Hendrik J. Bok
President and Founding Partner
A Dutch national, Henk was working on contract in the Netherlands and Canada with an international health insurance company when he met Sheila Wong in 1989 while on business in Toronto. The two soon recognized that there was good synergy to consider a business venture together. An opportunity to import products manufactured by a Dutch plastic injection moulding company was presented. BBW International Inc was born. As with all small business start-ups, unpredictable world events became a stumbling block. In 1991 North America’s biggest recession since the Depression took a grip on the Canadian economy. Importing products from a strong and prosperous European Union in a down-turn economy was not feasible. Being entrepreneurial, Henk and Sheila decided to pursue the staffing business that Sheila came from and specialized in the events sectors. At BBW, Henk is the guy behind the scenes making sure the cogs on the wheels of BBW is well oiled and running smoothly from finance to IT. He is brilliant with processes and has super human abilities to see the finer details. When Henk first emigrated to Canada, English was his third language following Dutch and German. He was known for misquoting idioms, such as “You drive me up the roof” instead of “… up the wall”; or “that was a knee slasher” instead of “ … knee slapper”. And our all time favourite – “I heard it through the graveyard”. Henk has a deep love of animals and nature. At BBW, after seeing how he cares for his pets, we all want to come back as his dog or cat in our next lives. A client once described Henk as “the class” in BBW.
CEM, Vice President, Business Development and Founding Partner
Hailing from Calgary, Sheila moved to Toronto during Alberta’s oil bust in the late eighties. In search of sidewalks paved in gold, she soon realized she didn’t fit into the corporate world. She worked at a craft brewery when it wasn’t so trendy, publishing and health insurance. The latter took her to a temporary service agency where she learned the trade. When BBW started in 1991, Sheila and Henk had to find a niche in order to survive a longer than expected recession in the Canadian economy. From her experience as an ambassador for Alberta at World Expo ’86 in Vancouver, Sheila recognized a need for staffing services in the trade show and conference industry. From the yellow pages, she started cold calling on trade show producers. She describes, “It was like looking for a job without experience and everyone only wanted to work with someone who has experience”. It was not an easy road. She’ll be quick to mention that the first two trade show clients failed to pay the bill. Now more than two decades later, with 1000 events each year, BBW is at the top of its game. Sheila is instrumental in developing the service offerings of BBW and the proprietary Front Pro™ eLearning for all BBW front-line employees. In recent years, Sheila has been inducted into two industry Halls of Fame, won an MPI Toronto Literary Award and the 2016 MPI Toronto Industry Influence Award. When she’s not busy running the company, she plays piano and the violin with a community music ensemble. She loves to cook but doesn’t want to be paid for it and she makes jewelry to raise money for grassroots charities. If BBW didn’t exist, she would have become a tour operator calling her company “Wong Tours to the Right Places”. If Henk is "the class” then Sheila is definitely “the fun”.
Director, National Accounts, Vancouver
Lois joined BBW’s front-line team in 1997 because she could speak French, hailing from Montreal. By 1999, she was managing the Vancouver operations because it was a nice part-time job she could do from home while raising her young family. With a new convention centre and an Olympics later, Vancouver’s conference industry is booming and that nice part-time job has morphed into a full fledged operation with a team of four. Lois oversees the business development team across Canada and the operations in Western Canada. It is rumoured that she’s actually three people and part of an early successful cloning experiment. If there were Jeopardy categories called “Conferences & Events” or “Random People I know”, Lois would be the reigning champion. Her memory is impeccable. She hopes to have time one day for a real hobby.
