Homecoming 2020: Five entrepreneurs show their Gee-Gee spirit

Posted on Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Collage with the portraits of the five entrepreneurs

At a time when encouraging local businesses is more important than ever, here are five companies created and led by University of Ottawa alumni.  

These five uOttawa alumni decided to pursue their passion and, as a result, have launched successful businesses. To show their school spirit, each helped build the Homecoming 2020 Box, which sold out in record time! Find out what makes their products so irresistible to the uOttawa community.

If you would like to connect with other successful uOttawa alumni, or are just looking to rekindle that Gee-Gee spirit, join us for Homecoming 2020. Due to the current situation, this year’s programming, which runs from October 24 to 30, will be entirely virtual.

The Unscented Company by Anie Rouleau (BCom ’92): An eco-responsible success

Portrait of Anie Rouleau

Anie Rouleau has entrepreneurship running through her veins. So no one was surprised to see her join the family business once she completed her finance studies at the Telfer School of Management.

In 2016, she decided to start her own company, one that mirrors her most fundamental values. Enter The Unscented Company, which offers a range of natural, fragrance-free, eco-responsible body care and household products. 

From production to packaging, Anie strives to reduce her environmental footprint. Her business model complies with the highest standards of transparency, performance, and social and environmental responsibility, all of which has earned them B Corp certification. 

Her company, which has the wind in its sails, offers simple solutions to encourage people to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. 


Poppa Bean Coffee by Paul Foster (former SocSc student): A passion for coffee

Portrait of Paul Foster

For Paul Foster, who studied social sciences at uOttawa, it all started with a love of coffee.

When he joined the job market, the man behind the Poppa Bean Coffee roastery met many other coffee devotees and decided to start a coffee club. At the time, Paul was already wowing the other members with his own roasting technique, which featured a popcorn popper! It was the beginning of his company and the inspiration for its name, a wordplay on “popping” beans.  

Today, his roastery in Vars, Ontario offers a wide range of coffees that can be purchased at local markets and through a host of outlets around the province. Rest assured: these days Paul uses a more conventional machine to roast his beans. 



Twenty20 Skincare by Elena Minnow (BEd ’20, BScSoc ’16): balancing beauty and equity 

Portrait of Elena Minnow

Elena Minnow, a uOttawa alumna in both social sciences and education, is the founder of Twenty20 Skincare, a brand that offers a range of handcrafted natural beauty and body care products.

Although this young graduate launched her company in 2019, she had been making her own all-natural skincare products for years out of concern for her own health and for that of the planet. 

Based in Ottawa, this company sets itself apart from others in the industry because it uses Fair-Trade shea butter as the star ingredient in rich, hydrating body butters that are both sustainable and eco-friendly. Elena sources her shea butter from Ghana through fair and respectful business practices that allow women working in the shea supply chain to work and live in good conditions. 



 Gift Better Co. by Olivia Villalta (BCom ’15): Reinventing the art of giving

Portrait of Olivia Villalta

BCom graduate Olivia Villalta and her business partner Vanessa Griffiths founded the Gift Better Co. in 2019. Their mission? To revolutionize gift-giving by offering a carefully curated range of products in theme-centred boxes that support important causes. Thanks to their partnerships with charities, each gift box sold gives back to the community.

The two entrepreneurs behind the brand recently created gift sets to thank health care workers for their tireless dedication during the pandemic. About a hundred nurses and frontline workers received a box, with all proceeds donated to The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.

The company was selected to join the 2020 cohort of uOttawa’s Startup Garage, a program that helps accelerate the growth of startup companies. 



 Dairy Distillery by Omid McDonald (BScA ’14): A blend of science and mixology 

Portrait of Omid McDonald

Founded by engineering graduate Omid McDonald, the Dairy Distillery company manufactures since 2018 a unique local vodka. 

This entrepreneur teamed up with biology professor Alexandre Poulain and student Jessica Gaudet to develop a new way to distill alcohol from milk products. Based in Almonte, the company produces alcohol from milk permeate, a substance usually discarded, supplied by 3,500 Ontario dairy farms. 

Last Spring, Omid quickly converted his production activities to transform his alcohol reserves into hand sanitizer in response to the strong demand generated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The craft distillery also offered a portion of its hand sanitizer production to regional organizations at no charge, a sign of their commitment to the health and well-being of their community. 



If you haven't gotten your hands on one of the boxes, keep an eye out for a second edition and add your name to the waiting list.

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