding member of the Sudbury Golf Marathon, he raised over $300,000 for local charities in his first five years of operation.

He was competing with Sabrina Boulkheir, founder of Rendez-Vous, a company that showcases French gastronomy, and Sierra Levesque, ahead with her husband of RNL Cleaning Services, a janitorial services company in the Kapuskasing region.

Estelle Chen, meanwhile, won the Young Professional award. Manager responsible for fintech leverage at TD Bank, she has supported young entrepreneurs since 2014. She is also a co-founder of La French technology Toronto which brings together French and French-speaking technology entrepreneurs, business leaders, investors, academics and French and Canadian government representatives.

Estelle Chen, Young Professional Award Winner. Image credit: ONFR+

Two special prizes were also handed out overnight. The jury first highlighted the exceptional contribution of Connor Lafortune, awarding him the Coup de coeur prize. This Sudburois member of Anishinaabek First Nation of Dokis is the youngest nominee in the history of the Prix RelèveON, already a finalist in the previous edition, aged 18, in the Inclusive Leader category.

Lucie Moncion finally received the Tribute Stéphane-Taesdale award. A Senator since 2016, she was the first woman in Canada appointed to head a Federation of Credit Unions and served as Vice Chair of the Board of Governors of Nipissing University.

Lise Béland, president of the Canadian Club of Toronto. Image credit: ONFR+

Presented by journalists Rudy Chabannes from TFO and Philippe de Montigny de radio canadalater accompanied by the music of DJ UNPIER, this event was held in the decor of a church converted into a reception room in downtown Toronto.

This fifth edition was the return to the face-to-face modality of the event, which was limited in the last two years to an online broadcast, due to the pandemic and health restrictions. Initially based in Toronto for the first three years, the competition that rewards the talent of young French-speaking entrepreneurs under the age of 40 has taken on a provincial dimension since its 4th edition.

More than half of the 62 entries received this year came from outside Queen City, and nearly two-thirds were women, a record since the competition began.

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