Headshot Jennifer Bessel

Jennifer Bessell

Board Chair
CEO – Newfoundland & Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs

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 Jennifer led with a commitment to advocacy and passionately represented the views and values of each community sector.

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Jennifer Bessell

Board Chair
CEO – Newfoundland & Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs

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 Jennifer led with a commitment to advocacy and passionately represented the views and values of each community sector.

Jennifer Bessell is currently the chief executive officer with the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs. Jennifer is an accomplished senior leader in the non profit sector with extensive experience in both professional associations and charitable organizations. She has held executive director roles in professional legal education and with the Canadian Bar Association as well as executive positions with the Association for New Canadians locally and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada nationally. Jennifer has a demonstrated ability to lead and motivate teams with a people first approach to leadership. She is an experienced executive leader who enjoys both program and finance management.

In addition to her work with WEOC, Jennifer is also a board member with Women in Science and Engineering, Newfoundland and Labrador and volunteers with Junior Achievement of Newfoundland and Labrador as a mentor for their company program.

Jennifer is passionate about life long learning and helping others achieve success in their professional endeavours. She considers coaching and mentoring a responsibility of leadership. As such, Jennifer is driven to help women and youth realize their potential and be successful in their journey as entrepreneurs.

Headshot Jennifer Bessel

Shauna Harper

Board Vice Chair
CEO – WeBC (formerly Women’s Enterprise Centre of British Columbia)

Shauna is an impact-driven leader, community champion, speaker, mentor, and connector in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. She is a nationally-recognized advocate for women entrepreneurs, gender equity, and a champion for increased access to services, training, support, and funding.

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Shauna Harper

Board Vice Chair
CEO – WeBC (formerly Women’s Enterprise Centre of British Columbia)

Shauna is an impact-driven leader, community champion, speaker, mentor, and connector in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. She is a nationally-recognized advocate for women entrepreneurs, gender equity, and a champion for increased access to services, training, support, and funding.

Shauna is an impact-driven leader, community champion, speaker, mentor, and connector in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

She is a nationally-recognized advocate for women entrepreneurs, gender equity, and a champion for increased access to services, training, support, and funding. Her strengths include marketing & communications strategy, participatory and collaborative facilitation, business development, community engagement, team building, as well as the development of strategic partnerships and programs.

Prior to coming to WeBC, Shauna was an entrepreneur for 22 years. She owned a manufacturing company that created and sold inspirational glass stone magnets globally, and a marketing and communications company that helped small businesses and not-for-profit organizations by offering marketing strategies, project management, team support, and marketing training.

In 2015, Shauna was the co-facilitator of the regional Catalyst for Growth dialogues that actively explored how to support economic growth through women and create a greater impact by growing the number of women in senior leadership roles, trades, emerging sectors, and as entrepreneurs. She was also a facilitator for portions of the BC Economic Forum (2015) and the We for She Conference (2016).

Shauna has been recognized for her leadership and impact. She was named a Woman of Influence by BC Business Magazine; and Business Person of the Year and Top 40 Under 40 by the Prince George Chamber of Commerce. She was on the BC Premier’s Women’s Economic Council as an advisor from 2014-2017, and an advisor on the Government of Canada’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy in 2019.

Shauna’s vision for WeBC is to continue to build on the incredible success and momentum of the team, while exploring the possibilities in the next phase of collaboration, sustainability, and impact.

Maxine Kashton

CEO – Manitoba Women’s Enterprise Centre (MWEC)

A Certified Professional Accountant and former small business owner, Max Kashton brings rich entrepreneurial experience, a deep understanding of the finance, risk and strategy, human resource, and information technology requirements facing the sector, as well as a well-developed set of community and business relationships.

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Maxine Kashton

CEO – Manitoba Women’s Enterprise Centre (MWEC)

A Certified Professional Accountant and former small business owner, Max Kashton brings rich entrepreneurial experience, a deep understanding of the finance, risk and strategy, human resource, and information technology requirements facing the sector, as well as a well-developed set of community and business relationships.

A Certified Professional Accountant and former small business owner, Max Kashton brings rich entrepreneurial experience, a deep understanding of the finance, risk and strategy, human resource, and information technology requirements facing the sector, as well as a well-developed set of community and business relationships.

