Entrepreneurial graduate gives back
Nov. 15, 2022
National Entrepreneurship Day is Nov. 16 and Georgian grad Ed Boutilier knows that creativity + entrepreneurship = success
As a boy in the 1970s, Ed Boutilier (class of 1978) knew the grounds of Georgian’s Barrie Campus intimately. There were only a couple of buildings at the time, but the fields offered a place to explore and create worlds of his own choosing. It transported him far away from the dysfunctional environment he grew up in down the street. When he was 12, Georgian became a larger presence in his life when the artwork he created garnered attention at his public school. Principal Val Brucker chose him to attend a full-credit art class two days a week on campus.
“Looking back, I’m not sure I had any great artistic ability, perhaps they just felt sorry for me,” he recalls modestly. “I lived across the road in an Ontario Housing project not normally considered an environment to inspire future success but for some reason the teachers and principal believed in me.”
It turns out, Georgian offered a plethora of adventures for Ed. One day, when he was at the college for art class, he discovered the electronics lab that had ham radios (amateur radio). Although he wasn’t supposed to be there, he often sneaked up to the lab to listen in on the radio station. He was quickly hooked, took the Ham Radio course at Georgian, got his license, VA3EB) and was building his own equipment while communicating with people all over the world.
He returned to Georgian after high school and enrolled in the Electronic Engineering Technician program (now Electrical Engineering Technician) graduating in 1978. Upon graduation, Ed worked for technology companies, building up experience and confidence in what he was trained for by Georgian. In 1990, the company he was working for suddenly closed its doors leaving employees without jobs and pay cheques. Most saw it as a catastrophe. However, Ed recognized it was a golden opportunity to start his own business.
He started servicing his customers that were left stranded on his own, building computer equipment on the balcony of his one-bedroom apartment. Not long after, General Motors came calling and asked if he could create a computer that would survive in the harsh environment of their foundry floor. He created a product that worked exceptionally well, and soon after, many other companies started calling him to come up with solutions to their computer problems. First, he customized durable systems for each company and then, as market demand increased, he began to offer standardized products.
That was the beginning of Stealth Computer Corporation, later rebranded as stealth.com. As he grew his business, he eventually expanded into two buildings that had a total of 27,000 square feet of space. Goodbye one-bedroom apartment!
“I was fortunate to have had really good advice along the way,” he says. “One of the best things I did was purchase those buildings instead of paying rent. I had to come up with creative ways to finance everything because in the early days, I didn’t have the money.”
Skirting buyout offers for many years, Stealth was eventually acquired by a large public company in 2015. Ed rewarded his employees handsomely for their hard work and dedication, supporting the company through the years of growth. Exiting his main company now gave Ed the time to pursue numerous creative projects and to work on his foundation for philanthropic goals.
His desire to recognize hard work and excellence, and his appreciation for entrepreneurism and the arts, moved him to give generously to Georgian College. His gift of $50,000 will be used to help extraordinary students take their projects to the next level or help support them as they push forward with their ideas.
“I don’t believe we do enough to support our creative people. Creativity sparks great ideas. You need to be incredibly creative in order to come up with something world-changing or a new approach to business. To me, creativity is the ultimate competitive advantage,” explains Ed. “I find a lot of promising entrepreneurs have great ideas for a product or service, but they don’t have the necessary resources required to bring them to fruition. It has always been part of my vision to help people achieve their own goals and dreams. These awards can bootstrap or inspire someone to get their ideas off the ground”.
The Student Entrepreneur of the Year and Creative Student of the Year awards are each worth $5,000 – an impressive amount for students who are just getting started in their ventures. Each award will be given out for five years, with inaugural recipients selected in spring 2022, for a total gift of $50,000 to Georgian students.