Leaders Helping Leaders

To support entrepreneurs navigating the COVID-19 crisis, IG has pulled together this series of online sessions to help you maintain momentum, continue innovating and leverage opportunities. We’ve tapped on the shoulders of mentors, experts and experienced leaders in our network to help lead the way forward during these uncertain times.

This new series will be presented (via Zoom – no software download required). Attendance is complimentary, registration is required.

Register for one of our upcoming sessions:

Watch video recordings of our past sessions:

*Past Event*

Finding the Business Opportunity in a Time of Crisis

Presented by: Brad Fitzsimmons

April 1, 2:30pm-4:00pm

In this session, Brad will talk about the importance of taking a breath and considering the opportunities created by COVID-19 for your business. Businesses will die, survive, or thrive. Brad will show you how working on your business through times like these will determine whether your business dies, survives or thrives. He will show you how this is a great time to build new habits that should continue past the COVID-19 crisis to mature your business and increase its long-term value. Brad will discuss the current financial offerings from the Federal and Provincial governments and will explain the potential implications on your business.

*Past Event*

Maintaining Calm & Resilience Amidst the Coronavirus, COVID-19 Storm
Presented by: Paul Radkowski

April 3, 11:00am-12:30pm

Given all the COVID-19, Coronavirus concerns and uncertainty, there is certainly a lot of stress we’re all facing right now which can lead to a feeling of overwhelm.  

We all like a degree of control and certainty/predictability in our lives and with this virus its kind of like watching a train wreck happening in slow motion without being able to do anything about it (low control) AND not sure exactly how it’s all going to play out in the near (or distant) future.

This workshop will help you better recognize the mental/physical signs of stress, its effects on mental health, the vital importance of self-care and what can be done to reduce stress and increase your resilience during challenging times.

  • Identifying your personal “Stress Signature” and how to mitigate its effects
  • The vital importance of knowing how to keep your “Life Accounts” topped up
  • Knowing your “Sphere of Influence” and determining the limits of what you actually have control/influence over etc.

*Past Event*

Product Development in a Crisis (Continuing the Innovation)
Presented by: Don Thompson, P.Eng., PMP

April 7, 2:30pm-4:00pm

Eventually, the COVID-19 pandemic will pass. With that in mind, it is important that you do not lose momentum on the projects your company is working on. These may be existing initiatives or new pivots resulting from the change in the current marketplace. Join Don to review project management tools, communication strategies and then brainstorm innovative ways to keep your business moving forward.

  • Review project management communication strategies – who does what, by when
  • How to communicate strategy to your team and gain momentum & buy-in
  • Takeaway – tactics for creating a strategy, tools to help with pivoting and communicating challenges and direction with your team
  • Share with others – discuss current issues and explore potential business-to-business collaboration ideas with others on the call

*Past Event*

Effective Leadership and Virtual Team Building During Crisis
Presented by: Christy Pettit, BA, MBA

April 9, 2:30pm-4:00pm

The COVID-19 crisis has moved the world from complexity to chaos, and people are feeling it everywhere. Business leaders are under tremendous pressure to make and remake plans and to help staff who, in turn, are also under tremendous pressure. Building on information from the other experts in the Leaders Helping Leaders series, effectiveness and virtual collaboration expert Christy Pettit will help Leaders map out a strategy that allows for managing the day-to-day work while being nimble and responsive to constantly emerging challenges and opportunities.

This interactive session will cover:

  • Strategies for cultivating employee engagement and positive work culture in a virtual environment
  • Setting priorities and finding the balance between focus and flexibility
  • Creating a system to support yourself, the people and the business
  • The leadership effectiveness checklist – a step-by-step process to pace yourself and maximize capacity to deliver results while managing expectations

*Past Event*

PR Strategy during COVID-19
Presented by: Melissa Durrell

April 15, 2:30pm-4:00pm

Need help creating a PR strategy plan, communicating a significant change initiative within your organization, or developing key messages to deliver to your clients and employees? Innovation Guelph’s PR Strategy Talk with Durrell Communications founder and media training coach Melissa Durrell, will share with you experiences and insights on how to develop and execute a PR strategy that will help your organization weather today’s COVID-19 crisis.

  • Attending the PR Strategy Talk will enable you to:
  • Create a strong PR strategy for crisis comms, media, and content
  • Learn how to handle deliver quick, clear and confident responses
  • Become comfortable responding to complaints over the phone and online
  • Learn best practices and build key messages around your company values
  • Utilize the correct media channels to get your message out
  • Gain valuable content (press releases, posts, messages) and writing skills
  • Gain an understanding of who should be speaking to the media, and when

*Past Event*

My Experience Navigating a Business Through Crisis
Business Leader Panel

April 17, 2:30pm-4:00pm

Sometimes the best way to learn is by availing ourselves of the knowledge and experience of people who have walked a similar path. This panel session presents inspiring business leaders who’ve been there, done that! They’ve led their companies through crisis while navigating unique challenges that have resulted in growth, learning and wisdom! Join us for a discussion born from 9-11, government policy change, dot.com decline and more.