Kashton has honed and applied her leadership skills in her current and past C-Suite roles. MWEC’s CEO since January 2022, her past roles include serving as Chief Operating Officer with Canadian Lutheran World Relief, an international humanitarian and refugee resettlement organization, and as the Chief Financial Officer for The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce.

The Mayor of Winnipeg recently appointed Kashton to the CentreVenture Board of Directors where she is the Finance Chair. CentreVenture’s mandate is to work with the city, and private and non-profit developers to increase downtown housing in Winnipeg. She currently sits on the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada Board of Directors and is the Finance & Audit Committee Chair

Headshot Rosalind Lockyer

Rosalind Lockyer

Founder and CEO – PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise

PARO was founded in 1995, with Rosalind Lockyer at the helm, with goals to create a program to help women realize entrepreneurial success on their terms. PARO began as a women’s community loan fund; today, as a multi-faceted women-centred business development program, it is known “as the largest and strongest women’s peer lending network in North America” and supports 150+ Circles across Ontario.

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Rosalind Lockyer

Founder and CEO – PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise

PARO was founded in 1995, with Rosalind Lockyer at the helm, with goals to create a program to help women realize entrepreneurial success on their terms. PARO began as a women’s community loan fund; today, as a multi-faceted women-centred business development program, it is known “as the largest and strongest women’s peer lending network in North America” and supports 150+ Circles across Ontario.

PARO was founded in 1995, with Rosalind Lockyer at the helm, with goals to create a program to help women realize entrepreneurial success on their terms. PARO began as a women’s community loan fund; today, as a multi-faceted women-centred business development program, it is known “as the largest and strongest women’s peer lending network in North America” and supports 150+ Circles across Ontario.

The essence and the originality of PARO demonstrate how Rosalind involves the members of the organization. A true grassroots organization, members are elected to the board of directors annually, and collectively work with Rosalind, as primary innovators and decision-makers for the organization. Under her leadership, PARO has received significant recognition for its contribution to women entrepreneurs. In 2002, PARO received the Soroptimist of Americas Eastern Canada Award for Advancing the Status of Women, and in 2004, the Chamber of Commerce Award for Business Excellence-Not- For- Profit. In 2014, PARO received the Donner Canadian Foundation Award for Excellence in the Education Category. This award recognizes PARO and Rosalind as “one of seven best–run service agencies in the country… .ranked in ten key performance areas including management and governance, use of staff and volunteers, innovation, program costs and outcome monitoring.” Quoting the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) on Ethical Leadership, “Effective approaches to instilling ethics and integrity . . . are key elements to ensuring sound corporate governance and management control.”

Seven years at university earned Rosalind a Psychology Degree and certified teaching credentials. However, it was the 20 years of working as a teacher, entrepreneur, community developer that left Rosalind blatantly aware of systemic women’s issues, and provided the skills, experience, passion, and determination to work for positive change and gender equality locally, provincially, and nationally. For these efforts, Rosalind received the prestigious Influential Women of Northern Ontario Award-Public Sector 2005 from Northern Ontario Business, recognizing her leadership in building PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise into the dynamic women’s enterprise organization that it is today. More recently, Rosalind was called “one of the most remarkable social entrepreneurs in the world” by the Office of Social Enterprise, MEDEI, Ontario government, and received the International Award for “Women of the Decade in Community Leadership”, from the Women’s Economic Forum 2018 in New Delhi, India.

Headshot Rosalind Lockyer
Headshot of Marcela Mandeville

Marcela Mandeville

CEO – Alberta Women Entrepreneurs

Marcela has explored the world of business through a globally focused business undergraduate degree, designation as a Certified International Trade Professional and more than twenty years of global experience developing and implementing business strategies.

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Marcela Mandeville

CEO – Alberta Women Entrepreneurs

Marcela has explored the world of business through a globally focused business undergraduate degree, designation as a Certified International Trade Professional and more than twenty years of global experience developing and implementing business strategies.

Marcela has explored the world of business through a globally focused business undergraduate degree, designation as a Certified International Trade Professional and more than twenty years of global experience developing and implementing business strategies. A career highlight has been taking on leadership roles at Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) to support AWE’s goal to build stronger communities and economies through women’s participation in entrepreneurship.

