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Startup Stories: Building your Culture

Join local small business owners, entrepreneurs, and side-hustlers for an evening with Marnie Dansereau (Communitea Cafe) and Karina Birch (Rocky Mountain Soap Company) as they share about taking their business ideas from concept to reality (and all the hurdles in between).

Each will present on how they built their culture followed by a combined Q&A, and social gathering. 

Presented in partnership with the Town of Canmore

FREE entry but please register here


6:30 - 7:00 pm - Networking

7:00 - 7:30 pm - Intro and Q&A

7:30 - 8:30 pm - Panel Discussion

8:30 - 8:45 pm - Town of Canmore business survey

8:45 - 9:30 pm - Networking


Marni Dansereau, Owner/Creative Director of the Communitea Cafe in Canmore.

 In the summer of 2006, Marnie Dansereau got an idea.  Spurred on from the intuition that the world was changing fast and with technology about to explode with the launch of smart phones and social media, that it was more important than ever to bring people together.  The idea of creating a super positive, healthy gathering space came in a moment of making tea in her kitchen.  From that idea, which felt like an epiphany or calling, in less than 6 months, Communitea Cafe opened it’s doors in early January 2007. Having never worked in a cafe, nor managing staff, to designing, building and starting a restaurant was quite an ambitious solo undertaking.  In an industry with dismall success rates, Marnie took the risk and self funded the dream anyway.  

 Now, in it’s 13th year, Communitea Cafe is a trademarked brand delivering healthy, fresh food fast, in a vibrant atmosphere in Canmore, Alberta.  The cafe continues to grow within the walls of the original location, that many warned was way too big in the early days. Marnie’s response was “my vision is big”, and took the leap.  Now the cafe can often be lined up as a very popular spot serving breakfast, lunch and soon to expand to dinner hours. In addition the Communitea has become a premier spot for live music in Canada with many high profile Canadian and International touring artists filling the stage on select evenings.  It is a welcoming, gathering space with a mission statement: To make a positive impact; in someone’s day, in our community, and in the world.  

 Marnie continues to be involved in the background of the cafe as the creative director. She lives in Canmore, Alberta with her husband and son.  You may be more likely to run into her on the ski hill or mountain bike trails these days.

Karina Birch, CEO, Rocky Mountain Soap Co. in Canmore

Karina Birch is co-owner and CEO of Rocky Mountain Soap Co. She and her husband Cam nurtured the company from its beginnings in 2000, as a small shop in Canmore to now 13 retail stores and a 20,000 square foot workshop.  Believing ‘what goes on the body, goes in the body,’ Rocky Mountain Soap creates small-batch beauty products using simple, natural and fresh ingredients. 

 Karina spends her time directing Rocky’s strategy, product development and brand.  Since their earliest days, she and Cam have focused on fostering a strong company culture that empowers people to ‘Give it a Go,’ reminds them to ‘Be Kind,’ and encourages ‘Positivitude.’ 

 In recent years, the company has expanded its sustainability commitment to include its built environments.  Rocky’s Canmore workshop and recent store builds and renovations have adhered to the highest standards of sustainable, responsible construction.  

Karina balances running a rapidly growing company with raising three rapidly growing children. She maintains her sanity by taking advantage of having some of the best skiing, hiking and biking in the world on her doorstep to keep her active and balanced.

Rocky Mountain Soap has been included in the Profit 100 and Alberta Ventures ‘Fastest Growing Companies.’ Karina has been honored as a female entrepreneur on the ‘W100’ list. She sits on the board for Rocky Mountain Ventures and is a current member and past board member of Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) Calgary. She has also completed the Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management Program (OPM).



Peter Collins, Owner of Fusebox

Peter is the founder and owner of Fusebox coworking studio in Canmore, AB that opened in May 2018. 

 His first business was designing and printing t-shirts to the adventure market in the UK, went on to become a freelance photographer, ran a successful Nordic ski centre in NE Scotland and an adventure race training and online retail store.

Moving to Canada in 1999 he started Green Extreme Outdoors Ltd. and introduced Buff multifunctional headwear into Canada in early 2000.  Over 17 years he grew the business to be a multi-million dollar brand selling both online and distributing to over 700 retail stores.  He sold the business to the manufacturers in 2017. 

He also runs Peter Collins Photography offering mountain brand fashion photography, and is one half of Twin Zebra wedding photographers.

Earlier Event: April 9
Start-Up Stories: Building your Brand