Arlene Dickinson:  Canadian Icon, Entrepreneur, Inspiration  

From Humble Beginnings … A Story Worth Telling

Arlene Dickinson’s Mormon family immigrated to Canada from South Africa when she was 3 years old in 1959 with only $50.00 to their name.   Though her father held a PhD in education, he worked mainly as a struggling electrician, these struggles eventually leading to her parent’s divorce.


In her twenties, Dickinson worked as a debt collector to support her four children and help put her husband through teacher’s college.  At the age of 30, she had an affair – her husband filed for divorce and the Mormon Church excommunicated her.  In the divorce proceedings, Dickinson lost custody of her children until ‘she could prove that she had the financial capacity to support her family’.   Unemployed, divorced and without her children, she found an advertising job at a Calgary television station.   She lost the job 18 months after she started.


Upon hearing of her job loss, a former colleague reached out to Dickinson and offered her the opportunity to join his new marketing firm, Venture Communications Ltd, as a partner in 1988.  Her position meant that she did not earn a salary or wage, essentially worked for free.   Early in her tenure, Dickenson lived off her credit cards but worked long hours and weekend to make the company successful.  Within a decade, she was sole owner of the firm.


How did she do it?  “I learned how to be persuasive without being aggressive, and I convinced key people to back me and give me a chance…plus I worked like a dog!”  She follows three core principles (as laid out in her book: Persuasion: A New Approach to Changing Minds). “Honesty, Authenticity and Ensure Reciprocity… listening more, listening way way more than you talk”


In 2007, Arlene first made her appearance on Season 2 of the Dragon’s Den. Dragons Den is a successful Canadian Reality Show where aspiring entrepreneurs have three minutes to pitch their business concepts and products to a panel of 5 Canadian business moguls who choose to invest in them with their own cash, time and expertise to kick-start the business.  Arlene has been on the show for 15 seasons and is the longest running female entrepreneur on The Dragon’s Den.


Achievements:  here a few achievements amongst many:

  • CEO of Venture Communications Ltd.
  • Arlene Dickinson Enterprises Ltd.
  • Founder of Distinct Ventures Capital
  • Believeco
  • Canada’s Most Powerful Women Top 100 Hall of Fame
  • 3-time Best Selling Author
  • Public Speaker
  • National Spokesperson for The Breakfast Clubs of Canada
  • Co-Chair Kids Help Phone



Today:  Not only is Arlene one of Canada’s most successful business women, she represents integrity, warmth, and heart - deeply involved in women in business, various charities and foundations.   From Arlene: “I believe my high school book said, I was most likely to become a candlestick maker.  Guessing I didn’t exactly exude confidence but just goes to show that your path is yours to choose and make the best of and not for someone else to tell you what you can and cannot be. 



Check out Arlene’s website at:


Content:  Canadian  Justin Douglas/Chatelaine:  Roberto Caruso