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Shishir Lakhani

2011 Richmond Hill



Always be grateful for what you have in life.

It is your community that gave you a chance to succeed.

It is now your turn to help others achieve their happiness.

After all, the purpose of life is a life of purpose.”[1]

Shishir Lakhani


Shishir Lakhani got his first job in Canada just weeks after his arrival. How he got it clearly illustrates his creativity and fearless energy. He was living at a YMCA in Toronto. Every day he persistently combed phone books, called building contractors and delivered resumes. He used one of his last dimes to follow up on a resume he’d dropped off the day before. The conversation went something like this.


Contractor: “Aren’t you the guy who dropped off a resume yesterday? I told you there were no jobs. Why are you calling me back?”


Shishir: “When I was in your office I saw some beautiful golf clubs. It’s a sunny Friday afternoon and you’re still working. I’m phoning to offer to take some blue prints and work on them over the weekend as a gift, so that you can play golf.”


The man agreed and Shishir promptly picked up the blue prints and started working. He dropped the finished work off Monday morning, and on Tuesday he received a phone call telling him to pick up a cheque. While there, the contractor passed on contact information for companies that were hiring and Shishir got his first Canadian job.


He worked in the building industry for two years, bringing one company from $3 million to $16 million a year. When he couldn’t climb any higher, Shishir decided he did not want to compete with his employer. Instead, in 1979 he began a building supply manufacturing business. Less than thirty years later, Shishir and his business partner, his wife, retired early.

A native of Kenya, Africa, Shishir attended junior school in Tanzania. Prior to the Idi Amin regime, Shishir’s father decided it was too dangerous for Africans of East Indian decent to live there. He moved his family to England, where Shishir got his Bachelor of Science degree in building economics. Tragically, his father died of a massive heart attack at the age of fifty-one and Shishir soon immigrated to Canada. With little money, he worked tirelessly to establish himself. His success has been overwhelming.


In 2005 Shishir remembered the words of his father, who was always planning to do more reading, traveling and learning when he retired. Those dream never materialized. Shishir wanted to create something better for his family. He realized that the loss of his father had significant consequences. He was not there to witness Shishir’s battles for success, or his victories. He never got to know Shishir’s wife and daughter. After extensive soul searching Shishir realized “There’s more to life than the big dollar.” He sold his business and decided to spend his life giving back to his community.


Shishir organized a plan for the future based on mentoring and lifelong learning.


His three areas of focus are:

1. To Help promote entrepreneurship

2. To always be learning and achieving in effective communications

3. To help save lives and promote heart healthy living by supporting THE Heart & Stroke Foundation

To promote entrepreneurship, Shishir volunteered with Associated Senior Executives (ASE). This organization consists of business professionals who offer their time and advice to give back to business owners in the community.[2] Today Shishir is Vice President of ASE.

In his quest for personal growth, Shishir joined Toastmasters to hone his leadership and communications skills. He was Area Governor 2010 /2011 and has been an active Toastmaster for six years, winning many awards for speaking and judging.

Shishir used these skills to teach new Canadians. His diverse cultural history gave Shishir an ingrained sensitivity to subtle cultural differences that challenge new immigrants in their pursuit of success. His workshops focus on polishing communications skills, and providing inspiration with his own success story.


The early tragedy of losing his father left Shishir with an intense desire to find a cure for heart disease. He has been very involved with Heart and Stroke, is president of the York South chapter and sits on advisory groups and committees. He won the 2010 Award for Volunteer Excellence, and has lobbied tirelessly to have defibrillators placed in public areas. He was successful. In the words of David Sculthorpe, CEO of Heart and Stroke Foundation, Shishir “possesses a rare combination of personal charisma, interpersonal savvy and business expertise, and he has applied his many gifts to advancing our Foundation’s work with tremendous passion and energy.”[3]


The search for a cure has become even more personal. Recently, Shishir was diagnosed with 90% blockage of his arteries, and it is inoperable. Yet he remains hopeful. “The funds collected for Heart and Stroke go to research and health promotion. I rest assured in the night that somebody somewhere is working on a research project for me. I thank everyone who donates because the life they save could well be mine.”



* Bio written by Heather Anne Lambert, halambert@rogers.com

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