Student takes provincial award for entrepreneurship

RAINER KOCSIS

Anastasia Szalaszyj started her own company to fill a gap in the women’s footwear market where fashionable and practical shoes are sparse.

Anastasia Szalaszyj started her own company to fill a gap in the women’s footwear market where fashionable and practical shoes are sparse.

A student from the University of Saskatchewan has been named Saskatchewan’s 2014 Student Entrepreneur Provincial Champion by Enactus Canada — the country’s largest student leadership development organization.

Anastasia Szalasznyj, a fourth-year modern languages student, founded Winter Girl Boots and Accessories in 2013. Her vision was to design and produce a winter boot that was warm but also fashionable.

“Women have no good options for winter footwear. If boots are warm and grippy, they’re frumpy and if they’re stylish, they’re cold and without grip,” Szalasznyj said.

Szalasznyj was inspired to create Winter Girl Boots and Accessories after experiencing 20 cold and slippery Canadian winters.

“If you’re Canadian, you are familiar with one thing: winter,” she said. “I decided to turn winter into my business partner.”

Rather than complain about the cold weather, Szalasznyj saw an opportunity. With help from mentors Melissa Strom and Tom Allen, Szalasznyj created the Canadian Girl company and set about designing a boot that is stylish, warmly lined and has deeply embedded grips. She found a manufacturer in China to produce the boots, which Szalasznyj describes as “fleecy warm to the soles, with your choice of bling, straps and buckles.”

The boots are made from synthetic leather and come in an array of styles and colors. Customers also have the option of buying detachable accessories that change the look of the boot.

Szalasznyj will showcase her business and personal accomplishments as an entrepreneur at the Enactus Regional Exposition in Calgary on Feb. 28, where she will compete against three other Student Entrepreneur Provincial Champions from Western Canada for the title of regional champion.

If she wins, Szalasznyj will move on to the 2014 Enactus Canada National Exposition taking place April 28–30 in Calgary. The national champion will receive a $10,000 cash prize and take home the John Dobson Cup.

“Receiving the 2014 Student Entrepreneur Championship for Saskatchewan is exciting, encouraging and humbling. It is exciting to win recognition from those who understand and excel in the business world. This recognition reinforces the worth of my business idea,” Szalasznyj said.

“It encourages me in my business venture which addresses a real need in women’s fashion and safety on ice and snow. It is also humbling because I am still a student and still have so much to learn from my fellow entrepreneurs.”

Although Szalasznyj is studying Spanish and Ukrainian, her minor is in entrepreneurship. Alongside over four years of working in a clothing store, these studies gave Szalasznyj the necessary skills to start her own company.

Szalasznyj loves the challenge of being an entrepreneur, even while juggling many academic and extracurricular commitments.

“Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy, especially while you’re taking full time classes, but starting a business from the ground up is extremely rewarding,” Szalasznyj said. “A year ago, the idea of stylish boots that offered warmth and grip was just an idea in my head. Now it is a reality that is changing people’s lives.”

Szalasznyj always knew that she was going to be an entrepreneur. One of her favorite aspects of business is interacting with the media by giving interviews and developing her company’s online presence. So far, Winter Girl has received over 4,700 likes on Facebook since the end of November of 2013 when the business started up.


Photo: Supplied