Ontario Made Manufacturer Success Stories
There’s exciting growth happening in the manufacturing sector, and it’s an exciting time to start a career in manufacturing.
Manufacturing jobs are high value, high tech, highly skilled, and high paying. If you’re looking for a career with potential, a job in manufacturing is a great choice!
Alba Lisa, Co-Founder and CEO, Albalisa
Alba Lisa herself is a talented businesswoman with a real zest for life and culture. She has a zealous gift for bringing flavours alive in her food and enjoys not only hosting, but truly entertaining each of her guests. Despite her interest in recipe development and catering, Alba Lisa took to teaching in Mexico early on in her career. She was an elementary school teacher with a focus on Spanish and music. Ironically, she would bring her tortilla press to class hosting Mexican themed parties right there in her classroom. Eventually, Alba Lisa and her husband decided to experience life a little further away from home, choosing to move to Canada. They set up home in Toronto where Alba Lisa decided to take some time away from teaching to relax, cook and entertain family and friends.
Cooking and catering were never considered work to Alba Lisa. Her sister-in-law, who owned a store in the Toronto area, had asked Alba Lisa to sell her homemade soups at lunch time, and after just one taste of her perfected recipes people were hooked, fervently asking who the amazing talent behind the pot was. When Alba Lisa and her husband moved to Cookstown, they decided they wanted the Albalisa brand to have its own local identity.
All of her recipes are made with organic flour, and she has partnered with local farmers who supply many of the ingredients for her soups and sauces. Alba Lisa ensures all her food is made free of preservatives, and everything she serves is an Alba Lisa original recipe. True to form, her Jalapeno Cream was nominated for the most innovative product in Canada.
Alex Khomyakov, High-Security Safes Expert, INKAS® Safe Manufacturing
INKAS® Safes is a leading manufacturer of high-security safes and vaults, trusted by thousands of banks, businesses, and homes across North America to provide unparalleled protection for their irreplaceable valuables and assets.
Since its beginning over 20 years ago, the Toronto-based manufacturer has been driven to design the most secure heavy-duty safes on the market, using cutting-edge technology to develop innovative security features that deliver the toughest line of defense against theft, fire, and flood.
This vision has led to the growth of the safes manufacturing industry in Canada and to significant innovations in high-security safes – from a patented sustainable “green” cement used to reinforce the safes, to the proprietary composite structure design that can withstand brute force burglary attempts with even the most advanced power tools, to the residential vault doors that use a unique modular design which enables homeowners to easily transform their basements into their own high-security vaults and panic rooms.
Managing the production process end-to-end, safes expert Alex Khomyakov recognizes that manufacturers are instrumental in bringing disruptive new solutions to the market, as there’s no challenge that manufacturers can’t solve with meticulous engineering and design.
This philosophy has enabled INKAS Safes to meet the complex requirements of its clients’ custom commercial and residential safes, and develop an unmatched level of expertise in the high-security safes and vaults industry.
Visit inkassafes.com to learn more.
Allen and Max Ma, Founders, Maholi Apparel
Launched by Allen and Max Ma, Maholi Apparel is a premium down outerwear collection created and proudly made in Ontario. The brand DNA lies in the marriage of unique fashionable design coupled with the newest and highest levels of technology and functionality.
Allen’s story is a humble yet impressive one. Immigrating to Canada with his family in 1989, Allen set his sights on captivating the market with a premium collection of down bedding products named Maholi. In 1994, Allen and his wife Lynda pushed to realize their dreams and opened a small manufacturing facility on King Street West in the downtown garment district of Toronto. It was Allen’s sheer tenacity and uncompromising attention to detail and Canadian made quality that catapulted the brand to overwhelming success.
In 2000 Maholi was literally busting at the seams and relocated to their permanent 60,000 square foot manufacturing plant in the northeast end of Toronto, Ontario. “Making all of our products right here at home in Ontario Canada has always been our top-level priority to achieve the best quality not to mention supporting our local economy and workforce,” Allen boasts.
