Women innovators gathered for Waterloo WIMIn conference

This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.

Sharita Henry, University of Waterloo student and founder of SUNSHINE

A lot can happen in a year. Last year, Sharita Henry was a first-time participant in Waterloo Women: Ideas, Makers, and Innovators (WWIMIn), a female-only conference or “ideathon” designed to inspire students, alumni and faculty to collaborate on new ideas for products, businesses and social change.

A year later, Henry is building a web and mobile-based platform called SUNSHINE that will help parents, teachers and therapists of students on the autism spectrum bridge their communications gap by instantly sharing information about the student with everyone on the support team.

Henry also returned to this year’s WWIMIn ideathon as a judge in January.

“It’s funny because I never would have thought of myself as someone who would start a business or do anything like that, says Henry. “But since the conference I’m actually onto my third business now.”

Henry’s winning idea at last year’s WWIMIn ideathon got her an invitation to pitch the GreenHouse Big Ideas for Social Good Challenge where she secured a spot at St. Paul’s University College GreenHouse incubator at the University of Waterloo campus.

An environmental business student in her final year at Waterloo, Henry credits the speakers and workshops at last year’s ideathon with helping to solidify her idea within the two-day event. “The workshops were very helpful with getting to the point of being able to actually pitch an idea that you come up with on the same day,” says Henry.

Henry also lined up a position after graduation with Venture for Canada, a non-profit recruitment firm that places top graduates with successful start-ups across the country.

Through the GreenHouse incubator, Henry also secured funding and connected with the Communitech Startup Group, taking on a technical co-founder to help develop the software platform for her idea.

Henry is surprised at how quickly her involvement with entrepreneurship has grown and credits the WIMIn conference as a major starting point for her entrepreneurial journey: “One of the big things I took away last year was that no idea is too small to make a difference and if it’s something that you’re passionate about then you really are the right person to build that business and to tackle that challenge. I think for women that’s not something that we hear very often in other areas of our life.”

Waterloo Women: Ideas, Makers, and Innovators (WIMIn) is an ideathon to inspire University of Waterloo students, alumni, and faculty to collaborate in developing world-changing ideas.

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