Aaron Salus

Avenue Calgary’s 2014 Top 40 Under 40.

Photograph by Jared Sych

Age: 38

Job title: Founder and Chairman, Strut Creative; Director, Missing Children’s Society of Canada

Why he’s a 2014 Top 40:

Taking the company he founded at 24 from bedroom to boardroom, Aaron Salus has worked with clients like Shell, Canadian Geographic and MuchMusic, and developed CodeSearch, a technology to help find missing children.

At an age where the average boy’s relationship with ballistics is limited to a firecracker or a slingshot, 12-year-old Aaron Salus was running a business teaching peers to build and launch rockets. He’s been aiming beyond his reach as an entrepreneur ever since.

Founding Strut Creative at the age of 24, Salus, who describes himself as an introvert “to the degree where it’s painful to pick up the telephone,” spent the early years of the company “beavering away” in a friend’s bedroom, preferring to solve problems on his own rather than ask for help. In the 14 years since, he has grown his communications agency from a two-person project into an award-winning company with 25 employees, multi-million-dollar annual revenues and a client roster that includes  ShellCanadian Geographic and MuchMusic.

More than two years ago, Strut was approached by the Missing Children’s Society’s (MCS) Amanda Pick for help on a project that would use her corporate partners’ vast network of personnel to help find abducted children. Strut had worked with Pick prior to her joining MCS and knew both she and the project merited his time. 

“We knew they didn’t have the money, and we also knew that this was going to make a big difference,” says Salus. “It was more that someone had to do it, and it was going to be us because we had the right skills and the right people.”

What Strut came up with was CodeSearch, a digital platform that allows law enforcement to contact people and organizations in real time when a child goes missing. Users download an app and fill out a profile with their information and relevant skills, with identifying information known only to MCS; this collected data is then displayed on a map, allowing police to push information out to the right people at the right time.

CodeSearch is now used by Calgary law enforcement and is being introduced in cities across Canada, including Toronto and Vancouver.

The program has already proved its worth; in March 2013, it helped police locate and return a high-risk missing 14-year-old girl to her home and charge the 31-year-old offender she had run away with.  

Usually, Strut projects are judged based on analytics for success, such as increased traffic or number of products sold. “This time, the result of the project was a kid ended up back with her family,” says Salus “There really isn’t a word to describe that. It’s pretty amazing.” –Andrew Guilbert

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