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Building Inclusive Communities

May 28 @ 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm

This event will feature a panel on fostering cultural diversity and the second annual Newcomer Entrepreneur Awards.

St. Lawrence College, Kingston Immigration Partnership and Kingston Economic Development are honored to host the Newcomer Entrepreneur Awards for 2024, under the theme “Building Inclusive Communities – Cultivating Cultural Diversity.” This event celebrates the vision, experiences, and dedication of newcomers who are brave enough to create their own businesses, helping to create employment opportunities and solving community challenges from a business perspective. This is why we take this opportunity to celebrate significant contributions made by newcomer entrepreneurs in Kingston.

As part of this celebration, we will also host a panel discussion. This panel discussion will feature a vibrant exploration of how diverse cultural perspectives strengthen community ties, enhance business innovation, and promote inclusive growth.


Stephanie Simpson – Vice-Principal (Culture, Equity, and Inclusion), Queen’s University

Stephanie Simpson was appointed Vice-Principal (Culture, Equity, and Inclusion) in 2023 and oversees the Human Rights and Equity Office, Office of Indigenous Initiatives, Office of the Ombudsperson, and the Office of Complaints and Investigations. In her role, Stephanie leads Queen’s commitment to ensuring a workplace culture that celebrates diversity and inclusion. Prior to her most recent appointment, Stephanie worked in the Human Rights and Equity Office from 1996 to 2023 in several capacities, starting in the portfolios of anti-racism advisor and education coordinator and increasing in responsibility since. She was most recently the office’s director.

Stephanie holds a Master of Education degree and a Master of Laws degree from Queen’s. Her research has focused on how racism and processes of racialization affect youth in smaller urban centres such as Kingston, as well as adjudicative silences with respect to racial inequality and access to justice for racial equality seekers. Simpson has also supported inclusivity and equity efforts in the Kingston community through her roles with the Black Inmates and Friends group; her consultation and education services efforts with organizations such as Interval House, Limestone District School Board, and Kingston General Hospital; and her role on the Kingston Immigration Partnership Operations Committee where she represents Queen’s.

Ryan ‘Rye’ Barberstock, PhD – Co-Owner and Co-Founder of Okwaho Equal Source and Kebaonish

Dr. Rye Barberstock is a co-founder of Okwaho Equal Source Inc. and Kebaonish Inc. Rye has an extensive background in Indigenous relations and community business development. He has held senior communications and leadership positions at the National Indigenous Organization level and senior leadership and capacity-building roles in First Nations communities in southwestern Ontario. Rye is the former co-chair of the Indigenous Knowledge and Learning Working Group at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario. Like his counterpart, he received formal Design Thinking and Advanced Business Design training from the Rotman School of Management. Rye was also an Indigenous Innovator-in-Residence at the former Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Lab in Ottawa and is a recognized Indigenous relations, social innovation, and Indigenous business development advisor. He was also a co-facilitator for the Kwe-Biz Indigenous women’s entrepreneurship program. Rye completed his Ph.D. at Queen’s University in Geography and Planning, with a research focus on Indigenous economy and cultural resurgence in the Dish with One Spoon treaty territory. Rye is Haudenosaunee and a member of Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, located in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Ontario.

Bhavana Varma, OOnt. – Former President & CEO of the United Way of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington

Bhavana Varma is the former President & CEO of the United Way of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, a role she was in for 24 years before retiring on September 1, 2023 to start the next phase of her journey. During her time with this United Way, their fundraising campaign grew dramatically, and it was one of the Top 100 rated charities in Canada.

Bhavana has worked on local collaboratives and shared community plans including the Youth Homelessness initiative. Her passion is helping the non-profit sector, providing workshops, facilitation and coaching to help leaders be the best they can be.

She has received the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee medal, Queen’s University Alumni Association’s Jim Bennett Achievement Award, a Legacy Award from the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Canada’s award of staff excellence, the George Hart Award, the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Pin Award. Bhavana is honoured to have been appointed Honorary Colonel of the 77th Line Regiment and, most recently, was appointed to the Order of Ontario in 2024.

She has volunteered for a number of organizations and has been on the Board of Directors of the Kingston Symphony Association, and the Kingston Frontenac Public Library. She currently sits on the Board of Directors for Providence Village Inc., and co-chairs the Diversity Council of the United Way of Canada, the local Homelessness Collective Impact Committee, and Kingston’s Anti-Racism Task Force.

Daniel Solorio – St. Lawrence Graduate and Professional Photographer

Daniel Solorio graduated with a degree in graphic design and spent the last 15 years as a corporate creative and a Professional Photographer, notably becoming the official photographer of the Jalisco Jazz Festival for 5 straight years. Throughout his career, Daniel has been leading projects in the creative industry, both in local and international advertising. In 2021, he earned his MBA from the Universidad de Guadalajara, producing research on Media Entrepreneurship. And in the last and current year he earned graduate certificates in Project Management and Digital Marketing Communications from St. Lawrence College.


May 28
5:00 pm - 7:30 pm


Delta Hotel
Lakeview Room, 1 Johnson Street
Kingston, ON K7L 5H7 Canada


Kingston Economic Development Corporation
View Organizer Website