B.C.’s Entrepreneur of the Year Winners

Over the past 25 years, EOY winners have played key roles in the province's pursuit of entrepreneurial excellence


BCBusiness + ERNST & YOUNG


Over the past 25 years, EOY winners have played key roles in the province’s pursuit of entrepreneurial excellence


The inaugural Pacific Region Entrepreneur Of The Year awards program takes place in Vancouver. Among the category winners: philanthropist and financier Milton Wong (right), politician and funeral-services chain operator Raymond Loewen and merchant banker W.B. (Bud) Kirchner. A year later, when EOY starts to name overall regional winners, United Furniture Warehouse founder John Volken takes home the top prize.


BC Bearing Engineers Ltd. chief executive Wendy McDonald becomes the first—and, so far, only—female Pacific Region overall winner. By the time she retires in 2000, McDonald has expanded the company her husband founded in 1936 to more than 60 locations worldwide, with annual sales exceeding $200 million. McDonald dies in 2013 at age 90, four years after U.S.-based Motion Industries Inc. buys BC Bearing.


Brian Scudamore, founder and then-CEO of 1-800-Got-Junk?, ignores the advice of mentors and plows ahead with a franchise in Seattle. Three countries and 200 franchises later, Scudamore is hauling more cash than junk. His O2E Brands has gone on to launch or purchase three more businesses in the home services space, and total revenue tops US$200 million annually.


The undisputed king of B.C. business, billionaire Jim Pattison, receives the Pacific EOY Lifetime Achievement Award. Almost two decades on, the nonagenarian shows no signs of retiring. He remains chair and CEO of Vancouver-based Jim Pattison Group, which counts grocery store chains, auto dealers, advertising and forest products among its 27 divisions.


Dennis (Chip) Wilson opens his first Lululemon Athletica Inc. store in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood. In 2007, Wilson raises almost US$330 million by taking the athleisure-wear retailer public. Winner of a Pacific EOY Innovation and Marketing award in 2004, he later courts controversy with ill-advised remarks. Wilson leaves Lululemon completely in 2015, a year after helping his wife and son launch clothier Kit and Ace.


Premier Gordon Campbell‘s government creates a Crown corporation called Partnerships BC. Its mission: to build infrastructure projects through public-private partnerships, or P3s. Today, the company’s legacy in the Lower Mainland includes the Canada Line, the upgraded Sea-to-Sky Highway and a twinned Port Mann Bridge.


Dragons’ Den hits the airwaves in Canada, giving viewers a ringside seat at business pitches where entrepreneurs hawk everything from cereal to smartphone apps in the hope of sealing investment deals with investors. The longest-serving Dragon, Jim Treliving, co-chair and co-owner of Richmond-headquartered Boston Pizza International Inc., won the Pacific EOY Hospitality/Tourism category in 1999.


Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté becomes the first Canadian to win EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year. The onetime fire eater, stilt walker and accordion player—now a billionaire—vaults over 44 other nominees from 39 countries to claim the coveted honour at the global competition in Monaco.


Vancouver mining giant Teck Cominco purchases Elk Valley Coal Partnership’s assets for US$14 billion. A year later, the renamed Teck Resources Ltd., which had faced criticism and legal challenges for its environmental standards, adopts stronger ecological and social sustainability practices. In 2012, chair and CEO Norman Keevil wins the Pacific EOY Lifetime Achievement Award.


Chief Clarence Louie, president and CEO of Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corp. (OIBDC), receives the Pacific award for Social Entrepreneur. The first and, to date, only First Nation chief recognized by EOY, tough-talking Louie became head of the Osoyoos Indian Band in 1984, at age 24. He created OIBDC and built it into a major player in the tourism industry, with some $28 million in annual revenue and holdings that include two resorts, a winery and a golf course.


The XXI Olympic Winter Games descend on Vancouver and Whistler. Besides inciting a renewed passion for curling, they attract hordes of tourists—as well as infrastructure development and lucrative procurement tenders in the run-up to the competition. Despite disapproval during the planning stages, local residents ultimately embrace the Games, and International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge praises Vancouver.


EY Canada marks 20 years of participation in the Entrepreneur Of The Year awards, a global program that recognizes the best in entrepreneurship across more than 145 cities in 60 countries. Since EOY’s inception, EY Canada has recognized some 3,250 finalists and presented more than 1,000 awards across five regions: Pacific, Prairies, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic.


The Pacific EOY gala becomes the largest regional event in the global program. Upward of 1,400 business leaders, educators and members of the media now take part in this annual celebration of vision, leadership and courage in entrepreneurship. EY Canada marks its 150th anniversary in 2014, having grown from a single trustee and receivership business in Toronto, founded by Thomas Clarkson, to more than 5,000 staff in 17 offices across the country.


Burnaby semiconductor maker PMC-Sierra—whose founder, Gregory Aasen, won the Pacific Emerging Entrepreneur Of The Year category in 1999—is acquired by Microsemi Corp. for US$2.5-billion in cash and stock. PMC had accepted a US$2-billion cash offer from Skyworks Solutions Inc., but California-based Microsemi swooped in a month later with an offer it couldn’t refuse.


Software giant Microsoft Corp. unveils its eagerly anticipated 142,000-square-foot Microsoft Canada Excellence Centre, housed in the top two floors of Vancouver’s Pacific Centre. A hiring spree follows, and the company grows its Vancouver team to more than 750 employees across product development, sales and marketing, and retail and administrative work.


B.C. biotechnology company QLT Inc., creator of the hugely successful macular degeneration treatment Visudyne, changes its name to Novelion Therapeutics Inc. and merges with Boston-based Aegerion Pharmaceuticals Inc. QLT co-founder Julia Levy, who served as CEO from 1999 to 2002, won the 2002 EOY Healthcare category.


Regina-based Murad Al-Katib, founder and CEO of AGT Food and Ingredients Inc., is the second Canadian to win EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year. In addition to running one of the world’s largest suppliers of pulses, grains and other food staples, Al-Katib is a philanthropist. His company is a major partner with the United Nations’ World Food Programme and the International Red Cross, helping to feed more than 4 million refugee families each year.


Film and television production spending hits a record $2.6 billion in British Columbia, employing some 44,000 people, according to government agency Creative BC. The province also surpasses Ontario as the country’s top locale for film and TV—even with a reduction in labour tax credits from 33 percent to 28 percent the previous year.


A new generation of technology entrepreneurs gets a leg up as post-secondary institutions across B.C. add 2,900 spaces in tech-related programs, thanks to $4.4 million in provincial funding. As advances continue in virtual reality, biotech and software, the province is nurturing the next wave of talent.

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