They’re a different breed, these serial entrepreneurs.

Restless risk-takers they are, reeking of confidence, willing to put their life savings in different business ventures, selling one, moving on to the next.

If a business fails, they spring off the floor, retrench … and a year later they’re back.

Here’s a thumbnail sketch of five well-known Edmonton entrepreneurs, all recently embarked on new business paths.

Terry Bendera has poked around the oil patch since he had “a cup of coffee” with the New York Rangers during a minor-league hockey career. He worked as an employee until he figured out being an owner was more fun, and potentially more lucrative.

Today, Terry is the operating partner in Leduc-based Prostar Well Services company, with financial partners, friends and hockey pals Ron Dale of Whiteridge golf accessories and Jim Ennis of J. Ennis Fabrics.

Prostar is pushing into leading-edge drilling technology where few, if any, have drilled before. Its new prototype Legacy is the first service drilling rig specifically designed to lay pipe into the shallow, long, horizontal holes required for SAGD (steam-assisted gravity drainage) oilsands operations.

Legacy’s technology, developed with High River industrial manufacturer Rangeland Energy Services, should enable oilsands companies to run the parallel pipes of all SAGD operations much further out than with current technology. And, says Terry, Legacy represents a whole new standard of oil-rig automation.

Suncor – the biggest oilsands player – has a three-year contract with Prostar. If Legacy lives up to its potential, it’ll open up complex SAGD oilsands strata not currently commercially mineable. Prostar’s five-year plan calls for 10 Legacy rigs, two to three major clients, and annual revenues of $60 million.

Not bad for three hockey pals!

Greg Macdonald and Mike O’Hara are two of Edmonton’s best-known business folks. Advertising man Macdonald, with brother Vance, started, built and then sold billboard company Macdonald and Macdonald Outdoor. Macdonald (AKA the Energizer Bunny) had other ad agencies, then left advertising to bring Champ Car Grand Prix racing to Edmonton with Tom Doerksen.

For 20 years, O’Hara was general manager of Konica Minolta’s regional office. He started with 16 staffers and $1 million in sales, left in 2010 with 105 staffers and $25 million in sales. During the O’Hara era, Konica Minolta was known for community initiatives – especially sponsorship of the Grand Prix.

Two years ago, when Greg resurrected Macdonald Outdoor as a digital billboard company, he and wife Trudy knew exactly who they wanted as their sales VP and third partner – Mike O’Hara.

From two digital billboards overlooking the Whitemud at Gateway Boulevard and Calgary Trail, the Macdonalds and O’Hara have grown the company to eight prime locations. Three more are in the permit stage.

Digital billboards have a big upfront capital cost, but, once operational, can show 10 ads every minute, 24/7, each “ad image” selling for about four cents. There’s usually an advertiser wait list.

Before selling Avanti Salon Spa, Suhail Khoury was Edmonton’s best-known hair stylist, while events producer Keith Persaud was a Chamber of Commerce personality. Both owned and operated other business – construction, flooring, restaurants and catering.

The long-time friends have started their first business together. P3 Connect is an agency for an American firm with a proven commercial energy saving device. Once installed, the Black Hawk Powerhouse delivers or “conditions” incoming electricity, lowering power costs (by using less) and extending electrical machinery life and reliability. In three months since start-up, P3 has sold and installed 10 customized Black Hawk Powerhouse units. Several major institutions are testing the device.

“We are truly green,” chuckles Keith. “Our five-year plan is to save Canada 15% on its power bill!”

Will Prostar’s drilling technology gain wide-spread industry acceptance?

Can Macdonald Outdoor keep its first-to-market, high-quality edge in the face of increasing competition?

Will the Black Hawk Powerhouse catch on as an energy conditioner/saver, or will it be just another devices that comes and goes?

That, my friends, is the risk and excitement of being an entrepreneur.


A tale of three new companies.

Prostar Well Services five-year plan: from one prototype Legacy automated drilling rig to 10
Two to three major clients.
Gross annual revenue by 2018 of $60 million.

Macdonald Outdoor Advertising
Current number of outdoor digital billboards, eight.
Number being planned, three.
Average cost of construction, $250,000, including $80,000 in landscaping cost.
Estimated revenue – four cents per six-second ad image, 40 cents a minute or $240 an hour.
Five-year plan: Not public for competitive reasons.

P3Connect/Black Hawk Powerhouse
Average cost per power-conditioning unit, $16,000 (depending on size.)
Payback period, about two years.
Savings on industrial/commercial power bills, 15% or higher.
Business plan: In one year to have several major institutional or government customers.
Five-year plan: To save all Canadians 15% on electricity bills!

Graham Hicks
Hicks Biz Communications : Commentary