As the EY En­trepreneur Of The Year awards for the Pa­cific Re­gion mark a quarter-century, we of­fer in­sights and suc­cess sto­ries from EOY win­ners past and present

BC Business Magazine - - Front Page -

It's no se­cret that Bri­tish Columbia is home to some of the most am­bi­tious, cre­ative and dar­ing busi­ness minds in the coun­try. From bil­lion­aire Jim Pat­ti­son to fash­ion mogul Brian Hill, there's some­thing about the Pa­cific coast that nour­ishes a par­tic­u­lar kind of en­trepreneur­ship—the kind that dreams big, wins big and gives big. For 25 years, the EY En­trepreneur Of The Year awards pro­gram has rec­og­nized the best and bright­est B.C. has to of­fer, hon­our­ing nearly 240 win­ners to date.

Lui Petrollini, EOY pro­gram di­rec­tor for the Pa­cific Re­gion, says the province's win­ners do have cer­tain things in com­mon. “They all have a vi­sion. They all give back to their com­mu­ni­ties, and they tend to be very good peo­ple man­agers,” the EY as­sur­ance part­ner re­flects. “They be­gin with a vi­sion, and they take a lot of risks and sac­ri­fice a lot to get where they are. How many times have I heard sto­ries where, from a fi­nan­cial stand­point, the en­trepreneurs have lever­aged ev­ery­thing they own, in­clud­ing their homes, to pur­sue a dream? And the peo­ple that we're hon­our­ing have been suc­cess­ful in achiev­ing their dreams.”

The win­ners re­ceive more than recog­ni­tion; they be­come mem­bers of an elite group, with op­por­tu­ni­ties to forge new con­nec­tions among a global net­work of EOY alumni that ex­tends to 145 cities in some 60 coun­tries. Re­gional win­ners com­pete on the na­tional stage, and na­tional cham­pi­ons vie for the ul­ti­mate prize: EY World En­trepreneur Of The Year. With a pro­gram of such breadth and scope, says Petrollini, EOY win­ners past and present have come to rep­re­sent the best in busi­ness and en­trepreneur­ship around the world. “It's be­come known as the only truly global awards pro­gram of its kind, and it's brought the top en­trepreneurs for­ward to share their sto­ries,” he ob­serves. EOY hon­orees gain ac­cess to ex­clu­sive events such as the an­nual EY Strate­gic Growth Fo­rum in Palm Springs, Cal­i­for­nia, a five- day Novem­ber con­fer­ence fea­tur­ing renowned fig­ures from busi­ness, en­ter­tain­ment and phi­lan­thropy. In 2017, speak­ers in­cluded NBA Hall- of-famer Shaquille O'neal; Os­car-win­ning ac­tress Vi­ola Davis; New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots owner Robert Kraft; and 2017 World En­trepreneur Of The Year Mu­rad Al-katib, pres­i­dent and CEO of

Regina-based AGT Food and In­gre­di­ents Inc.

What makes the EOY awards unique is not only their global reach but also how win­ners are se­lected. Judg­ing is done by in­de­pen­dent pan­els com­pris­ing busi­ness and com­mu­nity lead­ers, ed­u­ca­tors and past award win­ners. Look­ing be­yond fi­nan­cial per­for­mance, the judges also mea­sure suc­cess by con­sid­er­ing in­no­va­tion, vi­sion, in­tegrity, lead­er­ship and en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit. Cat­e­gories vary slightly from year to year, re­flect­ing changes in the busi­ness cli­mate, but they span tech­nol­ogy, mining, busi­ness-to-busi­ness, busi­ness-to-con­sumer, agri­cul­ture, fi­nan­cial, re­tail, ser­vices and—more re­cently— so­cial ven­tures.

