Our Team - Trading Post

Benjamin Ross Makela

Director of Trading Post

Benjamin grew up in a family-owned business that served the remote Indigenous communities of northwestern Ontario. This lifestyle cultivated his entrepreneurial mindset at an early age and instilled the need for more Indigenous-led businesses to serve our Indigenous communities.

Staying near to the family business of building material supply, he majored in Architectural Technology & Construction Management although realigned himself closer to his true passion for entrepreneurship after taking a Master’s degree focused innovation and entrepreneurship at the Smith School of Business at Queen's University where he deepened his knowledge of venture creation.

Since graduating, Benjamin has been working with a Toronto-based venture studio, working alongside seasoned entrepreneurs forming ideas into viable businesses. This experience has given him a wealth of knowledge and insight which he is excited to share with his fellow entrepreneurs at the Trading Post.

Jacob Crane

Indigenous Entrepreneurship Program Manager

Starting his career selling bubble gum at pow wows at the age of nine, Jacob Crane describes himself as a lifelong entrepreneur. Coming to United College from Tsuut'ina Nation in Alberta, Jacob brings two decades of experience and a passion for supporting Indigenous communities in Canada and the United States. Most recently, Jacob worked as the Executive Director for the SLC Air Protectors, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving Indigenous people in Utah. He also co-founded and runs a media production company called The Arrow’s Journey, which showcases the stories of successful small Indigenous youth-led businesses and non-profits across the United States. He has been recognized with several awards and grants for his efforts in supporting Indigenous communities. 

In his role, Jacob looks forward to making a positive impact on the economic futures of Indigenous youth and empowering them to take charge of their lives by gaining the critical skills that come from being entrepreneurial. 

Evan Vandermeer

Trading Post Coordinator

Evan started his professional journey at an industrious gas station and diner located on Oneida of the Thames. Throughout his twenties, he honed his skills in the hospitality industry and continuously sought out opportunities for further education and unique career experiences. In 2016, he transitioned to the real estate industry where he worked as a buyers agent and OSA. In his spare time, Evan has also run various pop-up businesses, including catering and teaching others how to cook and grow mushrooms. Currently, he is a B. Sc. candidate at the University of Waterloo and in May 2022, he founded a mushroom biotechnology company with the goal of supporting a sustainable future. This start-up has received recognition and grants from the Waterloo innovation community. Evan is excited to share his experiences with aspiring entrepreneurs and encourage them to embrace the uncertainty that comes with pursuing their passions.