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Our Board

The WEOC is comprised of representatives of six member organizations that operate under provincial mandates to serve the unique needs of women in all regions of Canada and we continue to work to expand our membership to include organizations in each province. Our organizations provide resources, programs and services to women entrepreneurs coast to coast, including:

Professional Business Advising
Diversity Certifications
Business Loans
Trade Missions & Market Access
Business Skills Training
Women's Entrepreneurship Research
Growth Support

* Note: Some services may not be available in all regions

Our Directors

Photo of Sandra Altner

Sandra Altner, MBA, FCMC
CEO – Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba
Chair – WEOC Board of Directors

A seasoned entrepreneur originally from New York, Sandra owned a women’s clothing boutique and a specialty decorations retail store before completing her MBA and starting The Management Exchange, a management consulting firm that was the first in Winnipeg to offer the Self-Employment Program (SEP), The Management Exchange, a consulting organization specializing in strategic planning and market development.

In 2000, Sandra was awarded the Women Business Owners of Manitoba Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the Contribution to Community category. She is a fellow of the Canadian Association of Management Consultants and is past president of the Institute of Certified Management Consultants of Manitoba. Sandra is past president of the Winnipeg Folk Festival and is currently chair of Strategic Planning committee of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. She has been an adjudicator for a number of local and national entrepreneurship awards programs: for RBC; CAFÉ; Winnipeg Spirit (Winnipeg Chamber); and Manitoba Chambers Business Awards.  Sandra has acted as a mentor and regularly speaks to groups about building entrepreneurial and leadership capacity in women.

Jennifer Bessell
CEO - Newfoundland & Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs (NLOWE)

A seasoned leader, Jennifer brings over 15 years of senior management experience in the non-profit sector to her role of CEO with NLOWE. In her previous executive roles with organizations such as The Canadian Bar Association, the Boys and Girls Club of Canada, and most recently the Association for New Canadians, Jennifer led with a commitment to advocacy and passionately represented the views and values of each community sector.

Throughout her executive career in Newfoundland and Labrador, Jennifer has had the privilege of working with many NL female entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds. In her previous work with the Association for New Canadians for example, she has come to appreciate the many unique skills and abilities that women have and continue to bring to our province.

“After a comprehensive search process, the NLOWE Board of Directors is pleased to welcome Jennifer Bessell as CEO,” said NLOWE Board President, Jeanne Stapleton. “Jennifer has an outstanding track record of building strong stakeholder relationships and we believe that her background and people-first approach to leadership, make her the ideal person to lead NLOWE successfully into the future.”

Reporting to the Board of Directors, and supported by a strong senior management team, the NLOWE CEO will focus on facilitating opportunities to grow the number of successful women-owned businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador through strong strategic partnerships, and the elimination of barriers to women’s success. Through her passionate executive leadership, Jennifer will oversee these priorities while also ensuring the future sustainability of the organization.

Photo of Laurel Douglas

Laurel Douglas
CEO - Women’s Enterprise Centre of British Columbia
Secretary / Treasurer – WEOC Board of Directors

Laurel spent the first 20 years of her career in the financial services and technology sectors in Canada, France, Germany and the UK. Over the years, Laurel developed a passion for empowering women to their business success. She settled in BC in the mid 90’s and chose economic development as her vocation. She has served on the board of the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission since 2003. She is a founding member of the National Taskforce on Women’s Business Growth and Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada. Committed to the future of BC’s post-secondary education, she also sits on UBCO’s External Advisory Committee, and is a member of the provincial Degree Quality Assessment Board.

Laurel is often asked to present on the topics of women’s leadership and entrepreneurship, and was one of two Canadian presenters at the 2011 APEC Summit in San Francisco which she attended as part of the Canadian delegation. Laurel has received several awards recognizing her contributions to economic development and small business in BC, including the EDABC and Small Business BC. She was one of 100 people worldwide recognized in 2011 for their efforts in advancing the economic empowerment of women from the international organization, TIAW. In 2015 she was honoured with the Wendy McDonald Community Catalyst Award from the Women’s Leadership Circle of the Vancouver Board of Trade.

Marcela Mandeville
CEO – Alberta Women Entrepreneurs

Marcela is the CEO of Alberta Women Entrepreneurs, leading a team of dedicated professionals who connect female business owners to the knowledge, networks, capital and markets that they need to build strong, economically viable businesses.Marcela has explored the world of business through a globally-focused business undergraduate degree, designation as a Certified International Trade Professional and more than fifteen years of global experience developing and implementing business strategies.

Marcela’s business experience in Canada and abroad led her to Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) in 2008. As Chief Operating Officer, she developed programs to support access to local and international business opportunities for women entrepreneurs. After leaving AWE in August 2013 Marcela resumed her role as CEO of her own business consulting firm, Bright Idea International and completed her MBA studies at the University of Alberta. In July 2015, Marcela returned to AWE to work with an amazing team after time spent leading her own business, volunteering and traveling in Central and South America, and exploring beautiful beaches and the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Southern California with her dog Cally.

Marcela believes strongly in continuous learning and contributing to the community.  She is the former Board Chair for Literacy without Borders, a member of the AIESEC Edmonton Advisory Board as well as an animal care volunteer at the Edmonton Humane Society. In 2012, Marcela was honoured to be chosen as one of Avenue’s Top 40 under 40 in Edmonton.

Photo of Ruth Vachon

Ruth Vachon
President and CEO – Québec Business Women’s Network

President and CEO of the Quebec Business Women’s network since June 2010, Ruth Vachon aspires to lead women managers and business owners towards excellence. Through innovative projects in economic development, entrepreneurship and feminine leadership, she intends to bring together some 2000 members for the Network’s 35th anniversary in 2016. A native from the Saguenay region, Ruth has been an active entrepreneur for more than 30 years. She founded and managed two companies for which she won the “Prix Femina” in 1988 and 1991. A seasoned manager, she became a management consultant in 2003, specializing in business reorganization and expansion. Because of her strong networking skills, Ruth knows how to establish trusted relationships and generate meaningful encounters between individuals in order to increase business opportunities.

Prabha MItchell, (Hon.) CGA, M.S.W
CEO - Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan

Chief Executive Officer of WESK, formerly Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan Inc., Prabha is passionate about driving change to close the Gender Entrepreneurship Gap and the resulting Gender Economic Gap.

Through her advocacy efforts, Prabha served as the first President of the Leaders Council of the Paul J. Hill and the Kenneth Levene Schools of Business at the University of Regina and currently serves as a member of the Paul Hill Advisory Board, University of Regina.

A supporter of entrepreneurship, Prabha serves as a Judge for some of the community’s Business Awards and was also a Prairie Regional Judge for the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Prairie Award. As an active member of Board of Directors for the Saskatchewan Housing Authority, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, and the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada (WEOC), Prabha continues to be engaged in the community to influence strategic change.

With a Masters of Social Work in Community Development, Policy and Planning, and an honorary CPA conferred by the Board of Governors of the Certified General Accountants. Prabha has had a diverse career spanning 20 years. Previously, Prabha was the CEO of the Certified General Accountants (CGA) Association of Saskatchewan and had served in that capacity for seven plus years. Prabha was a key player in leading the organization through the Unification of the Accounting Profession, bringing together the three accounting bodies namely, Certified General Accountants, Certified Management Accountants and the Chartered Accountants as Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA).

Prabha Mitchell Headshot
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