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No one knows how to build a business better than the entrepreneurs behind some of Canada's most successful companies. These are their most powerful lessons.
Roots Canada Ltd.
Michael Budman was in one of his Toronto stores on Boxing Day last year and noticed the huge number of Asian customers lined up at the cash. "Immediately, I said, 'Why don't we do something to give back to the Asian community?'" recalls Budman. "'We're really focused on our leather bags, so let's create a Chinese prosperity bag and we'll celebrate Chinese New Year.' So, that's what we did." The bags jumped off the shelves. "It was our idea," he says, "and we didn't chase anybody. We did it all on our own."
That, says Budman, is the secret to Roots' success: constant renewal, freshness, passion for innovation and an aversion to following the crowd. "The minute you're chasing somebody else, you've already failed."
Creativity is all about thinking differently and seeing possibilities that others haven't seen. To keep new ideas flowing, Budman has perfected the art of studying people. "I'm constantly aware of lifestyles and environment. I'm conscious of the people around me, what they're doing."
Kids are another source of inspiration. "I love their energy, their health and wellness, their youthfulness and how they dress," says Budman. His son was behind one of Roots' best-selling products, the poor-boy cap, which was worn by Canada's Olympic athletes in Nagano in 1998. "At his 11th birthday, in February 1997, my son, who should have been wearing a helmet to play hockey, was wearing a Roots poor-boy hat. It looked so great that in 1998 Roots rolled it out on a larger scale. That hat did really well for us." —RW