Arlene Dickinson is a serial entrepreneur and General Partner of District Ventures Capital, a venture capital fund focused on helping market, fund and grow entrepreneurs and their companies, in the food and health space.
She is a three-time best-selling author, podcaster and accomplished public speaker. Dickinson is widely recognized for her role as a Dragon/Venture Capitalist for over 12 seasons on the multi-award-winning CBC television series, Dragons Den.
Ms. Dickinson’s leadership has been recognized many times, including Canada’s Most Powerful Women Top 100 Hall of Fame, the Pinnacle Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence, as well as PROFIT and Chatelaine’s Top 100 Women Business Owners. She is a Marketing Hall of Legends inductee and a proud recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Award. Dickinson has served for many years as an Honourary Captain in the Royal Canadian Navy. She sits on several public and private boards and is actively involved in supporting community and country.
My name is Jake Karls and I am a Co-Founder and Chief Rainmaker at Mid-Day Squares... I like to say that; "Mid-Day Squares is what Hershey would be if it started in 2018." Our goal was to create the first functional chocolate bar: a bar that is rich in protein/fibre, made with REAL chocolate and REAL (plant based) food ingredients. We first launched in August 2018 in Montreal, Canada and over sold 5 MILLION CHOCOLATE BARS in our first 3 years. We built our own fully automated manufacturing plant which can produce 90,000 bars per day. Currently one of the fastest growing food brands across Canada.
Mike co-founded Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods in 1998. From 1998 to 2016, he ran all aspects of the company as Chairman of the Board and CEO. In February 2019 Mike helped guide the strategic sale of Manitoba Harvest to Tilray for $419 million dollars.
Mike has dedicated over 25 years studying and practicing natural health, starting in 1995 when he made the life changing decision to lose over 100lbs, and go from 300lbs to his current 180Lbs. He has gained an excellent knowledge of human anatomy, diet, nutrition and natural health lifestyle. Mike is a keynote speaker, has been featured on various media countless times regarding natural health, nutrition, hemp foods, organic agriculture, sustainable business and entrepreneurship.
Mike is currently Chief Executive Officer of Fata & Associates, Chairman of the Board of Sol Cuisine, Director (Past Chairman) of the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) and investor/advisor to a portfolio of companies.
Mike is a homeschooling father, certified holistic health coach and avid backyard organic farmer. In his free time he enjoys coaching and mentoring natural products industry entrepreneurs.
Fata & Associates
Ratana Stephens founded organic breakfast foods company Nature’s Path Foods with her husband Arran 35years ago. As CEO and co-founder, she has grown the company to become North America’s largest independent certified organic breakfast and snack food company, while remaining firmly committed to Nature’s Path mission of leaving the earth better than they found it.
Ratana remains at the center of every development within the company, which operates on the triple-bottom line of social responsibility, environmental sustainability, and financial viability, in that order. Since 2008, Ratana and Arran personally, and additionally through Nature’s Path, have committed to donating almost $40 million to various philanthropic and community service efforts.
A dedicated student, Ratana studied psychology and Sanskrit at Arga University in India, where she also obtained an MA in English literature. She went onto become a college lecturer, before meeting her husband Arran and moving to Vancouver. As a role model for women in business, Ratana’s contribution to the successful growth of Nature’s Path has been recognized by the business community through a variety of awards, including being named by the Vancouver Sun as one of 150 noteworthy British Columbians.
Nature's Path Foods
Charles is a serial entrepreneur who started Lyra Growth Partners in 2015. He is actively involved in the investment process, working with their investee companies, and supporting the founders. Prior to Lyra, Charles was the founder and President of Vega, which he started from scratch from his basement in 2004. Financed by his life savings, a second mortgage on his house and credit cards, Charles led Vega to become a leading brand of clean, plant-based nutritional products in North America.
Lyra Growth Partners
Dr. Dionne Laslo-Baker is a PhD medical researcher in the field of maternal-fetal toxicology. Her doctorate focused on the effects of exposure to chemicals during pregnancy on fetal development. This led her on a life-long quest to provide her own family with healthy food they loved. She then realized that food companies and the choices they make can be a force for good in the world. Dionne founded DeeBee's Organics with a mission to feed our families, do business, and create a legacy that will have an impact on future generations.
Lori Joyce is an innovative marketer and has over 20 years’ experience creating, managing and building brands.
In 2002, Lori launched into her entrepreneurial career with Cupcakes. The world’s first cupcakes bakery she co-founded with her best friend Heather White. She developed the Cupcakes franchise and grew it into a national chain.
In 2010, Lori became Co-star and Co-Executive Producer of the Gemini Award winning Reality TV Show, The Cupcake Girls. The Cupcake Girls aired for 3 seasons and was broadcast in over 95 countries worldwide.
In 2016, Lori decided it was time to leverage her Cupcakes experience and build a purpose-driven food company that reflected her upbringing on the self-sustaining family farm.
In early 2017 with the slogan ‘life is #betterwith ice cream’ Betterwith Ice Cream hit the frozen aisles of Whole Foods with speed-to-shelf demand. Within the first 12 months, Betterwith was listed in over 225+ grocers across Western Canada. Today, more optimistic than ever, Lori is leading her purpose-driven ice cream company with authenticity, transparency and accountability. She strongly believes that today is the perfect time to be a Founder of a food company, and her promise is to prove it.
Betterwith Ice Cream
Peter van Stolk has a long, varied, and successful entrepreneurial career. As the former CEO of Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery (SPUD.ca)—one of Canada’s largest online grocery delivery companies—and the founder of Jones Soda, van Stolk now embarks as an investor, mentor, and advisor to the next generation of food and beverage companies.
In 2017, van Stolk saw the emergence of new technologies transforming the way that the food industry operates, and giving rise to a new digital industry, known as foodtech. He launched the innovative company known as Food-X Technologies to meet their growing consumer demands for convenience, product freshness and environmental sustainability.
Peter van Stolk
Tree Fort Group
Ian Walker co-founded of Left Coast Naturals, an organic food manufacturer and distributor based in the Vancouver area in 1996 at the ripe age of 25. Knowing nothing about the food industry but with a passion for sustainability, Ian and his business were early pioneers in the organic food industry in Western Canada. Today Left Coast Naturals is a Natural and Organic Food Distributor selling to 1200 stores, distributing 30 natural food brands and has become Canada’s largest organic bulk foods distributor. They also manufacture the Hippie Snacks brand of better for you plant based snacks. Hippie Snacks is sold across North America in over 3000 stores. Left Coast Naturals has garnered awards as an organic foods supplier, a best employer in Canada and many industry sustainability awards. Ian himself has won the E&Y entrepreneur of the year in 2018 for Social Impact Businesses and the Organic Achievement Award with the Canadian Health Food Association in 2021. As a strong believer that business has a responsibility to lead the way to a positive and sustainable future, he is committed to a triple bottom line philosophy (People, Planet and Prosperity). He lives in North Vancouver with his partner Louise and their 4 kids spending their time on outdoor adventures and making the most of the north shore.
Left Coast Naturals
Jasmine Byrne, President of Big Mountain Foods was born and bred into the CPG world. At a young age Jasmine knew she was meant to be an entrepreneur and had the vision to grow Big Mountain into a globally recognized plant based brand specializing in allergen free and clean label products. Over the past 8 years Big Mountain has grown from a small processor to a national brand selling in retailers like Kroger and Loblaws as well as successfully completed a substantial capital raise to transition into a 70,000 sq ft manufacturing facility.