Starting Point Student Entrepreneurship Conference

Master Class Instructors 

Jeff Adams

This six-time Paralympian and six-time World Champion in wheelchair racing is living proof that focus, determination, and spirit are the keys to achieving “gold medal” dreams. Combining his unique understanding of life’s challenges with his experience as a world-class athlete, Jeff Adams shares proven methods that help people meet their goals and achieve success. He has faced monumental challenges admirably, competing in six consecutive Summer Paralympics, from 1988 to 2008, and winning a total of three gold, four silver, and six bronze medals.

After retiring from competition, Jeff transitioned from sport to business, founding two medical device engineering companies, which he sold in 2016 to return to school to study law. He graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School, and was called to the Ontario bar in 2021, He is currently working at Fasken, a Bay Street law firm, practicing in the area of Labour and Employment, and Human Rights.

He previously served as Chair of the Accessibility Committee for the Toronto 2008 Olympic Bid Committee, and co-Chair of the Ontarians with Disability Advisory Council. He sits on the Equity Advisory Group at the Law Society of Ontario and is a recent inductee into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Astawa Alam 

After getting kicked out of school twice, Astawa took his education to the proverbial streets by building DxM Creative– an innovative web design agency.

Astawa’s story exemplifies success against the odds. By traditional standards, he shouldn’t have succeeded. Today, Astawa has led DxM Creative to boast a roster of clients including award-winning entrepreneurs, international non-profits, and (ironically) large universities.

Astawa’s unconventional path against the grain taught him many lessons. The most impactful of these lessons being that you don’t need permission to start building a business. Astawa shares these lessons regularly with business students and aspiring entrepreneurs through actionable content and personable keyno

Jenny Baechler

Jenny Baechler is a faculty member in the School of Public Administration at Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Management. She specializes in the areas of cross-boundary collaboration – how individuals and organizations overcome barriers that limit their capacity for productive collaboration – organizational behavior, stakeholder engagement and organizational innovation. She is especially interested in the opportunities for innovation and creativity that present themselves when we bring together different areas of expertise and different worldviews to a project or problem-solving initiative. Human-centred design (or design thinking) is an approach to innovative problem solving that works powerfully with these kinds of teams.  As the Academic Lead for Dalhousie’s Minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Jenny has the opportunity to introduce design thinking to students from many different programs of study.

Joelle Berdugo-Adler

Serial entrepreneur and passionate collaborator. A known and respected leader and change agent who has helped launch multiple businesses and brands with exit strategies, across an eclectic group of industries. An author, motivational and TEDx speaker and mentor whose experience in world philanthropy has led to a passion to promote female empowerment and entrepreneurship as the best ways to change the world.

Co-founder & CEO of Bloqs4Good Inc. A disruptive technology company in the decentralized field.

Retired CEO of Diesel Canada, involved in launching multiple brands worldwide.

Founder of ONEXONE foundation launched in 2005 working in Africa, Haiti, Canada and the USA. Projects in Water, First non-military flight into Haiti post-earthquake, 2010. Benefactor of Lou’s House Cancer psychosocial world leading house for cancer patients. Past President of camp for underprivileged children, board member of Dress for Success, Trustee of PIH (partners in Health Boston) Past board member of Hope & Cope, TEDx speaker. An original member of the Clinton Task force in Haiti

 Honorary Doctor in Law Concordia University

Honorary Doctor in Business St. Mary’s

Selected Top 40 over 40, Top 100 most powerful woman in Canada, Consulted on Canadian Budget of 2013, Queen Elizabeth Jubilee award recipient Mary J Blige woman empowerment award NYC.

