OCAD Alumnus wins prestigious Waterloo pitch competition!

CEO, Alwar Pillai
Thursday, September 13, 2018


 Accessibility startup Fable Tech Labs wins $75k in female founders pitch competition

OCAD U alumnus, Alwar Pillai, pitched Fable Tech Labs to win first prize, $75,000, at the Waterloo-based Fierce Founders pitch competition

Fable is an accessibility platform that companies use to engage people with disabilities in user-testing.

The Fierce Founders Bootcamp is Canada’s leading pitch competition for female founders, hosted each year by Communitech in Waterloo.


 September 12, 2018 — Fable Tech Labs wins $75,000 to grow online platform that helps companies engage people with disabilities in research and user testing.

Alwar Pillai’s winning pitch showcased Fable as a social enterprise, providing companies with a high quality offering while also creating flexible employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Each year, Communitech hosts the female targetted Fierce Founders Bootcamp, which ends with a pitch competition and $100,000 in prizes.

Fable, a young Toronto-based startup, is a member of Imagination Catalyst, OCAD U’s business accelerator. Alwar is a graduate of OCAD U’s Masters of Inclusive Design program, where she focused her energy on co-designing technology interfaces with the aging population.

As a newcomer to Canada, Alwar describes the entrepreneurial spirit in Canada to be palpable. “It’s really special that programs in Canada empower people to solve problems. Imagination Catalyst and Fierce Founders are giving us the tools and the time we need to grow into something big!”

The company was founded in April of 2018 and has been gaining traction quickly. As a social enterprise, Fable provides flexible employment for people with disabilities while offering an essential service to companies that are required to comply with digital accessibility standards.



Fable Tech Labs

Cassels Brock Pitch Competition

Cassels Brock Pitch Competition
Thursday, September 27, 2018 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm

OCAD U CO and Imagination Catalyst would like to invite you to our new office space at Daniels Waterfront: City of the Arts to participate in our
7th annual Cassels Brock Pitch Competition.

The competition will showcase new startups founded by OCAD U alumni who will compete for $5000 in start-up funding.

The event runs from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM in our new innovation campus space at Daniels Waterfront: City of the Arts building at 130 Queens Quay East and Lower Jarvis.

RSVP HERE: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cassels-brock-pitch-competition-tickets-48886700437

Venue & Address: 
Daniels Waterfront: City of The Arts. 130 Queens Quay East M5A 3Y5 Toronto, Ontario
416-977-6000 x4258
New Waterfront innovation campus


Thursday, November 16, 2017 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm

Students from the Entrepreneurship & Social Innovation class are looking for help raising awareness of the importance of mental health by hosting a unique and immersive Yoga event, that aims to help students de-stress during a busy time of the school year. You are invited to participate!

This Yoga class is suitable for all levels and also includes snacks and raffle prizes. The class integrates projection lighting and music inspired by the calming qualities of the ocean.

6:00 PM to 7:00 PM

7:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Pay what you can

All proceeds go to OCAD U's Health & Wellness Centre


Tickets available online: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/calm-before-the-storm-immersive-yoga-experience-tickets-39463932685 

Venue & Address: 
Black Box, 49 McCaul Street
CALM BEFORE THE STORM photo of person doing yoga on the beach

2017 Manning Innovation Symposium

2017 Manning Innovation Symposium Poster
Thursday, November 30, 2017 - 11:00am to 2:00pm

Join us at the Symposium, to hear from and mingle with six innovators – four Manning Laureates and two OCAD U innovators. Their brief and dynamic presentations about their pathways to innovation will be followed by a complimentary lunch and a ‘speed innovating’ experience where you can connect one-on-one with these inspiring innovators and more.

For 36 years, the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation has been creating a culture of innovation in Canada by discovering, encouraging and rewarding Canadian innovators and telling their stories. Manning Laureates’ innovations are commercially viable and touch all areas of human endeavour.


On-site registration will begin at 11:00am.

The Symposium will begin at 11:30am.


To register please click here.

Follow us on Facebook here.

Venue & Address: 
The Great Hall 100 McCaul Street, Room 270 Toronto, Ontario M5T 1W1
416-977-6000 x4782

Apply to GDES-4007: Social Enterprise Catalyst

Got an idea for a business, social enterprise, or project with a positive social impact? All third- and fourth-year students are welcome to apply to this course!

