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Meet the women entrepreneurs participating in new Vancouver initiative with $25K grand prize

From sustainable skincare to better-for-you foods.

Narrowing down over 4,600 bright, innovative ideas to only a handful was a long, but inspiring, process for the founder of Smart Sweets. 

Tara Bosch, who launched the low-sugar candy company in Vancouver in 2015 (which was also recently spotted in Cardi B's music video), is on a mission to empower and help other women entrepreneurs through her own incubator program. 

Bold Beginnings will bring in around 10 young women entrepreneurs across North America to Vancouver for a chance to win $25,000. 

But the event, which takes place in October, will also gift all participants with far more than money can provide: golden nuggets of knowledge that will help bring their visions to life, a group of peers that each can lean on for support, and, ultimately, normalizing feelings of imposter syndrome and self-doubt that are common among entrepreneurs, shares Bosch. 

Bosch recalls being taken aback by the scores of impressive ideas she received, from the use of 3D technology to create a perfectly fitted custom bra to forwarding the future of better-for-you foods with innovative sustainable packaging to artificial intelligence-powered solutions.

"It takes deep courage every single day to move forward a vision that has the potential to create meaningful, lasting impact in the world," shares Bosch. "Designed to be an intimate experience that fosters connection and tailored support to each company's needs, the intent for Bold Beginnings is to be a transformative experience that normalizes fears and insecurities felt by women entrepreneurs, empowering them to show up with the courage they have within them every day to bring their vision to life." 

The first annual incubator program will take place on Oct. 20 and 21 in Vancouver, and one woman or founder duo will leave with $25,000 strings-free to put towards her/their company. 

Earlier this week, the participants of Bold Beginnings' first cohort were selected, with some entrepreneurs based in Vancouver as well as other Canadian cities. 

Meet the chosen women entrepreneurs:

Lauren Sudeyko, Seray (Vancouver)

The Vancouver-based founder was on a mission to improve women's sleepwear after seeing first-hand that many existing options used unsustainable fabrics and fell short of expectations and needs (they were either too hot, too thick, or too tight). As a result, Sudeyko created her own sleepwear sets, made from soft, cooling fabric that helps regulate body temperature, that are not only comfortable but also stylish. Seray's mix-and-match sets come in a variety of sizes, too. 

Paige Cey and Julie Letizia, Benny (Vancouver)

Benny is a beverage with benefits; a jitter-free yerba mate energy drink infused with brain-boosting adaptogens. The better-for-you drinks began to take shape in Julie's kitchen, and the founder duo brought in a naturopath to help create the final formula -- which is low-sugar, all-natural, and contains 80mg of caffeine per can. There are currently three flavours: lychee peach, elderberry yuzu, and raspberry hibiscus. 

Jessica Donati and Rhae Gillespie, Mintier (Toronto)

This Canadian duo developed a holistic sugar-free alternative to breath fresheners in the shape of a natural oil-based serum spray. Each bottle contains over 100 sprays, meaning it lasts for a whole month. 

Serena Advani, Seadrop Skincare

Skin cleansers come in gels, foams, and many other formulas. What about pills? The founder of this sustainable skincare brand developed a cleanser tablet that only requires a splash of water to activate. "Traditional liquid cleanser is around 90 per cent water and stored in single-use plastic," says Advani. "Our waterless cleanser comes in zero-waste, refillable packing." It's a small just-add-water skincare tablet with a big impact. 

Drew Lederman and Emily Cohen, Resist

These natural plant protein bars have hormonal and blood sugar imbalances in mind, meaning no blood sugar spikes or energy crashes. They're also packed with superfoods without any additives or artificial fillers. There are currently three flavours: cinnamon cacao maca, goji cherry chia, and peanut butter turmeric.

Chiara Munzi and Izzy Gorton, ChiChi

Two college students decided to revolutionize breakfast, creating chickpea oatmeal -- plant-based protein without added sugar and artificial ingredients. The texture is similar to steel-cut oats but less mushy.