Meet the 2019 Build cohort!

These heart driven individuals are working together to realize the change they want to make in the world through the social enterprises they are creating.
Stay up to date with their journey in the student blog.


Eileen Folch

I am very creative, passionate and versatile. Since very young, I have been surround by creativity, and I realized very early on that it is an amazing life force that we can all connect with. I have always been driven by my need to connect and support other women. I love to travel and through my trips, I have met wonderful women that have taught me that no matter our age, culture, race or background, we all share the collective experience of being a woman. I had the amazing opportunity to work with women using creativity to help improve their self-esteem, self-confidence and personal leadership. On this path, I became a Moon Mother who is a woman able to give the Womb Blessing as a way to raise a woman's vibration, deepen her connection to the sacred feminine and bring healing to her femininity. My aspiration is to share my gifts and creative talents with women as a way to empower, inspire and motivate them into creating and manifesting anything in their lives they wish for. I truly believe this is my service path.


Hanako Masutani

I am a writer, editor, teacher, and parent of three. All of this work is close to my heart. I write fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and literature for children. In all of my writing, I try to have a sense of humour and wonder, as well as a sense of place--environmental, economic, racial, etc. As an editor, I'm happiest working on projects with a social justice bent. The path I'm hoping to find blends my skill-sets and passions with the ability to increase well-being for vulnerable communities, be they writers/artists, single parents, immigrants, families in poverty, etc.


Jeremy Greer

Hello my name is Jeremy. I want to be a different kind of employer. How can my business affect the community, my employees and venders differently? How can I be apart of a changing environment and world? These are the kind of things I like to think and dream about. Newer to Vancouver, here just under two years, I'm currently finding my community. I hope that Groundswell, will be apart of that community. I am an entrepreneur. Now, I have an idea for a new business. One that I think has great potential. One that fits my personality and values well. I love the idea of being apart of a growing community that supports and helps each other in growth.


Jose-Carlos (Joey) Laguio

I’m a passionate and multidisciplinary creator who believes that technology and art can be combined in unique and interesting ways to facilitate self-expression. This goes hand-in-hand with my love of playing video games and creating my own fantasy worlds! Currently, I support the design and development of online mental health resources for a local charity, which I find extremely meaningful and personally relevant. I also co-founded an a cappella group, the Wings Vocal Collective, with whom I get to make some really cool music. Although my background is in software engineering, I spent a few years after graduation as a teacher at different schools around Greater Vancouver, teaching students (including at-risk and underserved youth) everything from classical voice to video game design.


Julia Vasileva

I’m inspired by finding the beauty around me and creating it with my hands. The fact that I was able to dive into creating art as an adult, without any formal art training, was eye-opening for me. I've realized how many insecurities we have about learning and creating, but also how quickly art can liberate us from them and how we can gain confidence in our creativity with a little time and commitment. I would love to help people believe in their creative potential, overcome their fear of the "blank page" (as applied to any medium), accept the uncertainty and dig deep in the process of making. After all, I don’t think you should be born with the muse chromosome to start creating.


Mariana Gassmann

My passion is to help others to improve themselves by learning about healthy lifestyle practices, upcycling, crafts and arts. I am a facilitator of artistic workshops, and I believe the creative process could be a driver for lifestyle improvements. Art came to my life as an experience then it became a hobby and now is part of my everyday.


Michelle Pollard

With a passion for creating ecologically balanced cities, I decided to leave my 15-year career as a scientific researcher to pursue a Masters degree in Environmental Studies specializing in planning and design for sustainability. I envision cities of the future as thriving habitats for all species – cities that integrate nature within the urban landscape and that employ biomimicry and ecosystem science to find solutions for handling water, energy and waste. In 2018 I founded Rewild Vancouver with the aim of gaining support for these sustainable city-building practices through community action and education. Currently Rewild Vancouver offers walking tours and workshops to illustrate how these practises are being applied in Vancouver and around the world. I hope that with the guidance and support provided by the Groundswell Build program, Rewild Vancouver will become a robust and sustainable business.


Myia Antone

Nilh ta ents Myia Antone kwi en sna. tina7 chan Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Stá7mes úxwumixw. chen wa kwélulusnitúmi ti txwna7na. My name is Myia Antone and I come from the Squamish people. I love being out on the land and being surrounded by my relatives in the animal and plant worlds, my ancestors and good-hearted people. As I learn my Sḵwx̱wú7mesh sníchim, I feel closer to my community and family and excited to see where that takes me. I hope to create more opportunities for self-identified Indigenous women's healing journey out on the land and water and provide a safe space for Indigenous women in the outdoor realm.


