40 Under 40 – Local business owners and entrepreneurs are the leaders of tomorrow

When Anita Cassidy learned she was chosen as one of the winners of an award given to the business leaders of tomorrow, she was thrilled. The 40 Under 40 Business Achievement Awards are given out annually to business owners and entrepreneurs who have been identified as the next generation of business leaders because of their innovative ideas and contributions to  the community.

“I was really excited and happy to be recognized for what we’re doing,” says Cassidy, who is 34 years old and general manager and one of the founders of FreshInsights Consulting. The company provides consulting services in business planning, market research and marketing strategy. There are several consulting  businesses doing similar work, but what’s unique about them is that they recruit recent graduates from MBA and other economic programs and pair them with retired or semi-retired executives who volunteer their time to teach them the ropes.

Claire Morrison & Anita Cassidy

It’s a win-win for both sides, claims Cassidy, because the grads gain valuable hands-on experience working closely with their mentors, who are able to pass along what they’ve learned in their careers. Grads work on a six-month contract and do mostly market research and strategic business planning. In the three years since the company started, all 25 graduates have gone on to find jobs in their field. “We always say that we don’t just teach them how to make pretty resumes, we give them solid experience to put them on their way to employment in their field,” states Cassidy. Not surprisingly, their recipe has proven to be a huge success. The company has grown from five employees to 11 in three years and has worked with such diverse clients as the Halton District School Board and Cogeco.

Shauna Arnott, Business Development Manager for Business Link Media Group, which organizes the 40 Under 40 Business Achievement Awards, says the award was set up three years ago as a way to provide recognition to young professionals in Hamilton and Halton who have shown a rapid acceleration in their career and a strong commitment to community development. “We do it as a way for companies to be recognized as local business leaders and so that deserving young people who work hard to build their business are recognized,”  explains Arnott. “These are people who go the extra mile and who set up businesses that are also about making a commitment to their community.”

Arnott said this year’s winners were chosen from about 80 nominees by a panel of judges largely from the business community. Claire Morrison, who is marketing manager at FreshInsights, was also chosen for the award, which was celebrated at Carmen’s Banquet Centre in Hamilton on November 27.

Kim Whitaker was also among the winners and, like Claire and Anita, was chosen because of her innovative approach to her work. Whitaker is a Naturopathic Doctor who is an associate of the Oakville Naturopathic Wellness Centre on Wyecroft Road.

Whitaker was recognized for being a Naturopathic Doctor who went back to school for her Medical Doctor degree in an effort to provide a full spectrum of integrative care to her patients. She practices at the Oakville Naturopathic Wellness Centre and the Vital Link Wellness Centre.

Whitaker says it’s unusual, if not rare, to offer a fully integrated ND and MD combination to patients. “To be offering that combination to patients directly in the Hamilton-Halton region I do believe is the essence of innovative,” she notes. “I was truly honoured that Shauna and Business Link felt that way, too.  It’s been a very long road and it is incredibly gratifying to be recognized with such a talented group of entrepreneurs in the region.”

Cristina Carpio

Article Written by Denise Davy

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