Flame and fortune: Design grad named Woman Entrepreneur of the Year

October 31, 2019

Amanda Bushe, Coal and Canary co-founderA Red River College grad behind one of the city’s most popular startups has been named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Women Business Owners of Manitoba (WBOM).

Amanda Buhse, co-founder of Coal and Canary Candle Company, was both the overall winner and in the Global Reach category at this year’s Manitoba Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, held Oct. 24 at the Metropolitan Event Centre.

A 2006 graduate of RRC’s Graphic Design – Advanced program (now called Communication Design), Buhse launched the Coal and Canary brand with best friend Tom Jansen in 2014. The pair expected to start slow, selling a few hand-poured candles to friends and family, but mere months later were scrambling to fill Oscar and Grammy Awards swag bags while meeting the rising demand from their first retail clients.

These days, they’re a regular presence at pop-up shops and makers’ markets throughout the city, and their candles — made from high-quality soy and vegetable wax, with scents running the gamut from Don’t Be Chaito The Cider Made Me Do It— can also be found at their storefront in The Forks Market.

Buhse was working full-time as a web designer when she and Jensen first began brainstorming ideas for their business. She’d been encouraged to pursue graphic design training at RRC by a high school guidance counsellor, and while she found the program “surprisingly hard,” she’s eternally grateful for the advice.

“I just feel like so many lessons we were taught (have in turn) taught me, and helped me with my business,” she said in a 2016 RRC profile.

“One of our instructors told me, and I’ll never forget it, that you can be the smallest fish in the sea, but if you have great branding you can look like the largest fish.

“I truly believe that is the heart of our company, and from Day One, I set out to make a brand instead of just a logo.”

Bushe’s Entrepreneur of the Year designation saw her facing competition from 135 Manitoba business owners, whom she made sure to shout out in her acceptance speech at the gala.

“I am humbled, honoured and completely thrilled,” Buhse said of the recognition. “Here’s to all the female entrepreneurs out there — let’s continue to follow our dreams and shoot for the moon!”

Photo credit: Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Awards