Venture for Canada Launches 2022-3 Employer Advisory Council

Venture for Canada (VFC) announced the launch of the 2022 VFC Employer Advisory Council (EAC). Launched in 2021, the volunteer council brings together leading Canadian entrepreneurs, innovation ecosystem leaders and change-makers. During a 15-month term, the council advises on launching new programs and revenue initiatives that enhance the quality of VFC’s programs and practices. This strategic initiative responds to VFC’s commitment to cross-sector collaboration, user-centric program design, and diverse representation. 

For its second year, the 2022 EAC council is comprised of 13 active startup and SME leaders (seven returning members and six new advisors), including a VFC Fellowship Alumnus who is now a major Fellowship employer. The council has representation across nine provinces, includes two Indigenous organizations, and has representation from organizations focused on supporting Black and people of colour in the entrepreneurial community. Committed to driving innovation, inclusivity, and diverse user-centric programming for young people in Canada, the EAC proactively and collaboratively addresses evolving talent and training labour force needs across Canada.

The social impact sector cannot achieve its goals alone; we recognize that. The voices of 13 experienced entrepreneurs and leaders give us perspective into how we can best support their talent pipeline and equip young people to enter the workforce with the skills and experience they need to succeed from the get-go,”  said Scott Stirrett, Founder and CEO of Venture for Canada. “Increasingly, we’re witnessing the impact of collaboration. To drive tangible systems to change, cooperation amongst all actors who benefit from programs and services is required. The EAC is our way of building that infrastructure to ensure the success of our programs,” Stirrett continues. 

VFC also thanks Fiona Lake Waslander, Joshua Green, Denis Carignan, and Valerie Song, 2021-21 members whose term has ended for their service and contributions to the inaugural council. The EAC’s guidance and insights under the leadership of Chief Programs Officer, Gina Patterson, supported VFC in launching the Intrapreneurship Program, designed to immerse students into the world, and curate the All Things People Conference, designed to help small businesses and startups refine their diversity, equity, and inclusion approaches, practices, and policies. “We’re grateful for the commitment of the leaders at startups and SMEs that leverage VFC’s programs to achieve their business objectives have to ensure VFC’s programs are the best for themselves and young Canadians. 

As a volunteer committee, these folks provide invaluable in-kind support and strategic inputs that enable us to inch closer to our goals,” said Patterson. VFC currently operates nationally within all Canadian provinces. In 2021, over 3,000 Canadian post-secondary students and recent graduates participated in VFC’s programs and gained meaningful work-integrated learning experiences at 1,100 innovative small businesses and startups. If you’re a VFC employer and are interested in learning more about Venture for Canada programs and staying in the loop, sign up for our newsletter at

About Venture for Canada: 

Venture for Canada is a national charity that accelerates the careers of Canadian youth by providing immersive learning opportunities at Canadian startups and small businesses. Through VFC’s programs, young Canadians gain the skills, experience and networks to lead more entrepreneurial and impactful careers, and innovative Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises gain access to the talent that they need to grow. To learn more about Venture for Canada’s Impact, read our 2021 Impact Report.

About VFC’S Employer Advisory Council Members: 

Shannon Loutitt: International Indigenous Speakers’ Bureau  

The title “Kickass Canadian,” alongside the likes of Chris Hadfield and Clara Hughes, Shannon Loutitt has been honoured by Harvard University, Saskatchewan Legislature, and the Canadian Senate for her passionate acknowledgement of unsung heroes. As a Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal Recipient, Shannon understands what it means to go the distance. Shannon’s passion for bringing together our past and present to trail-blaze a better future, along with her extensive business experience, built over 30 years in many industries, have prepared this powerhouse mover and shaker to become the heartbeat behind the International Indigenous Speakers Bureau – IISB. 

Shani Gwin:  pipikwan pêhtâkwan

Shani is the founder of pipikwan pêhtâkwan, an Indigenous-owned and operated company focused on elevating Indigenous voices and their stories. Shani is a sixth generation Métis. She’s a member of the Cunningham and Ferguson Clans and a descendant of the Michel First Nation. Shani has over 13 years of professional communications experience working for the government, private and not-for-profit organizations. She has led communications on high-profile initiatives, issues and media events, including: Indigenous Ward Renaming in Edmonton, the Protect Our Elders campaign during COVID-19, the grand opening of Fort Edmonton Park’s Indigenous Peoples Experience, Secret Path Live for the Downie Wenjack Fund, and several infrastructure projects and initiatives for Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation. Shani has built a reputation for building capacity in others and creating transformational change in communities, organizations, and people.

Sally Ng: The Triple Effect & Tribe Network

Over the past decade, Sally has been entrenched in the world of technology startups. Her circle of colleagues and friends would often recognize her as the “sparkplug and energizer” in the room, helping to instigate and drive change in our community and organizations.  She has been a speaker, instructor and facilitator for a number of initiatives that she is passionate about. She is currently exploring opportunities to serve on the private sector and not-for-profit boards after six years on the Community Foundations of Canada Board of Directors (a charity with over $7B combined assets across its network). Creating collaborative, creative, and connected environments that challenge individuals and organizations to excel is at the heart of what she does.

