10 Most Creative Entrepreneurs in Canada

Monday, March 7th, 2022

10 Most Creative Entrepreneurs in Canada

Imagine an entrepreneur. Perhaps you imagine a young man in a crisp suit receiving his MBA. In fact, that image does not represent many of the greatest entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurial spirit comes in all shapes, sizes, and nationalities. Today, let’s explore the 10 most innovative Canadian entrepreneurs and see what they can teach us about business.

Carinne Chambers-Saini

Carinne Chambers-Saini

Carinne Chambers-Saini did go to business school, but that’s where the entrepreneur stereotypes stop. Fresh out of university at 24, Chambers-Saini set out to create a menstrual product that was visually appealing, sustainable, and widely available.

Thus, the DivaCup was born. Chambers-Saini knew she had a revolutionary product on her hands, the problem was getting some supporters on board. Chain stores were not interested in the DivaCup, so Chambers-Saini ran the business from home until the chain stores realized that she had been right from the beginning.

 

Mike Lazaridis

Mike Lazaridis

The name BlackBerry is virtually synonymous with early smartphones; however, few people know that it was founded by a Canadian. Mike Lazaridis founded Blackberry in 1984, a company that eventually made him the 17th wealthiest Canadian. Mike Lazaridis has used his money responsibly, contributing significant sums to Canadian engineering programs. He invested so much into the business school at Wilfred Laurier University, that the university renamed their business school The Lazaridis School of Business & Economics. Lazaridis founded Quantum Valley Investments with Doug Fregin in Waterloo, investing in the Canadian tech sector and working to bring tech jobs to Canadians. Lazaridis is a great example of how successful entrepreneurs can mentor and support young entrepreneurs.

 

Anna Sutherland Bissell

Anna Sutherland Bissell

For our next entrepreneur, let’s head back in time a bit. Canadian-born Anna Sutherland Bissell was the first female CEO in the United States. She became the CEO of the Bissell company in 1889, stepping up from her job as a salesperson when her husband, the founder and first CEO of the Bissell company died.

Bissell worked as a CEO in a time when that was not a career choice for women, but we can think of no better person to be the first female CEO in the US. After all, Anna was the inspiration for the company. Her husband Melville had created the carpet sweeper to help her get sawdust out of the carpet, and Anna herself was the first salesperson for the company, bringing the carpet sweeper door to door so people could see the product in their own homes.

Anna Sutherland Bissell successfully ran the business on her own while parenting five children and being a grandmother. Not only that – but she also implemented progressive labor policies such as worker’s compensation and a pension plan for her employees.

 

Dani Reiss

Dani Reiss

Dani Reiss’s success story is one of respecting the past while innovating. He inherited the Snow Goose coat company from his father David Ross in 2001. David had married into the company, having married the Malca, the daughter of the original founder, Samuel Tick. The company had already been through some name changes: first it was Metro Sportswear, then Snow Goose.

However, after Reiss took over the operation, he decided to focus on manufacturing the coats in Canada, and renamed the company “Canada Goose” to appeal to international markets. Along with the change came a sense of pride for Canadians as well, so Reiss managed to appeal to national and international markets.

Reiss started out with a passion for writing, as evidenced by his ability to create a compelling brand and brand story for his jackets, bringing them into the top tier of outwear. Since Reiss took over, Canada Goose has become an internationally recognized company, popular among athletes and celebrities.

 

Leonard Lee

Leonard Lee

Best known for founding the Lee Valley Tool company, Leonard Lee is a bit of a renaissance man regarding businesses. After founding Lee Valley Tool Company in 1978, Lee founded Veritas Tools in 1985, Algrove Publishing in 1991, and Canica Design in 1998.

From the start, Lee was determined to treat his employees right. He made the bold promise not to ever pay an executive in his company more than 10 times the wage of the lowest-paid worker. At the end of the year, he also paid out 25% of pre-tax profits to employees, with everyone getting the same cut.

