In celebration of small business month in Canada I thought it would be great to highlight some of the local influencers making a difference within the Kitchener-Waterloo region. All small businesses, startups or entrepreneurs need some sort of mentor to guide them in the right direction, and where better to find inspiration than within our own local community!
Please note that the images were mostly gathered from Twitter (and other online sources) and that these are brief overviews of each individual. I am sure they are involved in much more and have in-depth descriptions on their own web pages or social media profiles. I am aware of the fact that there may be more influencers around the area which were not mentioned. If you do have any suggestions perhaps I can add them in for next year’s small business month (just contact me directly or share your mentor in the comment section below).
Anyhow, check out these local business influencers and make sure that at the very least you follow each one on Twitter (if you have not already done so) as they share awesome ideas:
Focus: Entrepreneurship Mentor, Branding Guru, University Professor, Chief Enthusiasm Officer at Quarry Integrated Communications
I was fortunate enough to have Alan as one of my final year professors at Wilfrid Laurier University. The way he got us engaged on early Friday mornings (a tough feat to get students to focus that early prior to a weekend!) during his Integrated Marketing Communications seminar was astonishing. I myself have been directly influenced by his “shift happens” and look beyond the norm approach to branding. As a matter of fact, NR Digital Branding was partially a result of his inspirational lectures and ideas.
Aside from growing Quarry Integrated Communications into an amazing agency, Alan is also involved with Communitech and other local organizations that help monitor up and coming startups. He was also part of AQ’s Blog & Grill where he interviews industry leaders such as Guy Kawasaki & Ann Handley (just to name a couple) about best practices, tips, etc. If you’re looking for groundbreaking marketing ideas or entrepreneurship motivation make sure you follow Alan!
Focus: Business Educator, Diversity Advocate, Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women, Executive Director – University of Waterloo Stratford Campus
Ginny has done a fantastic job of leading the two local universities (Laurier & Waterloo) in becoming one of the leaders in the field of Business, Economics and Digital media. She has held a number of executive positions over her career in the high tech startup environment. Similar to Alan Quarry, Ginny is a huge advocate of entrepreneurship and shares fantastic ideas on how tech startups can take their organizations to the next level!
Ginny is also social services advocate. She supports gender equality and is part of a number of councils and boards which aim to standardize diversity in corporate culture. She is currently the Executive Director at the new Centre of Digital Media in the Stratford Campus of the University of Waterloo (previously Dean at the School of Business & Economics, Wilfrid Laurier University). Worth a follow for any entrepreneur looking for inspiration!
Focus: Employee Engagement, Writer, International Female Entrepreneur Award, Co-Founder of Plasticity Labs
Jennifer is the co-founder and CMO of Plasticity Labs, a local company focusing on workplace happiness and engagement! Leading the way in the “love where you work” mentality – Plasticity is a revolutionary system for determining what makes employees tick or happy at work. Helping organizations bring the best out of their employees while maintaining productive teams.
Aside from Plasticity Labs, Jennifer is a regular contributor of ideas to the Harvard Business Review and Huffington Post Canada publications. Sharing her ideas on what makes people happy, how to create awesome tech startup cultures and much more. Make sure you give her a follow if you’re interested in building a better, happier workforce!
Focus: Workplace Engagement, Business Culture Speaker, Founder of Fibernetics
John is a true entrepreneur at heart: starting a telecommunications company in what was already considered a saturated market. I had the pleasure of being interview by John for a marketing position at Fibernetics, unfortunately for me I was fresh out of university and was not fully prepared for what Fibernetics needed at the time.
In addition to starting Fibernetics John Stix is a big “Workplace Culture Warrior” and regularly works with companies of all sorts to help them build a better, more engaged workforce. His passion to workplace culture engagement is unbelievable. Anyone looking to get tips on workplace culture, marketing or startups needs to be following him!
Focus: Video Marketing, Startup Culture, Founder of Vidyard
Michael Litt founded Vidyard, a video marketing company, while he was finalizing his studies at the University of Waterloo. Vidyard now employs over 50 people and has some revolutionary features that tradition video marketing platforms do not (as they relate to business purposes). Michael was able to muster up big funding investments with his vision in order to turn Vidyard into the company it is today.
The culture present at Vidyard speaks for itself: free lunches, gaming, career development and much more. A great entrepreneur giving back to the community that helped him get to where he is now. If you’re looking for awesome marketing tips, video best practices or just tech startup information make sure you give him a follow!
Focus: Educator, High Tech Business Advocate, Founder of BlackBerry (Formerly Research in Motion)
Unfortunately for majority of us, Mike Lazaridis does NOT have any official social media profiles. Seen as an inspiration to everyone in the region; Mike was one of the first pioneers in the smart phone industry as a co-founder of Research in Motion (RIM) now known as BlackBerry. BlackBerry introduced emailing into mobile devices and the rest is history!
Outside of BlackBerry Mike spends a lot of time being involved and donating into the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (a big physics think-tank which he himself was involved in creating), founded Institute for Quantum Computing (ICQ) at the University of Waterloo and most recently made a large donation to the new Lazaridis School of Business & Economics building at Wilfrid Laurier University. Serving as an inspiration to both the corporate and scientific community.
There you have it! A list of local influencers that could potentially help with mentoring your business as it evolves from a small startup into a long-term organization. And the best thing is that they are all local to Waterloo Region.
Happy Small Business Month Kitchener-Waterloo!!