Suzanne Siemens, CEO of re­us­able men­stru­al­pad com­pany Lu­na­pads In­ter­na­tional Prod­ucts Ltd. (p.54), says the EOY 2017 spe­cial ci­ta­tion cat­e­gory for So­cial En­trepreneur pro­vided a com­pelling op­por­tu­nity to take part. “[The cat­e­gory] spoke more to look­ing at busi­ness from a val­ues per­spec­tive and not just a bot­tom-line, top-line per­spec­tive,” she ex­plains. “My own per­sonal goal as a busi­ness leader is to in­spire other busi­nesses by show­ing that you can com­bine busi­ness and so­cial im­pact and cre­ate greater good.”

As en­trepreneurs who also hap­pen to be women, Siemens and her busi­ness part­ner Madeleine Shaw are part of a group that Petrollini hopes will play a big­ger role in EOY. “B.C. is do­ing a good job of nom­i­nat­ing women, but we can al­ways do bet­ter,” he notes. “We would love to have more women en­trepreneurs in the EOY pro­gram, be­cause that ul­ti­mately helps sup­port di­ver­sity here in our province.”

Be­ing part of the awards can help pro­pel a busi­ness to even more suc­cess. “The con­nec­tions that were cre­ated [through EOY] were in­cred­i­ble, and some of my col­leagues now are a di­rect re­sult of that award and ex­po­sure,” says Re­nee Mer­ri­field Wa­sy­lyk (right), another fe­male en­trepreneur and 2015 EOY Pa­cific re­gion win­ner in the Real Es­tate and Con­struc­tion cat­e­gory. “It took my busi­ness, and me as a leader, to a dif­fer­ent level.”

Be­sides a greater fe­male pres­ence, Petrollini an­tic­i­pates more so­cial ven­tures com­ing to the fore. “One of the ob­jec­tives com­ing from en­trepreneurs in Gen Y and Gen Z is that they want to work in an en­vi­ron­ment where they feel they're be­ing so­cially re­spon­si­ble,” he says. “En­trepreneurs aren't only fo­cused on be­ing suc­cess­ful, but also on pro­vid­ing bal­ance in peo­ple's lives,” Petrollini adds. “The value sys­tems in each gen­er­a­tion are com­pletely dif­fer­ent, and you see that re­flected in the en­tre­pre­neur­ial en­vi­ron­ment that we ex­ist in.”

As the Pa­cific Re­gion EOY awards be­gin their sec­ond quarter-century, one thing is clear: B.C.'S en­trepreneurs ex­ist in an in­creas­ingly bor­der­less world where dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy is trans­form­ing busi­ness. “Thirty years ago, the In­ter­net didn't even ex­ist,” Petrollini points out with a laugh. Join us as we cel­e­brate some of the province's big­gest suc­cesses, whose sto­ries help in­spire the next gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers with global am­bi­tions. •

man­age­ment and half a year of in­dus­try con­sult­ing.

To­day, her Kelowna-based Troika Man­age­ment Corp. group of com­pa­nies is on track to break $100 mil­lion in an­nual rev­enue. Wa­sy­lyk has made power lists in­clud­ing the Women's Ex­ec­u­tive Net­work's Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada in 2017, the BDO Top 40 Un­der 40 in the Okana­gan in 2015 and the Cana­dian Home Builders' As­so­ci­a­tion's Top 20 Most In­flu­en­tial Peo­ple in Real Es­tate in 2012. Here, the Troika part­ner and CEO re­flects on what it was like to join the old boys' club—and why we need more women around the board­room.

When you launched your com­pany, how was the busi­ness cli­mate for women en­trepreneurs?

Ini­tially, the work I did as a con­sul­tant wasn't too sur­pris­ing for a fe­male: I was mostly do­ing pub­lic pre­sen­ta­tions and neigh­bour­hood con­sult­ing. What

Brian Scu­d­amore,

founder and then- of 1-800-Got-junk?, ig­nores the ad­vice of men­tors and plows ahead with a fran­chise in Seat­tle. Three coun­tries and 200 fran­chises later, Scu­d­amore is haul­ing more cash than junk. His O2E Brands has gone on to launch or pur­chase three more busi­nesses in the home ser­vices space, and to­tal rev­enue tops US$200 mil­lion an­nu­ally. was out of the box was when I de­cided that I could do land de­vel­op­ment.

