Building the economy of the future

 Direct Global is an e-commerce company which focuses on developing and operating platforms, allowing purchasers to leverage collective purchasing powers to reduce the cost of procuring raw materials, finished goods and services.

The company’s proprietary web-based platform enables medium and large corporations to harness collective purchasing power to reduce purchasing and shipping costs, whilst its subsidiary, Direct Co-ops, focuses on helping small and medium-sized businesses.

Direct Co-ops has developed a web-based platform that works with local business associations and other to connect local small and medium enterprises, and enable them to aggregate orders for goods and services from local and national manufacturers, suppliers and service providers.

The theory behind this is to access far better procurement rates by utilizing group purchasing power, thereby allowing groups of smaller businesses access to the preferential rates large businesses can negotiate with suppliers. This fits into Direct Co-ops’ wider business ideology – to create a sharing economy which creates a level playing field for both small and large businesses, encouraging small and local businesses to work together for a shared good.

Moreover, by consolidating shipping, the company helps participating businesses reduce the environmental impact of their supply chains. Direct Global and Direct Co-ops have been featured on Bloomberg-BNN, Yahoo! Finance, Business Insider and received mention in “Everything for Everyone”, Nathan Schneider’s seminal text on the modern business cooperative movement.

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Our Focuses

Our Team


Ahmed Attia

President,CEO, and founder

Ahmed Attia is a successful serial entrepreneur with a passion for helping others overcome commercial barriers to success through co-operation.

In 1996, Ahmed founded International Business Exchange, a trading platform that enabled residents of developing nations to more effectively trade their commodities for finished goods and supplies by bartering, directly and indirectly, rather than paying in foreign currencies. As the project grew, it was re-branded as “Unibex” (Universal Business Exchange) and formed many effective partnerships, including with the American Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. As Unibex grew, Ahmed became concerned that it was straying from his initial vision by increasingly prioritizing the interests of large corporate partners.

Ahmed left Unibex in 1997 to found 416Direct, an internet-based buying group that would leverage economies of scale to increase the purchasing power of local small and medium-sized businesses (“SME”s) – 416 being the local area code for Toronto. However, despite considerable work in developing the 416Direct platform, SME owners were slow to appreciate the opportunity this model offered – many simply relying on the pricing offered through big box stores. In 2002, Ahmed put 416Direct on hold to help found Wiztel, a Canadian wholesale long-distance licensed communications company.

In 2011, Ahmed returned to 416Direct. As he updated the technology underlying the platform, he found a much stronger interest than before from associations that represent SMEs. A turning point came in 2013 when Ahmed became involved in community opposition to the development of a big box retailer in Toronto’s landmark ‘Kensington Market’ neighbourhood – long the home of small, family-run retail businesses. His engagement with this community and the owners of its many small businesses helped launch 416Direct. A key feature of the model that empowers SMEs is the ability of participants to collectively determine the products to be purchased. The company expanded into a new region in 2015, with the creation of 519Direct (based in the Kitchener-Waterloo tech-hub west of Toronto). Since then, Ahmed has introduced his web-based co-operative purchasing model to entrepreneurs and SME owners around the world. By 2017, what had started as a discrete, local project had evolved into Direct Global – a global solution for delivering the purchasing power of large scale orders to SMEs with over 15,000 participating businesses. In September 2017, Ahmed and Direct Global were profiled on Bloomberg-BNN in North America.

Ahmed remains an active community member, sitting on the advisory boards of the following companies:

1. Iristel (Canada’s fastest-growing carrier and the largest facilities-based local voice network extending Coast-to-Coast) and Kepler Communications (a Canadian satellite telecommunications provider that aims to deliver in-space connectivity to support the future space economy)

2. The Toronto Clinic (Canada’s premier corporate executive medical clinic)

3. Stemedica Cell Technologies (best in class FDA-approved allogeneic adult stem cell manufacturer in the USA)

4. Resdev Tax Consultants (top global R&D consulting firm serving Canada, UK & USA)

5. ConnectHub (next generation conference and business networking platform)

Danny Golnik

Vice president and co-founder

Danny Golnik is an entrepreneur with background in computer science and international commerce. In 2009, Danny founded Orchidea Group focusing on imports and exports and supplying to diverse construction projects in Siberia and  Caribbean islands. In 2011, Danny pursued opportunities in the road construction sector, where he focused on bridging the various gaps in order to realize business opportunities for Canadian companies on the Eastern European, Middle Eastern and other markets. Notable projects included construction of one of the first sections of the Silk Road (Belt and Road Initiative) in Central-Southern Russia. During this time, Danny’s spell in the agriculture sector was particularly important in forming his understanding of industrial farming and its derivatives.

Samer Bishay


Samer Bishay is President and CEO of Iristel & Ice Wireless, Canada’s leading provider of wireless and wireline IP services. As Iristel’s founder, Samer led the company from a small startup to an international telecommunications service provider with domestic infrastructure licenses on three continents (North America, Europe and Africa). Samer oversees global and domestic strategies for Iristel and Ice Wireless and their various brands such as Sugar Mobile. He ensures business objectives are in line with telecommunications trends; guaranteeing customers continued success in highly competitive markets. Well known in the telecommunications field, Samer is a frequent contributor to various public platforms; from newspapers and television to social media and industry websites. Samer also actively participates in many public forums that are helping shape Canadian broadband policy; a key to Canada’s future, especially related to rural broadband development and bridging the digital divide.
A licensed jet pilot, Samer was appointed Honorary Colonel of 34 Signal Regiment of the Canadian Armed Forces in 2019. In this role, Colonel Bishay serves as an advocate for the Regiment and the CAF in general; and he helps strengthen the military’s bond with the community. Prior to founding Iristel, Samer was a lead systems engineer in the Radarsat program at the Canadian Space Agency. He is a graduate of the Space & Communications program at York University, with an Honors Bachelor of Science Degree.

