WHY HE'S A TOP 40: He's an independent folk-rock musician who parlayed a computer hobby into an internationally recognized web development company.
KEY TO HIS SUCCESS: He loves to work: "I'll have days that I get to work at 8, work till 6 and then do the studio till 2 in the morning, and get up and do it again. You're tired at the end of the week but you've done the work you love."
It's always nice to meet a musician who found a second career to fall back on — or is it the other way around?
"I'd like to think I'm an entrepreneur with an arts career to fall back on," says Paul Bellows, an award-winning local folk-rock singer who sounds — and looks — like the Elvis Costello of the Prairies. In 1992, Bellows was one of the first musicians to use the Internet for music promotion, and he has released three albums that have hit college top-10 lists across North America.
Born in Edmonton but raised in various Canadian cities, Bellows came back to Edmonton 14 years ago and used a spare room in his brother's university student housing as a base while he toured Canada. He fell in love with the city's arts scene and decided to stay.
Developing websites was a sideline for Bellows when he started Yellow Pencil in 1996. It was four years later, when he partnered with his brother Dave, that he went full-time with the company, specializing in making the Internet accessible to people with disabilities. The company has become one of Edmonton's leading web design companies and runs Edmonton.ca.
Bellows' company was responsible for streamlining the University of Alberta's website and is behind the Government of Alberta's main website and the way all the other government departments connect with it. Yellow Pencil also works with the Edmonton Police Service, Alberta Health Services and the Alberta Research Council. One of the company's newest clients is Wharton School, Donald Trump's alma mater. The company also contributes to Edmonton's arts community by providing free web design for groups like the Shumka Dancers.
In addition to those other successes, Bellows has added "movie producer" to his resumé. He has produced several new media works with Telefilm Canada and in 2009 formed the film company First Line Media with two partners. The company's first feature, The Pharmacist, also received Telefilm funding and premiered at this year's Edmonton International Film Festival, where it snagged the People's Choice Award. His band, Smashula, appears in the film — and so it comes full circle.
"It's great to be both pragmatic and creative ... I'm pretty good at speaking both languages," Bellows says. "I don't do one of those brilliantly. I'm just the guy in the middle making it happen."