Teaching creative entrepreneurs about the business of social innovation

Studying the whys, wherefores and how-tos of business is not what first leaps to mind when one imagines post-secondary education in art and design. OCAD University’s Alia Weston, however, believes understanding business history and practices can be a powerful asset for emerging artists and designers: “Equipping our students with business skills that will enable them to be more sustainable and resilient as they forge careers in the creative economy is the foundation of my work as an educator.”

An assistant professor of creative business enterprise in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences and School of Interdisciplinary Studies, Weston is motivated, in part, by a desire to share those “things I wish I had been taught when I was pursuing my own undergraduate studies.” Weston explains: “After I completed my BA in silversmithing, jewellery and allied crafts at the Sir John Cass School of Art and Design, I realized that, while I had gained design skills and qualifications and sold my work as a practising jeweller, I didn’t know anything about how to start a business, especially in such a highly competitive place as London.” In order to acquire that knowledge, Weston undertook a master’s in business studies at Kingston University, where she found herself drawn to alternative businesses and micro-economies. Weston stayed on at Kingston to cap off her formal studies with a cross-disciplinary PhD, focusing on creativity in the “informal economy” during the 2000s crisis in her home country of Zimbabwe.

Informed engagement

At OCAD U since 2014, Weston combines her ongoing work as a professional jeweller and her scholarly research on business, creativity and social impact, to design and deliver courses that empower students “to engage with business in a more informed manner.” Weston regards knowledge of business practices and strategies as “essential” for creative people. Art and design graduates, she says, “need to be able to make a living and flourish in society – that’s where entrepreneurship skills are invaluable. On the other side of the coin is learning about social responsibility and mission-driven business.”

Weston’s convictions have taken flight in OCAD U’s Minor in Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation. Co-designed and co-directed with Sarah Tranum, an assistant professor of social innovation design, the program began in September 2015. Open to students pursuing any major, it has proven highly appealing, with both core courses – SOSC 2004: Business, Leadership and Social Innovation and SOSC 3010 Creative Economies – fully enrolled.                             

In the classroom, Weston emphasizes hands-on experiences. “My courses all have a collaborative and experiential dimension,” she says. “I try to get my students to carry out work that is as practically relevant as possible. I therefore incorporate a range of formats and activities, including experiential projects, seminars, industry engagement, visiting speakers, student presentations and real-world business research and analysis.”


Elastic Effect

Elastic effect: Here, students took the most inspiring amount to initiative, and sold refreshments in the lobby of 100 McCaul St. to fund an art exhibition/ networking event that was the main event for their assignment. Their social mission was to give other students the opportunity to exhibit their work and network with local businesses.


O-POP Art Fair

O-POP Art Fair: here, students' social mission was to give a platform for other students to sell their work, they got loads of people to attend the event in 49 McCaul St.



Heartlines: A selfcare colouring book made with artwork from students at OCAD U, and sold to raise money for the health and wellness centre at OCAD U.


Beyond her teaching, Weston expands opportunities for students to learn about and engage in business and social innovation through her leadership of the university’s Impact Economy Research Hub — an arm of the Impact Collective, which she co-directs with Zev Farber of the Centre for Emerging Artists and Designers. A notable Impact Collective project is the extended success of the Art Works! Video, which has been newly commissioned by CBC Arts as an online series and showcases how OCAD U community members use art and design to create dialogue about social change.

Good business

For Weston, business education at an art and design university pivots on helping students develop “transferable” skills. These include collaboration, research and analysis, and critical reflection — “acknowledging both the successes and limitations of knowledge and practice.”

“I also want to challenge the view that business and economic practices are fundamentally exploitative, harmful and unethical.” While that is sometimes the case, Weston accepts, what matters most is how one does business. Shedding light on this concept, Weston cites Caitlynn Fairbarns (Photography 2015) who drew on what she learned in Weston’s Entrepreneurship course to turn her final-year thesis project into a mission-driven enterprise that generates income by publishing zines, selling artwork and running community events while demystifying gender stereotypes in fan culture. “As Fairbarns’ Fake Geek Girls Like Us publishing platform shows, business can be extremely beneficial and socially innovative. It can, for instance, promote community values and development while also being economically sustainable. That’s the message I hope I’m able to communicate to my students.”


