Leading The PR & Marketing World
“Accuracy, integrity and a little bit of attitude.”
You’ve pivoted from a 30-year career in journalism to marketing communications and launching a mask company during the pandemic. Are you happy reinventing yourself?
“I’m not sure it’s about reinventing myself, but rather deploying skills in different combinations when there is an opportunity to do so. I’ve spent the past decade working in the cannabis industry and with companies doing marketing communications by drilling down to their brand values. In a very real way, three decades working around the world as a journalist prepared me to ask the right questions as a marcom consultant and then to frame a brand’s stories in the most powerful way possible. The thing that took me by surprise was how much I love using data analytics – of all the things I can do, math isn’t one of them!”
Tell us about your latest company, AboutFace Masks.
“Well, four days into the lockdown in March 2020, I was filled with anxiety as clients emailed one by one to say they were halting projects. I figured I had to do something positive, so I started sewing facemasks for seniors. Before long, I was completely overwhelmed with people wanting to purchase, so I became the first in the Ottawa market selling masks. I researched mask filter material, sourced it, hired all the underemployed seamstresses I could and scaled up. I brought on fellow DW alumni, Lissa Constantine, to help. We do ecommerce through www.aboutface-masks.com and are supplying several organizations like Algonquin College, Ontario Medical Supply, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and Aginty Inc. I called it AboutFace because that’s what society was being asked to do.”
What was the motivation to start a business in a crisis?
“When I was a kid in the 70s, there were still people alive to talk about the Great Depression and World War II, like my grandparents. I’d hear these incredible stories of individuals making something from nothing during a world crisis. I always loved the ingenuity of that one person who saw an opportunity and just ran with it. So that was a part of it. But I did this as a social enterprise because, like World War II, we were being asked to behave in a certain way for a specific outcome. I see it as a powerful moment in our collective history during this ‘Great Pause’ where we can do the right things for the right reasons. Starting a female-led kitchen table enterprise that supports local right down to the manufacturing process just seemed natural.”
What are you working on for 2021?
“I have a book being released in February 2021 called Billion Dollar Startup: The True Story of How a Couple of 29-Year-Olds Turned $35,000 into a Billion Dollar Cannabis Company (ECW Press). It’s the story of Canada’s momentous road to legalization framed through HEXO Corp’s history. I was there from the beginning, as their first publicist and editorial director for six years. I’ve written it as an intimate look at the life of a startup and the ferocious drive it takes to succeed. I wrote everything down, so in many ways, the book was written in real time, as the story unfolded.”
What advice would you offer to the next generation of women looking to succeed?
“Every obstacle is an opportunity, whether it’s a personal setback or a business crisis. Open your mind to what the universe is trying to impart. It’s usually right.”
COMING SOON – Julie’s Distinctive Women Interview
COMING SOON – Julie’s Distinctive Women Webinar