Home>What We Do>Our Staff

Our team has a passion for small business and we are driven by your success. Nothing gives us greater pleasure than seeing your business idea come to life. We’re proud to be part of your entrepreneurial journey and provide the best resources available to help make your startup successful.

Barbara McKenzie

Chief Executive Officer

Barbara is our Chief Executive Officer and brings over 30 years of experience as an entrepreneur, innovator, and leader to the team in non-profit, corporate, and government environments. She has a background in marketing, communications, business development, fund development, and international business. At Business Link, her goal is to lead a team of professionals who provide client service excellence and support Alberta entrepreneurs in growing and diversifying our economy both locally and globally. Barbara is passionate about work/life balance and uses her “life” time to enjoy her time with her husband, step-kids and furry children at their lake cabin, camping and time spent outdoors in summer and winter, as well as reading, photography, and volunteering in her community to support organizations like the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton.

Meagan Oyejide

Administrative Coordinator

Meagan brings her lifelong love of administration and passion for small businesses to the Administrative Coordinator role. She handles the day to day office tasks like supply orders event bookings, and a little bit of everything in between to keep things running smoothly. She has also won multiple Administrator of the Year Awards!

Meagan is a new mom and wife, and grew up all over Canada. In her spare time, Meagan enjoys spending time with her family by going to the park, mall or other fun events!

Kari Morton

Director, Business Support Services

As Director, Business Support Services, Kari leads a team in building and providing services and resources that will help Albertan entrepreneurs and small business owners build, run and grow their business. This includes market research services and educational programs. One of her main passions is market research and helping clients to discover new sources of information. She also enjoys working on projects to help Business Link run like a well-oiled machine.

When Kari isn’t out enjoying live theatre or exploring the world, you’ll find her with her nose in a novel or volunteering with Village Goods. Her dream business would be a bookstore!

Barry Yewchuk

Market Research Coordinator

Barry is part of our research team, always with his eyes on the ball, finding tidbits of small business information to help clients succeed.

When he steps away from a computer (depending on the season), you will find him chasing small objects like golf balls and pucks. Barry also looks forward to finding new beaches, beers, Malbecs, and music.

April-Marie McHardy

Market Research Coordinator

April-Marie brings to the team a love for social entrepreneurship, digital marketing, and the desire to help others. She loves everything about marketing, this is why she made it her major while attending MacEwan University for her Bachelor of Commerce. In the past before joining Business Link, she worked with various local organizations and business owners to help build their strategic marketing plan or digital marketing materials. Now a part of the market research team at Business Link, she helps entrepreneurs find the connection between their business and their clients.

When she is not in the office helping clients, she is probably trying out a new hobby, rock climbing, or most often – annoying others with updates on her houseplants.

Linda Griffioen

Education Programs Coordinator

Linda is a lifelong entrepreneur with a passion for helping people start and grow their business ventures. Her passion for “all things small business” shines through whether she’s facilitating a workshop or coaching a client. Throughout her career she has acted as a consultant, mentor and advisor to thousands of entrepreneurs in her roles as Entrepreneur in Residence for Futurpreneur Canada and Business Advisor with BDC.

Her passions include golf, skiing and volunteering as a Company Program advisor with Junior Achievement of Southern Alberta.

Rebecca Calder

Business Services Coordinator

You may remember Rebecca from her time on Business Link’s marketing team. She took a year off to have a baby but is glad to be back in action with a new team and a new purpose, using her analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills to develop fee-for-service programming.

Before Ida was born, Rebecca loved to chat about how and why Star Trek is superior to Star Wars (in every way), why so-called millennial humour is so memey, and why living in downtown Edmonton is ideal. Now she spends her free time crocheting and talking about how smart, cute, and funny her baby is. She’s currently volunteering with Nerd Nite Edmonton and enjoys hanging out at her community garden plot where she entertains one-sided conversations about bears, beets, and Battlestar Galactica.

Yoyin Familusi

Director, Small Business Strategists

Yoyin loves listening to creative entrepreneurial ideas and is passionate about helping bring those ideas to life. She never wants any entrepreneur to feel alone in their journey. With over 15 years’ experience in business development, client services, and business planning, she brings diverse and invaluable experience to the team.

She thoroughly enjoys facilitating workshops and watching eyes light up when new knowledge hits home.

She is an avid reader who loves the smell of new books!

Jean-Jacques Mitakaro

Coordinator, Immigrant Entrepreneurship Program & Small Business Strategist (Bilingual English-French)

Jean-Jacques brings to our team a wide array of expertise in for-profit business, non-profit/charity, social enterprise, and immigrant entrepreneurship to help entrepreneurs of all backgrounds successfully start and take their ventures to the next level.

His other areas of interest include nonprofit board governance and engagement, charity status registration, strategic planning, volunteer management, event planning, fund development, and translation.

