Combining the power assist of an e-bike and a fat bike’s ability to tackle tough terrain, the Juggernaut—the innovation of Roshan Thomas (BE’11) and his business partners, wife Aathmeeya and brother Rethan—is gaining momentum.
Mark Oleniuk is used to managing large industrial projects for oil and gas corporations. His project management company’s first major commercial project partnered him with a client that works with a different kind of precious black liquid—one brewed by an iconic Canadian brand.
After earning his engineering degree from the University of Saskatchewan, Oleniuk (BE’06) moved to Australia to work as a mechanical engineer for a mining company. He returned to Canada working on industrial plant construction and mechanical installations in the oil and gas and mining sectors in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
While working on a mining project in McArthur River, Sask., he met Harpreet Singh. “We developed a strong relationship, and we both had ambitions to start our own company someday,” said Oleniuk. “So, we decided to see where that would take us,” and the two founded Element Project Services (EPS), based in Saskatoon.
Contracts with industrial clients in the mining and oil and gas sectors—including Cameco, Mosaic, Husky Energy and Imperial Oil—led to growth for the company. “One of our first hires was another U of S engineering grad.” The company now employs about 25 people.
Realizing the inherent ups and downs of resource sectors, Oleniuk and Singh sought to diversify their portfolio to grow the company. “You develop a skill set working with industrial clients: attention to detail and safety, tracking the project, working in a highly regulated environment and obtaining certifications,” said Oleniuk. “Bringing all of that to commercial projects would be a valuable asset.”
After establishing an office in Toronto, Ont.—again, to work with a client in oil and gas—Singh was introduced to the vice-president of the real estate development group of Tim Hortons.
“A few months after [that initial meeting] we got a call,” said Oleniuk. “They said the project would be high profile and have tight timelines.” Oleniuk and Singh thought they were up for the challenge.
The project: redevelop Restaurant #1, the original Tim Hortons in Hamilton, Ont., for the company’s 50th anniversary.
“They wanted the store re-opened by the end of 2014. It was already May, and there were no approvals from the city,” explained Oleniuk. “But the city was willing to push approval faster because of the history of Tim Hortons in the area.”
Houses on two adjacent properties were demolished to make the store larger, and a second floor was added to accommodate a Tim Hortons museum. The fact that the original restaurant was in a former gas station garage presented some environmental challenges too; the soil had to be remediated.
“It was all hands on deck to get it done,” said Oleniuk. He assigned EPS’s top project manager, Joseph Konney, to manage the high-profile project. They broke ground in September, and coffee and Timbits were being served on December 20, 2014. A grand re-opening was held on January 7, 2015.
Oleniuk admits that this project will be a tough act to follow, but he is confident the successful renovation gives their expansion into commercial project management a boost.
“It was exciting to be part of the renovation. During construction, there would always be people passing by taking photos. People recognize the significance of that store; it’s such an iconic brand.”
A University of Saskatchewan alumnus is part of a team that redeveloped the world’s first Tim Hortons location.
Element Project Services (EPS), a Saskatoon-based engineering firm co-founded by mechanical engineering graduate Mark Oleniuk (BE ’06), recently wrapped up extensive renovations to “Store One,” the original location of the ubiquitous coffee chain and Canadian institution.
The location had a soft opening this past week and its grand opening is planned for Jan. 7. In addition to serving all the Tim Hortons favourites, the store has a second-floor museum where retro uniforms and other pieces of company nostalgia are on display.
Local Hamilton media was on hand to mark the first day of operation for the renovated store.
Craig Reynolds (BComm,98, MPAcc’99) was recently announced as the next president and CEO of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, replacing Jim Hopson on March 1, 2015.
Originally from Foam Lake, Sask., the Edwards School of Business grad worked overseas for several years for KPMG and Thomson Scientific. In 2005, he returned to Canada and held a variety of managerial positions with Suncor Energy in Calgary and Fort McMurray, Alta.
Reynolds joined the Riders in 2009 as their chief financial officer (CFO), and was promoted to senior vice-president and CFO three years later.
He has been actively involved with the development of the new stadium—particularly developing the club’s capital campaign—and also chaired the 2013 Grey Cup committee.
“Since I was eight years old, surrounded by barn cats, being a vet was all I wanted to be.”
Making the 2014 W100 ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs—a list put together by the editors of PROFIT and Chatelaine magazines— illustrates that Dr. Wendy McClelland, founder and co-owner of Vets To Go, made a wise career choice.
To make that childhood dream become a reality, McClelland (DVM’02) attended various Alberta and BC universities before starting veterinary school at Ross University in St. Kitts.