Zoran Cocov



Holmes H. Stoner


Mr. Stoner has spent the last 18 years as Founder and Chairman of the Pacific Rim Chamber of Commerce and the American International Business Council. His primary mission was to set up and administrate international business development, consulting services and business relations in the major emerging markets throughout the world. He personally manages the China National Tourism membership and the CCPIT (China Council for the Promotion of International Trade), KOTRA and JETRO and simultaneously assists in all other international operations of the company specializing in China and most of Asia and most of the Americas.

He has worked with most PacRim Governments closely setting up promotions for Trade, Tourism, Technology Transfer and Cultural Exchange Programs as well as financing programs.

Mr Stoner has been lecturing and giving workshops and seminars internationally for over 20 years and is recognized as an international trade expert in many business and government circles in the Pacific Rim Trade Arena. Prior to this position, Mr.Stoner was the Senior Vice President/Founding Partner of Artesa Marketing Group based in Studio City, California. Artesa Marketing Group served over 50 major fortune 500 companies assisting them through their major advertising agencies and public relations companies in establishing communications and promotions programs with the exploding populations of ethnic groups in the USA. Companies like McDonald’s, AT&T, United Airlines, Philip Morris USA, Century 21 and Domino’s Pizza spent over $25 million annually through his company in their desire to reach these population segments. Other programs led to expanding into the international markets throughout the world in multimedia applications.

Program syndication in sports, movies, and music were also very much a part of Mr. Stoner’s duties helping many large companies enter the international broadcasting and internet markets. Mr. Stoner originally started in advertising sales in foreign language radio and television and was a principal in the first Asian radio station in the USA, KAZN AM 1300 in Pasadena, California as well as a pioneer in the International Channel on national television in the Americas. He worked closely with producers, production and post production people creating promotional campaigns for his clients. It was here that he made strong connections with foreign broadcasting network executives and advertising clients later expanding into IPTV and internet streaming programs. Mr. Stoner has served on many executive panels and committees in the last 15 years giving insights on multi-cultural international business relations and international women’s issues . He has been given national recognition many times for his expertise in these areas being interviewed over 20 times in major publications like Venture magazine, L.A. Business Journal, San Francisco Business Journal, Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Examiner and Seattle Times; not to mention 3 full interviews on CNN and CNBC’s Wall Street Report. He has a degree in Marketing and Marketing Communications from UCLA and is a graduate of the KIIS Broadcast Workshop. During the .com era, Mr Stoner served on the Board of Directors of FutureVest Securities and Web Capital Group helping many high tech and IT companies raise money and go public including several in Singapore, China and India. As of 2007 his latest accomplishments include co publishing of the PAIG of China (Official Procurement and Investment Guide) and to handle all international relations with the The Summit Club of Beijing, an exclusive millionaire’s residence near the Beijing 2008 Olympic Village. Other project include the launch of high definition internet television worldwide as on of the limited partners based in Vancouver Canada.

In 2009 Mr Stoner was instrumental in assisting in the development and execution of the 3rd World CEO Roundtable Conference in Beijing focused in the Sustainable Environmental Programs around the world working hand in hand with various United Nations organizations in the field. He helped bring small and medium sized businesses into the movement and got them to support the Green Movement in the Pacific Rim.

At the present time most of his efforts are concentrated in promoting issues with water, food and travel throughout the region and helping members expand their business internationally through his network of high level contacts and connections.

Steve Anthony

Director of Media and Marketing

Steve Anthony is a Canadian television host. He gained attention throughout Canada as a MuchMusic host, or “VJ” from May 1987 to November 1995. He was born Stephen Anthony Gomes on 2 April 1959 in Montreal, Quebec. In 1986 Anthony moved from Montreal’s CKGM to take the drive shift on Toronto’s Q107. He left the following year to join Much Music.
Since the year 1986, the name Steve Anthony has been recognized in media-markets around the world for his accomplishments and high standards. In Canada, Steve Anthony is one of the founding VJ’s of MuchMusic, which, along with MTV, pioneered music-video television in North America. During his tenure at MuchMusic, an unprecedented 9-and-a-half year, Anthony also became the morning show host at 102.1 CFNY in Toronto, followed by several other radio stops, including CHOM 97.7 in Montreal.
All through his on and off camera career, Steve Anthony became one of the country’s most sought after voice over talents. His dynamic and unique range allows him to compliment most any commercial and promotional campaign. On the commercial side, whether it be sophisticated high-ticket items, straight retail, or the some of that wonderful, creative quirkiness many of today’s ad agencies and clients demand, Steve Anthony’s voice sets brands apart and brings them to a new level. Yes, your station’s image needs to cut through; Steve Anthony’s voice will drive it home. Is your format Rock? Light? Country? News? Sports? Character-driven? Listen to the demos and you’ll find a fit.
Steve is currently the television co-host of CP24 Breakfast, owned by Bell Media, one of Canada’s largest broadcasters. As in his voice and radio work, Steve Anthony connects with listeners and viewers, who picked him as the GTA 2011 Top Choice Awards Television Personality of the Year. In addition to many other individual markets, Steve Anthony is also the signature voice of CTV Two, where his tones can be heard in every single market in the country.
He joined the CP24 Breakfast team in March 2009, helping wake up Toronto with co-host Melissa Grelo. Steve Anthony grew up in Montreal and landed his first gig at the local radio station CFOX-AM. His rich on-air voice and charismatic presence enabled him to build an award-winning career that has spanned over three decades in some of Canada’s most sought-after broadcast positions.
Some of the highlights in Steve Anthony’s career include 1986-1987, Q107 Toronto afternoon show; being one of the first MuchMusic VJ’s from 1987-1996; 1987-1989, CFNY-FM, Toronto radio morning show; co-hosting Toronto’s Breakfast Television from 1989-1994; hosting the Morning Radio Show for CHOM-FM Montreal from 1998-2001; 2001: A Space Road Odyssey television special; 2001-2009, Mix 99.9, Toronto radio morning and afternoon show; being a judge panelist for the top rated MuchMusic VJ Search in 2006.
Steve is a loyal supporter of the Hospital for Sick Kids, Princess Margaret Hospital, Rally for Kids with Cancer, Strike Out Cancer, plus many other local and national charities. Steve Anthony and his wife Tanya are dedicated pet owners to two-and-a half dogs and three-and-a-half cats,three very overweight felines. Steve Anthony has been voted for and awarded the Top Choice Award for “Top Television Personality in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area)” for the past two years, 2011 and 2012.
In August 2018, after learning of the downfall of so many “mom and pop” businesses over the years, Steve decided to join Direct Global / Direct Co-ops in their efforts to “change the world” and save the backbone of every community: its small businesses.

