Blair Mirau, 28
Life Story: Blair Mirau is working on a one-man band. The Prince Rupert native is teaching himself to play guitar, harmonica, foot tambourine, cajón drum and egg shaker, all at the same time. This multitasking feat seems simple compared to his day job as CEO of the Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Society. The non-profit provides educational, cultural and recreational services to roughly 1,600 Nisga’a First Nation people, and operates an economic development corporation that runs a garden centre, a landscaping company, a charter bus service and a public event venue. It’s also building a commercial salmon smokehouse. These operations employ band members and invest their profits back into the society. Besides heading all of them, Mirau moonlights as a Prince Rupert city councillor, a post he has held since 2014. “No two days are ever the same,” he says.
Mirau graduated from the University of Winnipeg in 2011 with a degree in international development. But he soon realized he wanted to apply his knowledge—and entrepreneurial skills honed as a teenager running his own lawn-care business—in his hometown. He began his career as a researcher and grant writer for the City of Prince Rupert, but he soon started a company teaching non-profits how to find funding. In 2013, then–Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Society chief executive Greg Grayson approached Mirau to become an economic development officer. The organization’s businesses grew under their direction, and when Grayson left in 2016, the board quickly found a ready replacement in Mirau.
The Bottom Line: Created in 2013, the economic development corporation has grown from four staff to 20. Mirau’s three-year goal is to reach $1 million in annual revenue and add 10 more jobs.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Why just learn from your own mistakes when you can learn from others?
My favourite book is…
Wade Davis’s Wayfinders. It’s a really cool book about how traditional societies and ancient wisdom have a role to play in modern society.
Who is your role model or mentor?
My dad [an entrepreneur who runs a Prince Rupert fish-processing company]. I can’t think of a better role model. I learned stuff early on and never looked back.
What’s your biggest regret?
Not getting [business] partnership stuff in writing. That was a hard lesson I had to learn. Even if you trust someone or if you have a great relationship, you should always get everything in writing in advance.