Breakout Session Speakers

We are pleased to announce that the Breakout Session Speakers have been finalized and we are ready to introduce them to you! Read below for previews on some of the many exciting speakers we have planned for you to experience on Thursday, March 22nd.

Qamar Ahmed: Toronto-Dominion Bank in Grande Prairie, Alberta.
2013 Graduate of the University of Saskatchewan, Edwards School of Business (Finance) currently working as a Manager Commercial Services at TD Commercial Banking.
“My primary role is to generate new business, adjudicate financing packages within Bank provided credit limits and people management. Additional functions include ensuring our unit remains within the Bank’s risk appetite and managing a portfolio of complex credit files. Industries covered in our region range from Oil/Gas, Forestry, Agriculture and Retail.”


Naveen Ahuja: 

My name is Naveen Ahuja and I am the Community Manager for Grande Prairie Community. I have been with this organization for over 10 years and have worked in several different roles from Ontario to Alberta. Mentoring and helping develop the skills of peers is something I enjoy passionately. I have learnt from some excellent leaders at RBC during my tenure and continue to learn skills as our organization evolves.
One of our senior leaders at RBC Janice Fukakusa has said in one of her interviews “Never focus on the next job, instead work hard in your current role and the next position will take care of itself. Embrace new challenges, which will help broaden your experience and expand your portfolio of accomplishments. This might bring you out of your comfort zone, but it will allow you to acquire the experience and credentials to make yourself a top candidate on anyone’s list.”


Timothy J. Burnham: Gurevitch Burnham Law Office
Tim’s first degree was a Business degree from the University of Alberta, where he majored in Management and organization and minored in Marketing. He graduated with distinction in 2003. While completing his business degree, he spent 3 years working in a commercial real estate brokerage in downtown Edmonton, Alberta. Tim then went on to complete a law degree at the University of Alberta, from which he graduated in 2006. While in law school, he worked as a residential Realtor for 3 years. After law school, Tim and his family moved to Grande Prairie, Alberta in 2006 and he started working at Gurevitch Headon & Associates, which later became Gurevitch Burnham Law Ofice.

During his first few years practicing law, he focused primarily on family law and civil litigation, gaining a great deal of experience in these areas and becoming qualified as a Mediator and collaborative family law lawyer. More recently, Tim’s practice has shifted from what was primarily litigation to more of a solicitor practice. He now spends the majority of his time helping clients with corporate matters, estate planning and estate administration, residential and commercial real estate transactions, and his family law practice largely focuses on mediations and high net worth matrimonial property divisions. Tim credits his early experience in litigation in allowing him to provide a range of strategic options for clients who are trying to effectively manage business concerns, deal with estate issues, or real estate transactions. His approach is flexible, he strives to use all of the tools that are available to assist his clients in achieving their goals through negotiation and sometimes through litigation.


Bobbi Chamberlain: GPRC Human Resources

“A dynamic and passionate Human Resources specialist with a flair for mentoring and teaching, Bobbi Chamberlain will eagerly share with you her knowledge, lessons and tell stories about her more than 20 years of experience in Human Resources form Forestry, Construction, Engineering, Oil and Gas, and Public Service.”


Danielle Commandeur: Manager/Business Owner of Commandeur Mechanical Limited
Danielle and her husband Stacy started Commandeur Mechanical Ltd. in the fall of 2013. Now in their 5th year of business ownership, they are starting to see positive returns. Danielle is an Alumni of GPRC and Athabasca University with a degree in Business Management. If you are planning to start your own business or be a business manager, join Danielle as she speaks candidly about the trials and tribulations of being a small business owner. Bring your questions, as questions get rewarded in this session!


Heather Crichton: GPRC Aboriginal Program

The Aboriginal Administration interdisciplinary program is designed to provide students with basic business knowledge, an introduction to Indigenous studies, and development of essential skills for critical thinking, research, writing and planning. Graduates will be prepared to pursue entry-level careers in a wide range of organizations and businesses within an Indigenous context.
The program blends GPRC Business and Indigenous courses to bring flexibility and robustness to the program.