National Operations Manager, Toronto
Other than the founding partners, Toni is the longest serving employee at BBW. She came to the BBW with a friend to apply for a job to work at the Toronto Gift Show in hopes of working occasionally while raising three children. When her youngest started grade one, Toni was offered a full time job. Her knee-jerk reaction was to say no because her family came first. However, the founding partners of BBW were ahead of their time and provided Toni the opportunity to work flexible hours that would allow her to be available to her family when they needed her. Toni now oversees the operations across Canada and runs a payroll for nearly 1000 employees. She is not only a mother to her three children, but is also very maternal in making our coordinators in the other regions feel that they are looked after in the BBW family. She is the backbone of the company. She prides herself as a devoted “hockey mom”. All three of Toni’s children have worked at BBW before launching into their chosen careers. It’s great that the next generation of front-line staff are children of long time employees. When not entrenched in payroll and government remittances, Toni escapes to her cottage on Chandos Lake near Peterborough.
Business Development Manager, Toronto
If you think Parris looks familiar, you’re not alone. Prior to working for BBW, he spent 10 years as a professional stage actor performing in plays and musicals on stages as far west as Canmore, Alberta and as far east as Moscow. From the stage to the frontlines of BBW, he is one of our newest members. During his first assignment at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Parris identified a problem, found a solution and got the team to implement the resolution immediately. He stood out to Sheila Wong, who recognized right away that Parris has talent for more than crowd control. It turns out prior to acting school, he earned a degree with majors in Human Biology and Economics. As Sheila’s right-hand, left-arm and some days, even her brain, Parris is the go-to guy at head office for our new and existing clients. He can be counted on to anticipate the unexpected, identify the hole in a schedule, or to make you smile with his cheerful nature. As a big fan of the Blue Jays, a highlight in his early years was singing the national anthems at a game in 1993 when he was with a children’s choir. There are many days Parris can be heard humming away at his desk. You can take an actor off the stage, but you will never take the stage out of his soul.
Business Development Manager, Montreal
Karine worked in the frontlines of BBW Vancouver while she was attending BCIT in Events Management. When she returned to Quebec City, her home, she continued to work whenever we had a need. Now Karine is in Montreal working on the ground prospecting for new clients in the Montreal market while working on her Masters program in Library Sciences. Forever in School, BBW has provided Karine the opportunity to stay in the industry she loves while pursuing her other dreams. She has driven across the country from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Tofino, British Columbia with a friend. She liked it so much, a year later, she drove from Portland Oregon to Portland, Maine. All by herself. Having a knack for ending up in strange situations, she was once stuck in a recycling container in a psychiatric hospital. The security guards thought they were rescuing a wandering patient. She had a hard time convincing them that she wasn’t a resident while she was inside the container.
Business Development Manager, Vancouver
Paul moved to Vancouver from Australia in 2013. He had worked in Human Resources with the Australian Government and in sales and marketing in the tourism sector. Turns out his housemate in Vancouver was working for the BBW at the time and convinced Paul to apply for work in the events sector. Since he had worked in a hotel while attending university facilitating events, he jumped at the chance to work for BBW in the front-lines. Paul is often seen at industry events with his notably delightful Aussie accent, charming his unsuspecting prospects into hiring BBW. His claim to fame – Paul received a bagpipe scholarship to Scotland and played in the fourth best pipeband in the world, Scottish Power. We have yet to ask him to play the bagpipes at a client event. He swears that since moving to Vancouver, where no one uses the indicator while driving, he has become clairvoyant.
Business Development Manager, Ottawa
Corey started with BBW over 10 years ago as a member of the event staff team in Vancouver. The flexibility of the work at the time was perfect while he was getting his business off the ground. From Vancouver to Edmonton (his home town) then to Ottawa, Corey finally saw the light and joined the management team on a full time basis in search of new clients across Canada and the US. He is our man in the Ottawa Bureau. When he’s not developing new business he can be seen in Ottawa burning up the salsa dance floor and enjoying the outdoors. Clients have mused that in dim lighting, from a distance, Corey resembles a young Prime Minister. What do you think?