Ryan Cawley: SpryPoint

Ryan Cawley has an extensive background with over 20 years of experience in finance and Enterprise Software Sales.  After completing a brief sojourn working in the wine industry in France, Ryan returned to Canada and started his career in the utility software industry in 2008. In the subsequent 14 years, Ryan has built a proven track record of driving multimillion-dollar growth and global expansion for utility software companies.  A seasoned software executive, Ryan has a strong command of enterprise software sales protocols and experience conducting business with clients and executives around the globe. As Managing Partner, Ryan manages all business development, partnership and market expansion strategies for SpryPoint. 

Dr. Ray Hsu: Phare Mental Health Ltd. 

Co-Founder of Phare Mental Health Ltd and Ada Analytics, Dr. Ray Hsu has over a decade of experience working for impact ventures with a background in mental health and climate intelligence. The best parts of his job are learning something new every day, being part of the solution to a problem, and being able to bring ideas to life through compelling storytelling as a medium. And he loves that people around him do the same.

Michael Warshafsky: Goodkind

Michael Warshafsky is the co-founder & CTO of Goodkind, a YC-backed seed-stage startup. Goodkind is a video messaging platform for high-volume b2c sales teams. Michael is an alumni of Next Canada and Venture for Canada. Before Goodkind, Michael was an early employee at eSight, a medical device startup. 

Maria Miskell: Mysa

Maria joined Mysa in early 2019 as Head of People and Culture (P&C). While in this role, Maria set the foundations for Mysa’s recruiting, onboarding, retention, and culture-building while ensuring employer best practices are in place. With the expansion of their P&C team, Maria took on the VP of People and Culture role, serves on the Executive Leadership Team at Mysa and helps drive the business with an employee-first mindset. Maria also co-founded a company called IPMI, where she was responsible for scaling much of their business operations. In 2012, Maria joined the EPC firm Wood as a People and Organization Advisor, where she led the company’s HR efforts for several mega-projects, including Hebron and Husky WREP.

Lisa Elder: #paid

Director of People and Talent at #paid, Lisa is a people-centric leader focused on building relationships and employee belonging and wellbeing. She has over nine years of experience in Full-Cycle Recruitment, Talent Strategy, Policy Development, Learning and Development, Onboarding, Employee Relations, Operations, Wellness Programs and Sustainability.

Jennifer Lennox: Alcumus

Vice-President of People and Operations – B2B at Alcumus, Jennifer is an outgoing, high-energy leader that loves motivating and inspiring people. SIn 2011, she received the “CIBC Achievers” award from CIBC’s Vice-President and in partnership with The Humberview Group, she achieved CAWEOC in 2015. With over 20 years of experience in People Development and Talent & Executive Recruitment, Jennifer is skilled in multi-level leadership development, learning and development expertise, strategic recruitment, budget management, consulting and coaching. She understands the importance of the small details and keeping the end goal in mind. 

Elana Elfenbaum: Callia 

People Lead at Callia, Elana joined Callia in its second year of operation and has since moved between a few different business areas. Now, as the People Lead, she facilitates the hiring and onboarding process, manages internship placements and funding, and leads employee engagement and culture-building initiatives, all with the goal of keeping Callia’s incredible team happy and healthy!

David Alston: TimberTop + MarketSwell

David is a repeat tech and marketing startup entrepreneur, founder and coach at Marketswell Solutions’ CMO Accelerator program, a former volunteer Entrepreneur in Residence for the New Brunswick Government, cofounder of Brilliant Labs, an advisor to many startups in the Atlantic region, Radian6’s former CMO and’s former Marketing Cloud Chief Adoption Officer. David currently sits as an independent director on the Envision Saint John: The Regional Development Agency board, as a Vice-Chair on the board of Saint John Energy, and as an advisor on Venture for Canada’s national advisory board. David has been a mentor at where he has keynoted and advised close to 50 startups in countries such as Spain, Portugal and Greece.

Brianna Blaney: Envol + Pocketed 

Founder & CEO of Envol and Pocketed, Brianna has worked in recruitment for over nine years, helping companies across North America hire thousands of employees. She’s passionate about helping companies grow with grant funding, AI and people solutions. When she’s not building people strategies and driving the future of work, she advocates for local initiatives with organizations like BC Women’s Hospital Foundation, Aga Khan Foundation, Vancouver Aquarium, Young Women in Business and my newly launched charitable platform She is a passionate connector, avid wine collector, and enthusiastic celebrator.

Aaron Genest: SaskTech + Siemens

President of SaskTech Association and Senior Applications Engineer Manager at Siemens Software Aaron is deeply committed to developing a technology and innovation ecosystem in Saskatchewan and Canada through cooperation across government, post-secondary institutions, industry, and other stakeholders. Aaron also works in technical sales and support at Siemens Software to help semiconductor companies produce high-quality, robust chip designs within production timelines. As a leader in the innovation ecosystem, Aaron serves as Chair of the Advisory Board at Saskatchewan Polytechnic, Council Member of Venture for Canada’s Employer Advisory Council and an Executive in Residence at Foresight Cleantech Accelerator Centre, where he acts as an advisor, mentor & consultant for emerging and innovative companies in Western Canada.