Investor and Dragons' Den alumnus W. Brett Wilson came back to his hometown of North Battleford to speak at the North West College southern graduation ceremony Monday, June 6.
“You can’t take the prairie out of the boy,” he told a crowd of more than 900 people at the North Battleford Civic Centre. “I will always celebrate my roots.”
About 150 graduates walked the stage to receive their diplomas, including graduates from the Grade 12 program, bachelor programs and the Master of Education.
Wilson said in an interview he was proud to speak to a community organization like North West College, which engages a diverse and local population.
He said he hoped he planted some seeds in the graduates today to see education as a lifelong opportunity, whether that results in going back to school, taking online courses or learning from a mentor or friend.
Wilson said he learned a lot from his parents, and mentors like the late Senator Herbert O. Sparrow and Karim Nasser, a university professor who took him under his wing. But he said there is still a lot he wished he was told when he was at the same stage as the graduates he was addressing.
“Some of the advice I wish I'd gotten was to focus a little bit more on the future than the present,” he said. “So often we’re pretty hung up on the things that are around us that are relatively superficial – the size of the car, the address of the house, those sorts of things as opposed to building core values and I wish I'd spent more time on that.”
In his speech, Wilson talked about his time on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, which he said is part of who he is now. He was one of the “dragons” on the show who invested in Canadian businesses.
Over the three seasons he spent on the show, Wilson closed 30 deals, 10 of which he said are still thriving businesses. He stressed that six out of those 10 companies are based in Saskatchewan.
Of all the deals he made, he said the one that stands out the most is Regina native Rachel Mielke’s jewellery manufacturing business Hillberg & Berk. He owns 30 per cent of the company after investing in it on Dragons’ Den, and said they now employ 125 women throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan.
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