actorartathleteauthorbizcrimecrosspostcustomerservicedirectoredufoodgaminghealthjournalistmedicalmilmodpostmunimusicnewsworthynonprofitotherphilpolretailscispecialisedspecializedtechtourismtravelunique

BusinessI am Jim Estill, CEO, Danby Appliances I spent $1.5M to bring 200 Syrian refugees to Canada. AMA

Jun 20th 2017 by JimEstill • 20 Questions • 35 Points

I am CEO of Danby Appliances - a company that sells over 2,000,000 appliances per year. Bar fridges, freezers, microwaves, wine coolers, air conditioners etc.

I started my first company from the trunk of my car and grw it to over $2 Billion in sales. I was a founding director of Blackberry. Founding member of Communitech. Have done over 150 angel investments - mostly in tech and environment companies.

https://twitter.com/jimestill/status/875103083054993408)

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/canada-opens-its-hearts-to-syrian-refugees/

http://torontolife.com/city/life/jim-estill-the-man-who-saved-200-syrian-refugees/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShVIW46xP7g

Q:

Do you believe that radical Islamic terrorism is something that people should be concerned about? Did any vetting take place to ensure your refugees are who they say they are?

A:

Yes - I have the same fears as everyone else. I am helping those who fear what we fear. Of course there was extensive screening - no refugee can enter Canada without it.


Q:

Thank you so much your answer.

Oh, by the way, congratulations on getting Order of Ontario! You truly deserve it!

A:

thanks


Q:

Hi Jim,

Congratulations on the 70th Anniversary of Danby Appliances! What are some of your goals/aspirations for the company in the future?

A:

Thanks on the 70th. the obvious goal is to have another 70 successful years.

For any company to thrive, it needs to grow. So we will grow.

And I aspire to help more people (not just refugees) so want Danby Appliances to be strong since that allows me to do what I do.


Q:

What is your favourite dinosaur?

A:

My mother in law (and she would not mind me saying it - she is 101 years old)


Q:

Hello Mr Estill,

  1. How did you select the refugees for sponsorship?

  2. What was the most challenging task in bringing them to Canada?

A:

I started by bringing in relatives of people who were here. Then the press got ahold of the story and soon was overwhelmed with people wanting to be sponsored. I chose families I thought had a chance of success in Canada

Challenges abound. English is a big issue. Government red tape and speed is another. And these are real people so each one comes with their unique challenges.


Q:

You talk about your reasons for turning down certain families (like the example you gave in the Toronto Life article of a single mother with kids.) It's understandable, but I do find it a bit hard to swallow. If we can't bring them here, what do you think we can or should do for people like that?

A:

So difficult. I am thinking all we can do is try to make their life easier where they are. Education also helps.


Q:

Hey Jim, What are some of the ongoing struggles for refugees after they have been set up in the country, and what initiatives are being taken to ensure that they continue to be successful? Also, what advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?

Thanks!

A:

The biggest challenge of refugees is English. It si very difficult to learn (except for children of course). The second challenge is they need to accept that they are starting over - often starting from a much lower socio-economic level. EG - the Dr who drive for Uber.

For young entrepreneurs "Do the right thing" and "just do it"


Q:

What were some of the logistical challenges you faced?

A:

Government paperwork.

And putting together a support network with 800 volunteers. Because of the size - I needed to set it up like a company. Director of education, director of health, director of mentorship etc.


Q:

What changes in Govt regulations have occurred since you sponsored the first 50 refugees and how will that affect your plans for another 200?

A:

The government has everything on hold now so any changes are not yet implemented.


Q:

Hello!

  1. What was the last book you read?

  2. What book do you think everyone should read?

A:

Crossing the Chasm (this was actually a re-read)

Influence by Robt Chialdini is my favourite.


Q:

Hi Mr. Estill :) How do you feel your efforts towards the sponsorship of Syrian refugees has changed how people perceive Danby Appliances as a brand?

A:

Brand is influenced by reach, frequency and feeling. There has been lots of press so there is all 3 of these. So I suspect it has improved brand and that brand recognition is higher.

That should never be the reason to do something like this though.

And in some cases, people do not like refugees so will not buy Danby Appliances so we will see


Q:

There's a subreddit full of people buying Danby bar fridges and hacking them into kegerators. Some even post detailed DIY instructions, it's kind of cool https://www.reddit.com/r/kegerators/

A:

All good if you like DIY. Or just buy it done for you.


Q:

How did you make sure they were refugees?

A:

They need to have a UN issued number called a UNHCR. So the UN vets them as being refugees.


Q:

Hi Mr. Estill,

Do you know of any other business people that have made a similar effort to help Syrian refugees? If not, how would you encourage them to do so?

A:

I have not seen anyone do it on the scale I have. At first I did not want any press but as I saw the press happening, I realized that perhaps I could inspire others to do their part.

Many business people have talked to me about what we do and some have sponsored a few families.


Q:

Hi Jim, thanks for your time. Was there any screening process for who was accepted during the project?

Additionally, do you feel an equal responsibility, as an entrepreneur, to provide these opportunities for the skilled, but unemployed here in America as well?

A:

The government does health and security screening.

I certainly try to provide opportunities to everyone I can in Canada and the US. Danby Appliances would employ over 250 Americans and Canadians now.


Q:

Hello Jim,

Thanks for doing what you did, it sounds incredible! Do you have any recommendations for organizations that need help doing what you did, and for that matter, is the process complete on your end or ongoing?

A:

Contact me and I would share our scorecards and checklists.

The process is ongoing. Right now the government is put everything on hold but when that frees up we will be back.


Q:

Good afternoon, Jim! It says in the Toronto Life article you'd like to bring over another 200 people eventually. What will you do differently with the next 200?

A:

The next 200 are likely to be relatives of the ones I have brought in which will make the social support easier.

I would work to make sure the expectation is correct. Essentially underpromise a bit.


Q:

Could you explain what you mean on that last part? Do you mean some of the people who came here did not find what they expected?

A:

We are simply helping people through a hard time - not trying to put them on welfare. In Canada to get ahead you need to work. So setting the expectation that life is difficult and requires a lot of energy and work.


Q:

Hi Jim, thank you so much for this work that you are doing, you are truly helping to make the world a better place. Do you happen to know if a syrian refugee family that has been in Canada since last November would be able to sponsor their family members to come here? Do you know how they could go about helping their nephew to get here?

A:

Right now sponsorships are closed. When it opens, a refugee family can sponsor another family or family members. They need to raise the $ (about $25,000 for a family) and find a SAH (Sponsorships Agreement Holder) or form a group of 5.

I do not think they can sponsor anyone if they are not working


Q:

How come you chose Syria? There are lots of other countries in the world that have refugees; for example, there are a lot of persecuted Christians in the Middle East who risk being killed every day simply because of their religion. Would you consider sponsoring people like that, or do you only sponsor Muslims?

A:

I am a humanitarian and sponsor people regardless of religion. Of course I sponsor Christians and if any Hindus or Jews or Buddists needed assistance, i would help them if i could. And I agree with you, Christians are often the ones most persecuted.