 Guest lecturer: McGill University, Catholic University Buenos Aries, Concordia, Guelph University, University of Montreal HEC, Mentor Ryerson Start Up, corporate presentations Pepsi, KPMG


Alexa Cude

Alexa Cude is a BFA-accredited photographer and digital content creator with over a decade of experience in her field. Since graduating from NSCAD University in 2013, Alexa has been using her camera to tell the story of companies like CBC, Fashion Canada, Aritzia, Kiehl’s, LG Electronics and Canada Goose in addition to a variety of valued small business clients across Nova Scotia. On her days off, chances are you’ll still find Alexa behind her camera, capturing the rugged beauty of Nova Scotia’s wilderness to share on her personal Instagram account. In a world where everyone has access to powerful imaging technology via the phone in their pocket, Alexa has carved out a place for herself in the visual media industry by defining a recognizable aesthetic through meticulous creative direction, a unique editing process and a consistent online presence. This work has earned Alexa notable acclaims including; Top 9 Canadian Influencers to Follow Now (The Shelf), 10 Canadian Instagrammers to Follow (En Route) and a suggested user feature on Instagram. To keep up with Alexa’s work and adventures, you can find her on Instagram @seriouslyalexa or at www.alexacude.com

Gregg Curwin

Gregg Curwin is the Co-Founder of Novagevity Incorporated, a startup company that is currently developing a plant-based meal replacement beverage for people who are suffering from various medical conditions or people that are healthy and want access to convenient quality nutrition.

 Gregg is an entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in various industries; including medical devices, biologics, consumer packaged goods, and ag-tech. He has consulted hospitals and governments in the broad area of health design, with a focus on the role of food production in disease prevention as the Founder of TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture; a world-leading indoor-vertical farming company; and also Founder of TruLeaf’s wholly owned subsidiary, GoodLeaf Farms; a branded packaged lettuce company.

 Gregg is currently the principle of JenMar Business Design, a consultancy focusing on startups and early-stage growth companies with a focus in Ag-Tech, Food-Tech, and Healthcare.

 Gregg holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from St. Mary’s University, and is now the Entrepreneur in Residence at St. Mary’s University’s Entrepreneurship Centre.

Ann Divine

Ann Divine, CEO and founder of Ashanti Leadership and Development Services. Her education includes a master’s in human resource management, and leadership development from London, UK.
She is an accomplished businesswoman, known and respected for her professionalism and willingness to support, coach and mentor others. Her business provides extensive career and professional guidance in organizational change and social justice issues.
Ann’s work is underpinned by her knowledge, skills, and expertise in human rights and people management. Her unique style combined with adult education principles has brought her recognition in her fields of leadership development, change management, coaching and mentoring, facilitation, diversity and inclusion, women in leadership and unconscious bias training. These elements are critical factors which impacts team performances in the physical and virtual workspace.
Ann’s work supports the business environment, government, public and private sectors and their employees bring their best self to work. Ann is also an advocate for those who are deemed invisible and do not have a voice in her community and she strive bring inclusivity to every aspect of her work. She sits on several boards at national and province.
Ann has been recognized and acknowledged through various awards for her work.

Saeed El-Darahali 

Saeed El-Darahali is the President and CEO of SimplyCast, a leading provider of self‑service, multi‑channel marketing services empowering small businesses to create, manage and track their own online and offline marketing campaigns.  The driving force behind the company, he has helped it grow into a global success with clients in over 175 countries.

With over 15 years of management experience, Saeed brings his experience in corporate financing, strategic growth, operations, sales, and marketing management to his business and the IT industry. He started his career as a technology commercialization officer before moving to the venture capital industry where he managed a multi-million-dollar fund to support the startup community in Nova Scotia, while working as a part-time lecturer at Saint Mary’s University and teaching a computer information systems course.

Duncan Harvie 

Duncan is a proud Nova Scotian, carrying on a busy corporate commercial practice in downtown Halifax. A large part of his practice centers around start-ups and the challenges that new businesses face getting started. As a father to three young children and devoted husband, he enjoys the challenge of balancing a variety of demands and priorities…but wishes this pandemic would end already!

Omar Hassan

Omar Hassan, originally an international student that attended Saint Mary’s University to complete his Bachelor of Commerce degree, who now operates two businesses, employs more than 10 people and help other small businesses manage their finances. In addition to his entrepreneurial side, Omar is also currently getting designated to be a CPA while employed as a senior accountant. Although he might seem to have a busy work life, he always makes time for family, friends, sports and volunteer work to help him avoid the “burnout”.

