Calgary’s Bobbie Racette is this year’s recipient of the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year Award (DEYA).
The University of Victoria business school recognized Racette, who is Cree-Metis, for building enterprises with the goal of offering equitable work opportunities to individuals from underrepresented communities.
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 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.”
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 was told “no” many times along her startup 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 October 17, 2023.