Jean-Jacques is a networking geeky nerd and a volunteer enthusiast! When he’s not networking, you’ll find him volunteering his time to local and international causes, and spending time with family.

If there’s time left over, you’ll find him playing and coaching kids or watching or playing his favorite sports, soccer, basketball, and cycling.

Audrey Allotey

Team Lead, Small Business Strategist

Audrey is a champion for entrepreneurs in Alberta. She is passionate about providing the necessary guidance and assistance to see entrepreneurs and businesses move from one stage of their business development to the next. She is experienced in business development processes, international business, economic development in social and natural resources, and Agri-food business. She successfully launched and operated a line of food products in her home country of Ghana that gave her valuable insights into the entrepreneurial world. With her experience combined with her education MBA – International business, she provides expert advice and guidance into the business world.

Audrey believes strongly in building meaningful relationships on every level and encourages other entrepreneurs to keep learning and remain persistent. She says, “persistence is the key to unlocking our potential.”

When Audrey isn’t out globetrotting, you can find her snuggled on the couch unwinding from her day with a cup of tea and a slice of cake watching Friends.

Matt Hill

Team Lead, Small Business Strategist

Matt Hill is our Business Strategist covering Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, and all the rural communities of Southern Alberta. Based in Brooks, he is perfectly placed to reach entrepreneurs throughout the region. Matt trained as a theatre teacher in the UK and he worked in London schools for seven years before making the leap into entrepreneurship. Matt started a specialist cleaning business in London, growing from a one-man business to become a trusted partner of universities and real estate companies. He is passionate about helping entrepreneurs looking to start small and test ideas before scaling up their business operations.

Matt moved to Canada in September 2017 and enjoys living in Southern Alberta. He has loved becoming part of the community in Brooks. He’s a season ticket holder for the National Junior A Champions Brooks Bandits, although he admits that most of the time he doesn’t really understand what is happening! As a volunteer he enjoys organizing the Brooks Food Trucks community events, he loves the fact that it brings so many people downtown to share food, company, and fun.

David Bayda

Small Business Strategist

David provides exceptional client service leadership, collaborates with an amazing team, and offers one-on-one guidance and advice to entrepreneurs. He has extensive business knowledge covering areas like startup planning, trend research, Business Model Canvas, marketing, crowdfunding, event planning, and strategic growth. David also loves innovation and has experience in product design, intellectual property and tech. If you need creative ideas, he can brainstorm with you!

David’s past startup experience includes running his own handyman business. He is also actively involved in various community initiatives, social causes, and always has an invention on the go!

Frank El Baraqouni

Small Business Strategist

Frank has extensive knowledge and experience working in the financial and banking industry. He provided consultancy services from large companies to mid/small sized businesses.

Frank is always excited to listen to new business ideas and support entrepreneurs to get their businesses started. He enjoys guiding customers and offering them all the support needed to see them succeed with their businesses.

In his free time, he enjoys watching sports and learning about other cultures. He also loves travelling to warm destinations whenever he gets the chance to explore the world.

Mark Shields

Small Business Strategist

Mark is a Business Strategist who approaches issues with a diverse background and wealth of experience. His business pursuits have included yoga instruction and event creation and promotion. He has studied accounting and history academically, and sits as the treasurer for both the Major Minor Music Project and Calgary Can. Prior to joining Business Link he helped plan, execute and operate the emergeHUB economic development project in east Calgary where he worked directly with growing businesses and was drawn to the problem-solving inherent in entrepreneurship. Mark is fundamentally motivated by the opportunity to build communities by facilitating interactions, which is an action at the heart of any business.

Maureen Easton

Small Business Strategist 

Maureen Easton is a Small Business Strategist that supports business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in the Central Alberta region. Currently living in Red Deer, she is a support and resource to the rural communities and entrepreneurs in the central region. Maureen’s background has focused on economic and business development, entrepreneur assistance and support, and incubator management. Supporting ideas, strategies, workplans, and projects are just a few of her top skills. As a passionate and intuitive people person, her ability to connect people is an asset to the clients and communities she serves. Maureen delivers a personalized approach to supporting, guiding, coaching, and loves seeing the passion and drive come to life in entrepreneurs.

Outside of worktime, Maureen enjoys time at the lake, connecting with friends or just hanging out with her husband, children and grandson for some quality family time.

Angela Contardi

Small Business Strategist

Passionate about business, people, and innovation Angela is an entrepreneur at heart and has pursued business opportunities in the event, marketing, and e-commerce industries. Angela also has an extensive corporate background in risk management. She understands the peaks and valleys in the entrepreneurial journey and feels purpose in coming along side other entrepreneurs to help provide perspective, ideas, resources, connections, and community. Angela is thankful for the mentors and experts that have shaped and supported her in the entrepreneurial journey and she is happy to share her knowledge, lessons, and expertise with others.

