Thinking about this subject on the dock at the cottage this weekend, I came come up with a list of five Canadian entrepreneurs who are changing society today.
In no particular order:
* Former eBay president Jeff Skoll was an early shareholder and the first employee of the online auction giant. Not only did the Montreal-born engineer help change the way the world buys and sells, but his Jeff Skoll Foundation now seeds social-entrepreneurship projects around the world, giving low-income societies the tools and motivation to help themselves.
* Energy Savings Income Fund is probably the largest business in Canada ever founded, built and owned by a woman. Rebecca MacDonald has sweated bullets and survived infuriating government policy reversals to give consumers a new way to save money on utility costs – and provide an exciting new role model for Canadian women.
* Jimmy Pattison, the former Vancouver car dealer, runs a mammoth personal empire that’s involved in advertising and publishing, supermarkets, real estate, transportation distribution – and still owns more than a dozen auto dealerships. It’s Canada’s third largest private corporation, and he says he’s not leaving it to his children – so I suspect he may emerge as one of Canada’s largest philanthropists.
Best of all, when Vancouver’s Expo86 went off the rails more than 20 years ago, Pattison took more than a year away from his business to whip it into shape. At a crucial time, Jimmy Pattison bailed out Canada
* Mike Lazaridis combined his boyhood love of radio and computers and developed the always-on wireless email device now known as the BlackBerry. He’s had a lot of help from his co-CEO, but it was Lazaridis' vision and curiosity that created Research in Motion and changed the way business communicates.
* Moving from BlackBerries to cranberries, there's Martin Le Moine, founder of Quebec-based Fruit d'Or, North America's first large-scale organic cranberry producer. Developed out of a hobby farm intended for Le Moine’s “retirement,” Fruit d'Or supplies dried and frozen cranberries and blueberries to food processors for use in trail mixes, drinks, cereals, granola and nutrition bars. He’s leading awareness of the health benefits of cranberries, and creating jobs in rural areas that need all the employment they can get. "I wanted to do something good," he told PROFIT Magazine this spring when Fruit d’Or was named Canada’s third fastest-growing company, "not just grow cranberries for the sake of growing cranberries."
Why do entrepreneurs matter? They're building Canada’s 21st century economy, they're changing lives and doing good. And their impact has never been greater.