Daniel Frankel
Founder and CEO, Tap & Barrel Restaurants
(Winner)

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Being an entrepreneur is the only kind of work Daniel Frankel has ever known. The founder and CEO of Vancouver-area Tap & Barrel Restaurants tried a few times to land traditional employment, but he couldn’t. “I applied at a bunch of places,” Frankel says. “I never managed to get a regular job.”

Frankel, who grew up in Vancouver, earned a film degree from the University of Western Ontario in 1996 and started a small commercial production company shortly afterward. Film wasn’t a particularly lucrative line of work, so he bought a coffee shop in Vancouver’s Coal Harbour in 2001. He grew that into eclectic portfolio of restaurants, pubs and gift shops in Vancouver and Victoria.

Tap & Barrel is much more than just the latest in a line of more than a dozen businesses that Frankel has built over his career, though. He opened the first location in Vancouver’s Olympic Village in 2012, designing it to encapsulate the vision and values he’d been forming over a decade. There was no unifying link or purpose to his previous restaurant collection. When Frankel secured the prime waterfront spot that would become Tap & Barrel, he felt he couldn’t start another restaurant if it wasn’t something more meaningful. “I almost walked away from it,” he says. “I realized, if I can’t do it right, what am I doing here?”

Doing it right for Frankel meant creating a restaurant that developed leaders from among its staff, acted as a good steward of the environment, supported the community and was a place where people could connect. The beers and wines all come from B.C. producers, as do the food ingredients whenever possible. Frankel wanted to create a consistent culture committed to its core beliefs, so he began selling and divesting from all his other restaurants and bars.

Today, Tap & Barrel operates three large-format restaurants along the Vancouver and North Vancouver waterfronts, two smaller TAPshacks, and a combined microbrewery and beer hall in the historic Opsal Steel building in Olympic Village. Frankel’s company employs about 1,200 people and supports dozens of local suppliers.

What did your summer jobs teach you about business?
I opened up an ice cream cart. I built this cart and sold ice cream in Stanley Park. I was 12 years old. My early summer jobs taught me the foundation of showing up, putting in a full day’s work when you’re there and the sacrifice that needs to be made in order to achieve what you want. 

Is an entrepreneur born or made?
I fundamentally believe that an entrepreneur is born. I think there’s a personality trait. It’s that tenacity and grit. And I don’t think you can make that up.

What is your definition of success?
Happiness. I’ll know when I’ve succeeded when I’m the dumbest guy in the boardroom. I’ll know I’ve found success when I’m in a room with a bunch of people that are overachievers—happy, doing amazing things, impacting the community, impacting the world—and I have very little to do with this at this stage because I’m kind of obsolete. Because this company is not about me, It’s about the whole.

What other career might you have had?
When I was a kid, I always wanted to be an architect. My grandfather escaped the Holocaust, but he studied at the Bauhaus, the famous and influential German art and design school, before Hitler shut it down.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?
I failed kindergarten. That was when we moved to Vancouver from Israel. I couldn’t communicate. Back then there was no ESL. It was sink or swim.

Finish this sentence for us: “Entrepreneurs need a lot more…”
Time. I always feel like I’m running out of time. I hate when I’m booked solid. I need time to reflect.

What businessperson do you most admire?
[Former Starbucks CEO] Howard Schultz. He was an entrepreneur who discovered an existing brand, but he created coffee culture as we know it today. He took something that was pretty fragmented and put meaning behind it. He did an extraordinary job scaling up and being extremely socially responsible.
I think there are a lot of parallels in what I want to do as far as giving to our community, providing opportunities, and setting the standards for environmental stewardship.

What do you do to relax/unwind?
I love to paddleboard. One of my greatest pleasures from a meditational standpoint is to go paddleboarding.

How would you describe your leadership style?
It’s one of empowerment. It starts with finding the right people and really believing in them. It’s servant leadership. I am here to give them the tools that they need to succeed, and the resources—and a high degree of clarity.
So my purpose is to set expectations very clearly, to provide the tools, provide the resources, and then to provide the empowerment. From that point forward, it’s all coaching.

Name an item you typically forget to pack on business trips and regret not bringing.
A spare cellphone. I always forget to bring a spare phone with me. It’s always when I forget my spare phone that I drop my phone and I have to run to Apple. All I really need is my cellphone.


Mandy Farmer
President and CEO, Accent Inns
(Runner-up)

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Mandy Farmer grabbed the reins as CEO of her family’s motel chain, Victoria-based Accent Inns, in 2008, just as the global economy was collapsing. The business was taking on water, literally and figuratively. Leaky condo syndrome afflicted its five buildings, and falling property prices sank the company’s valuation.

Farmer bailed out Accent with two fresh approaches. First, she revitalized her motels to set them apart from their deep-pocketed corporate competitors. Being a smaller company has its advantages: “We can do whatever we want,” Farmer explains. She gave her team freedom to add fun, personal touches: rubber ducks in the tubs and nightstands stocked with office supplies.

Next, Farmer pushed boundaries further with two freshly remodelled properties under Accent’s four-year-old Hotel Zed brand. Guests can borrow bikes, roller skates and games. In the closet, there’s a mini-disco with a fog machine. Farmer, who estimates that the company’s value has grown fourfold, plans to add more properties to the seven it operates now. 