These companies have all been successful in their way, but Lee Valley, the one that bears his name, has been the most successful. Under the ownership of Robin Lee, Leonard Lee’s son, the company has grown from a tool business to a wide-ranging brand that sells everything from hand tools to hammocks, with store locations in multiple provinces and a strong online presence that serves customers across the globe.

 

Dave Lane & Jeremy Guard

Dave Lane and Jeremy Guard

This dynamic duo created Arc’teryx, a climbing gear-turned-general outdoor gear company. In 1989, Dave Lane started developing climbing harness designs using heat laminate technology which was incredibly revolutionary in the climbing industry. The company was originally called “Dave Lane’s Rock Solid Manufacturing.”

Jeremy Guard came on board shortly after (in 1990) to join as an equity partner. In 1991, the two relaunched the company as Arc’teryx in the basement of a suburb in Vancouver.

Eventually, they diversified their products and found huge success as they ventured into the world of apparel, which now provides ⅔ of the company’s revenue. They’ve scored endorsements from professional athletes like Silvia Moser, Quentin Roberts, Jon Walsh, and Nina Caprez.

Starting with just an idea, Lane and Guard were able to create one of the most successful outdoor companies in just three decades.

 

Shahrzad Rafati

Shahrzad Rafati

If you are interested in entrepreneurs who have been able to create completely new businesses to suit the digital age, look no further than Shahrzad Rafati. Born in Tehran, she immigrated to Vancouver, BC as a teenager. Her intelligence and outside-the-box thinking has served her well.

Rafati created her business BroadbandTV Corporation in 2005 because she wanted to ease the tensions between free streaming sites like Youtube and big entertainment companies like the NBA. She did this by creating a system where companies could create and upload premium content to Youtube that they could monetize while entering the digital age.

Shahrzad’s leadership qualities are evidenced by her many awards and honors, including Canada’s Top 40 Under 40, CEO of the Year by Business in Vancouver, Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business, and more.

 

Michele Romanow

Michele Romanow

Michele Romanow made the list of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada for a reason. She wears many hats by working in both the tech industry and the entertainment industry. In fact, she started six companies before her 35th birthday, making her one of the most innovative and successful entrepreneurs. It’s no surprise that she was also named by Forbes as one of the Top 20 Most Disruptive Millennials on a Mission!

Her first venture was a coffee shop at university in 2006, and the entrepreneurial spirit has not left her since. Along with some of her classmates from her engineering program, she founded Evandale Caviar, Buytopia.ca, and SnapSaves.

In 2015, she co-founded the venture capital firm Clearblanc and became the youngest cast member of the Canadian entrepreneurial TV show Dragons Den. She is a major supporter of women through the Canadian Entrepreneurship Initiative, which she joined in 2017 after Ruma Bose founded it. This venture helps small-business owners get inexpensive financing. Romanow offers applicants a 10% discount on loans obtained through clarbanc.com (currently rebranded as Clearco).

 

Tara Bosch

Tara Bosch

If you’ve ever stood in line at a Canadian grocery store, you know our next entrepreneur’s product, SmartSweets. Tara Bosch created SmartSweets when she began trying to figure out ways to create candy with all the flavors without all the sugar, so she could have daily chats with her grandmother over candy without feeling bad about it. “I started thinking, ‘I want to feel good about candy, so why can’t I?’” She tested new gummy bear recipes using plant-based fibers and sweeteners, and that’s how her company was born.

Diet candy has always been a niche product that is usually hidden on a back shelf, but with SmartSweets, Bosch was able to make diet candy appealing and fun – bringing diet candy out to the impulse buy section next to the magazines. Her business quickly grew from being sold from her car as she cold-called Canadian retailers to catch the attention of Whole Foods, earning US distribution of SmartSweets.

About Matcha Design

Matcha Design is a full-service creative B2B agency with decades of experience executing its client’s visions. The award-winning company specializes in web design, logo design, branding, marketing campaign, print, UX/UI, video production, commercial photography, advertising, and more. Matcha Design upholds the highest personal standards for excellence and can see things from a unique perspective due to its multicultural background.  The company consistently delivers custom, high-quality, innovative solutions to its clients using technical savvy and endless creativity. For more information, visit MatchaDesign.com.

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