Frank Heaps

Entrepreneur, property developer and "spirited" visionary
TurningPoint: The quest for a better beer leads to the birth of the micro brewing craze in Canada.

imgI’m not good at sitting on beaches,” Frank Heaps tells me from his Toronto office. “I’m going to develop them.”

I learn that those are not idle words. Frank Heaps is a man of action and at the age of 69 his entrepreneurial spirit is still driving him forward. 

Heaps began his career in planning and land development in Canada and overseas. “I worked for the United Nations in the Caribbean preparing many economic plans for various islands.  Then I joined Coopers and Lybrand in their management consulting practice.”

It was then that the well traveled businessman started to think about starting his own company. He didn’t know that he’d soon be pioneering the micro-brewing craze in Canada.

“I knew there was better beer out there than what was available in Canada. I quit my job, put a mortgage on the family home, wrote a business plan and raised the capital.” Upper Canada Brewing Company was born. “I struggled like hell for the first five years. Every day I expected the bank to have lock on the door when I drove up to the brewery. But I convinced the shareholders to put in more capital and we became profitable.  We saw it coming and it was a great relief.  Things grew even better after that. Corby’s came to us and asked to buy Upper Canada.  I was ready to let go of it.” 

Once the ownership transition was complete Frank tried to enjoy the good life.

“I retired for a few years and hated every second of it. I tried watercolor, golf, bagpipe lessons, pottery classes – nothing appealed to me.”

Heaps had also done some traveling and one Caribbean island stood out from the rest.  He liked the beauty of St. Lucia. So it was back to the beach. Heaps bought a waterfront property and began developing it.

“There were a lot of challenges. I wrote a business plan, raised the capital, got government approvals, put together an incentive package and found staff to build and market the place.”

“The Landings” in St. Lucia is now built with seven swimming pools, a sports club, marina, fitness centre, spa and two restaurants. Frank is enjoying the property but he’s still not sitting on the beach. Back in Canada there was a management shakeup at a company he held shares in. He was asked to take it over on an interim bases but now it’s been over a year. Heaps has Iceberg Vodka back on track and business is growing once again.

“It’s the only vodka product that has a story to tell. It’s only product in the world that is made with iceberg water. It’s the purest on earth and that makes the best vodka on earth.

I don’t get involved in any company or project unless the product is as good as it can be. That is one way to be assured by success. I also surround myself with like minded, capable people.” 

Heaps also has strong opinions on what it takes to become an entrepreneur.

“Entrepreneurs are often born rather than being created.  You can’t teach someone to be an entrepreneur. If you want to be in business think about something and develop some passion. Do your research and write a challenging and spectacular business plan. Check out the competition and find out what the prerequisites are to start the business. Demonstrate to yourself and other people that you know what you’re talking about. Then get ready for a very challenging ride.

You’ve got to have that passion. You have to motivate yourself. If you can’t do that then you’re not going to motivate the people around you. You also must be able to articulate the challenge and what you’re dealing with.  You have to go to people but you better have it all figured out. You need a plan and it has to be a very convincing one.

Being an entrepreneur doesn’t suit everyone. The vast majority don’t succeed. Know yourself and see if you have the passion and the ability to motivate and convince people.

I can’t imagine not having a business challenge and waking up in the morning with something that keeps you going.”

Is Frank Heaps thinking of retiring again soon?  No way. He’ll enjoy the view for a bit and then it will be back to work again for one of Canada’s most successful and visionary entrepreneurs.


Heaps of Advice for Starting a New Business

Find something you’re passionate about
Check out the competition
Do your research. Then write a spectacular business plan
Demonstrate to yourself and other people that you know what you’re talking about
Get ready for a challenging ride