Looking Back on 150 Years of Canadian Entrepreneurship

by QuickBooks Canada Team

2 min read

As Canada’s 150th birthday fast approaches, there’s no better time to reflect on the last century and a half of entrepreneurship in Canada and how it has profoundly changed the fabric of our country.

Canada’s vibrant entrepreneurial spirit predates Confederation. Long before Canada as we know it existed, we built an economy on the trade of natural resources like furs and fish, developing infrastructure and communication networks that eventually laid the foundation for Canada to take its place as a global powerhouse.

In celebration of our nation’s entrepreneurial risk-takers, pioneers and visionaries, here are three homegrown ventures past and present which have helped to forge the Canadian identity and drive our economy, jobs and innovation.

Eaton’s: Founded in 1869 by Timothy Eaton, T. Eaton Company Ltd. was once Canada’s largest department store retailer. While it declared bankruptcy in 1999, Eaton’s transformed the Canadian retail landscape forever. For years, the company was an intimate part of Canadian family life – its mail-order catalogue was called the “Family Bible” and its annual Santa Claus became an important holiday tradition for many. Perhaps most importantly, Eaton’s introduced several revolutionary retail innovations including its cash-only policy in an era of bartering and its satisfaction guarantee.

BlackBerry Limited (Formerly Research In Motion): Hailing from Waterloo, ON, Research In Motion (RIM) helped pioneer the momentous shift in the cellphone market, from conventional cellphones to the all-in-one computing devices we now call smartphones. Thanks to the company’s leadership in data security, BlackBerry quickly became an essential part of the corporate tool kit for businesses large and small, in Canada and around the world, offering flexible and untethered access to email in an era when dialup was still the norm. Research In Motion has played an undeniable role in the “appification” of small business. The 64 per cent of small business owners in Canada who now use a smartphone to manage their daily operations have RIM to thank.

McCain Foods: Founded in 1957 by Wallace and Harrison McCain, along with their brothers Robert and Andrew in their hometown of Florenceville, New Brunswick, McCain Foods helped to popularize frozen foods in Canada and is now the world’s biggest producer of frozen French fries. The company is also known in the Canadian business community for its award-winning management practices, crediting its global success to “smart recruiting” and empowering employees to “achieve excellence every day” by providing them with the right tools to learn and grow.

On July 1, we celebrate those who have come before us, paving the way for Canada to take its position as a global leader in innovation and entrepreneurship. Canada has a rich history of entrepreneurship and there’s no shortage of inspiration for future trailblazers. To the next 150 years!

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