Taking the Plunge: Amanda Aitken, Sarah Liberatore and Alex Savva

For almost two years, we’ve been featuring one notable Canadian young professional or entrepreneur every single day on our site. What often catches our attention most among the self-starters is hearing about the moment they decided to drop salary dependence and go it alone (metaphorically, of course). Our new weekly series, Taking the Plunge, takes a closer look at how and when three entrepreneurs knew it was time to launch a business…

“I’ve always loved the creative aspect of design. But there I was, teaching front-end code and technical WordPress knowledge to the students in my online course, The Girl’s Guide to Web Design, and just barely skimming the surface with the aesthetic stuff.

Over time, more and more of my students started asking “how-to” questions that fell under the umbrella of design, rather than HTML, CSS, or web hosting. And though it took me a while, I eventually realized that the Universe was doing everything in its power to get me to sit up and take notice: it was time to create an additional course that focused on teaching branding and graphic design!

It’s amazing how long it can take us to “clue in” to these sorts of intuitive prompts. Almost as amazing as the fact that I tortured myself for MONTHS over what to call the new business – until my husband Justin, who is our COO and resident video expert, casually said to me, “so you’re going to call it The Girl’s Guide to Graphic Design, right?” Now THAT was a forehead-smacker.” 

Amanda AitkenFounder and CEO, The Girl’s Guide to Graphic Design (pictured at top).

“The wine business runs in my family and my background is Italian, so I grew up with a lot of Italian wine around me and the bottles all seemed to look similar. In the USA there are so many young people involved in the wine industry, from winemakers to wine marketers, but in Canada it’s very much an older man’s world. When I graduated from university I decided to set out to change that by dreaming up a collection of wines that would embody Italy’s best assets – its fashion and its wine. In 2011, after my fair share of obstacles, STLTO Wines was finally born. I’m proud that the fashion-forward collection makes a statement in the LCBO’s Italian Wines category but still packs as much taste and quality as it does style.” 

Sarah Liberatore, Founder of STLTO Wines.


“My business partner Don Gauvreau and I have always been obsessed with bodybuilding, fitness and sport. We both competed and used sports supplements as part of our training but we weren’t happy with the strength or quality of the products available. Most were based on hype and marketing rather than cutting-edge formulas, so we decided to create what we wanted but couldn’t find. We vowed to only release a product if we believed it was stronger and significantly better than anything else on the market, and that’s the philosophy we’ve built our business on. After testing our first product formula personally and on other athletes, we knew it was ready to market. In 2009, we launched our hybrid fat burner, RIPPED FREAK, in the Canadian market and it quickly became a top-seller. We created it for ourselves and I’ll never forget how excited we were to use it. The product came first and once we knew we had a winner, our company, PHARMAFREAK, was born.” 

Alex Savva, Co-Founder of PHARMAFREAK.