 The two businesses that Omar operates are both in the tourism industry. The Harbour Watercraft is a local watercraft rental and excursion business launched in summer 2018. The second business is Sea Halifax, which is a speed jet boat tours around the beautiful Halifax Waterfront. Omar also freelances accounting work, where he helps small businesses manage their finances. His main teaching topics would be how to stay humbly motivated and how to Accounting

Cindy James

Cindy James, known as the Head BARKtender for Crafty Beasts Brewing Co, created a craft beer for dogs in 2018 using her dog daycare in the North End of Halifax as the storefront.  The product started as an answer to an HRM zoning challenge and moved to the production of 2000 bottles of beer for dogs in the summer of 2019. During that winter term, she was part of the Enactus Square Roots story showing how food diversion was part of the business model.
From its inception, the product has been positioned to be a contributor to the green economy.  The economic purpose of sourcing local food waste that actively diverts from farms also creates a revenue stream for rural farmers and producers. This allows us to produce a pet treat that contributes to pet wellness and creates a unique bonding experience between humans and their beasts. The packaging uses a recyclable aluminum can and wherever possible we choose Canadian for our materials.
Today, Crafty Beasts are partnered with the team from Craft Coast Canning in Fredericton to produce a professionally brewed and canned product that has tongues lapping all over New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. With reTAILers in 40 urban and rural locations that sell the brew including pet stores, taprooms, general stores, gift shops, grooming salons and dog daycare facilities. 100% nutritious and locally sourced ingredients with 0% alcohol!

Hamza Khan

Hamza Khan is a multi-award winning marketer, best-selling author, and global keynote speaker whose TEDx talk “Stop Managing, Start Leading” has been viewed over a million times. He is a top-ranked university educator, serial entrepreneur, and respected thought leader whose insights have been featured by notable media outlets such as VICE, Business Insider, and The Globe and Mail. He empowers youth and early talent through his work as Managing Director of Student Life Network, Canada’s largest and most comprehensive education resource platform, which reaches over 2.7 million students. From TEDx stages and international conferences to MBA classrooms and Fortune 500 boardrooms, Hamza is invited regularly to deliver keynotes and workshops around the world. His clients have included some of the world’s most dynamic companies and organizations, including PepsiCo, LinkedIn, Deloitte, PwC, Trivago, and over 100 colleges and universities. Learn more at hamzakhan.ca

Vensy Krishna

Vensy Krishna is a lawyer and entrepreneur working at the intersection of law, technology, and business. She has been an educator in the legal education space in India since she was a teenager, and has coached over 40,000 Indian lawyers through her work at Law School 101, which she built to be India’s premier legal entrance portal. She is passionate about access to education and improving legal literacy at the grassroots to foster more vibrant democracies and engaged communities. She currently works with a Silicon Valley-based firm building the future of education. She is passionate about empowering people with tech to enable them to solve their problems without having to wait for a developer.

Ron Lovett

Ron Lovett is a Canadian entrepreneur who successfully scaled his Halifax-based guard security company to over 3,500 staff across Canada. Ron’s leadership hallmarks of relentless learning, disrupting stale industries, fast action, and transforming staff into passionate stakeholders – inspired his first book Outrageous Empowerment in 2018.  

He sold his security company to the largest provider in the US at a 24X multiple, and now focuses on his rapidly-expanding multi-family residential portfolio through Vida Living, whose purpose is to revolutionize affordable living across North America and plans to reach 10,000 units by 2027.  

Ron is a globally sought-after professional speaker and thought leader in organizational culture, hosts an award-winning podcast and is releasing his next book and master class called Scaling Culture in Spring/Summer 2021.  He also helps clients solve people and culture challenges directly through his other company Connolly Owens. 