Bill Given: City of Grande Prairie

Born and raised in Grande Prairie, and first elected in 2001 Mayor Bill Given holds the distinction of being the youngest person ever elected to Grande Prairie’s City Council at the age of 24.
After serving 3 terms (from 2001 to 2010) as a councillor, he was successful for in his bid for the mayor’s seat in the 2010 election when he became the youngest mayor in the city’s history. And he was subsequently re-elected for a second term in 2013.
In addition to his council duties, Mayor Given sits on the board of directors of Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (otherwise known as ALERT) and on the AUMA Municipal Governance Committee.
Mayor Given has a Certificate in Local Government Administration from the University of Alberta and recently completed a Masters of Arts in Leadership at Royal Roads University in Victoria.
Bill is a proud Rotarian and a former Rotary Youth Exchange student whose professional career includes a marketing consultancy and employment in the technology sector.
Mayor Given and his wife Susan, have two elementary aged children, daughter, Mila and son, Paja
(pronounced: pie-AH).


Leah Holler: Community Futures Grande Prairie
Leah Holler is a proud supporter of small business. She is the training coordinator as well as Business Development Officer for Community Futures Grande Prairie & Region. She has been with the organization for 14 year and is proud to be from the Grande Prairie, Alberta region. Leah has worked with entrepreneurs, and aspiring entrepreneurs, throughout her career and loves the challenge of working with start-ups and existing business. Each business faces new challenges; be that growth, uncertainty, stagnation, change, government policy & regulation, supply chain management, or Leah’s personal favourite, strategic thinking & problem solving. She loves the excitement the constantly changing challenges. Leah started a Sole proprietorship in 2011, as a project coordinator for large annual events such as Northern Alberta Youth Entrepreneurship Camp. In 2016 Leah obtained her business coaching certificate and started Dragonfly Wisdom Business Coach. This puts Leah face to face with some of the region’s most exciting second-stage businesses and business leaders.


Taj Johnson and Yuri Smith: Grassroots Realty
Taj Johnson, “I am the true definition of a born and raised Caribbean guy with my outgoing, stress-free and hard working personality. I moved to Grande Prairie, Alberta, via Yellowknife, Northwest Territories in 1999. I studied Business at GPRC, where I originally met my friend & current Business Partner Yuri Smith. From there, I proceeded to work in a fast-paced, respected and family oriented company, HiTech Business Systems. In my 13 years with Hi-tech, I believed in providing top-quality solutions and always put the customer first. Through these efforts, I was able to build a solid foundation of loyal clients that still support me today. I have always been passionate about working with people and building lasting relationships, so when the opportunity to partner in Grassroots Realty Group Ltd. arose, I couldn’t help but dive in. Its everything I have worked so hard to achieve during this working life in Grande Prairie. Grassroots is going to allow us to take Real Estate marketing to a whole new level! Bound by no rules, limitations, corporate structures. Our advantage will be supported by teamwork and limitless imaginations that allows us to serve our clients all over the Peace Country. We also take pride in our strong community ties and being able to give back to the place we choose to live, work and play! We’re here…

Yuri Smith, “I was born and raised in the Peace Country, and took my Business Admin Degree from GPRC, where I met my business partner Taj Johnson. I proudly returned home after pursuing my Business Management from the University of Lethbridge, where I began my career under the mentorship of Darlene Repka-Smith – Grassroots Realty Group (the best in the business). I am passionate about real estate, technology, Marketing, Architecture, international real estate, board Sports, the mountains, travel, coffee and fitness. I love helping people realize their dreams, particularly first-time home buyers.

