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His Hillsides are Beautiful

"Gerry Mahoney"

Gerry Mahoney is a very interesting Canadian entrepreneur. It's hard to believe he's only 44 years of age. For 14 years he worked as a salesman for Bell Telephone. He lived in Burlington, Ontario and commuted daily to his Toronto office. One day he said, "Enough of this commuting and working for someone else. I'm going to develop my own ideas".

He had an idea to place signs on support posts in high traffic areas and sell the advertising space. Sort of like mini-billboards. So, he resigned from Bell and started his own sign company. He no sooner got going, when along came the recession of 1981 and Gerry's dream company collapsed. He sold it for peanuts to another Canadian Achiever featured in this book, Jim Patti

son, the world's largest owner of outdoor signs.

Gerry's idea was right, his financial capacity was wrong. "My old job at Bell", he told me, "sure looked mighty good". But in life there is no turning back so he became a print salesman.

One hot summer day during an Ontario beer strike five years ago, a neighbour called to tell Gerry there was some American beer at the liquor store. They joined the line up to buy it, but it was warm. Gerry figured there must be some inexpensive way to carry cold drinks around. He started work on his kitchen table, designing an insulated carrier bag. First attempts failed. The bag became Gerry's hobby.

He studied physics and learned that the key was to reduce the air space. Eventually he came up with a draw-string plastic bag, insulated, with the kind of bubble liner used in swimming pool covers. Then he studied marketing methods. Three years ago the "Koolbag" was market-tested. Gerry had aimed it at the male beer drinker, but found women were equally interested in it for carrying hot or cold food. In 1988 the "Koolbag" won the prize for best new product at the Canadian Hardware Show. Major supermarkets and milk stores adopted it and the bags went on sale at all Ontario beer stores. They're even sold in the Arctic through Hudson Bay Northern Stores.

The market in Canada is too small and the summers too short, so Gerry has licensed his idea to U.S. manufacturer, "Sealed Air Corporation." They tested it with exciting results in Florida, California and Illinois.

Two years ago Gerry began developing another idea of his. Riders on the Toronto Go-Trains will recognize it immediately. Gerry made a deal with the CNR to lease the use of the dirt banks along the Go-Trains routes. He formed a company called "Hillside Communications", and very simply he leases advertisersí space to exhibit their corporate logo in the form of beautifully landscaped gardens which are very pleasant for 00-Train commuters to gaze upon as they travel to or from Toronto.

"It's a unique form of advertising. Companies lease a space for 3-year periods. I have four full-time gardeners maintaining the sites. The environmental people love it because we have cleaned up and beautified what used to be very unattractive sites."

Gerry Mahoney is not looking to make a million dollars. He told me,

"That's not my major motivation. I want to enjoy life, spend time with my kids, and just live comfortably."

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