This year’s winner of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Prairies – Manufacturing award is Mike Fata, Co-founder and CEO of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods, the world’s largest hemp food manufacturer to grow, make and sell its own brand of hemp food products.
Entrepreneurs from across the Prairies were judged based on their vision, leadership, innovation, financial performance, community engagement, and personal influence. The judging panel consisted of educators, business and community leaders, and past winners.
“Twenty years ago when a hemp foods company was simply a dream, I never could have imagined we would be where we are today,” says Fata. “Now that I know anything is possible, I wish I had dreamt bigger!” Fata was also selected for the national Entrepreneur of the Year Special Citation for Entrepreneurial Spirit.
Fata and his fellow co-founders started their business by partnering with farmers, government agencies and local retailers to work on building consumer demand. “There was no hemp foods industry back then so we really had to create an industry along with a company,” he says.
Manitoba Harvest has grown over 500 per cent in the past five years, and is the largest vertically integrated hemp foods manufacturer in the world. The company is poised for continued growth, having just completed a facility expansion that nearly triples manufacturing capacity.
Despite its huge successes, Manitoba Harvest still remains aligned with Fata’s initial goal – to introduce consumers to the health benefits of hemp foods.
“I was an overweight, unhappy teenager,” says Fata. “Hemp foods played a crucial role in transforming my life and I wanted to share them with everyone. After my co-founders and I helped legalize industrial hemp in Canada, starting a food company was the natural choice because it aligned with my passion for nutrition.”