New Venture Creation Mentors
The New Venture Creation team utilizes a number of professionals – often with their own consulting businesses – who have worked through the ups and downs of business growth in the past. They help our entrepreneurial teams to maintain momentum, avoid costly mistakes and meet their milestones.
Jennifer Andrews is a marketing expert with a science background and an MBA with a passion for simplifying the complex to grow scientific businesses. As Founder & Chief Marketing Strategist at FreshLeaf Marketing, Jennifer brings 11 years of marketing experience in the life sciences, including as marketing director for a natural health research and regulatory firm. She launched her consulting firm after noticing STEM-based business owners struggling with the same issue: how to communicate complicated subject matter into compelling marketing messaging. Jennifer’s specialties include marketing strategy, brand identity and messaging, and digital marketing to help clients stand out, get found, and gain more leads. Jennifer is also a business mentor and industry expert with Innovation Guelph, an accelerator for agri-innovation, food, clean tech, and other sectors. A strong believer in personal growth and development, she mentors recent graduates and entrepreneurs throughout Southwestern Ontario. Jennifer holds a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in biology and a Master of Science (M.Sc.) in human health and nutrition from the University of Guelph, and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Felix has founded, grown, and sold businesses. His passion for innovation has exposed him to a wide range of industries as a management and policy consultant, entrepreneur, researcher, and investor. Believing in diversity as well as versatility, Felix has lived and worked in eight countries on four continents with involvements in the entrepreneurial ecosystems. Felix is also a certified coach and Lego Serious Play facilitator.
Jay started his career in the food service industry 30 years ago in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. After venturing off to Alberta to attend College in Medicine Hat and Red Deer, Jay then finished his post-secondary degree at the University of Lethbridge. Jay continued to work in the food service industry during and after his post-secondary schooling, successfully managing numerous chain and independant restaurants. His career took an amazing shift towards Sysco where over the past 16 years, he’s consulted thousands of restaurants across Canada, from independents to major corporate chains. Today, Jay leads Canada’s Largest Foodservice consulting team for Sysco Canada, hosts Sysco Canada’s Weekly Podcast Show on iTunes and Spotify and co-produces a weekly Foodies Newsletter for an audience of 50,000 people.
Kiran is a Dietitian and co-founder of Food Venture Program and owner of Edo Vivo, a food product consultancy. Kiran's specialty is concept validation through teaching entrepreneurs how to conduct market research via primary and secondary research.
Trained as a software engineer Jagruti has spent her career dedicated to achieving targets for business development, networking, relationship management, ecosystem diversity, and innovation using networks, data, and metrics. Jagruti also has her own coaching practice.
For close to 10 years, Kevin has been part of Ontario’s innovation ecosystem assisting startups, small to medium-size businesses in their efforts to start, grow and scale. With over 25 years of industry experience, he provides mentorship, business planning, B2B sales strategy and global market expansion insights. His industry background ranges from software technologies, advanced manufacturing, MedTech and Social Innovation. Kevin is passionate about helping Canadian businesses become more competitive and thrive in the global marketplace. With his connections into academia, government programs and funding, he helps his clients connect and find meaningful solutions as they grow.
Britt Bowra has a broad base of experience across many industries including aerospace, telecommunications, agribusiness, food & beverage and IoT. Britt considers building and implementing go-to-market and sales strategies as his specialty. He enjoys helping businesses ensure they have the right product, are targeting the right markets and have the proper distribution channels to support a realistic sales plan.
President and Founder of Crave Consulting + Communications – a boutique public relations and marketing firm that specializes in food, agriculture, AgTech, food literacy and nutrition, health and sustainability. Saskia is an entrepreneur and independent business consultant with 20+ years of experience in marketing and communications. Areas of focus include strategic internal and external communications planning; media, influencer and stakeholder relations; issues/crisis management; events and sponsorships; key message development; and spokesperson identification and media training.
