Current Campaign – Awaken Holistic Health & Wellness

When Brian Lalonde, founder of Awaken Holistic Health & Wellness, got sick eight years ago, dozens of visits to the doctor’s office left him feeling like something was missing from his diagnosis.

“A friend turned me on to the world of complimentary and alternative medicine, and that’s when I started seeing a difference being made. Then a lightbulb went off. I thought, what else is out there?”

Lalonde spent more than 20 years in the restaurant business before deciding to switch industries, after his own experience with various types of health care and wellness options. He saw a gap in the wellness industry that he knew he could fill.

The idea behind Awaken Holistic is to give health and wellness practitioners the support they need on the business side, so they can focus on providing great service to their clients. The business will eventually house many different wellness professionals, from physiotherapists to yoga instructors and lots in between, under one big roof.

“I’ve seen hundreds of different professionals in the industry. You never know what that thing is that’s going to make the difference for you, people connect with difference things,” Lalonde said.

“I noticed these professionals were always dealing with stuff. Maybe they didn’t have enough money, were working with more clientele than they could handle, working lots of jobs to do what they love to do.”

The business model is different because it focuses on helping wellness professionals of all kinds be successful at running their own businesses and practices. So the clients at Awaken Holistic are actually the wellness practitioners, rather than the users of the future facility and services that will be available.

“My thought is, if you take care of the professionals, their ability to deliver premium service to their clients will be there. It’s the same thing on a plane: put your own mask on before anyone else’s,” Lalonde said.

The other big goal for Lalonde is to offer Calgarians many different wellness options under one roof.

“If you met someone on the street and said, are you healthy, the majority of people would say, yeah, I eat right and I exercise. When people think of health, that’s what they think of,” Lalonde said.

“But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to health, If you’re dealing with stresses in your life with work or family or health conditions, mental health is something that doesn’t get addressed very often in either western medicine or in the holistic health and wellness world. So we’re a centre that wants to support the whole body.”

Lalonde said that he’s constantly looking for different types of professionals he hasn’t engaged with yet to be part of the centre. Right now, he’s looking to engage a financial advisor, explaining that often someone’s health might be affected by money troubles.

So far, Awaken Holistic will have a music therapist, an intimacy and tantric coach, yoga and fitness classes, a kitchen with food and chefs, products in their retail space, massage therapy, reiki, bio energy, various types of energy healing, a sauna, a float pod room, and salt therapy, among other wellness professionals and experiences.

Lalonde is running a crowdfunding campaign on Alberta Boostr, hoping to raise capital to help them open the physical space for Awaken Holistic. Right now, they’re operating as an online community to get started. Contributions can be made through

Awaken Holistic is also hosting a gala on December 8 to raise money. More information can be found on their Facebook page or at


BoostR Success Story – FREDsense

FREDsense Technologies lands coveted spot at Silicon Valley startup accelerator

A startup in Calgary is making waves—by testing waves.

FREDsense Technologies is a new Alberta-based business that engineers organisms to test water quality. The founders came up with a “bio-sensor” technology to engineer bacteria and put them in containers, much like USB sticks, which can be submerged into water to test for a wide variety of contaminants.

This technology will be useful for the oil and gas industry, as well as the agriculture industry. Its founders are all students or recent alumni of the University of Calgary.

Because this new technology has the potential to have a big impact, FREDsense was one of seven startups selected from a pool of 400 applicants from around the world to participate in an accelerator program for new businesses in Mountain View, California.

Co-founders David Lloyd, Chief Operating Officer, and Emily Hicks, CEO, are at Singularity University, which runs this program specifically for startups coming up with disruptive technology to solve big world problems.

“It’s pretty fantastic. I’m still realizing that we’re here, this is happening, right in the heart of Silicon Valley,” Lloyd said.

“We’re suffering from huge impostor syndrome. Looking around seeing the talent and huge ideas in other teams is unreal. We’re also the only Canadians here, and Emily is the only woman here.”

Lloyd and Hicks participated in ATB’s Alberta BoostR program, a rewards-based crowdfunding platform, to help raise some money for their startup. After they did this, they realized they needed to accelerate even more. That’s where the program they’re now participating in came in.

“It’s a 10 week experience, you get $100,000 for your company, and every week we’re learning rapidly how to run our business better. We’re being introduced to potential customers and investors. It’s been an awesome experience,” Lloyd said.

Alberta BoostR was important for Lloyd and Hicks because they needed a way to fund prototypes of their product. They needed to show potential customers and investors that their technology really works, and Alberta BoostR helped to provide them with some funding to do that.

“When I heard about Alberta BoostR, I thought it was an incredibly cool way we could have impact and get people involved in what we’re doing at the same time. We decided to give it a go, even though in some ways, we’re really not the ideal fit when it came to rewards-based crowd funding,” Lloyd said.

“It’s one of the big reasons we’re here today in California and having this opportunity.”

Since Alberta BoostR is a rewards-based crowdfunding initiative, Lloyd and Hicks had to come up with, well, rewards. They ended up giving out water bottles, Lloyd said, since it fit the theme of “testing what’s in your water.” They also gave out t-shirts and hoodies. Finally, they gave away experiences. First, the put on a biology art day, where kids painted pictures with bacteria that glowed in the dark. Then they hosted a “be a synthetic biologist for a day” experience.

Once they’re back in Alberta, Lloyd and Hicks plan to really get the business up and running by getting their products to market.

“And we want to do that in Alberta. We believe in the province and the people and the amazing talents we have, and that we can make an impact from there on the rest of the world,” Lloyd said.

