Founder of fast-growing consulting firm tackles homelessness and the housing crisis

John Merkley's first venture was a plastic recycling company. Now his consulting clients include Metro Vancouver

John Merkley, 29

Founder, Cascadia Partners


Life Story: While completing a dual master’s degree in international business and economics from Queen’s University and Maastricht University in the Netherlands, John Merkley co-founded a company that transformed waste plastic at facilities in Holland and Berlin into reusable industrial wax. “I was 21, and I got to run an enterprise and realize how hard it is,” he says. “It was truly trial by fire.”

Merkley, who attended high school in Cape Breton, moved to Vancouver in 2011 to work for management consulting firm Secor Inc. and then KPMG LLP after it acquired the smaller company. In February 2015, desiring more control over his work, he founded Cascadia Partners, a strategy consulting firm whose clients include BC Investment Management Corp., the Port of Vancouver, Metro Vancouver, TransLink and several private-sector businesses.

Merkley’s work focuses on policy relating to economics, public finance and major capital investments, and he enjoys it because of the potential for positive change. He also provides pro bono consulting to Metro Vancouver to tackle homelessness and the housing crisis within the region.

The Bottom Line: Cascadia, which now counts five partners with expertise in different areas, has grown its business fourfold in the past year.