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How Canada's biggest bank teamed up with marketing guru and radio personality Tony Chapman to provide inspiration and ideas for small business owners and everyday Canadians to help them get where they need, want and deserve to go.

February 2020, and my life couldn’t have been better. My two daughters Alexandra and Mikahla were building incredible careers — Alexandra with Apple in San Francisco and Mikahla with Accenture in London, England.

They both had great significant others and a zest for life. My wife Marion and I were welcoming two new puppies into our lives, and my career as a Conference Host and Speaker was rocketing. I had been travelling worldwide, speaking at events in China, Brazil, Poland, Spain, Scotland, Mexico and throughout North America.

And then this “little bug that could,” COVID-19, turned everyone’s life upside down, including my own. Every gig cancelled. I’d been careful with my money throughout my career and could take the financial hit, but I started to think about those without the safety net I was fortunate to have. All the beautiful people who work in tourism, who stage the conferences and operate tours. The limo drivers and entertainers. Many were small business owners, and some were friends.

Looking beyond my own world, I realized that this crisis would most impact small business owners — the very drivers and heart of the Canadian economy. What could we do to help keep them beating strong?

I approached RBC to create a platform where we could share the stories of small business owners, bringing their behind-the-scenes struggles to the forefront so that all Canadians would take their challenges personally. And by inviting three thought leaders, including one from RBC, these owners could get the insights that could help them get to where they need, want and deserve to go.

RBC agreed, with one stipulation: This is not about us. Make these shows all about the small business heroes who are fighting to save jobs and their businesses.

We produced 18 podcasts, more than 20 videos, touched upon most sectors of our economy and crossed Canada and cultures to find our stories. Twelve of the eighteen businesses were woman-led, and every thought leader we asked, except one, brought their intellectual and emotional capital to our quest. Each story captured the essence of an entrepreneur — their grit, resilience and ability to reimagine and reinvent.

And we were just getting started. COVID-19 wasn’t going away, and the lockdowns created a state of uncertainty, insecurity and a feeling of impossibility. So we weren’t going anywhere either. Together with RBC, we came up with the idea to extend the concept beyond small businesses, to share stories of ordinary people who do extraordinary things, despite circumstances. The intention was that their life lessons would inspire others to do more and to be more.

Celebrities like Bryan Beaumler and Harry Connick Jr. joined us, as did adventurers such as Chris Hadfield and Rick Hansen and thought leaders Dan Ariely and Dr. Ann Cavoukian. Dimple Mukherjee and Rocco Rossi offered their spiritual grounding, while Michelle DiEmanuelle, Mary DePaoli, Michael McCain and Jon Love offered lessons in leadership. Against-all-odds stories from W Mitchell, Orlando Bowen inspired listeners, as did our shows with Brooke Henderson, Anthony Longo, Ashley Gorrie, Suleman Ahmed and so many more. Each opened up about their life stories and hardships and shared how they had found a way to make things happen, versus simply watching and wondering what might happen next.

My relationship with RBC went from one of great collaborative partnership, to their placement on my admired all-time list, which are big shoes to fill given I spent three decades as the owner of advertising agencies, walking the executive floor of some of the world’s top companies.

Over the last year, I’ve had the chance to learn about and showcase the work RBC does to support Canada, Canadians and even Planet Earth. Here are a few of the initiatives that have inspired me most:

  • RBC Future Launch — A $500 million ten-year commitment to help Canadian youth find and pursue their path in life.
  • RBC Climate Blueprint — Which involves a target of $500 billion in sustainable financing by 2025.
  • Support for Canadian small businesses — RBC’s suite of services is designed to help business owners thrive, and their extensive resources – including the Small Business Navigator – provide guidance and insights to help owners choose the right path for their business. Last year’s Go Canada United and Points for Canada initiatives worked hard to encourage Canadians to shop local.
  • Empowerment of Female Entrepreneurs — The RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur Awards and their investment in platforms like SheEO encourage, inspire and remove barriers, enabling more women to pursue and realize their entrepreneurial dreams.
  • McGill Personal Finance Essentials — RBC’s collaboration with McGill and The Globe and Mail has enabled almost 200,000 Canadians to date, to gain fundamental financial literacy skills for free.
  • A Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion — Initiatives to end systemic racism, achieve a more accessible Canada and support reconciliation set an example for other organizations.
  • RBCxMusic — Their initiative First Up helps aspiring artists find an audience.
  • RBC Training Ground — A talent identification and athlete funding program designed to find young athletes with Olympic potential and provide them with the resources they need to achieve their podium dreams.

And what’s next for Chatter that Matters? I will keep sharing stories of ordinary people who do extraordinary things, bringing to life lessons that inspire us. I will continue letting my audience know the brave, bold and beautiful things RBC is doing, even though they want the spotlight shone elsewhere. After all, when this much is being done behind the scenes to support Canada, Canadians and planet earth, it’s worth lifting the curtain, even for a little while.

I hope you tune in to Chatter That Matters. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Tony Chapman

Tony Chapman is the host and creator of Chatter That Matters, which includes a National Radio Show, podcasts, videos and posts.