Arlene Dickinson (born October 8, 1956) is a South African Canadian businesswoman, investor, author, and television personality. She is the CEO of Venture Communications and is represented by CBC Television as a self-made multi-millionaire. Dickinson joined the cast of the CBC business reality show Dragons' Den during its second season in 2007 and departed in the ninth season in 2015, but will return for the 12th season in 2017. She was selected to perform on the series after she won numerous awards including Calgary Business Owner of the Year, PROFIT magazine's Top 100 Women Business Owners, the Pinnacle Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence and Canada's Most Powerful Women Top 100. She is also an entrepreneur on another CBC business reality show, The Big Decision.
Born in Germiston, South Africa and raised in Canada, Dickinson graduated from high school in Calgary, Alberta. She married at age 19 and had four children. She divorced at 31. Today, she is single and a grandmother of five.
Politically, Dickinson identifies as non-partisan. When her former Dragons' Den co-star Kevin O'Leary entered the leadership race for the Conservative Party of Canada, she responded by saying that he "has this notion that greed is good." This prompted speculation that Dickinson was planning to run for office for the Liberal Party of Canada, which she denied. Afterwards, she continued to criticize O'Leary for referring to the national debt as the deficit.
Dickinson joined Venture Communications in 1988, taking sole ownership in 1998. During her tenure, she has taken the company from a local firm into one of Canada's largest independent marketing and communications firms, with offices in Calgary and Toronto. Apart from her business accomplishments, Dickinson is also a public speaker represented by several speakers bureaus.
In October 2012, she launched Arlene Dickinson Enterprises to fund and target Canada's entrepreneurs. Businesses she has invested in include Urban Cultivator, The Carbon Farmers and Balzac's Coffee Roasters. Under the ADE umbrella, she also launched YouInc.com, a social website designed to celebrate the "entrepreneurial lifestyle." Future plans for the multiplatform entity include an upcoming magazine, radio shows, apps and television formats.
Over the years, Dickinson has served on boards including Ad Rodeo, Kids Help Phone, and the Calgary Municipal Lands Corporation. She sits on the advisory committee of the Stratford Institute at the University of Waterloo, the Leadership Council of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics as well as the editorial advisory board of Marketing Magazine. In October 2016, Dickinson was appointed to the Board of Directors of one of Canada's largest licensed medical marijuana producers, Aphria.
She published her first book, Persuasion, in 2011 in hardcover as an autobiography. On the bestseller list for many weeks, the book is now available also in paperback and electronic formats. Her second book, All In, subtitled "You, Your Business, Your Life", was released in 2013.
Arlene Dickinson starred as a Dragon investor on Dragons' Den starting in 2007 for the second season. She also starred in her own spinoff The Big Decision. In 2015, Dickinson announced that she was leaving Dragons' Den after the ninth season. She will return for season 12 in 2017.
Dickinson guest starred as a past version of herself on the Canadian TV series Murdoch Mysteries, in 2012, in the episode called "Invention Convention", as a possible investor. She has also appeared as a judge on "Recipe to Riches" in the 2014 season.
Dickinson has been recognized with several honours and awards including: Global Television Woman of Vision, the Calgary Business Owner of the Year Award, PROFIT and Chatelaine's TOP 100 Women Business Owners, the Pinnacle Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence and has been inducted into Canada's Most Powerful Women Top 100 Hall of Fame. In 2011 she received the WIFTS (Women in Film and Television Showcase) Lifetime Achievement Award. She is an honorary degree recipient from Mount Saint Vincent University and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. She is also an honorary captain of the Royal Canadian Navy. Her company Venture Communications was noted as one of the 2001 winners on the list of Canada's Best Managed Companies sponsored by Deloitte, CIBC, National Post, Queen's School of Business and MacKay CEO Forums. In June 2016, Dickinson received an honorary degree from Concordia University.
Dickinson is the national spokesperson for Breakfast Clubs of Canada to help raise awareness of the importance of children having a nutritious start to the day. In 2013, she joined on as a champion of the Give a Day campaign, in support of Dignitas International and the Stephen Lewis Foundation.