Announcing the 2023 Douglas 10 to Watch winners

From tech to toys to takeout, our 10 to Watch entrepreneurs are balancing innovation, passion and business savvy to compete in an increasingly complex marketplace.

The annual Douglas 10 to Watch issue celebrates up-and-coming businesses on Vancouver Island. This year, there was an impressive list to choose from, and it was the duty of our esteemed judging panel to read through the many applications and hold thoughtful discussions to decide on the final 10 showcased here. 

But what makes a successful startup? Some of the criteria they pondered included: 

CREATIVITY: These are companies that wow us; they are not just following the beaten path. Creativity breeds originality. It gives a business the space to work smarter, not harder. Traditional companies have hierarchies that impede creativity. Entrepreneurs value a diversity of views and ideas, and are willing to take chances, albeit with research and forethought. 

VALUES: These originate with a company’s founders and leaders, and consist of doing the right thing in the right way. They include ethics, client connection, team spirit, accountability and a work/life balance. Done right, these values permeate the entire enterprise. There is also a common thread in these winners of concern for the environment and sustainability. Indeed, that is the core business for two of them. 

VISION: What lies ahead? It’s often said that it’s harder to grow a business than to start one. Where will a business be in three to five years, and how will it align with a company’s goals and aspirations? It is the “why” for any business. 

Another, often elusive, factor in success is the notion of a “unique selling proposition” — the one thing that makes a business better than the competition. It’s a specific and clear benefit that makes a business stand out compared to others in the market. In short, it must define what a company does best. 

The 10 companies that follow have checked all these boxes, and we at Douglas can’t wait to see what’s next for them. 

VoxCell BioInnovation

Cancer research, and the development of drugs to treat the disease, have a huge hurdle: how to test promising treatments on actual human tissue. VoxCell Bio Innovation, was born on the UVic campus to meet this challenge.

Cognito Health

Aims to make mental health care more accessible, affordable, immediate and integrated by offering an all-in-one online platform for clients to access support.

Douglas Magazine 10 to Watch Winner -VoxCell BioInnovation
Karolina Valente Founder of VoxCell BioInnovation. Photo By: Jeffrey Bosdet.
Douglas Magazine 10 to Watch Winner - Cognito Health
Armon Arani, CEO and co-founder of Cognito Health. Photo By: Jeffrey Bosdet.

Refire Kitchen

Creates wholesome, delicious food in a convenient form, fresh or flash-frozen. Their chef-prepared soups and stews only require reheating, and “take and bake” entrees are so simple that anyone can cook them. 

Apricell Biotechnology 

Changing the way new anti-cancer drugs are developed by creating models that are more accurate, cheaper and faster to use than the current methods for drug testing. 

Douglas Magazine 10 to Watch Winner - Refire Kitchen
Brian Newham, Tod Bosence and Rob Curtis Founders of Refire Kitchen. Photo By: Jeffrey Bosdet.
Douglas Magazine 10 to Watch Winner -Apricell Biotechnology
From left, Amir Seyfoori, CEO, and Matt Sutherland. Photo By Jeffrey Bosdet


Caters its business model to benefit small- and medium-sized producers to help make supporting local businesses easier.

Ideas for Impact

Helping businesses develop a strategy that fits investment goals while recognizing their impact on the world. 

Douglas Magazine 10 to Watch Winner - Bcause
Mitch Hawes Founder of BCause. Photo By: Jeffrey Bosdet.
Douglas Magazine 10 to Watch Winner - Ideas for Impact
Joanna Buczkowska-McCumber Founder of Ideas for Impact. Photo By: Jeffrey Bosdet.


plentiFILL is on a mission to drastically reduce consumer waste in the Cowichan Valley by offering low- and no-waste alternatives to everyday household, bath, body and food products.  


Aims to empower people to live healthier, happier lives by allowing them to track their own brain waves and use that information to make lifestyle adjustments.

Douglas Magazine 10 to Watch Winner - Plentifill
Krystal Aikman and Stephanie Farrow Founders of PlentiFILL. Photo By: Jeffrey Bosdet.
Douglas Magazine 10 to Watch Winner - Circl
Dr. Nolan Beise, CEO of Circl. Photo By: Jeffrey Bosdet.


Utilizes app-based technology to provide parents with the tools, resources and confidence they need to raise kind, bright, emotionally healthy kids.

Foragers Galley

Bringing gourmet mushrooms, both wild-harvested and as kits, direct to customers.

Douglas Magazine 10 to Watch Winner - Earlybird
Renée Jordan and Sarah Hunter Founders of Earlybird. Photo By: Jeffrey Bosdet.
Douglas Magazine 10 to Watch Winner - Foragers Galley
Janusz Urban, Brendan Harris and Jon Wright Founders of Foragers Galley. Photo By: Jeffrey Bosdet.
Odlum Brown & Mark Mawhinney, Presenting Sponsor 10 to Watch 2023