Meet 7 of Canada's Brightest Change Makers
Across business, science and technology—they’re paving the way for a better future one great idea at a time.
by : Emily Tamfo- Sep 6th, 2023
PHOTOGRAPHY, ANDONI & ARANTXA/TRUNK ARCHIVE
The young financial guru
Reni Odetoyinbo, or “Reni, The Resource,” as the internet knows her, bought her first house at 23. So while most of us were weaning ourselves off a monthly allowance from Mom and Dad, Odetoyinbo was at the bank signing on a mortgage. Although the financial guru, who’s from Mississauga, Ont., credits her parents with giving her a leg up on all things money, she certainly came into her own as the fiscally responsible big sister we all need. Through her many platforms (including Instagram, TikTok and her podcast, Don’t Go Broke Trying), she coaches her audience on how to make gooddecisions about capital early. Her hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed either. Just this past March, Odetoyinbo was one of the select few to be invited by Justin Trudeau to preview the 2023 federal budget. When asked what the most rewarding part of her work is, the now 26-year-old says: “Seeing the lives that have been changed! Women have told me that they started investing in the stock market, negotiated their salary, purchased their first house or paid off thousands in debt because of me. I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear that.”
THE SISTERS TEACHING SENIORS
It all started in 2009, when Kascha and Macaulee Cassaday had to do some volunteering to graduate high school. They, like all kids that age, just wanted to get their hours in, but when they noticed how much they used tech to stay close with their grandparents, a light bulb went on. The Toronto-based siblings realized that by teaching older generations how to use modern tech, they could bridge the digital divide between young and old. They started by touring local retirement communities to tutor seniors on how to use popular apps like Skype and Facebook. Their experience was captured in the critically acclaimed 2014 documentary Cyber-Seniors (directed by their sister, Saffron Cassaday). Fourteen years later, they’ve built a non-profit with reach across North America and a mission to create digital equality and connect generations through technology. “During the pandemic, we all learned how social isolation can negatively impact us, and older adults are at a higher risk of social isolation as they age,” says Kascha. “Our organization is powered by youth volunteers who are in high school or university. All the older adults we work with are lifelong learners who are dedicated to keeping their minds sharp. As much as they are learning from us, they are giving back by guiding us to be better teachers and leaders.” If you’ve ever needed a reminder to call your grandparents, this is it.
THE SCIENCE GUYS
If you’ve ever wondered what the 2023 answer to Bill Nye is, look no further than Guelph, Ont., native Mitch Moffit and Torontonian Greg Brown—better known as AsapScience. As a matter of fact, when they started their brand after graduating from science programs at the University of Guelph, their ultimate goal was to meet Nye, whose quirky ’90s TV show got a generation of kids to love science. With a base of more than 10 million subscribers on YouTube alone, Brown, a stand-up comedian, and Moffit, a musician—who are also a couple—use their talent, humour, passion and expertise to answer the world’s most complex questions for those of us who aren’t as savvy. Since starting their channel in 2012, they’ve written a New York Times Best Seller, collaborated with NASA and made Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list. And, yes, not only have they met Nye but he has appeared in several of their videos. Beyond YouTube, they’ve made a real world impact, most recently by helping improve climate-change legislation affecting Indigenous communities in the Arctic. By continuing to share science through a fun, creative lens, not only are they inspiring the younger generation to enjoy learning about science but they have also become advocates of under-represented queer voices in STEM.
THE MENTAL-HEALTH CHAMPION
Montreal-born Emmanuel Akindele turned tragedy into triumph. A happy teenager on the outside, he was silently suffering from social media-related anxiety on the inside. In fact, the first time he opened up about the state of his mental health to an educator, he was laughed at. He never forgot that feeling. While Akindele was in high school in London, Ont., a classmate died by suicide after facing relentless cyberbullying. When the classmate’s father gave his eulogy, he stated that he simply hadn’t known what his child had been going through. Akindele never forgot that either. Years later, along with co-founder Kyle Lacroix, he created Blue Guardian, a mental-health app that uses AI to detect early signs of issues in youth via their social-media usage. Parents can download Blue Guardian and be connected with experts and resources if their child is exhibiting concerning online behaviours. In April 2023, Akindele won first place—along with a $20,000 prize—at the Black Innovation Summit held in Toronto, and in May, Blue Guardian was announced as part of NEXT Canada’s 2023 start-up cohort, which comes with an opportunity to receive up to $100,000 in funding. By using AI for good, Akindele has made major strides in recent years—and the best is yet to come.
THE HR CONNOISSEUR
After dealing with abuse at the tech job of her dreams, Avery Francis made a commitment to find her “why.” The entrepreneur—who’s from Caledon, Ont., and now based in Toronto—founded Bridge School, which offers educational programs to bridge the talent and opportunity gap for women and non-binary individuals working in tech. But with years of experience in traditional corporate environments, Francis realized she could go one step further—she could use her talents to ensure that others like her had the safe, inclusive work environment she never had. Francis’ workplace-design consultancy, Bloom, founded in 2019, has helped several of Canada’s top companies establish HR practices for recruiting, retaining and coaching talent that’s reflective of our diverse communities. “I never really aspired to be an entrepreneur,” she says. “[But] I am on a mission to build workplaces that work for everyone, and it’s a big, lofty goal that will take time. Bloom enables organizations to challenge old ways of working and make meaningful evolutions so everyone can access jobs that work for them.” When she’s not leading the charge to change the faces of Bay Street, the founder and CEO hosts a podcast, Girlboss Radio, on which she interviews women across all industries about their experiences in business.
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