Marcela believes strongly in continuous learning and contributing to the community. In addition to serving as Chair of the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada, she volunteers her time on the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors, University of Alberta Professional Development for Graduate Students Advisory Board, the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization Canada Board of Directors and the Edmonton Region Innovation Network Steering Committee. In 2019 Marcela was appointed as Edmonton Regional Ambassador for the UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization.

Headshot of Marcela Mandeville
Miriam Johnson-Chief Executive Officer-WESK

Miriam Johnson

Chief Executive Officer– Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan

As the Chief Executive Officer of WESK, Miriam has a strong passion and commitment to enabling Saskatchewan to flourish. Equipped with a growth-focused mindset and diverse experience across multiple sectors, she is well-positioned to lead WESK’s team towards achieving their mission of closing the gender entrepreneurship gap.

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Miriam Johnson

Chief Executive Officer– Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan

As the Chief Executive Officer of WESK, Miriam has a strong passion and commitment to enabling Saskatchewan to flourish. Equipped with a growth-focused mindset and diverse experience across multiple sectors, she is well-positioned to lead WESK’s team towards achieving their mission of closing the gender entrepreneurship gap.

As the Chief Executive Officer of WESK, Miriam has a strong passion and commitment to enabling Saskatchewan to flourish. Equipped with a growth-focused mindset and diverse experience across multiple sectors, she is well-positioned to lead WESK’s team towards achieving their mission of closing the gender entrepreneurship gap.

If you ask Miriam what she is most excited about regarding the future of WESK, she will share how inspiring it is to be part of an organization driving for and seeing progressive change. She recognizes the demands and challenges women entrepreneurs face every day. She is inspired to strategically address gaps and barriers and identify opportunities to foster a strong community of women entrepreneurs. She believes that supporting women is integral to building a strong Saskatchewan.

During her recent tenure at the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Miriam was fundamental in securing the bid for the upcoming Grey Cup, launching the Saskatchewan Roughrider Foundation, and developing many successful programs addressing opportunities around the fan experience. Her work leading the Marketing and Community Relations portfolio connected the Riders with fans across the province through community programs such as Cameco Touchdown for Dreams to the game-day fan experience at Mosaic Stadium. Miriam’s community-minded leadership approach will continue to grow and develop the impact WESK makes across Saskatchewan.

Miriam has a strong penchant for giving back. She is currently the Co-Chair of Communications for the Grey Cup Volunteer Host Organizing Committee, successfully seeing the process in its entirety from bid to execution. She also held the Vice-Chair Sponsorship position for the 2022 Saskatchewan Winter Games.

When Miriam isn’t around the WESK offices, you will most likely find her in the comfort of her home being a short-order cook for her family or in an ice rink around Regina, watching her three children, Eli, Eden, and Emerson, play the sport they all love, hockey.

Miriam Johnson-Chief Executive Officer-WESK

Ruth Vachon

President and CEO – Réseau des Femmes d’affaires du Québec

President and CEO of Réseau des Femmes d’affaires du Québec 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.

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Ruth Vachon

President and CEO – Réseau des Femmes d’affaires du Québec

President and CEO of Réseau des Femmes d’affaires du Québec 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.

President and CEO of Réseau des Femmes d’affaires du Québec 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.

Femme de terrain et de vision, Ruth Vachon est la présidente‐directrice générale du Réseau des Femmes d’affaires du Québec. Cumulant plus de 30 ans d’expérience en entrepreneuriat, elle soutient que la prospérité se conjugue également au féminin. Elle sillonne le monde pour donner des conférences et piloter des missions commerciales pour les femmes d’affaires tant au Canada, aux États-Unis, en Europe qu’en Afrique. D’un dynamisme remarquable, elle convainc bon nombre de grandes entreprises et de multinationales à s’investir auprès des femmes entrepreneures.

En 2019, elle crée le RFAQ+ : une communauté virtuelle dotée d’une intelligence artificielle permettant aux entreprises à propriété féminine d’offrir leurs produits et services aux grandes entreprises nationales et internationales qui ont choisi d’intégrer la diversité à leur pratique d’approvisionnement.

