Reason #91 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

The Startups

By Emil Tiedemann

Edmonton is a city of opportunity, where anyone with an idea has the ability to realize their dreams, no matter how far-fetched they may seem. Some might argue that only the wealthy and well-connected get all the breaks, but that’s simply not true. 

There are people, groups, and organizations out there to help anyone bring their concept to fruition, and show the rest of the country - perhaps even the whole world - what they’ve got under their sleeve! 
 
BioWare's 'Mass Effect 3.'


Over the years, there have been countless successful ventures that have gotten their humble starts right here in Edmonton, including restaurant chains, product lines, tech companies, entertainers, and even multi-billion-dollar corporations. 

In a town where business-minded folks tend to support and assist each other in their respective endeavors, the sky’s the limit, and you certainly don’t need to uproot to some larger municipality in order to get your business off the ground. To show you what I’m talking about, here are just some of the more well-known ideas that had their beginnings right here in our hometown. #yegbiz

BIOWARE /
Doctors Ray Muzyka, Augustine Yip, and Greg Zeschuk had graduated together from medical school at the University of Alberta, and were gamers in their spare time before they decided to develop their very own. They teamed up with BrentTrent Oster, pooled their cash and resources, and came up with a game titled Shattered Steel, which became the first launch for Edmonton-born & based BioWare. Since forming in February of 1995, BioWare has evolved to include franchises like Mass Effect, Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Dragon Age, and Star Wars.

BOOSTER JUICE /
After recognizing a large market for juice bars in Canada, Dale Wishewan (current President & CEO) and Jonathan Amack founded the very first Booster Juice on November 13, 1999 at the Broadmoor strip mall in Sherwood Park. The award-winning company is now Canada’s largest chain of fresh juice and smoothie bars, with more than 300 locations in North America (and even one in India!).

BOSTON PIZZA /
On August 12, 1964, Greek immigrant Gus Agioritis opened Boston Pizza & Spaghetti House on 118 Avenue and 124 Street. In 1968, RCMP officer Jim Treliving (of Dragon’s Den) opened a franchise in Penticton, B.C. By 1970, there were 17 locations throughout Western Canada. Since then, Boston Pizza has grown to some 400 restaurants across North America and is worth about $1 billion. There are currently more than two dozen locations in the Edmonton region.

THE BRICK /
Brothers Bill, John, & Fred Comrie opened the first-ever The Brick warehouse on September 1, 1971 in Edmonton. It expanded quickly into Fort McMurray and then Calgary shortly after, and has since become one of Canada’s largest volume retailers of furniture, electronics, and appliances, with nearly 200 stores across the country. In 2004, The Brick acquired United Furniture Warehouse, and then itself was acquired by Leon’s in 2012 for $700 million. 


CANADIAN WESTERN BANK /
Operating primarily out of Western Canada, the Canadian Western Bank got its start in 1984 as the Bank of Alberta, becoming a Schedule I chartered bank that March. It amalgamated with various other banks over the years, and now employs over 2,000 people, and has a net income of nearly $200 million & over $18.5 billion in assets.

EARLS /
Cincinnati-born Leroy Earl Fuller and his eldest son Stanley opened the first Earls restaurant on Whyte Avenue in 1982, even though they lived in Vancouver. Although they had once lived in Edmonton and had even owned a number of A&W franchises here, they uprooted to B.C. in the ‘70s. That’s also where they opened a second Earls location, in 1984, as well as the corporate head office. By 2015, there were 65 locations in Canada and the States (they also funded the Cactus Club chain in 1988). In 2016, Earls became the first North American restaurant chain to switch to “humane-certified” beef.

PCL CONSTRUCTION /
Ernest Edward Poole first founded what was known as E.E. Contractors in 1906 in Saskatchewan, but by 1913 the company had been taken over by Ernest Poole and renamed Poole Construction Company Limited. Headquarters moved to Edmonton in 1932, and it has since become one of the leading construction companies in North America, working on buildings, airports, bridges, roads, and even oil pipelines. It is also Canada’s largest contractor and is 100% owned by its own employees.

SERVUS CREDIT UNION /
Canada’s second largest credit union, Servus is a member-owned, community-based financial institution founded right here in Edmonton in 1987. It now has more than 2,400 employees in over 100 locations in over 60 communities in the province, with more than $14 billion in assets.

SHAW COMMUNICATIONS /
One of Canada’s largest telecommunications companies got its humble start way back in 1966 in Edmonton, but was known then as the Capital Cable Television Company. It went public on the TSX in 1983, and continued to grow exceptionally through diversifying and large-scale acquisitions, providing phone, TV, and Internet services in Canada and the U.S. It is now worth $5 billion.

TELUS /
The government of Alberta formed TELUS in 1990 as a holding company, and was the sole provider of telephone service in the province by ‘95. Soon after, it replaced AGT and EdTel, becoming a consumer brand, eventually merging with BCTel in 1998. TELUS has since grown into an international company, with contact centers in the U.S., Central America, Asia, and Europe. It is worth somewhere around $12 billion.

THE OTHERS /
Arctic Spas, AutoCanada, Badass Jack’s, Cheemo Perogies, Chef’s Hat, Cold-fx, Empire Design, Eveready Inc., Great Western Garment Co., Happy Nappy, International Mascot Corporation, Intuit Canada, The Katz Group, Liquor Stores GP, NeWest Press, Nexopia, Novhaus, Peace Hills Trust, Pizza 73, Planet Organic, Remedy Cafe, Royal Pizza, The Running Room, Soda Jerks, Stantec, Steeplejack Industrial, Transcend Coffee, United Furniture, WalkAide, Wowjobs, XS Cargo, Ying Fat Foods, ZCL Composites, etc., etc., etc.


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