When it came time for entrepreneur Giancarlo Sessa (BBA ’19) to choose a university, it was a no-brainer. With a passion for entrepreneurship, he “heard great things” about York and its welcoming and friendly students, which made it easy to choose the Schulich School of Business.
“I wanted to attend a school where I was confident I could get one of the best, if not the best, business educations around,” says Giancarlo. “Given how well known and prestigious Schulich was – and still is – this decision was very easy for me. One thing in particular that stood out for me was that I was told how great the professors and students were. Having now completed the program, I too can agree with this statement. All the professors are amazing at what they do, and are willing to go above and beyond to see their students succeed.”
It was while at York that Giancarlo started his pathway to success. In his very first accounting class, he met his now business partner Aedan Fida. As part of the Schulich Startups Hub, he and Fida were exposed to pitch competitions, a podcast series, and distinguished guests, where he was able to network and find success as a student entrepreneur.
“I wanted to attend a school where I was confident I could get one of the best, if not the best, business education around. Given how well known and prestigious Schulich was – and still is – this decision was very easy for me. All the professors are amazing at what they do, and are willing to go above and beyond to see their students succeed.”
“The startup ecosystem at York has to be one of the best around,” says Giancarlo. “[Co-Director of Entrepreneurial Studies] Chris Carder, over the past several years, has done an amazing job of building Schulich Startups to be the amazing program it is today. He has created a network to help student entrepreneurs find success.”
It was during this time as student entrepreneurs that Giancarlo, along with Fida and his brother Joseph, developed Blade Filters, the world’s first zero-waste carbon filter, used for odour control in the cannabis industry. Since then, after hours of tireless design, prototyping and testing, they were extremely proud to announce their new innovation and response to the COVID-19 pandemic: Blade Air.
The HEPA-Carbon Air Filter – a five-step filtration process that removes up to 99.97 per cent of airborne particulate matter – prevents the spread of germs and diseases. These filters have been supplied to thousands of classrooms and businesses across Canada as part of their COVID-19 risk mitigation strategies. The filter is the team’s response to help front-line workers and essential employees, with the goal to help all Canadians feel safer by breathing easier.
They have been successful with this new pivot in their business. These units are being used in the Peel District, Dufferin-Peel Catholic, Waterloo, Hamilton, and Grand-Erie school boards. All technology is produced in Canada, and their efforts have been recognized internationally. In addition to these efforts, they are distributing HEPA air purifiers in the Middle East to help businesses there improve air quality.
It’s because of their innovative spirit that the team won the Aird & Berlis StartupSource Market Entry Award as part of Innovation York’s LaunchYU program for entrepreneurs. The program provides programming, workshops, and space to help entrepreneurs on and off campus build, launch and scale their start-up ventures. The trio received the award along with $25,000, including $12,500 in cash and an equal amount in Aird & Berlis StartupSource legal services.
Along with this success, Giancarlo is passionate about volunteerism. He is an advisor for the Junior Achievement Company Program where he supports youth on their entrepreneurial journeys. He finds joy in working with organizations of various sizes to determine ways in which they can provide more value to their customers, solve problems, and scale to the next level. When it comes to balancing his many ventures along with his passions, Giancarlo isn’t short of advice for budding entrepreneurs.
“Stay organized and chase opportunities that arise, and try things that are outside your comfort zone—that’s when you will truly grow as an individual,” says Giancarlo. “Starting a company while in university is possible! However, this doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Ensure you allocate sufficient time to work on school and your venture. It’s crucial to remain as organized as possible, and to take advantage of the Startup ecosystem at your school to get support from like-minded individuals.”