The Loss of an Entrepreneur
by Cam Mather
One of the reasons that we live so well here in the developed world is because of the vision and hard work of entrepreneurs. One of the truly great entrepreneurs just died. He was my uncle, Ian Micklethwaite. He was my business mentor growing up and I credit him for giving me much of the confidence I have needed to be self-employed for the last 30 years.
For a left-leaning, socialized health-care fan like me this is tough to say, but our standard of living is largely based on entrepreneurs, not government. While I believe governments are great at regulating the marketplace and redistributing wealth that entrepreneurs create, I don’t believe that governments actually create wealth. People like my uncle do that.
Ian was a jack-of-all-trades and master of none, but he had an uncanny ability to spot a developing trend in the marketplace and exploit it. From satellite dishes to drag racing to health enhancing elixirs to publishing a used farm equipment paper – Ian was into almost everything at one time or another. If he had one character flaw is that too often he was drawn to the “next big thing” before he had the chance to really exploit whatever he was currently engaged in, but he seemed to stay ahead of the bill collectors and have a blast while he was at it.
I started working for Ian when I was just a teenager. He’d ask me to bring a crew of friends to his warehouse on a weekend to mail out one of his magazines, usually Heavy Truck Equipment News or one of others in his line up. He would show me the mailing machine, give me the mailing labels and say, “I’ll be back in 8 hours, get it done”. I quickly learned how to accomplish new tasks through trial by fire and gained tremendous confidence from him. Over the years he gave me work selling advertising and doing any number of other jobs for him.
In 2002 after I moved to my off-grid home, Ian asked me to get involved with some renewable energy workshops he was organizing. Initially I said no but he kept on asking until I finally agreed to get involved. He was publishing a small used farm equipment magazine called “Farmer’s Finder” that was delivered for free to rural mailboxes. Farmers loved it because it gave them an idea of what their equipment was worth. Ian had a loyal following thanks to the magazine and he knew from his conversations with many rural people that they don’t like electricity utilities and they do like the idea of energy independence. So Ian organized and promoted these workshops and we had 3,000 people come out to talks in 7 Ontario cities. Building on this success, Ian decided to organize “Wind World/Solar World” at the Mississauga Living Arts center. He managed to get 1,100 people to pay $90 to spend the day learning about renewable energy. I have never heard of anyone else in North America organizing an event quite like this. These 1,100 homeowners wanted to learn about renewable energy. William Kemp, who had just written “The Renewable Energy Handbook”, agreed to present most of the workshop and the attendees loved it. Ian had also invited dealers that sold renewable energy equipment to be there and it was just an amazing time.
At the same time we had begun helping Ian to publish “Private Power Magazine” the renewable energy magazine. Thanks to our work on this magazine we saw the potential for “The Renewable Energy Handbook” and ultimately we have been able to devote ourselves full time to publishing titles on sustainable living. For this and Ian’s mentorship I am very grateful. Ian was someone who never slowed down and never doubted that something he was involved with would be successful. It was exhausting to be around him and I think his constant motion along with his diabetes finally caught up with him. Ian’s life seems to reflect the mantra “It’s better to burn out than fade away” and I’m glad to have had him play such a big part in my life. The world is a better place because of his time in it.