The first faces behind the UBC Sauder Founders’ Pledge | Part 1

Shizu Okusa, Billy Lan, Braden Parker, Kaylee Astle
Posted 2022-06-13

A wellness advocate who launched a plant-based pharmacy, an app creator reinventing the job search process, a pioneer of innovative footwear, and a self-described “start-up junkie” who helps people create their own private label cosmetics. What do these founders have in common? They’re all proud alumni of the UBC Sauder School of Business who are building philanthropy into the ethos of their companies because they’re guided by the principle of paying it forward. 

With the creation of the UBC Sauder Founders’ Pledge, entrepreneurial alumni, founders, investors and affiliates now have the opportunity to signal their intent to give back to the university one day when they’re ready.

In part one of this multi-part series, we introduce you to four founders who have pledged to donate a portion of their venture’s future success through a personal, non-binding commitment when the time is right for them. The best part? These alumni can support their own personal passions by directing the money to an initiative or program of their choice.

These founders are in good company – check back in the coming weeks to meet others who have pledged their support.

Shizu Okusa (BCom’ 10)

Founder + CEO of Apothékary

Products from Apothékary’s ‘Glow Set’


Backed by over 5,000 years of science, Apothékary is ‘Mother Nature’s Farmacy’ and offers clean, natural alternatives to over-the-counter supplements to support optimal mental and physical health.

Why she made the pledge:

“I like the flexibility of the program, where you can design and have impact in a specific area. Entrepreneurship isn’t a glamorous ride when you’re actually in the front seat, and my hope is that, by offering resources through this pledge, it gives students some real-life practical knowledge of what it’s like.”

Where she hopes to direct her support one day:

“I’d like to create a grant or prize of start-up capital to a handful of founders embarking on their next disruptive idea in the world of health, climate change and agriculture technology.”

What inspires her to give back:

“I only got to where I am because of the philanthropy and generosity of time from so many people, including my mentors from the UBC Portfolio Management Foundation (PMF) program. Not everyone starts in the same position and I recognize that money can be used to drive change and growth.”

Billy Lan (BCom’ 14)

Co-founder + CTO of JobGet

By providing a “home for the hourly workforce,” JobGet’s platform is a marketplace where employers and job seekers can instantly message each other, schedule meetings, and video interview all within minutes. Bringing them closer to their goal of reshaping the employment landscape, the company recently secured $52 million in Series B funding.

Why he made the pledge:

“A lot of founders want to give back but don’t necessarily have the means to do so in a large and impactful way during the early building stages. The UBC Sauder Founders’ Pledge was an opportunity to make a commitment to giving back which gives even more motivation and purpose to the work that I’m doing.”

Where he hopes to direct his support one day:

“I would love for it to go towards areas that promote any sort of entrepreneurship where students can come together, collaborate and build something. During my time at UBC Sauder, I was lucky enough to participate in student-run clubs and the experience I got from building something with my classmates was something that pushed me into entrepreneurship.”

How his experience at UBC Sauder laid the groundwork for his success:

“UBC Sauder encourages students to not only focus on academics but also on building themselves into well-rounded individuals. There’s a strong emphasis and a ton of exposure to teamwork through group projects. These two things really carry over to the start-up experience.”

Braden Parker (BCom’ 13)

Co-founder + CEO of Casca Designs

 Casca x Volvo Cars Limited Edition Kör Knit Sneaker


By altering the construction of the standard sneaker, Casca is focused on helping people power their daily pursuit of wellness from the ground up.

Why he made the pledge:

“Education is the best investment you can make in the future. I had a great time at UBC Sauder and I learned a lot from many different people, from peers to professors. As a young entrepreneur who can’t name a new auditorium, it’s nice to be able to give back in any way I can.”

What inspires him to give back:

“The world is in a very precarious place. I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am, and Casca wouldn’t be anywhere close to where it is, if it wasn’t for lessons and help from others. They gave without any expectation of return, and in order for the world to become a better place, I feel that’s how we have to start thinking.”

What made the Founders’ Pledge stand out:

“The Founders’ Pledge is a good way to build community among other founders and alumni from UBC. I am fortunate to have a nice social circle of people who went to UBC Sauder, but something like this allows you to give back in a way that is meaningful as well as build a stronger community of like-minded entrepreneurs.”

Kaylee Astle (BCom’ 13)

Founder + CEO of Blanka

Blanka was recognized as a Top 100 Tech Companies to Watch for 2022


By automating the process of private labelling, Blanka is a platform that helps anyone start their own makeup or skincare line.

Why she made the pledge:

“UBC Sauder is where my career was kickstarted and I wouldn’t be where I am without the skills that I developed while there. I love that the UBC Sauder Founders’ Pledge lets me demonstrate my commitment to the school. I can’t think of a better way to give back to the next generation of leaders.”

Where she hopes to direct her support one day:

“As an Accounting and International Business major, there were three global experiences that I had at UBC Sauder that shaped my career and opened my eyes to opportunities abroad: (1) Participating in an internship program where I moved to New Zealand for a summer, (2) Moving to Barcelona on exchange, (3) and travelling to Hong Kong as a participant in a case competition. I would love to be able to ensure other students have the opportunity to explore the world both academically and professionally.”

How her experience at UBC Sauder laid the groundwork for her success:

“The professors, the likes of Jeff Kroeker and Bob Elton, had a lasting impact on my career, and I still keep in touch with many of them as they continue to act as mentors while I navigate my career. Beyond the academics, I built a network of friends and peers that I still remain in close contact with today.”