Ian Walker
President, Left Coast Naturals
(Winner)

BCB47A1018

The tagline of Burnaby-based Left Coast Naturals is “Good People Providing Good Food.” The company was one of the first in Canada to receive third-party B Corp certification for meeting social and environmental standards and, as far as it can determine, the first completely non-GMO broad-based food distributor in North America.

Co-founder and president Ian Walker grew up in Ontario, where his family owns a quarrying and environmental services company. “There was always kitchen table talk around how to treat employees and how to be a positive impact in the community,” he says. “That really helped shape who I was as a businessperson.”

Although Walker is still on the board of the family firm, in his early 20s he launched his own business—“it was about doing my own thing,” he explains. Unable to find work in Halifax after graduating from Dalhousie University with a commerce degree, he backpacked in Asia. On his way home, he stopped off in Vancouver, where he got in touch with friend Jason Dorland, who was studying graphic design at Emily Carr University. Dorland, who had come up with packaging for his homemade peanut butter as a grad project, wondered if he had a marketable product. Walker drew up a business plan, and they began selling Skeet & Ike’s peanut butter at Granville Island.

After two years they turned to organic soy-nut snacks, a healthy, organic product that they could make inexpensively. “In the early to mid-’90s, organic, vegan, plant-based was kind of fringe,” Walker says. “But it made sense to us, so we started doing it and then the world caught up with us.”

Around the same time, Dorland left to become a teacher, and Walker started distributing other companies’ products under the name Left Coast Naturals. With a staff of 68, the company packages and sells foods like nuts, trail mixes and dried fruit under its own brand and distributes 30 others. “We find values-aligned brands that fit with what we’re about as a business, which is better-for-you products, better for the Earth, and we sell those to everyone from natural food stores to grocery chains,” Walker says. 

What did your summer jobs teach you about business?
I worked as a canoe trip guide, which taught me about leadership and responsibility. I had to take groups away for 10 to 20 days in the middle of nowhere and figure out solutions to any problems since help was nowhere around.

Is an entrepreneur born or made?
A bit of both, since certain personality types lend themselves to entrepreneurship more, and certainly the people you grow up around have a huge influence. I had the fortunate situation to grow up around a family business that certainly helped me.

What is your definition of success?
I feel that success is defined by how you impact others around you. Have you and your business had a positive impact on stakeholders—staff, suppliers, customers, community—is the question that needs to be asked.

What other career might you have had?
A guide in the outdoors or a teacher.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?
I spent lots of time in my teens and early 20s busking, playing guitar on the street, in Halifax.

Finish this sentence for us: “Entrepreneurs need a lot more...”
Care.

What businessperson do you most admire?
My dad. He taught me about how to treat people. He was very conscious about doing the right thing for people and being there for them when they needed it. He was also very creative with business and fearless to try new ideas, even if they failed.

What do you do to unwind/relax?
Mostly outdoors activities: paddleboarding, mountain biking, hiking, skiing and, of course, spending time with my kids in the outdoors.

How would you describe your leadership style?
I am a big fan of being completely open and transparent. If I screw up, I own it. If I am passionate about something, people know it. I also feel that care and emotions have an important role in how you work with people.

Name an item you typically forget to pack on business trips and regret not bringing.
My earphones. I hate buying the cheap disposable ones on the plane so I can watch a movie.


Jon Friesen + Randy Shier
CEO + President, Mission Group Enterprises
(Runner-up)

BCB46A1018

Jon Friesen and Randy Shier met in 1984 through a Vancouver church group for young adults but didn’t work together until 20 years later. Coincidentally, both switched from other professions to property development in 1987–Friesen, born and raised in Japan, started off as a Vancouver-based chemical trader for Mitsubishi Corp., while Vancouver native Shier was an architect. In 2004, Friesen suggested that Shier join him in expanding Mission Group, the development firm he had founded in Kelowna two years earlier.

The company, which has 59 full-time employees, builds condominiums to sell and rental apartments to hold and lease. Behind the scenes, Mission Group has donated construction, new appliances, time and resources to non-profits. Recently “we just thought, if we’re going to make a social impact, maybe we should share some of what we do and maybe we can inspire others to do the same,” Shier explains. Unlike low-income families and seniors, single people are less likely to qualify for affordable housing. Mission Group’s Build It Forward program will provide a number of suites for below-market rents to this so-called missing middle.

Randy Shier

What did your summer jobs teach you about business?
Picking raspberries in the summer at age 12 and packing groceries at IGA in high school, I realized my time is worth something. I learned…the importance of maximizing it and spending it wisely.

Is an entrepreneur born or made?
She or he is born. Action-oriented risk-taking is not for everybody.

What is your definition of success?
As a lifelong learner, I have been taught more by difficult circumstances than easy ones, so for me, success is taking appropriate action in stressful situations while having a sense of inner peace.

What other career might you have had?
I started my career as an architect because I love making things. But I was much more interested in the business behind the making of things, so I became a developer. I really can’t think of any other career outside the building industry.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?
I have broken out of my comfort zone with my socioeconomic group and have friends that our society calls losers—people that could be described as rejected, excluded, homeless, addicted and poor. I still have my social and business friends of similar educational and economic status, but my life has broadened to include the marginalized. We hang out, share meals and they come to my home. I have become much less judgmental, much more appreciative, and see all people deserving of dignity and worth.

Finish this sentence for us: “Entrepreneurs need a lot more...”
Good, highly competent people around them.

What businessperson do you most admire?
Jimmy Pattison. He is a homegrown, globally successful entrepreneur and philanthropist.

