Executive Director / Executive in Residence
Graham is a technology and entrepreneurial shaper, a.k.a. Startup Whisperer. He considers himself (and we do too) as an introverted extrovert and an optimistic pragmatist! With over 30 years’ experience working as an entrepreneur and executive in start-ups and small-medium-sized businesses, starting with mainframe computing in 1982, Graham’s career has spanned retail, manufacturing, commercial real-estate development and media/technology industries in Canada and the US. He has founded, co-founded and advised dozens of companies; realizing 7-9 figure revenues and raising over $150 million in venture and institutional financing. Product conceptualization, market research, strategic planning, creative financing and risk/opportunity assessments are key attributes to his work as an Executive in Residence and Business Advisor.
As a relentless information hacker and technology advocate Graham’s enthusiasm for new concepts and ideas is infectious! In helping his clients to build, grow and stay in place he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the challenge and opportunity of technology’s exponential future. Graham moved to the Comox Valley from West Vancouver in 2008 with his family; he enjoys skiing, SUP, sailing, and exploring trails by foot or pedal.
A passion for people, technology, training and systems explains Jennifer's enthusiasm for GSD (getting stuff done). After graduating from UVIC with a Bachelor of Commerce in Entrepreneurship, Jennifer spent her early career working as a Business Analyst for a software consulting firm. Her career evolved to supporting end users on technology in the franchising world. She then “fell into” corporate training & instructional design and has since built training programs for 4 separate franchise companies.
Fast forward 20 years and Jennifer has designed, developed and delivered training to thousands of users in technology, software, soft skills and operations. Her client list includes Startup entrepreneurs, franchise business owners and Fortune 100/500 teams, including Walmart, KMPG, and Intuit. One of her most memorable initiatives was creating the Venue Specific Classroom Training program for 45,000+ users for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
Having grown up in the small north Island fishing village of Sointula, Jennifer has made her way back to the island after almost 20 years away; she now calls Nanoose Bay her home. When she is not trying to convince someone to take her fishing, Jennifer can be found playing badminton, canning everything from salsa to pickles, camping, hanging out at the beach, hiking with her dog Tiger, or exploring the island.
Executive in Residence
Entrepreneur, senior executive, and advisor – Joseph’s passion and experience has always revolved around early-stage ventures, and includes significant experience in commercialization strategy, corporate development, and financing. In this regard, he has worked with technology companies, as well as resource-based, and B2B (retail sector) ventures. Notable C-Suite roles include: his own several startups and successful exits; a senior executive role in a B2B startup which, in less than two years, grew to over $1M per week in revenues, and; serving as a founding director of a Florida-based specialty finance company, which grew during his involvement to $50M USD in net loans ($312M, 2016).
Skiing, racquet sports, and boating are some of Joseph’s favourite pastimes.
DIGITAL ECONOMY RESPONSE TEAM
Digital Engagement Specialist
Tashia has been working in digital business space for 10+ years with clients ranging from soloprenuers to international corporations. Tashia has extensive knowledge in brand, design and digital strategy and has built, launched and managed digital marketing campaigns for businesses from personal brand and tourism to heavy industry and technology sectors. Tashia has years of experience in e-commerce and understands both the client experience and business owner’s sides and assists in building the bridge between them. Fluent in SEO and search strategies, social media algorithms and sales strategies, Tashia works with business owners to establish KPI’s and deliver tangible results. Tashia is passionate about helping remote businesses achieve at big city levels by providing and sourcing appropriate support and resources. When not attached to her computer Tashia can be found in her art studio or greenhouse and is often out exploring Vancouver Island with her family.
Digital Engagement Specialist
Leslee's is a technology expert and enthusiast. Her desire to help people is what has been the driving force during her 20+ year career as a technology professional. Leslee spent her early days as a graphic designer having worked in print houses, advertising departments and publishing before changing her focus helping businesses with all of their technology needs. Leslee has spent over 15 years working directly with students, solopreneuers and small businesses providing software training. When not in front of her computer, you can find Leslee in the local rivers and searching out the best restaurants in town.
Digital Engagement Specialist
Cait is a communications and digital strategist who’s helping local businesses take their digital economy ideas and make them happen. By knowing how to integrate friendly technology, good design, and user experiences, she develops plans that make digital processes work well, build trust and inspire action.
With a background and expertise in e-commerce, communications, digital project management, strategy and design, she has carved out a career in marketing, media, sales and production across sectors. Her work has taken her around the globe, into big cities and tiny communities, building a network of great people doing great things.
In her free time, Cait efforts around increasing access to local food and nutrition. She is a director of the Nanoose Community Services and part of the Food Team, is the former market manager for the Errington Farmers’ Market and gets humbled on a daily-basis helping on a local organic vegetable farm.