Brendan Denovan

Director Co-op Initiatives

Brendan is a strategic communications and public relations professional. As an entrepreneur, Brendan founded a communications company specialized in marketing, web development, communications strategies, branding, and graphic design in 1996. In 2013, he joined Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada to manage the communications and public relations program, which promotes the co-operative business model and advocates for an economy that puts people before profit.

In that role, Brendan was responsible for planning and executing communications strategies to advance and develop co-operatives and mutuals in Canada, including championing new and innovative ideas. Brendan also led CMC’s advocacy communications, member engagement, events programming, and policy research for more than five years. Brendan remains active and engaged with a global network of co-operative developers and advocates who are working with emerging co-operative business models on digital platforms.

Deepak Baghel


Ian Lagarde

Director of Media and Marketing

Erin Blaak

Director of Real Estate

Meghan Eck

Director of Sales

Alessandro Castellan

Director of UI/ux


Nicholas Thadaney


Mr. Nicholas Thadaney, also known as Nick, was President and Chief Executive Officer of Global Equity Capital Markets, TMX Group limited (“TMX Group”) until January 16, 2018. He left the TMX Group Limited on February 28,2018 after six weeks in a special advisory capacity to ensure a smooth transition. Mr. Thadaney has extensive business, leadership and client development experience, as well as a strong commitment to developing superior value propositions from the perspective of the market and TMX Group clients, both in Canada and globally. Prior to joining TMX Group in 2015, Mr. Thadaney was Chief Executive Officer of Investment Technology Group, Inc. (“ITG”) Canada Corp. since 2005. Previously, he was Director of Sales and Trading of ITG Canada’s Institutional Equities business from 2000 to 2005.Before his tenure at ITG, Mr. Thadaney was Vice-President, Business Development (Equities) at C.T. Securities Inc., which was later acquired by T.D. Securities Inc. in 1999. He was Director of Aequitas Innovations Inc. He is also a Member of several industry associations and registered charities, including the Investment Industry Association of Canada, the Young President Association (Ontario Chapter), the Redwood Shelter and others. Mr. Thadaney earned a BA in Economics from York University in Toronto, Canada.

Ismail Awan


Ismail Awan is a successful serial entrepreneur who is involved in a variety of industries and ventures. Having studied Political Science at York University in Toronto, Ismail went on to lead the business development at Finetrade Ltd. – a company based in the United Arab Emirates, focused on trading of raw materials and particularly timber from all over the world. During Dubai’s construction market boom in 2007, the company was one of the pioneers in the country that started Dubai’s accelerated development. Today, Ismail sits as the chairman of the company.
He is also the founder of Simulation 1 Systems, a company founded in Canada, that is engaged in the creation of simulators for the automotive and aviation industries. The company later expanded to the GCC region, opening an additional branch in Saudi Arabia.
Ismail is also the co-founder of Iristel Kenya, a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MNVO) that is physically located in Kenya, due to the considerable emerging markets in Africa and the Sub Sahara region.
Additionally, he is involved in OWS – an automotive supplier in the GCC/MENA, where he is a strategic partner and shareholder. The company manufactures and supplies automotive spare parts, as well as re-manufactured auto components. OWS has a joint-venture with the UAE government entity RAFID, which operates accident assessment and response units in the emirate of Sharjah. The company also expanded to full service and maintenance of government first response vehicles (police, ambulance, fire services etc.).
Ismail also sits on the board of directors for ARCH Corporation, a Canadian-based company that offers alternative real-estate investment opportunities – a senior care fund which is focused on the development and operations of Tier 1 Long Term Health Care facilities for the growing elderly population nationwide.
In 2017, Ismail became the Direct Global / Direct Co-ops licensee in the GCC region and the UAE, founding both GCC Direct and 971 Direct. Ismail is also involved with the Direct Global Trade Center and Water City in the Niagara Free Trade Zone.

Oweis Zahran


As a dynamic entrepreneur in the automotive industry, Oweis Zahran is the force behind launching innovative solutions in this sector in the Middle East. Born and educated in the USA, Oweis has a strong affinity to this region since his father set up businesses in the UAE under MZ Holdings in the early 90s. The Holding company’s 16 subsidiaries, in three continents, are primarily in the field of equipment supply, industrial manufacturing, automotive R&D, oil and gas as well as construction.

Before he joined University of Maryland as a business undergrad, Oweis was being mentored by his father and unlike other teenagers he was involved in major international business deals. This hands-on experience prepared him for a leadership role, which helped in the evolution and expansion of MZ Holdings’ B2C business. From setting up the largest auto remanufacturing unit in the UAE and expanding it to seven countries, to developing exclusive auto solutions with international celebrities, to launching a joint venture with the Government of Sharjah, Oweis, at the age of 28, manages three of its companies that include OWS Auto, Tatra Middle East and Transaxle ME.

As a serial entrepreneur, Oweis established Rafid Automotive Solutions in 2017 as a joint venture between Sharjah Asset Management and OWS Auto. Today Rafid operates diverse services that includes an accident reporting app, fleet of electric cars and provides vehicle emission testing to quick service and parts supply and more. In 2017, Oweis Zahran also launched Voltron Motors in the UAE and the US with Hollywood actor Tyrese Gibson, mostly known for his roles in The Fast and The Furious franchise. Customizing cars for corporates or individuals, Voltron Motors’ clientele range from Hollywood celebrities to corporate fleets to high profile people in the Middle East.

