Heather Reisman, One of Canada’s Most Powerful Businesswomen

Heather Reisman

Place of Birth

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Industry

Entrepreneur and business executive in the bookselling industry

Early Career

Heather Reisman received an undergraduate degree in social work from McGill University and began working with at-risk teens upon graduation. She transitioned from social services to the corporate world in 1977, co-founding Paradigm Consulting and serving as its managing director for 16 years. In 1992, she left to become the head of Cott Corporation, a soft-drink bottling company, where she remained until 1994.

Business

Heather Reisman is the CEO and founder of Indigo Books & Music as well as the co-founder of Kobo, one of the leading e-reader platforms in the world.

In 1995, Reisman was contacted by Borders Group, one of the largest bookstore chains in America, to help them expand into Canada. However, the project failed to secure the proper licensing approval in Canada and as a result, Reisman decided to establish her own chain, calling it Indigo Books & Music.

The first Indigo Books & Music store opened in 1997 in Burlington, Canada. It became immensely popular and quickly grew throughout the country, selling books, music, and DVDs. In 2001, the company acquired its top competitor, Chapters, thus becoming the largest book retailer in Canada with stores throughout all the country’s provinces and territories.

As e-books became more popular and Indigo struggled to remain profitable, Reisman decided to transform the company by expanding the product lines offered by its stores to include gifts, specialty items, table linens, glassware, and toys. The move was highly successful and became a large source of revenue for the company.

Reisman launched Kobo, Inc. in 2009 and it became Canada’s most popular electronic-reading platform in just two years. In 2011, Kobo was sold to Rakuten, a Japanese e-commerce company, for USD 315 million, netting the company a USD 140 million or 300% return on its initial investment.

Financial Times listed Reisman as one of the top 50 businesswomen in the world in 2009 and she was inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame in 2015.

Philanthropy and Sponsorship

Heather Reisman is an avid philanthropist both through her own foundation as well as through several other nonprofit organizations. In 2004, she founded the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation and donated more than USD 24 million to it in order to help improve the resources of public-school libraries in need.

Reisman is a generous supporter of medical causes, both at Mount Sinai Hospital and at the University of Toronto, where she endowed the Heather Reisman Chair in Perinatal Research. She also made major donations to the United Jewish Appeal and to Harvard University.

In addition, together with her husband, Reisman founded the HESEG Foundation, which provides full academic scholarships and stipends to both minorities and to individuals who came to Israel alone and served in its military without the support of their families.