Media Release

Champions for wildlife and development honoured at Saint Mary’s winter convocation

Saint Mary’s University is granting the highest honour it can bestow, an honorary degree, to two innovative Nova Scotian leaders on Friday, Jan. 25.

Saint Mary’s is pleased to recognize the extraordinary achievements of:

·         Scott Armour McCrea, a community builder, real estate innovator and entrepreneur; and

·         Hope Swinimer, a wildlife champion, animal advocate and rehabilitator. 

“At Saint Mary’s University, community is at the heart of all that we do,” said Saint Mary’s University president Robert Summerby-Murray. “Both Mr. McCrea and Ms. Swinimer are exemplars in community building and leadership, whose accomplishments are deserving of recognition and acclaim. We are proud to have them as members of the Saint Mary’s community.”

A life-long Haligonian, Mr. McCrea's deep-rooted understanding of the enduring impact of real estate development on communities comes naturally to him. He is the second generation to direct The Armour Group Limited. As the Chief Executive Officer of The Armour Group Limited, he leads one of Atlantic Canada’s largest fully integrated real estate and investment concerns. An essential part of his work is fostering community development. He wants his grandchildren to be able to see the positive impact that The Armour Group’s real estate developments have had on the region.(Extended biography)   

Born and raised in Argyle, Nova Scotia, Ms. Swinimer knew from an early age that she loved animals and the outdoors. She also knew that she wanted a life working with nature. Today, she runs Hope For Wildlife, a non-profit wildlife rehabilitation and education centre located on a farm in Seaforth, Nova Scotia.The center has helped over 40,000 animals, representing over 200 species. Ms. Swinimer and her team share their journey through their globally-syndicated television show that follows them as they nurse thousands of injured and orphaned wildlife back to health and return them to the wild.(Extended biography)   


Honorary Degree: Scott Armour McCrea

Scott Armour McCrea, Doctor of Commerce, honoris causa
Community builder, real estate innovator and entrepreneur

Scott Armour McCrea

Scott Armour McCrea

A life-long Haligonian, Mr. McCrea's deep-rooted understanding of the enduring impact of real estate development on communities comes naturally to him. He is the second generation to direct The Armour Group Limited, a family-held company whose roots in Halifax are anchored to the integration of the ownership, construction and management of their properties, which include many of the city's historic and traditional spaces.

As the Chief Executive Officer of The Armour Group Limited, he leads one of Atlantic Canada’s largest fully integrated real estate and investment concerns. An essential part of his work is fostering community development. He wants his grandchildren to be able to see the positive impact that The Armour Group’s real estate developments have had on the region. 

Prior to August 2011, Mr. McCrea was Executive Vice-President of Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust (CUF.UN- TSX) and was the founding CEO of Overland Realty; a TSX-V corporation focused on Atlantic Canadian real estate opportunities. Overland Realty was subsequently acquired by Cominar REIT. Mr. McCrea’s 25 years of experience include the development and management of complex real estate projects in the commercial, residential, hospitality and tourism-related fields. He has successfully negotiated hundreds of millions in debt and equity placements and property acquisitions. His achievements include the development of the RBC Waterside Centre in downtown Halifax and the Queen’s Marque district on the Halifax waterfront, which will represent an almost $200 million private investment in the region with a target completion date in early 2020.

Mr. McCrea has been an active participant on various Boards and non-profit organizations within the community; most recently these have included Mount St. Vincent University, Royal Host Inc. and the Halifax Grammar School as co-chair of the Engaging Excellence Capital Campaign.  His accomplishments have led him to be the recipient of several awards including Canada’s Top 40 under 40, Halifax’s Business Person of the Year (2006), and one of Atlantic Canada’s Top 50 CEOs. Mr. McCrea is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario and the University of Toronto, where he studied business and economics.

Honorary Degree: Hope Swinimer

Hope Swinimer, Doctor of Science, honoris causa
Wildlife champion, animal advocate and rehabilitator

Hope Swinimer

Hope Swinimer

Born and raised in Argyle, Nova Scotia, Hope Swinimer spent most of her time outdoors as a child enjoying everything the natural world had to offer. She knew that she wanted to work with nature in some capacity, and after missing life by the ocean terribly while attending college in Truro, she knew she needed to stay near the ocean.

While working at Dartmouth Veterinary Hospital as a manager, Ms. Swinimer took in her first rehab animal in 1995—a robin that had been attacked by a cat. Researching how to care for the bird inspired her to learn more about injured wildlife, and as her knowledge grew, colleagues began sending wildlife-related calls her way.

Later that year, she became certified in Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation from the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Association. Ms. Swinimer was offered an opportunity to work as a wildlife rehabilitator in Ontario but couldn’t leave behind the place she called home.

With just a few cages in the backyard and a room in her house as a nursery, Ms. Swinimer rehabbed about 40 animals in her first year. By 1996, word of this grew, and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) determined that a permit was required; however, such a permit did not exist in the province at that time. She worked with DNR to establish a licensing process (using the United States as a model), and in 1997, moved to Winnie’s Way in Seaforth where she received her rehabilitator permit. She considered Seaforth as the perfect place for animal rehabilitation.

The Eastern Shore Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre became the first privately owned wildlife rehabilitation centre in Nova Scotia, taking in about 200 animals per year. The centre was in such demand that it soon outgrew its property again, and in 2001, Ms. Swinimer relocated within Seaforth to “the farm,” which was a larger property that would accommodate the rehab’s immediate needs but also leave room to grow.

