Thanks to a $25,000 investment she won as the champion of the 2024 Francophone Ignition Contest Saturday, March 2, in Abram-Village, Josée Gallant-Gordon will be able to further develop the physical and mental health services at her Elm Grove Centre in Alma, which offers care “from head to toe”.

Gallant-Gordon, who has been working in the mental health field since 2008, will now be able to integrate a new somatic retreat experience (two days and one night) with body and cognitive intervention, with mental health curriculum, in a yurt – a dome-shaped tent – in a peaceful, relaxing forest setting. Clients will be able to receive intensive care, including specialized treatment for managing symptoms of anxiety, depression and trauma. The owner plans to integrate services such as counseling, equine therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy.

All of these will be delivered by the center’s team of 11 licensed clinicians year-round. Ignition funds will be used specifically for the purchase of a yurt, preparation of the site for its installation and preparation of the specialized curriculum.

In her presentation to the judges and audience (including family members), she explained that the curriculum for these retreats can be tailored to the specific needs of clients. In addition, participants will be given a toolkit of strategies to continue improving their health when they leave. She noted several important statistics on suicide rates and hospitalizations for mental health reasons, justifying the addition of these additional mental health services. The Elm Grove Centre already offers services from three Island locations: Alma, Wellington and Tignish.

At the end of the contest, when the host announced that judges Jessica Gallant of Provincial Credit Union, Nico Durant of Front Gate Financial Group and consultant Bonnie Gallant had chosen Gallant-Gordon, she reacted with great surprise and tears of joy. This was in fact the second time she’d tried her luck at RDÉE Prince Edward Island’s Francophone Ignition Contest, which is similar in style to the TV shows “Shark Tank” and “Dragons’ Den” but which offers only one investment.

Stéphane Blanchard, executive director of RDÉE ÎPÉ, presented the $25,000 prize to the champion. Velma LeBlanc, chair of the RDÉE board of directors, presented her with additional sponsor prizes: a free one-year membership from the Greater Summerside Chamber of Commerce, free advertising in the Connections magazine published by the Greater Charlottetown and Area Chamber of Commerce, and a free college course from Le Collège de l’Île. Raymond J. Arsenault, manager of the Acadian and Francophone Chamber of Commerce of PEI, presented Gallant-Gordon with a pair of tickets to attend the 2024 Acadian Entrepreneurs’ Gala, as well as a complimentary one-year Chamber membership to Gallant-Gordon and the other two contestants. Robert Maddix, RDÉE’s entrepreneurial development officer, presented each with a certificate of participation.

OTHER COMPETITORS

The first contestant of the evening was Hélène Lebon of New Haven. With her business partner Mario Courchesne, she founded Productions LTDU last summer, a company that produces documentaries, shorts and features for television, digital or theatrical release. She entered the competition hoping to win funding to develop and pitch documentary projects, produce and distribute new content (podcasts, short documentaries), and strengthen the company’s visibility (website, etc.)

The final contestants, Marie Dubé and her husband Cole Whiteway of Cavendish, established Timeless Events PEI in 2023 to offer event planning services (weddings, birthdays, corporate events, etc.) Had they won the contest funds, they would have completed their website, purchased various administrative software, uniforms and décor, and erected a small building to serve as a warehouse and office space for meeting customers.

Around 35 people attended the evening to witness the presentations, all of which were equally impressive. During the break, there was some small talk about which project should win the award, but there didn’t seem to be any consensus. When the winner was announced, the crowd seemed to appreciate the judges’ choice.

Coordinator Alecia Arsenault thanked all the sponsors and participants, as well as those who helped to organize and hold the grand finale. The evening was in fact the 10th edition of RDÉE PEI’s entrepreneurial competition. Starting out as the Dragons’ Contest, the competition was transformed into the Francophone Ignition Contest when Innovation PEI agreed to provide $25,000 from its Ignition Start-Up Fund to RDÉE to be awarded to the winner.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency contributes funds to cover the administrative costs of the competition (coordination, promotion, training, etc.)

 

Stéphane Blanchard, left, executive director of RDÉE Prince Edward Island, presents the $25,000 prize to Josée Gallant-Gordon of Elm Grove Centre, winner of the 2024 Francophone Ignition Contest.

 

 

Velma LeBlanc, left, president of RDÉE Prince Edward Island, presents Josée Gallant-Gordon with three other prizes, from the Summerside and Charlottetown Chambers of Commerce and Le Collège de l’Île, which she won as champion of the 2024 Francophone Ignition Competition. They are joined by fellow contestants Hélène Lebon of Productions LTDU and Marie Dubé and Cole Whiteway of Cavendish of Timeless Events PEI.