After one year studying at the tropical West Indies isle, McClelland was able to transfer to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the U of S. “The program at the U of S was great. I enjoyed my classmates, who were very welcoming. I enjoyed the fun part about vet school too, with the water fights when we were still allowed to have them back then.”
McClelland got the mixed-clinic (working on both large and small animals) training and experience she needed before moving back to her hometown of Pincher Creek, Alta. to work at a local clinic.
“The U of S really prepared me. You are thrown out, as new grad on call at night during calving season, and I surprised some farmers when I showed up at night, not my boss, and put two hands in to pull out twins. I felt well prepared to do mixed animal [care].”
A move to Airdrie, just outside of Calgary, and two children later, McClelland was feeling the pressure of being a parent and full-time vet. Instead of choosing one over the other, she started Vets To Go, a mobile veterinary service that provides in-home animal care.
“Our business model is based on quality of life—for our vets, for our clients and for the animals,” explained McClelland.
Most services—such as physical examinations, vaccinations, preventative care and end of life care—can be done in the client’s home. A local vet clinic is rented on Sundays to perform surgeries.
With a business coach—who later became a partner—to help with the business side of things, the company started to grow. “I thought about other vets who are moms. What about their work-life balance? So we thought of expanding.”
A central booking system and back-end support are competitive edges over other mobile vets that opened the door to growth. Vets To Go now has associates in several Alberta locations and is looking to expand throughout Western Canada and potentially nation-wide.
McClelland admits the concept of making house calls is foreign to some of her colleagues. But she said, “A lot of the more progressive vets are happy to work together.” She can refer clients to a clinic for emergency care, food or other pet products. “And they can refer the cats they don’t want to see because they are crazy in the clinic,” she joked.
Even though she is among Canada’s top female entrepreneurs, McClelland didn’t always see herself as an entrepreneur at all. “I’m primarily a vet; I love what I’m doing. I didn’t want to own my own clinic with a building and staff and all the headaches. But I have always been willing to take a risk and make quick decisions. And once you have a university degree, there are so many things you can do.”
Owning and running her own business wasn’t part of the game plan for Corrin Harper as a young business student at the University of Saskatchewan, let alone becoming one of Canada’s top female entrepreneurs.
Yet, that is just what she has done, being named to the 2014 W100 ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs, a list put together by the editors of PROFIT and Chatelaine magazines.
Harper (BComm’95, MBA’00) doesn’t recall an option to take classes geared toward owning your own business when she was a College of Commerce (now Edwards School of Business) student. “The emphasis was on getting a job with a big company. Bringing in recruiters from big companies seemed to be the focus [of the college],” said Harper.
She had somewhat typical, albeit not totally accurate, perceptions of business school at the time: a major in marketing would lead to a career in sales and accounting meant a life of counting beans. That narrowed her options. “I liked human resources, and healthcare administration seemed interesting. I thought having a double major would help my employment prospects,” said Harper.
The passage of time brings wisdom, and upon further reflection on her time at the U of S, Harper noted, “All the courses you take are relevant to running a company. I didn’t necessarily see the connections until later.”
After working in the healthcare field for a few years, analyzing data and trends, Harper decided to return to the U of S to pursue her MBA. That’s when she met Larry Goodfellow (BComm’72, MBA76).
“Larry was my marketing professor, and he owned a consulting company that I worked for. They outsourced their data and surveys, so we decided to look at starting a business focusing on primary research.”
So began Insightrix Research Inc. With a third partner who had some technical expertise, they developed their own online research software that allowed both interviewers and online respondents to use the same system to collect and analyze responses—a unique feature at the time.
“Larry is very entrepreneurial. For me, it was a bit of an adjustment. But I thought, ‘If I’m going to work this hard, why not do it for myself?’ There’s more control; that’s what I like.” But being your own boss comes with risks too. “Everything I do impacts whether I get paid or not.”
As the company grew—including opening an office in Australia—Harper recognized Saskatchewan was being underserved with province-specific data to help make political, social and business decisions. She explained that national survey panels would only have a few Saskatchewan residents in their sample because our population is small relative to the rest of the country. But her Saskatchewan clients needed provincial information. So, they created SaskWatch Research, an online research panel made strictly of Saskatchewan residents. SaskWatch now has over 15,000 registered participants, and they are creating a similar panel in Manitoba.
Some large national research companies have started to notice opportunity in Saskatchewan’s growth. But Harper is confident that SaskWatch, client-focused service and expansion into other areas of online research—like SMS-based polls and surveys, online communities, gamification of research, and providing measurement dashboards and infographics—have given Insightrix a solid foundation and competitive edge.
