Barb Stegemann’s entrepreneurial vision was formed after her best friend—a soldier—was severely wounded in Afghanistan. Understanding that supporting Afghanistan’s economy was key to building stability for its people, Stegemann launched The 7 Virtues out of her garage armed with only a dream to help war-ridden nations rebuild. Her company sources organic, fair trade essential oils from countries experiencing turmoil (such as Afghanistan, Haiti the Middle East and Rwanda and beyond). Despite addressing complex global matters in her talks, Stegemann uses humour to explain how individuals can use business for good and effect change, both at home and worlds away.
A decade later, The 7 Virtues is now an award-winning social enterprise — and the only Canadian brand to be sold through Sephora’s "Clean at Sephora" fragrance space across the US, Canada and Sephora in 13 countries in the EU. Through her inspiring entrepreneurial story, Barb shares powerful messages of triumphing over adversity, and empowers her audiences to embrace their inner disruptor.
A newsmaker, Barb first became known to millions of Canadians when she landed a venture-capital deal on CBC’s hit show Dragons’ Den (shark tank in the usa) — the first woman from Atlantic Canada to do so. She went on to become the "Top Game Changer" in the history of the popular reality show for creating her social enterprise.
Since then Barb and her hypo-allergenic fragrance collection have been celebrated in major media outlets around the world, including Vogue, Elle Canada, Fast Company, Forbes, The Cut, Women’s Wear Daily, The Globe and Mail, as wells as CBC, CNN, Bloomberg, and more.
Barb has been named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women by WXN; won the Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year Award” in the emerging Entrepreneur category for Atlantic Canada; was ranked as one of Profit Guide magazine's "Top 30 Cool and Fabulous Canadian Entrepreneurs"; and was also made the first female Honorary Colonel in the history of 14 Wing Greenwood base, Royal Canadian Air Force, completing her term in 2015.
Barb is also the author of the bestselling book, The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen, now in its 8th edition. To learn more about Barb visit www.BarbStegemann.com or her social enterprise www.The7Virtues.com.
Shivani Dhamija moved to Nova Scotia in 2011 with a Diploma in Public Relations from Fanshawe College. She tried various media and PR companies but had no luck. She's a very independent person who doesn't give up easily - so while waiting for her dream job she started working wherever she could find work. It was while working at the Canada Games Center that a friend of Indian origin told her that an Indian trucker friend she knew was missing home-cooked food and wanted someone to make food for him to take on his trips. He was Shivani's first client. Taking a chance Shivani created a Facebook page publicizing her Meal Delivery Service and got a tremendous response. People tried her food and wanted to learn to cook Indian Food. The second line of business (Cooking Classes) began in 2015. Another opportunity presented itself from listening to the feedback from fun Cooking Classes. They absolutely loved the classes but said they found it difficult to find the spices to prepare the meals at home. Understanding the customers' need, Shivani launched spice blends in 2016 and ready-to-use sauces in 2018. all shivani's kitchen products are salt-free, gluten-free and have no preservatives. Now Shivani's kitchen products can be found in superstore, sobeys, walmart online portal and company's website.
For more than a decade, Ashley McConnell-Gordon has led the operations and strategic growth of Benjamin Bridge, a family farm winery located in the picturesque Gaspereau Valley of Nova Scotia. After completing her Bachelor of Laws at Dalhousie University in May 2009, she and her twin sister, Devon McConnell-Gordon, took over the reins of Benjamin Bridge to launch the inaugural vintage of its traditional method sparklings and grow Nova Scotia's favourite wine, Nova 7.
Since then, Ashley has championed the expansion of wine markets within and outside of Nova Scotia – across Canada and in select international cities – in order to change consumer perceptions about the quality of local wine, grow rural agri-tourism, and diversify wine export markets for Nova Scotia. Ashley is most passionate about creating an ever-evolving, compassionate, and thriving workplace at Benjamin Bridge, and in growing the talented team who share the values for quality, innovation, rural living, and environmentally and socially sustainable practices.
Chanda 'CeeCee' Chilanga
BComm’11 Costume Designer & Personal Stylist | On-air Style Expert | Fashion Entrepreneur
CeeCee is a multifaceted creative, Fashion Entrepreneur, and avid community volunteer with years of experience in multiple industries including Banking and Not-for-Profit before she ended up in fashion. As a fashion stylist, she is known for creating looks with the perfect balance between signature style, clothing craftsmanship, and developing style longevity while staying on-trend. As a TV Style Expert on multiple Canadian day and primetime shows, she merges practical style advice with her love for Canadian Fashion by providing exposure to local designers and small business retailers in partnership with multinational fashion brands that share these values.
