Farmbound’s showcase at Kelowna Vegan Festival. Photo: Sydney Morton/Capital News

Okanagan small businesses shortlisted in grant contest

Three Okanagan businesses have made the top 75

Three Okanagan businesses have been shortlisted in the top 75 for the first Canadian Fedex Small Business Grant Contest.

The contest offers a total of $100,000 that will be disseminated to 10 Canadian small businesses. The grand prize will offer a $25,000 grant along with a meeting with FedEx Express Canada president Lisa Lisson, a branding marketing workshop, and a meeting with a Canadian business consultant. Silver will win $15,000 as well as a meeting with a Canadian business consultant, and Bronze will be shared with eight winners who will each receive $5,000.

Related:A fresh Kelowna business stands out of the bunch

Jaye Coward, Farmbound

Coward, an herbalist who believes in using plants and food as medicine, created Farmbound during a permaculture design course. Farmbound is a subscription-based organic food delivery program where local and organic food is delivered to the door, creating a more accessible way to support local farmers in the Okanangan.

“I just have this intense passion for local food, so I decided that with my business I could focus on what I am good at, which is selling and then the farmers could focus on what they are good at,” Coward said. “I wanted to figure out what was preventing people from buying local food and it’s access. The farmers market is only open a few days a week… so on my platform I am bringing the farmers market to people.”

The prize money would help Coward expand her business and fulfill her desire to work with consumers about adjusting their purchasing habits including waste and sustainability.

Sierra Birch, Birch Hill Studio

“It’s an amazing opportunity for a small business like mine,” Birch said. “It was really amazing that our followers on Instagram really made sure people voted for us.”

The boutique in Vernon was overwhelmed with support from its online following, and attributes its success thus far in the contest to them. Birch however, wants to give back even more to the community if her boutique is named in the top 10 finalists. With the money, she plans on making more of the sweaters and t-shirts where she donates $10 or $20, depending on the item purchased, to Cici Life Farm Sanctuary, Hoof Prints Barnyard and the Free To Be Talks program. Birch wants to focus on reinvesting her winnings into the Okanagan community.

“If you give back to your community, they are going to give back to you,” Birch said.

Chris Pafiolis, Sweet Legs

After starting the body positive brand with his wife, Addie, Sweet Legs focused on looking great but also feeling comfortable at any size. The business idea stemmed from their want to instill confidence to wear whatever they want and be comfortable doing it instead of being told by the fashion houses and influencers.

“We folded it into our company and have now stuck to those values. If you want to wear robots (patterns on your leggings), wear robots. Why should you not wear them?” Pafiolis said.

When the couple found out they were short listed for the grants they could not believe it, after a last-minute submission they thought they had no chance of making it.

“It’s unbelievable, it is kind of humbling and at the same time kind of mind-blowing to think that there are thousands of businesses that were put into this and that we made the short list. It’s mind-blowing to see our following and how quickly our own business has grown. Usually you don’t get to see from the outside very often, so it’s been unbelievable. It’s just great to see,” Pafiolis said.

Related:Women in Business: Empowerment and confidence through fitness

The winners will be announced June 19.

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