Over the years Ron has been recognized with many awards for the success of Source Security & Investigations and his leadership within the region, including: 

BDC Young Entrepreneur Award, (x5) Atlantic Business Magazine’s Top 50 CEO Award, Junior Chamber International Outstanding Young Person Award and the Remy Martin Bold Five under 35. People are usually stunned to find out Ron is only 41.  

Paul LeBlanc

Paul grew up in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. He’s a serial entrepreneur having started up and invested in multiple successful companies over a 30-year span.

At 19, he co-founded Coastal Communications with his father which he sold in 1996. He then founded marketing firm, Arrivals+Departures (formally “Extreme Group”), with offices in Toronto and Halifax which he sold in 2021. Paul also founded other ventures like Karma Gaming, behuman clothing and Iconic Brewing. He is a shareholder in VistaCare Communications, a telecommunications infrastructure company. In 2017, he purchased CMP Equipment in Charlottetown PEI and sold it in 2019. Recently he founded 7th Wave Capital, an investment company focused exclusively on Maritime based businesses that need help with corporate strategy and growth. 7th Wave holds investments in Verge Technologies, Dear Life and Advatek Systems Inc.

Paul is a member of the Young President’s Organization. He is the recipient of the Top 40 Under 40 Award in Canada and has been awarded “Entrepreneur of the Year” by Ernst and Young. He’s in the Top 50 CEO’s “Hall of Fame” and has been named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most influential Marketers. He’s also a mentor for the Wallace McCain Institute and an Associate at CDL (Creative Destruction Labs – Atlantic)

Ricardo McRae

Ricardo McRae is a licensed Financial Brokerage that specializes in helping families and entrepreneurs grow and save money. Before his foray into financial services, Ricardo was the award-winning entrepreneur behind the boutique consultancy, Wedge15. He appears frequently in the media, is a highly sought-after speaker and is the host of The Framing Podcast Podcast. Ricardo is well known for both his TEDx talk and as the Founder of BlackInCanada.com. His website is Canada’s leading source on Black Excellence reaching over 1M people in 100 countries, with 30K+ fans and followers on social media. 


It all started while studying Fine Arts and Business at the University of Windsor and OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design). However, he is most proud of his 5-yr old son that keeps him on his toes and cherishes his family time with his incredible wife of 8 years Gloria.

Nevell Provo

Nevell Provo was born and raised in North Preston Nova Scotia. He is a current student at Saint Mary’s University, studying business and a member of the men’s basketball team. Prior to Saint Mary’s Nevell studied at Loyola University, where earned a Division 1 basketball scholarship. As an athlete Nevell has represented Team Canada for 2 years, where he travelled the world competing. As an Entrepreneur Nevell has founded SmoothMealPrep a healthy meal delivery, providing fitness focused meals. More recently, Nevell has started another company R & B Kitchen, a SoulFood restaurant

Kyle Racki

Kyle Rack is the CEO and co-founder of Proposify, a SaaS company based out of Halifax that helps more than 10,000 sales teams around the world eliminate the frustration caused by the business proposal process. Kyle started his first business, a web design company, at age twenty-four and sold it after five years before starting Proposify. Kyle has blogged extensively about his journey through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship and was the subject of a 2016 article in TIME Magazine. In 2019 he published his first book, Free Trials & Tribulations: How To Build A Business While Getting Punched In The Mouth, which was featured as an Amazon Best Seller. Outside of work, Kyle loves hanging out with his wife and 3 sons, picking away at his Telecaster, and attempting to surf.

Gloria Roheim McRae

Over the past 15 years, Gloria has built her career at the intersection of digital transformation, consulting and leadership. She completed her university studies at McGill in Political Science and her Master’s degree at the University of Toronto. Today, she is the Regional Director of a Customer Success team that manages global strategic accounts at CXM platform leader, Sprinklr. Her entrepreneurial journey of six years unlocked incredible opportunities for her within SaaS companies, during which time she was an international speaker, TedX Keynote speaker as well as the author of ‘BYOB: The Unapologetic Guide to Being Your Own Boss’, an Amazon.ca bestseller all about self-sufficiency and doing work that you love. In her entrepreneurial adventures, Gloria also co-founded and grew two businesses and learned through highs and lows, about the unique challenges women face in business. Today she’s building her third business with her husband by night: a financial brokerage that she couldn’t be more proud of. Above all else, however, she’s now driven by the joy of being “mom” to her five year old son Keon, and the example she can set for him about what’s possible when you align your values to your actions. Don’t hesitate to find and follow her on Twitter or Instagram @gloriaroheim

