New task force to consult B.C. small businesses to boost sector (

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Biographies of Small Business Task Force members

Michael Hwang, chair

As the newly appointed chair of the Small Business Task Force, Michael Hwang brings wide-ranging experience in leadership positions and boards that are focused on community building and business improvement.

Hwang was born in Seoul, Korea, and immigrated to Canada in 1972. After receiving his law degree from the University of British Columbia in 1989, and being called to the B.C. bar in 1990, he practiced with prominent firms in Vancouver before establishing his own firm to serve the small business community. As one of B.C.’s first lawyers fluent in Korean, Hwang has spent 26 years serving business owners in diverse sectors, the non-profit community and cultural organizations.

From 2014-2016, Hwang served as board chair for Sharons Credit Union, which has more than 10,000 members and 50 employees. From 2002 to 2008, he worked with other small business owners to create the North Road Business Improvement Association, and was named Businessperson of the Year by the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce in 2007. He then relocated his firm to New Westminster, and served as the president of the Downtown New Westminster Business Improvement Association and as a director of Douglas College.

Hwang has volunteered for several local and international not-for-profit organizations, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Coast BC, Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society, the SHARE Family & Community Services Society, Presbyterian World Service & Development and Felice Choir Society, which is a multicultural choir whose mission is to promote harmonious diversity.

Hwang has also been appointed to B.C.’s Small Business Roundtable.

Cybele Negris, member

Cybele Negris is CEO and co-founder of, one of Canada’s leading web-domain registrars and internet-solutions companies. Webnames specializes in premium concierge service for businesses and organizations with large domain portfolios requiring custom tools and security. Since its launch in 2000, Negris has helped grow Webnames into a multimillion-dollar company, with a client list that includes many Fortune 500 companies.

Negris has acted as vice-chair of B.C.’s Small Business Roundtable since 2012, and currently sits on the boards of the Royal Canadian Mint, the advisory council of SFU Innovates and the Chair’s Council for Science World British Columbia. She previously served as vice-chair of Small Business BC. Negris has extensive experience serving on the boards of the Premier’s Technology Council, Vancouver Economic Development Commission, Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, Capilano University, Capilano University Foundation and Wired Woman Vancouver.  

She is a hall of fame inductee and four-time winner of the Women’s Executive Network’s Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women award, and was named Top 50 Most Influential Women in B.C. by BCBusiness magazine. She has was named one of Business in Vancouver’s Influential Women in Business, and earned a spot on Profit magazine and Chatelaine’s W100 list nine times.

Shahraz Kassam, member

Shahraz Kassam is a veteran small business owner and franchisor who specializes in the jewellery business. Kassam currently owns and operates Shamin Diamonds, and franchises BeaDazzle Fashion Jewellery and Beading Outlet. He founded Shamin at the age of 18, and helped grow the company to become one of the 100 fastest-growing companies in Canada, according to Profit magazine. Kassam has founded and sold a number of companies, including Dazzlers Fashion Jewellery and Dollar Daze, a chain of dollar stores. Over the past 35 years, he has operated nine stores throughout the Lower Mainland, helping to create more than 200 jobs.  

Kassam is active in the community, and provides ongoing support to A Loving Spoonful, Variety Club Children’s Charity, BC Children’s Hospital and Two Worlds Cancer Collaboration, among others. Through Shamin Diamonds, he has awarded 10 annual scholarships to high school students in the Lower Mainland that excel in entrepreneurial endeavours. He has won multiple business awards, received a Canada 125 Medal and has been named to the Top 40 Under 40 by Business in Vancouver magazine.

Kassam has also been appointed to B.C.’s Small Business Roundtable.