Janet Bannister’s Entrepreneurial Spirit Began While Attending Northern


This is the inaugural edition of Northern Notables, a collection of interviews with NSS Alumni who have made an impact in their personal and professional lives.

by Sam Laskaris

Back in the 1980s, when she was a student at Northern Secondary School, Bannister excelled both in the classroom and while representing the Red Knights on their cross-country running, track and field and cross-country skiing teams. Bannister graduated from Northern in 1988, completing her then five years of high school education in four years (yes, Grade 13 used to be a thing before being phased out by Ontario’s education system).
Janet Bannister continues to impress. Bannister’s most recent accolade is being named the co-chair of C100, an association geared for those in the tech industry and one that strives to support, inspire and advance Canadian entrepreneurship. Bannister, who lives in Toronto, becomes the first Canadian to serve as a C100 co-chair. She was previously a charter member of the association and has been on its Board of Directors the past couple of years. “I’m excited about having a greater contribution to the Canadian tech industry,” Bannister said. “C100 is becoming a global network with prominent Canadians.”

Bannister continues to work as the Managing Director of Real Ventures, which she joined in 2014, becoming the first woman to lead one of Canada’s largest venture funds. Bannister, however, was a go-getter even during her high school days. “I started my first business while I was still at Northern,” she said. “When I was 15 I started a muffin business, selling to stores up and down Yonge Street.” She would wake up at 1 a.m. to begin baking 30 dozen muffins. And then later in the day when stores were open, she would deliver her baked goods using her bicycle as her mode of transportation.

While still in high school, Bannister also started a student painting company along with her brother Doug, who attended Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute.
I loved being at Northern. And I grew a lot personally.
–  Janet Bannister
Bannister said some of her fondest memories of high school are of her running exploits. She represented Northern at provincial championships in both cross-country running and track and field during all four of her years at the school. “And I won several city and regional championship races,” said Bannister, adding she competed in 800-metre, 1,500-metre and 3,000-metre track events. Bannister, who was also an executive member of the Girls’ Athletic Association, was not surprisingly selected as the Northern female athlete of the year for her efforts during the 1987-88 school year.
After her Northern days, Bannister attended Western University in London, Ontario where she graduated with Honours, Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration in 1992. While at Western Bannister ended up winning the Gold Medal for having the highest academic standing in her class, while also continuing her athletic career, earning an athletic letter from the university. Bannister credited her years at Northern for preparing her for university life.

Besides her current position with Real Ventures, Bannister has held various other prestigious titles with noteworthy companies. Upon graduating from Western, she worked as a brand manager for Proctor & Gamble for four years. She then joined Toronto-based McKinsey & Company, working as engagement manager for the business which advised other companies on their strategies, operations as well as merger and acquisitions. Bannister then held Director of Category Development and Product Director titles with eBay Inc. These positions led her to becoming the founder of Kijiji Canada, an eBay company.

Bannister also operated a pair of her own companies before joining Real Ventures. 


Interviewer, Sam Laskaris, is a Toronto-based freelance writer and joined the NSSF board in early 2021. His wife Kathryn (Defries) and their two sons, Michael and Adam, are Northern alumni. Sam has been a long-time supporter of Northern where his sons were key contributors to the school’s drama and athletic programs.