Depuis 2019, elle est membre du Groupe consultatif de l’initiative « WE Empower » de l’organisation ONU Femmes et du « Portail de connaissances pour les femmes en entrepreneuriat », de l’Université Ryerson. Engagée pour l’équité en affaires, elle est récipiendaire de nombreuses distinctions:

  • TOP 100 femmes les plus influentes au Canada – Women’s Executive Network (WXN) (2018)
  • Nomination aux Mercuriades de la Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec dans la catégorie « Leadership Femme d’exception » (2018)
  • « Personnalité de la diversité 2019 » par l’agence de presse Médiamosaïque
  • Cinq honneurs accordés par WEConnect International (2014 à 2016), dont la femme la plus engagée dans l’initiative de l’inclusion des femmes dans les chaînes d’approvisionnement de grandes entreprises.

Depuis 39 ans, la raison d’être du Réseau des Femmes d’affaires du Québec est d’offrir aux femmes les moyens de leurs aspirations. Pour ce faire, il met en place des stratégies concrètes qui inspirent, connectent et propulsent les femmes vers de nouveaux sommets, afin de développer l’économie au féminin et de créer plus de richesse, tant humaine qu’économique.

Alison Kirkland headshot

Alison Kirkland, CEO

Alison Kirkland, CEO

Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada

A leader in the women’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, Alison was named the inaugural CEO of WEOC in September 2019. Since then, she has grown the organization from a Board-run initiative to an integral resource for women’s entrepreneurial support organizations across Canada. Forging long-lasting connections within government and industry, Alison leads from experience, with 20-plus years in communications management and a decade as a certified small business counsellor.  She has led the creation of comprehensive training programs and the development of innovative funding initiatives and has had the opportunity to share her knowledge and experiences with women entrepreneurs and organizations in Ukraine and Vietnam. Alison is actively involved with CUSMA SME Counsellors Network Pilot Program; Canada 51 venture capital initiative, Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce, COVID Communications Roundtable and Manitoba Chambers of Commerce.

Email Alison: [email protected]

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Recent media:

MCC Swears in New Chair

Empowering women in Canadian business: bridging the gender gap to drive economic growth, Oakville News

Guest, $hmoney Podcast

Women entrepreneurs reluctant to access financial support: survey, BC Business

Study finds women-owned businesses faced unique issues during pandemic, Medicine Hat News

Staycation rentals, buy local and online trends spell opportunities for startup, Globe & Mail

Bruno Berto

Project Manager
he/him/il

An experienced operations and project management professional, Bruno brings an innate sense of curiosity and keen problem-solving abilities to his work, which has included managing projects for multinational organizations in 14 countries. He has worked with corporate clients like Microsoft, Henkel, ArcelorMittal, L’Oréal, Vale and Embraer to improve employee efficiency, and develop cross-cultural training and change management programs. Before joining WEOC’s team in 2020, Bruno lived in Brazil, Italy and Germany. He holds an MBA from Polytechnic University of Milan and a bachelor’s in communication and marketing from UMESP. Passionate about gender equality, he currently volunteers supporting women impacted by domestic abuse.

Email Bruno: [email protected]

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Katrya Bolger

Communications Specialist
she/her/elle

Katrya Bolger is a curious and creative communicator with a love for stories. At WEOC, Katrya seeks to amplify the impact of the WEOC National Loan Program by telling stories about the work of women and non-binary entrepreneurs across Canada, while building multimedia resources to support their pursuits. Since starting her career as a sub-editor for The Bangkok Post, she has spent over seven years writing and editing for various newspapers, magazines and non-profit organizations in Canada and abroad. Her written work has appeared in publications such as The Globe and Mail, Montreal Gazette and The Walrus. Katrya is passionate about culture, community and equity. Her pronouns are she/her.

Email Katrya: [email protected]

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Obashola Dele-Oni - Loans Assessor

Obashola Dele-Oni

Loans Assessor
she/her/elle

Obashola is an accomplished SME Investment executive with over 16 years’ experience in the Financial Services and SME Industry. Her experience in the Industry spans Relationship Management, SME Financing, Financial Advisory and Business Support Services. She has successfully delivered on multi-industry transactions leveraging on her Leadership & People Management skills. Obashola is also a Gender Lens expert which involves educating and supporting female entrepreneurs on financial products. She is also an ardent public speaker.

Prior to arriving Canada, Obashola worked as an Investment Manager with GroFin Nigeria – a  specialist impact-driven financial institution that helps entrepreneurs succeed by providing them expert advice, continuous guidance, and financing to grow their businesses. She holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the prestigious Business School of Netherlands, a Masters in Public and International Affairs from the University of Lagos and bachelors degree from the University Of Ibadan, Nigeria. She is also an accredited Small Business Consultant (ASMEC). Obashola was also a volunteer mentor in the Women In Africa (WIA) 2022 mentorship program.

