Leah Costello

Chief ideas curator, Curious Mind Productions Age: 39

How do you entice a big name literary star to come to an unknown speakers series in out-of-the way Vancouver?

If you’re Leah Costello, the founder of speaker series like the Bon Mot Book Club, Books Sandwiched In and History Wars, you sell them on the idea.

“Speakers and agents aren’t going to go to something they’ve never heard of before, so it was a bit of a challenge,” she said. The effort required a bit of sleight of hand.

“You send them a letter and you say, ‘The other speakers in this series will likely include’ – and you throw in some other big names.”

Since 2009, Costello has brought high profile speakers like Kofi Annan, Dick Cheney, Malcolm Gladwell and Michael Lewis to Vancouver. For each series, she’s succeeded in getting sponsors who foot the bill for speakers’ fees and travel. Ticket sales cover the rest.

Curious Mind Productions follows two other businesses Costello has founded: Silver Spoons Catering, which she sold to Bread Garden, and Squeeze Juice and Smoothie Bar, which she sold to Booster Juice.

After her experiences running the hands-on businesses, Costello realized she’d like to pour her energy into a more intellectual pursuit for her next venture.

Costello is now looking at several options for growing the speaker series, including franchising it to other cities or making forays into other mediums like social media, radio or TV. •