The Diversity Agency
Andria Barrett is with The Diversity Agency, which is not only a Speakers Bureau, but also includes Diversity & Inclusion Consultants and Strategic Consultants connecting Companies & Government with Black Entrepreneurs, Consumers & Communities. Born and raised in Canada (with an allegiance to the Toronto Raptors), one of Andria’s very first jobs was in retail. Andria speaks on Diversity & Wellness and is looking forward to participating in this year’s event. Andria is an active investor supporting female entrepreneurs and is active in her community and serves on the board of PACE, Canadian SME and the Culinary Tourism Alliance.
Founder and CEO
Lauren Chan began her career as a plus-size model at Ford Models in New York City. She later spent time as a fashion writer for outlets like Vogue before landing as a fashion editor at Glamour. There, she oversaw the fashion features team and owned the size inclusion beat. Over time, Chan became fashion's foremost expert on size inclusion, but despite her efforts was not able to access plus-size clothes beyond cheap fast-fashion outlets. Her smaller peers regularly wore high-fashion garments, reinforcing the narrative that thin women are of higher value. To refute that disadvantage, Chan created Henning. As a luxury plus-size brand, Henning allows women like her to wear high-quality clothing, and thereby be seen as high-value people. Her goal: to eliminate the inequality that plus-size women face by harnessing fashion to change the way they are perceived—and, more importantly, the way they perceive themselves.
Three Time Best Selling Author
China Marketing Expert
Ashley is a renowned China marketing expert, entrepreneur, bestselling author and vlogger. She was recognized as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Marketing and chosen as an Asia-Pacific Top 25 Innovator by the Holmes Report. Ashley’s been named a “Guru on digital marketing and fast-evolving trends in China” by Thinkers50, as well as one of Top 20 Visionaries of the Media and Technology Industry by Adello Magazine. She is the founder of a China-focused social media agency Alarice and China insights and digital training company ChoZan. Ashley runs the world’s #1 YouTube business vlog about the China market, consumers and social media at Ashley Talks. She is an author of 3 Amazon bestsellers about digital China. Ashley is an active supporter of women in business and is the creator of the self-development program FIRE. She’s regularly featured in media such as BBC, CNBC, CGTN, SCMP, Forbes, WSJ and more.
Associate Director, Food & Drink, Canada
Joel Gregoire researches and writes reports on the Canadian food and drink industry for Mintel. He comes to us after stops at NPD, Loblaw's and OMD, where he amassed a breadth experience in the industry. Joel has a Bachelor's Honours Co-op in Political Science and History from the University of Waterloo.
Co-founder and Chief Brand Officer
Emily Heyward is the Co-founder and Chief Brand Officer at Red Antler, the leading brand building company for startups and new ventures. Emily works closely with founders to develop purposeful, strategic visions for their startups and has led branding efforts for top companies such as Casper, Allbirds, Betterment, and Prose. After beginning her career in advertising, she started Red Antler along with her co-founders to directly apply consumer insights and brand positioning to launching and growing new and beloved businesses. In 2018, Red Antler made Fast Company’s list of Most Innovative Companies in Marketing and Advertising and was dubbed the “cult brand whisperer”. Emily was named among the Most Important Entrepreneurs of the Decade by Inc. Magazine, and has also been recognized as a Top Female Founder by Inc. and one of Entrepreneur's Most Powerful Women of 2019. As a brand strategy expert, Emily is frequently interviewed by the press, with commentary appearing in Forbes, Bloomberg, Inc., Fast Company and Adweek. She’s also been a featured speaker at TechCrunch Disrupt, 99U, and the Fast Company Innovation Festival. Her first book, Obsessed: Building a Brand People Love from Day One, was published by Portfolio, a division of Penguin Randomhouse, in June 2020. Emily graduated Magna Cum laude from Harvard University, where she studied postmodern theory and consumer culture. Born and raised in New York, she currently lives in Southampton with her wife and son.