Bob has over three decades of experience in the IT sector in Canada, the US and Europe. He has research, product management and commercialization expertise working with large corporations, startups and universities and recently Bob has taken a deep dive into the opportunities in urban agriculture and climate change adaptation. The resulting startup, with a female co-founder, and first-hand experience of the ups and downs of his spouse's entrepreneurial journey, brings insight and empathy into the unique challenges faced by women entrepreneurs
Garry is a tech entrepreneur, investor and mentor, focused on advising and building early-stage companies. He is a member of Maple Leaf Angels, as well as a Fintech & SaaS Advisor at ventureLAB. Previously, he was VP, Products at VersaPay, a Toronto-based Fintech company providing payment processing and cloud-based accounts receivable software solutions. For the 15+ years before that, Garry was a founding Managing Partner at Procase Consulting Inc., building the IT professional services company in Canada, the United States, and China. He graduated from the University of Calgary (BSc), Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto (MBA), and Carnegie Mellon University (MSc).
As the owner and digital strategist at Engagement Marketing, Shannon Clement works with organizations to build their brand story and communicate it online effectively to generate leads and sales. She’s worked with some of the top incubators in Canada such as MaRS and Velocity to train teams on content strategy and execute content marketing campaigns. In her 15 plus years as a digital marketer and content strategist, Shannon's ideas and leadership have created successful digital content solutions to surpass the objectives of numerous clients.
Frank is a proven senior sales executive with over 40 years of experience. From his humble beginnings at Xerox, he progressed through the ranks to lead organizations at Savin Canada, Computerland Canada, and as VP of Toshiba Canada. In every leadership role, he had to turn around a failing division or company. He left the corporate world to launch his own internet start-up and took it to IPO where he was the first to bring TV to the internet. Frank can help you set up your company for growth and establish the strategies and processes necessary for creating consistent, predictable growth for your business.
Melissa Durrell has been actively involved with the startup scene working with entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and angel investors across North America. As one of Canada’s few female pitch coaches, she's known for her unique storytelling skills; honed at her former career as an award-winning broadcast journalist. She successfully worked with dozens of CEO’s as they developed their pitch running up to Demo-Day. Currently, she is President of Durrell Communications, leading one of the top PR and Communication teams in southwestern Ontario.
Frank is a well-known coach/mentor who helps develop and refine business plans and pitches. He uses The Artful Science of Business Planning™, The Artful Science of Pitching® and VEGaS™, methods he created based on his roles as an investor, entrepreneur, educator, and advisor/director in the start-up space since 2006… backed by 25 years of corporate experience. He has worked with startups from every continent with permanent human inhabitants.
Rob Farnham is a Digital Traffic Mentor and has extensive experience in digital demand generation. From on-page and off-page Search Engine Optimization to pay per click channels like Google Ads and Facebook Ads Search Engine Marketing (ranking websites). He has built out large social networks, viral native advertising websites, traffic arbitrage sites and leveraged affiliate networks. Driving traffic and then optimizing the monetization of that traffic.
Sima has a varied background in private sector startups, spanning several industries including manufacturing, education and food. As the senior manager of MaRS’ Entrepreneurship Programs Sima facilitated and managed relationships with Regional Innovation Centres and Campus Linked Accelerators to make MaRS educational content and experiential workshops accessible. Sima continues to speak at incubators and accelerators, and in 2020 launched the Food Venture Program, an incubator for food businesses who are focusing on CPG products for retail.
Mark is an experienced entrepreneur who has founded, grown and sold businesses by applying over 25 years of leadership experience in biomedical research, academia and regulatory consulting. Mark has utilized vision and strategic leadership skills to effectively grow businesses that overcome a wide range of complex issues impacting both public and private interests.
David provides support, guidance and management expertise to inventors and entrepreneurs at the University of Guelph who are interested in commercializing their technology. David started his career in the pharmaceutical, engineering, veterinary, and consulting industries with a passion for new technology and entrepreneurship, before joining academia. Specifically, he helps to protect and patent novel research and technologies and enable these to be de-risked to attract industry collaborations and commercial opportunities.
