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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.

Arlene Dickinson

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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. 

Jake Karls

Mid-Day Squares

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.  

Mike Fata

Fata Family Ventures

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. 

Ratana Stephens

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 our investee companies, and supporting our founders.

Prior to Lyra, Charles was 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.

Honouring a triple bottom line approach to business and recognizing people are the greatest source of sustainable competitive advantage, Vega and Charles have received many accolades, including: Fastest Growing CompaniesBest WorkplaceBest Managed Companies and Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2015, Charles led the sale of Vega to White Wave Foods (NYSE: WWAV) for US$550 million.

In 2016, Charles helped establish the Charles Chang Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Simon Fraser University, an interdisciplinary home and academic hub where people and ideas converge to foster entrepreneurial thinking and action.

Charles is also co-founder of PowerPlay Young Entrepreneurs, a non-profit organization that helps elementary school students develop an entrepreneurial mindset. Using real-world, hands-on learning experiences, PowerPlay helps build confidence and resiliency and develop practical life skills.

Charles lives with his family in West Vancouver, BC and is an active member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), an avid golfer, fly fisherman, mountain biker, skier and Whistlerite wannabe.

Charles Chang

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. 

Dionne Laslo-Baker

DeeBee's Organics

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.  

Lori Joyce

 Betterwith Ice Cream
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Peter van Stolk is the CEO of Fresh Local Solutions Inc, the parent company of Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery (SPUD.ca) and Food-X Urban Delivery Inc.  

SPUD.ca is one of the largest online grocery companies in Canada, employing over 900 people across all its markets by delivering fresh, local, organic produce and groceries. As a certified BCorp, our mission is to use innovation and technology to create a safe, sustainable, and environmentally food ecosystem. SPUD.ca goals are to use local and organic food to improve the places where we live and work. From this vision, SPUD.ca first retail store, Be Fresh Local Market, opened in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood in 2015 and serves many Vancouver communities today. In 2017, Blush Lane Organic Market joined the SPUD family to support Edmonton and Calgary across its five locations. Across western Canada, SPUD.ca is a leader in the local and organic food movement.  

Food-X Technologies is a SaaS-based eGrocery Management Solution (eGMS) that enables global retailers to access industry-leading technology in online grocery fulfillment, focusing on sustainability through food waste and single-use plastic reduction. Food-X services include designing purpose-built distribution centers and providing proprietary technology that optimizes the online grocery experience at scale. Food-X is part of the SPUD integrated food business eco-system that includes online retail, community retail locations, commissary/food preparation services, and distribution. Through SPUD.ca and Food-X, van Stolk believes that “Food will have the greatest impact on our generation. How we think about food, how we buy food, and how we consume food will change, and we are excited to be a part of this transformation.”  

Peter van Stolk

SPUD.ca/Fresh Local Solutions Inc.
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Jana Sobey is the VP of Merchandising for Community, Thrifty Foods and Field at Sobeys Inc. In this role, she leads a team of Category Merchants & Local Development Managers who ensure we are the grocer with most relevant and compelling food assortment in Canada.

A fourth generation Sobey family member in the business, Jana began her career with Sobeys at age 14 as a cashier. She has held consecutively senior roles within the company in the areas of marketing, human resources, operations and merchandising.

She is also a Trustee on the Crombie REIT Board and a member of the Sobey Family Council and Business Committee.

Jana holds an Honours Bachelor of Commerce degree, a Masters of Arts in Consulting & Entrepreneurship and is active volunteer.

Jana & her husband Ryan reside in Toronto and are the parents to Caitrin and 16 year twins Jack & Ella.

Jana Sobey

Sobeys Inc.
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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. 

Ian Walker

Left Coast Naturals