TORONTO, ONT. / November 2, 2023 – As a catalyst for fostering entrepreneurial skills among young Canadians, Venture for Canada (VFC) is thrilled to announce the launch of its 2023-2024 Employer Advisory Council (EAC). Uniting 26 innovative leaders across startups and diverse industries, the EAC enters its third year, serving as a cornerstone of VFC’s efforts to shape a more entrepreneurial Canada. During their 15-month tenure, these voluntary thought leaders will operate in a consultative capacity, leveraging diverse expertise to advise on the implementation and strategic growth of VFC’s programs and revenue streams.
This year, the EAC expands its roster with 24 new members, along with two returning members. Representing a cross-section from seven Canadian provinces, the EAC boasts a diversity of thought, hailing from industries ranging from tech and healthcare to social impact and human resources. This rich blend of sectors ensures the council is not just diverse, but strategically equipped to address the complex demands of the ever-evolving Canadian business landscape.
“Building a culture of innovation isn’t a solo endeavor—it’s a collective mission. Our Employer Advisory Council is a critical part of this mission. They bring a breadth of perspectives that keep us agile, responsive, and ever-evolving,” said Scott Stirrett, Founder and CEO of Venture for Canada. “Their expertise and enthusiasm support us to continuously refine our programming for maximum relevance and impact.”
"Our Employer Advisory Council is a critical part of this mission. They bring a breadth of perspectives that keep us agile, responsive, and ever-evolving" – Scott Stirrett, VFC Founder & CEO
As we welcome the new council, we also extend our heartfelt gratitude to the 2022-2023 outgoing EAC members. Their dedication and invaluable insights have played a significant role in guiding the organization’s growth. During their tenure, the EAC was instrumental in shaping our 2023 Fellowship Training Curriculum, ensuring it reflects the essential skills for entry-level employees. Their insights also played a key role in curating engaging content for our 2023 All Things People Conference.
"Our council is filled with doers, movers, and shakers. They're not just advisors; they're co-creators who are shaping the future of work and talent in Canada." – Gina Patterson, VFC Chief Programs Officer
About Venture for Canada:
Venture for Canada is a national charity focused on accelerating the careers of Canadian youth through immersive opportunities at innovative startups and small businesses. Through our three core programs—Intrapreneurship, Internship, and Fellowship—young Canadians gain the skills, experience, and networks they need to lead more entrepreneurial and impactful careers. In 2022, Venture for Canada supported over 1,000 startups and small businesses across Canada to hire entrepreneurial young Canadians.
To learn more, read our 2022 Impact Report.
About VFC’s Employer Advisory Council Members:
We are thrilled to introduce the members of our 2023-2024 Employer Advisory Council (EAC). Committed to driving innovation, inclusivity, and diverse user-centric programming for Canada’s talent development and training landscape, our EAC brings together a diverse and accomplished group of entrepreneurial thinkers.
Nicola Claxton, Emoot – Vancouver
Nicola Claxton, commonly known as Nik, is a technology and social enterprise entrepreneur based in Vancouver, BC. She is a 2x founder with a focus on innovations that enhance daily life. Her current startup, Emoot, aims to transform social, environmental, and financial wellbeing through a unique commerce platform.
Barbara Dorrington, Open Ocean Robotics – Victoria
A dynamic, multifaceted Human Resources Leader who is a champion of change, future focused applying innovative solutions to critical issues, which in turn transform people, strategy and technology. Able to take complex issues and develop tailored solutions that meet business needs. Led and implemented Human Capital solutions in both start-up and multi-national organizations within the mining, pharmaceutical and logistics industries. A straight forward & authentic approach is used to build productive relationships with all stakeholders. A passion and commitment for seeing people and organizations evolve and grow drive my success.
Jaime Rabbior, Mobsquad – Vancouver
Jaime Rabbior is the Head of Marketing at MobSquad, an innovative Canadian company that helps solve the substantial and growing technology talent shortage. With over nine years of marketing and business development experience, she leads MobSquad’s marketing and demand generation efforts. She joined MobSquad from EY, where she spent over eight years as a marketing and business development manager. In her most recent role as an Assistant Director, she led the national go-to-market strategy and execution for EY’s rapidly growing ESG and Sustainability practice. Previous to that, she led all re-branding, communication and sales enablement activities for the firm’s private company practice. Jaime holds a BCom from McGill University with a dual specialization in Marketing and Finance.
