Ben Barry didn't start a business to start a business.
He started it to right a wrong.
And consumers can blame Ben Barry for broadening definitions of beauty.
His modelling agency has been lining up really beautiful models like the ones in Dove's Real Beauty campaign for about 10 years now.
Today Barry was at Algoma's Water Tower Inn to talk business with Sault and area entrepreneurs.
He told local business people that he first began his agency from his parent's basement at the age of 14, to help the fashion industry realize that beauty really can come in Size 8 and a whole bunch of other sizes too.
Barry realized early that using models who reflect women's choices can influence purchasing behaviour and a growing list of product marketers are beginning to twig to that notion as well.
By age 22, he had offices in Toronto, New York, and London and had supplied models to numerous international brands.
Barry isn't done either.
"We can make the world a better place by the way we operate our business," he said. "We make a profit by making a social change and I think it's important to realize that this is a vehicle for social change as much as it is an opportunity to make money."
He said business has as much power to change the world as government, political activism, or other social movements and he would not be in the business he's in today if not for his college education in women's studies.
Because so many people in the high fashion business are isolated and disconnected from their customers, and because they believe fashion must be unattainable but aspirational, many still believe they must use models who are over 5'9" tall and under Size 4 to sell products, Barry believes.
"When Dove decided to start using models who look like their customers, their sales went up 700 percent," he said. "But there is still a lot of resistance from the high-fashion industry, the trend setters."
Barry said he intends to use sound business arguments to convince these people to use models and photos that have aspirational elements that are attainable.
The Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, in partnership with Enterprise Centre Sault Ste. Marie, hosted today's workshop for businesses in Sault Ste. Marie and the Algoma region.
The workshop, called Entrepreneurial Excellence: Business Bootcamp, was aimed at inspiring and showcasing success stories of entrepreneurs, pointing out the steps needed to find a path to success, said Diane Medaglia a business development specialist with the Innovation Centre.
Other speakers featured at the workshop were Rick Spence, business strategist, writer, speaker and 'growth guru'; Sean Moffitt, president, Agent Wildfire Strategy & Communication Inc.; and Derek Nighbor, Retail Council of Canada (RCC).
Medaglia said the centre is planning another workshop for April or May and hopes to entertain speakers of the same quality for that workshop.