NAIT Celebrates

Priya Winsor receives the Spirit of NAIT Alumni Award for her career achievements as founder of Compass Chocolates and for her support for the community.

Priya Winsor

NAIT Celebrates Priya Winsor

Chocolatier recognized for entrepreneurship and community-building

“Being able to showcase flavours from home is a way of saying, ‘here, this is a little bit of our tradition, of our culture – would you appreciate it alongside us?’” 

Priya Winsor loves a challenge – especially when it helps connect people. For the owner and founder of Compass Chocolates, that’s something she accredits to her family.

A year before she was born, Winsor's parents immigrated from India to Newfoundland, where they quickly made connections in the community. Growing up, she recalls countless guests at her parent’s dinner table, many were students from all over the world eager to share their cultures and appreciation for good food. It became a tradition in their home, which she’d later carry on when she had her own family. (It would also influence the values and mission for her business.)

A NAIT Baking and Pastry Arts graduate, Winsor admits, a life making chocolate was never part of the plan. Her family had to evacuate Fort McMurray during the 2016 fires. They made their move to Edmonton permanent, and Winsor soon realized she needed a goal for her new life in the city. One thing was certain: it would be related to food.

“We had been entertaining quite a bit, and love to have people at our table,” she says. “It’s a lovely way to bring people close together and get to know each other.”

Going back to school as a wife, mother of three and a mature student wasn’t easy, but she knew she was on to something when she won a chocolate competition in her first year at NAIT.

“Up until that point, I would have said bread was my love,” she says. “But if bread was my first love, chocolate was my true love.”

Overcoming hurdles to find connections with people

After graduating, Winsor went on to study chocolate in Montreal. When she returned to Alberta, the pandemic hit. Despite that, she decided to launch her business (online, thanks to the restrictions).

Today, Compass Chocolates focuses on using flavours from home and around the world, “exploring food stories and traditions from every corner of the globe." Winsor named the company in honour of finding connections, even at a time when people were kept apart from each other.

“There was so much division and separation, and people couldn't be together,” she recalls, thinking back to the beginning of the pandemic. “Everybody can relate to a compass, because we are all citizens of this globe. A compass brings you home.”

Winsor pivoted to overcome the challenges met with starting her business when most places were shut down or operating under limitations by shipping her creations all over Canada with little interruption.

“Starting a business is not for the faint of heart,” Winsor says. “It takes tenacity and humility.”

“I’m really proud that I was able to show my kids firsthand the amount of effort that goes into starting a business,” she adds. “How you have to choose your attitude every day, and not let the hurdles get the best of you.”

Community-building at the heart of Compass

Winsor has stayed connected to NAIT as a guest speaker for the Baking and Pastry Arts program as well as a member of the advisory committee. She also serves as a judge for Skills Alberta. Most importantly, Winsor continues to find new ways to connect people through food.

“When the war in Ukraine started, my heart broke,” she says. “Having come to Edmonton the way we did, I know what it is to see fear in people’s faces.”

In 2022, Compass Chocolates launched the Ukraine chocolate bar, with all profits going to World Central Kitchen to provide emergency food relief for people in Ukraine. The bar, made with sourdough breadcrumbs using locally sourced red fife wheat, milk chocolate, toasted brown butter and a hint of Newfoundland sea salt, raised over $6,000 for the cause.

Winsor’s commitment to balancing brand-building and community-building has brought her success; in 2023, Compass Chocolates was named among the Tomato’s Top 100. She’s thinking about opening a permanent shop. For now, however, Winsor wants to stay focused on making connections.

Nothing pleases her more than seeing the joy on a customer’s face when they discover a familiar taste or ingredient – a flavour that, in one way or another, brings them home.

Story photos supplied by Priya Winsor.

Spirit of NAIT Alumni Award

The Spirit of NAIT Alumni Award is awarded to alumni who have made exceptional advances or achievements in their career within 12 years of graduation.

More 2024 NAIT Celebrates Recipients

Champions, community-builders, mentors, visionaries and leaders make up the 2024 NAIT Celebrates award recipients. Read more about the lasting impact each has made through their spirit, dedication and generosity.

Sandvik Coromant

Sandvik Coromant is named the Distinguished Industry Partner for their leadership in the community and long-standing support of machinist education.

Ray Pisani

Ray Pisani is named the Distinguished Friend of the Institute for his outstanding contributions to our polytechnic and impact in the community.

Robyn Dawson

Robyn Dawson receives the Distinguished Alumni Award for helping Alberta businesses and communities thrive as a leader in media planning and buying.

Marcie Kiziak

Marcie Kiziak receives the Alumni Award of Excellence for her advocacy of women’s success in business, and her leadership as the CEO of NOVA Cannabis.

Arlo Maverick

Arlo Maverick receives the Alumni Award of Excellence for his support of the community and achievements as an award-winning musician, promoter and filmmaker.

Shreya Nandiraju

Shreya Nandiraju receives the Spirit of NAIT Alumni Award for her success and leadership in the engineering and automation fields.

2025 Award Nominations

Do you know a NAIT grad who's making an impact?

Tell us about their achievements and the work they are doing for their community.

Next year’s alumni award winners will be announced in early 2025.

Submit your nomination