The company’s first product, FRED (Field-Ready Electrochemical Detector), uses a genetically modified bacteria to detect multiple water-borne contaminants in two simple steps. A cartridge holding the ‘sensing’ bacteria and chemicals needed to run the test is placed in a detector with the water being tested. After one to two minutes the detector sends the results via Wi-Fi, 3G, or USB connection, to your device.

Video Source:

Entrepreneur Profile for Earth Day – Leor Rotchild of DIG


We love connecting with local entrepreneurs and when we heard of Leor Rotchild and what he was doing with DIG in Calgary we wanted to learn more.

Calgary may be an ‘Energy Heavy’ city, but it’s also a city full of entrepreneurial spirit and innovative ideas.  One such individual embodying these characteristics is Leor Rotchild, Co-founder of DIG (Do It Green) –an events management company with a specialty in sustainability and producing zero waste.  We had the pleasure of sitting down with Leor to learn about his company and his journey of becoming a business owner.

Despite a lengthy and lucrative career working as a Sustainability Advisor in Oil & Gas, Leor has also always been an ‘over-achieving’ volunteer –giving freely his time and expertise to a variety of local festivals and events including TedxYYC, and the Calgary Folkfest. For six years Leor volunteered with the Calgary Folkfest as their Environmental Manager, where he formalized an existing program, and turned it into a measurable, exciting, and fun program that was a unique first for a music festival in Canada.

But it wasn’t until an ‘a-ha moment’ coupled with a supportive comment and positive feedback from a colleague that the ball really started rolling. Leor admits there was self-doubt about whether a business focused on sustainable events was plausible or if there was even a market for something of this sort. But his business partners and he quickly realized what they were offering was on the cutting edge, and was something people are ready for.

It took five years in the making, but DIG opened for business in the summer of 2013, and since launching the team hasn’t looked back. This may partly have something to do with just how busy it is! As a company they dream big, and continue to push themselves as business owners and innovators.  Their client list includes The Calgary Stampede, The Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo, and the Calgary Marathon.

We asked Leor what a typical day was like at DIG, and he started that no two days are alike because there is so much variety in what they do.  One thing he really enjoys though is how he and his business partners continually meet interesting people, and are exposed to and involved in so many amazing events.

Through all of this Leor admits the learning curve can sometimes feel steep, finding it surprising how much he has learned about stuff he never thought would be relevant. But because these learnings are for the betterment of the company, the boring suddenly becomes interesting and exciting.

Having been a ‘late-bloomer’ in regards to entrepreneurial endeavors Leor does offer some advice for those looking to make the jump.  ‘If you believe in what you are doing and are prepared, then it ultimately comes down to practicing some courage and trusting yourself’. He also stands behind the importance of relying upon your network of people, which was instrumental in helping create success for DIG.

Moving forward Leor and his business partners are focused on continuing to develop solutions for environmental issues in regards to events. As the company keeps growing they plan to expand both with what they offer and where they offer it. Hopefully we are going to see DIG throughout Alberta and Canada very shortly.

For more information about DIG or to see what they are up to check out their website at

Money follows passion

Megan SzanikJust east of Calgary’s downtown core is a trendy little district called Inglewood. It’s a community that’s brimming with unique and one-of-a-kind shops and shopping experiences. One such business is Espy – an affordable designer boutique owned by Megan Szanik, a passionate, forward-thinking entrepreneur who is providing a retail environment that gives men and women a place to see themselves in a completely new light. The Espy experience is about teaching clientele to love their bodies with the discerning advice and caring approach of highly trained in-house clothing stylists. The Espy staff will help you create a wonderful and lasting wardrobe, but it is the confidence you walk out with that tells the real story behind the Espy experience.

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Megan recently to probe a little deeper into her business (which began as a designer discount concept in 2009); her guiding philosophies; and what Espy is about. It’s a story filled with risk-taking, gutsiness, hard-work and a whole lot of passion – elements successful entrepreneurs possess – yet Megan has the self-awareness to tell her story in a way that inspires and causes you to really listen to what she has to say. What we will share with you are some of the take-aways we captured that you can use to keep your entrepreneurial spirit strong and resilient.


Megan is passionate about making a difference in people’s lives – whatever their shape, height or size. She channels this passion and energy into helping her clients feel special and sees Espy as a place for people to let go of faulty personal judgments and heal from the inside out … and she just happens to sell clothes.


You will fail at  a number of things you do as an entrepreneur, whether it is a marketing initiative, a buying decision, or your entire business goes down the tube. Megan has had several business failures over the span of her career; however she doesn’t define herself as a failure. Everything she has experienced has given her greater clarity and purpose. The experiences that didn’t go as well as she thought, have been foundational in helping her continue to take risks and stay focused on her core purpose. “There is always something important to learn,” Megan says. “Learn it and move on.”


Espy has shown their uniqueness through creative fundraising/crowdfunding events in support of Prostrate Cancer (#nakedespy) and the Special Olympics (#bikiniespy). Megan’s approach is to stop seeing barriers to making things happen, and just start.

Megan says: “Start with the idea of helping someone. Start asking others to partner and work with you. Start with the decision makers. Start connecting face-to-face with people in your community. Start a gutsy movement or two and people will get behind you because people love being a part of something exciting and meaningful.”


Espy is now getting national coverage through media, which Megan is thrilled about, yet this is not how she validates herself and her business mission. Megan ‘trusts her gut’. She keeps herself grounded with meditation, exercise, and girlfriends who help her keep her thinking and ideas elevated. Because external conditions are forever changing, sometimes fleeting, Megan stays focused on her core values, and it’s building a lasting business.

It is said that money follows passion. Megan Szanik certainly proves this. Go to to discover more about this defining retail business.

Big thanks to Megan for sharing her story and insights into “what it takes” to be a successful small business. What about you? Do you have a story or something to share? Leave a comment on the blog or Facebook Page, or send us a Tweet!