Tag Archives: Joel Solomon

Joel Solomon: The Conscientious Capitalist

By Richard Littlemore via BC Business
Feature Image by Peter Holst

While he’s best known as the money behind Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Joel Solomon has been quietly building a reputation as one of the city’s smartest financiers

The 180-degree outlook from Joel Solomon’s 10th-floor patio deck is a perfect metaphor for his complicated and sometimes controversial world view. Solomon’s condo is in Railtown, boxed between the tracks along the Vancouver harbour and some boarded-up, light-industrial spaces in what is inevitably known as Canada’s poorest neighbourhood. But the view is spectacular. Directly to the north lies the brightly lit Meccano-land of Port Metro Vancouver—strangely beautiful, especially at night. The giant cranes are constantly in motion, sweeping and dancing, loading and stacking steel containers like so many colourful blocks—all in the service of what Solomon describes as “shipping off rocks that come back as televisions.”

Look past the port and your eyes are caught by the sparkle of lights on snow, on Grouse Mountain and Cypress. And to the left, there is the twinkling lace of yet more lights on the Lions Gate Bridge. Continue reading Joel Solomon: The Conscientious Capitalist

Accelerate Your Enterprise

As the saying goes, sometimes it’s lonely at the top. Even the most social and accessible CEO will, at some point, find themselves cloistered in their office, contemplating their strategy for growth and development with no one to turn to for advice. This might happen at the start up phase or later on but it’s going to happen.  Guaranteed. Issues of confidentiality and proprietary protection often make it tough to access the counsel of others. Having said that, there are times when you just have to reach out beyond your own company walls to benefit from mentorship.

That’s the idea behind Accelerate Your Enterprise. Continue reading Accelerate Your Enterprise

A Film About Disrupting the Business Quo

via instituteB

“NOT BUSINESS AS USUAL” – A Film About Disrupting the Business Quo

It was the promise of something better…

A better life for your family, a better start for your business, a better legacy to leave the world. Founded on the virtues of hard work, equal opportunity and a free market economy.

But somewhere between the dreaming, and the making, and the buying, and the selling – we were duped. And we’re just now beginning to realize how badly.

Not Business As Usual is a provocative look at capitalism as envisioned by Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman, the most influential economist of the late 20th century. The film explores why he only measured success by one metric: Greed. And how that narrow view has resulted in environmental destruction, human rights abuses and ironically enough, unsustainable business practices.

This feature length documentary tracks the changing landscape of business with the rising tide of conscious capitalism and features the inspiring stories of several subversive entrepreneurs from Vancouver who are redefining what it means to be successful.

The film features a number of Hollyhock conference producers, including Joel Solomon (also board chair), Mike Rowlands, Denise Taschereau, and Madeleine Shaw.

Social Venture Institute Reflections

By Rebecca Cuttler

During Marc Schutzbank and Ilana Labow’s Social Venture Institute case study, panelist Nicole Bradbury brought up the fact that their organization, Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society, starts every work day with a question: “what kind of fruit or vegetable are you feeling like today”?  Up on stage, Nicole asked the participants to answer their question.  Marc said he felt like a brassica seed.

Although I didn’t answer out loud, I decided that I was a red huckleberry, my roots entwined in the mature trees of British Columbia’s coastal rainforest. Continue reading Social Venture Institute Reflections

People With Purpose

A Conversation With Joel Solomon.

Hollyhock Board Chair Joel Solomon talks about living with a purpose and what that means to him, what he enjoys and what inspires him in life.


Guest Post by a Secret Change Hero, via The Change Heroes

For certain audiences there are some people who really need no introduction. In the hearts and minds of many social entrepreneurs, Joel Solomon’s name resonates with special meaning.

Scan some of our past People with Purpose conversations and his name often makes an appearance.

It’s the present of what he’s doing, his humble presence and generous being that evokes almost a sense of wonderment in those who know him or have heard of his work. Taking time out from responsibilities including his roles as Chairman of Renewal Funds (Canada’s largest social venture capital fund); founding member of Social Venture Network (SVN), Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), the Tides Canada Foundation and Board Chair of Hollyhock Foundation, to share some thoughts with us is meaningful. We’ll be forever grateful.

For a man who includes “Activating Money for Change” as a moniker, here’s our conversation that’s not really all that much about money.

Hollyhock Retreat Centre

What does living with purpose mean to you?

“One has to do the hard work of self-exploration and discover what you actually care about. For me, getting a health diagnosis telling me that I was going to die, is a reminder that we’re all going to die and there’s nothing we can do about it… so it’s wise as early in life as possible and throughout life to check in with the perspective of what life might look like from the death bed.”

