In this series of features, you’ll learn about our donors’ diverse views, paths, and lived experiences: VFC Alumni, ecosystem partners, startup leaders, and other influencers in the Canadian startup community.
Three previous VFC Board Members talk about their passion for impact-driven careers, community, and how we can build a more equitable Canada where everyone can thrive.
Meet Abigail Slater, Kelly Bennett, and Preston Aitken.
In March 2021, VFC launched our first-ever annual Removing Barriers into Entrepreneurship Campaign. 100% of the generosity of our donors supports scholarships for young people with financial barriers to participating in the VFC Fellowship Program, a 15-month entrepreneurial skills training program that equips young Candanias with the skills, network, and experience they need to build successful career paths.
Hi folks! Thanks so much for joining us today, would love to know how you got to where you are today.
Abby: I have been passionate about social impact and impact investment my whole life. Currently, I am the Founding Chair of the Board of the Justice Fund of Toronto. I am an Impact investor and mentor and advisor to social enterprises, and have been involved with SheEO for over six years as an Activator and was the Chair of the Board of Directors for a few years. I was a General Partner at Marigold capital where I now serve as an advisor.
Kelly: I am a public servant, community builder, connector, and catalyst. Being a part of things that are larger than me, service, giving back. That’s what I do in my professional life and spare time. I work for the government of Nova Scotia, as a Research and Special Projects lead, working with a small army of folks. I’m also a former VFC board member.
Preston: I’ve also always been involved in the social impact sector. I’m a strategic Accounts Executive at Blackbaud, the world’s largest vendor of technology, to serve the social impact sector. Prior, I ran a social enterprise where we developed a hiring platform for individuals who had experienced homelessness. I was also the program director of a large Canadian charity called Encatus, which helps young people at the university and college level to get involved in social enterprise.
You’ve all had incredible paths. One common thread, beyond having been on VFC’s Board of Directors, is that you are all people-centric and believe that with the right tools, such as technology, financial backing, and mentorship individuals can achieve anything they set out to, especially when it involves driving impact.
Where do you see an opportunity in Canada for people who want to pursue impact-driven careers?
Abby: Entrepreneurship alone is not the answer. We need to start defining and growing entrepreneurship around equity and impact. Enabling entrepreneurship opportunities towards entrepreneurship is part of the answer because in North America it has historically been an exclusionary field. The opportunity in Canada is to broaden entrepreneurship, to make it available for folks from all walks of life, and provide the support you mention: financial, technological, and community so that they can be taught how to succeed.
Kelly: Companies like Venture for Canada give young Canadians the launchpad, that when I look back I wish I would’ve had. I see an opportunity for young individuals to lead communities and organizations that focus on individual growth but through the help of collective support. It’s been wonderful to see Venture for Canada grow so quickly and to be a part of Canada’s growth.
Preston: When I was in university, I learned more by going out into the community, talking to and learning from social enterprises, than from my course load. Working on real-world projects is a huge opportunity in Canada so that people aren’t pigeonholed into traditional careers. VFC provides these opportunities. When I met Scott many years ago when he pitched Venture for Canada, I thought THIS is the way to provide more students across the country the same opportunities I had.
To recap: equitable access, a supporting network, and real-life world experience are the keys. These are the “ingredients” of our programs here at VFC. Enabling impact-driven careers that add value to our social, financial, and environmental systems is how we believe Canada can become more innovative and prosperous.
So if we act on these opportunities what do you envision Canada looking like in the future?
Abby: I believe it will result in a more fair and collaborative society that encourages and supports all aspects of Canadian life including entrepreneurship and innovation where all areas of life can thrive: Social, cultural, financial, and environmental. Very much in favour of non-corporate business models. If we can expand on the thinking around the non-corporate business model we can help all societies thrive.
Kelly: Canada will look like people supporting other people, and contributing to their overall growth. It’s about creating and sharing core values that encourage integrity, modesty, service in one way or another. Innovation, creative thinking, welcoming others, being a good citizen.
Preston: A more inclusive Canada that provides the same level of opportunities across the board. where every young person has the chance to build their own career, business, and solve the problems that matter to them and their communities. What I love about Venture for Canada’s mission is to provide these opportunities across the board to everybody, regardless of their academic background.