Commercial Business Advisor & TRP Program Director
In having worked with over 150 organizations locally and internationally over the past 20+ years Janet is passionate about making a difference in the business community. Along with those assignments comes a great deal of adaptability and change management expertise. Backed with corporate-level skills from advising to national and multinational firms such as KPMG and MNP Janet has a wide range of entrepreneurial skills in helping businesses and ideas get off the ground quickly. With various credentials in business, finance, and project management she understands scalability and profitability challenges facing growing or pivoting organizations in changing marketplaces. Her experience spans multiple industries, highlights include: production/manufacturing, professional services, consulting, financial services, food and beverage, non-profit, construction and real estate development, energy and utilities, First Nations, marine operations, regulatory and public sector, sports management and education. Janet brings a skill set like a swiss army knife, if you can dream it up, she’s probably encountered it! When not in “business” mode Janet enjoys woodworking, paddleboarding or hiking in the forest.
Digital Support Analyst
Jaden is a young, ambitious, learner with a passion for helping others and a lifelong interest in the tech and digital space. He is currently completing his Commerce degree at the University of Victoria and hopes to one day obtain his MBA.
Jaden’s early work experience includes social media management, supporting businesses on their digital journeys, junior accounting duties, and database administration.
After growing up in Alberta, Jaden moved to Comox when he was 9 and immediately fell in love with the island and its people. When not working or focused on his studies, Jaden enjoys hiking, swimming, and spending time with family.
Previous Team Members
Innovation Island: Board of Directors
Board Chair/President | MNP LLP
Location: Nanoose Bay
Cory is a Chartered Professional Accountant and Partner with MNP LLP. He works with non-profit, private and public sector organizations from Victoria to Port Hardy and across to the West Coast, and takes pride in giving back to the Island community. Cory also sits on the Boards of Nanaimo Science and Sustainability Society and the Islands Agriculture Show Society. Cory grew up in Courtenay and currently lives in Nanoose Bay with his wife Keli and his children Ben and Sadie. An avid “early adopter”, Cory is passionate about technology and the change it brings to our world.
Vice President | Riipen
Location: Campbell River
Jordan Ell moved to the west coast of Canada to be more involved in the tech scene when he was 18, and never looked back. He received Bachelors and Masters degrees in Computer Science from the University of Victoria, then proceeded to become a serial entrepreneur. His latest companies include Riipen, an experiential learning marketplace for professors and employers to meet, as well as Skylab Technologies, a machine learning driven photography company. In recent years, Jordan has made large efforts to give back to the tech scene by getting involved in community events, local legislation, and volunteering board time of several other tech companies. His two passions have always been technology and education, and moving forward Jordan will be looking at helping further young entrepreneurial minds from the high school level all the way up to startups wanting to raise their first rounds of capital.
Secretary & Treasurer | Johnston Franklin Bishop
Blair Franklin* is an estates & corporate lawyer. His practice includes wills, powers of attorney, contracts, leases, real estate conveyances, incorporations, and share purchases and sales. (*denotes law corporation). He was born in Esterhazy, Saskatchewan. His parents moved to Smithers, B.C. when Blair was young. He lived in Smithers, B.C. playing hockey and skiing until his parents moved to Nanaimo, B.C. in 1980. Blair played soccer, hockey and one year of lacrosse in Nanaimo. He graduated from Nanaimo District Senior Secondary and took two years of undergraduate work in Commerce at Malaspina College (now Vancouver Island University). After graduating from U.B.C. Faculty of Law, he returned to Nanaimo to article. He was called to the bar in May 1995 and joined Johnston Franklin in August 1995. Blair is married and has three children – Steven, Lisa and Trevor. He spends his time outside the office coaching hockey, curling, and softball and plays hockey and curls himself. Blair is a member of: Law Society of British Columbia; Nanaimo County Bar Association; Nanaimo City Bar Association; Canadian Bar Association; Treasurer of Solicitors’ General Practice – Central Vancouver Island; Nanaimo Curling Club (Board Member 06/07); Nanaimo Breakers Fast Pitch Softball Association, director; Certified Hockey Coach; Certified Curling Coach; Certified Softball Coach
Secretary | Aspengrove School
Director at Large | Tremain Media
Location: Campbell River
Director at Large | Highland Secondary School
Don McRae has been a lifelong Comox Valley resident. After completing degrees in International Relations and Education at UBC, he returned to the Comox Valley to teach Social Studies at a local high school. Don served as a councillor for the City of Courtenay for 7 years, resigning his seat in 2009 after becoming the MLA for the Comox Valley. During his time in provincial government, he served as Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Education, and Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation. In 2017, Don stepped down from provincial politics to return to teaching. Don is currently a vice principal for the Comox Valley School District, husband to his wife Deanne and the father to Gracie and Chloe.