In the following years Allan’s son Max joined forces to help guide the Maholi brand and its monumental success with notable retailers such as HBC and other major retail chains. It was Max’s love for fashion and entire childhood spent in his parent’s factory watching down products being made that years later launched and defi¬ned the Maholi Apparel outerwear collection.
As a proudly Ontario company, all products are designed and manufactured in Toronto, using the ¬finest of domestic and imported materials.
Angela Pappin, CHIEF TRANSFORMATION OFFICER, ARCELORMITTAL DOFASCO NORTH AMERICA
Committed to helping to ensure girls and women pursue STEM careers, click here to read Angela’s story.
Annie Thompson, Award-winning Canadian Fashion Designer
Annie Thompson has been designing fashion and accessories under her eponymous label since 1981. Annie is the winner of many awards including, most recently, the VANGUARD Award for Sustainability in Canadian fashion.
Thompson is known for her edgy, uncommon designs which have been coveted by women of style around the globe. Annie has always produced her pieces in the Toronto area for ease of quality monitoring, relationship development and support of Ontario manufacturers, and to keep her carbon footprint very low.
Thompson has always had production facilities – pattern-making tables, cutting tables, sewing and pressing machines and copious selections of textiles in her boutiques to allow clients to regard the process of design. This has promoted more understanding of some of the intricacies of the process of creating fashion and has imbued each item with greater value.
Art in motion – the Canadian way.
ASHLEY KIZIS, FOUNDER, KIDUNIFIED
Ashley Kizis started Kidunifed with many things in mind; she wanted to begin exploring the circular economy- to see if Canadians saw the value in toys made here in Ontario. She loved puzzles, the challenging and thought-provoking yet relaxing and satisfying elements to them. Lastly, she wanted her children’s toys to reflect her community and friends; people of different races, genders, and disabilities.
Kidunified is proud to be women led, Ontario-made, and mindfully created, for kids. Their high-quality puzzles are made from 100% recycled raw materials, in small batches, in Canada!
They only make what they believe they can sell, which lessens the impact on the environment and keeps their small business healthy.
Kizis is dedicated to giving back to her community, she put her skills to use and created something meaningful and fun. Kizis wants her company & puzzles to emulate the experiences of everyone, and hope others appreciate this message, while enjoying her products as well.
Kizis’ goal is that her products will allow people to feel that the puzzles are uniquely for them, and for everyone.
Visit kidunified.ca to learn more.
BRIGITTE GALL, VP OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT & MARKETING, THEOCCURRENCE
With a strong belief that “manufacturing will take you to places you had no idea you would end up”, click here to read Brigitte’s story.
CATHERINE CHEN, FOUNDER, CC SAUCE
Catherine, known to many as CC, started her business during COVID.
Ironically, she didn’t plan to be in manufacturing, it just happened.
A modern twist to a family recipe, CC’s products are made with olive & avocado oils, unlike other products that are made with sunflower, canola, vegetable or soybean oil.
Both products are keto & vegan friendly, free of gluten, salt, sugar, MSG or sodium.
Over 2,200 jars have been in sold in less than 6 months. As of today, 22 retail locations carry CC’s products. This was compared to only one back in May.
CC is building the cleanest chili oil community globally. The products have travelled to 33 countries on 6 continents with her customers.
Visit ccspicy.com to learn more.
Esther Vlessing, President, Canada Emergency Medical Manufacturers (CEMM)
“The problems that I thought I could solve have always been manufacturing related”, shares Esther. Click here to read HerStory.
Isabelle Lam and Jamie Lee, Co-Founders, Remix Snacks
Remix Snacks is an Asian-female, dietitian led company creating bean-based snacks with ingredients that reduce food waste.
As registered dieticians, Isabelle and Jamie chose to create nutritious snacks to directly shape the food industry with healthier choices. To date, they have saved over 10,000 lbs of upcycled fruits, and continue to look for ways they can create a positive impact in the Canadian food industry.
Fast forward to 2022: Remix Snacks makes their artisanal snacks out of Niagara, Ontario, and their products are sold at over 300 retailers.
