North Forge Pioneer to Spearhead U of C Entrepreneurial Centre

“No one is irreplaceable” — that’s how the saying goes. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of people in Manitoba finding it hard to agree with that right about now.

Joelle Foster, founding board member of North Forge Technology Exchange, and Manitoba’s premier champion of entrepreneurship, is being pulled westward by a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Currently serving as Futurpreneur Canada’s Director for Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nunavut and Northwest Territories, she’ll be taking the reins as Executive Director for the newly formed Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking at the University of Calgary.

To say she will be missed is tragically understated.

“Joelle has helped to completely transform Manitoba’s startup scene,” said Jeff Ryzner, President of North Forge Technology Exchange. “She has always known and promoted that, as support organizations, we can do more together. And she’s right.”

Joelle’s commitment to cultivating entrepreneurial talent is legendary, and the excitement she feels in helping others realize their dreams pours through her voice.

“When I meet someone who wants to start a business, I immediately share that passion with them,” said Foster. “My job is incredible – I get to listen to other people’s dreams and then help them make them come true.”

Luckily for all Manitobans, Joelle’s upcoming move to Calgary for what she describes as the “job of a lifetime” won’t take her away completely. She’ll continue to serve on the North Forge board. And even though her physical location may be changing, her footprint on the Manitoba business community won’t fade anytime soon.

Obby Khan, Founder and CEO of Shawarma Khan and Green Carrot Juice Company, attributes a great deal of his entrepreneurial journey to the help he received from Joelle early on. 

“I’m honestly not sure my businesses would have gotten off the ground without her,” said Khan. “From our first meeting five years ago when I had no idea what I was doing, to today when I still don’t know what I’m doing, she has always been there for me with her support, wisdom and love. I guess this means I need to open my first Shawarma Khan in Calgary, so Joelle can get her pita chips and garlic fix.”

Lennard Taylor, owner of Lennard Taylor Design Studio, is another of the many business people who express gratitude for Foster and the investment she’s willing to make to help others succeed.

“Joelle has been such an integral part of the entrepreneurship community,” said Taylor. “She’s like a mother to all of us… she’s nurturing, loving and so devoted to seeing us shine.”

Not surprisingly, Joelle affectionately refers to all the entrepreneurs she’s helped guide, like Khan and Taylor, as her kids. And she takes her role as a community leader very much to heart.

“I’ve always believed that giving back is what makes you a leader,” said Foster. “By giving back to my community I’ve gained so much insight into how different groups can work together to achieve great things.”

Given the connections she’s made and her role in seeing so many successful businesses flourish in the city she’s called home for the past 27 years, Joelle knows how hard it’s going to be to move away from the community she holds so dear to her heart.

“There are amazing things happening in the Prairies and this community is definitely what I’ll miss the most,” said Foster. “I’ve been so fortunate to have helped other people plant some very successful entrepreneurial seeds here and I’ll be looking forward to watching them grow.”

On behalf of North Forge and the entire Manitoba business community, we would like to wish Joelle Foster the greatest success in her new role and thank her for the immeasurable impact she’s made.