Even in the sweltering Toronto summer heat, Evan Kosiner is still thinking about ice-skating.
The 25-year-old self-described “serial entrepreneur” has been giving back in a big way. His non-profit organization, Skate to Great, aims at giving a pair of skates to every child in Canada who wants them, regardless of their ability or economic barriers.
“[Skate to Great is] a great way of giving back and the most rewarding part about the charity is being able to see the look on the kids’ faces when they’re skating for the first time,” Kosiner said.
The idea for the charity came when Kosiner had a conversation with a friend who figure skates competitively. Six months after that conversation and many hours of networking, meetings, and negotiations later, Skate to Great launched in March 2012 at Toronto City Hall. That first event collected hundreds of pairs of skates, which were later provided to skating programs.
The charity now has sustainable partnerships with large multinational corporations, and donates the skates to programs run by Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada, Courage Canada, and HEROs Hockey. About 2,500 pairs of skates have been collected and distributed to date.
Kosiner has been getting noticed for his entrepreneurial skills and maturity since even before he founded his first company at age 13.
Once dubbed the “Doogie Howser of the entertainment industry,” Kosiner has since expanded his business interests from media to include music, business cards and corporate consulting, with even more diverse projects currently in development.
Kosiner said his serial entrepreneurship is like scaling a mountain.
“You climb a mountain to go to the top, but you don’t spend the time at the top, you then work your way back down. So that’s kind of what it’s like as an entrepreneur. You’re really doing it for the journey on the way up, not really to be at the top and hang out there for the rest of your life.”
Kosiner said he knows that having a solid team of supporters is the best way to achieve ambitious goals.
Figure skater Piper Gilles is one of those teammates. American-born Gilles and her Canadian skating partner Paul Poirier volunteer their time at Skate to Great events.
“Paul and I really liked what [Kosiner’s] charity was doing for the skating community and for all the kids that were getting skates,” she said about her decision to stay involved with Skate to Great long-term.
One year after the debut of Skate to Great, Kosiner was recognized for his work and received the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award in March.
“That’s just Evan. He has a good heart,” said his mother, Nancy Kosiner. “Evan is the footwork and the brains and the energy behind Skate to Great. What it’s become grew out of Evan’s commitment and his energy and excitement about it.
“When he’s passionate about something, he puts his all into it, and he’s passionate about Skate to Great,” she added.
Kosiner credits much of his success to those who have taken risks on him, both in his businesses and with the charity.
“For me, it’s all about who takes a risk on you; who takes a chance on you when it’s definitely questionable if the results are going to be great or not, and having those results pan out,” he said.
Kosiner credits the founder of the Four Seasons Hotels, Isadore Sharp, as one person who took a major chance on him this year by being the first guest on his Rogers TV show, Toronto Speaks: Entrepreneurship.
Many others, however, say they see Kosiner as the one who is paying his momentum forward and taking risks, creating a positive impact on countless kids’ lives with the creation of Skate to Great.
“Knowing that no matter if it’s a physical disability, a mental disability, [or if] they come from a rough background, that they are kids on the ice and they’re giving high-fives and having a great time when they’re on there,” he said. “So that’s what makes it all worthwhile.”