Principal and Fund Manager
Black Innovation Capital
Lise Birikundavyi is the principal and fund manager for Black Innovation Capital, the first institutionally-backed black-led VC fund in Canada. Lise is an innovative finance specialist who has worked with several international institutions, most notably the Jacobs Foundation for whom she managed an edtechimpact investment strategy. Lise also mentors and supports highly promising and impactful start-ups in emerging markets.
Lise began her career in the hedge fund industry in Montreal and her interest in mixing attractive financial returns with long term societal impact is what inspired her to transition to the impact finance sector. She has experience across the investment spectrum: from funds of funds and VCs, to being the transition CEO of a tech start-up.
Lise is a CFA charterholder; she also holds a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from the Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance, where she wrote her thesis on impact investing, and a trilingual BBA from HEC Montreal. Lise is fluent in French, English and Spanish, and has a conversational level of Mandarin. She is a firm believer in using the forces of capital markets as a basis for more inclusive wealth creation and sustainable poverty alleviation.
Professor, Strategy & Sustainability | Donald F. Hunter Professor of International Business
Ivey Business School
Oana Branzei is Donald F. Hunter Professor of International Business and Professor of Strategy and Sustainability at the Ivey Business School. She pursues problem driven research and builds inclusive programs and platforms that engage critically and constructively with grand challenges. Her research interests, at the intersection of strategy and sustainability, focus on novel forms and functions of organizing. Oana leads major research initiatives on inclusive organizing (prosocial, circular, place-based, and regenerative). She has convened communities of inquiry that actively promote positive social change through social innovation, social enterprise, sustainable communities, and cross-sector partnerships.
Oana’s research contributions have been featured in the popular press, including Ashoka, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Forbes, Harvard Deusto, MIT Sloan, and The Globe and Mail.
Oana is a Field Editor for the Journal of Business Venturing, a founder of the Ivey Sustainability Certificate, the Ivey-ARCS PhD Sustainability Academy, co-founder of the Spring Institute, and founding board member of Academia B, the Global Minds Collective. Oana also serves on the Western University Research Board and the advisory board of the Africa Institute.
Chief Strategy & CSR Officer
Magali Depras holds the position of Chief Strategy & CSR Officer of TC Transcontinental, a Canadian family-controlled and publicly listed multinational, whose activities include printing, packaging and media.
Prior to joining TC Transcontinental, Magali Depras worked for CSA Group (Canadian Standards Association), first as Vice President, Europe, where she developed local conformity assessment services, then as Chief Operating Officer in charge of global operations, and finally as President of CSA Group Standards.
Earlier in her career, Ms. Depras spent 20 years with Br. Hartmann, a Danish multinational specialized in molded fiber packaging where she eventually served as Chief Commercial Officer.
Ms. Depras holds an MBA from the Institute of Business Administration (IAE) of Paris, Panthéon-Sorbonne and is a certified Director from INSEAD’s International Directors Programme. She is currently serving on several Boards including the Plastics Division of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC), Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal and INSEAD’s Business School’s Canadian Foundation and National Alumni Association.
Dr. Dionne Laslo-Baker
Founder | CEO | Medical Scientist
Dr. Dionne Laslo-Baker is a Canadian expert on the impacts of environmental toxins – especially in the food chain – on child health. 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 and later child development. This led her on a life-long quest to provide her own family with healthy, clean label snacks, and then to the realization that food companies and their choices they make can be a force for good in the world. Dionne founded DeeBee’s Organics on a mission to make ‘conscious’ snacking really fun!
We help spark moments of joy from the natural magic of real food. Fun treats we feel great about sharing with our own kids, and that we hope honor how much you care about all families in our community.
TELUS Pollinator Fund for Good
Leah is an Investment Director for the TELUS Pollinator Fund for Good, which brings a dual-lens approach to investing in for-profit startups that are leveraging technology to build solutions that drive positive social, health, and/or environmental outcomes. She drove the strategy and execution for launching the Pollinator Fund, and now leads sourcing, evaluating, and executing investment opportunities.
Before TELUS, Leah was a management consultant with Accenture and a project manager at lululemon athletica. Leah serves on the board of the Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau. She holds a BBA from Simon Fraser University.
