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One Man. One Planet. Saving His Fellow Man.

One man. One Planet. When Jim Estill decided to sponsor 50 Syrian refugee families, he didn’t tell anyone about it at first—not his accountant, not his friends, not even his wife. It was the summer of 2015, and the death toll in Syria had reached a quarter of a million people, while another four million had fled the country. All summer long, the news reported horror stories of Syrians drowning in the Mediterranean. Humanitarian aid programs were being cut across the Middle East.

As he watched the news, Estill got worked up. “I didn’t want to be 80 years old and know that I did nothing during the greatest humanitarian crisis of my time,” he says. Estill was disturbed by the wave of xenophobia that had emerged during the Harper administration. He wanted to demonstrate how refugees could help enrich our society. One of his best friends, Franz Hasenfratz, was a refugee who fled Communist Hungary. Hasenfratz went on to establish Linamar, a car-parts manufacturer, which is Guelph’s largest employer, with nearly 10,000 employees. “I was trying to drown out the xenophobes,” Estill says. “When we think of Italians or Irish, we don’t think of them as immigrants. They’re just people.”

So he did some math. He checked Kijiji to find out how much apartments in Guelph were renting for, googled child tax benefits and GST/HST rebates in Ontario, and formulated a monthly food budget. He estimated that $30,000 could support a family of five for one year. He multiplied that number by 50 and realized the total cost—$1.5 million—was one he could easily afford.

Estill is the CEO of Danby, an appliance company with annual sales of $400 million. He got his start reselling computers out of the trunk of his car in the late ’70s in Waterloo. He eventually took over as CEO of Synnex Canada, an information technology firm, where he grossed more than $2 billion in sales each year. In 2015, he came out of semi-retirement to take over as Danby’s CEO. Estill is both pragmatic and dogmatic, spreading his no-nonsense business gospel at every opportunity. He even has a Ted Talk—it’s called “From Zero to $2 Billion.”

Taking refuge in Toronto

At 59, he looks more like a cop than a flashy executive, with his spriggy grey moustache, dishevelled hair and winking grin. Instead of bespoke suits, he wears functional shoes and patterned shirts with the collar open. He and his wife, Elizabeth, a retired lawyer, live in a grey-brick Victorian hidden from the road by a thick wall of trees; his four grown children moved out years ago. He drives a red Prius, which he calls his mid-life-crisis car. “It’s red, isn’t it?” Estill is almost annoyingly disciplined: he doesn’t own a TV and spends his free time reading marketing books, which he reviews on his blog. He runs on a treadmill most mornings, often works 12-hour days and religiously tracks his steps on his FitBit; on a good day, he’ll do 20,000. Outside of work, his main passion is gardening. When we had lunch together, he served me a salad made with tomatoes, beans and beets that he grew himself, topped with salmon he’d caught on a fishing trip to B.C.

Estill has codified his life into a set of what he calls “success habits.” Some of them are very specific: spend 20 minutes outside every day, no matter the weather, and have a “creative oasis” where you can do your best thinking (one of his is a rocking chair by the fireplace in his basement). Other maxims are much broader, like do the right thing—a principle that figured prominently in his decision to sponsor Syrian refugees.


About the Author NLJ

Nicole Jolie is the founder of SkinByRadiance a trademarked anti aging skin care for athletes and Women who love to workout. She also started a 100% recycled plastic bag company that made all of their totes and bags out of recycled plastic bottles. In addition, she has helped many different types of companies and personal brands with their online presence using social media marketing and helping them with their websites. Nicole believes small business owners deserve an opportunity to create abundance, wealth and prosperity because most of them didn't start their business to work for someone else. "I truly believe I can make a difference in people's businesses by helping them with their online presence."

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