Grey Goose Notable: Cris Jackson

Notable.ca has partnered with Grey Goose, the World’s Best Tasting Vodka, to celebrate an exclusive series of Grey Goose Notables: young professionals and entrepreneurs who are influential taste-makers. For the next 10 weeks, we will feature two unique Notables who have made it – young professionals who have reached success beyond their years. We’ll show you how these Notables enjoy what they’ve earned – how they entertain friends, where they travel, what drives them from the office to the golf course – and how they celebrate life and all it has to offer. So, raise a glass as we toast to the Grey Goose Notables…

Cris Jackson is an interesting character. His career began in grade 11, when he started his first clothing company in North Vancouver. He grabbed some fabric and gave it to his mom to piece together a pair of surf shorts – she subsequently recruited some of her friends from church to help sew more pairs as the business grew. Eventually he found a factory to produce his products, which he sold in local shops. A few years into his first venture and he had already started his next: a production company putting together parties for anywhere from 200 to 600 people. When he began school studying urban land economics, his life consisted of classes, working a job in construction, running the clothing line, and throwing parties.

Cris then found himself in Yaletown, BC, and rented a 7,000 sq. ft. warehouse that was multipurpose: home, party venue by night, and high-end auto-detailing by day – which, not surprisingly, even led to some carwash parties. After a demo clause in his lease was called out, Cris had to leave the space. He was now ready, at the age of 25 might we add, to start his fourth business, DV8 restaurant. This late-night resto became a hotspot, and after a year and a half he sold his share to his business partner.

What came next? Cris then started a hair salon called Opus, the back-end of which he converted into a photo studio where he shot photography for modelling agencies.

In 1999 he founded Qtrade, a full-service financial company and brokerage, which now has 1,500 offices across Canada with partnered small banks and credit unions. Cris ran the company as Chairman and CEO, and had amassed 350 banking partners while growing the business to become the fourth-rated brokerage firm in Canada. But after awhile, the excitement was gone, and about five years ago Cris turned his attention to another new business: Vibraslim Exercise Equipment. A few years down the line, and Cris is about to launch Sigwich.com, a site that builds customizable email signatures for free.

Not surprisingly, Cris thinks what sets him apart from other entrepreneurs is he never does the same thing twice. And even though he was “terrible at school” and told he would fail by others, Cris’ ability to learn quickly and adapt in ever-changing circumstances resulted in a string of highly-successful businesses. (Did we mention he also owned a high-end cigar lounge for three years?)

Cris Jackson and his amazing, albeit almost unbelievable, drive and commitment to trying whatever venture he feels he’d enjoy is definitely laudable. He is a Notable, and notable to him are “People that are self-made. What they do doesn’t have to be big, but they do it on their own, and not ride on the shoulders of friends and family.”

If there was one location that every person must see, what would it be? Why?
Costa Rica has the most beautiful beaches and water. The ocean is warm and full of sea-life for amazing snorkeling and diving, not to mention great surfing. The food and drinks are amazing and some of my favourite meals of all time have been there. The people are very friendly and not aggressive. The locals are more than happy to take you around and show off the country they love.

Costa Rica

You have 3 weeks to vacation, cost is not a factor, where are you going and who are you taking?
Every year we do a trip with our friends (8 to 15 of us), usually Mexico, this year was Cuba. These trips are always epic and we usually need a vacation when we get back. Unlimited budget? Private Jet to Costa Rica where we would all stay at a staffed beach front villa. Costa Rica has some amazing Villas with monkeys as your neighbours. Daily activities like zip lining, feeding the crocodiles, fishing, and surfing would be on our itinerary, with dinners at the local beachside restaurants that serve massive lobsters and great local food.

What is your general life philosophy/What advice would you want to share with others?
When people ask me “How do you do it?” or “What’s your secret?” I always answer “Just Do It.” Yes, that’s a familiar slogan, but it’s true. Too many people dream or just talk about what they really want to do and never actually do it. Fear holds people back, although there is a lot to be afraid of when you are risking your life savings on your new business. I have done it over 15 times. The thing you need to be sure of is how bad do you really want it. For me, failure has never been an option, not that failure has not been pounding on my door several times. When that happens it’s just time to work more, work harder, and work smarter. Besides, I had no other option; who would hire me if I failed? Seriously!

Why were the early stages of your career (which can be some of the toughest years of any successful business person’s life) worth what you are now able to enjoy?
I left home with $400 when I was 18, determined to be independent and do it all my way. I never liked following the normal path, to me it always felt wrong. I never liked school and had no desire to go to university. I had started my first company when I was 15, a clothing company that manufactured surf shorts and sold them to friends and some local stores. Once I realized that I could be creative, be my own boss, and make money even when I was not at work, I was hooked. I am not a gambler but when it comes to business I am. I have always done what others said I could not. This has never changed.

Please describe what entertaining looks like to you? What makes the perfect host?
My wife and I love having parties at our house and inviting an eclectic group of all ages, usually 40 to 150 people. I have had some epic Halloween parties that have become a yearly ritual and I look forward to them every year. My ingredients of a good party are lots of drinks, and don’t cheap out. Just buy a stockpile of vodka and a bunch of mix and you are halfway there (don’t forget the ice). Next you need some great tasting apps coming out throughout the night – if you didn’t know, people get hungry when they drink! Last but not least, you need great music to keep everyone’s energy going. When I was in my early 20s I would throw parties in warehouses for 500 to 5000 party-goers, and today I still love being the host.

What is more important when entertaining: the space, or the people in the space, and why?
The people always, but the space is very important. I designed my house for parties, one large open space surrounding the large open kitchen with a deck overlooking the ocean. Parties always center around the kitchen, they always have and always will. You can have a huge house and everyone will end up squeezing into the kitchen, its hilarious. But as I said earlier, you need a cool mix of people…and a few pretty girls never hurt.

What is one of your favourite lounge/restaurants? Why?
Barcelona in Scottsdale, Arizona. The place has everything: an indoor, outdoor, great food; then it turns into a pumping night club with an amazing live band playing pop music. The crowd is 21 to 50 years old and everyone is having fun. They have great VIP areas for bottle service that keep you right in on all that action. You see a lot of celebs there like Ice T, Charles Barkley, etc. I have to mention Provocateur in New York also, I love it there and they even have swings.

What is your favourite drink?/What is the best drink that you make?
I really only have one drink: vodka soda with cran. I don’t drink beer or wine, although I will drink rum and cola or rye and ginger sometimes. But I always have a red drink in my hand, and yes, it is Grey Goose. My buddy Dave who owns six bars got me hooked years ago. The two of us should get stock in that company!

Costa Rica image courtesy stock.xchng.