ELLA launches Ascend 2021, welcoming new cohort of women founders to York’s entrepreneurial community

Seventeen women entrepreneurs in the ELLA Ascend program 2021

The ELLA (Entrepreneurial Leadership & Learning Alliance) accelerator program launched its Ascend 2021 program on March 4, announcing a new cohort of 17 women entrepreneurs who will join York University’s vibrant entrepreneurial community.

The announcement comes as ELLA – a program created by women for women, with a mission to reduce the gap of gender inequality in entrepreneurship – marks its first-year anniversary.

ELLA Ascend is a five-month accelerator program, running from March to July, designed for women entrepreneurs to scale their business at a fast-tracked pace. Entrepreneurs have the opportunity to connect with a network of experts and entrepreneurs, and learn the skills needed to take their business to the next level. Participants gain access to one-on-one mentorship from Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, hands-on workshops, networking opportunities with industry professionals, and insights from peers through bi-weekly Founder Circles.

The program is open to women entrepreneurs in the GTA or Southwestern Ontario regions with at least 50 per cent ownership of an incorporated business.

Seventeen women entrepreneurs in the ELLA Ascend program 2021

Seventy-six per cent of ELLA program participants identify as being a member of more than one under-represented group. In keeping with ELLA’s commitment to building an inclusive community of entrepreneurs, the Ascend 2021 program cohort contains women founders from diverse backgrounds and various sectors.

Kitty Shum is an occupational therapist and founder and CEO of Loti Wellness. Loti Wellness is a self care subscription box that nurtures positivity and joy through research-inspired therapeutic activities to enhance mental and emotional health, while providing natural wellness products to encourage more time for self care.

Emilia Coto is principal lawyer and founder of Sisu Legal. Sisu Legal is an international immigration law firm with offices in Windsor, Ontario and Troy, Michigan. A large portion of the firm’s practice is dedicated to helping Canadians and Americans reunite with loved ones from overseas.

Accountant-turned-social entrepreneur Zahra Qureshi is principal of Optinum Professional Corp., an accounting and business advisory firm dedicated to the unique needs of social enterprises (for-profit and non-profit).

Lawyer Martha Sullivan’s firm, Sullivan Law Ptbo, is built on kindness and respect to clients, colleagues and the community. The Peterborough-based firm practices real estate, wills, estate, corporate and employment law.

Jane Bradley is the founder and owner of Jane Media Inc., a publishing and marketing firm that owns the ParentsCanada brand. ParentsCanada is an online destination for families that includes a robust website, weekly radio show, magazine and an annual book, The Baby & Child Care Encyclopedia.

Sisa Lleses is founder and CEO of Design Off The Boat, an all-women product design crew for all women founders. The company works with social entrepreneurs with the goal of accelerating the time-to-impact of tech solutions for social enterprises.

Graphic designer Christine Lieu is founder of CL Designs and host of the Brand Party Podcast. With CL Designs, she helps social impact businesses and non-profits create cohesive branding, web design, and social content creation to increase impact and sales.

Gemmologist Kelly Kan, founder of Oz & Ella, is a third-generation pearler and second-generation jewelry designer. She is carrying on the family business with a different focus by working with alternative jewelry materials, such as silicone and wood, to produce stylish, well-made pieces that are design forward.

Erin Cowling is the president and founder of Flex Legal Network Inc. Flex Legal matches qualified, pre-vetted, and experienced freelance lawyers and law clerks with sole practitioners, law firms and legal departments across Canada to assist with legal work on an as-needed, part-time or project basis.

Brazilian-born entrepreneur Fernanda Habbab is founder of Spice and Bites Brazilian Cuisine, a catering company that offers a variety of Brazilian appetizers, desserts and frozen meals.

Tamara Shelly is owner and operator of Classic Juice Co., a wellness company best known for handcrafted, small batch, cold-pressed, raw, natural, 100 per cent juice elixirs made with purpose and passion. The team’s mission is to support individuals on a self care journey while motivating them to seek and serve their purpose in their daily lives.

Criminologist Laurie Samuel created Cupid’s Sting, a women’s safety non-profit that teaches women life-saving skills to protect themselves inside and outside the home, after seeing an escalation in violence against women. Cupid’s Sting offers women’s self defense classes and facilitates workshops on domestic violence prevention, dating abuse, and street harassment.

Sisters Antonia and Ivana Juric co-founded Leo & Co., the first inclusive baking company in the GTA area. Their bakery creates treats for alternative diets and lifestyles that are delicious, handcrafted and always free from: gluten, grains, dairy, refined-sugar, soy, peanuts, chemicals and preservatives.

Adriana Scali, a certified human resources leader (CHRL), is founder of LINK HR Inc., a firm that provides outsourced HR services and consultation to small and medium-sized enterprises in Ontario.

Julie Klukas is the founder of Shy Wolf Candles, a soy candle brand inspired by tarot, stardust and rock ‘n’ roll. All candles are hand-poured in the country village of Grey Highlands, Ontario and are made with cotton wicks, reusable glass amber jars, sustainably-grown soy wax, and clean-burning, premium fragrance oils.

Daniella Quagliara is the founder of Nail Diva, the first ever nail polish remover clip. The patented product eliminates the common mistakes that are made when painting nails, like smudging wet nail polish and nail polish chips. Vegan and cruelty free, it was ergonomically designed for nail polish removal.