Adam Miron has been building businesses since he was a child.
The Kamloops entrepreneur — recently named TRU’s first entrepreneur in residence — who co-founded a Quebec-based cannabis company had his entrepreneurial spirit instilled in him at the age of 10 while fixing up his bicycle with his dad.
“He said to me, ‘Do you think other people need to be doing this, too?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I think everyone has to do this.’ He said, ‘You think they have the tools?’” Miron said, noting his father was leading him to the conclusion that he could open a business if he had a service people needed.
With his father, Miron eventually opened a bike shop out of their garage, doing repairs for a few bucks a pop.
After making $100 in one day, Miron said he was committed to building businesses.
The need to go all in is what he hoped people took away from a keynote speech he gave on Wednesday at Thompson Rivers University during a joint event with the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce.
“You need to invest everything you’ve got, you need to put everything else aside and you need to work, work, work,” he said.
Miron credited his time attending TRU in the mid-2000s for opening his eyes to the world.
“It played such a key role in such a formative time in my life — it was all about conversations, it was about expanding the opportunities that the world had,” Miron told the crowd.
Miron said he studied “a little bit of everything” at TRU before taking a job with the federal Liberal Party in Ottawa in 2008.
In 2013, Miron turned his attention to the medical marijuana industry and, with his brother-in-law, co-founded Hexo Corp., growing the startup to a value of more than $2 billion in six years.
Involved in more than 20 companies by the age of 35, Miron stressed the importance of weathering failures and learning from them.
“I have plenty,” he told the crowd.
Miron stressed the reality of the hard times that come with building up a business and how he and his brother-in-law went all in to make it successful.
He said they didn’t take pay for 18 months, mortgaged their homes and lived off their wives’ salaries.
Miron said he had other side businesses, but shut them all down to focus on Hexo.
Banking on friends and family, the two were able to raise more than $1 million to get the business off the ground, he said.
Since that first million, they have raised more than $550 million and Hexo has more than 1,400 employees and nine locations across Canada, as well as a joint venture in Greece.
Miron said people love discussing the entrepreneurial dream, but added there is a big part of it “that just sucks” at the beginning.
“That fight or flight moment kicks in and, for us, it was fight,” Miron said, noting the business had been on the verge of bankruptcy.
In one instance of struggling to make payroll, Miron said he sold off equipment and infrastructure.
“That’s the kind of stuff we had to go through, but for us it was clear we had to fight,” he said.
Hexo became a licensed producer of medicinal marijuana with Health Canada, which began allowing its licensees to begin selling directly in 2013.
Miron said they spent the first two years in business building up their infrastructure.
“We had to build all the buildings, we had to build the vaults, we had to install all the security cameras before they would even give us the licence to do it. We had to invest over $5 million with zero chance of any recuperation and we were dealing with a less than two per cent success rate,” Miron told KTW.
Hexo became the 17th company in Canada permitted to sell medical marijuana when it received its licence in 2015. Once Canada legalized recreational marijuana and Hexo entered that market, “it fundamentally changed everything” for the company, he said.
“The legalization announcement over the course of just a couple of months took us from being a $150-million company to being a $1.5-billion company,” he said.
But Miron said those “dark days” of building up a company are often overlooked and should be talked about.
“It does get hard and if you’re not ready for that and you’re not willing to entertain that, then you really need to think seriously about starting a business,” he said.
Having built a successful company, Miron retired three months ago from an operations role in Hexo, but remains a shareholder and member of the company’s board of directors. He also chairs the board of the company’s joint-venture in Greece — HexoMed.
Miron said he stepped aside because his vision was to build something that could thrive in his absence and, when he looked around the room, he saw capable people fulfilling all the roles he had to do alone when he started the business.
“To me, that’s a complete full-circle of success,” he said.