Natasha Jeshani, Career Contacts – Vancouver
Natasha Jeshani is the President & CEO of Career Contacts (a Recruitment and HR Consulting Firm) and the Founder of Training Arch (a Corporate Training Company). Natasha and her team of 20 support organizations throughout Canada and the US to recruit, retain and develop top talent. She is also the Author of the #1 best selling book, The HR Insider; how to land your dream job and keep it. Natasha holds a Sociology degree from UBC, an HR Management Certificate, with distinction, from BCIT, and has her CPHR and SHRM-SCP. She was recently the recipient of the Business in Vancouver’s Top40UnderForty and a nominee for the Women of Distinction Award by the YWCA. Natasha is also passionate about service, currently serving as Board Member and HR Chair for the Vancouver International Children’s Festival and recently completed 2 terms as co-chair of the Dress for Success Luncheon.
Monica Vucko, Speak for Success – Vancouver
Monica Vucko is the Founder and Program Director of Speak for Success Canada, dedicated to making communication skills training more accessible for emerging women leaders who face challenges of anxiety and self-doubt in professional environments. Her organization has supported over 600 women from more than 20 countries, enabling them to cultivate confidence and assertiveness necessary for leadership roles. These women have made their mark in leading companies like Microsoft, SAP, and Lululemon, showcasing the effectiveness of Monica’s programs in enhancing mental wellness and workplace confidence.
D’Andre Wilson-Ihejirika, BrainSTEM Alliance – Fort McMurray
D’Andre Wilson-Ihejirika is the founder of BrainSTEM Alliance, which is a network of STEM Ambassadors that works in collaboration with non-profit, charity, and educational institutions to create customized curricula for workshops, programs and conferences that promote education of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), innovation and entrepreneurship to children, youth and young adults. D’Andre is a licensed professional engineer (P.Eng) and project management professional (PMP) and worked in several roles in the oil and gas industry before pivoting into the education space. D’Andre is also pursuing her PhD in engineering education focused on better understanding the alignment of student experience to career pathways for underrepresented groups, is the Executive Director of Work-Integrated Learning and TalentEDyyc at Calgary Economic Development, and sits as the co-chair of the EDI group for the Canadian Engineering Education Association.
Krisztian Riez, Wellactiv / Mindbloom – Calgary
Krisztian is a seasoned business consultant with 12+ years of experience in fostering company growth. His expertise involves identifying gaps, devising business strategies, and executing effective marketing, sales, and partnership initiatives. Beyond business, he is passionate about aiding those wrestling with mental health concerns like depression and anxiety. This led him to establish Wellactiv, a nonprofit offering guidance and support to individuals and families in need. His ultimate mission? To assist one billion individuals and families grappling with mental health challenges. Join him on this journey towards a brighter, healthier future.
Liam Lytton, make progress ai – Calgary
I’m an entrepreneur deeply passionate about innovating in the gaming and education sectors. As Co-Founder of Progress AI, we’ve pioneered an AI tool that efficiently streamlines the crafting of report card comments. On the gaming front, as President and Co-Founder of SingularityX Studios, we’ve been recognized as one of BC’s most influential startups according to Canada Venture News. Our standout game, “Origins of Orion,” underscores our commitment to elevating single-player gaming experiences. In a pivotal chapter of my professional journey, I spearheaded Growth and R&D at Cheena, directing the team towards innovative breakthroughs and robust growth trajectories.
Zac Johnson, StayShure – Calgary
Zac is the CPO and founding partner for Stayshure, a Canadian software development agency that partners with organizations as their Fractional CTO. Stayshure specializes in identifying and solving organizational technical inefficiencies, as well as helping organizations develop their own tech as opposed to paying for a stack of imperfect solutions. They do this by expertly using no code and low code development to build fast and test faster.
Hannah Castle – Regina
A tenacious leader with over ten years of professional experience, adept at transforming ambitious ideas into tangible reality. As a collaborative team player, she cultivates a culture of open communication and mutual respect, harnessing diverse perspectives to propel projects toward success. An accomplished professional renowned for her unwavering industriousness, Hannah thrives in fast-paced environments, consistently delivering exceptional results. Beyond her professional prowess, she exemplifies compassion and empathy, guiding and empowering her team to realize their full potential. Hannah embodies true leadership, inspiring others to attain new heights while championing a positive and inclusive work environment.
Shannon Loutitt, CEO & Co-Founder @ International Indigenous Speakers Bureau – Saskatoon
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. Whether running the Boston Marathon to commemorate Tom Longboat or running 100 miles in 24 hours to bring her grandfather’s spirit home, Honour Runner Shannon Loutitt, is not afraid of a little challenge when it comes to ensuring our stories are told. Shannon’s passion for bringing together our past and present to trailblaze 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.
