Among other good news to come out of Canada’s financial capital, the city has cemented its reputation as a global center for AI, thanks to a $5 million investment by Google into the Vector Institute last year and an aligned buy-in from the city’s academic, government and corporate sectors. According to a report by the City of Toronto there are over 60 business incubators in the city, and the growing Toronto tech startup community is seeing a rapid rise in innovative solutions.
Here’s a short list of Top Entrepreneurs that are influencing Toronto’s innovative landscape:
Jen Agg, owner of The Black Hoof, Raw Bar, and Cocktail Bar
Advice: Learn from past experience. “Now I know what to expect when working with a plumber or contractor,” says the 37-year-old restaurant and bar owner. “You learn you were paying too much when you develop a trusted network of tradespeople who you use consistently,” she says.
Bobby Kimberley, owner & creative director of Young Lions Music Club
Advice: Know your target, and stick to it. Kimberley believes an audience is the most important part of a business, so he says to figure out who yours is, and focus on catering to them — regardless of cash. “It’s tough to turn down something that might not fit your audience but that’s offering a chunk of money,” he says.
Ann Kaplan, president and CEO of iFinance Canada
Advice: Think big. “It might be outside of your comfort zone but, you can achieve it if you think bigger,” she says. “My a-ha moment came from self-evaluating. I have certain skill sets but there was a point where I thought, ‘I‘m thinking too small. Sure, I don’t understand the next step; I haven’t been there before. I haven’t been in that world. But I have to stop being concerned about going to a place I haven’t been yet. I need to imagine being there and figure out a way to get there.”
Victoria Sopik, co-founder and CEO of Kids & Company Ltd.
Advice: Provide proper training and feedback for employees. When the corporate childcare company owner was 17-years-old, she worked as a camp counsellor for the City of Toronto. She was fired — but had no idea she was doing anything wrong. “That taught me, as manager as hundreds of employees, to be very clear when I hire people in regard to their training, formal assessments, and expectations,” she says, adding that it’s helped her build a loyal team. “People who started working for me the year I started the business are still working for me now.”
Nathan Vella, co-founder & president of Capybara Games
Advice: Understand your talents and passion — then be them. For the owner of one of Toronto’s most successful video game companies that meant not taking lucrative contract work, and instead focusing on games he and his developers actually wanted to make. “Players can tell when the person who made a game wanted to make it, as opposed to doing it purely to pay the bills,” he says. “We find a way to make business decisions informed by the things that define us as a studio, rather than let the business define who we are.”
Joel Carriere, owner and president of Dine Alone Records and Bedlam Music Management
Advice: Take risks. Carriere’s mother told him so when he was around 11-years-old, and it’s stuck with the entrepreneur ever since. A recent gamble got one of his label’s bands, The Sheepdogs, on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, turning them into an instant success. “I started a record label when everyone was talking about the decline of the music industry. Now it’s one of the most successful labels in Canada.” He’s thankful for his mother’s words. “You’ve got to keep pushing and see what you’re capable of.”
Tags: Advice from top entrepreneurs, Business advice, Entrepreneurs
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