What do you do to unwind/relax?
Ski in the winter and spring, cycle in the summer and fall.

How would you describe your leadership style?
I am outgoing, flexible and demanding. As a natural go-getter, I am not afraid to take the path of maximum resistance, which fuels my tendency to drive others almost as hard as I drive myself. As a leader, I find myself making fewer decisions and empowering my direct reports to deliver results through listening, asking and mentoring.

Name an item you typically forget to pack on business trips and regret not bringing.
Sometimes my phone charger and other times my Nexus card. And I hate lineups.

Jon Friesen

What did your summer jobs teach you about business?
All jobs are noble. Put your heart into it with pride and expect the same of others.

Is an entrepreneur born or made?
An entrepreneur is born with the firmware to become an entrepreneur, but not the skills or discipline, those are made. Both need to be in place to create a track record over a long time.

What is your definition of success?
First, success is to have a family in harmony. Second, it is to have an organization, including governance, in harmony.

What other career might you have had?
My first job was working with a large Japanese integrated trading company, so that could’ve been one career direction. I am actually more passionate about restaurants and creative cuisine, but I’m not sure that would have been profitable for me. I’m very happy with what I do.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?
I retired in the middle of my career, in my 30s, to raise my children with more attention and to volunteer time with charities in Grand Cayman. This period of time lasted seven years

Finish this sentence for us: “Entrepreneurs need...”
A social purpose that is woven into the fabric of their strategy if they want to be meaningful. It’s also a great way to be more profitable.

What businessperson do you most admire?
Launi Skinner, CEO of First West Credit Union.

What do you do to unwind/relax?
I like to ride my bicycle.

How would you describe your leadership style?
Demanding but enabling. I like managing with three broad tools: one, coach; two, mentor; three, terminate. That last point might sound draconian, but in reality I see this as releasing this person to higher and better use which alternately will make them a happier person. It is also critical for the organization.

Name an item you typically forget to pack on business trips and regret not bringing.
My toothbrush, ha ha.


Zeeshan Hayat + Karina Hayat
Co-founder and CEO + Co-founder and President, Prizm Media
(Runner-up)

BCB46B1018

Combining entrepreneurship with health care came naturally to Karina and Zeeshan Hayat, who both grew up in families that struggled financially and have lost relatives to diabetes. In 2001 while still at Douglas College–Zeeshan was studying business, and Karina, planning to become a doctor, took biology–the pair launched an online enterprise that sold health supplements.

Since then Prizm Media has become a technology company that connects more than 70 million North Americans with chronic illnesses to pharmacies and providers of medical equipment, from hearing aids to catheters. Its RXtoMe app allows patients to order or refill prescriptions from pharmacies 24/7 for free delivery. And because Prizm Media, which employs 31 people at its Vancouver head office and another 245 in its offshore call centres, knows who’s buying the products, it also supplies leads to medical suppliers for marketing campaigns.

Karina Hayat

What did your summer jobs teach you about business?
My first summer job was a paper route one of my sisters and I got after moving to Canada. We also used to collect pop cans. I remember how excited we got when fireworks would come along and wondering why people threw away money. This taught me to always be aware of opportunities that surround us. When my parents could no longer afford me going to taekwondo, I had to get a job that paid better. A teacher helped me get an interview at KFC, and I worked there for almost six years. With that money I bought an old car for $500 that needed a new carburator, which my dad walked me through changing on my own. I thought having a better-paying job would allow me to go to taekwondo, but between school and work I never ended going back. This taught me that I had to be more realistic about time management and flexible with my planning. I learned to balance a chequebook.

Is an entrepreneur born or made?
This question often comes up in articles, and I always wonder why it’s worded this way and not “Is a successful entrepreneur born or made?” I believe you can teach someone to become an entrepreneur, but the desire, drive and discipline is something that comes from within.

What is your definition of success?
Making a positive impact on society.

What other career might you have had?
Physician or pharmacist.

Name one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you.
I started my first business with my sister when I was seven years old selling ice. I also sang professionally in a band for a number of years.

Finish this sentence for us: “Entrepreneurs need a lot more...”
Time to collect their thoughts to plan, build and realize their personal and business goals.

What businessperson do you most admire?
Bill Gates.

What do you do to unwind/relax?
Go for a bike with my husband, or hang out with my kids and sing together at the top of our lungs.

How would you describe your leadership style?
Affiliative or ally.

Name an item you typically forget to pack on business trips and regret not bringing.
An extra pair of contact lenses.

Zeeshan Hayat

What did your summer jobs teach you about business?
My first summer job was as a ride operator at the PNE. I worked at the Wild Mouse—the ride no longer exists because was deemed too dangerous. I was 16, and I had just bought my first car with the allowance money my grandfather used to give me, $3 per day. Now I needed to pay for gas and insurance, and the only way I could do that was to work in the summer to save enough money so I could pay for gas and insurance through the school year. I learned to save money and plan ahead.

Is an entrepreneur born or made?
Made.

What is your definition of success?
Solving a problem that makes a difference in people’s life and help the humanity at large.

What other career might you have had?
Astronaut or fighter jet pilot.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?
I have a black belt in tae kwon do, and I competed nationally. Also, my oldest of three is 11 years old.

Finish this sentence for us: “Entrepreneurs need a lot more...”
Luck—only few are lucky.

What businessperson do you most admire?
Bill Gates, for the work he has done to help the people around the world after his success in business.

What do you do to unwind/relax?
Go for a bike ride in the trails.

How would you describe your leadership style?
Democratic.

Name an item you typically forget to pack on business trips and regret not bringing.
The charger to my beard trimmer.


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