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Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year Award

The Gustavson School of Business proudly produces the annual Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year Award (DEYA), BC's premier entrepreneurship business gala and a university flagship event. Heading into its 20th year, this gala celebrates entrepreneurial excellence and recognizes inspirational individuals who have had a significant and positive impact on society, and demonstrated entrepreneurial leadership, innovation and community contribution. 

The gala provides an opportunity for guests to connect and network with a variety of business professionals and experience a master class in entrepreneurship with our incoming recipient. Over a gourmet three-course dinner, guests will be surrounded by one-of-a-kind recipient-inspired décor, sparking the imaginative ambience DEYA has become known for.

At Gustavson we recognize the importance of providing a space to come together for an evening of inspiration, celebration and recognition of incredible entrepreneurs who have made the world a better place.

Indigenous tech founder named 2023 Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year

Bobbie Racette, founder and CEO of talent-as-a-service platforms Virtual Gurus and askBetty, is the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business 2023 Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year Award (DEYA) recipient. 

Virtual Gurus trains and connects highly skilled, remote workers (virtual assistants) based in Canada and the US, with companies in need of fractional and on-demand help that can be scaled quickly to meet the changing needs of their clients. Racette, who is Cree-Metis, has built her enterprise with the goal of offering equitable work opportunities to individuals from underrepresented communities. 

“We are thrilled to recognize Bobbie Racette as our 2023 recipient,” says Peter Gustavson, chair of the DEYA committee. “Bobbie’s unwavering focus on building thriving, inclusivity-first platforms is changing the Canadian tech industry in critically important ways.” 

The AI-powered Virtual Gurus platform, and associated app askBetty, celebrate diversity and prioritize talent acquisition from among Indigenous, 2SLGBTQIA+ and other underserved communities. 

“We listen to our Virtual Gurus stories, and every one is unique. I am proud of the opportunities we provide for underrepresented folx, by growing and scaling Virtual Gurus without losing focus of our north star. I am honored to receive such an award,” says Bobbie Racette. 

Racette was told “no” many times along her start-up journey. Today, more than 800 virtual assistants are part of the Virtual Gurus platform and Racette recently closed a successful $8.4 million Series A funding round, becoming the first Indigenous woman in Canada to do so. But when she was starting the company in 2017 with $300 and some help from her mom, more than 170 venture capitalists said “no” to her pitch. Instead of taking their advice and sidelining her personal values to appeal to traditional investors, she redoubled her commitment to her unique vision, and began pitching impact investors. 

“Bobbie’s commitment to her vision and drive to empower others is an important example to our students and any aspiring entrepreneur,” says Saul Klein, dean of the Gustavson School of Business. “She has shown how passion and tenacity can be translated into a values-based business success. We are honoured to be celebrating Bobbie and look forward to learning more from her journey at DEYA and beyond.” 

Racette will receive the award at the Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year Award gala at the Victoria Conference Centre on Oct. 17.

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