Building Mr. Dunster's empire
One of the real treats of my career is that I get to talk to very interesting people on an almost weekly basis. Using a back of the napkin calculation, I have likely talked with over a thousand leading business, government, PSE and institutional leaders over the past decade mostly in Atlantic Canada but also in other provinces. They range from the leaders of multi-billion dollar companies to senior federal Cabinet ministers to the presidents of universities. In New Brunswick, I have had the opportunity to chat with probably 80% of the top business leaders in the province.
Some people just stand out.
I got the chance to talk with Blair Hyslop this week. He’s the co-CEO and Co-owner of Mrs. Dunster’s Inc., owner of Kredl’s in Hampton and is involved in a number of other interesting initiatives.
When I talk with people who study entrepreneurship - Peter Moreira, Daniel Isenberg, etc - I always ask them where do the most interesting entrepreneurs come from? I’m curious about the answer because it might help with efforts to foster the right environment. If we could synthesize the right compounds and create just the right conditions, would we see dozens of these high impact entrepreneurs emerge?
Are the best entrepreneurs birthed out of universities peddling some research-based IP? Do they spend years inside a stifling corporate environment before bursting out? Are they tinkerers working in the garage?
Unlike many successful entrepreneurs, Hyslop spent 25 years in the corporate world before getting the entrepreneurial itch. Also counterintuitively, instead of starting with an idea and a blank slate, he bought an old established brand - Mrs. Dunster’s. I remember craving her donuts 40 years ago - long before the Tim Horton’s or Halo Donuts of the world came along.
An old geezer and and old brand. What are you going to do with that combination?
The most interesting contents of my conversation with Hyslop were off-the-record but suffice it to say he has big plans. The empire is emanating outward from Sussex across Atlantic Canada to the north and east and towards New England to the south. He’s building the commercial bakery business but also, in his spare time, wants to make a major contribution to farming and food processing in general across the region. He’s mentoring other food entrepreneurs and involved in organizations as varied as the Wallace McCain Institute and the NB Business Council.
It’s a different kind of Freedom 55. Instead of looking forward to golf and shuffleboard in some camphor-scented retirement community in Florida, in his 50s Hyslop is just getting started. He’s going to build an empire.
There’s a lesson in there for all of us in our 50s and beyond.
Some are just coasting into retirement. Lots of bike trips and foreign travel. Dopamine to ease the path.
Others are just getting down to business.
I hope to be in the latter camp. Hyslop is an inspiration.