Chris Davies

President and CEO, Chris' Sign Service and Westcan Lighting Age: 39

In 1990, when Chris Davies dropped out of high school, his father gave him an old 1977 GM truck and told him to "do what you can with it."

Davies proceeded to grow a sign and lighting business that dwarfed the one-truck operations of his father and uncles. He was inspired by his grandfather, who in the 1970s grew his lighting company, Dogwood Fluorescent Sales and Service, to be the second-largest lighting company in B.C. with $1 million in sales.

"He always instilled in me that you can do it … I definitely wanted to follow in his footsteps," said Davies. In the mid-1990s, Davies bought his grandfather's business and merged it with his own.

Chris's Sign Service now has 29 employees and counts itself among the largest sign companies in Western Canada. Through its Westcan division, managed by partner John Thomasen, the company now operates in Alberta and plans to expand to Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Both companies now focus almost entirely on lighting, especially energy-saving LED technology.

"I got into something that I love. I get up every morning at four o'clock in the morning and I'm pumped and ready to go non-stop," he said.

Business success has almost made up for Davies' lack of a high school diploma, but not quite. He recently applied to be a volunteer fire fighter in Langley, but was turned down because he had never completed high school.

"I always had a really hard time with school," he said. "I failed a grade — I could not get through school if my life depended on it."

Davies, who was diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult, is now in the process of completing his GED. He wants to show his two sons that education is important.

"It's one thing that I instilled in my children, that they need to go to school," he said.