Tanner Brightman, Golden Ticket Sports – Regina
Tanner Brightman is co-founder and CEO of Golden Ticket Sports Inc. Tanner has resided in Regina, Saskatchewan, but recently worked abroad in Antwerp, Belgium to take on a role as coach and Director of Operations and Partner with Elite Athletes, and Elite Academy basketball academy. Prior to starting Golden Ticket Sports, Tanner, a basketball enthusiast made significant strides in his coaching career. He notably led Team Saskatchewan U17 Men to the 2017 Canada Summer Games after years of dedicated coaching within Basketball Saskatchewan’s Men’s High-Performance Program for eight years. Recognizing the value of a close coach-player dynamic, Tanner emphasizes democratic team management and equal input from his staff. With a Bachelor of Education from the University of Regina, Tanner also served as the Dean of Men at Luther College High School, overseeing the welfare and education of numerous international dorm students. What started as a modest coaching professional development venture, Golden Ticket Sports, has rapidly flourished because of the incredible team the company possesses. Golden Ticket now features over 70 professionals across Western Canada. From grassroots initiatives to high-performance endeavors, Golden Ticket Sports is pushing to re-define sports delivery in basketball, hockey, volleyball, soccer, track and field, and badminton, as we celebrate our four-year milestone this October.
Charlie Feng, Agora – Toronto
Charlie Feng, 3x founder, one failed, one scaled, and current one tbd. Operator at heart, have scaled businesses from zero to $100M in revenue. Background in web3, fintech, AI and SaaS. Been living out of a backpack for the last 3 years. Outside of work, I like board games and endurance sports like triathlons and ultras.
Hannah Stegen, CultureAlly – Toronto
Hannah is the Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of CultureAlly, a full service Diversity, Equity and Inclusion company. Hannah co-founded CultureAlly in 2021 and has bootstrapped the start up from 0 to now employ 10 full time employees and has clients including Canada Goose, HelloFresh, Yamaha and many more. Hannah is passionate about improving workplace cultures for employees around the globe and as a physicist by trade, takes a data-informed approach to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work. Hannah and CultureAlly have been working with VFC for several years through the internship.
Jeff Waldman, ScaleHR – Toronto
Jeff Waldman is the Founder at ScaleHR, a growing company that is building the skills and careers of business leaders and HR professionals, in the tech sector. ScaleHR has launched many products including training programs, online learning communities, coaching and mentorship programs, and more. With more than 23+ experience in leadership, HR, HR tech and entrepreneurship, Jeff has worked with organizations in many countries around the world. He is a relentless community builder and has founded and participated in several industry initiatives including SocialHRCamp, HR Leaders Collective, Rethinking Disabilities, DisruptHR Toronto, DisruptHR Vancouver, and more. Jeff is an avid blogger and speaker and has facilitated hundreds of talks on topics in HR, Talent, and HR Technology. He is a business advisor to HR tech startups. Originally from Vancouver, Jeff lives in the north part of Toronto with his amazing wife and three awesome young boys with whom he spends his personal time. He coaches his kids’ sports teams and is an avid hockey player and snowboarder.
Jessica Flynn, The YOU POWER PROJECT – Collingwood
Jessica Flynn is a multi-passionate entrepreneur and award-winning educator. She has been called to help young individuals discover their potential and cultivate self-belief in their unique abilities. With a background spanning theater arts, education, business, design, and even construction, Jessica understands the importance of diverse interests and skills in realizing success. Recognizing the limitations of traditional education, she founded The YOU Power Project to inspire, empower, and equip today’s students to succeed in an ever- evolving world. The YOU Power Project takes a holistic approach to future-readiness, building confidence, resiliency, and transferrable skills so youth can find success anywhere. “Believing in the transformative power of strategy, activation, and fun, our programs guide students in identifying challenges and implementing actionable plans to overcome them”. As a social enterprise, they are committed to equipping students with the necessary skills and confidence to thrive in an ever-changing world. Moreover, by addressing SDGs 4 & 8, which promote quality education, decent work, and reduced inequality, Jess and her team prepare students to become active contributors to society, shaping them into future leaders who are mindful of sustainable development and social responsibility.
Laura Gabor, Startup Investor + Operations Freelancer – Toronto
Laura is a seasoned operations specialist with a passion for community building, supporting small business, and philanthropy. After spending 7 years in operations at a wealth management firm, she most recently spent 2 years as the Director of Operations at BetaKit. Currently, she is the executive director of Twelve Donations, a vice-chair on the #Tech4SickKids committee, and is consulting within the tech community in a number of different roles. Laura is also an angel investor, mentor, and connector.
Michael Warshafsky, Co-Founder & CTO @ Goodkind – Toronto
Michael Warshafsky is the co-founder & COO of Goodkind, a YC-backed seed stage startup. Goodkind is a video-first student recruitment platform built for higher education institutions. Michael is an alumni of Next Canada and Venture for Canada. Before Goodkind, Michael was an early employee at eSight, a medical device startup.