You’ll learn about:
The importance of actively seeking information
Choosing the right actions to take, and

Panelists Include:
Tina Brisbin // Business Owner Mambella’s Italian Kitchen
Joe Canavan // CEO of NEXT Canada
Reda Fayek // Current President of Kimitek Inc. and Past Executive of Virtek Inc.
Eric Solowka // Management Consultant and Former Co-CEO of Atlantis Aerospace

*Past Event*

Managing Through Turbulent Times
Presented by: Steven Karpenko & Brad Fitzsimmons

May 7, 10:00am – 11:30am

Together with the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade (MEDJCT), Innovation Guelph is proud to present a special edition of LEADERS HELPING LEADERS. The session on Thursday, May 7th from 10 – 11:30 am is called “Managing through Turbulent Times” and will be co-presented by Steven Karpenko, Senior Export Advisor, Business Capacity and Readiness Branch (for Ontario) and our own Brad Fitzsimmons, IG mentor and serial entrepreneur.

In the 90-minute session, you will learn valuable tips from Steven to help you take your business temperature, look at your competition and finances and ask yourself some tough questions. Brad will then introduce you to an amended Business Model Canvas that he created for COVID-19 and will walk you through the key changes and considerations. We will share this resource with you after the session is over. A very valuable session for key decision makers at startups through scaleups, no matter what the sector. We hope you can join us.
There will be plenty of time for questions, so please come ready to have a discussion.

All Partners

*Past Event*

Rebuilding the Post COVID-19 Supply Chain
Presented by: Steven Karpenko , Andrey Bolgov & Gemma Duley

June 2, 10:30am – 12:00pm

The COVID-19 pandemic struck global trade and investment with extraordinary speed and force. Companies worldwide faced an initial supply shock, followed by a demand shock as more and more countries ordered people to stay at home. Governments, businesses, and consumers abruptly struggled to obtain basic products and supplies and were forced to confront the vulnerability of the current supply chain. In response, the Ontario government launched the Ontario Together Fund; a fund and information platform to help firms and organizations supply emergency products and innovations to support COVID-19 response and relief. This initiative removes barriers allowing Ontario’s manufacturing sector to redeploy capacity towards the production of essential equipment, and to supply innovative solutions to help businesses re-open safely.

In this this hour-long virtual session of Leaders Helping Leaders, we will discuss not only the Ontario Together Fund and how to apply – we will also talk about the expected changes to the global supply chain post-COVID and share some hands-on experiences. The critical need to design smarter, stronger, and more diverse supply chains has been one of the main lessons of this crisis. Join Innovation Guelph, the City of Guelph’s Economic Development team, Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade and Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for a thorough presentation and Q&A session.

Rebuilding the Post COVID-19 Supply Chain


Andrey Bolgov

Andrey Bolgov

Business Development Consultant at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Andrey Bolgov works as a Business Development Consultant at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. He has a German MBA in International Marketing, a bachelor degree in intercultural communications and fluently speaks 5 languages.
Andrey has been working with the ministry for 6 years now and prior to that he worked for 12 years in the private sector in a number of countries in the area of business development and marketing across several industries, including software, construction technologies, consumer electronics and retail.
Andrey is very passionate about innovation and emerging technologies. He believes that innovation is a key tool for economic development and for developing ways to address challenges presented by the current Covid-19 crisis.

Tina Brisbin

Tina Brisbin

Business Owner Mambella’s Italian Kitchen

Tina Brisbin has been an entrepreneur for over 25 years. Her first venture into retail was with a company called The Buttercup Boutique, where she designed and delivered floral arrangements to retailers across Ontario. This helped her finance and launch a retail store in St. Jacobs, ON called Passage to Eden, selling unique garden themed products to mainly tourists, and bringing the outdoors in; Tina was years ahead of the trends in the garden industry. When the major terrorist attack happened on September 11, 2001, it changed the landscape of many tourist towns that relied on visitors for their economy; St Jacob’s was no different. Business soon began to suffer. A major pivot was on the horizon for Tina, she just didn’t know quite where she’d land. When her lease came up in 2004, she closed her shop to follow her passion and, after considerable market research, ended up in Waterloo ON, running an Italian restaurant targeted at students that many call a hidden gem.