“It’s important to guide one’s life from some sense of why… what is it that you want to leave as a legacy, and as your contribution to the world. I found that by exploring that question, it doesn’t end, you have to ask it over and over again. The clearer my choices and decisions are in personal relationships, professional relationships, and how I spend my time, it becomes a source of deep joy and nourishment. Purpose is a guiding light, an inner knowing of why, and it becomes a guidance tool for each little choice… what’s integrity, what’s authentic, why I’m doing each thing that I do? The clearer you get about your purpose, the more you know how to live your life.”


What inspires you to give?

“I feel that I’m among the most privileged people who have lived on the earth. Not suggesting there’s like only five of us, but rather we’re living in an era where many of us have access to food, shelter, wisdom, music, travel, goods and services from all over the world, and we can talk what we want to talk about.”

“It’s an incredible privilege to live in this time where human ingenuity has created so much , so many wonders, at the same time I’m less confident that wisdom has kept up with ingenuity. We’ve created the ability to harvest, exploit, manufacture and create… things like great cars and other great products; but if one is aware of how blessed and privileged we are to have so much, giving becomes a responsibility that is inherent with having. I think having and giving and generosity, is a philosophy of life that has to do with purpose and is why we’re here.”

give back words  in wood fonts

“So the more that I’m given, and more access to all of these blessing that I have, it carries with it a component which requires that I have to take responsibility to also give. I believe there’s an energetic formula and an equation… the best way to receive is to give more. The more I do it, the more I see what I’ve gotten in return, in terms of love, caring, friendship. Giving is sharing of ourselves.”

What do you find most rewarding about what you are doing?

“It’s gives me access to some of the very best of what people have to offer. As an investor, it means some people have entrusted some of their money with me (people are pretty attached to their money) so that is a great privilege. This also means I can, from time to time, write a cheque to support someone…I get people’s best intention to put their ideas out, and be as effective as they can and really share of themselves.I actually get a fantastic human experience from this very transactional world that I live in.”

“I also spend as much time as I can meeting with people who are career changing, or meeting with young people asking about direction in life, or giving a certain amount of my time to people who believe there’s something I can share with them… because hearing other peoples experience — what matters to them, what they’ve seen, how they think about things — there’s no better learning school for me.”

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your young self?

“I would be sure to devote a significant priority of life to understanding the emotional, spiritual, psychological, relational connections… appreciating this will get you through everything.”

“Money, business, accomplishment, ego, fame, they won’t get you through the things that really matter, and so I would make it a part of my daily life, my weekly life, my monthly life, my annual life to use inquiry and self-exploration, and mutual exploration, to understand life better, to understand myself better, to understand how better to relate to others, and relate better to the deeper questions.”

Who/what is the coolest person/brand making a positive difference in the world?

“My wife Dana (CEO of Hollyhock), how she cares for that place, and oversees it’s impossible business model.”

“Vancouver Mayor, Gregor Robertson for going from a caring and successful entrepreneur into one of the least popular pursuits these days… politics. I’m inspired that he’s willing to go into the trench warfare that politics tends to be and keeps his centre, his purpose, and his values intact. He’s smart on a pragmatic level and is also carrying a vision for what matters in the future, and doing his very best to deliver that to all of us.”

What could you talk about all night?

“Pretty much all of what we’ve been talking about. I like hanging out with people who are questioning , doing honest inquiry, and loving inquiry. I like kicking back and talking about big philosophical questions, and esoteric things like the future of humankind. It’s about bringing it down to a practical and personal level. I feel like people have gotten distracted from having a grounded understanding of the meaning of life. We’re very, very smart and quite effective at a lot of things, but I think the kind conversation we can’t get enough of —what matters — is missing in our broader social discourse.

Do you have a motto or quote that inspires you?

“What a long strange trip it’s been…” Jerry Garcia (The Grateful Dead)

Random fact about you?

“In my mid-twenties (early ‘80’s) I was the caretaker of the Pacific Killer Whale Foundation on a remote island at the northern tip of Vancouver Island and given three basic instructions… feed the dogs, turn on the tape recorder when the Orcas come, and don’t burn down the house. I spent 3 years living most of the time alone, appreciating the deep silence, voraciously reading and connecting with nature, it was a real hunting, foraging, and gathering experience. When I arrived I didn’t know how to run a motor boat, or use a chainsaw.”

He shared a great parting message… “it’s all about love. I’d like to be a billionaire of love.”

There’s no doubt our communities, and our planet will be a lot healthier if more of us aspired to be billionaires of love.

Watch Joel Solomon’s TEDx Talk: