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.
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.
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.
Manager, Business Acceleration 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.
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.
Client Experience & Creative Director
Kristina Svana | Client Experience & Creative Director
Kristina facilitates the front line of Client Services for Spark Centre and is the first point of contact for any client that walks through our doors, sends an email, or gives us a phone call.
Kristina will meet with you to discuss your business, assess any challenges you might be facing and help match you up with an advisor, volunteer mentor or other useful business development resources. Kristina also facilitates the Spark Volunteer Mentor network – a diverse team of local professionals who provide guidance, motivation and support in a volunteer setting. Spark’s 2013 Ignite was a great success due to her fine eye for detail, diligent project management skills and client appreciation.
In her spare time Kristina manages her own freelance graphic design business in Bowmanville.
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.
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.
Manufacturing & International Trade
Tom has an extensive background ranging between business development, manufacturing partnerships, procurement, outsourcing, sales, international trade, supply chain and customs. Tom has over 10 years of professional experience, working for Adidas to gain much of his corporate knowledge and embarking on numerous entrepreneurial feats to date.
Tom also teaches Supply Chain and Logistics at the College level, and upholds a P.Log designation.
Tom’s current business venture is focused in industrial automation and mechatronics.
Leon is a business minded lawyer with over 13 years of experience. Leon is known as a problem solver who provides common sense advice on a cost effective basis. With a particular emphasis on corporate finance and corporate commercial law, Leon has worked with companies of various sizes and at all stages of their business development.
Leon advises public and private issuers in all sectors including real estate, technology, manufacturing, marketing and resources. Leon’s clients include; investment firms, an angel investment organization, a federally and provincially funded investment fund, a large real estate brokerage and several property management firms.
Leon is particularly active in working with start-up technology companies in the information technology, health sciences/medical technology, cleantech, and high tech manufacturing industries.
Andrea Kennedy is a Marketing Strategist, Educator and Speaker. She is the Founder and Chief Strategist at Spread Your Word, a marketing support and services agency based in the Durham Region, and is an Instructor at the Management Development Centre at UOIT.
As a Spark Centre Advisor, Andrea supports Spark clients in designing and developing marketing strategies and plans that make efficient use of valuable – and often scarce – resources. Andrea combines her corporate experience in editorial, marketing, sales and product development, with her 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 over 10 years ago, and has committed to building her own business in this community. An active volunteer at the Whitby Chamber of Commerce, she is currently the Vice President of the Board of Directors, and serves as the Chair of the Communications Committee. In her spare time Andrea teaches yoga at a local studio, and sneaks away to the library as often as possible.
Executive Coaching & Private Equity
Malcolm was General Manager of Microsoft Canada, during its formative years, and spearheaded Microsoft’s growth across the country, for 5 years (1985 – 1990). Its first office was above the Golden Griddle on Airport Rd and from there he opened 7 offices across the country. He has grown 4 other companies from the ground-up. In his last corporate role, he built a Canadian technology firm, over a 10 year period from ‘4 guys (not in a garage, but close, from an industrial unit in Carleton Place)’ into a global player, with customers in over 40 countries, distribution channels in nearly 20 and a key account (Apple, Google, PWC, Los Alamos…) sales team. In 2006, Cryptocard was sold to a group of European private-equity investors and Malcolm retired from corporate life.
Since that time he has worked with well over a hundred owner-managed businesses. He’s an experienced ‘get-to-market & profitably-grow’ pragmatist – focusing on owner-managed firms – start-ups, turnarounds & ‘ready to grow’ businesses.
A Western MBA, Certified Management Accountant and Chartered Investment Manager, Malcolm has a practical perspective on how to grow a business – he knows technology, marketing strategy, financial management, valuation and investment opportunities.
Malcolm worked as a mentor/advisor at VentureLab, was the senior business consultant at the Business Advisory Centre in Durham (BACD) and lectured (quantitative analysis) at York University for several years. He appeared weekly, as the resident business advisor, on Rogers TV, Business Today, Chairs the Town of Ajax’s Heritage Advisory Committee and is a member of the Town’s long-range sustainability team. He’s also Vice-Chair of the Robert McLaughlin Gallery and sits on the Ajax-Pickering Board of Trade’s Eco-business Committee.
He’s currently the Executive Director of the Spark Angels Network, and is focused on providing ‘accredited investor’ members with high-quality private equity opportunities and high potential (primarily technology) businesses with access to growth capital. He is currently teaching at UOIT, Trent, York and Durham College, in a variety of subjects including entrepreneurship, marketing, statistics and enterprise management.
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.