They are entrepreneurs, business leaders and community builders. These seven people are examples of the kinds of big thinkers Edmonton needs as the city continues to grow. They understand how vital locally owned businesses are to a community — and they are bullish on Edmonton’s future.
Meet and Greet The Helm (Chad Helm)
Chad Helm, founder of The Helm Clothing, sees a tide of optimism coming to Edmonton’s core.
“With new restaurants opening, with businesses reinvesting in their downtown locations, there are glimmers of hope. I think we’re moving in the right direction,” he says.
As Edmonton’s population grows and developers continue to invest in the core, Helm sees a vibrant future for the city, with an array of interesting businesses.
Helm Clothing has seen three strong years of growth, a trend which makes Helm hopeful for both his business and the city as a whole. Edmonton’s success is Helm’s success. Investing in the city, shining a light on what makes it great, is how he makes his own business stronger.
“We haven’t even scratched the surface when it comes to the amount of business we can do and the ways we can be involved in our city,” says Helm.
Since starting out as a tech entrepreneur in 2012, Sam Jenkins has seen Edmonton’s entrepreneurial ecosystem grow and change for the better.
“There is more support for entrepreneurs now because we realize that entrepreneurism is a vocation, much like other jobs,” says Jenkins, managing partner of Punchcard Systems.
“Our ecosystem is more diverse; there are more opportunities being unearthed, and that creates more strength for us as Edmontonians. But we also have to continue supporting each other, that’s a big part of entrepreneurship. We learn and grow and make mistakes and try not to repeat them.”
Post-pandemic, Jenkins notices everyone has to work harder to find new networks and make new connections. He’s found that volunteering – he’s board chair at the Francis Winspear Centre for Music and Edmonton Symphony Society – is an invaluable way to build and understand your community.
Raj Bhatti sees good days ahead for Edmonton and those seeking opportunity here.
“Edmonton has a lot of positive things going for it right now, “ says Bhatti, a partner with executive search firm Humanis Advisory.
“Immigration numbers are at an all-time high. Folks from all walks of life and diverse backgrounds are coming to our city. It’s one of the more affordable places in Canada, which is creating a lot of opportunities to grow our economy.
“The other trend I’m seeing is folks retiring and transferring their business to a new generation of owners, which is creating new opportunities for the next wave of business leaders.”
Bhatti’s team focuses on building and maintaining relationships no matter the economic climate. Creating an environment where everyone looks out for each other goes a long way toward helping people succeed and build a prosperous city, he says.
“I’m a big believer in everyone just killing it in their own lanes, and together we will celebrate. We’re well on our way.”
Meet and Greet The Winspear (Annemarie Leenhouts-Petrov)
Come 2025, an expanded Winspear Centre will draw an additional 250,000 visitors downtown each year.
“We’re building a completion project – the completion of a dream, a vision and our arts district,” says Winspear Centre President and CEO Annemarie Leenhouts-Petrov.
The Winspear is sandwiched between the Art Gallery of Alberta and the Citadel Theatre. “This unbelievable arts district Edmonton has, it almost doesn’t exist anywhere else in North America, especially because this one was completely organic,” she says.
“Our focus is making music accessible to everyone.”
Leenhouts-Petrov has lived in Edmonton for 20 years, and calls the city a “beautiful, exciting and dynamic” place to live. She believes a return to the downtown core will happen organically, in the same way the arts district evolved.
“You have this beautiful foundation that’s been here for over 100 years. It’s a wellspring from which businesses can emerge,” she says. “It’s never just one player. We need business to have a reason and a way to come back, and then the rest will follow.”