As the president and founder of rock-it promotions and an innovator within the industry, Debra is a seasoned professional with an inspiring entrepreneurial spirit. She started her company out of her parents’ spare bedroom, and now, 17 years later, rock-it is a leading Canadian lifestyle PR firm that resides in the heart of downtown Toronto.
My first job ever was… a cashier at Shopper’s Drug Mart when I was 14.
I decided to be an entrepreneur because…I knew there was a gap to fill in the Canadian market when I began and at 26 years old, I had nothing to lose!
My proudest accomplishment was… having my two kids. Sounds cliché, but nothing has brought me more fulfillment, laughter or fills my bucket like they do.
My boldest move to date was… opening up my first bricks and mortar shop in 2009 when there was a recession going on. We were five people and now, seven years later, we are close to 30. A psychic told me this would all happen but I didn’t believe her.
I surprise people when I tell them… I used to be a performance artist and read poetry live.
My best advice to people starting out in business is… to grow slowly. Be choosy about who you represent. Always make sure you have a signed contract. Also, some of my worst mistakes have been my best learning opportunities. Don’t try to hide from them, but ra ther take it as a growing opportunity. Harder than it sounds!
My best advice from a mentor was… my dad who always taught me how to save money and not spend everything you have. It’s important to have savings when you run a business because you never know when there may be a rough month or two and you need to be able to survive that without getting into serious debt or laying off staff.
My biggest setback was… doubling in size so quickly. It took me a while to figure out how to manage a larger team, manage more costs and add more clients. Once I found the right advisors, added more systems and processes, and hired some stellar senior staff to help me, the rest fell into place.
I overcame it by… working with a business consultant three years ago. Best investment I’ve made in myself and the business.
I balance work and life by… practising yoga, not working on the weekends (mostly!) and getaways with my husband. There is no special recipe and no true balance when you are the boss, but these things help me find stability and a bit of calmness within a rather chaotic life.
Leading a team is… trusting your gut and trying to be the best example you can be. It’s also making sure you choose a team that you enjoy being around. As the saying goes, you are the company you keep. Surround yourself with people who reflect who you want to be and how you want to feel. Energies are contagious.
One thing I’ve learned from my clients, big or small, is… that everybody is replaceable, no matter what the position, so never stop showing your enthusiasm, good attitude and always work a little harder than everybody else. The combination of those traits will always make somebody think twice before they look in a different direction.
If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that I’m scared of centipedes, can’t cook for the life of me, have four tattoos, never go to bed without washing my face and brushing my teeth and am a little OCD and a lot rock and roll.
Creativity plays an important role in my job because… I need to always be thinking of new strategies for my clients and engaging story ideas for the media. My husband is in advertising and a director, my oldest and best friend is an actor/producer, my neighbour is a photographer – I’m constantly surrounded by creative inspiration.
I stay inspired by… many different things – music, food, travel, fashion – but I find I’m often most inspired by my clients. I have some pretty incredible fellow entrepreneurs and CEOs that I get to spend time with and their passion for what they do always motivates me or helps spark a new idea. On the days I have had no time to eat or sleep, or see my family, I know there is somebody else who is in the exact same boat and we’re doing it because we love what we do.
The future excites me because… I never imagined I’d be where I am today so I am hopeful the future continues to pleasantly surprise me!