Oct. 6, 2022

Come celebrate Haskayne Alumni Award recipients at first alumni event in new Mathison Hall

Connect with Haskayne peers to recognize the entrepreneurial spirit of Victoria Ross, Janice Tran, Allison Taylor and Jason Brooks
Allison Taylor, Jason Brooks, Victoria Ross and Janice Tran
From leftt: Allison Taylor, Jason Brooks, Victoria Ross and Janice Tran. Kelly Hofer, for the Haskayne School of Business

The entrepreneurial spirit is a flame that burns bright in some from a young age. Others are ignited by passion or circumstances. Each of this year’s Haskayne Alumni Award recipients is an entrepreneur. Although their journeys are very different, their Haskayne education has played a role in their success by providing a foundation of technical skills, experience in analysis and a valuable network to help create entrepreneurial companies that are solving big problems.

“These alumni have brought to life some truly amazing entrepreneurial businesses,” says Jim Dewald, dean, Haskayne School of Business. “Haskayne has a long history of providing the skills and inspiration for entrepreneurs. We are so proud of what these alumni have created — and I look forward to celebrating them at the Haskayne Alumni Awards on November 24.”

Rising Star Award – Victoria Ross, BComm’18

Ross started her company, aGRO Systems, during her BComm in ENTI 317, a mandatory undergraduate course at Haskayne that teaches entrepreneurial thinking. With a few pivots in her business model along the way, aGRO Systems has grown into a thriving business. Repurposing what was previously seen as waste is key to the success that Ross has created. aGRO takes the byproducts from the craft brewing industry and diverts them from landfills and compost sites to be repurposed as livestock feed for local ranchers.

“aGRO was created for farmers like my dad. While growing up, my dad had to work a second job on top of ranching just to get the bills paid — common to nearly 50 per cent of farmers in Canada,” says Ross. “The whole concept of helping farmers be more profitable, especially those smaller-scale players, is what has driven me forward.”

The aGRO solution to repurpose beer byproducts and eliminate food waste helps decrease the methane that would otherwise be produced in the landfill or at composting site, while also reducing methane production in cattle themselves by up to 20 per cent. Thirty-three local breweries have used Ross’s company to divert more than 15,000,000 pounds of spent grain to supply five family farms with livestock feed.

Ross puts in long and hours and much sweat equity to make aGRO the success it is today. She also takes time to help nurture fellow young entrepreneurs by volunteering to be a part of the RBC Fast Pitch competition, the culminating experience of ENTI 317 that gave Ross a jump start with her own venture in 2016.

Big Ideas Bold Leaders Award – Janice Tran, BA’11, BComm’11

The energy emanating from Janice Tran is palpable. Hard to define, it could be described as a mixture of warmth, enthusiasm, purpose and competence. This energy has helped to draw people to her to work on a really big problem — the fight against climate change.

Tran’s commitment to climate change stems back to her second year at Haskayne when a business ethics class ignited her purpose. At the end of that class, she made a promise to herself that has been her north star ever since.

“When I am on my deathbed, inevitably, I want to make sure that I am there looking back on my life and truly understanding that I did everything that I humanly could towards the fight against climate change,” says Tran, CEO and co-founder, Kanin Energy. “That commitment and promise my second year of university has shaped every single career decision I have made ever since.”

This purpose has helped Tran discover many opportunities and experiences — from being a co-founder and now board member of the global non-profit Student Energy, to expanding her career in finance with positions on Wall Street and Silicon Valley, and most recently co-founding Kanin Energy which takes wasted heat from industrial processes and uses it to create clean energy using a unique financial model where they are able to pay the customers and hosts for their wasted heat and turn it into useful energy.

“I consider myself an environmental activist, except that my form of activism is through finance and building businesses,” says Tran.

Management Alumni Excellence Award – Jason Brooks, BComm’92 and Allison Taylor, MBA’01

“For me that entrepreneurial flame was always really strong,” says Jason Brooks, president, Invico Capital Corporation. “As you grow a firm like this there was not a playbook, at the time, for doing a lot of the things we are doing now — private debt, and some of our energy strategies. We were innovative.”

Invico Capital Corporation is an alternative investment management company focused on private investment and was co-founded by two Haskayne alumni, Jason Brooks and Allison Taylor. Invico’s flagship fund is used to lend money to smaller businesses to help them grow or make acquisitions and is the only private income fund that does both private debt as well as direct participation in energy. Invico can also be seen as a trailblazer with a diverse workforce that is mostly female (a rarity in the finance sector) and includes many immigrants who are achieving their designations in Canada.

“Being a female in finance has definitely been a challenge. I’d like to consider myself a role model for those coming up behind me,” says Taylor. “I’ve actually reached out personally to different women in finance to get them to come and work at Invico, and one of the reasons why these women join us is that they see the success that women have had here.”

Brooks is quick to point out that Invico is not an overnight success. It has taken many years through tough times to get the company to where it is today. Together, Taylor and Brooks have helped grow the firm’s assets under management to over $2 billion since 2005 and in the past two years, Invico has nearly doubled its staff to a total of almost 50 people with 13 of these employees being fellow Haskayne alumni.

First Haskayne alumni event in Mathison Hall

The Haskayne Alumni Awards will be held in Haskayne’s new building, Mathison Hall, on Nov. 24, 2022 — the first alumni event to be held in this spectacular new facility.

Purchase tickets early to celebrate these outstanding alumni and to have a chance to connect with your fellow Haskayne peers. Haven’t connected in a while? This is the perfect opportunity to bring together a group to explore the new developments at Haskayne.

“Not only will we be able to showcase our amazing award recipients, but we will also be able to highlight this world-class building which has been made possible, in part, from donations from many of our proud alumni,” says Dewald.