Carol is an accomplished marketing leader with a passion for driving innovation and launching successful “Made in Canada” new products in brand, private label, retail and foodservice. Carol has served as director of marketing with focus on dairy at Parmalat and Gay Lea Foods and Frozen Prepared Meals at Janes Family Foods (now Sofina) and Pinnacle Foods Canada (now Conagra). Key brands have included Swanson HUNGRY-MAN, Duncan Hines, Vlasic, Janes PUBSTYLE, Gay Lea, Black Diamond, Astro and Lactantia. Carol can help clients in every step of their innovation journey – from concept and business case development, to product development in collaboration with production partners, to crafting of persuasive selling stories that win over customers and ultimately earn in-market consumer loyalty.
Rob’s history in sales, sales management and leadership spans 30 years. As a senior sales executive with fortune 500 companies at IBM and Microsoft, he has launched new international channels and built sales teams from scratch. For the last 8 years he has been an entrepreneur. Launching 3 companies, he understands the challenges of start-ups and the constant battle between cash-flow and the plan for revenue. Rob can help you set up your company for growth and establish the strategies and processes necessary for creating consistent, predictable growth for your business.
Doug Knox has over 35 years of experience as a senior-level executive establishing and managing international partnerships, technology licenses, acquisitions and strategic alliances. Doug has managed both large corporate product divisions and developed small technology-based businesses. He was the senior analyst at Bioenterprise Corporation as VP Technology for over 14 years. Doug spent 11 years with Unisys Corp. in the program management group where he held worldwide responsibility for the Education Line of Business “Computers in the Classroom.” Doug has been an advisor to a variety of technology companies including e-commerce, RF Wireless, RFID, 3-D graphics, internet software, underground radio, broadband on copper, internet training, precision laser manufacturing of electronics, cleantech and alternative energy. Most recently with several sensor and precision agri-tech and food-tech companies.
With nearly 20 years as a change management consultant and leadership coach, Jackie’s mission and passion is to help create healthy, thriving, high-performance workplace cultures by helping leaders tap into the strengths of their people, aligning their values and goals and creating an environment that fosters success from the inside out.
Bob is a customer experience executive whose passions include developing a shared vision for the role of customer experience in scaling organizations, and mentoring founders to build a rewarding and engaging customer experience. Bob helps organizations with customer experience planning focused on driving customer retention, loyalty and growth; customer journey mapping to deliver on client needs from the top-of-funnel to trials, conversion, onboarding, support and renewals; developing and implementing key KPIs in customer success including time-to-value, gross/net ARR churn, logo retention and customer lifetime value; customer outcomes management that drives customer loyalty by proving that we deliver what we promise; and land and expand strategies that maximize customer growth and revenue.
Dana has a nose for the new and throughout her career she has combined an interest in food and insights on global food trends to bring profitable concepts that fulfill unmet consumer needs to market. As Director of New Venture Creation Dana’s mandate is to enable Canada's smartest agri-food researchers to transform their insights into commercial value. Dana was recognized as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner in 2017, an honour celebrating female leaders who inspire others.
Ian has operated as a senior executive and manager in multiple sectors (including automotive, healthcare, energy and consumable beverages) with global, national and provincial mandates. He works with teams to optimize organizational performance - harnessing the contributions of people to achieve organizational objectives.
Tim is an experienced Chief Executive Officer with a demonstrated history of success working in agribusiness and agricultural research. He has worked in many agricultural sectors as a business developer, owner, CEO and general manager, project manager and mentor, predominantly in livestock in the UK, Australia, and Canada.
Diane has over 25 years of experience leading large organizations during her tenure at DuPont and PepsiCo Foods. She is currently supporting a number of multi-generational family businesses and new enterprises taking on the challenge of innovation and organizational development to generate sustainable business growth. Diane is a certified Board Director (C.Dir).
Daniel is a multi-lingual and forward-thinking, strategic, hands-on and growth-oriented International Business Development professional that is focused on bringing the correct solution to the right customer. In his work with environmental technologies, food service, and retail consumer goods he has proven his ability to identify and drive new market segment growth utilizing strategic thinking and leverage corporate relationships to attain new lines of business.
