50 Coffees #47: Mike Apsey


47 weeks ago I read a theory that going for 50 coffees with people you’ve never met is the entrepreneur’s equivalent to the theory that doing anything for 10,000 hours will make you an expert on it. While I get the idea, 50 coffees is far easier than practicing something for ten years, and while I’m far from lazy I decided to set out on a fairly simple mission: over 50 weeks I’m inviting 50 interesting Vancouverites, most of whom I have never met before, to go for coffee. I’m using this as an exercise in networking for myself and for V.I.A. while also using it as a platform to introduce you to some people who are doing really cool stuff in the city you live in.

Name: Mike Apsey
Occupation: President
Beverage: Desert Hills Chardonnay

Meet Mike Apsey. Former Deputy Minister of the BC Ministry of Forests and Range from 1978-1984, President & CEO of the Council of Forest Industries from 1984-1998, and a founding member of Pacific Salmon Foundation, serving on its board for 17 years. A long-time advocate for Canada’s forests he’s currently the President of the BC Forest Service’s Centenary Society (also known as the BCFS100) which was created to celebrate the 100th anniversary of BC’s forest service. In his words, the project is meant to “provide the public with an account and historical overview of the last 100 years of Forest Service in the Province of British Columbia. The history of the BC Forest Service is varied, encompassing a range of goals and objectives, all designed to safeguard, promote and sustain the many facets of Forest Management throughout our province.”.

In this series I’ve been proactively reaching out to people and inviting them to join me for coffee, but Mike and I happened to sit down and chat over liquids purely by chance; we happened to be seated at the same table at the Pacific Salmon Foundation’s fundraiser and a conversation ensued.

Mike sipped on a chardonnay while I indulged in (you guessed it) a coffee, and after chatting about salmon conservation for a few minutes it somehow became apparent that we both grew up in the same small town of Vernon, BC. We spent time talking about our histories in the town – his being a few decades before mine – and I couldn’t believe that he actually knew my grandparents and an uncle or two of mine back in the day. Not only did he have some cool stories to tell but I also got to pick his brain about some urban legends that I had heard as a child. One concerned an army training camp that had been turned into a public park on Kalamalka Lake. My parents had always warned me to be careful to watch out for mortar bombs (SERIOUSLY!) because they did live ammunition training there previously and since the space was turned into a park kids had discovered old bombs and had been blown up when they touched them (!!!). I always thought they were feeding me a line so I wouldn’t go too far off the trail there so I asked Mike if the kids blowing up story was true. He told me that he had known some kids who had suffered a cruel fate after stumbling across abandoned mortars. Meaning it wasn’t an urban legend my parents had told me, it was true!

I had an incredible time with Mike in this 50 Coffees meeting that happened purely by chance, and a few days later a copy of his autobiography, What’s All This Got To Do With The Price Of 2x4s?, arrived in the mail with a nice note from him. I’m just digging into the book now and it has some more stories from his history in our shared hometown, as well as some keen insights into the history of the Forest Service in our province.

In his bio on the BCFS 100 web site he says “I encourage you to explore this website and to become an active participant by submitting your own stories, photos, biographies and nominations for collections.”. I’m also encouraging you to do that today. GO HERE!

And stay tuned for more 50 Coffees!