Hope for Wildlife now accepts over 4500 wild animals per year, and over 20,000 callers are assisted through its wildlife helpline, thousands of visitors are also welcomed to its facilities for guided tours. In December of 2015, Hope for Wildlife moved into a new custom-built facility, which replaced the more than 100-year-old barn previously in use, and in the summer of 2017, opened their onsite Country Clinic which acts as a fully functioning wildlife hospital. In 2019, Hope for Wildlife will install 109 solar panels onsite to reduce their ecological footprint, lower electricity costs, and help move the farm from fossil fuels to green energy.

Ms. Swinimer and her team share their journey through their globally-syndicated television show that follows them as they nurse thousands of injured and orphaned wildlife back to health and return them to the wild.

 

 

Saint Mary’s venture capital students invest in haircut house calls

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House calls for haircuts proved to be to be a cut above the competition and too good an investment to pass up for Saint Mary’s University’s Venture Grade Fund. They are investing $15,000 in Cribcut, an online booking service that connects consumers with top hair stylists that bring the salon to them.

“Cribcut has a novel business model that we are proud to support,” said Saint Mary’s student and Venture Grade Associate Emma Scott. “We are confident in David’s lean startup methodology and experience as a serial entrepreneur who’s exited three past ventures and one in Silicon Valley. Cribcut is positioned to be a major disruptor in the beauty industry.

Cribcut was co-founded by serial entrepreneur David Howe, who has built and deployed a software-enabled marketplace for hairstylists. Cribcut's solution helps stylists become travelling hairdressers - providing clients with haircuts, colors, and styles at their homes and offices. Cribcut's software solution helps stylists with bookings, travel optimization, payments and ratings. Cribcut also facilitates new client introductions for stylists. Bookings can be made through their online booking app with on-demand appointments available.

 "We're happy to welcome Venture Grade as one of our investors,” said David Howe, the Chief Executive Officer with Cribcut. “We're confident that this investment will help us continue growth and product development and set us up for further funding over the coming months. We look forward to a mutually beneficial partnership with Venture Grade and welcome them with open arms to our growing team."

Should the company experience a successful exit, meaning if they are purchased for a large sum, the investors, including Venture Grade, will receive a payout scaled to the purchase. Any returns made on Venture Grade’s investments are returned to Venture Grade, the student fund.

The Saint Mary’s University Venture Grade Fund is a student-raised and run venture capital fund and the first student-raised venture capital investment fund in Canada in which the students raise the capital.

The fund was started by students of Dr. Ellen Farrell at the Sobey School of Business in fall 2016, with a connection to Silicon Valley’s C100 group, Boston’s Canadian Entrepreneurs in New England, and initial support from Innovacorp. It has expanded to include members at other Atlantic universities including Acadia University, Dalhousie University, and Memorial University.

Saint Mary’s students make their first venture capital investment in international travel start-up

Saint Mary’s University’s Venture Grade Fund, a student-raised and led venture capital fund, is making its first investment, $15,000 to travel start-up Trip Ninja.

Trip Ninja is a travel-planning software for use by online travel retailers such as Expedia or Priceline. When retail customers are booking plane trips to several different places, Trip Ninja helps online travel retailers find the best price. This multi-destination platform finds the best way to book the trip, whether travellers are flexible in their route or if they need to visit destinations in a particular order.

“It has been great working with Saint Mary’s University’s Venture Grade Fund, and seeing the confidence they have in our product,” said Trip Ninja Co-Founder, Andres Collart. “Saint Mary’s has helped us through reviewing aspects of our business with their MBA students who have a firm grasp on entrepreneurship and innovation. It’s been great working with an organization who is committed to helping start-ups and entrepreneurs have success.” 

The Saint Mary’s University Venture Grade Fund is a student-raised and run venture capital fund and the first student-raised venture capital investment fund in Canada in which the students raise the capital. Their fund is operating at about $200,000 currently.

The team seems to have chosen well as the fledgling travel tech company has attracted notable local, national and international investors, including East Valley Ventures, Innovacorp and other investors experienced in the travel industry. Innovacorp is also a supporter of Saint Mary’s University’s Venture Grade Fund’s assessment of Trip Ninja, and provided Venture Grade with half the capital required for their investment.

The team’s faculty advisor and mentor is venture capital expert and SMU professor, Dr. Ellen Farrell.

“This is a win-win-win situation,” said Farrell. “Venture Grade’s donors and partners like Innovacorp get to offer students an unparalleled experiential education experience, the students get the benefit of raising the capital and conducting due diligence, and the start-up spends the investment thus supporting their business.”

Should the company experience a successful exit, meaning if they are purchased for a large sum, the investors, including Venture Grade, will receive a payout scaled to the purchase. Any returns made on Venture Grade’s investments are returned to Venture Grade, the student fund.

The fund was started by students of Dr. Ellen Farrell at the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University in fall 2016, with a connection to Silicon Valley’s C100 group, Boston’s Canadian Entrepreneurs in New England, and initial support from Innovacorp. It has expanded to include members at other Atlantic universities including Acadia University, Dalhousie University, and Memorial University.

“Sobey School of Business and Saint Mary’s University are proud to offer students the opportunity to experience the risks and rewards of investing,” said Dr. Harjeet Bhabra, dean of the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University.

“With the School’s strengths in finance and entrepreneurship, the Venture Grade Fund could only have been created here. We’re proud to continue making an impact on our region and on the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”