Project Team

Sandy Mark – Project Co-Manager
Founding Executive Director, Small Scale Food Processor Association 

Sandra Mark and her partner Frank Moreland were the founders of the Small Scale Food Processor Association. They recruited Candice to take over for them but they have continued to provide support and involvement as the Association has grown. Sandra’s career has focused on organizational development for several food-related initiatives in BC and Ontario. Co-managing the Women’s Project is exciting as new partners come on board and new possibilities for the Association emerge.

Candice Appleby – Project Co-Manager
Executive Director, Small Scale Food Processor Association

Candice Appleby began her tenure with the SSFPA in 2004. She is an entrepreneur who understands that small business owners must wear many hats to succeed in business. She has always been encouraged by the collaborative approach of the members of the association, people helping people. Over the years she has participated on numerous local, regional, provincial and national committees to advance the sector. Co-managing the project has provided the vehicle to affirm the anecdotal findings of the opportunities and barriers for women in the food processing sector. Candice was runner-up BCBusiness 2021 Women of the Year in recognition of her impactful leadership of SSFPA:

Candice Appleby got an early start as an entrepreneur. At 15 in her hometown of Regina, she earned a real estate licence so she could fill in for her realtor dad. Appleby owned a car detailing shop, a music store and a fishing resort before taking over the two-year-old Small Scale Food Processor Association (SSFPA) in 2004. The food business and its regulations are complex, Appleby notes. “I find the food system as a whole really similar to jazz, especially if you use all 10 fingers,” the musician says with a laugh. The Nanaimo-based SSFPA, which aims to be Canada’s top support organization for small and medium-sized food processors, helps them navigate that minefield. Its 350-plus members have access to a variety of food safety and other educational programs, plus help with marketing, networking and advocacy. Because the SSFPA has a small budget, it operates through partnerships, Appleby explains. One such effort is its food safety programs, which meet international standards. Another alliance launched the Foodmetrics Community Food Analysis Lab, where processors and growers can do the testing they need to sell at grocery chains and to export, in Courtenay in 2018. “It’s food safety and those requirements—industry requirements much more so than government—that dictate access to markets,” Appleby says.When COVID struck, the SSFPA noticed that many government supports left small food processors behind. So it joined forces with a member to create the Food Business Refresh program, which has seen several participants pivot and enhance their operations. Appleby served on the advisory committee for the provincial government’s Buy BC, Feed BC and Grow BC marketing campaigns, as well as for its Food Hub Network. “I see huge upside in B.C.,” she says of her industry. “Together we’re strong.”

Laura Virginillo
Relationship Manager, Small Scale Food Processor Association

Laura was born in PEI but raised in Vancouver where she also raised her own family. Building a career in computer and financial markets, Laura developed skills in communication, project management, and corporate events at a senior level. With a keen desire to expand her knowledge, Laura attended UBC’s Sauder Business School and Università degli Studi di Firenze – UniFI in Italy. Looking for a more rewarding outlet as a creative entrepreneur, having owned and operated several “side hustles” over the years, Laura established a modern concept of a General Store in south Surrey White Rock BC in 2016. Fueling this passion, Laura found her niche again in the food industry and has grown her business to become a wholesale specialty food production company based in eastern Ontario. Pivoting her operation to scale up into the B2B market Laura moved to Ontario in 2021 and has also begun assisting non-profit organizations with their business planning. Laura’s ability to foster relationships with community residents, Members of Parliament, and business associations to achieve shared objectives has led her to her current role with SSFPA as Relationship Manager.

Hannah Messineo
Policy Engagement, Small Scale Food Processor Association.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Hannah moved to Ottawa to complete her Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing at the University of Ottawa. During her time as a student, she developed her passion for digital marketing and creating social media and other web content. After working with Sandy through the Community Service Learning Program at the University of Ottawa, Hannah developed an interest in the non-profit sector, and learned about the impact of Canada’s domestic food system. Now, she is excited to bring her love for writing and content creation to the SSFPA through her position in Food System Policy outreach and engagement.