Oweis’s philanthropic endeavors match his business ambitions. The company runs a small yet significant operation of providing clean drinking water to families in Nigeria and Ghana. Established in 2015, with the collaboration of Nigerian ambassador to the UAE, H.E. Mohammed Gello, Oweis along with his brothers, have since established six drilling rigs in Africa.

Lorenzo Borghese


Lorenzo Borghese (born June 9, 1972), commonly known as Prince Lorenzo Borghese, is an Italian-American businessman. He is a member of the House of Borghese, a cosmetics entrepreneur and animal advocate, and the featured bachelor on the ninth season of ABC’s The Bachelor American television show. Lorenzo is the son of Prince Francesco Marco Luigi Costanzo Borghese (born 1938) and his American wife, Amanda Leigh. His mother’s stepfather was sign and lighting designer Douglas Leigh. Lorenzo Borghese’s paternal grandmother was Princess Marcella Borghese, who founded the Borghese cosmetics line in 1958; it was a subsidiary of Revlon.

His storied paternal ancestors include Napoleon’s sister, Paulina Bonaparte Borghese (whose famous statue by Canova is displayed in the Galleria Borghese and is the focal character in Borghese’s new book, The Princess of Nowhere ,. ), Pope Paul V (Camillo Borghese) and Cardinal Scipione Borghese, both of whom had an enormous influence on Italian art and beautifying Rome in the 1600s, and who helped finish St. Peter’s Basilica. To honor Pope Paul V’s accomplishment, the Borghese family name (spelled in Latin, Bvrghesivs ) and coat of arms (eagle and a dragon) can be found on the façade of the famous basilica.

The Borghese family received their Papal Titles (Prince and Princess) from Pope Paul V in the early 1600’s. During that time, the Pope could raise armies and often had powers equal to a king, like a king, he had the power to bestow noble titles, called “Papal” titles, on people. These titles were often tied to territories of land. Prince Lorenzo’s branch of the family received five different titles, which include the Prince of San Paolo and Prince of Sant’Angelo and Duke of Bomarzo.

Prince Lorenzo’s ancestors were also one of the largest owners of property and art throughout Italy. While Pope Paul V was in power, he purchased entire towns and approximately 1/3 of the land south of Rome. As a family, the Borgheses became the largest landowners of the “Roman Campagna,” the central region in Italy, which is an area of approximately 1,300 square miles.

The Borghese name is displayed throughout Italy, including Florence at the Palazzo Borghese, Siena, where the family began and Rome where the name is most prominent. Rome’s largest Park, Villa Borghese gardens, was owned by the family until 1902, and one of Rome’s largest museums, Galleria Borghese, holds the family’s art collection. One of Rome’s most famous streets is also named after the family, Via di Fontanella Borghese, and the family’s crest can be found in many piazzas throughout Italy. The family also has a private chapel in one of Rome’s most famous basilicas, Santa Maria Maggiore. Beneath this Basilica is a private crypt where many of the famous Borgheses are laid to rest, including Pope Paul V, Paulina Borghese and her husband, Camillo Borghese as well as Lorenzo’s grandparents, Princess Marcella Borghese and Prince Paolo Borghese.

Personal life
Prince Lorenzo Borghese was born on June 9, 1972 in Milan and lived in Rome before moving to Paris and then to the United States. He is an American and Italian citizen. He was raised in Short Hills, New Jersey and attended elementary school there. Prince Lorenzo attended Pomfret School in Connecticut. He graduated from Rollins College in Florida in 1995, where he was initiated into the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. He later received his MBA from Fordham University in New York City.

Prince Lorenzo currently resides in New York City. He is the founder and president of Royal Treatment, a high-end bath, body and skin care line for pets, using organic ingredients and fragrance oils from Italy, which can be found in hundreds of boutiques nationwide and on the television station Home Shopping Network. Prince Lorenzo is also a managing partner in LB2, LLC, a private label Italian cosmetics company that sells numerous brands to major department stores and direct retail outlets. In 2011 he founded and became President of Animal Aid USA, a not-for-profit focusing on saving animals and changing laws to stop animal cruelty.

In addition, Prince Lorenzo is executive vice president of Multimedia Exposure, Inc., a family-owned business that acts as an agency for various products for television shopping channels in the U.S. and Europe.

Reality television and author
In the fall of 2006, Borghese starred in the ninth season of ABC’s popular reality show The Bachelor.

In the summer of 2009, Borghese announced he would be searching for his “princess” on a web reality show titled America’s Next Princess. The show was to coincide with the launch of Royal Pet Club, an online shopping destination for his Royal Treatment pet products.

However, when the show debuted online on August 17, 2009, the series was actually revealed to be a spoof of celebrities and reality TV shows, with the premise of a millionaire dog searching for love among ten finalists, who are also dogs. Borghese appears on the show but portrays the dog’s butler. The series also revealed its new name, America’s Next Top Dog: The Princess.

In 2010 Borghese starred in the Dutch SBS6 show Coming to Holland: Prins Zoekt Vrouw (Dutch for ‘Prince looks for wife’) as one of the three bachelor princes. This reality show was based on the movie, “Coming to America” in which Eddie Murphy went undercover and exchanged his crown for a job at a fast food restaurant.

In December 2010, Borghese’s first novel, The Princess of Nowhere, published by Harper Collins, debuted. This historical fiction romance novel is a re-imagining of the life of the author’s famous ancestor, Princess Pauline Bonaparte, who became Princess Pauline Bonaparte Borghese after her marriage to Prince Camillo Borghese.

In January 2012 Borghese’s house search was featured on HGTV’s Selling New York.

In August/September 2012 he appeared on the 10th season of Celebrity Big Brother UK and finished in 7th.

