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, Senior Vice President 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
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
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.
Assistant Director, National Accounts
Patricia is a member of an elite group – people born in Vancouver who still live there. Although she’s lived other places (Toronto, Hamilton, Revelstoke, Lillooet, Penticton), there’s no place like home. Especially since she still lives in the house her parents built in the 1960s with the same phone number and an original Harvest Gold rotary dial phone tucked away in a drawer somewhere. (You’re giving away your age if you know what that is…) When Patricia returned to Vancouver in 2004, a friend mentioned an amazing event staffing company that was hiring. Like most on our management team, she started out working in the front-lines and has never looked back. She recognizes there’s a delicate balance between providing excellent service to both the clients who hire us and the clients we hire. Today, Patricia’s role at BBW is doing whatever needs to be done. She may be on-site supervising teams of 2 to 200, managing internal projects or assisting with operations. She’s been known to bring a hammer and some nails to get to the job done. Patricia has a Diploma in Public Relations from Kwantlen Polytechnic University. She has worked in a variety of roles from business management, communications, public relations, marketing and customer service, for both the government and private sectors. Patricia believes in work-life balance. In her spare time, she teaches and dances Argentine Tango with her husband, sings with a local chorus and enjoys walks with her dog Max.
National Business Development Manager
James joined BBW in 2007 as a member of the Vancouver event staff team after nearly 20 years in Broadcast Promotions and Retail Advertising in Alberta and British Columbia. The flexibility of the work was perfect while he was seeking a career change, but he enjoyed it so much that he continued to work with BBW after accepting his next position in Retail Management.
James eventually recognized that his fun part-time job was a much better fit for his experience and personality. He joined the BBW management team on a full-time basis assisting the Vancouver Operations team and reaching out to new clients across Canada.
When he’s not developing new business, James enjoys the great outdoors of beautiful British Columbia hiking and kayaking as often as possible. Tucked into the back of his experience closet, few know that he was once a backup singer in Las Vegas. And did you know he can knit circles around your grandmother? All true.
National Accounts Manager
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.
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.
Business Development Manager, Toronto
Born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Aalia moved to Toronto in 2001 to study International Project Management in hopes of one day saving the world. Fast forward 17 years, Aalia says she might be better saving herself from the world. After graduation, she dove into a science-centric career in the HIV/AIDS field. Starting a new family, she found a channel to work and stay at home to raise her two beautiful children. Somewhere between diaper changing, bottle feeding and countless sleepless nights, her interest shifted to events and everything related. In 2015, Aalia returned to sanity and started working as an event staff with BBW International and two years later, she joined the management team. When Aalia is not pursuing her passion for events, you'll likely find her cheering on the Toronto Raptors or checking out the newest restaurants and ice cream spots in the 6ix! An interesting fact is that Aalia changed her birth name when she was eight years old. So, in conversation, ask her what her birth name was. However, if she won't tell you, she does say that the key to unlocking any of her hidden secrets is with chocolate!
Mary Ann Wong
Regional Manager, Calgary
Vancouver Office Manager
There is no other member of the management team who can say he was introduced to the BBW through AC/DC, his first event experience. While studying at UBC, Ryan joined BBW as a member of Vancouver's front-line team in 2015. What an exciting start for him and an entry to more adventures working events. He embraced the diversity of experiences and the people who characterizes the event industry. Upon graduation, he seized the opportunity to transition to the management team. Now, he is keen to devote his energy and talents towards promoting BBW’s ongoing success. He is the go-to person for office tech questions and he loves to experiment with new and innovative ideas and technology. Any gadget you can think of, Ryan probably has it! As almost always the tallest person in the room, clients and staff have no problems spotting Ryan in a crowd. And, yes, before you ask, he does play basketball! To date, Ryan has never met anyone who could pronounce his last name on the first try. He even struggles with it from time to time… So, if you run into him, give it a try and you might be the to first to get it right!
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, Halifax
From the heart of the Maritimes, Irene has spent much of her professional life in Nova Scotia. Prior to joining BBW, she was the Manager of Human Resources for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. From there, she took time off to devote to her family as a caregiver. During this hiatus, she met Henk Bok and saw an opportunity to re-enter the business world with flexibility in the events industry. It was a great way to establish a balance between home and the outside world. With the opening of the new Halifax Convention Centre, Irene is excited to see more ways for events to utilize BBW in Halifax. Not all business, Irene can be found outdoors with golf, skiing and sailing.
Experience BBW at your next event
We are a different kind of event staffing company. Our highly trained professionals can give you a worry-free staffing option for your event. Our secret is our people and our specialized training program. Talk to us to discover the BBW difference.