Innovation Factory Events

 Partner Events

 Community Events

Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Having it All: Challenges in Female Entrepreneurship (April Lunch ‘n Learn)

April 18, 2017 @ 11:30 am - 1:00 pm

$5 – $10


2017 has been a year for addressing the challenges women face in entrepreneurship and the startup world. Female-only accelerators and funding initiatives are catching on. But are these initiatives the only answer to a myriad of challenges? What are the larger issues that female entrepreneurs face?

Join Innovation Factory and The Forge for a stimulating panel discussion as we unpack this complex topic. This Lunch ‘n Learn session will feature an inspiring group of female leaders and entrepreneurs leading the discussion. Our goal is to investigate both the hurdles and advantages of being a female entrepreneur, to challenge and inspire the next generation.

Do women bring unique strengths to entrepreneurship? Are women less likely to put themselves forward as experts or mentors? Is there really a funding bias towards men-founded startups and companies or is it something more?

Bring your curiosity and an open mind as we begin to explore these and many more important issues with our panel of expert entrepreneurs!


  • 11:30 am – 12: 00 pm
    Lunch & Networking
  • 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
    Female Leaders and Entrepreneurs Panel
  • 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
    Dessert & Networking


  • Margaret Coons | CEO, Nuts for Cheese
  • Jennifer Fields | Tech Company Sales Leader
  • Karen Grant | Executive Director, Angel One Investor Network
  • Gail Mercer-MacKay | President, Mercer-MacKay Solutions Inc.
  • MODERATOR: Julie Ellis | Co-Founder, Mabel’s Labels; President, Julie Ellis and Co.; Creator of “Ignite and Scale”



Margaret Coons | CEO, Nuts for Cheese

Margaret Coons of Nuts for Cheese

Nuts for Cheese is a true passion project and sharing the products with customers has been a labour of love. Founder Margaret Coons worked as a chef at Veg Out Restaurant in London, Ontario for five years prior to starting the business. After completing her undergraduate degree, an Honours Specialization in English Language and Literature, at the University of Western Ontario, she shifted her focus to fromology, preparing plant-based foods, and sharing her passion for cooking with others. In recent years, Margaret has completed Rouxbe’s Plant-Based Professional Certification, appeared on Rogers London daytime television with creative vegan cooking demonstrations, and offered cooking lessons and classes, including appearances at London’s Veg Fest and the Covent Garden Market Kitchen. Margaret has provided private catering; helped other culinary establishments create vegan menus, and now appears at the Western Fair Farmer’s Market every weekend to sell her popular cashew cheeses.

Jennifer Fields | Tech company sales Leader

Jennifer Fields of Kijiji/Ebay

For over 17 years, Jennifer Fields has held roles focused on business development and sales for national and global media companies including Alliance Atlantis (now Shaw Media), Rogers, Transcontinental (TC), Yahoo!, Mode Media, Olive Media (Torstar), and Kijiji (eBay). Jennifer contributed to the Advertising Club of Toronto for 7 years on the Internet Day committee, including Chairman from 2013 and 2014. She is a graduate of York University with a B.F.A. in Music. Jennifer stays busy outside of work as a mother to very active and entertaining twin toddler boys.

Karen Grant | Executive Director, Angel One Investor Network

Karen Grant of Angel One Investors Network

Karen has been instrumental in planning and launching Toronto Angel Group in 2001, Northern Ontario Angels in 2005 and Angel One Investor Network in 2011. She is very proud of the success realized by Northern Ontario Angels and Angel One as top performing angel groups serving the startup community. Karen Grant is an entrepreneur, company director and mentor. She has founded companies, launched investment funds and has worked in the commercialization field with FedNor, FedDev, Ontario Centres of Excellence, SDTC, IRAP, and universities around Ontario. Earlier in her career she led and grew the Toronto Venture Group, a not-for- profit organization with the mandate to “bridge the gap between entrepreneurs and capital” working with hundreds of companies that were seeking capital. Karen’s corporate experience includes 12 years with IBM Canada where she had roles in sales, marketing and communications. Karen enjoys the outdoors, some creative pursuits, cooking and entertaining. She and her husband of 30 years still enjoy each other’s company and travel together as often as they can.

Gail Mercer-Mackay | President, Mercer-MacKay Solutions Inc.

Gail Mercer-MacKay of Mercer-MacKay Digital Storytelling

Gail Mercer-MacKay is the proud founder and Chief Storyteller at Mercer-MacKay Digital Storytelling, an organization focused on creating amazing content and closed loop marketing campaigns for technology firms. With double-digit growth year-over-year, the Mercer-MacKay client list includes many of the world’s leading technology organizations. Gail’s passion is helping companies “get above the noise” by telling stories of transformation – how technology is changing people’s lives and positively influencing the world we live in.

In parallel, Gail also founded the “6 Figure Freelance Writer”, a community that trains writers how to write for technology companies and how to successfully start and grow a freelance business. Prior to founding Mercer-MacKay Digital Storytelling, Gail ran sales and marketing for a Microsoft ISV, taking the organization from start-up to a multi-million dollar software company with clients across North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Gail credits a volunteer philosophy as a large part of her success. As a board member and past president of IAMCP – International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners, she has been able to meet and do business with technology firms from around the world. She also enjoys coaching tech entrepreneurs looking to start and grow their business at the RIC, an incubator in Mississauga.

Gail has been recognized for both her community service as well as her business success, including a Microsoft Canada Impact Award, a Microsoft WPC Global Finalist, an IAMCP Partner-to-Partner Award, a Stevie International Award, YWCA Woman of Distinction and the RBC Woman Entrepreneur of the Year nomination for 2016. Gail enjoys skiing, golf, walking her dogs and learning to play Blackbird on her Gibson guitar.



Julie Ellis | Co-Founder, Mabel’s Labels

Julie Ellis of Julie Ellis and Co.

As a co-founder of award-winning Mabel’s Labels, one of Canada’s greatest small business success stories, and with 15 years in the financial services sector, Julie Ellis now shares her experience and expertise with other entrepreneurs helping them gain clarity to accelerated success. Julie’s area of specialization is working with product-based e-commerce businesses, and for them, she has created “Ignite and Scale”, a process that ignites companies by creating operating leverage to scale higher profits.

Bringing new business ideas to life is also part of Julie’s commitment to advising start-ups, and small and medium sized businesses, as the current Board Chair of the Hamilton-based Innovation Factory. She is also a member of the Angel One Investment Network, a not-for- profit organization, which is one of the most active angel investors’ groups in Canada.


April 18, 2017
11:30 am - 1:00 pm
$5 – $10
Event Categories:


McMaster Innovation Park
175 Longwood Road South
Hamilton, Ontario L8P0A1 Canada


Innovation Factory