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The 6th annual Small Business Challenge officially closed on May 31st, and we’re proud to reveal 2016’s five lucky finalists. This year, over 3,400 businesses entered the Small Business Challenge for a chance to win a $100,000 business grant to overcome their biggest business challenge, $2,000 in new TELUS technology, a $10,000 donation to a charity of their choice, plus national coverage for their business in The Globe and Mail. The judging panel spent weeks reviewing every single application, and debating who would be this year’s finalists. There are so many remarkable small businesses in Canada that the selection process becomes more challenging every year.

However, after much deliberation, we reached a decision. This year’s Small Business Challenge finalists are:

Charmed Playhouses Inc.

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Charmed Playhouses Inc. creates luxury, handmade playhouses from solid cedar. After getting noticed by Global News, the Lethbridge-based company began growing quicker than they ever imagined, as more customers fell for their charming products.

The first thing we noticed about this playful business—after the luxury, handmade playhouses, of course—was their dedication to giving back. They’ve already built a playhouse for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and if they win, they hope to build even more. They’re also extremely customer-focused, and have made a big impact on the carpentry trade, hiring 16 full-time carpenters and cabinet makers. Best of all, they put smiles on kids’ faces.

If they won, they hope to use the $100,000 to update their equipment, purchase inventory, and dream up innovative ideas for future growth, such as environmental uses for scrap wood.


Cake & Loaf Bakery Ltd.


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Cake & Loaf Bakery Ltd. is a neighbourhood bakery based in Hamilton, Ontario. They create baked goods from scratch using local ingredients, and are focused on becoming a cornerstone of their community.

One thing that stood out to the judges was Cake & Loaf Bakery Ltd.’s customer focus. They have a strong desire to offer personalized services as they grow, which is why they want to use part of their $100,000 grant to purchase a company-wide Customer Relationship Management tool to better meet their customers’ needs. Their commitment to making a meaningful impact on their community also caught our eye. Aside from paying their employees above the national minimum wage (a real accomplishment for a food service business), they also give directly to charities by donating gift baskets to fundraisers, and directly participating in fundraisers for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Food4Kids and more.

If they won, Cake & Loaf Bakery Ltd. hopes to also use the money to renovate their storefront to showcase more local food and crafts, and to add much needed seating so the community can stay to enjoy their sweet treats.

Autom River Inc. (The Greenlid)

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Autom River Inc. is the inventor of The Greenlid, the world’s first compostable compost bin. Made in Canada from recycled cardboard, it’s designed to eliminate the mess and smell from composting. Just fill The Greenlid, and compost the entire container. This is the ideal solution for a condo owner who wants to compost but doesn’t have a lot of waste, and eliminates the need to carry down a small handful of compost to the ground floor every day.
Autom River Inc.’s commitment to the environment made them stand out to our judges. In just 16 months, the Brockville-based business has expanded into several major national retailers—including Home Hardware, Canadian Tire, and Loblaws—and are well on their way to creating a healthier planet.

They hope to use the $100,000 business grant to develop a range of sizes for their compostable containers to enter into new markets. The grant would also allow them to invest more heavily in innovation using their patented technology, rather than using capital to purchase equipment.

DateNight Babysitting Inc.

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DateNight Babysitting Inc. is a membership-based business that serves to connect parents with experienced, local babysitters. The Toronto-based service, which recently expanded into Ottawa, also has a passion for connecting young adults with well-paying, flexible, and part-time work that fits their busy schedules.

While DateNight Babysitting Inc. is working hard to expand into new cities all across Canada, the judges noticed that they have not lost sight of their amazing customer service principles, which includes giving away free memberships to parents in need. While a technology company at heart, DateNight Babysitting Inc. has always kept their customers top of mind.

With the $100,000 grand prize, DateNight Babysitting Inc. hopes to expand to more cities using targeted advertising, hiring two new mangers to nurture these new regions, and focus in on forming national partnerships with like-minded children focused businesses.


Brutus Beverages Inc.


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Brutus Beverages Inc. is the mastermind behind Walter Craft Caesar Mix, an all-natural premium Caesar mix. Crafted in small batches right here in Canada, Walter Craft Caesar Mix is a healthier alternative to other brands on the market, and is made using only the best ingredients—including real clam juice from the North Atlantic.

What the judges first noticed about this Vancouver-based company is its dedication to “Canadian-made and owned.” They regularly partner with other Canadian artisanal products, building the strength of the made-in-Canada specialty foods sector. Their participation in Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program also means that their clam juice comes from a sustainable fishery.

If they won, the $100,000 grant would be allocated to grocery listing fees, which they hope will free up funds to focus on creating new partnerships with local suppliers to ensure they reach their goal of domestically sourcing all ingredients by 2017.

Congratulations to Charmed Playhouses Inc., Cake & Loaf Bakery Ltd., Autom River Inc., DateNight Babysitting Inc. and Brutus Beverages Inc. on winning this year’s $10,000 finalist category, and for getting one step closer to being named this year’s Small Business Challenge winner. On June 29th, all five of these businesses will pitch their business to the panel of judges, followed by public voting from June 29th to August 30th, with the $100,000 grand prize winner being selected in the fall.


Although it’s exciting to celebrate these five businesses, I also want to extend a big thank you to all those who entered the 2016 Small Business Challenge. Remember, there are still many other opportunities to win great prizes—the 10 regional winners, 3 most-promising start-ups, community investment award, and fifty honourable mentions winners will be awarded in the fall, so stay tuned!

Don’t forget to head over to before August 30th to vote for your favourite finalist. They just might be the $100,000 grand prize winner!