Sarah is CEO of Mastermind Toys, Canada’s largest specialty toy and kids book store. She leads 69 stores coast-to-coast and online with thousands of employees including stores, head office and warehouse – bringing to life their reputation as Canada’s Authority on Play, and creating a world class employee and customer experience. In 2020, Mastermind Toys was named The Most Innovative Retailer of the Year, and Sarah was recognized as a Global Influencer in Customer Experience. Sarah is a passionate, energetic leader with a track record of delivering results while leading transformational change at organizations. Previously she was the Senior Vice President, Customer Experience and Omni Channel Strategy at Scotiabank where she led the bank from #5 to #1 in customer experience ratings. She spent a decade with The Boston Consulting Group, where she advised Fortune 500 companies on large scale retail customer centric transformations and cultural change. Sarah holds both an MBA and an Engineering degree from Queen’s University. She is a lecturer at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University in the MBA program, and a guest speaker at Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University in their Innovation in Retailing & Services program. She is a board member at the Canadian Toy Association, the first-ever retail member in the organization’s history. She is also a jury for the 2021 Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends, one of the nation’s most respected and renowned industry awards.
CEO and Founder
Evio Beauty Group
At the age of 21, Leifso was living in a women's shelter when she founded the concept for Evio, a Canadian clean beauty company that is redefining luxury beauty to be kind, conscious and affordable. Evio’s line of cosmetics and skincare products are affordable, inclusive, vegan, cruelty-free, toxin-free, gluten-free and paraben-free, and are ethically and consciously produced. Evio’s mission is to create a more conscious and kind future with products and packaging that are made with good-for-you, sustainable ingredients, including hemp, avocado, rosemary, elderberry and cocoa seed butters, to leave less of an imprint on our planet. From humble beginnings, Leifso has raised millions through strategic alliances and has won the support of a coveted board of directors and advisor to grow Evio into a respected thought leader and a direct-to-consumer brand with distribution across North America. In 2018, Leifso secured a spot as an alumni member of the esteemed Sephora Accelerate program and was selected as one of Chatelaine Magazine's 2018 Women of the Year. In 2019, Leifso spoke at Forbes Under 30’s first-ever Global Women Summit in Israel, Cosmetic Executive Women’s Future of Cannabis in Beauty in Los Angeles, and the CAFA Fashion & Retail Forum in Toronto. Most recently, Leifso was recognized as one of 2020’s Top 25 Women of Influence. “We want to live in a world in which each person is empowered to live their authentic truths, with brands that make them feel luxurious, regardless of their social status. At Evio we believe in celebrating all forms of beauty and making a positive difference and breaking stigmas along the way.” - Brandi Leifso, CEO and founder of Evio
AmberMac Media Inc.
Amber Mac is an award-winning podcaster, TV host, and bestselling author - and an internationally-known technology reporter, entrepreneur, and social media personality. She started her career at Razorfish in San Francisco during the dot-com boom and has since been at the forefront of reporting on and participating in digital innovation, including the future of work, commerce, and emerging technologies. Her broadcast roles include hosting innovation programs on networks such as Bloomberg, TechTV, and SiriusXM. She is also a frequent contributor to Fast Company. She has written a bestselling business book on digital marketing (2010) and most recently wrote an Internet security book (2016). In 2018, she was named one of DMZ’s 30 inspirational women making a difference in tech.
Director of Retail & Services
Eric Morris is the Managing Director of Google's Retail practice in Canada, leading sales, operations, research, strategy and analytics for Google's advertising business. Eric has held several leadership roles at Google Canada since joining in 2002. Prior to his current role, Eric led Google Canada's search and performance advertising business. Previously, Eric launched and led Google’s mobile advertising business in Canada. In 2016 Eric was named inventor and issued a patent in the United States for identifying rising search queries and trends at scale for advertisers worldwide. Eric was elected to the Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada’s board of directors in 2009, including a term as Chair of the board in 2015-2017. Born in Montreal and raised in Toronto, Eric is a graduate of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.
Michael Schneider was appointed Managing Director Bunnings Australia and New Zealand in March 2016. Bunnings is the leading retailer of home improvement and lifestyle products in Australia and New Zealand and a major supplier to project builders, commercial tradespeople and the housing industry. Operating from a network of more than 370 stores and trade centres, Bunnings caters for consumer and commercial customers. Prior to his appointed as MD, Michael led Store Operations teams across Australia and New Zealand after joining Bunnings in 2005. Before joining Bunnings, Michael held a range of senior operational, commercial and human resources roles across regional and national markets, both in retail and financial services businesses. Michael is committed to developing diverse teams that challenge the status quo and embrace innovation to drive high performance which is critical in today’s competitive retail environment. As a leader, he is known for his collaborative, genuine and honest style and for having a real passion and energy for the Bunnings business. This has fostered Bunnings’ supportive culture which empowers team members to take responsibility and have ownership in how the business delivers its customers’ a unique and compelling proposition. Michael believes that team members’ ability to connect with customers and the local community is key to the business’ success and that this requires an ongoing investment in building the best team as well as creating a culture that builds trust, inspires action, develops people and drives performance. He is a strong advocate for emerging talent and believes in giving young leaders every opportunity to realise their full potential and develop their careers across a range of disciplines within the business. Michael holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of NSW and has completed the Advanced Management Program at INSEAD, and the Advanced Strategic Management Program at IMD.