When Angela is not in her office enjoying working on business and connecting with other passionate entrepreneurs, you will find her singing in the kitchen as she prepares wholesome food for family and friends. She also loves spending time in the Canadian Rockies hiking, skiing, and swimming.

Joanne Gravel

Small Business Strategist

Joanne is pleased to serve Northwest Alberta business owners. Experienced in business ownership and a background in financial management, she enjoys working through challenges and helping entrepreneurs find effective solutions to keep their business moving forward. She understands how intricate one’s business and personal life often intertwines and values the importance of looking at the whole picture.

Joanne enjoys recharging by spending time with family and friends, working on creative projects, and connecting with nature.

Marcia Viggers

Business Support Officer

Marcia comes from a varied background in many different businesses. She has worked in real estate, in food marketing and insurance. Her primary area of expertise is in building customer relationships and she loves getting to know the different entrepreneurs that she has met through her role at Business Link. She particularly takes great pride in ensuring that entrepreneurs have the right information at the right time to foster business growth.

When not at work Marcia is an avid gardener and cook. She loves to take the fresh food grown in her garden and making fresh, delicious food for her family.

Liza Shirzad

Indigenous Business Support Officer

Passionate about helping, Liza loves listening to others and sharing her experience with them. She enjoys being creative and fostering a creative environment, which has led her to design her own clothing line of ethnic wear. From Art and Fashion, to Mathematics, to Power Engineering, she finally fell in love with Business as her career of choice, because she believes that understanding business opens many doors and allows people to carve out whatever path they can dream of.

Her life motto is “everything happens for a good reason,” and maintains a grateful outlook on life. On her time off, she is either studying, spending time with her family, or binge-watching short series on Netflix.

Kolby Klassen

Immigrant Business Support Officer

Kolby is a business support officer who has a passion for helping other entrepreneurs achieve their own business goals. While completing his Bachelor of Business Degree in Kamloops, Kolby launched his first crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.com which was successfully backed by over 100 people from 8 different countries. Since then, Kolby has continued to apply his interest in business. From creating multiple online stores, to working on his own fitness programs to sell online, Kolby constantly embraces an entrepreneurial spirit.

When Kolby is not working on business, you will probably find him hiking somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. He also enjoys mountain biking, snowboarding, and being outdoors.

Holly Atjecoutay

Director, Indigenous Business Services

Holly is Cree and Saulteaux from Cowessess First Nation in Treaty 4 Saskatchewan, but calls Treaty 7 and Mohkinstsis (Calgary) her home. As the Director, Indigenous Business Services at Business Link Alberta, she relies heavily on her fabulous team to provide assistance to Indigenous entrepreneurs in Alberta regarding the startup and expansion of their small businesses, connecting them to helpful resources while also providing guidance.

The Indigenous Services team facilitates workshops, hosts Indigenous-focused events, provides specific programming for Indigenous entrepreneurs and small businesses, and builds meaningful relationships in both rural and urban Indigenous communities. Holly guides the team to success, maintains important relationships and collaboration with partners, and ensures that every First Nations and Metis community in Alberta is aware of the services that we offer.

In her spare time Holly enjoys reading, writing, and collecting books, watching murder mysteries and going to the movie theater, is a fashion enthusiast, and also authors a blog on the Indigenous Woman’s Identity. Holly believes the art of storytelling and communication is one of the key factors in building a strong business. Holly is a mother to a young daughter, and reinforces the importance of pride and resilience in her First Nations heritage and culture.

April Massie

Indigenous Business Strategist

Representing the Treaty 6 territory April, was born and raised in Red Deer, Alberta and earned her Bachelor of Business Degree from Mount Royal University. She is a proud member of the Metis Nation of Alberta, and her objective is to connect Indigenous entrepreneurs to valuable resources to aid in their overall success. She is caring and passionate about her work and hopes to help as many people as possible.

In her spare time, she can be found spending time with her family and enjoying the outdoors picking rocks and collecting herbs. April is eager to learn new things and is excited to be joining the Business Link AB team.

Perry Kocis

Indigenous Procurement Program Coordinator

Perry is our Indigenous Procurement Program Coordinator who supports an increase in successful participation of Indigenous businesses in the Government of Canada’s procurement processes. While building awareness of this program with information sessions, Perry is the first point of contact with Indigenous businesses seeking business support, identifying those that are ‘procurement ready’ and connecting them with opportunities for Federal contracts.

Perry has worked in the oil and gas sector for 27 years as an Aboriginal Supply Chain Specialist with 10+ years’ experience in supply chain management systems and contract management. While working for industry, Perry has worked closely building relationships with approximately 130 First Nations and Métis communities across Canada.