In my career in Real Estate I have realized many dreams, and had a lot of fun along the way. Some highlights of my career have been representing the industry leading Harker Homes, founding Gp3d- Gp3d Marketing Solutions Inc., being nominated from the Grande Prairie & District Chamber of Commerce for both ‘Small Business of the Year’ (2016), and ‘New Business of the Year’ (2015), speaking at business conferences in both Grande Prairie, Alberta and Red Deer, Making the REP Young Guns Top 100 Realtors in Canada under 35 (2017) and most importantly founding Grassroots Realty Group in 2017.

Grassroots Realty is our opportunity to change the real estate marketing game. With unlimited creativity, passion and local business contacts we deliver better results for out clients. Our office is like nothing Alberta has ever seen more closely mimicking a Silicon Valley type work space. Technology and outside the box thinking are going to allow us to keep our saws sharp and out clients happy. Join the Movement.”


Peter Lepinski: Business Innovation Group
Xtreem Ownership, Be the Leader
After my education at the University of Regina in business, I honed my leadership and organizational skills in the Canadian Forces, serving with, and leading, NATO member troops in areas around the globe. As a veteran, I entered the corporate business world and achieved significant financial results for the business organizations I worked for. In the mid-90’s I owned my first small business, and have personally experienced many of the things I talk about when working with my clients. One of my corporate roles included a position as a District Sales Manager for a national corporation ranked 318 in North America, with over 8 billion dollars in yearly sales. In 2009, I became a Certified Business Coach and opened an office in Grande Prairie, bringing business coaching to the Grande Prairie market. In 2012 I also became a Certified Executive Coach. My passion is working with business owners and leaders in building their businesses. As a Certified Executive Business Coach I provide coaching and mentoring services to small and medium sized businesses. I have a passion for helping businesses like yours grow and become profitable so you, the business owner, can enjoy the lifestyle you deserve. As your business coach and advisor, I will help you deliver the results you desire using proven tools, methodologies, and systems that have been tested and perfected with tens of thousands of businesses worldwide, for more than two decades. I will hold you accountable for your results and just like a sports coach, push you to perform at optimal levels.


Shawna Miller: Business Entrepreneur
Shawna is an entrepreneur and business‐woman with a decade and a half of experience. As the owner of Subway Restaurants across Northwest Alberta, an oilfield service company, and a property investment company, Shawna’s varied experience includes incredible success. Starting out 15 years ago, Shawna and her husband, Jason, bought 3 stores. Today, they have grown their organization to 17 locations employing over 175 people. They have won a variety of awards including Franchise of the Year in 2004 for Canada’s Western Provinces. They have also received awards for Highest Sales for a Multi‐Unit Owner across the United States and Canada in 2006, 2008, and 2010. Shawna has received a degree in Economics from the University of Alberta: Studying in Canada and a degree in Commerce from Athabasca University. Shawna has volunteered on a number of not‐for‐profit boards including those of the Grande Prairie Alberta United Way Alberta Northwest, Tiny Hands of Hope, Business Link and The Alberta Heart and Stroke Foundation. She served on the Grande Prairie & District Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors for 8 years, including 5 years on the Executive Committee and 2 years as Chair. Shawna is currently the 1st vice chair of The Alberta Chamber of Commerce. Shawna and Jason have 2 daughters and have lived in the Grande Prairie region their whole lives.


Rob Petrone: President Grande Prairie Petroleum Association

I was born and raised in a small town in southern Alberta. ( Pincher Creek). After graduating high school I began my career working for Shell Canada. ( in 1977) . After 3 years at Shell I went to work for Imperial oil SW of Calgary from there transfer to Norman Well in the NWT. In 1990 I transferred to GP. In 1997 Imperial oil sold their interests to Ulster Petroleum 2 years later Ulser sold to Anderson Exploration then 2 years later Devon purchased Anderson. I worked as a district Superintendent at Devon until 2014 when Canadian natural purchased the Canadian conventional operation from Devon.
I’m married and have 2 children. My son is a business owner here in GP, my daughter is a social worker in Calgary. I have 2 great grandchildren living here in GP.
Since moving to GP I have worked hard to be part of our amazing community , I feel strongly one has to give back to the communities we live and work in. I have sat on the steering committed at the college for power engineering and the foundation board, I’ve been the campaign chair for united way, I’ve sat on the board at the chamber of commerce and hospital foundation. I’m also the president of the GP Petroleum association.