Ola Williams is a multi-passionate entrepreneur, with 15+ years of progressive leadership, including financial management experience, in small and large companies across a number of industries. She has worked in professional services firms (KPMG, Deloitte), oil and gas sector, and most recently the retail industry. She is the owner of Cornish’s Variety, providing strategic direction for the business, while also being responsible for the growth, stability, and development of the business. Cornish’s Variety is a convenience store located in Trenton, Nova Scotia. The operation offers an extensive variety of grocery items, baked goods, hot lunches, confectionary, an assortment of snack foods and beverages, fireworks, as well as a selection of everyday items provided based on customer needs. Convenience items are made available for purchase to customers in this community so as to avoid the lengthy trip to neighbouring communities with larger scale establishments.
Prior to owning Cornish’s Variety, she was the Financial Controller of a multinational company, a role she held for about 12 years. In addition to her passion for business and her financial management expertise, Ola writes and speaks about poetry, career coaching and her experiences. She is also working on projects involving using Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence to improve financial and administrative processes in small retail businesses.
Ola is an FCA, with a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Warwick, UK.
Good fortune, Opportunity, Serendipity, Seize the Moment …Identify your strengths, do what you love.
Fortunately, Lezlie Oler realized that early experiences, motivation, and serendipity each play important roles in developing a career. As a child, her first foray into design and style was building a dollhouse from cardboard boxes, fashioning window curtains from bits of fabric she found in her mothers’ cleaning cloths and creating little paintings framed with popsicle sticks. She developed and retained a love of home décor and an appreciation of art and style.
In her early teens the father of a friend, a judge, invited Lezlie to attend a murder trial. She observed that the defense lawyer had neglected to comment during cross examination on an important piece of evidence. The judge seized on the comment and encouraged her to study law, an unusual career for women in the early 70’s.
Her work in legal aid was eye opening. The extremely difficult issues her clients faced were emotionally draining. The pressure on woman practicing law, at that time, are unimaginable today. On one occasion an opposing lawyer was cited for contempt because he said, “I won’t argue against this young woman, is she a lawyer?”
The Federal Government recruited her to work with Canada Mortgage and Housing in Ottawa where she became the first Director of the “Employment Equity Program for Woman.” CMHC provided many opportunities for advancement and learning, in particular about issues of corporate governance and board management. Several promotions within the Federal Government led to her appointment as Counsel within the Privy Council with responsibility for access to Cabinet Documents.
In 1989 Lezlie left the Federal Government and moved to Toronto. Lezlie and a former colleague had the idea to form a company, T.O Corporate Services, which would provide freelance corporate secretariat services to corporations which did not want in house counsel or in house corporate secretary. Timing could not have been worse, the economic environment meant that corporations were reluctant to change the status quo even though T.O Corporate Services offered improved corporate services at less expense. However, discussions with various interested parties provided an opportunity to change direction. A well-established international association representing corporate secretaries around the world was seeking a management company to oversee it’s activity and education program in Canada. T.O Corporate Services was the successful candidate. This led to the growth of the company. When it sold 12 years later it was managing eighteen national and international for profit and not-for-profit organizations, including the Institute of Corporate Directors.
Oddly, one of the roles was to buy gifts for speakers at annual meetings and conferences. Lezlie’s interest in design helped to find modern giftware and she began attending gift shows. An empty space in the office was transformed into a mini-gift shop, and passersby noticed and wanted to buy some of the items. It alerted her to the possibility of doing this on a larger scale in the future.
When she returned to Halifax in 2004, she was able to realize that interest and opened “In A Box Gifts” …for things outside the box, a boutique with giftware for the home, ladies’ clothing and accessories.
Lezlie’s career has taken many unexpected turns-all interesting. Her motto, “never underestimate the power of serendipity, determination and creativity.”
Janice Landry is an award-winning, Halifax writer whose non-fiction books primarily focus on mental health and wellness. Her 6th book, Eye of the Ocean, launches in fall 2022. Landry’s work, Silver Linings, (Pottersfield Press, 2019), won a gold medal in Canadian non-fiction.
