Alexa Roeper, a third-year economics major at the University of Waterloo, believes the only way to succeed is to work for it.

This should come as no surprise from the equestrian who is currently training in dressage, with an eye towards riding for Canada.

In fact, when we met to chat about her other passions, Roeper and I had to grab an early Sunday morning breakfast so she could head out to Erin, where she boards her horse and trains with her coach.

She was a little tired. She had stayed up late studying for a mid-term, finishing an assignment, and finalizing some details for an event she was planning.

While riding is a passion, she has found something different to focus on for a career: helping people heal more efficiently.

The Oakville native started her time in Waterloo Region as a biotechnology major in the science-and-business program. She switched to economics to concentrate on the business side of science.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2014, when Roeper decided she wanted to become more involved in campus life.

One club group in particular caught her eye. Fashion for Change, one of UW’s largest clubs, wanted an executive member to help with sponsorship.

Fashion for Change puts on artistic shows, ranging from coffee houses to music workshops. An annual fashion show raises money for Free the Children, a Canadian-based charity.

Roeper loved both the fashion and charity aspect of Fashion for Change, and she threw herself into the club.

Through a casual connection at a Fashion for Change event, Roeper was invited to attend the Queen’s University Startup Summit in January 2015.

The event was a new experience for Roeper. She worked on a nanotechnology product with a team of students from different universities.

“There was a big group of us, but not everyone wanted to continue; but two guys I had just met were really into it and wanted to continue the work,” Roeper said.

Their company, Penta Textiles, blends Roeper’s love of science and fashion.

Penta is a high-tech textiles company that uses nanotechnology, specifically ceramic nano fibres combined with a naturally anti-bacterial base fibre, to help human bodies heal faster and more effectively.

“Our first product is a cast liner you wear for six weeks under the cast to give you a constant low level of radiation to help you heal faster and reduce pain,” Roeper said.

When Roeper and her team decided to continue working on their idea, they had to choose where they would be based.

Roeper’s team was invited to move into a Kingston incubator, but declined because the incubator charged rent and wanted equity in the company.

Instead, Roeper applied to UW’s Velocity Science, with an eye towards moving into the Velocity Foundry when Penta reaches the manufacturing stage — possibly this summer.

Her two co-founders from Queen’s are moving to Waterloo Region to spend the summer working on Penta full-time. One of them plans to settle here permanently as Penta develops.

“Looking into other schools’ incubators — it really showed me how special Waterloo is,” Roeper said.

While she hasn’t moved into the Foundry yet, Roeper is spending a lot of time in downtown Kitchener, thanks to her involvement with Fashion for Change.

Roeper wanted to try a different fundraiser than the traditional campus-based ones that Fashion for Change had always done.

She partnered with Gilt, a sharing-menu-based restaurant at 305 King St. in Kitchener, for a new, community-focused event called Gilt for Change.

Owned by friends and entrepreneurs Trella White and Stephanie Randall, Gilt will donate 25 per cent of all food-and-drink sales on Thursday, March 19 to Free the Children.

During the day, Gilt will serve a special menu to complement the fundraiser. If you spend over $50, you will automatically be entered for door prizes that range from Block 3 Brewery and Vincenzo’s gift baskets, to gift cards from local stores.

After 6 p.m., live jazz and a silent auction will keep the party atmosphere going.

“It has the potential to be the biggest fundraiser Fashion for Change has done this year,” Roeper said.

White was excited about the idea.

“Gilt wants to be as involved in this community as we can be,” White said. “Alexa is such a determined young woman. We really get along and have a similar vision, so it just clearly worked.”

Roeper’s last mid-term of the winter is this Thursday morning. She’s looking forward to the evening when she can have a drink or two at Gilt before she turns her focus first to finals, then on Penta Textiles.


If you aren’t still seeing green from the local St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, there’s a lot to keep you entertained around K-W this weekend. I see and hear that… it’s not too late to register to see Guy Kawasaki today! Startup Grind Kitchener-Waterloo is hosting the livestream of a fireside chat with the marketing guru at the Tannery Event Centre, 151 Charles St. W., Kitchener. Networking and food starts at 12:30 p.m., and the fireside chat begins at 1:30 p.m.... Head down to the School of Rock at 78 Francis St. N., Kitchener to celebrate its one-year anniversary this Saturday, March 21, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. You can register for a free trial session, have a tour of the venue and listen to the house band... Finally, Brad Feld, a renowned tech entrepreneur, stops at the Tannery Event Centre on Tuesday, March 24 as part of his book tour for “Startup Opportunities: Know When to Quit Your Day Job.” The $15 ticket gets you a copy of Feld’s book, plus front-row seats to a Dragon’s Den-style pitch competition as well as food and a cash bar.