Sales and Marketing Coordinator, Vancouver
Amanda had just moved from Kelowna to Vancouver a few years ago when she was volunteering at the MPI BC Chapter. During one of the many networking events, Amanda moseyed over to a friendly face to clink glasses when she noticed that she and Lois had similar last names, plus or minus an “a”. Lois invited her in for an interview. Now the most common question asked of Amanda is, “Are you Lois’ daughter?” To which she wants to say yes. But being wise beyond her years, Amanda realizes that with great power comes great responsibility. From the front-line to her current position, Amanda supports the sales team across Canada with research data on upcoming events in each city BBW operates. She is responsible for BBW’s social media platforms and establishes and maintains the many relationships with clients and staff who contribute to the success of the company. Amanda is unabashed about her love of anything sweet – to the point that she really believes she is the product of a laboratory experiment at Cadbury.
Operations Manager, Toronto
Mairead was working in the tourism and hotel sector in London, England. With two months off each year, she came backpacking to Canada where she met and fell in love with a Canadian from Toronto who was working in Vancouver building the Olympic Village. As a result, she had to return to Canada on a Holiday Working Visa. When her partner moved back to Toronto, Mairead decided to make Canada her permanent home. While in Vancouver, she met a BBW team member who encouraged her to work for the Toronto front-line team. Mairead’s incredibly calm disposition and competency did not go unnoticed. When the position of operations manager opened up, she tore herself away from the events work she loved and joined the management team. The most difficult thing about Mairead is figuring out how to pronounce her name – she encourages people to think of rhyming it with “parade” – but her name is really Margaret to the non-Irish. She has lived on three continents and loves photography.
Regional Coordinator, Ottawa
Debbie discovered BBW when she was working for one of our clients. In the first hour of a two-day event, Debbie’s boss suffered a seizure and she was left in charge with only the BBW staff assigned to help her. She never forgot how impressed she was with the BBW staff and when she left her company she joined BBW and transitioned into the Regional Coordinator role. Little known to most, Debbie sang the American national anthem at a Canada vs. USA Olympic men’s volleyball game. She loves being by the water, on the water or in the water – better with food and wine.
Regional Coordinator, Montreal
Anna has been with BBW since 1996 when she answered an ad for event staff in the Montreal Gazette. Her youngest child was four years old at the time and she was looking for a little part time work to keep her sanity. Her first show was Comdex Canada East. Now her son is graduating from McGill and she’s the Regional Coordinator. After 20 years, Anna feels like she is with family at BBW. She is obsessed with Bon Jovi – almost a stalker. Being a Montrealer her favorite team, naturally, is the Boston Bruins – shhhh – don’t tell!
Regional Coordinator, Edmonton
If there’s something out there that needs to be done, Kate has done it. From working in the public sector to private to not-for-profit. Kate has played major and supportive roles in industry. She has owned and operated a café, realizing a life-long dream. So it’s not hard to believe that Kate is a mother of two sons and a grandmother to three precocious grandchildren. She joined BBW in the frontlines more than five years ago and took on the Coordinator’s role when her predecessor retired. She enthusiastically leads a small but mighty team in Edmonton. Most notable of Kate is how passionate she is with providing our BBW clients with exceptional service when they land in Oiler country. Even if they hail from Maple Leaf land. She claims to have no secrets to divulge because her life is an open book!
Mary Ann Wong
Regional Manager, Calgary
With an extensive background in the telecommunications and retail industries, Mary Ann is no stranger to servicing client needs. Her family was part of the first wave of internal-emigrants departing Montreal prior to the first Quebec Referendum to determine Quebec’s place in Canada. They landed in Calgary. As with all members of our management team, Mary Ann joined BBW in 2001 in the front-lines and soon became the regional coordinator for Calgary until 2009. At that time, she left as she was needed in her retail business that she owned and operated with her husband. But once you’ve been bitten, you can’t give up the events industry and when BBW was in need of a regional manager, Mary Ann returned to BBW in 2012. She has a unique perspective in the business as a supplier but also a vendor, exhibiting at consumer shows with her retail business. A little known fact is that Mary Ann is a talented artist. One of her watercolour paintings is displayed at the Alberta Distilleries. She loves anything to do with food and has the metabolism to support her habits.