Entrepreneur of the Year 2015: Business-to-Consumer finalists

Brian Scudamore (WINNER)
Founder and CEO, 1-800-Got-Junk?

“I fired my entire company in 1994, all 11 people, because I realized I had the wrong people,” says Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of 1-800-Got-Junk. He then hired a whole new team. “It taught me to never, ever compromise on the quality of people you bring into your organization.”

Now 1-800-Got-Junk employs 4,000 across the world, over 300 of whom work at the Vancouver head office. What started in 1989 as a side gig removing junk with a $700 pickup truck—intended only to help Scudamore pay for college—has turned into a junk removal empire with $1 billion in revenue over its lifetime, a milestone the company hit this past year. It’s not the only one: “This year, we hit our first million-dollar day,” Scudamore adds, and with an estimated US$178 million in revenue, 2015 is set to be the company’s best year ever.

Partly, 1-800-Got-Junk’s success of late can be attributed to a declining loonie: 87 per cent of the company’s business is stateside (with 12 per cent in Canada and one per cent in Australia), meaning most of its revenue is earned in U.S. dollars. But the company is also doing more business than ever, he says (“Our name and phone number are branded on about 1,200 trucks across three countries”), and has benefitted from consolidation within the industry. “We professionalized a fragmented space.”

While his father, a surgeon, didn’t initially support Scudamore’s decision to drop out of UBC and focus on his business, today the 45-year-old is holding out hope for a family legacy with his three young kids: “Maybe one day they’ll get involved in the business.” Given its rapid expansion, 1-800-Got-Junk could likely use the help.

Ian McIntosh (FINALIST)

CEO, Kirmac Automotive Collision Systems Inc.

Ian McIntosh says he got his inspiration for his automotive repair chain Kirmac while working at body shops in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Back then, he explains, the industry was “backward” and “dirty”—full of inefficiencies and questionable practices. After another job at a Kenworth manufacturing plant, which he describes as systematic and clean, he decided auto repair was ripe for reinvention. Founded in 1973, Kirmac grew throughout the Lower Mainland in the ’90s and eventually into Washington State in 2000, bringing the company headcount to a high of 350 in 2014—when he sold his American stores. Now the father of two is expanding locally again—from 12 stores in 2014 to 24 by 2019—while also planning for “what the future might hold.” Once self-driving cars take off, there will be fewer accidents and cars to fix, he says, but the vehicles of tomorrow will still require servicing. And McIntosh wants Kirmac to be part of that change, noting: “I love technology.”

Aaron Hefter (FINALIST)
Co-founder and CEO, Nutrabolics Inc.

Aaron Hefter has a good eye for market voids. The 35-year-old spotted one while still a student at York University for sports supplements; it was an industry he knew well, having worked as a manager at nutrition retailer GNC. And so, at 22, Hefter and business partner Jayson Wyner, an old high school friend, put $10,000 on their credit cards and drove back to B.C. to begin their company. “I spent a year handling sales on the road,” Hefter says, and “we’ve grown ever since.” In fact, revenue has grown roughly 30 per cent in four of the last five years. Now Hefter has his eye on another market void: “vegan superfood.” He recently launched a sub-brand, Verda Nutrition, whose protein-packed pills can be found on shelves at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Hefter thinks the Verda line could be even bigger than his sports one: “It’s more mainstream.”