2017 Keynote : Warren Macdonald

Warren Macdonald’s life’s boundaries were redefined in April 1997 with his accident on North Queensland’s (Australia) Hinchinbrook Island. Climbing to the Island’s tallest peak, he became trapped beneath a one-ton slab boulder in a freak rock fall. Two days later he was rescued, only to undergo the amputation of both legs at mid thigh.
Just ten months later, he climbed Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain using a modified wheelchair and the seat of his pants.


In February 2003, he became the first double above-knee amputee to reach the summit of Africa’s tallest peak, Mt Kilimanjaro (19,222ft), and more recently, in a spectacular effort requiring more than 2, 800 pull-ups over 4 days, created history once again in an ascent of America's tallest cliff face, El Capitan. He is also the only above knee amputee to make an ascent of Canada’s landmark frozen waterfall, the 600 ft “Weeping Wall” in Alberta.
Warren’s first book, “A Test of Will” is an Australian bestseller and the subject of the “Trapped under a Boulder” episode of the
Discovery Channel series “I Shouldn’t Be Alive”. His film documenting the epic four-week journey to Federation Peak, Australia most challenging mountain summit, “The Second Step”, has been acclaimed worldwide, screening on National Geographic Television and winning eight international awards including Grand Prize at the prestigious “Banff Mountain Film Festival”.
Warren has appeared on numerous news and current affairs programs, including “Larry King Live”, “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, and
“The Hour” with George Stroumboulopoulos. He has written articles for “CNN World Edition” (WWW), “Australian Geographic”, Speaking of Impact” and “Professional Speaker”.
He lives in Canmore, Alberta with his partner Margo Talbot.

Not coming to Starting Point but interested in coming to the Dinner & Keynote? Buy Tickets Here!‌‌‌‌‌‌


2017 Master Class Instructors

Paul Leblanc

Serial Entrepreneur & Founder of Be Human

Paul grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He’s a serial entrepreneur having started up multiple successful companies over a 25-year span.


At 19 he co-founded Coastal Communications with his best friend and father. After buying his father out and selling that business to Micky MacDonald, he founded Extreme Group, one of Canada’s largest independent marketing agencies with offices in Toronto and Halifax and employs over 60 people. Paul also co-founded other ventures like Karma Gaming and Iconic Brewing which produces CrazyBeard Wild Apple Ale and Dusty Boots Hard Root Beer. Paul is also a partner in VistaCare Communications a telecommunications infrastructure company with over 220 people.  His latest venture is a clothing company called, The Human Preservation Co. which proudly champions “behuman”.


He has been named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most influential Marketers. He is the recipient of the Top 40 Under 40 award in Canada, and has been awarded “Entrepreneur of the Year” by Ernst and Young.


He’s been happily married for 18 years and is a father of 3, *gulp* yes THREE, beautiful girls (and 2 boy dogs).






Natalia Kantor

Creative Director, BIG3 Video Agency

When you first meet Natalia, it’s easy to mistake her for a super hero. There’s no hiding from her laser like vision. No matter who you are, she has an uncanny ability to see past all your masks right to your heart centre. She’ll take you on a video journey of self-discovery. With love & compassion she’ll peel off layer after layer of inhibition and pull out your true essence. Then using her creative genius she’ll show how amazing you are to the rest of the world.


A memorable onscreen presence comes from being comfortable with oneself, a bit of silliness, playing with costumes and props, lots of creative camaraderie, and taking life a little less seriously!







Jan Keck

Video Magician, BIG3 Video Agency

When the doorbell rings, don’t be surprised to find Jan there holding balloons and a party horn ready to make your day better. He’ll catch you off guard with his unique and quirky sense of humour that he brings to everything he does. Fun is his secret weapon and he uses it to break down all your walls of nervousness and doubt. He gives you permission to be silly and with a fun loving approach, let’s you relax and be yourself.


But don’t let his silliness fool you! He comes armed with industry leading video techniques ready to capture your authentic self on film. After all he’s got a German engineering degree.


We founded BIG3video because we’re all about love. We help you spread the love! We help you feel comfortable on camera, bring out your best on screen and reach a bigger audience. So you can in turn, spread the love, make an impact with your voice and your message.


And who said that making an impact has to be hard work? We believe that anything can be easy, so we’ve decided to make the world more fun!






Laura Simpson

Owner, The Syrup Factory & Founder, Make.Do.Camp


After seven years as a broadcast journalist and then seven years supporting artists at Music Nova Scotia, Laura Simpson quit her job and became a full-time entrepreneur in June 2015.


Laura’s business, The Syrup Factory, began as a part-time venture in 2011, producing intimate and highly-curated shows with some of Nova Scotia’s top artists. The business evolved to include business consultation for artists and larger shows (like the recent Syrian refugee fundraiser and the David Bowie Tribute concert). The next expansion includes a nation-wide house concert network.


