Javier Salazar

Top 40 Under 40 2011

Photography 3Ten/Aaron Pedersen

Age: 36

Job Title: Vice President, Junior Achievement of Northern Alberta

Why He’s Top 40: He mentors tomorrow’s business leaders, propelling them to unprecedented success.

Key To Success: “One of the best decisions I’ve made in my life is to do what I like for a living. I get paid to do what I would do as a hobby.”

Growing up in crowded Mexico City, Javier Salazar experienced a lot of negative pressure.

In high school, in the early ’90s, he let his physics teacher discourage him from pursuing an ambitious science project only to later discover his idea – similar to a laser pointer – had become a commercial success. “Perhaps I could have been a billionaire,” he says, “but I’m not going to know because this person said ‘no’ and I accepted that.”

Seeking more positive influences, he joined the Mexico City national office of Junior Achievement where he found the encouragement he needed to launch three successful businesses in media, business training and photography.

He also discovered a gift and passion for mentoring others.

Leaving his life in Mexico behind along with his business interests, family and a supportive Junior Achievement community for Canada in 2007 took courage. But Salazar was drawn to Edmonton for the NAIT photography program.

Yet he couldn’t completely leave Junior Achievement behind. Shortly after graduating in 2009, he began working for Junior Achievement of Northern Alberta, taking charge of the chapter’s Company Program in which high school students conceive and launch their own businesses. “Now I’m the physics teacher,” he says. “They look to me to establish that level [and] the higher I set it, the higher they will aim.”

In 2010, the chapter’s top student company, a low-alcohol hand sanitizer, won Junior Achievement’s Canadian Company of the Year, and was second overall in North America for generating more than $16,000 in revenue ($7,500 of which went to charity). As well, share price of the chapter’s companies has risen from an average of $20 to $100.

“That’s where I find satisfaction,” he says. “I love seeing my kids get an award or even just compete at a level beyond their expectations.”

Meanwhile, Salazar has quietly built a successful photography business under his own name. Here, once again, he’s changing lives and empowering others, as coordinator for the local edition of Help-Portrait, a worldwide charitable event providing free portraits to low income citizens. “Having a good portrait of yourself is not going to save your life, but it can give a lot of hope,” he says, “and reveal your dignity a little.”

And, as Salazar knows, a little belief in yourself goes a long way.

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