Winners of the Tourism Innovation Lab Announced

First Ever “Spark” Mentorship & Grants Program Announced As Part of the Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab

Today Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI), as the lead founding partner of the Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab, announced the three winners of the first ever “Spark” Mentorship & Grants Program.

The top five finalists in the first ever Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab presented their pitch of their new tourism ideas today at Caesars Windsor. Each competed to receive a tourism industry mentorship, and a $3,000 grant to help take their idea to the next level of development or implementation.

The 2018 “Spark” Program winners include:

  • Amy Saba – Owner, Crafted on Riverfront
  • Jen Desjardins-Grondin – Co-Owner, GL Heritage Brewing Company
  • Michael Difazio – Owner, Head Builder and Designer, Michael Difazio Reclaim Artistry

The program was launched in Windsor Essex in June 2018 in collaboration with Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island, Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture & Sport, Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation, Libro Credit Union, and over 25 community partners and supporters from across the region.

The goal of the “Spark” Program is to find, foster and support new tourism experiences, product ideas and collaborative partnerships. This past summer, a community-wide marketing campaign encouraged residents, non-profits and small businesses to apply with their great new tourism ideas for Windsor Essex.

“We are excited to be the first region in Ontario to be offering the “Spark” Mentorships & Grants Program. The goal is to find and support new ideas that will enhance our tourism offerings and motivate travel to Windsor Essex.” said Gordon Orr, CEO of Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island. “As shown by the winners announced today, tourism in our region affects a wide variety of businesses and sectors, and we are excited to see these businesses and entrepreneurs grow upon our region’s already robust offerings.”

Additional finalists that presented include:

  • Susan McLeod – Director, Shō Studios Inc.
  • Elisabeth Cheng – International Customer Service Professional

This is the first-ever program of its kind for tourism development in the province. All of the winners and finalists will gain access to a network of tourism innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders.

“We received a total of 23 applications from across Windsor Essex in this first round of the “Spark” Program,” said Justin Lafontaine, Project Lead for the Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab. “All 5 finalists that pitched today have innovative tourism ideas that we want to support and help take to the next level.”

For more information visit

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Media Contacts:

Justin Lafontaine | Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab
416-712-8819 | [email protected]

Lynnette Bain | Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island
519-563-8192 | [email protected]


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