Sustainable Finance and ESG Lead
Usha leads Deloitte’s Sustainable Finance practice in Canada and has 20 years of sustainability experience working with financial services, energy and resources and the public sector. She specializes in net zero transformations, ESG and impact investing, and developing integrated sustainability strategies. Usha is a Chartered Accountant and was previously the CFO/COO at Corporate Knights, and Head of Sustainability for HSBC’s global finance function
Vice President, Chief Sustainability Officer
BMO Financial Group
Michael Torrance Chief Sustainability Officer at BMO Financial Group, overseeing sustainability strategy and leading bank-wide initiatives on environmental and social risk, climate change strategy, ESG focused investor relations, sustainability related disclosure, operational sustainability and sustainable finance.
Prior to joining BMO Michael was a Partner at a major international law firm where he led client advisory on environmental and social risk matters. He has served on the Steering Committee of the Equator Principles Association and Chaired the Social Risk Working Group and North America Working Group.
Head, Sustainable Finance, Products and Strategy
BMO Capital Markets
John Uhren is Head, Sustainable Finance, Products and Strategy, at BMO. He leads product development and strategic initiatives across the enterprise, including raising capital and providing sustainable finance opportunities to clients.
Prior to joining the Sustainable Finance team, John was Senior Counsel and Director in Capital Markets Legal at BMO. In this role he led Invest for Infinity, an enterprise-wide team supporting the development of ESG-themed investment products. John was also co-head of BMO’s Pro Bono Committee, and in 2017 won Lexpert’s Rising Star Award as a top Canadian lawyer under 40.
John founded Feet Forward Organization in 2013, a Canadian registered charity that partners with NGO agencies in South Africa to assist refugees, asylum-seekers and newly landed immigrants. He is currently a board member of Dress for Success Toronto.
Vice President, Wholesale
Vittoria Varalli is Vice President, Wholesale, for Sobeys Inc., a leading Canadian grocery retailer and food distributor.
In her role as Vice President, Wholesale, Vittoria is responsible for advancing Sobeys Inc.’s wholesale business strategy, enhancing national wholesale customer partnerships, and strengthening collaboration within Sobeys’ total business overall.
Prior to her appointment as Vice President, Wholesale, Vittoria served as the Vice President, Sustainability, where she led the execution of Sobeys’ sustainable business strategy. She also served as Chief of Staff to the CEO, where she facilitated the flow of information between leadership functions and advanced the company’s key strategic priorities.
Vittoria began her career as a lawyer at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom where she developed expertise in complex corporate transactions, corporate governance and securities law. Prior to joining Sobeys Inc., Vittoria worked in BCG’s Financial Services and Consumer Retail consulting practices.
Vittoria serves as a board member of the Pink Pearl Foundation and the United Nations Association in Canada. Vittoria holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Wilfrid Laurier University and a Juris Doctor from Osgoode Hall Law School. She is a member of the New York State Bar Association.
President and CVO
Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC)
In her 27th year at the helm of WWBIC, Wendy is an internationally-recognized leader in microenterprise, small business development, financial capability and social enterprise. In her long and rich career, Wendy has focused on advancing opportunities for women, racial minorities and lower-wealth individuals. She has pioneered business incubation, capital access programming, financial capability and economic literacy initiatives in Wisconsin and advanced many through national channels. With her leadership and vision, WWBIC has grown from a $200,000 budget with a staff of two, to an $9.9 million organization with 72 staff and six regional offices. For over thirty years WWBIC has directly lent over $82 million in micro and small business loans with a current loan portfolio of $23.5 million and 564 active borrowers.
Wendy’s personal mission has always been to improve the financial well-being of others. In addition to Wendy’s commitment to WWBIC, she drove the development of the Milwaukee Public Market, co-founded the national Association of Women’s Business Centers, co-formed the Invest in Wisconsin CDFI partnership, and currently sits on numerous regional and national Boards. A gifted advocate and coalition builder, Wendy has tirelessly lent her business savvy, compassion and leadership skills to positively change our economic landscape.
