WestJet, the little airline that could, has become a major player in the North American airline industry.

The successful enterprise began as the dream of Clive Beddoe, a Calgary businessman who spent a portion of his spare time as a recreational pilot.

In the early 1990’s, Beddoe identified an untapped market in the Canadian airline industry following deregulation and several successful American upstarts.

“We could look in on that and see what had happened but recognizing that nothing had happened in Canada and thought, wow, this is an incredible opportunity,” said Beddoe.

Beddoe and his four business partners outlined a plan and, in 1996, WestJet took off with three rented planes servicing select locations in western Canada.

In early 2015, WestJet’s fleet consists of more than 100 planes, including a brand new Boeing 737-800. The company will soon take delivery of its first wide-bodied jets and additional flight routes are planned.

Tyson Matheson, one of WestJet’s original 225 employees, recalls the excitement of the early days.

“We were just very inspired from this charismatic gentleman who had such a simple yet powerful message,” said Matheson, WestJet’s vice-president of inflight and culture. “We were in it to do whatever we could back in the day. No one had a single hat to wear, everyone pitched in just to get the airline off the ground.”

When Beddoe and his partners began staffing their new airline they used profit sharing and stock options to entice potential employees.

“We were able to attract a lot of people on that basis,” explains Beddoe. “Of course their hearts and souls were very much in it because they had a significant stake.”

WestJet’s success also benefits the community. Each year, the company gives away thousands of flight tickets to charities to assist with fundraising.

For his successful pursuit of his airline dreams and his contributions to the community, Clive Beddoe is this week’s Inspiring Albertan.