Savvy Simon

She was the only First Nation to speak on stage in front of 12,000 at WE DAY Halifax. Awarded as Top 40 Female Change Makers in Canada. A TedX Speaker.A Podcaster: Shift The Vibe available on Apple, Spotify & Google Podcasts alongside her amazing Co-Host, Roxanne. A rising star who’s apart of the International Indigenous Speakers Bureau among many accomplished speakers across the world. A single mother of 2 boys, creator of the #SpeakMikmaq Language revolution from Mi’kmaq tribe of Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick, residing in Halifax, NS. Savvy’s approach to sharing positive vibes in a real and authentic way has gained a following of over 45,000.

With a degree in Business Marketing, she did what most people do and began working as a public servant only to find out that the call to follow her passion was stronger than her day-to-day work. She stepped out of her comfort zone and decided to finally believe in her own passions and create her own company; Savvy UnLtd- ‘unlimited love to give’.

Laura Russell

Laura Russell was born and raised in rural Nova Scotia and pursued a Bachelor of Commerce from Saint Mary’s University with double majors in Global Business Management and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Laura has worked in customer service for over 10 years in the tourism and fitness industries. Laura started Cohability in 2019 and returned to Saint Mary’s to complete her Masters of Technology, Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

Ross Simmonds

Ross Simmonds is the Founder of Foundation Marketing, a content marketing agency that combines data and creativity to develop & serve ambitious brands. Foundation Marketing provides content marketing services to organizations all over the world ranging from some of the fastest-growing startups & consumer products to global Fortune 500 brands.

Ross and the team at Foundation have launched marketing initiatives that reach millions of people and generate millions of new business opportunities through SEO and social channels like Instagram, Slideshare, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more.

Leah Skerry

Leah Skerry, Co-founder of Squiggle Park – An adaptive reading game with over 2 million kids learning to read. Producer and performer in contemporary circus – Co-founder of Metonym Contemporary Circus. Entrepreneur in Residence at Saint Mary’s University. 

Shannon Susko

Shannon has more than 20 years of experience building and leading high-growth technology companies. She is co-founded, served as CEO, and led the sale of the two companies less than six years apart: Subserveo, Inc (Founded in 2008 * Sold 2011) and Paradata Systems Inc. (Founded in 1995 * Sold in 2006). 

Shannon is an expert in strategy and execution. She is well known for her ability to lead and execute with team in implementing a repeatable Strategic Execution System – creating it in her first company and validating in her second company by the speed in which the company was built and sold. She now coaches CEOs and leadership teams from around the world who want the same success using this strategic execution framework. Shannon has worked or works with companies like: Telus Health, Intel Innovation Division, Aspen Skiing, Milos Tea, Zippy’s. 

Shannon has a BComm, BSc, from Saint Mary’s University and MCSc. from the Technical University of Nova Scotia. She is married with three children 16, 17, 18 and resides in beautiful Whistler, BC. 

Jason Turner

Jason is a graduate of the Institute for Human Services Educations’ Youth Worker Diploma program, and is currently working toward a B.A. at Saint Mary’s University. Prior to working with the SMUEC, Jason was employed within the public school system as a substitute teacher and an Educational Assistant, as well as a personal care worker in small-options homes. Jason has been working with the Skills Development and Training Division of SMUEC since October of 2004 as a Manager of Skills, Development & training, focusing on administering employability programs for Halifax youth, as well as promoting entrepreneurship at Saint Mary’s. Jason is also a Faculty Advisor for the award winning Enactus team at Saint Mary’s University

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