Mary Aitken is a business entrepreneur who has started a number of successful enterprises. In her latest venture, Mary founded and operates a private women’s club, Verity, in downtown Toronto which includes a public restaurant, spa and hotel.
Mary started her career in the securities business in London, UK. Returning to Toronto, Mary founded her first venture, Pronto Toronto, a courier service which she expanded from Toronto to Ottawa and Montreal before selling it four years later and returning to the securities business. In 1986, she formed Renaissance Securities Inc., a registered securities dealer and investment counsel. As an investment banker, Mary raised equity funds for a broad range of North American companies, specializing in the natural resource sector. During that time, she also acquired and managed two residential income properties comprising 25 rental apartments in South Kensington, London.
Mary co-founded AMR Technologies Inc. in 1992. Listed on the TSX with production facilities in China and Thailand, AMR became the world’s largest producer of advanced rare earth materials used by the global automotive and electronics industries. From a start-up, AMR was sold in 2011 for $1.3 billion. By then, it employed over 1,500 people around the world. During that time, Mary also served on the Board of a Singapore company, Asia Media which was one of the first companies in China to be awarded a cable TV license.
Verity, which began 13 years ago, is a Toronto community initiative. The inspiration was to form a business network in Toronto where a diverse group of women could build relationships and connections to further their careers and find solutions to any number of challenges they face professionally and personally. Mary strongly believed that as women are being given increasing business responsibilities, they need to build and strengthen their networks in order to be more effective professionally, and to lead broader, more fulfilling lives.
Mary conceived of Verity as being three spaces: a physical space to meet and work, a social and commercial space to build relationships and connections, and a third space between work and home to recharge, relax and take care of yourself.
Verity is located in downtown Toronto. Currently it has approximately 800 Members. Aimed at time-challenged women, it includes a Members’ lounge, meeting rooms, top-rated restaurant GEORGE, a fitness centre and ozonated pool as well as an in-house.
florist. It also includes a women’s spa Sweetgrass, ranked one of the top 25 spas in Canada, and a boutique hotel, The Ivy at Verity, all under one roof in its 57,000 square foot premises.
In 2008, Mary won the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, and in 2011, she won the World of Difference 100 Award from the International Alliance of Women in Washington, DC.