Joe Canavan

Joe Canavan

CEO of NEXT Canada

Joe Canavan is an icon in the financial services industry with extensive experience as an executive, entrepreneur and venture investor. His most recent venture, LOGiQ Asset Management was recently sold to Purpose Investment and Grenville Capital Corporation and the latter combined entity has been renamed Flow Capital Corporation. Joe has held the positions of Chairman and CEO of Assante Wealth Management and CEO of Synergy Asset Management, a company he founded in 1997 (now part of CI Financial). Before Synergy, Joe launched GT Global (Canada) which quickly grew to a multi-billion dollar asset management company and Fund Company of the year before being sold to Invesco Trimark. As Vice President, Director of National Sales, Joe helped build Fidelity Investment Canada from $60 million to $6 billion.

Prior to selling LOGiQ Asset Management, Joe was Chairman and Interim CEO of the Children’s Aid Foundation, overseeing its restructuring and highly successful turnaround. Joe is a Board Director of the Jays Care Foundation and Singularity University. His outside investment interests are primarily focused on digital ventures including Wealthsimple, Koho Financial, Borrowell, Layer 6 (a machine learning company), Itsme (a virtual reality company), Brand Protect (a cyber security firm), Thalmic Labs and Kira Talent, to name a few. Joe was awarded “Person of Influence of the Decade” during the 2004 Canadian Investment Awards, was honoured as Concordia University’s “Alumnus of the Year” in 2006, and was also the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee II Medal in 2012. Joe completed a Bachelor of Business Administration, Business at Concordia University and holds an OPM, Business from Harvard Business School.

Melissa Durrell

Melissa Durrell

Innovation Guelph Mentor/Industry Specialist

Beginning as an award-winning journalist, Melissa reported the news from Toronto, Ottawa, Saskatoon, Sudbury, and Kitchener-Waterloo for nearly two decades before founding her own startup.

Fuelled by great ideas, she has grown Durrell Communications to one of the top communication firms in the region. Melissa has worked with hundreds of startups, entrepreneurs, VCs, and Angels across Canada. She uses insider knowledge to gain local, national and global exposure that tell the amazing stories of her clients and get the word out. Melissa is also a mentor at Innovation Guelph and supports other regional innovation centres throughout Ontario.

Reda Fayek

Reda Fayek

Current President of Kimitek Inc. and Past Executive of Virtek Inc.

Reda Fayek, current president of Kimitek Inc. and one of Innovation Guelph’s talented mentors once helped to lead a publicly traded biotech company called Virtek (1996-2002) to over $30M in annually reoccurring revenue. The company developed a wonderful solution for a market with explosive growth and eventually was valued at well above $200M. And then … the Dot.com bust happened in the aftermath of 9/11. Reda led the repatriation of the development, manufacturing and sales of the products to Canada and eventually became an independent business consultant here. He uses his past experiences and lessons to mentor and assist others in building up their companies.

Brad Fitzsimmons

Brad Fitzsimmons

Innovation Guelph Mentor/Industry Specialist
Think bottom lines™

“Brad Fitzsimmons has put more time and energy into my dream than anyone else.”

Brad’s vision is for everyone in the world to focus only on what they love – so among the business owners he works with, this client quote rings familiar. People focusing only on what they deeply enjoy is the first component of a triple bottom line: they have to be happy, making a profit and doing right by the planet.

People. Profit. Planet. Brad’s mission is to build bottom lines by helping people achieve what they didn’t think was possible: the maturing of their business into a finely-tuned, highly-profitable corporation that others want to buy.
For some owners of small to mid-sized businesses, this can be an uncomfortable concept. They have no intention of selling, or they don’t think anyone would want to buy. But consider this: truly well-run, triple-bottom-line businesses are by definition always maturing, and are by definition built to sell.

Brad has been an entrepreneur for almost his entire life, building and selling small- to mid-sized businesses – and working at every level of them – in 37 countries. An unbreakable optimist, his experience with these companies allows him to see opportunities where others see only problems.

Brad cares enough to challenge you and your assumptions. Comfortable talking to anyone, he is a natural influencer. As one client relays with a touch of irony, “He will make you do something because you want to do it.”
Challenges over the years mean that Brad sees the world through grateful eyes. People recognize that when he is with them, he is truly present, satisfied with exactly where he is in that moment.

Ultimately, what drives him is the idea of making the world a better place through others. “I am helping business owners be as successful as possible – and more than they think they can be. I am also helping them better the lives of others. This is my contribution to the world, and it gives me great joy.”

Steven Karpenko

Steven Karpenko

Senior Export Advisor | Business Capacity and Readiness  Branch, Business Partnerships and Programs Division | Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade
Steven Karpenko has over fifteen years of experience working with small and medium-sized businesses on leaning their operations and managing through challenging financial times. The COVID-19 crisis has created circumstances that none of us could have imagined a year ago. Steven presents some practical advice and provides focus on the key challenges of “Managing Through Turbulent Times.”