Landry has freelanced for twenty years under her company, Groundhog Productions. She has worked with provincial, regional, and national clients. The business name is an homage to her birthday - Groundhog Day.
The journalist is a graduate, (BJ Hons., Distinction, ‘87), of the University of King's College, Halifax. Her husband, Robert Dauphinee, is a Saint Mary’s business graduate, and is Vice President of Galien Group, Montreal.
Landry worked for twelve years as a television reporter/anchor at CTV Atlantic, formally ATV/ASN. She was an instructor for sixteen years in the Department of Communication Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University.
The author began writing to honour her late father, Capt. Basil (Baz) Landry M.B., of the former Halifax Fire Department. She now also works to honour her late mother, Theresa Landry, who died in 2018. Her new book features Theresa.
Capt. Landry was the first Halifax firefighter in more than 250 years to receive Canada’s Medal of Bravery. That high honour came, in 1980, for Capt. Landry’s role in rescuing a baby from a horrific house fire. Janice wrote about those events in The Sixty Second Story, (Pottersfield Press, 2013).
Landry’s books include multiple interviews with Canadian police, firefighters, paramedics, emergency 911 call takers and dispatchers, medical professionals, active military members, veterans, psychologists, psychiatrists, researchers, and critical incident stress specialists, etc. She advocates for better preemptive mental health education and support for Canadians who routinely work around trauma – as well as spotlighting impacts on their families.
Stephanie is obsessed with levelling the playing field. In 2015 when she embarked on an entrepreneurial journey with her life partner, Phil, and centred their efforts around the vision that wellness & healthy food ought to be more approachable, inclusive, and (yes) fun! Within a few years of launch, they have grown a profitable, boost-strapped business that has grown to 8 independents tea, shake & coffee shops.
While building a brand may have looked effortless from the outside, starting a business at age 32 with 2 young children with no resources or funding quickly forced her to realize that early-stage entrepreneurship was anything but transparent. In 2018 I linked arms with like minded individuals to learn & grow, and start sharing my experiences with others to help grow this awesome community.
Jenna Oosterholt is an experienced entrepreneur with her current focus in the restaurant industry. An Ontario native, Jenna found home in Halifax 10 years ago. After graduating from Dalhousie with a Bachelor of Commerce she opened two restaurants, one of which she successful sold this year. Jenna has a passion for entrepreneurship and all things business.
With over 20 years in the food & hospitality industry, Patty started Kitchen Door with a vision to bring approachable restaurant quality food to events around Nova Scotia. Originally from New Brunswick, Patty graduated UNB and headed south to study Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University in Providence RI. After spending many years honing her craft in Alaska, Muskoka, Ottawa & Chicago at the famous Spago restaurant, Patty returned to her Maritime roots. After working for others for 10+ years, she took a giant leap and started Kitchen Door in 2008, right after the birth of her first child. The company has grown exponentially under her leadership and in 2019, the company moved its headquarters to Dartmouth after building an 11,000 custom facility. Like many small businesses in the food sector, Kitchen Door was heavily impacted by the pandemic. Patty and her dedicated team were able to rebuild new revenue streams for Kitchen Door which includes CFIA manufacturing as well as expanding retail offerings.
In 2021, Patty became the owner of Maritime Natural Food Company, a growing distribution company working with local Maritime brands to get their products into retailers including Sobeys and over 160 Independent stores. Brand Partners include Peace By Chocolate, Java Blend, Cultured Coconut, Libra Non-alcoholic Beverages and many more. Most recently, Patty along with two other amazing women entrepreneurs/founders started a company, Best Kind Edibles, and received their Microprocessor License approval from Health Canada in July 2022. This female led brand is focused on products for professional women with the highest quality and taste.
Patty lives in Bedford with her husband Ted and her two children, James & Kathleen.
As a celebrated brand strategist, Tara has curated company, consumer and executive brands across a range of sectors.
She is Principal of The Message, a boutique brand communications firm where she provides highly tailored strategic advice and services. Her clients include Sandpiper Ventures and Propel ICT and span industries including finance, consumer, tech and real estate. She was previously VP of Strategy and is now a consultant with Outcast Foods, where she advises on strategic positioning for the company, charting their leadership in food waste mitigation.