I started build­ing a busi­ness plan, and I in­ter­viewed huge de­vel­op­ers that didn't see me as a threat. One de­vel­oper I worked for on a con­sult­ing ba­sis told me I would never be as good a de­vel­oper as he was, be­cause I'm a woman. That turned out to be the great­est bless­ing, be­cause when I'm told there's some­thing I can't do, I just do it. I re­turned his bless­ing by say­ing that I was go­ing to be a bet­ter de­vel­oper than he was. He said, “How could you say that?” I said, “Be­cause I ac­tu­ally use the kitchens that I'm about to de­sign.”

What chal­lenges did you face as you built your busi­ness?

I was one of the first fe­male de­vel­op­ers on the Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment In­sti­tute's Pa­cific board, and that was


hard. I didn't re­al­ize that the boys' club still ex­isted. But the story for me is not just that the boys' club ex­ists; it's that most of the old boys don't want it. They want to be inclusive; they just don't know how. They are good peo­ple, and I've met some of the finest in­di­vid­u­als in the de­vel­op­ment com­mu­nity where I work.

There are bad ap­ples, but there are those in ev­ery in­dus­try. I get strange looks some­times, and I use my very an­drog­y­nous name to my ad­van­tage.

How so?

When I get emails that say, “Dear Mr. Wa­sy­lyk,” I don't cor­rect them un­til I see them in per­son. I'm not about to undo their bias over an email, but I cer­tainly will undo it with tal­ent and merit. My CFO is about 20 years older than I am and male, so of­ten peo­ple look at him and say, “Mr. Wa­sy­lyk,” and he'll say, “No, I'm Mr. Klassen. Ms. Wa­sy­lyk is right next to me.” I've been called ev­ery­thing from his re­cep­tion­ist to his as­sis­tant.

How have things changed for women in busi­ness over the past cou­ple of decades?

We've made a lot of strides. In the en­tre­pre­neur­ial world, fe­males out­per­form males on rev­enue and profit, and that's bet­ter un­der­stood. Women tend to be less risky, they take on lower loans, and ul­ti­mately, they're bet­ter per­form­ers. That's not as cel­e­brated be­cause some­times they're the tor­toise and not the hare.

So­ci­etally, we are start­ing to train women to be more coura­geous. What needs to change now are so­ci­etal norms. Women still do 85 per­cent of the work­load in the home, re­gard­less of whether they work full-time.

With the ris­ing aware­ness of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and dis­crim­i­na­tion in Hol­ly­wood, are other board­rooms feel­ing the #Metoo ef­fect?

I don't feel like when I walk into the city I get treated dif­fer­ently. The bank­ing in­dus­try has prob­a­bly one Premier Gor­don Camp­bell's gov­ern­ment cre­ates a Crown cor­po­ra­tion called Part­ner­ships BC. Its mis­sion: to build in­fra­struc­ture projects through pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships, or P3s. To­day, the com­pany's legacy in the Lower Main­land in­cludes the Canada Line, the up­graded Sea-to-sky High­way and a twinned Port Mann Bridge. of the best track records in terms of get­ting fe­males on their boards and in their se­nior ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tions. That said, I did get turned down for my very first loan from a Big Five bank be­cause I wouldn't have my hus­band at the time co-sign the loan. I said, “The project is 80-per­cent leased up. How is this not a com­pletely bank­able project?” They said, “We just have some dis­com­fort.”

But we've come a long way. I don't feel like it's the boys smok­ing cigars, play­ing golf and telling rude jokes. In fact, I also know a few of my own. •

on av­er­age.

What was once a staff of 10 is now a work­force num­ber­ing more than 1,000, with 13 of­fices across North Amer­ica, Europe, Asia and Aus­tralia, and dis­tri­bu­tion in 25 coun­tries. Stem­cell's rapidly ex­pand­ing prod­uct lines of­fer more than 2,500 tools for life sciences re­search, from tools for cell-grow­ing me­dia and kits for cell iso­la­tion to in­stru­ments and reagents for anal­y­sis. This year sales are ex­pected to hit $185 mil­lion.

