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Successful British Columbians Share What It Means to Be a Local Leader

British Columbia Day was established in 1996 to celebrate what our province is built upon – innovation. With small businesses accounting for over 98 per cent of all businesses in BC, without that innovation, over one million people across BC would be without employment.

To celebrate the pioneering spirit, we asked two of BC’s most successful business leaders, Vikram Vij and Brian Scudamore, what it means to be Canadian and how it influences the way they do business.

The Canadian Cultural Mosaic

People around the world praise Canada’s inclusivity and diversity. Instead of becoming a melting pot of immigrants, encouraged to lose their heritage, like other nations, we instead are a mosaic of cultures. Standing together as Canadians, but proud of their traditions.

This is something Vikram Vij particularly identifies with. For him, it is important to stay as Indian as possible, which is why many of his employees are from the same region in India. “We have the same values, the same childhood references. They get me, and I feel lucky to be surrounded by so much Indian culture,” he says.

Being proud of his heritage and his new home is what drives Vikram and his business. “I’m extremely proud to be Canadian – and I’m extremely proud to be Indian too. It’s always been my goal to bring India to Canada, and that’s what I try to do with my food.” Today, Vikram is one the most renowned and respected chefs in Canada, bringing his birth countries culture to the minds and tastebuds of thousands.

Taking the Road Less Travelled

It’s diversity of a different kind that makes Brian Scudamore proud to be Canadian. “If I think of what symbols we use to represent our awesome country – the beaver, hockey, maple syrup, or Bob and Doug McKenzie – I think they’re all a little unusual,” he says.

And, it’s those unusual and quirky personalities that are likely one of the reasons why entrepreneurship is so embraced and encouraged. To take the road less travelled. The journey of entrepreneurship is, after all, not always a smooth ride but it’s the belief in creating that original product or service that becomes the focus and not the individual steps to make it happen.

Taking the unusual route is an approach to life that Brian relates to, both personally and professionally. Although shocking to many, five years into his business that generated $1 million in profit, he realized something didn’t feel right. So he took a big chance and fired his entire team. Learning that his employees are what make a business great, and starting again from scratch.

Being Canadian South of the Border

BC’s proximity to the US creates a great potential for local businesses wanting to expand their market. And with nearly $18 billion of goods and services exported to our southern neighbours from BC alone, it is something that many are taking advantage of – including Brian.

“Although O2E Brands (banner company for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, WOW 1 DAY PAINTING and You Move Me) is based in Canada, about 87 per cent of our business is conducted south of the border,” he says. But it’s not been easy to achieve in America’s highly competitive market that focuses on their own home talent first. Standing out in the US requires effort. And hard work is what Canadians do best. “I’ve learned that we have to tell compelling stories about our brand and back them up with exceptional service experiences,” he says. “Canadians are seen as likable, hard-working and innovative. So although we work much harder to gain attention, once customers start to hear the story they are excited to work with us”.

What Being Canadian Means to the Rest of the World

After someone has got over the fact that you’re not American, it’s not always cold and you don’t live in an igloo, what do people around the world thing of Canadians, and particularly Canadian businesses?

For Brian, he has seen a growth in respect for Canadian businesses, both big and small, being at the forefront of industry. Especially with companies like Hootsuite, Bombardier and this year’s INSPIRE panelists Recon Instruments Inc and Shoes.com who have both achieved multi-million dollar valuations for their business.

For Vikram, an immigrant himself, he believes that people see Canada as the dream. “We are seen as the friendlier face of North America and certainly welcoming and supportive of immigrants.”

Which is why the BC Government introduced a new and improved BC PNP business program – the Entrepreneur Immigration stream – on July 2, 2015, to target experienced entrepreneurs who are ready to invest and actively manage businesses in BC.

And who wouldn’t want to live here? The province where you can go skiing and hit the beach in the same day. Where fresh local food is offer in abundance by local sustainable businesses. Where cultures mix and intertwine. Where businesses support each other and celebrate each other’s achievements. As Brian rightly describes: “The perfect place to work hard and play hard.”

Happy BC Day!