Prior to establishing her own firm, she was Associate Vice President, Marketing and Brand Strategy at NATIONAL Public Relations, Canada’s leading Public Relations firm. She specialized in brand and media strategy, event marketing and executive profile building and communications. As part of this, she worked with executives in helping them define their personal brand, share their vision with a broader audience and bring a human story to their business. Tara is passionate about encouraging leaders to think more critically about their values, vision and voice while establishing them as industry experts and influencers in their own right.
She has also led PR strategy for some of the world’s most recognized brands including Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy. As head of PR in Canada, she served as the company’s spokesperson and provided commentary covering the gamut, from retail trends to sourcing, real estate and leadership transition.
Melanie graduated from the University of New Brunswick in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering. Working in engineering for a few years she quickly realized she didn’t have the passion for it and wanted a change to a more people focused role. She then moved over to Project Management in the engineering and manufacturing field where she oversaw various projects ranging from $100 K to over $30 M with critical deadlines. After obtaining her PMP and working 12 great years in Project Management an internal role was posted that piqued her interest. This is where she found her true passion working with people as an Organizational Change Management (OCM) Lead.
Her enthusiasm, empathy, and passion to work with people has led her to now be the Global OCM Manager at Ultra Maritime - Sonar Systems which has enabled her to work with change leads across other Ultra sites. The most recent change that Melanie led, is the Dartmouth restoration program along with the facility upgrade.
As Vice President, Commercial Financial Services at RBC, Hilary has overall responsibility for a team of 12 Commercial Account Managers throughout metro Halifax with industry expertise in real estate and supply chain. Hilary has been with RBC since January 2016 working as a Commercial Account Manager focused on real estate, a Senior Financing Specialist supporting New Brunswick & Newfoundland, VP CFS for the Annapolis Valley and South West Nova Scotia before becoming VP CFS for Metro Halifax in October 2021.
Prior to joining RBC Hilary spent nine years with Clarke Inc., an activist investment firm based in Halifax, in several different capacities including equity/bond trader, investment analyst, and investment manager for the fixed income portion of a pension plan (2008-2016).
Hilary started her career with Manulife Asset Management in institutional investment management as an analyst in Toronto (2006-2008). Hilary earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Queens University in 2006 and obtained her Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation from the CFA Institute in 2012.
Hilary is active in volunteerism serving as the current President of the CFA Society of Atlantic Canada as well as serving in an advisory capacity as a member of the Investment Committee for the Saint Mary’s University Endowment Fund and the New House Committee for the Ronald McDonald House Charities Atlantic.
Amber Grosse is an Entrepreneurship Engagement Manager with the Black Business Initiative. Amber hails from the community of East Preston and a descendant of the Preston Township. She is a graduate of Bachelor of Business Administration from Mount Saint Vincent University, with a double minor in Marketing and Management. Amber is a youth champion, community connector and event planner. She has worked in community and the child and youth sector from a very young age and brings her several years of experience working with non profit organizations and supporting youth and more specifically African Nova Scotian (ANS) youth. Amber sits on the Board of Directors for Phoenix Youth and is a current Girl Guide Leader for the Preston Area Girl Guide Unit 1. Amber comes from a family of entrepreneurs and is always willing to share her experience both professionally and personally in the wonderful world of entrepreneurship.
Kristen Morse, Co-owner and Director of Operations and Community Outreach for Nature
Folk Wellness Collective
Kristen Morse is a co-owner and Director of Operations and Community Outreach for Nature Folk Wellness Collective. Originally from California, Kristen was drawn to Nova Scotia to complete her M.A. in International Development Studies at Dalhousie University in 2006 and never left. She is a mother to two girls, a certified yoga instructor, and a lifelong traveller.
Kristen is a former green building consultant and co-owner of Elemental Sustainability
Consulting. She is dedicated to serving her community by offering places of health and
sanctuary, curating the spaces and conversations necessary for deep personal and collective healing. Kristen directs the daily operations of Nature Folk, HRM’s first urban Nordic Circuit and Wellness Centre.
Broadcast Journalist & CEO/founder of Crystal Joy Garrett Media
As an entrepreneur, she trains business owners and leaders to conquer the camera, increase visibility and make powerful connections with people, resulting in increased revenue and growth. Crystal has more than two decades experience as a broadcaster and communications professional. You can see her on air at CTV News Atlantic and/or listen to her podcast on all platforms, The Start Anywhere Podcast for Goal Getters.