Client Services Operations Manager
Michelle ensures the Spark team embraces operational excellence every day. She drives management reporting, operational planning, and facilitating key relationships with government alliances. Michelle’s keen ability to streamline and automate processes frees the Spark team to focus on making a difference to our clients.
She developed her talent for operational excellence over 12 years of management in at McGraw-Hill, based in Whitby. Working within a large corporation afforded Michelle the opportunity to experience operational excellence first hand, and McGraw-Hill’s unique culture provided more entrepreneurship than she could have ever imagined.
In her off hours, Michelle spends her time with her two young children. She is a long-time resident of Whitby.
President & CEO
Dennis brings over twenty years of high tech experience to Spark Centre, including tenures with well-known Canadian success stories such as Open Text, Desire2Learn and SHL Systemhouse. He has had direct participation in key innovation initiatives such as CDMN’s Canada 3.0, Communitech’s Tannery Hub, OCE Discovery and the Province of Ontario’s Next Generation of Jobs Fund grant program.
With over two years of tenure at Spark Centre as both a volunteer mentor and Director of Client Services, Dennis has developed a strong tie with Spark’s clients, employees, and partner community, and he was a significant driver behind the Ignite Durham 2013 flagship program.
Dennis lives in Brooklin and is an avid hockey player, trainer, Jeep restorer and online computer gamer.
Kayla is responsible for the creation and maintenance of our client’s financial plan, management reporting, financial discipline and governance, and bookkeeping procedures. She provides the initial set up of accounting software, source document management, procedural services and regular finance reporting. She will be developing and refining the role of Financial Strategist within Spark Centre to ensure optimal financial organization and success.
Prior to taking on her role at Spark Centre, Kayla worked as the Accounting Manager for a virtual office company in Toronto where she managed the finances for three downtown locations. In addition to her background in accounting, Kayla also has experience in administration, event planning, sponsorship and management. She enjoys camping, hiking, ice fishing and live music.
Kayla is a Durham College graduate and Oshawa resident.
Human Resources and Administrative Specialist
Sarah is responsible for human resource, administration and bookkeeping activities at Spark Centre. This includes hiring new employees, managing vacation reports, facilitating employee performance reviews, managing employee agreements, and operating payroll and benefit administration. As well, she is responsible for bookkeeping activities for Spark Centre and maintains the day-to-day efficiency of the office.
Sarah also advises high potential clients to further develop skills in human resources and administration.
Sarah graduated from University of Ontario Institute of Technology, with a Bachelor of Commerce Degree majoring in Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources Management.
Sarah is working towards getting her CHRP Designation.
Director, Client Services
Braden manages Spark’s Business Acceleration Services – working closely with a team of advisors to assist entrepreneurs in areas such as legal, sales, marketing, corporate structure, international trade and more. His personal area of specialization includes business model design, sourcing startup capital, and strategic & financial planning for startups and business clientele.
Braden also facilitates the Spark Expert Network, a network of local professionals that provide the knowledge and services that high-growth companies need.
Previously, Braden worked as a Business Analyst at Bioenterprise Corporation Canada, a Sectoral Innovation Centre in Guelph focused on commercializing innovations in the Agricultural Technology Industry. In this role he developed his passion for being part of the start-up ecosystem, and talent for building and tuning business models.
Braden is an avid fisherman, and fan of anything with an engine. He was born and raised in Durham Region, and now enjoys living and working in that same community.
Martin is a recent graduate of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Commerce in Finance. He spent most of his days at UOIT pursuing business ideas with friends and being an active member of the Toronto start-up community. His passion has gifted him with knowledge and understanding of tech start-ups from strategy, design, validation and operational execution of innovative companies.
His duties as a Business Strategist at Spark Centre involve conducting due diligence in terms of market, industry and financial analysis for our clients, assisting with business plans, grant applications and supporting different Spark programs designed to help develop and promote a thriving start-up ecosystem in Durham Region and Northumberland County.
Public Relations & Media Manager
Amanda oversees the development and execution of the public relations and media strategy for Spark Centre. This includes coordination of Spark Centre’s media interaction such as TV, magazine, radio, PR events, and advertising.
Prior to joining Spark, Amanda worked at various organizations including Universal Music Canada in Toronto and McGraw-Hill Ryerson in Whitby. She brings over nine years of product marketing, advertising, business to consumer projects, business to business projects, media and press management, and brand exposure experience to Spark Centre.
Amanda advises the Spark team and high potential clients to further develop skills in marketing, media relations and profile-building.
