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Founder & CEO, Indigo Books & Music Inc.

By: Carolyn Patricia Grisold

Heather Reisman founded Indigo Books & Music Inc. in 1996 to fill a consumer need. She wanted to create a book-lover’s cultural department store. With big box stores booming, Indigo became the go-to place for literary goods, eventually acquiring rival Chapters in 2001 to form the largest book retailer in Canada.

And now, 10 years later, Reisman is facing another challenge – the digital era.

Adapting her bookstores to the current consumer need has Reisman reinstalling those inviting armchairs, working on an expanded role for Starbucks, enhancing Indigo’s housewares offerings and embracing this new demand for digital books.

The wave of change that washed through music and video retailing has hit book sellers, forcing them to redefine their business model. In response, Indigo is working together with Kobo, in which it has a majority stake, to provide consumers with a growing selection of e-reader tomes. As well as excelling in her role as CEO and chair of Indigo Books & Music Inc., Reisman is chair of the Board at Kobo Inc.

Prior to founding Indigo, Heather Reisman’s career focused on strategic change at Paradigm Consulting, and growth and development at Cott Corporation. She is also a former governor of McGill University and the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Over the span of her career she has served on numerous boards, including currently for Mount Sinai Hospital, Bilderberg, Onex Corporation and Right to Play, and has sat on many other North American boards, including J. Crew, Magna International, Williams-Sonoma, and Rogers Communications Inc. She has also been recently named editor-at-large of Huffington Post Canada.

Reisman not only rigorously keeps up with the times in business. She is also passionate about giving back.

In 2006 she founded the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, of which she is chair, with a mission to enrich libraries in under-resourced public schools.

Reisman was named 2011 Distinguished Retailer of the Year by the Retail Council of Canada, among being honoured with over a dozen awards for her successes. These accolades have included Toronto Life’s Women Who Make a Difference Award in 1993, Chatelaine’s Women of Influence in 1996 and 2001, the co-recipient of the Canadian Youth Business Foundation Lifetime Entrepreneurial Achievement Award in 2005, and the Retail Council of Canada’s Distinguished Retailer of the Year this past June. Reisman has also been granted three honourary doctorate degrees from Mount Allison, Wilfried Laurier and Ryerson universities.

With awards like these – and the way she has shaped Indigo from a bookstore into an empire – Reisman is quite rightly a woman of influence, and has been one for some time.

In the midst of all her innovations and transformations, Heather Reisman is returning to her initial intention of offering consumers what they want to able to keep up with their changing preferences. Not just as a bookseller, but as a retailer in general. And her influence over what’s coming next stretches far off the page.