Remix Snacks has prominently been featured in The Globe & Mail, Global News- Morning Show, Woman of Influence, The Star and many more outlets.
Visit remixsnacks.ca to learn more.
Ismail Ahmed, Founder and CEO, REFMAX Hand Sanitizers
REFMAX Hand Sanitizers were founded by Ismail Ahmed, an international pharmacist who migrated to Canada in January 2020. Shortly after the pandemic started and when the Hand Sanitizers began to be out of stock, Ismail came up with the idea of launching a Canadian Hand Sanitizer brand in order to participate in the fight against COVID-19. In April 2020 he founded Antar Lab Industries Inc. to start the manufacturing journey for REFMAX.
REFMAX is made from high quality ingredients and offers the consumer 3 different scent options to choose from (lemon, lavender, or unscented) which comes in different sizes.
REFMAX is a proud member of the Ontario Made initiative and is one of the first brands which adapted the Ontario Made logo on their product label and promotional materials.
Visit refmax.ca to learn more.
Jodi Formosi, Founder and CEO, Bella Biochar Corporation
“As the Founder and CEO of Bella Biochar Corporation, the most accurate depiction of my manufacturing journey is “baptism by fire”. As a female, without a mechanical background, in an industry that is typically male oriented, I was catapulted into a steep learning curve trajectory. Furthermore, the challenge of not only being the first “Ontario Made”, Canadian commercial scale manufacturer of organically certified, premium quality biochar, but also maneuvering all of those pioneering challenges through a pandemic, is a testament to the resilience of the incredible Bella Biochar Team.”
“Together, we have managed to tackle every hurdle imaginable and unimaginable, from design errors, mechanical failures, weather constraints, feedstock shortages, feedstock overages, fires, delivery setbacks, financial challenges (Thank you ECO Canada – we literally would not have made it without you!) and personal struggles for team members including Covid and other severe health and family issues. Despite all of that, the Bella Biochar Team has risen to every challenge and succeeded in overcoming our setbacks.”
Kim Thira, President and CEO, AceTronic Industrial Controls Inc.
“Manufacturing used to be viewed as dark, dirty, and dangerous, but there is such a multitude of careers that are in the manufacturing industry,” shares Kim. Click here to read her story.
Kristy Miller, Founder and CEO, The Scented Market
Kristy Miller started her eco-friendly business in 2018 as a stay-at-home mom looking to bring only the best products into her home. Miller wanted to make a healthier candle for her family, without toxins. She wanted eco-friendly packaging and to limit the waste contributing to landfills. Thus came, The Scented Market.
Initially, every product manufactured was in Miller’s home with the help of her family members. Three years later, The Scented Market is a lifestyle brand with a storefront in Guelph, Ontario. It is currently located in over 140 retail stores and has a strong online presence.
Soy is used in all the products; the oils and fragrances are sulfate-free and paraben-free making it a cleaner and healthier candle. These benefits keep customers returning to the home-like feel of The Scented Market.
In 2022, Miller auditioned for the third time for Dragons’ Den. Miller was given an abundance of support, guidance, and reassurance from the dragons. She went into it wanting to represent female entrepreneurs and a small business from Guelph. This time her pitch executed the confidence of an experienced businesswoman, and she was determined to show how much she and her brand have grown.
Miller wants fellow entrepreneurs to believe in themselves, and to pursue their dreams by understanding the ins and outs of the business. Miller is an example of hard work, dedication, and passion.
Visit thescentedmaket.ca to learn more.
Leila Keshavjee, Founder and CEO, Happy Pops
“Manufacturing allows me to innovate quickly and keep control of the quality of my products and know exactly what the product is made of,” shares Leila. Click here to read her story.
LISA HALLSWORTH, P. ENG., CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, RILLEA TECHNOLOGIES
“Manufacturing is such a rewarding place to work and offers so many invaluable learning opportunities,” shares Lisa. Click here to read HerStory.