Nathan Schneider


Nathan Schneider is a journalist and an assistant professor of media studies at the University of Colorado Boulder who writes about economy, technology, and religion. His most recent book is Everything for Everyone: The Radical Tradition that Is Shaping the Next Economy, published by Nation Books, and two previous books, God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet and Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse, were both published in 2013 by University of California Press. His articles have appeared in publications including Harper’s, The Nation, The New Republic, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Catholic Worker, and others. He writes regular columns for America, a national Catholic weekly, and he is a contributing editor for YES! Magazine. In 2015, he co-organized “Platform Cooperativism,” a pioneering conference on democratic online platforms at The New School, and co-edited the subsequent book, Ours to Hack and to Own: The Rise of Platform Cooperativism, a New Vision for the Future of Work and a Fairer Internet.

Follow his work on social media at @ntnsndr or at his website,

Al Norman


Al Norman is the founder of Sprawl-Busters, an international clearinghouse on big box sprawl issues, and an author/land use consultant who has guided hundreds of communities around the world fighting corporations like Wal-Mart.
In September of 2004, Forbes magazine called Al “Wal-Mart’s #1 Enemy.” He first stopped a Wal-Mart in his hometown of Greenfield in 1993. Over the past 26 years, he has become known internationally as a citizen-activist and author who helps small towns fight off big retail developers.
Al has traveled to 43 states, Ireland, Puerto Rico, Japan, Barbados, and Canada with his anti-big box message at the invitation of citizen groups and merchants. His website, has become a clearinghouse for megastore research and organizing. Norman’s first book, Slam Dunking Wal-Mart: How You Can Stop Superstore Sprawl (Raphel, 1999), has become an underground classic for neighborhood groups, and his second book, The Case Against Wal-Mart was released in June of 2004.  Both books have been translated into Japanese. His latest book, Occupy Walmart (Brigantine Media) was published in May of 2012. This book is a collection of essays written for The Huffington Post. Al’s website,, with more than 4,000 site fight stories going back to 1998, is the largest collection of stories of local big box battles on the internet.
Al was featured in the PBS documentary Store Wars, about one Virginia town’s battle against Wal-Mart;  in the 2003 ITVS film Talking to the Wall; served as a consultant for the movie High Cost of Low Price” in 2005; was featured in the Our Town movie in Damariscotta, Maine in 2006, and in the Canadian movie Wal-Mart Nation in 2007.  In 2007 Al appeared on Penn & Teller’s show Bullshit.
    Al’s work has been covered extensively by the media. In February, 2001, the London Sunday Times Magazine called Norman a “fire-breathing evangelist”. His appearance on 60 Minutes in 1995 earned him the title “guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement.” “He’s been invited to preach the anti-Wal-Mart gospel in dozens of towns,” said 60 Minutes. The Wall Street Journal has called Norman “a one man anti-Wal-Mart cottage industry”. Norman’s work was featured in journalist Bob Ortega’s book In Sam We Trust; in Jim Hightower’s book Thieves in High Places; in the book How Superstore Sprawl is Harming Communities by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and in former Sierra Club President Adam Werbach’s book, Act Now, Apologize Later.  

Al Norman has appeared on the Lehrer News Hour, NBC Nightly News, ABC’s Nightline, The Wall Street Journal Report, CNBC Steals & Deals, Marketplace, The Al Franken Show, Talk of the Nation, NPR’s Here & Now, NPR’s Morning Edition, The Osgood File, and has been written up in The Boston Globe, Time Magazine, and hundreds of small town daily newspapers. In 1994 he wrote Eight Ways to Stop the Store in The Nation magazine, which was reprinted in The Utne Reader.
Jim Hightower calls Sprawl-Busters the “number one resource” in the country for fighting big box sprawl. Hightower called Al “a burr under the saddle” of big corporations.
    A former journalist for Newsweek magazine, Norman has drawn the close attention of big box retailers. “He’s definitely anti-growth,” says Home Depot spokesman Amy Friend. Former Wal-Mart Vice President Don Shinkle says Norman “is making large sums of money and is purposely continuing to distort this issue to line his own pocketbook.” “There’s no question he’s an entertainer,” says Wal-Mart’s Les Copeland. “That’s what he’s paid to do.”
    Norman lives in Greenfield, MA. He owns one share of Wal-Mart stock.

Nader Marzouk


Nader Marzouk is a self-styled serial entrepreneur – who over the last three decades has garnered success through innovative and ambitious endeavours while creating and nurturing the community of Toronto with his pursuits. A graduate of the Computer Science Program at the University of Toronto, his first pivotal moment within his career came as the founder of Digital Canvas; a web development agency that saw rapid growth with a top tier client list.

Following suit, Nader went on to help structure and grow the social media landscape – as we know it today – by creating one of Toronto’s pioneering social media platforms, At its peak, boasted 500,000 members and 30,000 unique visitors daily with multiple press features in renowned national and local publications.

His entry into the Hospitality industry came by chance while sponsoring a charity event which led to the launch and development of a nightlife/hospitality marketing division of This expansion later evolved into a highly successful company of its own.

Today, Nader is at the helm of a growing hospitality empire, which, includes various entertainment, food and beverage venues among other complimentary business holdings.

His success derives from his diverse background in business, and his innate attention to detail within all aspects of the business such as finance and people management has led this innovator to become one of Toronto’s most watched entrepreneurs.

Joe Lu

Vietnam Direct and Local Hub Partner, and Advisor

Joe Lu started from very humble beginnings. Joe came from a Chiu Chou Chinese family that immigrated to Canada from war-torn Vietnam in the lates 1970s. He was raised in a traditional Chinese family teaching him to respect, being well-mannered and honourable. Joe graduated from Seneca college with a marketing diploma and started his first real career working at a Rogers dealer. He was the top inbound sales rep for the first 2 years. After working at Rogers for almost 4 years, he started his real estate career purchasing his first property in 2008. It was then Joe found his passion in design and build. Joe and his wife, Lisa developed and sold more than a half dozen properties before he got into commercial real estate. From there he found creative ways to re-purpose properties before he found his interest in developing co-working spaces and helping startups. He founded his first startup in connectHUB, a Live corporate networking app that will revolutionize how business people network during events. When Joe isn’t working he spends most of his time with his family and friends, playing sports and reading inspirational books or listening to motivational podcast or videos. Joe now focuses on developing real estate, building connectHUB and helping his wife with their vegan fast food restaurant chain, Vego. He is passionate about philanthropy and is in the process of building a foundation to give underprivileged immigrant kids an opportunity to entrepreneurship.

