Keynote speaker on stage for the 2016 LiONS LAIR pitch competition

Top Hamilton Business Experts Will Serve as “Lions” for the 2014 LiONS LAIR Competition

The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and Innovation Factory are proud to present the fourth annual LiONS LAIR competition. As a celebration of entrepreneurship and innovation in Hamilton, the competition gives ten companies the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of Hamilton’s top business experts, the “LiONS,” for a chance to win over $100,000 in cash and in-kind resources.

The “Lions” will decide which companies receive investments through the competition. This year’s “Lions” are: Carmela Trombetta (RBC Royal Bank), Blair McKeil (McKeil Marine), Mario Paron (KPMG), Jeff Paikin (New Horizon Homes) and Tonia Jahshan (Steeped Tea).

“This competition was designed to support entrepreneurship and innovation which play an important role in the economic development of our community,” stated Dave Carter, Executive Director of Innovation Factory. “LiON’S LAIR gives the participants the chance to showcase their innovations, and the Lions with the opportunity to provide the needed support and investments to help jumpstart these companies.”

This year’s Lions have been carefully selected based on their business acumen and track record of success:

Carmela Trombetta has over nine years of experience working at RBC Royal Bank, working her way from Senior Commercial Accountant to the Vice-President of Commercial Financial Services. Carmela is a returning Lion, having participated in the 2013 competition.

Blair McKeil is Chairman and CEO of McKeil Marine Ltd. Blair has been responsible for developing new and innovative marine solutions for over 30 years. In 2012 Blair was awarded the Medal of Merit Award by the Association of Canadian Port Authorities for outstanding work and service to the maritime industry. This is Blair’s second year sitting on the panel of Lions.

Mario Paron is the Managing Partner of KMPG’s East Region. Mario’s financial expertise spans both industrial and consumer markets. With a focus in Tax, Mario serves a broad range of public and privately held corporations requiring integrated Canadian and U.S. tax advice. He has held several leadership roles with the firm over the past twenty five years, broadly in the audit and tax practices.

Jeff Paikin is the President of New Horizon Homes and was recently named the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce Royal Bank of Canada’s 2013 Hamilton Citizen of the Year. Jeff is past chair of the Hamilton Halton Home Builders Association, and the chair of the Transformation Campaign for Hillfield Strathallan College.

Tonia Jahshan is the President and founder of Steeped Tea Inc., a direct-sales loose leaf tea business that was featured on Dragons Den in 2012. Tonia has over 10 years of experience in the field of sales and marketing, and her business has ranked Canada’s 27th fastest growing company in Profit 500 magazine in 2013.

For each LiON’S full biography please visit

“The LiONS expertise is instrumental to the competition as they provide invaluable feedback to each of the finalists,” stated Keanin Loomis, President and CEO of The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. “These are some of Hamilton’s top business experts and the finalists have an amazing opportunity to impress these influential community members.”

Each participant will have a 25-minute session with the LiONS, which includes a pitch segment and a question period. The segments, which will be filmed at Cable 14, will be shown during the LiONS LAIR Gala on October 2, 2013 at Carmen’s Banquet Centre. At the gala, the Lionsʼ investment decisions will be revealed live on stage. Nick Bontis (McMaster University, Bontis on Business) will serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the event.

The Top 10 finalists will be announced in mid-June. Over the summer they will partake in various training sessions with industry experts to prepare them for their big pitch.

LiONS LAIR gala tickets will be on-sale shortly at

The site will be updated throughout the summer, providing up-to-date information on the finalists and their progression towards our final event. The website will also include information about the LiON’S LAIR gala, media information, and other interactive elements.

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