Email Obashola: [email protected]

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Dawn O’Dwyer

Relationships Manager
she/her/elle

Dawn O’Dwyer brings passion and drive to her role at WEOC as Relationship Manager. With over 15 years of dedicated relationship management experience, Dawn is an advocate for community impact and collaboration. She thrives on forging connections and believes in the power of maintaining strong, cohesive relationships.

Throughout her career, Dawn has been an agent for positive change, consistently working to increase community capacity and empower marginalized demographics. Her commitment to social impact led her to lead inclusion and women’s leadership groups in previous roles and spearhead transformative initiatives within organizations.

Dawn’s dedication to making a difference doesn’t stop at the workplace. She volunteers with The Mustard Seed Edmonton, demonstrating her genuine desire to create a better world. Her passion also shines through in her work, where she has implemented training programs for marginalized communities, equipping them with vital and basic work skills.

Dawn O’Dwyer is not just a relationship manager; she’s a community builder, a connector, and a force for positive change.

Email Dawn: [email protected]

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Natalie Robertson - Loans Assessor

Natalie Robertson

Loans Assessor
she/her/elle

Natalie brings business lending experience from both customer-facing and head office roles. Prior to joining WEOC, Natalie worked for over 10 years at TD Bank, building expertise in commercial lending as well as product and risk management.  A strong communicator and collaborative team member, Natalie can build consensus with a keen attention to detail, sound analysis, and clear recommendations. Natalie is an advocate for gender equality, and is enthusiastic about supporting women-owned businesses. She is a graduate of the Bachelor of Business Administration program at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Email Natalie: [email protected]

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Heather Sadowy

Loans Manager
she/her/elle

With experience in business banking and lending, Heather brings a natural curiosity and strong critical-thinking skills and to her role as loan manager at WEOC. With 18 years in the Manitoba Credit Union system, most were spent working with small businesses and non-profits which has given her a strong foundation in financial literacy as well as an understanding of the highs and lows that come with being a business owner. A proud feminist, she is pleased to work for an organization that recognizes the unique challenges women face in entrepreneurship while also valuing their equally unique contributions. Heather is a graduate of Red River College’s Business Administration program and has volunteered with a number of local organizations including Peg City Car Co-op, The Winnipeg Folk Festival, and The Jubilee Fund.

Email Heather: [email protected]

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Lindsay Stewart Glor

Communications Manager
she/her/elle

An organized daydreamer, Lindsay brings both creativity and project management skills to her work at WEOC, recently leading the development of a new brand, a reimagined website, and the first WEOC national conference. Her past accomplishments include editing multiple magazines and award-winning books, supporting Manitoba’s largest fundraising initiative, and leading a large strategic communications team. She is a graduate of the Ryerson School of Journalism and the University of Manitoba, and currently sits on the Manitoba Council of the Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE). A longtime community volunteer, she most recently served as a board member with Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers and the Women’s Health Clinic.

Email Lindsay: [email protected]

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Deborah Umukadjo

Administrative Assistant
she/her/elle

Deborah has held diverse roles in the corporate world. During her tenure as unit/Agency Manager, she successfully oversaw the administrative activities of the branch, ensuring smooth operations and effective processes.

Currently, she holds the position of a bilingual Administrative Assistance and her language skills allow her to effectively communicate with diverse clients. She loves to participate in corporate events and seek opportunity for learning and development. She is committed to contributing to the success of the team.

Email Deborah: dumukadjo@weoc.ca

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Laura Vasquez

Loans Administator
she/her/elle

Laura is a banking professional, holding a postgraduate degree in Financial Services – Investigation and Compliance and extensive experience in financial services. She is committed to upholding the highest standards of Compliance and client service. 

Before joining WEOC, Laura worked for Banco de Bogota, one of Colombia’s leading financial institutions, Laura excelled in roles within Corporate and Commercial Banking, demonstrating a strong dedication to client satisfaction and a meticulous attention to detail.

Laura is a native Spanish speaker with a bachelor’s degree in finance and international Relations. She is committed to ongoing professional development and is passionate about contributing to the success of women-owned businesses.

Email Laura: [email protected]

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