Tab Pollock: Investment/Insurance

Tab Pollock was born and raised in Grande Prairie. His wife and 2 grown Children and 2 Grand Children live, work, and play here in the Peace Country. Tab has 22 years of Retail Experience, he owns and operates Three Small Businesses here including a billboard Advertising Company an Office Equipment Business and an Insurance & Investment Business as a Financial Advisor.
Tab is a Partner and Advisor at Neil and Associates a Brokerage that serves over 6000 individual clients and 350 group benefit plans.
Tab served 5 Years on the Board of Directors for the Grande Prairie and District Chamber of Commerce including Chair of the Board. Tab also during that time chaired the Policy Committee, Membership committee and the Advocacy Committee. Tab was also on the Executive for the Alberta Chamber of Commerce as Chair of the Board and has also served as Chair of Policy and Treasurer on that Board.
Tab was appointed to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors to represent Alberta’s Interests and ensure our voice is heard on the national stage.
Tab is a Certified Dale Carnegie Instructor for both The “Communications and Human Relations” Program as well as the “Leadership Training for Managers “program. He has instructed those programs in Grande Prairie for the past 15 years.
Tab Sat on the Board of Governors at the Grande Prairie Regional College and is enjoyed the collaboration between the staff, faculty, students, Government and the board to allow them to Join the Fairview , Grande Cache and the Jasper, Hinton and Edson corridor to the GPRC umbrella. Tab served as Chair of the Compliance and continuity Committee and Vice Chair of the board during his term.
Tab is the current Vice Chair and Board member of Advocis (Association of Financial Advisors or Canada) Northern Albert & BC Chapter.
In his spare time he volunteers with The Swan city Rotary club, he serves on the Program Committee, working at other events throughout the year and his Highlight was driving Fire trucks to Mazatlan.
Committee work and community service are Tab’s Passion.
Tab Believes in Giving Back and is proud to have served his community and region!


Cris Seppola: nine10 Inc. Marketing
Cris is a partner in local marketing agency nine10 Incorporated and is celebrating her 13th anniversary in the business. She is also proud to be a part of several community organizations, including the Grande Prairie & District Chamber of Commerce board of directors as Chair, the Community Futures Grande Prairie & Region board of directors as Director at Large, and GPRC’s Business Administration Advisory Committee as Past Chair. When possible, she also volunteers for non-profit organizations both personally and through nine10. Outside of that, Cris can most likely be found hanging out with her husband Richard and her whippet Olive… or wandering greenhouses satisfying her constant search for unique plants.


Vince Vavrek: Partner at Fletcher Mudryk & Co. LLP Chartered Professional Accountant
C.P.A., F.C.A., C.G.A., CFP, ICD.D.
Vince is past chair of the Grande Prairie Regional College Board of Governors and is also past chair of the audit committee. He was a past Board member of the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) and also past chair of the audit committee. He is currently a member of the Alberta Blue Cross Board and audit committee. Other Board experience includes past chair of the Grande Prairie & District Chamber of Commerce, Director of the Grande Prairie Regional College Alumni/Foundation, Grande Prairie United Way and Founder of the Community Foundation of Northwestern Alberta. He co-presented on board governance at the International Policy Governance conference in June, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario, and co-presented on Post-Secondary governance at the ACCC conference in Ottawa, Ontario in May, 2014. Mr. Vavrek holds the professional designations of Fellow of Chartered Professional Accountants, Fellow of Chartered Accountants, of which he belongs to both the Alberta and British Columbia Institutes, Certified General Accountant, Certified Financial Planner and Institute of Corporate Director Designation.