Perry is a proud member of the Hollow Water First Nation located in Manitoba and presently makes his home in Airdrie, AB. Perry is married with 3 boys and while not traveling, he enjoys playing golf and spending time with his 2 granddaughters.

Shay Bachelet

Director, Marketing & Communications

Shay Bachelet believes in what Business Link does in supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs and is excited about being able to communicate that with the world. She attended the University of Alberta, graduating with a BSc in nutrition. Since graduation, she’s worked in research, started her own wellness consulting business, managed an interactive marketing team, and eventually found herself on the marketing team at Business Link after utilizing some of the resources and services that the organization had to offer while running her business.

Outside of work, Shay volunteers for the Momentum Walk-In Counselling society on the events committee – helping them with marketing, volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and organizes and facilitates community mindfulness classes to promote mental wellness and reduce urban isolation.

Kari Pedersen

Marketing Coordinator

Kari is passionate about the #YYCLocal community, helping clients transform their dreams into realities and creating successful collaborative relationships. She comes to Business Link with a background in public relations and event management. Working with Business Link sparks a drive in Kari because of her love for local business and supporting entrepreneurs with a dream. Kari completed her Bachelor of Communications majoring in Journalism at Mount Royal University in 2016 and holds a Fashion Marketing diploma from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Vancouver, BC. After graduating, Kari started her own marketing and branding consulting business where her passion and knowledge of supporting entrepreneurs continued to grow.

While out of the office, she enjoys binging TV shows with her partner and their pup, Koko. Kari also enjoys shopping in East Village and exploring the Calgary coffee scene with friends, and Koko, along for the ride. Keep an eye out for her exploring other cities as she loves to travel as often as possible.

Sarah Parrotta

Marketing Coordinator

Sarah has worked closely with many local businesses in Edmonton over the years, and is excited to bring those experiences to the Business Link team. A graduate of the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing, Sarah is passionate about community and connection building and supporting entrepreneurs and small business owners in her community.

Sarah’s weekends are spent discovering Edmonton’s best coffee shops and food spots, finding a new podcast to binge, teaching a cycle class or rock climbing. You’ll find her taking a drive out to the mountains for some fresh air or traveling somewhere new whenever she can.

Kate Lord

Marketing Coordinator

Kate has a long history working with small businesses and is passionate about supporting Alberta entrepreneurs through Business Link. After completing her Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Media Studies at the University of Calgary, Kate worked for a Marketing and Communications Agency. There she worked alongside a small team developing marketing and communication strategies for businesses, festivals, and large scale events in Calgary and is excited to bring this experience to Business Link.

Outside of the office, Kate loves escaping to the mountains, exploring new restaurants, trying out new recipes and spending time with family and friends.

Marissa Schmidt

Partnerships and Sponsorships Manager

Marissa is a strong advocate for the small business community and understands the tremendous importance of small business to our economy. She believes that supporting the entrepreneurs in our communities is the key to seeing our province through difficult economic times. Marissa has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and has had the opportunity to work in a few different roles on our marketing team, including Marketing Coordinator, Marketing Manager, and her current position.

Outside of work, Marissa spends as much of her time as possible with her family, including her young daughter, her dog Kona, and her husband. She also enjoys movies, reading, sewing, and frequenting Edmonton’s amazing small shops, local restaurants, and outdoor festivals.

Madison Zayak

Web Designer

Madison is the Designer on our Business Link team who is passionate about all things design including UX/UI, graphic, interior, and landscape design. With a Bachelor of Design from MacEwan University and a vast array of experience from working with small local businesses to a large financial institution, Madison is always ready to jump into any project she is given. As a strong believer in the power of diversity, inclusion and empathy, Madison hopes to find a connection with everyone she meets and would love to chat with you about your ideas, ongoing projects or future plans.

Bakhtawar Pastakia

Digital Economy Program Manager

Bakhtawar is our Digital Economy Program Manager and brings her passion as an experienced leader, entrepreneur, mentor, and project manager to the benefit of Albertans. A strategic thought leaders and disruptor, she is zealous about governance and serving a greater cause. Her global professional experience spans across a few cities and many industries, which led to organizations achieving operational efficiency and enhanced stakeholder engagement. She believes in continuous learning and uplifting the talent and skills of colleagues she works with.

She makes time to volunteer, locally and internationally, loves tending to her kitchen garden with her family and hits the ski slopes in the winter.

Lori Todd

Controller

Lori has a firm grip on Business Link’s finance, administration, facilities, and information technology (hence the title!). Lori has extensive experience in payroll, accounting, operations, human resources and facility management, after spending 12 years as the Northern Alberta Administration Manager for an International Company based here in Edmonton.

At home, Lori and her husband Dave own a piece of land where they have loads of animals, including horses, African geese, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and the very popular “fainting” goats. Lori also loves to garden and enjoys putting her creative spin on renovation projects.

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