10 Canadian entrepreneurs who will inspire you

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Successful business people come from all walks of life and from every corner of the globe, but Canadian entrepreneurs are gems worth noting.

There are many impressive Canadian entrepreneurs who have made names for themselves.

Most exemplify sheer determination and belief in their ideas, while stepping outside the “norm” of working 9-5 jobs to make ends meet.

10 inspiring stories from famous entrepreneurs

Here are just 10 of the many Canadian entrepreneurs who have found commercial success, along with their inspirational stories of hard work and dedication.

1. Shahrzad Rafati

Shahrzad Rafati

Born in Tehran, Iran, Shahrzad Rafati became a Canadian citizen after immigrating to Vancouver, British Columbia as a teenager. In 2005, Rafati founded BroadbandTV, a Canadian media and technology firm that is the second largest video property, followed only by Google.

The company secured a massive $36 million investment from RTL Group in 2013. The Canadian entrepreneur continues to lead the company while also serving as a board member for several organizations, including social media management platform Hootsuite.

Related: How to find your angel investor

2. Mike Lazaridis

Mike Lazaridis co-founded Research in Motion Limited (R.I.M.), which created the famous Blackberry and revolutionized how people communicate.

Lazaridis dropped out of university to achieve his first business-minded goal of creating and launching R.I.M. Since then, Lazaridis has founded other organizations, including the Centre for International Governance Innovation and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.

Today, he is known as one of the most successful technologists in Canada and was named one of the top 100 most influential individuals by Time Magazine in 2005.

3. Tonia Jahshan

Canadian-born entrepreneur Tonia Jahshan built Steeped Tea and turned it into a massive retail empire that spans the globe.

Like many Canadians, Jahshan found herself working a job that she wasn’t passionate about.

So in 2006, she decided to try out entrepreneurship by creating her own loose-leaf tea products and selling them.

Jahshan managed to take her small one-person company to one that now boasts thousands of sellers that help her rake in $20 million in annual sales.

Today, Jahshan not only continues to run her successful company, but also holds talks designed to inspire others to follow their passion.

Woman wrapped in Canadian flag enjoying scenic view

4. Joseph-Armand Bombardier

The curious and inventive mind of Joseph-Armand Bombardier led him to launch Bombardier Limited, the largest railway equipment and civil airplane production company in the world.

Born in Valcourt, Quebec, Bombardier dreamed of creating vehicles that would be capable of operating on the snow and at high speeds. He worked hard towards reaching this goal, which propelled him to eventually fulfill his dreams of developing and selling B7 snowmobiles.

5. Kevin O’LearyKevin O'Leary

Most Canadians familiar with Kevin O’Leary may know the famous entrepreneur as “Mr. Wonderful,” thanks to his appearances on Shark Tank and Dragons’ Den. But aside from his television persona, O’Leary is also an accomplished businessman.

He launched SoftKey Software Products from his basement, with zero money to his name.

Things have changed a lot from the days of his big ideas and small pocketbook. He went on to found his own mutual fund company, O’Leary Funds, which he started as a means of controlling his own finances while helping to manage the wealth of others. Today, O’Leary is one of the most successful and well-known Canadian entrepreneurs.

6. Susan Niczowski

You may have come across Summer Fresh salads and dips in your grocery store, but what you may not know about these products is the CEO behind them. Since 1991, Susan Niczowski has been leading the company, which sells healthy-based mixed salads and dips.

Niczowski started the company from her mother’s kitchen.

 

She played around with old family recipes for traditional Macedonian dips and sauces like hummus and baba ghanouj. It was a leap of faith to start the company, as these types of foods, while popular today, were not that common 30 years ago.

Through perseverance and belief in her products, Niczowski successfully changed the perception of these foods, which are now a staple in grocery stores and on kitchen tables of Canadian households.

7. Dani Reiss

Infamous outerwear company Canada Goose is run by Canadian entrepreneur Dani Reiss, who took the role of CEO in 2001.

Close-up of someone using a sewing machine

It was his grandfather, a Polish immigrant, who originally developed the Canadian-based company in 1957, then known as Metro Sportswear. Reiss took Canada Goose public in 2017 and owns 18% of the stock himself.

The company is well-known for its high-quality down-filled jackets, which are not only favourites among Canadians, but are also coveted by the Hollywood elite.

Reiss has maintained Canada-based manufacturing without sending production overseas.

Thanks to his efforts to keep manufacturing on Canadian soil, the company now employs over 3,400 Canadians.

Related: Building community through clothing

8. Leonard Lee

Lee Valley is a retail store that specializes in unique woodworking and gardening tools, but it’s also home to some unique gadgets you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. Leonard Lee, a Canadian entrepreneur, founded Lee Valley in Ottawa in 1978, and since then, several more stores have opened up across Canada.

Saskatchewan-born Lee went on to launch Canica Design in 1998, a medical design company. As a result of his successes, Lee was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2002.

9.  Martha Hall Findlay

Martha Hall Findlay

Toronto-born Martha Hall Findlay started her career off in corporate and commercial law, and even got into politics after being elected to the House of Commons of Canada with the Liberal Party of Canada.

Following her political career, Findlay got into entrepreneurship and is now one of the country’s most successful females in business. She was the president and CEO of the Canada West Foundation and currently serves as senior VP and chief sustainability officer of Suncor Energy.

10. The McCain Brothers

Back in the 1950s, brothers Harrison, Wallace, Robert, and Andrew McCain launched McCain Foods, which has since gone on to become a global empire selling food products in grocery stores across the world. 

The McCain brothers took inspiration from their father, who farmed potatoes.

 

Using their agricultural background, combined with frozen food technological innovations, they decided to try their hand at entrepreneurship by freezing sliced-up potatoes in the form of french fries.

It wasn’t long before McCain Foods became a well-established company in the world of Canadian products. Today, McCain Foods is the largest manufacturer of frozen potato products in the world.

It’s your turn to join these Canadian entrepreneurs

Coffee mug that says “It’s about making ideas happen”

One thing these Canadian entrepreneurs have in common is that all managed to reach soaring heights in the world of business. They took risks, created opportunities and overcame many obstacles to see their dreams reach fruition.

Successful businesses take time, patience and a whole lot of determination to see things through.

Don’t be afraid to start small and build your business one step at a time.

 

You, too, may be the next to join these famous entrepreneurs as the next big Candian success.

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Lisa Rennie
Lisa's incurable quest for satisfying her curiosities serves her well as a freelance writer, where she has the privilege of researching and curating content to help keep her readers in the loop of all things business, real estate and personal finance. She's been working as a freelance writer for more than a decade, creating unique content that helps to educate Canadian consumers. In her spare time, Lisa enjoys trying interesting new recipes, frolicking with her pup, and spending time with family. You can find Lisa on LinkedIn.