Roasting up a dream: a young entrepreneur’s business thrives

At the age of just 20, James Rankin became the owner of two successful businesses. He runs North Brew Coffee and Smiley bars and speaks publicly to many about how he started his businesses.

His father, Kent Rankin ran Rankinterlock & Rooflink when he was younger, and that inspired Rankin to be his own boss and control his own destiny.

During the 2017 Algonquin College strike, Rankin decided to take a leap and start up a business. During this time, he lived with his roommate, Elliot Magwood, and the two wanted to first start a clothing line. This idea halted because starting a clothing line proved to be a little too much at first financially, and the risk that stores would sell their products was too high.

Rankin and Magwood would then host get-togethers in their room with students in their program to discuss and brainstorm potential future company ideas.

Just a short while after, the two decided to start a coffee business. Magwood came up with the name North Brew Coffee, and on July 16, 2018, the company was launched.

Rankin previously went to Algonquin College and studied marketing and management, where he later dropped out to pursue his business. During his transition from school to full-time ownership of the company, he worked at Terra20, an Ottawa based eco-store, and had his product put on their shelves which forced him to quit working there.

Leaving school isn’t the easiest thing to do as a student, especially when you’re taking a big risk. But that’s exactly what Rankin did. Although as Rankin recalls, it wasn’t the easiest letting people know.

“I had to tell her ‘I’m dropping out at 18 to run a coffee company full time,’” when speaking with his career counsellor. “And obviously she looks at me like I have six heads because it’s a bit crazy but it ended up working out really well.”

Now North Brew is a successful business with six employees Rankin has continued his entrepreneurship by opening up another business called Smiley Bars, opening up on Nov. 15, 2019.

Smiley Bars is a granola bar company that supplies healthy ingredients in the bars to go along with peanut and non-peanut products.

Rankin believes in giving back, and he donates to many charities. Some of these charities include some local homeless shelters, the Ottawa food bank, and other local companies to donate towards the Australian wildfires.

“For the past four, five months, I’ve been working on that local impact, making sure that people understand that we’re donating to our own city,” said Rankin. “Both my companies do 10 per cent to different charities.”

Magwood saw where Rankin was headed and gives him full credit for continuing to be successful and has always wanted to see him succeed.

“He’s always been a natural-born salesman entrepreneur,” said Magwood. “As soon as I met him, the first thing he wanted to do was start a business. It’s just ingrained in him.”

Rankin was giving away a lot at the beginning of the process, which is not common for people who are at the beginning stages of their careers.

“He was donating to charities right away,” said Magwood.

North Brew Coffee sells to all those who drink coffee, which is a pretty big market, but what really separates this company from others is the way it locally donates to its communities in Ottawa.

When you buy his product, you contribute to various charities because part of the profit that is earned by the company also goes to local charities and organizations.

Rankin is determined to give back to his community in as many ways as possible and does so at every given opportunity.

Rankin continues to expand and develop his companies and hopes that his hard work inspires others to do the same and live out their dream just as he is right now.


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