Founder and CEO
Doug Stephens is one of the world’s foremost retail industry futurists. His intellectual work and thinking have influenced many of the world’s best-known retailers, agencies and brands including Walmart, Google, Estee Lauder, BMW and LVMH.
Prior to founding the consultancy Retail Prophet, Doug spent over 20 years in the retail industry, holding senior international leadership roles.
Doug is the author of three internationally bestselling books. His latest titled Resurrecting Retail: The Future of Business a Post-Pandemic World (2021). He is also the author of Reengineering Retail: The Future of Selling in a Post-Digital World and The Retail Revival: Re-Imagining Business for the New Age of Consumerism. Doug is also the nationally syndicated retail columnist for CBC Radio and sits on multiple corporate and academic advosry boards.
His unique perspectives on retailing, business and consumer behavior have been featured in many of the world’s leading publications and media outlets including The New York Times, The BBC, TechCrunch, The Wall Street Journal and Fast Company.
John S. Thorbeck is Chairman of Chainge Capital, a firm focused on retail industry transformation. John is co-author with Warren H. Hausman, professor emeritus, of the Stanford-based “Zara Gap” metrics linking speed and investor value, case study on fast fashion implementation, and process and data innovation for superior profit performance. John is a former CEO of GH Bass & Co (PVH), and Rockport (Adidas), and senior executive for Timberland Co and Nike. John received an MBA at Harvard Business School.
CEO and Chief Sustainability Officer
Michael’s journey with IKEA began with what started as a one-year internship program in 1986. From there he quickly progressed to hold various positions with increased responsibilities at IKEA Canada, and then moved onto IKEA globally where he held strategic leadership roles in Sweden, the Netherlands and the United States. Michael has a passion for retail with a proven track record of driving growth and leading through change on both a country and a global level.
Associate Director, Canada Leisure & Lifestyle Reports
Carol Wong-Li has been writing reports on the Canadian lifestyle and leisure industry for Mintel Canada since October 2014. Prior to joining, she worked in market research consulting on both the research supplier and client. Carol has a MA in Sociology from the University of Calgary.
Diane J. Brisebois
President and CEO
Retail Council of Canada
Diane J. Brisebois, CAE, oversees the largest retail association in Canada serving over 45,000 retail establishments including independent merchants, chain stores, mass merchants, big box and online retailers. RCC’s membership covers all segments of the retail market including general merchandise, grocery and pharmacy. Diane joined RCC as its President and CEO in January 1995. Diane has held CEO positions in the not-for-profit sector representing various industries for the past 35 years.
Kevin Graff is the President of Graff Retail, based in Toronto, Ontario. Since 1988, Graff Retail has specialized in working with retailers around the globe to increase their revenue through improved staff performance.
Kevin is widely respected as one of North America’s best retail speakers and trainers and was recently chosen as one of the Top 50 Retail Influencers. His principle belief is that retailers are losing too many sales each day in their stores that they should be capturing. Kevin’s approach to store operations and his intense focus on real, bottom-line issues continually produce outstanding results.
Kevin is also the creator of Graff Retail TV, the retail community’s leading source of online sales and management training. Since being launched in 2008, Graff Retail TV has provided thousands of sales associates and store management teams with the skills they need to succeed.
Founder & Principal
M.E. LeBlanc & Company
Michael has 20+ years of brand/retail/marketing leadership experience and is considered by many as a pioneer in the Canadian omni-channel and e-Commerce retail space. As an award-winning insight driven strategic marketer with a passion for holistic retail brand/customer experience, Michael has been on the front lines of retail industry change for his entire career with brands such as Black & Decker, Levi Strauss & Co, Hudson’s Bay, CanWest Media, The Shopping Channel and Herbal Magic. After spending almost three years advocating and lobbying for the Canadian retail industry at Retail Council of Canada (RCC), Michael formed M. E. LeBlanc & Company to leverage this knowledge and experience back onto the front lines and regularly is invited to share his insights on the current and future retail industry in Canada and around the world.