This fall, Harper had the opportunity to meet other members of the elite W100—past and present. She shared their collective advice for budding entrepreneurs: “Do what you want to do. You have to have a passion for it.” She added her own advice, “[You need to] take risks, have courage and work hard … and if you have a passion for it, it won’t seem like pressure and sacrifice at all.”
UPDATED Dec. 11, 2014
Two University of Saskatchewan alumnae were named to the W100 ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs, put together by the editors of PROFIT and Chatelaine magazines.
Corrin Harper (BComm, 95, MBA’00)
Corrin Harper is co-founder and president of Insightrix Research Inc., a market research company with offices in Saskatoon, Sask. and Horsham, Australia, serving clients around the globe. The company conducts traditional market research and innovative techniques to get quality information for their clients. The development of their research software led to the creation of Wagtale Communications, a wholly owned subsidiary that allows clients to develop self-service marketing and market research solutions.
Wendy McClelland (DVM’02)
Dr. Wendy McClelland is the founder of Vets To Go, a veterinary service that makes house calls, providing vet care in the animal’s own environment. Services include comprehensive physical exams; vaccinations and shots; microchipping; blood, allergy and other tests; preventative care; and compassionate end of life care. Vets to Go started in southern Alberta and is quickly expanding across Canada.
The W100 ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs ranks female business leaders according to a proprietary formula that combines the sales, three-year revenue growth rate and profitability of their businesses. All data is verified through financial statements supplied by candidates. To qualify, candidates must be owners or significant stakeholders who at least share chief decision-making capabilities.
See the full W100 list.
Of the 30 awards given out at Saskatoon’s National Philanthropy Day celebration on November 14, 12 University of Saskatchewan alumni received an Honoured Supporter Award and another was named the 2014 Chamberlain Scholar.
The U of S alumni honoured are:
Vera Pezer (BA’62, MA’64, PhD’77), honoured by the University of Saskatchewan. Alumna. Athlete. Leader. Friend. There are so many ways one could describe Vera Pezer that it’s hard to decide which is best. That’s why the University of Saskatchewan is so fortunate to have a supporter as passionate and dedicated as Vera. For over four decades Vera has given generously to the U of S whether as a counsellor, chancellor or patron member of the Greystone Circle legacy society. Vera’s contributions to our campus have undoubtedly changed it for the better.
Brian Toole (BusAdm’91), honoured by the Canadian Cancer Society. Brian Toole’s history with the Canadian Cancer Society is marked by tremendous fundraising success and leadership. His committee contributions to the 1st, and 14 subsequent Saskatoon Relay For Life events, has helped to raise over $3.5 million. He has also been a key volunteer at two other signature events, Jail-N-Bail and the Daffodil Campaign, and generously gives his time and expertise at our education presentations. Brian’s philanthropic efforts reflect an exceptional commitment to, and impact on, the fight against cancer.
June (BComm’84) and Tom (BComm’82) Zurowski, honoured by Catholic Family Services. Tom and June are long term supporters of CFS. This support presents in the form of time, expertise, and money. Tom and June have donated $71,000 to CFS representing as much as 27% of donations in any given year. Beyond this donation, they support many of our internal initiatives including reaching our UW goal, “rescuing” our fundraising initiatives, and quietly supporting the needs of clients. We call them tomandjuneannonymous! June has been on staff for 28 years and we are thrilled to nominate them for this award.
Deb and Cliff Weigers (BComm’83), honoured by Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan. Creating a culture of philanthropy seems to come naturally to Deb and Cliff Wiegers. This energetic couple has held a number of board of director positions in this community, with Deb serving on the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan board for 10 years. Not only do they personally support
charities, Deb and Cliff continue to lead their dynamic team of colleagues in the hugely successful Wiegers Care for Kids fundraiser held in support of the Children’s Hospital Foundation.
Ken Potikes (BComm’71) and Darlene Bessey, honoured by Meewasin Valley Authority. Ken and Darlene, a ‘power couple’ in Saskatoon philanthropy, are long-time supporters of Meewasin, both financially and through gifts of land. They currently sit as co-chairs for the Meewasin Matters Campaign, but their philanthropic legacy includes leadership roles in the Saskatoon Centennial Celebrations, Folkfest Greek Pavilion and the YWCA, to name a few. Unassuming and straight forward, both Ken and Darlene are key to Meewasin Matters’ success. Meewasin is proud to recognize them for their commitment to our community.