Sarah Crandlemire, Noibu – Ottawa
Sarah Crandlemire serves as the Director of People & Culture at Noibu, an award-winning ecommerce software company renowned for its vibrant workplace and rapid growth. Noibu’s dedication to its team’s well-being and professional development, as evidenced by being named one of Ottawa’s best workplaces and its impressive three-year revenue growth of 960 percent, reflects Sarah’s commitment to excellence in her role. At Noibu, Sarah oversees a culture that prioritizes innovation, transparency, and enjoyment in work, mirroring the company’s focus on providing seamless e-commerce experiences and ensuring that employees have the resources to succeed and feel valued.
Karen Elgemayel, K & Co – Montreal
Karen Elgemayel is the founder of K & Co., where her extensive experience in public relations propels businesses to greater heights. With a strong background in marketing, branding, and event planning, Karen’s 20-year tenure with Rogers Communications has honed her skills in business development. She pivoted in 2019 to establish her own agency, driven by a commitment to bolstering Montreal’s local businesses and public figures. Karen’s versatile expertise spans the food, sports, and fashion industries, and she has successfully promoted a roster of clients including TV celebrities, professional athletes, Olympians, and even Guinness World Record holders. Additionally, as the co-founder and VP of Sales and Marketing for Enov Sport, she infuses her entrepreneurial zest into the sports equipment arena. Karen’s dedication and vibrant entrepreneurial spirit distinguish her as a catalyst for her clients’ success.
Nikita Boston-Fisher, The Good Health Cafe Podcast/The Good Health Candle Company – Carignan
Nikita is the founder of The Good Health Cafe podcast where she and her guests discuss health and healthcare in plain language. She runs a scented soy candle business called The Good Health Candle Company. She is also the Associate Director for the Centre for Business Ethics in the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University.
Olivia Champagne, Solidarity Economy Incubation for Zero Emissions – Montreal
Olivia is an entrepreneur, educator and activist that is passionate about building collective capacity to transform the economy. She is a lifelong learner and studied Environment and Economics at Uvic, as well as Community Economic Development and Business Administration at Concordia University. Olivia worked in project and financial management roles as well as served on nearly a dozen Board of Directors often specializing in sustainability and food systems. Before committing full time to the social solidarity economy movement, she worked in developing social enterprises across the linguistic minority communities of regional Quebec. Olivia is now the General Coordinator for SEIZE an organization that educates, incubates and organizes in support of the social solidarity economy.
Samantha Stilwell, CultureDynamiq – Montreal
Samantha is an Anthropologist first and Cultural Consultant second. She leverages her background in anthropology to shed new light on topics like “employee engagement”, “remote workplaces” and “team dynamics”. She feels the most alive when she’s helping teams leverage their cultural differences, explain why they work the way they do and provide people the language and resources they need to communicate their needs and collaborate effectively. She has worked with teams based in North America, Kenya, India, Turkey, Germany, Central America and more, and continues to enrich her skills and knowledge base with every new contract she takes on.
Sofia Vesga, Pawsome Concierge – Saint-Leonard
Sofia, originally from Colombia, currently leads the customer service team at PAWSOME Concierge, a pet care startup in Canada. With a background in International Relations and a passion for dog training, she brings a unique blend of international expertise and a love for animals to her role.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Jeremy Brown, Newfoundland Vintners Inc. – Torbay
Jeremy Brown is the owner of Newfoundland Vintners Inc., harnessing 26 years of IT Security expertise to unlock the world of technology. Simultaneously navigating the thrilling journey of entrepreneurship, he is devoted to crafting the irresistible gems of Newfoundland Vintners, because who can resist a good glass of happiness?
Lois Whitehead, Science Atlantic – Halifax
Lois Whitehead has over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and association-based organizations. Her educational background in psychology, non-profit management, and community economic development, combined with experience and training in strategic planning, facilitation, and human resources, has helped to make her a leader in the nonprofit world. Lois has served as the Executive Director of Science Atlantic for over 20 years. In this time, she has successfully led and grown the organization’s footprint in the region, including increasing the membership, realigning services to a redefined mission, and rebranding (twice!). Most of the work at Science Atlantic is completed by an essential employment pipeline of students and new grads. Lois is a huge advocate for professional mentoring opportunities for youth and has hired and personally supervised over 100 co-op and other students since 2000. In her spare time, Lois is a news, charity, professional development, and tech junkie.
Connect with Venture for Canada:
Venture for Canada Media Contact:
Jennie Wedd – Senior Lead, Strategic Relations & Marketing