These are the stories of young people who found incredible success despite their lack of formal education.
Tobias Lütke is one of the founders of Shopify, one of the largest e-commerce platforms in Canada with its 2018 revenue exceeding $1.073 billion. Although Lütke is now one of Canada’s most notable tech CEOs, he dropped out of high school after grade 10, opting to enter an apprenticeship program at the Koblenzer Carl-Benz-School rather than graduating high school. When he attempted to launch an online snowboard shop with his partners in 2004, he realized that he wasn’t satisfied with any of the existing e-commerce platforms. Along with his partners, Lütke created Shopify, officially launching the new platform in 2006. Since then, Lütke has been named CEO of the year, and Shopify has grown to service over 800,000 businesses worldwide.
Derek Wall is the founder and CEO of HUBX, a platform that connects B2B buyers and sellers across the world, allowing them to communicate anonymously. Although Wall’s company is now worth over $200 million dollars, he dropped out of high school in his senior year, prompted partly by his struggles with dyslexia. After moving out of his parents home at 19, he founded Ezekiel clothing, which he later sold to begin a new business venture. Wall co-founded 4 more companies before starting HUBX, and now works to mentor other start-up founders.
Brandi Leifso is the founder and CEO of Evio Beauty Group, a cosmetics company worth over a million dollars. At age 14, Leifso dropped out of high school, and later spent time in a women’s shelter after surviving an abusive relationship. It was in this shelter that she decided to found a cosmetics company to help both women and the environment they live in. Evio Beauty Group focuses on creating social change through business, using eco-friendly and vegan ingredients in all of their products. To help other vulnerable women, Evio Beauty Group donates $1 of every sale to the Canadian Women's Foundation.
Although you may know him as a Toronto Raptor now, Chris Boucher dropped out of high school at age 16. Boucher worked as a cook and dishwasher in his Montréal neighborhood until 2012, when he was offered a spot on a tournament basketball team, despite only playing recreational pick-up basketball previously. Spotted by scouts at the Alma Academy, Boucher was offered a spot in their program, eventually attracting the attention of college scouts, and then the Golden State Warriors in 2017. In 2019, Boucher accepted a standard NBA contract from your Toronto Raptors!
Australian born Ben Pasternak is the young programmer behind apps and games like Impossible Rush, Impossible Dial, Flogg, and Monkey. Despite his parents’ pleas, Pasternak dropped out of high school after grade 10. In 2016, Times Magazine named him one of the worlds most influential teens. He now lives in New York City, where he runs his business out of his living room with help from his one employee, Mark Lansberger.
Emily Lyons is the CEO of Femme Fatale Media Group, North America’s leading event staffing agency. At 16, Emily dropped out of high school, and after working briefly as a nanny in Australia, moved to Toronto to begin a modelling career. At 23, Lyons founded Femme Fatale Media Group, and now runs three other companies: JWLS, True Glue, and Lyons Elite. Now a multimillionaire, Lyons is a fierce supporter of women in business and an advocate for cystic fibrosis research.