Boris Gregory Tsimerinov


Boris has completed approximately 40 successful mergers & acquisitions, private equity and financing transactions in addition to interim venture capital fund management, valuations and strategic & operations consulting projects. He has experience with companies in food & consumer products, healthcare, technology, industrials, transportation as well as financial, oil & gas and business services sectors. Boris has experience with domestic, cross-border and cross-continental transactions.

Boris holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree with High Distinction and a focus on finance, quantitative economics and mathematics from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. He is also a CFA Charterholder and a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Executive MBA alternative (PLD). Boris is in the process of completing his Master of Laws in Global Business Law (GPLLM) at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law.

Boris is a speaker and presenter at conferences and panel discussions in Canada, the US and Europe with writings featured in the Canadian Business Journal. He has been involved with a number of not-for-profit organizations including War Child Canada, the Harvard Business School Global PLD Summits (New York, Boston, London & Barcelona), the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto Operetta Theatre and others.

Jason Tang

Kensington Local hub partner and Advisor

With over a decade of experience in financial services and real estate investments, Jason Tang has developed a solid portfolio under management of residential rental properties, commercial buildings and property development.

With a background in finance he started his career out by providing personal financial planning, forming deep client relationships built on trust, credibility and solid performance. Along the way he integrated lending consulting as well to assist his clients in not only planning for their future financial goals but to also achieve many of life’s milestones such as owning their own homes.

An entrepreneur at heart, Mr. Jason Tang utilized his understanding of capital markets, economics and financial planning along with personal and commercial lending to establish a team focused on real estate, investments and financial services.

Over the years he and his team have assisted in raising funds for various business ventures and invested in real estate ranging from residential units such as single family homes, condo units, apartments and retail and commercial use. They have acquired and sold dozens of properties with fantastic returns, redesigned and retrofitted properties to substantially increase value, participated in property assemblies for redevelopment and developed many properties for best use mostly within the Greater Toronto Area.

Dr Fabio Varlese


Dr. Fabio Varlese is a prominent specialist in Internal Medicine and Geriatric Medicine. He is the former Medical Program Director of the Rehabilitation Department and the Acute Care Unit at Baycrest Hospital. Dr. Varlese currently holds a position as staff Specialist at Mt. Sinai hospital and at Baycrest Center for Geriatric Care. He is the Honorary Medical Director at Villa Colombo Vaughan and recently accepted the position of VP of Medical Services at Runnymede Hospital.

Dr. Varlese is the founder of the Toronto Clinic, an Executive Health Centre at the forefront of the highest standards of medical care, personalization of service, Precision Medicine and medical innovation serving the corporate executive world. He is the founder of Global Medical Consulting, a satellite entity of the Toronto Clinic which addresses rare and life altering medical conditions, helping patients find innovative breakthrough treatments that can improve health outcomes.

He currently holds the rank of Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto and both his academic and professional work have honoured him with numerous prestigious awards.

Lindsay Gaskins


As President of New Business Ventures, Lindsay Gaskins is responsible for directing four of CCA’s business units outside of the flooring and home industry; The Bike Cooperative/CCA Sports Retail Services, CCA For Social Good, savings4members, and Community Owners Buying Organization (COBO).

In her role, Gaskins’ primary focus is to foster an environment of collaboration, cooperation, team building, and continual reinvention and innovation by seeking out opportunities, extensions of existing businesses, and potential new lines of business.

With a background in entrepreneurial e-commerce, marketing and retail leadership; and experience in start-ups, big retail and strategic consulting, Gaskins has proven herself as a leader many times in her career by building innovative brands and engaging consumer experiences both online and in-store.

After earning her BA in Economics at Wesleyan University, Gaskins was a consultant focusing on retail, pharmaceutical and healthcare industries at the Boston Consulting Group. She also worked for Sears as a Buyer and Corporate Strategy team member for many years, and was Vice President of Sandbox Industries – a business incubator with a venture fund that brings business ideas to life.

Prior to coming to CCA, Gaskins was CEO and Co-founder of MARBLES: THE BRAIN STORE, the first omni-channel specialty retailer of handpicked and expert-tested products specifically designed to strengthen and stimulate the brain. She grew the business from a one page concept to a $30MM multichannel retailer and product development company over a period of 7 years – earning the company a spot on the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies list in 2015, and the Chain Store Age “Breakout Retailer Award” in 2016.

In 2013, Gaskins was nominated as one of Crain’s Forty under 40 – an award to honor individuals for their professional success and civic contributions.

Gaskins is based out of CCA’s corporate office in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Eli Kasik


Eli is a software developer. For the last 10 years, he has participated in various projects, including web, big data, devops and ecommerce.
As a tech lead, Eli mentored new team members and laid groundwork for new projects. His favourite side project has been a price analysis of Via Rail tickets.
In his current role as Senior Developer at B-yond, Eli uses graph databases, AI and anything it takes to help telcos unlock 5G and the infinite network.
In his free time, Eli enjoys biking, cooking and behavioural economics

Kapley Judge


After graduating Engineering from the University of Waterloo Kapley Judge had successful Manufacturing and Information Technology businesses. Kapley Judge is a serial entrepreneur that has transitioned into an avid investor and force helping to develop Canada’s strategic technology companies in his 300,000 square foot innovation and center next to Google in Kitchener. Kapley is also specialist in high density computing artificial intelligence and an original Blockchain technology developer and has been on many trade missions furthering Canada’s strategic technology position in the world.

Josh Quinton


Josh Quinton, former Manager of the US east coast at Bloomberg L.P., has been a leader in the financial industry for the last 10 years in New York City. He is an award-winning global business manager having built analytics to bring transparency to the financial markets and advised some of the largest money managers in the world, including multinational corporations, pensions, hedge funds, central banks and heads of government in the United States and Canada.

In addition to several other charities in Newfoundland and Labrador and New York, Josh serves on the finance committee of the Grenfell Association of America in New York, which is committed to providing health care, education and social services to the coastal communities of northern Newfoundland and Labrador. He has been a strong mentor and advocate for Memorial’s Faculty of Business, regularly advising and connecting students with industry leaders. In 2011, he negotiated the donation and set up of a state of the art White Trading Lab at Memorial University. He was also the recipient of Memorial’s Alumni Horizon Award in 2012.

Josh grew up in a small family business in Newfoundland and is ardent in supporting local entrepreneurship as well as promoting self-sustainability and innovation in the province. He holds a Master’s degree in International Economics from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Commerce from Memorial University of Newfoundland.

James Smith


An internationally acclaimed and gifted “white hat” hacker James brings his expert insight to blockchain and security. The Co-Founder of CodeEye Solutions, an Offensive Security services and Software development company, James has lead the development of CodeEye’s automated Threat Intelligence Platform and plays a vital in the development of CodeEye’s Software solutions. James specializing in Penetration Testing, Threat Analysis, Vulnerability research, Zero Day Exploit Discovery & Development, UNIX/Linux Systems Security and Administration.

In addition, James is responsible for implementing CodeEye’s Blockchain and Crypto currency security services, he is Invacio’s computer security specialist. He is one of the experts to have helped Invacio develop and refine its cryptography, Zero-Knowledge and security systems and plays a crucial role in Invacio’s research, development and security. James has also played a critical role as a Threat Analyst & Canada Desk Chief at Project VIGILANT LLC.

William Stark


William founded ResDev Tax Consultants Inc. and provides the overall direction of the Company as it extends its position to becoming the pre-eminent SR&ED tax consultant in Canada. In addition, William provides the tax expertise to complete the required tax schedules for each SR&ED submission.

Prior to starting ResDev, William worked with CCRA for a period of ten years.  During that time he was responsible for the execution of in excess of two hundred (200) tax audits of SR&ED claims, including the determination of eligible expenses and the related Investment Tax Credit (ITC).

William has extensive audit training in of the SR&ED claims including the completion of the CRA SR&ED in-depth training course.
In addition, William has conducted seminars to various organizations and their accountants, providing them with information about the SR&ED program.
In his spare time (who are we kidding he is a work horse), William enjoys snowboarding, extreme downhill biking, and spending time with his family.

Michael Coteau


Michael Coteau was elected in 2011 as the MPP for Don Valley East. He currently serves as Critic for Infrastructure, Energy, Labour, Economic Development, Job Creation & Trade and was formerly Minister of Children and Youth Services, as well as Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism. Previously, he was Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, as well as Minister Responsible for the 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games, and before that, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Prior to entering the provincial government, Michael was elected as a school board trustee for the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) in 2003, 2006 and 2010. As a trustee, Michael advocated for student nutrition, community use of space and the use of educational technology. He initiated the ‘Community Use of Schools’ motion that drastically cut user fees and made schools more accessible to groups that offer programs for children. He helped introduce nutritional changes in schools that supported healthy food programs and increased awareness of student hunger.

Michael worked as an ESL instructor and curriculum developer before becoming a community organizer for a United Way agency in Scarborough. He was also the Marketing Manager for ABC Life Literacy, where he was responsible for the organizing of the Family Literacy Day across Canada, and was Executive Director of Alpha Plus, a national literacy organization mandated to support adult education through the use of technology.

Michael grew up in Don Valley East and attended Don Mills Middle School and Victoria Park Collegiate Institute. He holds degrees from Carleton University in both Political Science and Canadian History. He and his wife Lori live in Toronto with their two daughters, Maren and Myla.

Rodrigo Contreras Lara


With over 20 years of experience in International Trade, Government and Investor Relations, Rodrigo is the former Trade & Investment Commissioner of Mexico to Canada, where he had the opportunity to forge close ties with business leaders from some of the most important industrial sectors in the Canada – Mexico relationship.

During his tenure, he had the opportunity to collaborate as part of the negotiating team of the Small and Medium Enterprise Chapter of the USMCA, and as well, serve as liaison between leaders of the automotive sector of Mexico and Canada to push forward in the negotiation, the provisions relevant to the sector.

Prior to his appointment to Canada, Rodrigo was from 2011 to 2015 the Trade & Investment Representative for Mexico to the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), concentrating on building business relations for Mexico in two of the most important economic zones of PRC: the Pearl River Delta (Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao), and the Yangtze River Delta (Shanghai, Jiangsu, Anhui and Zhejiang), Economic Zones.

Prior to his appointments abroad, from 2008 to 2011, Rodrigo held the positions of Executive Director for Investor Relations, taking part in the formation of what would become one of the most recognized and successful Trade & Investment Promotion Agencies in the world: PROMEXICO.

Rodrigo, as well served from 2000 to 2008 as an official of the Administration of the Government of the State of Baja California, Mexico, responsible for leading the Technology Investment & Development Strategy of the State.

Rodrigo currently is an advisor and partner to global companies in the automotive, technology (Industry 4.0), Biotech, investment and finance sectors, assisting them in their International Government Relations and Business Development Strategies:

– Advisor for Mexico Affairs to MARTINREA International. Martinrea is a diversified global automotive supplier, engaged in the design, development and manufacturing of metal parts, assemblies and modules, complex fluid management systems and aluminum products. It employ approximately 15,000 skilled and motivated people at manufacturing, engineering and technical centers in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Slovakia, Spain and China.

– Economic Advisor to American Industries Inc. (Canada). American Industries Group is a private Mexican company founded in 1976 that has supported the successful establishment of manufacturing operations for over 200 companies in Mexico through Shelter Administrative and Industrial Real Estate Services.

– Partner at Global Business Connectors. Global Business Connectors is a global business advisory firm focused on providing access to alternative investment opportunities in developed, emerging and frontier markets.