Morgan Holmes is a writer and editor based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His main areas of expertise are post-secondary education, the arts, and health care. When he's not wrangling words, Morgan enjoys making a racket on the Great Highland bagpipes.

*all images are from Weston's entrepreneurship class
Morgan Holmes

Dr Alia Weston

Alia Weston is an Associate Professor of Creative and Business Enterprise. Through her research and practice Alia explores the intersection of business, creativity and social change. She takes a critical theory perspective to question dominant research paradigms and redefine how we understand knowledge; exploring themes such as critical business practice, economic sociology, creative work in resource constraints,community empowerment and innovation, and experiential food methodology.

Grind Sociables

The Grind logo with arrow pointing up
Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm

The Grind sociables is a weekly event where we encourage students, faculty and alumni from the OCAD U community to join our weekly roundtable discussions. We focus on a different theme each week as we build meaningful connections, share knowledge and ideas, and demystify what it means to be a social entrepreneur. 

Venue & Address: 
That Place on the Second Floor (100 McCaul Street)

Aging 2.0 #30in30in30 | Toronto Pitch Event

Monday, September 28, 2015 - 9:30pm to Tuesday, September 29, 2015 - 12:30am

#30in30in30 is an initiative supported by Aging 2.0 to encourage local communities around the world to host pitch events for new innovative products and services that stand to improve the lives of older adults. We are taking part in Aging 2.0's plan to host 30 Pitch Events in 30 cities around the world in 30 days.

5:30 – 6:00 Drinks & Networking
6:00 – 6:15 Welcome & Aging2.0 Introduction
6:15 – 6:30 Keynote Speech (Dr. Alex Mihailidis, AGE-WELL Scientific Director)
6:30 – 6:50 Round 1: Startup Pitches (3 Minutes Each)
6:50 – 7:20 Networking5:30 – 6:00 Drinks & Networking
7:20 – 7:40 Round 2: Startup Pitches (3 Minutes Each)
7:40 – 8:00 Senior Guest Designated Q&A
8:00 – 8:30 Audience Voting, Networking, Winner Announcement & Wrap Up

HOST: Mike King, Aging2.0 Toronto Ambassador

Venue & Address: 
OCAD University, 100 McCaul Street The Great Hall 2nd Floor

OCAD U receives $250,000 to develop Art & Design Social Innovation Zone

Friday, November 7, 2014 - 5:00am

(Toronto—November 6, 2014) The McConnell Family Foundation has selected OCAD University (OCAD U) to be a recipient of the RECODE Catalyst fund, dedicated to activating social innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education across Canada. 

RECODE provides social innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities to college and university students, so that they may become drivers of progress and change.

RECODE will:

  • Support the development of campus-level social innovation and social entrepreneurship ‘zones’, along with business, community and public sector partners.
  • Operate a national challenge and collaboration platform open to all post-secondary faculty and students in Canada.
  • Advance society’s ability to address social and environmental challenges through collaboration and innovation across disciplines, sectors and institutions.

OCAD U’s new Art & Design Social Innovation Zone will launch student-centred social entrepreneurship programs spearheaded by the Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers and through the curriculum via entrepreneurship courses. It will do so in conjunction with OCAD U’s Digital Media Research & Innovation Institute’s expansion of social innovation research capacity. Programming will include partnerships with OCAD University’s commercialization hub, the Imagination Catalyst, and build a network of community partners. This network will explore system models for mobilization, positive change-entrepreneurship, learning opportunities and participatory engagement processes — with the goal of uncovering untapped ideas, interests, resources and opportunities; and establishing programs and services needed to drive social innovation and launch social enterprises.

“It is an honour to receive this grant from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation to benefit and serve our students, and network of partners, and to be part of this remarkable platform dedicated to catalyzing social innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education across Canada,” said Monica Contreras, Director, Digital Media Research & Innovation Institute. “OCAD University will expand its role as an adaptive change agency and a hub of creative social enterprises ready to tackle society’s greatest challenges.”

To learn more about the initiative please visit www.re-code.ca or join the conversation on Facebook (LetsRECODE) and Twitter @LetsRECODE #LetsRECODE.

About the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation
The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation is a private philanthropic organization based in Montréal that supports Canadians in building a more innovative, inclusive, sustainable and resilient society. For more information, please visit: http://www.mcconnellfoundation.ca.