Re­mark­ably, while the com­pany has bal­looned in size, its pace of in­no­va­tion hasn't slowed. That's no ac­ci­dent. Con­trary to the ro­man­tic view of the tech en­trepreneur as a con­ven­tion-bust­ing rene­gade, Eaves's se­cret to re­tain­ing a foothold on the bleed­ing edge of his in­dus­try comes down to good old-fash­ioned dis­ci­pline.

Stem­cell rig­or­ously rein­vests 15 per­cent of its rev­enue in re­search and de­vel­op­ment, fo­cus­ing on projects that re­spond di­rectly to cus­tomers' needs— which is why nearly all of its sales and mar­ket­ing staff have sci­ence back­grounds, 40 per­cent of them Phds.

“We've got all th­ese sales­peo­ple who work with lead­ers in the field and they tell us what they want,” Eaves ex­plains. “They have to re­ally un­der­stand their cus­tomers, which they do. Our tagline is `Sci­en­tists help­ing sci­en­tists,' and that's very gen­uine,” he adds. “We ba­si­cally take the ideas from aca­demics and turn them into ro­bust prod­ucts and sell them back to them at a profit. But in so do­ing, we've saved them time, and we've given them the as­sur­ance that if they use our prod­ucts the way we say, they will work.”

To get prod­ucts to mar­ket quickly, Stem­cell doesn't make any­thing for clin­i­cal use, cir­cum­vent­ing time-in­ten­sive reg­u­la­tory ap­provals. How­ever, Eaves hints that this may change when the com­pany ag­gre­gates its sep­a­rate re­search, sales, man­u­fac­tur­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tres in Metro Van­cou­ver into a cam­pus-type fa­cil­ity in Burn­aby. Cur­rently in the plan­ning stages, the cam­pus will be equipped to make clin­i­cal-grade prod­ucts.

The other key to in­no­va­tion, ac­cord­ing to Eaves? Meet­ings are fre­quent—and pro­duc­tive. “There's that book called Death by Meet­ing,” Eaves ac­knowl­edges. “But how do you make a re­ally good meet­ing? You


have in­ter­est­ing things to talk about and de­ci­sions be­ing made. Ev­ery meet­ing we have has an agenda and ac­tion items and due dates. The next meet­ing starts off with a re­view.”

Per­haps most im­por­tant to Stem­cell's suc­cess has been Eaves's grip on the reins. He's stead­fastly op­posed to di­lut­ing his own­er­ship stake or go­ing pub­lic—an op­tion he sees as the death knell of lo­cal biotech­nol­ogy out­fits. “Van­cou­ver is full of dead and dy­ing biotech com­pa­nies,” he de­clares. “In­vestors want an exit strat­egy of three to five years, and, you know, it's too short a time frame. Suc­cess [for them] means sell­ing the com­pany to some­body else, ide­ally an Amer­i­can com­pany, in which case ev­ery­body loses their job. I saw that with col­leagues get­ting in­volved with in­vestors. They kill com­pa­nies.”

For his part, Eaves isn't go­ing any­where. “I'm 77, and I plan on liv­ing for­ever,” he quips with a wry smile. “I have no exit strat­egy.” • Spe­cial Ci­ta­tion: So­cial En­trepreneur win­ner for the Pa­cific Re­gion—has struck all the right chords with con­scious con­sumers. To­day, it has a de­voted and grow­ing customer base of more than 200,000, even as com­peti­tors be­gin to crowd the space.

“We just try to use our voice and try to be as authentic as pos­si­ble,” says Lu­na­pads CEO Siemens. “That's re­ally our edge. We have been in it the long­est, and we have been trans­par­ent about how we do busi­ness for the long­est time,” she ex­plains. “And there have been mis­steps by some of our com­peti­tors in terms of how they've come across in the mar­ket. Peo­ple will fig­ure things out and see through it.”