Dan Schmitt is an experienced Senior Sales & Marketing Executive in the CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) Industry. He has held positions in Consumer Marketing, Trade Marketing, Sales, Operations, Supply Chain, and Mergers & Acquisitions. Dan has worked in Canada, as well as internationally in the United States (New York), Spain, Italy, and 35 other countries. With +40 years in private industry launching +200 new products, Jigsaw provides real world experience and knowledge that helps deliver strong business results. He continues to work with small Canadian Food, Beverage and other CPG Companies to launch and establish successful national new products.
Amy brings over 15 years of experience working in food marketing, health communications, and education. She specializes in program and resource development, team mobilization and as a registered dietitian enjoys simplifying complex nutrition research so that everyone can understand and benefit from them. Having facilitated over 500+ workshops she loves sharing relevant information with others that impact their life in a positive way.
Having actively led teams through several organizational transformations in the Canadian Food industry, Mike brings a broad scope of business and technology insights and skills to business turnarounds, strategy and process improvements for a digital world.
Lisa is a multi-faceted professional who has straddled both the entrepreneurial world and the private sector, and now most recently, the not-for-profit realm. With many years of experience in procurement, distribution, collaborating on new food products, key account management and coaching in the market research, food, franchise and wellness industries, Lisa brings a unique perspective to her passion for innovation in the food industry and in helping others. Being involved in charitable boards for the arts and the fitness industry in Canada has also broadened her stakeholder engagement, fundraising and leadership skills with a wide variety of people and organizations.
George is a highly experienced executive supported by over 30 years of professional sales, marketing, and strategic expertise. He has held senior and executive positions at large companies and has balanced that experience with leadership roles at startups. He has spearheaded the strategic, business and operational direction of companies delivering double-digit growth. George has broad exposure and networking in the Financial Services, Automotive, Government, and Information Technology industry sectors and have developed and executed strategies with cross-functional alignment and collaboration for his clients winning business within these sectors. George earned an MBA from Richard M. Ivey School of Business. George's key skills include: Corporate strategic planning; B2B Sales and Marketing; Sales Strategy & Process Leadership; Sales and Marketing Training; Revenue Management & Growth; C-suite Business Development; Product Management and Innovation; Strategic and Go-To-Market Planning.
Gary is the founder and CEO of Adventus Research and Consulting Inc. – a market research/strategy and management consulting firm with a focus on performing primary market research to validate client value propositions and provide invaluable market data directly from customers and other market stakeholders. Gary’s 30 years of experience in performing hundreds of market research projects for clients across many industries gives him the key perspective and expertise regarding the optimal methodologies required to obtain key market information
Don is an inquisitive product executive who thrives in a fast-moving, performance-driven environment. Having spent the last 20 years managing and developing new products with top-performing organizations he has developed advanced expertise in the areas of business case development, new product introduction (NPI) and product lifecycle management. With a passion for innovation, he is focused on delivering great new solutions for customers year after year.
Heather Travis is a communications strategist, brand builder, and lover of all things creative. A strategist and storyteller, Heather has extensive experience developing and implementing integrated public relations and marketing programs for agricultural brands, producers and processors, as well as high end sporting goods. Heather works with small businesses and entrepreneurs in crafting their brand story, coaching them on building their business both online and off using strategic marketing tactics unified under their core brand values and business goals. Heather runs her freelance consulting business from her home in beautiful Bruce County, Ontario. Heather is also actively working as an artist and muralist selling her large scale and colourful abstracts, as well as creating unique murals for businesses and in happy homes on commission.
Michael Van Belle is the President and Manager – Corporate Innovation Programs at Adventus Research and Consulting. With over a decade of corporate marketing management and market research experience in the financial sector, where he executed on 7-figure budgets Michael understands first-hand the issues and demands of today’s corporate innovation environment.
With over 10 years’ experience in senior marketing management, 15 years of team leadership experience, and 25+ years in technology public relations, Ellyn brings a breadth of knowledge about outbound and inbound marketing strategy, planning, and execution. Ellyn specializes in high growth technology companies, startups, and the business-to-business enterprise software sector.