Usually in the Women’s Post our profiles focus on amazing women, but every now and then we make an exception by profiling men who go above and beyond in supporting women.
Did you ever have someone in your life who impacted it more than they will ever know?
Over 20 years ago I met Bruce Poon-Tip. We met backstage at an entrepreneurial awards event. As we were waiting to receive our awards, he told me all about his company GAP (now G-Adventures) He explained that it was a social enterprise set up to do social good by offering adventure travellers the opportunity to explore countries and have a positive impact on the countries doing things like picking up garbage or helping small businesses. He explained it as doing a social good while making high returns for his investors. His concept fascinated me and we kept in touch over the years while he built G-Adventures into the largest adventure travel company in the world.
When I ran for Mayor of Toronto in 2010, he asked me to help with a team-building event at base-camp (his head office ). The event was high energy to say the least. And I saw why Bruce was such a good leader. He moved around the crowded room with ease, knowing every employee by name (there were hundreds). He had a way of connecting with each of them, inspiring them to move out of their comfort zone, to step forward and step onto the stage. I still remember the way he made them feel – as if standing up and trying your best was all that mattered. I think even the shyest would have stepped onto the stage to dance or sing if he asked them to, heck had he asked me I know I would have!
I hadn’t seen Bruce since 2010 but in 2013 I read his book, Looptail,How One Company Changed the World by Reinventing Business and was surprised and honoured to see that he had mentioned my help back in 2010 with his team-building event. In his book he wrote about the struggles he faced launching his business and the people who helped him along the way. I purchased a few dozen copies of his book and have since given it out to dozens of people hoping that I might in a small way help him give back to the world.
The significant impact Bruce had on my life occurred when I reached out to see if I might run a business idea past him. When we met I told him about my dream to build a social enterprise – Canvas and Cave. It will be an eco-arts centre and hotel in Barbados with the mission to further creative education in the country and build the creative foundations needed to develop entrepreneurs. I explained how I wanted to prove the concept in Barbados and then duplicate it on other islands that were also struggling to sustain themselves.
Most people in your life will tell you what you can’t do, but Bruce Poon-Tip is the kind of person who will tell you that you can do it.
He told me that he believed in me and would support my idea. I went home and wrote a note in my journal that began “Bruce shook my hand, he believes in me!”
I wrote about all the ways we might provide another revenue stream for him. How the experiences we would create for visitors would appeal to his customers who might be looking for unique experiences that didn’t involve as much physical travel.
The confidence Bruce instilled in me ignited my creative side. We needed a way to attract two different demographics – the local community that we hoped to serve at the arts centre, and international travellers staying at the hotel. I began reaching out to famous artists, writers, actors and musicians with the idea of getting one a week to attend Canvas and Cave to speak or teach. And I think the confidence I exuded caused many of them to agree. The ideas keep coming but it all started with Bruce telling me that he believed in me.
An entrepreneur who is just launching her business needs the trust and support of friends and family who believe in her. The entrepreneurs in Barbados aren’t able to get support from friends and family simply because the culture hasn’t learned to support creativity. With the help of people like Bruce Poon-Tip we will build the creative education the community needs to recognise and empower entrepreneurial ideas. Bruce is a true giver.