Naomi Cromwell

Naomi Cromwell (pronouns she/her/hers) is a woman of Afro-Caribbean and European ancestry born and currently residing on unceded Coast Salish territory (Vancouver). A musician, educator and social justice activist, Naomi is an advocate of community building and empowerment through the arts. Throughout her professional career she has had the honor of developing and leading creative initiatives with nonprofit organizations such as The National Music Centre, UNITY Charity, BC Alliance for Arts & Culture, Selkirk College and BC Touring Council.


Olga Nardy

I have an intense passion for inner work including personal and spiritual development, and I am fortunate that it is my career. Before moving to Canada just over two years ago, I worked with Southern Africa’s brightest young minds assisting them in their personal development to become future responsible entrepreneurial leaders. I also worked as a life coach helping individuals to step into their strengths and areas of passion. I love to turn something good into great. Despite not being an artist of any sort or capacity I am highly creative! I care deeply about the state of humanity and the impact that it has on the quality of life, the environment and all the difficulties that we experience in the world today. I have had an idea brewing and evolving in my mind for close to a decade on how to help humanity embrace personal and spiritual development in a way that is unique and compelling! Change can only start within. It is indeed the only way in which we can become a more compassionate, peaceful and loving people. I have done volunteer work with an organization called the Art of Living, where I would teach stress relieving breathing techniques in underprivileged communities, do introduction sessions to meditation and assisted in soup kitchens for homeless people. I am also a mother to a toddler who keeps me super busy and always on my toes!


Robin Eriksson

Robin is an interdisciplinary artist, arts administrator, recently graduated from SFU with her M.Ed. in Art for Social Change. She has been facilitating expression and helping people amplify their voices through arts-based work and community radio where she is a producer, host, trainer and Program Director. Facilitating grassroots expression by and for the community strengthens relationships, encourages collaboration, educates, builds confidence, opens dialogue and increases tolerance. These are a few things she values and can bring value to.

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Valentina Ernst Diaz

I am from Chile and immigrated to Canada almost 9 years ago. Since arriving, I spent most of my time working towards becoming a permanent resident and having a stable income that would give me a sense of security and freedom that I never experienced as a child. Once I accomplished this, I realized that something was missing. What was the purpose for me to wake up in the morning? Then I met my partner Eileen, and she showed me that life and work can be so much more than just going to an office and doing what you are "supposed to do". It can be about service to others while doing what you love. In my case, using my hands to create and teaching others to do the same.


Jess Gordon

With a Child and Youth Counselling and Education background, I have spent the last 10+ years working with young people in various capacities. In 2016, I started training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and have never felt so empowered as a woman and strong; it's been the hardest thing I've ever done, but also the most rewarding. Today, I envision a way that I may combine my passion and experience in these areas of counselling, teaching and jiu jitsu/self-defense.


Kanna Ng

Kanna is a settler of Chinese, Spanish and indigenous Filipino descent who was raised on the unceded and occupied territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. As she was reconnecting to her Filipino roots, she stumbled upon a tribe of resilient mothers who faced typhoon that wiped away everything. However, they rebuild their livelihood by handweaving stunning mats and bags. Kanna was inspired by them and she became frustrated when she learned that they weren't being fairly paid and thus lost profit doing business. This inspired "Women Who Weave", which is driven by the belief that empowering mothers empowers communities. It aims to empowers mothers by selling their products at fair trade prices and uses most of the profit to empower their community, which she hopes have a ripple effect upon the local economy. She enjoys her daytime job in a recovery house in the Downtown Eastside. She is also a vegan foodie, zero waster, avid tea drinker, and obsessed about self development.


Violet-Rose Pharoah

For the past 5 years I’ve had the incredible opportunity to be involved with several collaborative and self-directed projects, using creative and arts-based platforms to create dialogue and advocate for change within the child welfare system. Having personally spent 15 years in the foster care system, I am able to approach the work with experience-based knowledge and sensitivity to the unique social landscape navigated by youth in care. I am passionate about using arts and communications-based platforms to challenge the stigma experienced by the youth in and from care community – by providing a message that honors the truth, educates the public and inspires those with lived experience to know that they are not alone.


Jacqueline Wan

10,000 resumes> 60 hires > 1 female developer > (in a temporary co-op position). That is the result of my 3 years work as a recruiter in a tech company in Vancouver, in the battle of talent-war for tech human-unicorns (aka purple-squirrel in the recruitment-lingo). What happens to the remaining 10,000 applicants? Can outliers be better enabled to shine if they do not fit into a mainstream ‘box’? Or simply put, can we better ‘enable people’? I would like to explore frameworks or new models of thought to reframe current narratives, while addressing corporates thirst of tech talent. "J" is Jacqueline’s nickname. It came about while hiring remote developers and garnered more interest from applicants when they assumed she was male.

Meet other Groundswellians!

Click the image above to meet our alumni who have build their social ventures with Groundswell.