SFU Beedie alumni Charles Chang and Denise Williams honoured with 2022 Outstanding Alumni Awards
Jul 05, 2022
Simon Fraser University is recognizing two inspiring SFU Beedie alumni, among four SFU alumni, with the 2022 Outstanding Alumni Award: world-class entrepreneur and business mentor, Charles Chang, and trailblazing digital equity advocate for Indigenous peoples, Denise Williams.
Our remarkable alumni are making positive impact around the world in fields such as business and philanthropy as well as technological development and community service, and contributing to a brighter, more equitable future for all.
Read more about these dynamic leaders within SFU Beedie’s strong alumni community.
Charles Chang, BBA ’95
President & Founder, Lyra Growth Partners Inc.
Award Category: Professional Achievement
Seasoned in both Vancouver and global business markets, SFU Beedie alumnus Charles Chang is the founder and head of Lyra Growth Partners, a venture growth equity company that helps aspiring entrepreneurs build companies with passion and purpose. He is a renowned and respected leader in the field of social entrepreneurship and innovation and his contributions to business, philanthropy, and education are helping to raise a new generation of changemakers and problem solvers.
Charles made his name by creating and leading plant-based nutrition company Vega, which he started from his basement in 2004 and financed with his life savings, a second mortgage on his home and credit cards. By the time he sold Vega in 2015, Charles had grown the company into an iconic lifestyle brand with products in over 20,000 stores across North America.
In 2016, he made a transformative gift to SFU to establish the Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship, an interdisciplinary home and academic hub where students and ideas converge to foster entrepreneurial thinking and action. Charles is also co-founder of PowerPlay Young Entrepreneurs, a non-profit organization that helps elementary school students develop an entrepreneurial mindset.
He resides with his family in West Vancouver, B.C., and is an active member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) as well as an avid golfer, fly fisher, mountain biker and skier.
Denise Williams, GDBA ’12, MBA ’15
Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Technology Council
Award Category: Service to the Community
Denise Williams, a member of the Cowichan Tribes, is a visionary who has made a remarkable contribution to achieving digital equity for Indigenous peoples in Canada. Leading the First Nations Technology Council (FNTC) for 10 years, in a context where numerous Indigenous communities across the country have limited or unreliable access to technology such as high-speed internet, Denise has brought together the goals of Indigenous sovereignty and technological advancement within a rapidly expanding, global tech and innovation economy.
As the architect of the First Nations Technology Council (FNTC), Denise has established several key initiatives including BC’s first Indigenous Innovation Institute, first research projects done on First Nations participation in the tech and innovation sector and the first Indigenous Digital Equity Strategy, calling upon influential groups of Indigenous, government and industry leaders to better coordinate and cooperate to achieve digital equity. When the strategy completes in late 2022, BC will have for the first time a comprehensive roadmap where investment, partnership and policy reform are required to move forward, ensuring all Indigenous peoples have both access to, and leadership of, the most powerful platforms our human society has ever built.
Giving her time and resources freely, Denise puts others first and consistently holds up and celebrates everyone around her. She is dedicated to creating and holding space for youth voices and is most often heard talking about future generations and the work we must do today for their benefit. She is proud to hold governance positions with the Urban Native Youth Association, MakeWay Foundation, Vancouver Foundation, Innovate B.C. and SFU’s Beedie School of Business Advisory Board, to name just a few.
SFU is thrilled to present the 2022 Outstanding Alumni Awards at an in-person event on Burnaby Campus on September 28, 2022. Learn more about the other winners.
Save the date and join the excitement! Early bird tickets will be made available in August through the Outstanding Alumni Awards website.