Janea Bellay-Dieno (BComm’01), honoured by READ Saskatoon. Janea Bellay-Dieno is a certified financial planner and has a Bachelor of Commerce degree in marketing from the U of S. Janea spends her free time volunteering with various committees including the Saskatchewan Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs, READ Saskatoon, BNI Saskatchewan and Business Professional Women’s Club of Saskatoon. She has worked with READ Saskatoon for almost a decade and is one of the agency’s most valued supporters and friend of literacy.
Zeba Ahmad (BSc’87), honoured by Saskatoon Community Foundation. Current chair of the board, Zeba Ahmad’s fundraising experience with sponsors, donors and special events is a great benefit to the Saskatoon Community Foundation. Zeba has a great deal of volunteer experience and her commitment to our community is well awarded with a nomination for the 2007 YWCA Woman of Distinction Award and the recipient of the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award in 2008. Past Chair of the Royal University Hospital Foundation, she has also served on that board since 2002.
Greg Yuel (BA’93) and Friends of the Bowl Foundation Inc.-the Bowl at Gordon Howe Park Revitalization Project, honoured by the City of Saskatoon on behalf of Saskatoon
Minor Football. With the vision of a world-class home for football, just one year after announcing the $11 million revitalization project, the Friends of the Bowl delivered. Gordon Howe Park is now home to the breathtaking Saskatoon Minor Football Field. Quarterbacking the campaign is the unwavering and passionate campaign chair Greg Yuel, whose leadership and personal generosity has helped 100+ volunteers raise $8 million so far. The team’s tireless work and dedication will impact our young athletes and our city for years to come.
Brian (BComm’82) and Kathy Turnquist, honoured by Saskatoon Public Schools Foundation. Making a difference, leveling the playing field and helping children be their best come natural to Brian and Kathy Turnquist. They are kind and generous people that care about education and children. Brian and Kathy have created opportunities for hundreds of children to participate in Summer Reading Camp so little learners receive the intensive, personalized supports they need. Thank you Brian and Kathy, for your support of the Foundation that has been life changing for students attending Saskatoon Public Schools.
Julie Kosteniuk (PhD’09), Hugo Alvarado, Sharon Alvarado and Bob Doerksen, honoured by SSPC-Crisis Nursery. Hugo Alvarado, Julie Kosteniuk, Sharon Alvarado and Bob Doerksen are valued volunteers and supporters of the Saskatoon Crisis Nursery. They have committed countless hours to enhance the annual Crisis Nursery fundraising dinner and auction. Through their expertise and commitment, the Crisis Nursery dinner and auction annual net proceeds have increased from $10,000 to $58,000! The Saskatoon Crisis Nursery thanks Hugo, Julie, Sharon and Bob for the time they volunteer to help make this fundraising event such a success.
Heather Kehoe (BusAdm’09) and Lesley Courtney, honoured by The Lighthouse Supported Living Inc. Lesley Courtney and Heather Kehoe’s enthusiasm, generosity and many long hours as co-chairs of the Lighthouse Up Capital Campaign contributed greatly to reaching the goal of $4 million in less than one year’s time. By voicing their belief in the need for services supporting those who have experienced homelessness, others were encouraged to contribute their time and money towards the much-needed renovations of the Lighthouse’s supported living suites and expansion of the Stabilization Unit.
Shirley Zhou (MSc’05) received the 2014 Chamberlain Scholarship, which will allow her to attend the AFP International Conference for the first time.
National Philanthropy Day—celebrated by numerous fundraisers, government leaders, businesses, and individuals across the country—provides an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of giving and all it has accomplished, as well as what there still is to do.
*Biographical information on the recipients is from AFP Saskatoon’s luncheon program.
UPDATE: Read a Q&A with Greg Smith
At its Oct. 9 meeting, the Board of Governors approved a motion to have Greg Smith replace Susan Milburn as chair of the U of S Board of Governors, and to elect Lee Ahenakew as vice-chair.
Smith, a U of S commerce graduate (BComm’79) and partner in the Swift Current accounting firm Stark & Marsh LLP, will assume the role of chair in October. Milburn (BComm’78, MBA’80), a member of the board since 2006, will conclude her term on Oct. 18 when University Senate elects its new representative on the board.
“It is a privilege to serve the University of Saskatchewan as a member of the board, and I appreciate the opportunity to serve as chair,” said Smith, who was originally appointed to the board in 2007. “I want to thank Susan Milburn for her leadership and commitment to the board and our university; she has exemplified public service during her time on the board. I am excited about the future of our university and look forward to working with my colleagues on behalf of the University of Saskatchewan.”
