Jim Estill, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 Ontario winner, is currently CEO of both Danby Appliance and ShipperBee, a new venture that is revamping outdated shipping channels into a system that is better for consumers, retailers, and the environment. He is a Canadian technology entrepreneur, executive, and philanthropist. Starting his first computer distribution business from the trunk of his car while in university, he grew that business to $2 Billion in sales. Jim has invested in, mentored, and advised many technology companies including Blackberry. He joined their board before they went public and served for 13 years.
What is your business and what do you do?
Danby Appliances manufactures and distributes over 2,000,000 appliances per year. We are known as a niche manufacturer of compact refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, microwaves, dehumidifiers, beverage centers, and wine coolers. Danby is being transformed by our newest product Parcel Guard– a smart mailbox for consumers that stops parcel theft.
What sparked your vision to launch your business?
I retired but I kept active in business, doing some advising, board work, and mentoring. I did this for almost 5 years. I was not finding that satisfying so when one of the boards I was on (Danby Appliances) has the CEO resign, I jumped at the opportunity to run a business again.
What has been your favorite failure and what did you learn?
Interestingly, I do not dwell on my failures so I definitely do not have a favorite.
I have learned that failure is the secret to success. My motto is Fail Often, Fail Fast, Fail Cheap. And “Having a failure does not make you a failure”.
What was your most memorable day of your career and why?
I think it would be receiving the EY Entrepreneur of the year (Ontario division). The gala banquet highlighted so many highly competent people. I did not expect to win. I had only prepared a few words for the first acceptance speech – receiving the nomination. But when I won, I had to come up with other words to say…without time to prepare.
How do you continue to learn so you stay ahead in your industry?
Covid forced a change in how I learn. I used to like to go to trade shows and visit customers. The best way for me to learn was by being in the field and speaking to real customers. Now, I use Zoom and Callbridge.
I am also a voracious reader and also listen to audiobooks.
What is some bad advice you hear in your industry or with entrepreneurship that people should avoid?
Most businesses focus on the short term. “Make the sales number this month!”. But what is important is the long term. Doing good and profitable business is much more important than short term gains.
I extend this to “only do business with good people and good companies”.
Where can readers find you on social media? https://www.linkedin.com/in/jimestill/