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Maker of glass pulpits named bank's young entrepreneur of the year.

Maker of glass pulpits named bank's young entrepreneur of the year

Robert Jackson of Elliot Lake is the Federal Business Development Bank's Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Northern Ontario.

The annual award goes to entrepreneurs aged 29 or younger. This year the Federal Business Development Bank liked Jackson's innovative approach to, and the sheer success of, his work with flat glass.

Five-sided, glass church pulpits catapulted Jackson to success.

"As far as I know, " Jackson says, "nobody else makes them."

Then he laughs: "There are 500,000 churches in the United States."

While not every American church wants one of his pulpits, Jackson has sold several to churches in Canada and the U.S. Enquiries have also come from as far away as Africa and New Zealand.

The Glass Shop is catching up with the demand. Jackson started slowly, producing only 14 in three years, but five pulpits will be built this fall for a total of 50 in 1990, he says.

He hopes to produce 200 next year.

Glass is a difficult product to work with because, unlike wood, it cannot be cut easily, Jackson says.

In May the business purchased a $55,000, straight-line edging/mitering machine from France. This will increase productivity because it allows the glass to be treated like wood in the crafting phase, he says.

The Glass Shop started as a full-service shop providing services from automobile windshield repair to building store front windows.

The store's specialty changed, however, when Jackson's minister at the Grace Christian Centre wanted a glass pulpit for the church.

Since then, Jackson has been glowing with enthusiasm and plans for the company.

Raised and educated in Haliburton, Jackson quit school after Grade 11. He was an honors student and two credits short of his Grade 12 diploma, but he could not be bothered to spend another year in school.

Against the wishes of his parents, he moved to Elliot Lake, and then roamed for nine years.

"I was single and everything fit into my car," he recalls.

Northern Ontario, however, continued to beckon Jackson as did the family tradition in glass-making.

His older brothers owned one of the fist glass companies in Elliot Lake. Working with them every summer during high school, he learned the flat glass trade "from the ground up."

In 1987 he was back in Elliot Lake. This time with his younger brother, Scott, in tow, he bought what was then a failing glass shop. In two years, sales soared from $100,000 to $500,000.

The Jackson brothers have also collaborated on a contemporary Christian music album with their six-piece band, Daystar.

That is their entire social life because most of Robert Jackson's time is spent at work.

"If we can be in some key places (with pulpits), then we'll really get some recognition," he says.
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Title Annotation:Robert Jackson; Glass Shop; Federal Business Development Bank
Author:Young, Laura E.
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Nov 1, 1990
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