Ri­val Thinx is a case in point. The New York– based pe­riod un­der­wear startup cre­ated a buzz in 2015 with an edgy mar­ket­ing cam­paign, only for self-styled “SHE-E-O” Miki Agrawal to step down last year, amid al­le­ga­tions of hos­tile work­ing con­di­tions and sex­ual ha­rass­ment. While that busi­ness fights to re­cover its rep­u­ta­tion, Lu­na­pads (which has been sell­ing pe­riod un­der­wear for years, Siemens notes) is ce­ment­ing its sta­tus as one of the most so­cially re­spon­si­ble busi­nesses on the planet.

That's no ex­ag­ger­a­tion: for the past two years, the com­pany has ranked in the top 10 per­cent of B Cor­po­ra­tions—an in­de­pen­dent global cer­ti­fi­ca­tion that is to busi­nesses what Fair Trade is to choco­late. “Be­ing part of this B Corp com­mu­nity has very much helped us im­prove, in a num­ber of ways, how we are op­er­at­ing as a busi­ness,” Siemens says of Lu­na­pads, which has held the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion since 2012. “There's guide­lines around how your third­party pur­chas­ing should be, guide­lines around HR and gov­er­nance. It pro­vides a re­ally good frame­work for help­ing us do bet­ter.”

Lu­na­pads' con­sid­er­ate and pur­pose­ful ap­proach makes it choosy about busi­ness part­ners. Siemens says she and cre­ative di­rec­tor Shaw have turned down whole­sale cus­tomers who didn't seem like a good fit, and they're care­ful when it comes to in­vestors. “I'm not seek­ing your tra­di­tional ven­ture cap­i­tal eq­uity when we're go­ing for our next round

of growth,” she as­serts. “I'm very spe­cific about `Th­ese aree the kind of in­vestors we're look­ing for, be­cause they are also try­ing to cre­ate higher value in the world through their in­vest­ments.'”

Lu­na­pads it­self is an inves-tor in Afripads, a Ugan­dan so­cial en­ter­prise founded in 2010 that man­u­fac­tures and sup­plies cloth men­strual pads to in­di­vid­u­als and NGOS. . “They've just sup­plied their two mil­lionth kit to girls and women in the global South— they're a big­ger com­pany than we are,” en­thuses Siemens, who points out that men­stru­at­ing girls in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries of­ten miss school be­cause they lack ac­cess to men­strual hy­giene prod­ucts.

With the rise of pe­riod-pos­i­tive ad­vo­cacy— Na­tional Pub­lic Ra­dio dubbed 2015 “the Year of the Pe­riod” af­ter a swell of news sto­ries and events that in­cluded a “free-bleed­ing” marathon run­ner and the lift­ing of Canada's so-called tam­pon tax—lu­na­pads is primed to at­tract a new wave of con­sumers.

“What's great about our in­dus­try is there's al­ways a new gen­er­a­tion need­ing our prod­ucts,” Siemens ob­serves. “And each new gen­er­a­tion is al­ways think­ing more pro­gres­sively about en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues and so­cial is­sues.”

Lu­na­pads, which fea­tures real bod­ies and gen­der­non­con­form­ing men­stru­a­tors in its vi­su­als, is well at­tuned to the mil­len­nial de­mand for val­ues-driven, authentic con­sumer brands. That's why Siemens be­lieves the fu­ture is bright, for her com­pany and the planet. “Mil­len­ni­als and Gen­er­a­tion Z are way more aware that there are fi­nite re­sources than the baby boomers and pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions,” she says. “That keeps me op­ti­mistic and happy.”


Burn­aby semi­con­duc­tor maker PMCSierra— whose founder, Gregory Aasen, won the Pa­cific Emerg­ing En­trepreneur Of The Year cat­e­gory in 1999—is ac­quired by Mi­crosemi Corp. for Us$2.5-bil­lion in cash and stock. PMC had ac­cepted a Us$2-bil­lion cash of­fer from Sky­works So­lu­tions Inc., but Cal­i­for­nia-based Mi­crosemi swooped in a month later with an of­fer it couldn't refuse.

