Our Spotlight series highlights some Ottawa residents who strive to build a better community but who aren’t always in the news. Today, Brigitte Pellerin speaks with Adam Miron.
Ottawa entrepreneur Adam Miron was recently named Chair of the Board of the National Children’s Botanical Garden of Canada. He is the co-founder of HEXO and co-chair of Invest Ottawa, among other business pursuits. With Sébastien St-Louis and Julie Beun, he is the author of Billion Dollar Start-up: The True Story Of How A Couple Of 29-year-olds Turned $35,000 Into A $1,000,000,000 Cannabis Company.
Q. How did you get to be in Ottawa and what’s keeping you here?
I originally moved to Ottawa, perhaps like many, for politics. Throughout my university career in British Columbia, I was part of the partisan political club. For me, politics was a passion, it was a side hustle. I supported Stéphane Dion and volunteered on his leadership campaign. After he became leader he gave me a call and asked me to come work in Ottawa.
Two weeks before my two-year anniversary, after a change in party leadership, it was time for me to go start another company. Not long after that I met someone and laid my roots down here. Now I’m in a situation where I have three kids and other family members here. We’re very, very happy here. My family and I live in Wellington West. We love the neighbourhood. We love the schools.
Q. You were recently appointed Chair of the Board of the National Children’s Botanical Garden of Canada. What do you bring to this project and what do you hope to accomplish?
I’ve always viewed myself as a better Alfred than a Batman. In the case of the Garden, our CEO Clare Grosskleg is the hero of the story and I’m here to help. Through Clare, the Garden has an incredible vision that would make both Ottawa and Canada a better place. My goal is to help support Clare and the Garden as we look to secure land, find the right patrons, and get shovels in the ground.
Q. Beyond volunteering on boards, what other opportunities do business people have to contribute to society?
That’s a great question and one that I think we all need to ask ourselves. What I found is that in addition to boards, it’s good to just roll up your sleeves and help companies with what I like to call business advising.
I like to figure out some structural things, how can we build this company bigger? How can we increase our impact? How can we do more?
I’ve had the pleasure of working with Stacey Martin Lifestyle and Stacey is one of the most incredible entrepreneurs you’ll meet in Ottawa. And she’s got such a great story. But look at the statistics: female Black entrepreneurs are funded less than 0.1 per cent and that is heartbreaking.
Q. Ottawa is a government town and one thing that is said about government towns is that they are risk averse. Is this true?
Well, I think like most places, there’s good diversity. Ottawa has a strong community of entrepreneurs.
Often government jobs are seen as golden handcuffs. But you can think about it as freedom and flexibility. I certainly know a number of federal government employees who also have side projects, startups that they’re working on, because they have that freedom and flexibility.
I think there’s a lot more startup thinking and mentality than people think. Invest Ottawa deserves a lot of credit for being an excellent resource to foster and nurture and educate aspiring entrepreneurs, and help existing ones so they can grow. I don’t believe the stereotype about Ottawa.
Q. What’s the next big thing and what will it mean for our community?
Yeah, shameless plug for Area X.O. It’s a very large facility that’s owned and operated by Invest Ottawa, a testing facility for robotics, drones and autonomous vehicles.
Invest Ottawa’s strategic direction is to pick a couple of very forward-thinking, futuristic industries to focus on while continuing to offer great services to everybody. But for our region to really excel, we need to pick a niche category where we’re going to go and things like autonomous vehicles and drones are going to be where Ottawa will emerge quickly as a world leader. Largely because of Area X.O and the emphasis that Invest Ottawa is putting on that particular sector.
Q. You have the attention of everyone in Ottawa for one minute. What do you tell them?
Take a risk. Fortune favours the bold.
One of the most important things to know is that the nature of entrepreneurship is highs and lows, wins and losses. And it’s often in the losses, it’s often in the lows that we learn the most. People have this image that if they start a business, it has to succeed. It’s not the case. You can learn a heck of a lot from something that doesn’t work the way you want it to, or the way you expect it to. If I have the microphone, I’m telling people to take your time, plan it properly, but take your shot.
Q. What do you do to take a break?
I’ve been very fortunate that when I moved into my house, it had a very traditional old dining room. One of those useless rooms that basically for 50 weeks of the year gets stuff piled on the table. And then two weeks of the year is actually used for formal events. And I renovated it and turned it into a listening room for records. One of my favourite things to do is close the sliding glass doors and sit down and put on a record or two. Just relax and force myself to listen to analog music without any digital technology, a real challenge these days.
Q. Any particular records to recommend?
It all depends on what you’re feeling and what your mood is. There’s a beautiful album called Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa by Indigenous artist Jeremy Dutcher that mixes opera and wax recordings of traditional songs. It’s an incredible listen.
(This Q and A has been lightly edited.)
Do you know an Ottawa resident doing good work under the radar who should get some recognition? You can make a suggestion for our “Spotlight” series by emailing our letters editor, at [email protected]