Amanda is a fan of tennis and baseball and lives with her family in Ajax.
Kristina leads the marketing organization and the execution of the overall marketing strategy for Spark Centre. She is responsible for brand identity, corporate events, social media, creative collateral as well as Spark Centre’s news and promotion. Kristina manages and oversees flagship events such as Ignite, OCE Discovery, Do It In Durham, and planned events such as Spark’s annual Innovation Conference. Kristina is also directly responsible for marketing staff and the annual marketing budget.
Kristina has a strong background in marketing, events, and graphic design and with her team supports Spark Centre clients in the development of brand identity and strategic marketing campaigns. She is a graduate of Sheridan College in Oakville & Seneca College in Vaughn.
In her spare time, Kristina organizes the Durham Region chapter of Startup Drinks – a monthly networking meetup for entrepreneurs in the community.
Manufacturing & International Trade
Tom has an extensive background in business development, manufacturing partnerships, procurement, outsourcing, sales, international trade and export, supply chain and customs.
He has over 10 years of enterprise experience, working for Adidas where he gained much of his corporate knowledge. Tom embarked on numerous entrepreneurial ventures including a successful invention exit to Rappala and now manages a very successful industrial automation and mechatronics business.
Tom also teaches Supply Chain and Logistics at the College level, and upholds a P.Log designation and holds a diploma is Business – International Trade from Fleming College.
Leon is an entrepreneurial minded lawyer with over 20 years of experience. Leon is known as a problem solver who provides common sense advice to business owners, founders and angel investors. His expertise includes an emphasis on corporate finance, commercial law, business startup, intellectual property, investment law, and corporate organizational design.
He has worked with companies of various sizes and at all stages of their business development and is now active in working with start-up technology companies in the information technology, health sciences/medical technology, cleantech, and high tech manufacturing industries.
Leon advises public and private issuers in all sectors including real estate, technology, manufacturing, marketing and resources. Leon’s clients include; investment firms, angel investment organizations, federally and provincially funded investment funds, large real estate brokerages and property management firms.
Leon has his Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) from the University of Calgary and is a Partner at Thomas, Efraim LLP.
Brand & Marketing Strategy
Andrea Kennedy is a Marketing Strategist, Educator and Speaker. She is the Founder and Chief Strategist at Spread Your Word, a marketing strategy and services agency based in the Durham Region. She is also an Instructor at the Management Development Centre at UOIT.
As a Spark Centre Advisor, Andrea supports clients in designing and developing marketing strategies and execution plans that make efficient use of valuable – and often scarce resources. Andrea combines her small business experience with her enterprise industry experience by providing corporate marketing, editorial, sales and product marketing and brand building.
Andrea has a passion for supporting the success of local businesses, to further her mission of elevating small and startup business communities.
Andrea chose to put down roots in the Durham Region in 2000, and has committed to building her own business in this community. She is president of the Whitby Chamber of Commerce, and is the Chair of the Board of Directors.
Andrea holds a Bachelor of Arts from Carleton University in Ottawa.
Sales, Marketing & Public Speaking
Robert J. Weese is an author, award winning speaker, business coach, entrepreneur and the founder of B2B Sales Connections. His sales and marketing skills have been successful helping entrepreneurs and small business owners realize double digit sales growth. Talk is cheap its results that count.
Bob has over 30 years of experience in manufacturing, business technology, professional services and broadcast media industries. He is a student of professional development and works with his clients help them generate leads, close more sales and become stronger in their sales and marketing programs.
Some of his career highlights include:
- • 39% annual growth over 5 years managing a National Sales division
- • 6 consecutive years as a 100% Sales Club member with a Fortune 500
- • Created & delivered business training programs throughout North America
- • Business training facilitator at one of Canada’s major banks
- • Founder and head coach for one of Canada’s largest sport fencing clubs, the Ajax Fencing Club
Bob is committed to community service and dedicates much of his time in an effort to make a difference in other people’s lives.
Technical & Software Development
John is the CTO and co-founder of Effective Registration, an online platform for event registration and management. Previously, John worked for over 10 years as an independent consultant, providing development services and technical advice to clients such as CIBC World Markets, TD Bank Financial Group, and eHealth Ontario. With over 20 years of industry experience, John possesses a wealth of knowledge in the fields of technical architecture, software development processes, and development team management, as well as hands-on experience in a wide range of technologies. John holds a Bachelor of Computer Engineering and Management degree from McMaster University.