Smith chairs the governance and executive committee, and serves on both the audit, and the finance and investment committees. He has a long history of community involvement, including terms as president of the Swift Current Kiwanis Club, director for the Saskatchewan Special Olympic Games, Swift Current United Way and South West Centre for Entrepreneurial Development. He is a past governor of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, past president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Saskatchewan and served as an instructor at the University of Regina and Athabasca College.
Ahenakew, also a U of S commerce graduate (BComm’97), was appointed to the board in January 2013, shortly after he relocated to Saskatoon from Dundas, Ontario where he worked at the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business as vice-president of member relations. He is currently employed with BHP Billiton working in community engagement. He has served on several other boards and brings to the U of S expertise in corporate Aboriginal relations and is a certified professional director. He chairs the board’s audit committee and also serves as a member of the land and facilities committee.
The University of Saskatchewan’s Board of Governors is responsible for overseeing and directing all matters respecting the management, administration and control of the university’s property, revenues and financial affairs. The board consists of eleven members: the chancellor and the president of the university as ex officio members, five members appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council, two members elected by University Senate, the president of University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union, and one faculty member.
Want to know the chances the Saskatchewan Roughriders will finish first the CFL’s west division this season? As of Sept. 22, it was seven per cent, largely thanks to a Sept. 21 Rider victory over Ottawa and Calgary losing to Montreal. After a shut-out loss to Edmonton on Sept. 26 though, their chances will likely drop significantly.
And to find out how the odds are calculated, you only have to go as far as the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan.
Keith Willoughby (BComm’90), associate dean of research and academics in the school, is the designer of the results simulation model the CFL is now hosting on its website. For Willoughby, it is a labour of love.
“I’ve always been a football fan,” he said, recounting family trips from Melfort to Regina to watch the Riders. And in the lean years, “it was more exciting to eat at McDonald’s than go to the game.” Willoughby dreamed of playing football but after joining his high school team, that dream was foiled “by a combination of genetics and an unwillingness to get the snot kicked out of me.”
Turning instead to an academic career, Willoughby developed a second passion—building spreadsheet models to quantify outcomes. They come in handy in the courses he teaches about business analytics and in 2013, he decided to apply the same principles to professional football.
Here is how the model works. Teams are assigned a strength value based on their win-loss record, the margin of victory or loss in all games played, the opponents each team has already played and whether the win or loss occurred at home or away, and the remaining games in the season and whether those games are at home or away. Each Monday, Willoughby inputs the results of weekend games. The model then simulates the remainder of the season 10,000 times and recalibrates each team’s strength value and the likelihood of finishing first in the division.
And certain scenarios can significantly change the value, he explained. “If Saskatchewan beats a good team, say Edmonton or Calgary, it would boost Saskatchewan’s strength value. And if they beat that team on the road, then the Riders get an even bigger boost. All things being equal, winning on the road is better.”
Another strength booster is a wide margin of victory, he said. Unfortunately, this season the Riders have been winning by a little but losing by a lot which isn’t helping their cause.
Willoughby expects the model to show greater accuracy as the season progresses because it has more real data to work with; it is more likely to correctly predict to the end of the season after teams have played 14 of 18 games than after they have played only four.
He did a test run of the model in the 2013 season and then offered it to the CFL. The league started posting the spreadsheet results at week 10 of the season.
Improving the model is something Willoughby is already thinking about. Next year, he would like to adjust the spreadsheet so it assigns more weight to more recent games rather than equal weight to all games in the season. “This would help take into account things like a team losing its starting quarterback,” he said.
But what about predicting the Grey Cup winner? That, he said, “is the one ‘yeah, but.’ If you could predict the second- and third-place finishers, you could project to the Grey Cup but the possible combinations are astronomical. If I could figure out a way of doing that efficiently, it would add a lot more realism.”
Willoughby presented his spreadsheet model at a meeting of the American Statistical Association this summer and plans to prepare a paper about it for submission to an academic journal. But he has even more plans.
“It would really great to build a spreadsheet that would help a football team determine within a game the optimal strategy at a certain time. Say you’re third and one on the five-yard line—what’s the best thing to do?”
He would also like to build a model “to help fans determine when to turn off the TV when their team is losing. When is enough enough?”
After he figures that out, Willoughby has an even bigger project in mind. Pointing to the premise of the movie Moneyball, he imagines developing a model that can quantify each player’s contribution to the team. “It would help teams make decisions about who to draft and how to work within the salary cap.”
Unlike in the movie though, where a single batter is pitted against a single pitcher, football is a team sport and it is much more difficult to determine a single player’s value. Such a spreadsheet is years down the road but, again referring to the movie, Willoughby is already imagining himself as “the Brad Pitt of the CFL.”
Colleen MacPherson is the editor of On Campus News.
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