In the fall of 2015, Laura went to Los Angeles to mentor with an innovative music marketing start-up, lead by the former president of Warner Brothers Records. While in California, Laura attended a grown-up camp and was inspired to create a similar event in Nova Scotia, calling it Make.Do.Camp.


Laura is passionate about art, play and helping people find joy. While she has learned how to thrive in the digital world, she produces events that focus on unplugging and being present. She believes in the magic of Nova Scotia and is committed to helping it thrive.








Photo Cred: Lindsay Duncan

Bailey Parnell

Founder & CEO, SkillsCamp

Bailey Parnell was recently named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women. She is an award-winning digital marketer, TEDx speaker and businesswoman with a talent for helping people tell better stories. Her work and expertise have been featured on CBC, CTV & in other local Toronto media. 


Bailey recently founded SkillsCamp, a school for the soft skills where they help people develop the essential skills needed for professional success. This year, she won bronze Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year at the Stevie Awards for International Women in Business. She also currently works in digital marketing at Ryerson University.


Bailey is a frequent public speaker having spoken to more than 10 thousand people. She primarily speaks about social media, personal branding, and media and mental health. She guest lectured her first MBA class at 21-years-old and has been the youngest speaker as multiple academic conferences. 


Bailey is currently pursuing her Masters in Communication and Culture and holds an honours Bachelor from the RTA School of Media at Ryerson University. She has previously worked in social media marketing at CBC and Bell Media; assisted instructors in Seneca College's Social Media: Graduate Certificate Program; and have worked as a local news reporter on Rogers TV.






Jared Perry

Social Entrepreneur

Jared is a social entrepreneur from Atlantic Canada. His work has taken him throughout Asia, India, and the Caribbean. His projects have received national and international recognition.


He is passionate about things that excite him: life changing sustainable projects, social innovation, disruptive business models, evolving technologies and travel. If there is something that excites him, he gets involved ASAP.


Jared is actively building a lifestyle that allows him to pursue passion projects and businesses. He is the co-founder and CEO of SWAP Innovations (Fin-tech & Security), co-founder of Venture Grade (Student VC Fund), co-founder of Chakra Sewa Society (NGO in rural India). 


He has received various scholarships for his work in academia and is a Master of Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation candidate at the Sobey School of Business. 









Mike Tanner

Founder, OneRedCat

Mike Tanner is the founder of OneRedCat  a small digital agency in Halifax focused on helping small to medium sized businesses find their place online. He has over a decade of experience standing in front of people and telling them what to do and for the past five years has focused on building relationships with entrepreneurs in Nova Scotia . When he’s not building websites, organizing digital conferences or trying to explain why "you can’t do that on Twitter”, he is a stay at home father of two wonderful and terrifying creatures. 



Jennifer Nicholson, CPA, CA

Co-Founder, Executive Finance

Jen is an engaging financial professional with over 20 years of leadership experience in public practice, academia and industry.  Jen is passionate about learning and has a broad skill set and experience in all key facets of an organization including operations management, strategic planning, business development, finance, accounting, investor relations, human resources, and project management. Jen loves to make finance more attainable, whether it’s working to articulate strategy in a financial context, bringing clarity to financial communication or teaching accounting to university students.  Jen’s career epitomizes the diverse experiences and roles that CPAs play in industry – from financial to operational leadership.  




Blair Cook CPA, CA CPA (III) MBA

Co-Founder, Executive Finance

Blairis a many-time corporate director, CFO, author, speaker, educator, innovator, thought leader, and curiosity generalist.  As an academic-practitioner, he’s a perpetual learner who observes and experiments with various financial and management theories in real world context.   He shares stories of his successes, failures, and lessons learned to all those who share a passion for further developing their own financial leadership qualities. Blair has worked extensively with CPA Canada in recent years to design, develop, and launch the professional certification program.  He is the author of The Illiterate Executive: An Executive’s Handbook for Mastering Financial Acumen.




Carolyn Crewe

Co-Founder, Duckish Natural Skin Care

Originally from Newfoundland, Carolyn is a true renaissance woman, with degrees in science, fine arts and business. After a few years of travelling, studying and teaching around the world, she started her professional career as a graphic designer for ALDO Shoes, where she ultimately discovered that her true passion lay in the business side of things. So, as is her wont, Carolyn went back to school and completed her MBA at Concordia University. Before she was even finished her degree, she was hired to work as a Senior Business Analyst at the International Civil Aviation Organization, a UN Specialized Agency, where she led a number of tech projects. She has since consulted for a variety of startups and small businesses from fashion to aviation to food, and served as the Director of Marketing for an academic non-profit. After moving to Halifax just over a year ago, she founded Duckish Natural Skin Care and also teaches entrepreneurship to creatives at NSCAD University. And to top it off, this busy professional became a first-time mother this past August!








The list of conference speakers will be updated regularly. Please check back frequently for an updated list!