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Introducing Mickey MacDonald

Mickey MacDonald is a true fighter; he fights in business, in his charitable work, and has also fought in the ring as a boxer. Still down-to-earth and approachable, Mickey came from humble beginnings, but as an entrepreneur he became one of Atlantic Canada’s preeminent businesspeople.

Mickey credits his drive to his mother. Mickey’s father had a heart attack, leaving Mickey’s mom as the primary caregiver and breadwinner for her seven children. As head nurse at the Halifax Infirmary, she would take care of sick babies full-time and then come home to take care of her family. This dedication to her career and family proved to be an inspiration to the entire MacDonald clan.

At the age of 16, Mickey left home and moved to Toronto. While in the city, he briefly lived on the streets and took up boxing. Mickey was willing to take any odd job and learn as he worked to support himself. His attitude and willingness to work hard had him working in mines, driving trucks and heavy equipment. Mickey believed that the things you can learn on the streets are often more valuable then what you learn from a book or in school.

Upon returning to Halifax, Mickey took a job with the Halifax Fire Department and helped his brother, Colin and his business partner, Robert Risley start their seafood business, Clearwater Seafood. While working with the fire department, he also started an auto-body shop and car lot. Today, Clearwater Seafood is the largest shellfish exporter in the world and he personally owns 20% of the company.

Mickey always had his finger on the pulse of business opportunities. During a snowstorm in 1988, he was driving a plow truck when a story came on the radio about cellular phones. Being involved in numerous businesses, he thought to himself, “What a tool.” He could be working at one place, and manage his affairs elsewhere. He tried to get a cell phone, but what he found was between $3,500 and $4,000.

He called a friend, who had been working with Motorola to see if he could get a deal. His friend told him the only people getting deals were dealers. So, of course, Mickey became a dealer. Mickey says, “When you don’t know anything, then you aren’t scared to try it.”

One thing lead to another and soon Mickey was the owner of DownEast Communications. DownEast grew to be one of Canada’s largest cell phone distributors, with almost 50 stores in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and New Brunswick. DownEast was sold to Aliant in 2004, netting Mickey about $50 million. A sister company, AMP, grew to a value of more than $100 million as well.

Mickey know the importance of giving back to his community. A quote from Mohammad Ali on his Micco company website says, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” Mickey has done just that by giving millions to charity including hospitals, Halifax’s Pier 21, and the Bella Rose Centre. His Palooka charity also supports at-risk children in Halifax, across Canada, and around the world. If you are a self-starting entrepreneur, you need to hear this inspiring story!


In this episode

Dave and Greg aren’t boiling anymore, as we now record at our audio engineer, Tim’s studio (thanks Tim!). Dave is struck by how Mickey sees an opportunity and just goes for it while remaining honest and humble. Dave also loves Mickey’s message that success is not all about money. Greg is inspired by Mickey’s past risk taking behaviours and by how much he gives back to the community.


Links & References

The Chickenburger




Harvest Wine & Spirits




Palooka’s Executive Fitness