Search for "entrepreneurship"

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Gilles Ste-Croix

Gilles Ste-Croix, OC, street performer, businessman (born 1950 in La Sarre, Quebec). In 1984, Gilles Ste-Croix and Guy Laliberté transformed their troupe of street performers into Cirque du Soleil, the world’s largest circus production company and one of the world’s biggest live entertainment companies. Ste-Croix served as vice-president from the company’s founding and as creative director from 1988 until his retirement in 2014. He is a Companion of the Ordre des arts et des lettres du Québec and an Officer of the Order of Canada.

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Lise Watier

Lise Watier, (born Montréal, 1942). A pampered only child, Lise Watier was always interested in feminine beauty and made it her life's work. During the 1980s she began her Québec radio and television career by hosting women's programmes.

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Joseph Bloor

Joseph Bloor, innkeeper, brewer (also spelled Bloore; born in 1789 near Staffordshire, England; died 31 August 1862 in Toronto, ON). Bloor is the namesake of Toronto’s Bloor Street and was a prominent innkeeper and brewer in the early half of the 19th century. He was the founder of the village of Yorkville, which is now part of the city of Toronto.

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Stephen Smith

Stephen J. R. Smith, financial services entrepreneur, civic leader, philanthropist (born 2 June 1951 in Ottawa, ON). Stephen Smith is a successful entrepreneur in the financial services industry. He is co-founder, chairman, president and CEO of First National Financial LP, Canada’s largest non-bank mortgage lender, as well as chairman and co-owner of the Canada Guaranty Mortgage Insurance Company, Canada’s third largest mortgage insurance provider. He is also involved in the administration of cultural organizations such as the Royal Ontario Museum, Rideau Hall Foundation and Historica Canada — publisher of The Canadian Encyclopedia — where he has been chair of the board of directors since 2009. The business school at his alma mater, Queen’s University, was named in his honour after his record $50 million gift to the university in 2015. He is a Companion of the Canadian Business Hall of Fame (2019). A licensed pilot, he is renowned among friends and associates for his daredevil approach to his favourite sports, which include heli-skiing and long-distance cycling. As Charles Brindamour, president and chief executive officer of Intact Financial Corp. has said, “Stephen is a force of nature.”

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Notable Indigenous Entrepreneurs in Canada

Indigenous economies thrived long before Europeans arrived in North America and, due to hard work and ingenuity, a growing number of Indigenous entrepreneurs are enjoying success today. Many are demonstrating a blending of traditional values and an Indigenous world view with financial success. The following are but a few of a long list of remarkable Indigenous entrepreneurs running thriving businesses in Canada. (See also Economic Conditions of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)

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Elizabeth Arden

Elizabeth Arden (née Florence Nightingale Graham), entrepreneur, founder of Elizabeth Arden Inc. (born 31 December 1881 in Vaughan Township, ON; died 18 October 1966 in New York City, NY). Arden was an innovator in the cosmetics and beauty culture industry. She used mass marketing to promote her products and change popular perceptions of makeup (see Advertising). Her clientele included British royalty and celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. She rose from humble beginnings to being one of the wealthiest women in the world.

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Annette Verschuren

Annette Verschuren, OC, business executive, entrepreneur (born 24 June 1956 in North Sydney, NS). Verschuren studied business at St. Francis Xavier University and also holds a number of honorary doctorates. Best known for her 15 years as the president of The Home Depot Canada, Verschuren co-founded Toronto energy-storage start-up NRStor in 2012 and serves as its chair and CEO. She has served on several government-appointed bodies and the boards of Canadian businesses and non-profits.

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Max Ward

Maxwell William Ward, OC, aviator, businessman (born 22 November 1921 in Edmonton, AB; died 2 November 2020 in Edmonton). Max Ward was a bush pilot and aviation entrepreneur who founded and ran the airline Wardair.

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Denham Jolly

Brandeis Denham Jolly, C.M., teacher, entrepreneur, publisher, broadcaster, philanthropist, civil rights activist, community leader (born 26 August 1935 in Industry Cove, Jamaica). Jolly began his business career by purchasing and operating rooming houses and nursing homes. He later purchased and became the publisher of Contrast, a Black community newspaperin Toronto and established FLOW 93.5, the first Black-owned radio station and the first station in Canada to showcase Black music and the stories of the Black community. Jolly also was involved with or founded and led community groups — such as the Black Action Defence Committee — that sought to end police violence targeting young Black men. Jolly also contributed generously to several causes including scholarships for promising young Black Canadians.

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Izaak Walton Killam

Izaak Walton Killam, financier, philanthropist (born 23 July 1885 in Yarmouth, NS; died 5 August 1955 near Grande-Cascapédia, QC). Killam amassed a large fortune investing in power utilities, pulp and paper and other industries. His wife, Dorothy Johnston Killam, grew the wealth she inherited after his death. The couple left many millions of dollars to Canadian institutions. About half the funding that established the Canada Council for the Arts came from inheritance taxes on Izaak Killam's death. The Killams also endowed the Killam Prizes and Killam Research Fellowships for scholars in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, health sciences and engineering.

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John Molson

John Molson, entrepreneur, politician, philanthropist (born 28 December 1763 near Moulton, Lincolnshire, England; died 11 January 1836 in BouchervilleLower Canada). John Molson founded Canada’s oldest and largest brewery and introduced steamship travel in Canada. His investments in Montreal helped to transform the city from a colonial outpost to a cosmopolitan centre. Today, the brewing business he founded continues as part of Molson Coors Beverage Company.

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Heather Reisman

Heather Maxine Reisman, OC, entrepreneur, business executive (born 28 August 1948 in Montreal, QC). Reisman is best known as the founder, executive chair and CEO of Indigo Books & Music, Canada’s largest book and specialty toy retailer, and the co-founder of Kobo, a top global e-reader maker. She holds honorary doctorates from several universities and a bachelor’s degree in social work from McGill University. In 2022, Reisman was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame.