Meet John Kay, Groundswell mentor & advisor

John Kay has been working alongside Groundswell for several years as a mentor in our BUILD program.  What we love most about John is his grounded perspective and street smart approach to mission-driven business development, helping out small start up ventures in the Groundswell community with the experience of an extensive track record with large impact organizations.  A widely experienced business consultant, CEO, international non-profit and public policy leader, we are thrilled to have him formalize his role on our team as an advisor and board member this past year. 

We are grateful for John to offer not only his expertise, but an incredibly warm presence at Groundswell's events and potlucks, and that's not only because he tends to bring a nice bottle of wine to contribute!


John is a serial social entrepreneur and strategic capacity builder with over two decades of experience building and growing successful organizations that combine purpose and profit.

John Kay is the CEO at Realize Strategies, which specializes in designing and delivering management consulting and executive search solutions for mission-driven organizations. They work with non-profits, small businesses, charities, social enterprises and public sector organizations. Since 2012, John has guided Realize Strategies to become a leader in impact-driven strategy and executive search. He values innovative approaches to finding solutions and supporting impact-driven businesses to succeed in their missions.

From 2001 – 2007, John led the national operations of WE Group of Companies where oversaw a portfolio of values-driven business generating a combined $50 million in annual sales. Profits from these companies were invested in a group of non-profits that were funded and managed by the company. John also led the company’s foundation and oversaw the growth of its family of named scholarship funds. In 2001, he led the revitalization of a 70-year old charitable summer camp for children. Under John’s leadership, the property became a successful year-round outdoor recreation and conference social enterprise, while simultaneously tripling the size and scale of the annual charitable summer camp program. In 2003, he co-founded The Tyee, an award-winning national news website focused on “solutions journalism”. In 2013, he co-founded Buy Social Canada – Canada’s national social enterprise certification and social procurement training organization. From 2004 – 2016, John served as Director and Chair  of Fairtrade Canada. Under his leadership, Fairtrade Canada grew from a $400,000 annual enterprise, funded 50% by government grants, to a $2.5 million impact organization funded solely by commercial licensing revenue. From 2010 – 2013, John also served as Director and Global Finance Chair of Fairtrade International, where he oversaw the organization’s $18 million Canadian global operating budget.