Mu­rad Al-katib, and In­gre­di­ents Inc., En­trepreneur Of The Year.

Regina-based old, and the busi­ness com­po­nent of it is the mon­e­ti­za­tion of the emo­tional con­nec­tion.”

Mcbride, win­ner of the EOY Me­dia and En­ter­tain­ment cat­e­gory for the Pa­cific Re­gion in 2003, is a master at build­ing part­ner­ships. From his decades­long man­age­ment re­la­tion­ship with songstress Sarah Mclach­lan to his yoga stu­dio ac­qui­si­tions, Mcbride— whose ten­dency to speak in rapid-fire ca­dences can seem at odds with his Zen-like pro­nounce­ments—says it comes down to one key el­e­ment.

“It's all about cre­at­ing align­ment,” he de­clares. “It's not about one party win­ning and the other party not. I think with a lot of ne­go­ti­a­tions and peo­ple try­ing to cre­ate deals, that's what their fo­cus is. It's like, `What's in it for me?'”

Where most busi­nesses find align­ment through ex­ter­nal part­ner­ships, Mcbride has taken a unique ap­proach by co-found­ing two seem­ingly dis­parate com­pa­nies that have more in com­mon than ap­pears at first glance. It's paid off: Yyoga now has an­nual founder and CEO of AGT Food is the sec­ond Cana­dian to win EY World In ad­di­tion to run­ning one of the world's largest sup­pli­ers of pulses, grains and other food sta­ples, Al-katib is a phi­lan­thropist. His com­pany is a ma­jor part­ner with the United Na­tions' World Food Pro­gramme and the In­ter­na­tional Red Cross, help­ing to feed more than 4 mil­lion refugee fam­i­lies each year. rev­enue in the $12-mil­lion range and more than 300 staff, while 100-em­ployee Net­twerk's rev­enue tops $25 mil­lion.

Yyoga has grown to 10 lo­ca­tions in Metro Van­cou­ver and Whistler and two in Toronto. Mcbride proudly notes that the com­pany's first two stu­dio ac­qui­si­tions, both in Yale­town, are still headed by the same team a decade later. “That's no dif­fer­ent than how we go about it with artists,” he says. “Net­twerk's av­er­age re­la­tion­ship with an artist is 10 to 15 years, which in the mu­sic busi­ness is like a life­time.”

Mcbride's 23-year man­age­ment re­la­tion­ship with Mclach­lan was one of his most cel­e­brated, and its rup­ture made in­ter­na­tional head­lines in 2011. But he be­lieves it's pos­si­ble to end part­ner­ships am­i­ca­bly, as long as both sides re­main hon­est.

“I think both par­ties know [when it's time to end things], but both par­ties are prob­a­bly afraid to ad­dress the sub­ject,” Mcbride says. “Hon­esty is some­times the hard­est thing,” he adds. “I think your in­tu­ition is al­ways right. And if a re­la­tion­ship is go­ing side­ways, it's re­ally good to catch it early. Maybe you can save it, but chances are end­ing it then is much more pleas­ant and pro­fes­sional than drag­ging it out for a cou­ple of years, when sen­ti­ments have built up and then you're point­ing fin­gers.”

Given his decades in the mu­sic busi­ness, it's tempt­ing to think that Mcbride has dealt with his share of dif­fi­cult tem­per­a­ments. But he in­sists that's not the case. “The dif­fi­cult rock star is maybe a per­sona of 10 to 20 per­cent of the busi­ness, but I could say it's the per­sona of 10 to 20 per­cent of any busi­ness. It gets 80 per­cent of the noise, but it's not the busi­ness,” he says.

“The most suc­cess­ful busi­nesses are ones that cre­ate part­ner­ships that last for a long, long time,” Mcbride adds. “Be­cause not only are you emo­tion­ally aligned, but inside the busi­ness, you feel like you've treated each other fairly.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.