Meet Bridget Russo, CMO of a design brand with a bigger purpose

Bridget Russo joined Shinola in 2012, relocating from her native Tribeca to the company’s Detroit headquarters in 2014. As Chief Marketing Officer she oversees global marketing and communications, building the American design brand through storytelling and well-made products. By bringing skilled manufacturing jobs back to Detroit, Shinola is also having a positive social impact on the community — a key element of their brand. It’s a perfect fit for Bridget, who made a name for herself in the fashion industry by pursuing projects she found ethically compelling, including the establishment of her own consulting firm focused on fashion ventures with a philanthropic angle.

 


 

My first job ever was… At a store in New York,  which is now closed, called FAO Schwarz. I worked in the doll department.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… Somehow impressing my mother, who is not impressed, ever.

 

My boldest move to date was… Moving to Detroit.

 

I surprise people when I tell them… That I moved to Detroit.

 

The biggest marketing challenge companies face today is… Considering how much information is getting thrown at consumers on a minute-to-minute basis, the ability to break through and capture their attention is increasingly more challenging.

 

My best marketing advice for companies today is… