2017 Board of Directors. Left to Right: Donna McMahon, Dawn Bezaire, Brittany Sheppard, Mardell Buryniuk, Kim Banks, Jen McParland, Joanna Piros, Paula Howley, Christina Stewart, Elaine Connors. Not pictured: Alexis Harrington.
Paula Howley, President
Paula Howley has been self-employed for most of her adult life albeit in unusual walks of life. She started as an exotic dancer at 18, working as a headliner for several years, and quit the business at 34. She volunteered as the chair of the Exotic Dancers’ Alliance of Ontario, and helped draft Toronto by-laws that made strip clubs safer for women.
Upon entering the civilian world, she worked in the hospitality industry for several years and began attending Toastmasters. Paula won numerous public speaking contests, including being in British Columbia’s top 10 twice.
In 2011, after a brief span as a gymnastics coach, Paula began giving public speaking workshops for kids. She began her business, Head Start Public Speaking For Kids in 2013. Paula is the author of “Strive! A Handbook for Awesomeness”, a guide for young people to address their fears and challenge themselves to greater heights. She is also working on her memoir and is finishing up “How To Get Out of The Business- 9 Sex Workers Reveal Life-Changing Strategies”.
Her goal is to integrate these two separate worlds so she can help as many people as possible learn to step out of their fear and into their confidence as they share their stories.
Elaine Connors, Treasurer
Elaine brings almost four decades of business experience to her position as Financial Director for the SEWN board. She has been self employed since 1988, and has held diverse titles such as President, CEO, and ‘bringer of donuts’. Since 1988 Elaine has run her own business selling water and wastewater treatment equipment to municipal, commercial and industrial users in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, YT and NT, all while living on the Sunshine Coast.
Dawn Bezaire, Secretary
Dawn has been an employee of Sunshine Coast Credit Union for the past 23 years. Currently, as CFO, she is responsible for developing and overseeing the credit union’s financial related strategic plans as well as providing leadership and support to the accounting and centralized services departments. As part of the Executive team, Dawn attends and participates in Board planning and meetings and is the management resource to the Audit Committee. Dawn looks forward to bringing her financial and governance experience to the SEWN board.
Dawn has also volunteered her time as a member of the Progress Plan Advisory Committee and has served as a Board member and the Registrar for Sunshine Coast Minor Hockey for the past four years. When not working and volunteering, Dawn spends her time, along with her husband, playing chauffeur between hockey arenas, ball fields and soccer fields for their two energetic boys – and loves every minute of it.
Dawn is excited to be a part of a vibrant and high energy group that connects women in business – whether self-employed or not – on the Sunshine Coast.
Kim Banks, Vice President
A Strategic Design+Marketing Professional and Micro Business Coach-Consultant, Kim is passionate about connecting and supporting women who desire to start or build a business that fits & fulfills them.
She believes in supporting our local Sunshine Coast community and volunteers her time and expertise with SEWN, Community Futures Loans Committee and supporting Micro Business women with creative & consulting services designed to meet their unique needs.
When not volunteering you’ll find her capturing nature + wildlife with her camera and exploring other creative pursuits.
Joanna Piros, Member at Large
Telling Your Story – through media or to audiences of any size
Joanna is a long time radio and television journalist turned trainer, consultant and coach. She is passionate about helping other people thrive and succeed by telling their stories better. In the course of her consulting career she has trained or coached literally thousands of people to be more engaging and more persuasive in interviews, in meetings, or on the speaker podium. Clients have included NHL players, actors, CEOs, cabinet ministers, Premiers, nuns, lawyers, physicians, nurses, accountants, engineers and all things in between. She is very proud to say that all five of her children are talented public speakers and presenters.
A relative newcomer to the Sunshine Coast, she managed to meet 95 people in the first six weeks and has volunteered to provide support to a variety of organizations and causes. This is not to say that she’s given up working for actual money! She does believe in balancing for-profit work with community service and is at a point in her career to make that balance work.
Donna McMahon, Member at Large
Donna McMahon is a Gibsons-based Communicator and Organizer who juggles many freelance projects as well as a large volunteer portfolio.
With a background in freelance journalism and public relations, she has written just about everything from newspaper articles to plain language legal materials, from websites to novels. As a manager, she’s taken many projects from conception to completion and she’s proficient in all the hands-on aspects of administration. Since 2010 she has been a writer and financial modeller for Business Plans Canada, a company which produces hundreds of business plans for entrepreneurs across Canada and internationally. From 2012 to 2015 she was Executive Director of the Gibsons & District Chamber of Commerce. She is also a founding member of the THRIVE GIBSONS Women’s Business Circle.
Her nonprofit portfolio includes: board member of Coast Community Investment Cooperative, Loans and Investment Committee member for Community Futures, and founding member of the Friends of Mt. Elphinstone Summit Trail. She served eight years on the Gibsons & District Public Library board, including two as Chair, and has served on local government committees, including the Gibsons Economic Development Select Committee and the SCRD’s Recycling Review Committee.
Mardell Buryniuk, Member at Large
Mardell Buryniuk is a newcomer both to the coast and the realm of the self-employed. She is an avid problem-solver with a particular passion for water and wastewater treatment and now owns Lunula Consulting based out of Halfmoon Bay. Mardell is looking forward to meeting all the SEWN members and working with the incredible array of talent found on the Sunshine Coast to support women in business.
Before moving to the coast, Mardell was a project manager with 10 years of experience in the construction industry and at the University of British Columbia as a research assistant. Her diverse background includes occupations such as telecommunications operator for the RCMP, water and wastewater treatment plant operator and 23 years of service as a reservist for the Canadian Armed Forces. She has a master of science from UBC and a certificate in project management from NAIT. She has worked at a liquor store, Home Depot and Science World, decorated cakes in a bakery, worked as a construction laborer, administrative assistant and first aid instructor, and went to school for a year in Switzerland. After spending the past 40+ years trying to decide what to do when she grows up, Mardell has come to the conclusion that growing up is over-rated and is committed to sampling as many of life’s experiences as possible.
A mother to three children, one dog, a gecko and several fish, she is still working on perfecting the work-life juggle that all mothers know.
Christina Stewart, Member at Large
Christina brings her passion for inclusion and diversity in the workplace as well as her human resource leadership skills in learning and development, recruitment, engagement, communications, and operations to the SEWN Board. As Managing Partner of Praxis Performance Group, a human resource and recruitment firm on the Sunshine Coast, Christina is delighted to be able to help business leaders grow and develop their teams through recruitment, training and team building.
A practiced believer in life-long learning, Christina has a Chartered Professional in Human Resources (CPHR) designation and a certified facilitator for Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) training. Her HR experience is also backed by numerous certifications within the financial, business and journalism sectors.
Christina adores living on the stunning Sunshine Coast where her life is balanced between her family, her work and her community. Her passions are the growth and development of women and girls, raising her young children, hiking with her dogs, providing time and energy to her community and when all else is complete, curling up with a good book. She is an articulate communicator, a vocal supporter of gender diversity in the workplace and a consummate client service professional.
Jen McParland, Member at Large
Jen studied at Simon Fraser University where she received her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and a Certificate of Innovative Leadership. Jen has over 7 years of experience in Marketing and Project Management where she oversees the execution and launch of branding and design projects for multiple clients, specializing in real estate marketing initiatives. Collaborative by nature, Jen enjoys building sustainable working partnerships and has experience in creative, high-volume and results driven environments.
Alexis Harrington, Member at Large
Alexis Harrington founded Sand Dollar Bookkeeping in 2015 after seven years working in public practice. Sand Dollar Bookkeeping’s mission is to integrate modern technology with the fundamentals of accounting. Gone are the days of data entry and boxes of receipts. All elements of a modern office should speak to one another in an integrated system that frees your time to do what you do best. While monthly bookkeeping keeps SDB running, Alexis is proud to offer unique and personalized training workshops to the smallest of business owners so they can learn to bookkeep with confidence and know what their numbers mean for their business.
Alexis joined SEWN’s board to engage with local business women and ensure every business owner has the tools, resources, community, and confidence to take their business forward.
Are you looking to make a difference in our local community by supporting entrepreneurial women on the Sunshine Coast?
SEWN actively seeks women who are interested in offering their unique leadership, skills and expertise on our Board and Committees so we can support all the self-employed women of the Sunshine Coast. If you’d like to discuss how you may be a good fit for supporting SEWN please contact us and we will connect to discuss the opportunities available.
** If you interested in applying for a SEWN Director or Committee position you must be a SEWN Member in good standing.**