LOLA ADEYEMI, FOUNDER/CHIEF SOUPER WOMAN, IT’S SOUPER
“If you realize there’s a gap in the market, create it – invent that product, create that solution. I really encourage women to do that and not wait for somebody else. Even if you’re not an inventor, even if you don’t have the funds, find a way to pitch your idea and get some funding to create it yourself,” shares Lola. Click here to read HerStory.
Michael Burgess, Founder, Nerpy's Inc.
Nerpy’s began making hot sauces in 2008 in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Their mission is to introduce their customers to great tasting, deliciously flavoured hot sauces and marinades.
Nerpy’s founder, Michael started the company as a tribute to his Jamaican heritage and the diverse Toronto community he has grown up in. He spotted in the market, a lack there-of spicy hot sauces and marinades in a city where the demand for spicy food was growing. He then created, Nerpy’s.
Nerpy’s Inc. produces award winning Hot Pepper Sauces, Seasoning Rubs and Marinades. Nerpy’s sauces are all made using the most flavorful pepper in the world – the Scotch Bonnet Pepper.
All of their sauces are made from all-natural ingredients and contain no artificial ingredients, no added food coloring, no MSG and no fillers.
Visit nerpys.ca to learn more.
Najah Ayadi, Founder and CEO, bluewrist
Najah Ayadi founded Bluewrist in 2006, and was instrumental in building and growing the software and application engineering team. Prior to founding Bluewrist, Najah spent many years in various global technical and leadership roles in robotics and 3D vision technology providers. These early roles during the infancy of 3D vision and robotic guidance inspired Najah to create easier, faster, and more reliable solutions to benefit manufacturers.
NATACHA REY, FOUNDER, FORMULATOR & PRESIDENT, MAISON APOTHECARE
“Over time I began to realize that the way my team worked created a much higher quality product than any co-packer would ever be willing to do so we’ve gradually moved to in-house manufacturing,” shares Natacha. Click here to read HERstory.
ROSEMARY CESCOLINI, OFFICE MANAGER, ROYAL DOOR LTD.
“I’ve been in manufacturing for 30 years and I’m just getting started. I wake up every day and I’m excited. What am I going to create today? It’s a recipe for happiness. That’s what a career in manufacturing would be,” shares Rosemary. Click here to read HERstory.
SABRINA FIORELLINO, CEO, FERO INTERNATIONAL INC.
“I would encourage young women to do anything they want, including male dominated fields, like manufacturing or construction. It’s extremely rewarding to be able to know you did it against all odds, against all barriers, and that you were able to achieve things that everyone told you couldn’t,” shares Sabrina. Click here to read HERstory.
SUSAN BETTENCOURT, SENIOR HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGER AT FLORADALE FEED MILL LTD.
“When the opportunity arose with Floradale, although unfamiliar to me from an agricultural perspective, I loved that I was a part of producing something again and I was excited to make an impact,” shares Susan. Click here to read HERstory.
TONY MARRA, PRESIDENT, ROMA FENCE GROUP OF COMPANIES
At the young age of 18, Tony opened Roma Fence. With the influx of Italo-Canadians in his local community, he was able to work and communicate fluently with the other Italian immigrants, like his parents, who did not yet have full command of the English language. While at school during the day, his evenings and weekends were dedicated to selling and installing fence. He purchased his materials locally and after school, his father and brothers helped him install the fence at night.
In 1972, Roma Fence leased the first commercial location. Not too long after, there was a staff of 5 people. A few years later , Tony purchased 2 acres at Highway 50 and Major Mackenzie Road, in Brampton, Ontario, that had a weld shop, outside storage space, and office. Fast forward to March of 2015 when their head office moved into our larger and better suited manufacturing facility, in Bolton, ON. From their humble beginnings, Roma Fence Group of Companies is now over 85 people strong.
Visit romafencegroup.com to learn more.
VENEISE GEORGE, OWNER/OPERATOR, YAWDI'S
“Manufacturing has given me a chance to bring my creative food creations to life. I get to see my ideas, from experimenting in my kitchen to the actual production, to my products on store shelves, and then in the customer’s hands,” shares Veneise. Click here to read HERstory.