– Partner at SERICEA LabsInc. Sericea Labs is a global reach, research and development consultancy firm that provides technical and financial advisory support to companies looking to elevate their R&D and production capabilities to global standards, as well as advising them on their capital raising strategies in the emerging CBD Industry. 

Rodrigo sits on the following Board of Directors:

– Three Lefts (Canada). Is a research and development studio of emerging technologies focused on the Blockchain. Positioned at the forefront of the industry, Three Lefts have built leading bespoke blockchain enterprise solutions for a diverse clientele.

– Centro Escolar Ingles A.C. (Mexico). For over 20 Years, CEI has dedicated its efforts to the development of competitive youth for higher levels of education.

He has a degree in International Business, from the Center for Technical and Higher Education (CETYS University), from Baja California Mexico.

Mark Holmes


Born in Mansfield England, Mark Holmes is a Canadian rock star icon who together with his bandmates Sergio Galli, Kenny MacLean and Chris Steffler formed the legendary ‘80s band Platinum Blonde. From 1982-83 they performed over 200 nights together as a Police tribute band, firmly securing their spot on the university and club circuit. This environment gave them the chance to write and rehearse their own music, while immersed in performing the music they loved.

In 1983 they signed a recording deal with CBS which shot their career into high gear and captured a new wave audience with hit songs like “Doesn’t Really Matter”, “Situation Critical” and “Standing in the Dark”. With this recording deal, they could also embrace a new art form that was becoming imperative to the success of recording artists: music videos. With high rotation on Canada’s MuchMusic network, their signature look and their hit music, Mark, Sergio, Kenny, and Chris rode the new wave movement to its pinnacle.

A musician first, Mark is ever evolving, and not interested in riding on past success. He firmly believes we must keep moving forward and evolving to remain on the cutting edge. Mark stays relevant and interested in the progress of music through writing new music, producing, touring, and releasing new albums with Platinum Blonde in 2012 called Now or Never and a solo album. Embracing another side of the business, Mark is the co-founder of the Mod Club nightclub in Toronto, and together with his son he is involved with raising capital to support start ups and emerging business.

Mark has no interest in retirement or resting on his laurels. He has verve, tenacity and heart and all three are leading the way.

Bill Henessey


Bill Hennessey is the CEO and Founder of The Blockchain Society, The Entrepreneurship Society and The Cannabis Society which combine for 75+ conferences per year in New York, San Francisco, Berlin, Toronto and Vancouver. Bill was a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the year award. He also owns Qwatro, a chemical sanitation company.

Jean-Pierre A. Laporte


Jean-Pierre is by training a pension lawyer specializing in employee benefits and retirement plans.  Until July 2012 he practiced out of the Toronto office of Bennett Jones LLP, a leading Canadian business law firm.  He was then appointed Chief Executive Officer of INTEGRIS Pension Management Corp., a provider of pension plans to incorporated professionals and small business owners.  

Jean-Pierre has written a number of journal articles on pension reform and pension administration, including the seminal concept paper on the Supplemental Canada Pension Plan published in 2004 by Benefits and Pensions Monitor, his idea having been advocated by provincial governments, thought-leaders and industry groups.   Jean-Pierre also drafted a private member’s bill in the Parliament of Canada that focused the federal government on adopting legislation to protect long-term disabled workers operating in federal employment.  His most recent publication in the Canadian Tax Journal is entitled “A Review of Individual Pension Plans”.

He has often appeared as an expert witness before Standing Committees of the House of Commons.  

For his efforts at improving pension security for Canadians, Jean-Pierre was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal by His Excellency the Governor-General of Canada.

Lior Avadiev


Lior Avadiev is a serial entrepreneur specializing in global markets and has set his mark in various industries such as real estate, marketing and telecommunications. 

Lior started at a very young age of 19 and took on his first role as the head developer of Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) technical support, Head developer of IBM technical support and knowledge base team, and a team leader of IBM’s support team in Canada. 

Lior went on developing and overseeing various real estate projects throughout the city of Toronto. He also started the first outdoor mobile advertising company in Canada which lead him to work with many charities and non-profit organizations.  

He is currently co-founder of GlobalSIM World a telecommunications company providing services throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. 

Increasing his international networks, Lior is able to connect people from different parts of the world and help them insure success in strategizing and securing global transactions.

Ron Safer


Ron was an entrepreneur from the age of 8 by providing lawn services, delivering newspapers, and trading securities (mentored by his uncle). He followed in the footsteps of his parents (educators), grandfathers, whose interests in farming, food and technology resulted in both becoming successful business men (one a restauranteur, the other a manufacturer) and an uncle who grew commercial food services from a one-man-shop to a $50 million merger.

While doing graduate studies in physics at the University of California, he engaged in basic research under NSF/USAF research grants, earned life-time teaching certification and concurrently invested in real estate and securities. After a brief period as a computer analysist at the US Naval Weapons Center, Ron’s diverse experiences, as founder / co-founder of many SME’s, across many sectors that include financial and business services (advising, lending and consulting); real estate management, development and syndication; manufacturing (aluminum extrusion and fabrication), marketing; and international import-export, money transfer and telecommunications.

Ron’s current endeavors revolve around charities that focus on improving the lives of Native Americans and Veterans through programs of enhanced self-reliance and self-esteem, education, healthcare, and economic development through technology awareness, including blockchain.

Micah Walker


Mr. Walker is a serial entrepreneur riding the waves and shifts in technology. Starring in The Leader magazine at only 19 years of age, in 2007 he was recognized as pioneer of VoIP piloting the launch with Rogers Cable throughout Ontario and the first team to market Rogers Cable services to the east coast provinces with over 50 employees. In 2011 he went on to piloting and launching the marketing campaign with Bell Canada becoming the largest outsourced marketing firm for Bell in its history. At Bell, he surpassed 1000 new customer acquisitions weekly with over 200 sales agents. In 2014 he joined the shift in energy conservation and climate change, when HVAC and electrical went from alternating current to direct current. Today, Mr. Walker is involved in innovation programs at Spur and Launchpad. Helping business owners grow….

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