10 to Watch Winner Compilation 2024

The annual Douglas 10 to Watch issue celebrates up-and-coming businesses on Vancouver Island. This is our 15th year of recognizing local entrepreneurship in all its variety, and the dreamers and doers who have created some of the region’s most exciting new businesses.

After scrutinizing dozens of worthy candidates, our independent panel of five judges — all prominent local businesspeople — picked the 10 most promising startups in Greater Victoria. It’s a varied group, from marine tech to floral perfume, spas to school lunches. Several of the judges commented on a sea change in the makeup of this year’s winners: a return to doing business person-to-person, a growing emphasis on sustainability and a desire to give back to the community that supports them. In other words, the human touch.

Although their sectors vary widely, this year’s winners have a lot in common. They are passionate, persistent risk-takers who are also creative, resilient, self-disciplined and visionary. Greater Victoria boasts a promising business ecosystem for such aspiring entrepreneurs. According to financial services company HelloSafe, Victoria ranked 11th among 41 Canadian cities for startups, based on quality, quantity and business environment.

But the fact is that a very high percentage of new businesses fail — as many as 90 per cent depending on the sector. Despite the odds, more people than ever are jumping onto the startup bandwagon. In fact B.C. has led all of Canada in startup growth in the last couple of years, at almost eight per cent.

Success in a startup can be handsomely rewarded but even if it’s not, most entrepreneurs would do it anyway. Entrepreneurship is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s a journey. According to research, most start their business to become their own boss. In a Business Development Bank survey of 1,000 businesses, when asked why they became an entrepreneur, the most popular answer — 70 per cent — was independence, autonomy and flexibility. One in two mentioned passion or self-fulfillment. Only one-third cited financial motivation.

All of the businesses featured here overcame the odds. Many were born during the dark, difficult days of the pandemic. The hulking Navy barge that was transformed into HAVN Saunas took years of red tape to be approved for its berth at Ship Point. The 2012 economic crash in Ireland forced Palma Cafolla to shutter her Dublin shop and move to Canada. Zingaro Floral Perfumery was Dublin’s loss but Victoria’s gain. Each of the winners has his or her own startup tale. 

Small Gods Brewing

Small Gods is both a hospitality business that serves as the community living room for the Saanich Peninsula and one of the premium craft beer makers in B.C. They create a safe, sustainable and inclusive community where people thrive through food, drink and literature.

HAVN Saunas

Through the use of hydrotherapy, HAVN aims to make guests more present in their bodies, minds and the urban environment around them. 

10 to Watch Winner 2024 - Small Gods Brewing
From left, Chris Bjerrisgaard and Jonny Kostiuk. Photo By: Jeffrey Bosdet.
10 to Watch Winner 2024 - HAVN Saunas
From left, Nicholas Van Buren, Kurtis Vallee (not pictured, Martin Walker) Photo By: Jeffrey Bosdet.


Reimagining the relationship between people, animals and cities with the world’s first digital ID for animals.

Ocean AID

Pairing sonar technology with artificial intelligence in real time.

10 to Watch Winner 2024 - Gochip
Principal Alexander von Kaldenberg. Photo Supplied By: Gochip.
10 to Watch Winner 2024 - Ocean AID
From left, Archit Kumar and Andrew Polanyi. Photo By: Jeffrey Bosdet.

Home Based Recovery

A 100-per-cent virtual program that tailors addiction treatment to each client’s needs. Clients are matched with a certified recovery coach for an immersive and engaging virtual self-help experience.

Zingaro Floral Perfumery

Harnessing Vancouver Island’s botanical bounty to make one-of-a-kind  perfumes.

10 to Watch Winner 2024 - Home Based Discovery
From left, Dr. Michael Berry, Ewan Kirkaldy and Michael Walsh. Photo By: Jeffrey Bosdet.
10 to Watch Winner 2024 - Zingaro Floral Perfumery
From left, Shane Murray and Palma Cafolla. Photo By: Jeffrey Bosdet.

Ritual Nordic Spa

Immerse. Rejuvenate. Repeat. Ritual Nordic Spa seeks to recreate the experience of a traditional Finnish sauna.

This Week’s Lunch

Filling a need by delivering a week of healthy, pre-packed school lunches.

10 to Watch Winner 2024 - Ritual Nordic Spa
Principal Marci Hotsenpiller. Photo By: Jeffrey Bosdet.
10 to Watch Winner 2024 - This Week's Lunch
From left, Jason Potter, Hannah Oluka and Kirk Stringer. Photo By: Jeffrey Bosdet.

Philosophy MD

Victoria’s confidence experts. Delivers global standards in physician-led esthetics and provides a highly personal, luxury and patient-focused experience.


ArtRow is a disruptive digital marketplace for the buying and selling of professionally vetted artwork.

10 to Watch Winner 2024 - Philosphy MD
From left, Carla Matheson, Dr. Bri Budlovsky, Dr. Matt Carere and
Tara Carere. Photo By: Jeffrey Bosdet.
10 to Watch Winner 2024 - ArtRow
Principal Lara Tomaszewska. Photo By: Jeffrey Bosdet.
10 to watch sponsors compilation