Climate of Creativity: B.C. Entrepreneurs

Does B.C.'s mild climate fuel entrepreneurship?

Does B.C.’s mild climate fuel entrepreneurship?

This may sound a bit crazy, but lately I’ve found myself wondering if the climate in B.C. has some mysteriously inspiring effect on entrepreneurs, possibly causing them to be especially creative. This thought occurred to me first as I sat in “the Den” – the Dragons’ Den as it’s called, the location of the CBC reality program by the same name. It’s the show where hopeful entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of big-time Canadian investors. A striking number of the most interesting pitchers came from B.C. More on that in a moment. This weather connection came to me again as we began work on a new business show I’m hosting and producing for CBC Newsworld. Fortune Hunters focuses on enterprising people looking to exploit the fastest-growing consumer and societal trends. As we looked at the data about Canadian start-ups , we saw that the majority are in B.C. And sure enough, as we searched the country for good stories to tell, it’s the province where we found the most. And over the years, we featured many a brilliant British Columbian on Venture, another CBC business program I hosted. Weather may seem a superficial explanation for significant economic achievement but, then again, maybe not. Scientists have been making some surprising conclusions about the connection between climate and its effects on humans. Take the big vitamin D discovery for example: after decades of thinking cancer rates were higher in the developed world because of industrial pollution, researchers now say it’s actually a result of the lack of sunlight we get here in the northern hemisphere – and that we can augment it (and possibly reduce cancer) by taking vitamin D supplements. Then there was the case study published in the Journal of Banking and Finance that documented weather’s effect on the stock market. It’s simple: temperatures affect mood, and mood affects behaviour. After examining more than 20 international markets, the authors concluded that you can expect higher stock returns when it’s cold out. And a few years ago, of course, scientists established the existence of the aptly named seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, an explanation for depression that strikes some individuals during winter. So maybe it’s not so nutty to think that mountains and ocean, gentle rainfall and soothingly mild temperatures most of the year, along with blossoms in April, can inspire creativity and therefore enterprise. Last year we profiled Jason Sutherland of Ginch Gonch Fashion Ltd. on Venture. The company offers playful underwear featuring fire trucks and hoses for men tired of “tighty-whiteys.” The year before, we did a story about Bernie Hadley-Beauregard of Brandever Strategy Inc. Originally from Montreal, after 20 years in B.C., Bernie was saving wineries from the brink of bankruptcy with his branding brilliance. Then this year on Dragons’ Den, we saw a stream of wildly inventive characters, including Dean Lane, who had dreamt up square-shaped bottles for shipping water, and Oswaldo Koch, who danced and twisted to demonstrate his ab-building exercise invention. There was also Trent Kitch and his especially comfortable underwear for men. (What is it with the men’s underwear and this province?) Anna-Marie Friesen of Rock Creek, B.C., was the crowd favourite; her Country Pepper product had come to her in a dream. But it was her inspiring personal story and positive outlook on life that touched the often hard-hearted dragons. They didn’t invest, but, for the first time ever, they offered to pay a pitcher’s travel expenses to Toronto. It’s not just the flamboyance and inventiveness of these B.C. entrepreneurs that are impressive – it’s also their solid business sense. I’ll never forget Brian Scudamore of 1-800-Got–Junk LLC describing his conservative approach to finance, noting that it helped him avoid having to “work for The Man.” And, of course, Jimmy Pattison (who appeared on Venture playing an organ on his yacht) has followed a similarly cautious approach to managing his money while creating business after business. Yes, there are creative and smart business people in every region of Canada. But after working on three national business programs, I have to say, there must be something in the air in B.C. And if someone could figure out how to bottle and export that, the entire country would be Lotusland. Dianne Buckner hosts and produces Fortune Hunters on CBC Newsworld.