Christy Pettit, BA, MBA

Christy Pettit, BA, MBA

Effective Leadership and Virtual Team Building During Crisis

Christy Pettit is Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Pollinate Networks Inc. For 25 years, Christy has provided innovative leadership, expert advice and successful implementation of effectiveness best practices in companies worldwide. She consistently creates strategies that make a lasting difference within businesses, often doubling the value of their internal resources. An original thinker, Christy’s career has involved supporting billion-dollar clients through transformation, and leading initiatives to increase employee engagement and success while decreasing overall costs.

Christy started her career as an organizational development consultant at a large hospital group in 1994. She was an Executive Vice President responsible for the consulting and measurement division at global training and development organization Eagles Flight for more than a decade, before co-founding ODScore in 2008.
She relaunched ODScore in 2019 as Pollinate Networks Inc., a cloud-based organizational effectiveness platform for enterprise transformation and growth.

Christy’s education includes a Bachelor of Arts in English and History from the University of Toronto, including an accredited year of study at the University of Sydney, Australia. Christy has also earned a Graduate Diploma in Management and a Masters in Business Administration, both from Athabasca University’s Centre for Innovative Management.

Paul Radkowski

Paul Radkowski

Clinical Director & CEO of Life Recovery Program

Paul is an internationally awarded therapist, speaker and founder of the Life Recovery Program. In addition to his extensive work in mental health, he has consulted with countless organizations regarding the importance and implementation of psychological health & safety, resilience and wellness programs including recruitment by the Government of Canada to initiate programs and supervise mental health specialists in some of the most northern and remote regions of the world. His passion and engaging presentation style has been a hit with audiences around the globe.

Among the awards Paul received- “Best Innovator Award,” “Outstanding Addictions Professional Award,” “Outstanding Service and Contribution in the Field of Mental Health,” in 2019 he was an award finalist for the GIDSS Foundation “International Peace Award”.

His awarded online Life Recovery Program has helped organizations and thousands of individuals, and families successfully manage & monitor mental/behavioural health and other stress related issues. The program helps people and organizations, by taking the next step of getting support, getting better, more focused and becoming inward strong. “It’s like having your own personal wellness coach 24/7”

Eric Solowka MASc

Eric Solowka MASc

Management Consultant and Former Co-CEO of Atlantis Aerospace

Leadership for a Change
For over 40 years Eric has been a serial entrepreneur and has created some successful, and some not so successful ventures. After his formal education, he began the entrepreneurial journey by starting an aerospace research and training company designing and building flight simulators and maintenance trainers for military and airlines all over the world. Twenty years, 300 employees, and many leadership challenges later, that company – Atlantis Aerospace – was sold.

Armed with the leadership lessons earned at Atlantis, Eric then founded the Adao Institute for Change and provided leadership consulting to organizations both large and small. It included new venture start-ups and business transformation initiatives for blue-chip organizations such as Bombardier, Caterpillar, and Gulfstream.

Now a mentor with Innovation Guelph, Eric shares his leadership experience with start-ups and SME’s. He likes to keep things simple, so they are doable, stick, and are effective. He is a workshop presenter, speaker, and mentor bringing to life his passion for leadership, communication, problem solving, and human dynamics for anyone daring to call themselves an entrepreneur.

Don Thompson

Don Thompson

Innovation Guelph Mentor/Industry Specialist

Don Thompson is an innovative product development expert focused on helping technology startups deliver new product solutions that solve real customer problems for global marketplace success.
His expertise is honed by more than 25 years of industry experience developing and managing new products for top-performing Fortune 100 organizations, includingAmazon, BlackBerry and GE.
Don helps new ideas flourish within the fast-moving, performance-driven tech environment, applying his energetic personality, strong leadership skills and management prowess to guide teams of all sizes on all facets of product development strategy and execution, including:
– product idea definition
– customer discovery
– new product requirements
– go-to-market strategy/new product introduction (NPI)
– managing supply chains for global manufacturing
– managing complex market channel dynamics
– product lifecycle management
– creating an effective multi-generational business roadmap
Don holds a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering, and is a registered ProfessionalEngineer and a Certified Project Management Professional. Following senior management roles at BlackBerry and Amazon, he founded Prismatic Global Inc. in2015, specializing in product development, go to market, product lifecycle management and Amazon product launch solutions.He is an active supporter of the innovation ecosystem, training future product managers in the digital product space as a lead instructor for BrainStation, and serving as a product development mentor at Innovation Guelph and the AcceleratorCentre in Waterloo, Ontario, the #4-ranked university-linked accelerator in the world.