Monitor Institute by Deloitte
Bridget has nearly 15 years of experience helping clients navigate complex projects and problems. She began her career working with clients on their globalization efforts through translation and localization. As a management consultant, Bridget worked across Life Sciences, Insurance, and Technology, before focusing on social impact topics. Bridget is passionate about the role and responsibilities of business, big and small, in society. She has worked with funders, non-profits and social entrepreneurs in the United States and abroad, and with multi-national corporations on their social impact efforts. Bridget led Deloitte’s collaboration with the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit, focusing on how the private sector can help address mounting humanitarian crises.
Bridget has an MBA with a concentration in Sustainable Enterprise from The University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School and a BA Summa Cum Laude from the University of Notre Dame. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and two children.
Stacey Pitts Caldwell, MBA
Director, Small Business | Center Director, Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC)
Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
Stacey joined the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce with a passion for helping entrepreneurs and small business owners thrive. Through individual advising, program development and community outreach, Stacey works to elevate and bring awareness to the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC), an invaluable resource for small businesses. With careful, strategic planning and measured economic impact, she has successfully helped over 250 small businesses in the Chicagoland area secure more revenue and reach key goals. Stacey earned both her Bachelor of Arts in Management (BA) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees from Benedictine University.
With nearly 15 years of experience in management and business, Stacey brings a rich background within business equity and inclusion, strategy and coaching – along with a wealth of insight and expertise as a small business owner herself. As owner of SMP Creative Business and Design, a boutique graphic design firm, Stacey continues to support small businesses.
In 2018, Stacey received the Walker’s Legacy Power 15 National Award for multicultural women who have positively impacted the business community. In 2021, Stacey was named a Chicago Urban League IMPACT Fellow and now sits on the Executive Board of the IMPACT Alumni Association (IAA).
Managing Director, Impact Investments
BMO Capital Markets
Marc Khouzami joins BMO as a Managing Director, responsible for managing the C$250 million Impact Investment Fund which aims to drive sustainable outcomes by backing technologies that help BMO and its clients proactively address sustainability and create positive impact for stakeholders.
Prior to joining BMO, Marc spent over 11 years at Deutsche Bank Asset Management, serving as a generalist private equity investor focused on sustainability covering a variety of sectors. Additionally, Marc developed and executed financial products to help corporate clients achieve sustainability goals. Prior to Deutsche Bank, Marc was responsible for making growth equity investments as part of the Sustainable Development Investments group for Citi Alternative Investments. Before joining Citi, Marc held various roles in investment banking and corporate finance at Paragon Capital, Oxygen Cable and Lehman Brothers.
Marc chairs the board of directors of Change Machine, a non-profit organization that uses its platform technology to assist the working poor in the U.S. achieve financial security. Marc also serves on the board of NYCEEC, a non-profit dedicated to financing hard to finance energy efficiency projects in the built environment.
Marc holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and economics from Vanderbilt University and an MBA from Columbia Business School.
Founder and CEO
Thelma A. Sias is one of Milwaukee’s most powerful women because of her leadership and commitment to serve her community. She is proud to be the fifth of eleven children of the late Roosevelt & Pauline Sias, raised on the family farm in Mayersville, Mississippi. Thelma joined Wisconsin Gas (and now We Energies) in 1986.
In 2003, she was appointed vice president. In 2015, she was named to the Milwaukee Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Hall of Fame, in 2016, Savoy Magazine’s list of Top Influential Women in Corporate America, in 2017, she was named to The History Makers’ Collection at the Library of Congress and honored by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation with the Doug Jansson Leadership Award. In 2018, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Milwaukee Business Journal. Sias is currently a board member of the United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee, Sojourner Peace Center, and Cardinal Stritch University.
Sias is now a retired executive and the founder and CEO of The Sias Group LLC.
Portfolio Manager, Canadian Fundamental Equity
BMO Global Asset Management
Jennifer joined BMO Asset Management Inc. in September 2015. Jennifer is a Portfolio Manager and is a specialist in Responsible Investing with a focus on diversity and inclusion and sustainable opportunities. Jennifer spent a decade at a Canadian Bank with experience in Investment Banking, Research and Institutional Sales. In addition, she has a further 7 years’ experience as a Chartered Accountant at one of the big four accounting firms and teaching undergraduate finance at a Canadian University. Jennifer has a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Toronto and is a CFA Charterholder, CA and CPA.