What did your summer jobs teach you about business?
I was a chambermaid—that’s what we called ourselves back then. I was a housekeeper at a bed and breakfast. I was 13. My summer jobs taught me that your front line employees are the heart and soul of your business, and so it’s paramount to take extremely good care of them, train them with your vision in mind and thank them regularly in surprising ways they aren’t expecting.

Is an entrepreneur born or made?
Made. If you asked my parents if they thought I would be as successful as I am today, they’d say no. Through my life, I’ve been able to cultivate the entrepreneurial side of myself.

What is your definition of success?
Loving what you do, but more important, having a team that loves what they do too. If we’re all just loving it and killing it and having so much fun, that to me is the utmost success.

What other career might you have had?
Fashion designer.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?
I am avid hippity hopper. I love to skip. It’s a secret. I only do it late at night when it’s dark, but I find it way more fun than running. And it’s faster than walking, and it feels really good.

Finish this sentence for us: “Entrepreneurs need a lot more…”
Quiet time to dream.

What businessperson do you most admire?
I have a huge crush on Chip Conley. He started a hotel chain called Joie de Vivre Hospitality based out of San Francisco. I love his focus on his people. He really believes in building up his people and building them up a meaningful, purposeful job no matter where they are in the company. His passion for his people has really influenced my leadership.

What do you do to relax/unwind?
I’m a huge mountain biker. I love being on single track in the forest.

How would you describe your leadership style?
I’m a cheerleader. I like to get out of people’s way and cheer them on fiercely. I have surrounded myself with people who are better and smarter than me, and I do the rah-rah sis-boom-bah on the sidelines while they just give it.

Name an item you typically forget to pack on business trips and regret not bringing.
I always forget to bring my hairbrush. We make sure we have all of those kinds amenities at our front desk. We have a sign at the front desk, and of course it’s funny. It says, “Who Packed?” And all of that stuff is available at the front desk.

The second item I always forget is my toothbrush. So, yes, I’m always at the front desk getting a toothbrush.


Ryan Moreno
CEO and Principal, Joseph Richard Group
(Runner-up)

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Working as a 15-year-old Red Robin busboy was Ryan Moreno’s humble first step to becoming a hospitality entrepreneur. His Surrey-headquartered company, Joseph Richard Group (JRG), founded with best friend André Bourque in 2009, operates restaurants, pubs, liquor stores and a hotel in 21 locations in B.C. and Alberta.

Moreno began his first business after he and Bourque got jobs slinging drinks at nightclubs. Bartending schools weren’t adequately training people for real-life work: while Moreno tossed bottles like Tom Cruise in the 1988 movie Cocktail, his rookie co-workers struggled with the basics. So the two friends built their own course, and after the first class they had $10,000 cash in their hands. “Holy cow, we created this out of nothing,” Moreno recalls thinking.

The first restaurant he opened in 2002 failed. “I didn’t do the homework,” Moreno explains. He does it now, focusing on providing exceptional guest experiences. JRG, which has more locations in the works, recently launched a hiring drive to grow from about 950 employees to 1,100.

What did your summer jobs teach you about business?
I had a paper route when I was 13 years old. I was a busboy when I was 15. My early summer jobs taught me the foundation of showing up, putting in a full day’s work when you’re there and the sacrifice that needs to be made in order to achieve what you want.

Is an entrepreneur born or made?
Both. I think there are some people who are born and they know they want to do that. And that’s great. But I see a lot of people who have been employees and they’ve tried something and have seen a lot of success in it.

What is your definition of success?
Happiness. You have to be happy with what you do, happy with the decisions you make, happy with the people around you. I feel that since I’ve started, I’ve never worked a day in my life. I love what I’m doing. People talk about work-life balance, and sometimes people forget about the work part. That’s why you’ve got to find something you love doing, and then it doesn’t feel like work. The balance is there.

What other career might you have had?
When I was really young, maybe seven to nine, I used to see Michael J. Fox going to work with a briefcase on Family Ties. I remember for Christmas, I wanted a briefcase. I wanted to be a businessman. I didn’t even know what a businessman was. Prior to that, from Sesame Street, I wanted to be a garbage man.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?
One of my favourite foods is pasta and butter. Super simple: al dente pasta, longer noodles.

Finish this sentence for us: “Entrepreneurs need a lot more…”
Empathy. I say that in a positive way. Doing good is just good business. Businesses can and should help. I tell my kids: “Always make sure that you’re thinking about others. Because if you did that, then the world would be a great place.”

What businessperson do you most admire?
I like Jeff Bezos. He had a vision and stuck to it. I like Elon Musk. People say, “Just focus on getting your cars out.” He’s still pushing the envelope to get into space. His mission has always been making the world a better place. Steve Jobs. He just had his own vision. I always gravitate to the tech leaders because they stood out the most.

What do you do to relax/unwind?
I hang out with my kids any chance that I can.

How would you describe your leadership style?
Approachable. Inclusive. Passionate. Brave. Humble. Empathetic. I have a vision for what we want to do, so I’m brave, if you will, but at the same time I’m very sensitive to people’s experiences along the way. Your people really are your business.

Name an item you typically forget to pack on business trips and regret not bringing.
Business cards. In this day and age it’s OK, because you can say, “Hey, here’s my email.” But I always kick myself.


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