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Biography & Autobiography Business

No Bootstraps When You're Barefoot

My rise from a Jamaican plantation shack to the boardrooms of Bay Street

by (author) Wes Hall

Random House of Canada
Initial publish date
Oct 2022
Business, Discrimination & Race Relations, Entrepreneurship
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2022
    List Price

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From one of Canada's most successful business leaders, the founder of the BlackNorth Initiative and the newest and first Black Dragon in the Dragon's Den comes a rags-to-riches story that also carries a profound message of hope and change.

Wes Hall spent his early childhood in a zinc-roofed shack, one of several children supported by his grandmother. That was paradise compared to the two years he lived with his verbally abusive and violent mother; at thirteen, his mother threw him out, and he had to live by his wits for the next three years. At sixteen, Wes came to Canada, sponsored by a father he'd only seen a few times as a child, and by the time he was eighteen, he was out of his father's house, once more on his own. Yet Wes Hall went on to become a major entrepreneur, business leader, philanthropist, and change-maker, working his way up from a humble position in a law firm mailroom by way of his intelligence, his curiosity, and his ability to see opportunities that other people don't.

When people expected his thick Jamaican accent, lack of money and education, not to mention the colour of his skin, to shut down his future, Wes was not to be stopped. He is still overturning expectations to this day. Well aware of racism and injustice, his lack of privilege and the other roadblocks to his success, Wes has always believed that he can walk along any cliff edge without falling. His book teases out and shows how he fostered that resolve in himself, exploring his childhood and the milestone successes and failures of his career in order to share not only how he stopped himself from falling, but survived and thrived, and then dedicated himself to bringing his family and his community along with him. 

Now, with the founding of the BlackNorth Initiative, Wes takes aim at ending systemic anti-Black racism. It's a huge goal, but one he's tackling with heart, soul, smarts, and every connection he's made in an extraordinary career that's taken him to the centre of the Canadian establishment. Throughout his life he's resisted sinking into despair or getting lost in anger; now he wants to tell truth to power and pave a path forward.

About the author

Contributor Notes

WES HALL, the executive chairman and founder of Kingsdale Advisors, is one of North America’s most influential powerbrokers and Canada’s preeminent leader in shareholder advisory services. Hall also founded KSS HoldCo, a private equity company mostly supporting entrepreneurs who are Black, Indigenous, or people of colour. He has many other business interests, including hospitality, real estate, financial services, construction, advisory services, and consumer products. An instructor at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, he teaches Black Entrepreneurship & Leadership, a first-of-its-kind course in North America. The founder of the anti-Black racism initiative, BlackNorth, he is also one of the investors on the hit TV series Dragon’s Den. His podcast, Between Us with Wes Hall, features conversations on systemic racism with leaders of colour.

Editorial Reviews

Advance Praise for No Bootstraps When You're Barefoot
“Wes Hall’s memoir is extraordinary: a rags-to-riches story that is also a powerful testament to the spirit that helped him overcome poverty, abuse and racism.  He has bared not just his feet, but his fears, his aspirations and struggles, showing us that to come from ‘nothing’ shouldn’t be a barrier, but to do ‘nothing’ to break down those walls is never okay.” —Arlene Dickinson
“I was gobsmacked by the pure, undistilled truth of Wes Hall’s No Bootstraps When You’re Barefoot. One of my favourite expressions is “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Wes Hall is not a boat at all. He is the rising tide.” —Ben Mulroney
“Wes Hall gives form and insight to an otherwise invisible man’s legacy. Invisible to those partially responsible for rendering him unworthy, undeserved and unseen, Wes emerges as a cultural beacon. The story of Jamaican success in the diaspora is familiar, but here we see it through a unique lens: the lens of someone who defied all odds to become wildly successful in a foreign country, in a way that nobody has before him. His book is another of Wes’s achievements that should be celebrated and shared across the globe.” —Kardinal Offishall
“It’s said that many successful people get a head start by being born on third base. As a child, Wes Hall didn’t even have a ticket to the stands, yet he’s achieved beyond his wildest dreams. His life story is an inspiration for us all, and especially for anyone faced with adversity, poverty and racism.” —Kirstine Stewart