Persistence rewarded with Women’s Business Grants

Finalists for Shannon Passero-sponsored awards own Blossom Bakery and Garden City Essentials

By Melinda Cheevers – Niagara This Week – St. Catharines

ST. CATHARINES — If there’s a lesson to be learned from the two winners of this year’s Shannon Passero Women’s Business Grant, it’s that persistence and tenacity pay off.

Just ask Jackie Troup, owner of Blossom Bakery based out of Jordan. Known for serving up flatbreads, cookies, breads, cakes, tarts, quiches, dips, and salsa, Troup admitted that she had known about the grant for a while but was too intimidated to apply in past years. However, winning a business award through the Town of Lincoln gave her the confidence boost she needed to put applying for the grant on her bucket list for 2016.

“I said ‘OK, I’m going to do it’,” she recalled.

However, despite her newfound confidence there was a brief moment when she thought it wasn’t going to happen. The application deadline ended just before midnight on a Sunday night. After her kids had went to bed and the house was quiet, she sat down to fill out the online application component. She filled in all of the requisite boxes and clicked send.

“Then, the screen on my iPad went blank. I resubmitted it at 11:47 p.m., typing the wind and the screen went blank again. I thought ‘oh well, there’s a life lesson. Don’t leave it to the last minute’. I was so mad at myself and thought there was no reason for me to have waited, except fear. That’s really what stops us from doing most things, fear.”

The next morning, she awoke to find an email waiting in her inbox, thanking her for the application.

“I was so happy,” she said.

Jolene Antle, on the other hand, had already applied for the grant once. Last year, the St. Catharines business owner made it through the online application process and was shortlisted for the grant, which meant she had the opportunity not only to pitch her small-batch skincare company, Garden City Essentials, in a Shark Tank-style presentation but also to sit down with Passero and her group of five female business advisors for a an interview about her work.

“When I applied last year, I thought I’d give it a shot because I didn’t feel like I had anything to lose. Just going through the process of being interviewed, gave me so much insight into how to grow my business and how to make decisions in the future regarding my business,” Antle said. “I valued the experience, wanted to give it a shot again. More than anything, I wanted to sit down with those women again and show them how far I’ve come in just one year. I’ve made a lot of investments and grew my business by leaps and bounds, all while turning a profit.”

On Friday, Passero welcomed the two women into her Front Street store, The Post Office for a brief presentation where they revealed as winners of grants. Open to Ontario-based businesses, the grant is for women with a significant leadership role in businesses that combine principles of social consciousness, sustainability, and innovation. Both women will receive a $12,500 grant as well as mentorship with Passero throughout the year. For Passero, the mentorship component has been surprisingly one of the most rewarding aspects of the program.

“When I started this, I thought financing, or rather the grant, was at the core of what women in business need. And each winner has utilized the money they’ve received very well, but really the invaluableness, the validation for me has been the mentorship, the connections we bring together. Some of the grant winners, we still meet three years later,” she said. “It’s not only mentorship, it’s a business relationship that’s been built. It’s pretty amazing, I didn’t think that would be such a key component of this but it has been and it’s neat.”

Troup said winning the grant has been total validation for her. While her products are available across Niagara, in stores like Commisso’s, Harvest Barn, Grand Oak, Bamboo Market and Peanut Mill, she’s also found at herself at a crossroads. In the spring, she started with a distributor that puts her products in stores in Toronto, London and Montreal.

“Right now I’m trying to get into more retail stores,” she said. “This gives me the thrust to push forward. It’s a real confidence boost. The money is so tangible, but it’s the feeling you get. It sounds corny, but it’s really the feeling you get that’s invaluable.”

Antle is also at a crossroads with her business. Over the last year, she’s converted her basement into designated studio space and really upped her game in terms of packaging and production and she’s seen the fruits of her labour — her line was picked up Whole Foods Market as well as several boutiques across Ontario. However, she’d like to see that expanded nation-wide. However, she knows that in order to expand she needs to first boost her production levels. The funds from the grant will enable her to buy equipment that will allow for more growth.

Passero said they received several dozen applications from all over Ontario, but she was happy the two winners were from Niagara. When considering finalists, they look for businesses that are profitable, have a five to 10 year business plan, ones that have been in business for three years or more and ones that the $12,500 grant would be impactful to the business in one way or another. She said Antle’s tenacity was what set her apart.

“Her business has grown. She’s shown us in one year, the giant leaps she was able to do herself. Her business has really matured,” she said. “At the end of the day, these businesses have to drive positive results.”
As for Troup, Passero said her bakery has amazing products that they felt embody what the grant is all about: sustainable, local, goodness, and making a distinct product.

“The spread of her product just fit in line with the type of business that would benefit from the grant,” she said. “These are great products that we’re really happy to attach ourselves to.”

For more information on the grant program, visit

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