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Bellerose alumna wins national prize for entrepreneurship

Samantha Gardner uses capitalism for good
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LEADER — St. Albert's Samantha Gardner, shown here, was declared the 2022 HSBC Women's Entrepreneurial Leader May 12, 2022, by Enactus Canada. Gardner is studying business at the U of A and is co-founder of a non-profit which recently won a $30,000 to support isolated seniors. SAMANTHA GARDNER/Photo

A Bellerose graduate has won a national prize for using business savvy to make the world a better place.

Bellerose Composite alumna and University of Alberta business student Samantha Gardner was declared the 2022 HSBC Women’s Entrepreneurial Leader by Enactus Canada and HSBC Bank Canada at the Enactus National Competition May 12.

Enactus Canada is a group which helps post-secondary students apply their entrepreneurial skills to solve real-life social, economic, and environmental problems, said president Nicole Almond. Canadian Enactus clubs have designed package-free shampoo tablets, created jobs for at-risk youths in Newfoundland, and trained Zambian farmers to use no-till agriculture.

The Women’s Entrepreneurial Leader prize recognizes women who demonstrate leadership, achievement, and community impact, Almond said. Gardner stood out among this year’s hundred-odd nominees for her work with the U of A’s Enactus club and for establishing the non-profit Sunshine Connected, which recently won a $30,000 grant from the Centre for Aging and Brain Health.

“[Gardner] really demonstrates what we’re looking for in an entrepreneurial leader: someone that sees a problem and finds a way to fix it in a sustainable way,” Almond said.

“She’s really everything we’re looking to build in students.”

Busy at business

Gardner, 22, said she got into business at the suggestion of her brother and ran a wedding video company with a friend back in high school.

Gardner said she co-founded the U of A’s Women in Leadership club in 2021 to create a place where women leaders could meet. The club has since organized a leadership panel as part of International Women’s Day and in April held a gala for about 70 people.

“I love uplifting and encouraging women entrepreneurs around me,” Gardner said, adding that it is important for women to have role models.

Gardner said she co-founded Sunshine Connected in 2020 to address two problems caused by the pandemic: isolated seniors and students who couldn’t find volunteer experience. Right now, the group has students and seniors act as pen pals, sharing stories with each other by email and letter. In partnership with the Centre for Aging and Brain Health, the group is now working on a research-based program to have students and seniors teach each other new skills.

Gardner said you can see the excitement and joy in the faces of seniors and students in this group as they exchange letters, with each eager to share their stories.

“With the world moving so quickly and so much going on, especially in university, it’s really nice to read a letter written just for you,” she said.

Gardner said she joined the U of A’s Enactus club in 2020 and served as its vice-president of marketing. The group worked on numerous initiatives in the last two years, including Bio6, a project to create a non-plastic plate from spent grain to reduce plastic pollution.

Gardner, who lives in St. Albert, said she had a moment of imposter syndrome when she heard she had won this award, as there were so many other candidates in the running.

“I was honestly in shock and disbelief they chose me, but also very, very grateful.”

Gardner will receive a $2,500 bursary for her win. The U of A’s Enactus club will get $5,000 to support a project which will advance women in the Edmonton region. Gardner said the club is still discussing how to use their prize money.

Details on the award can be found at enactus.ca/give-recognition.


Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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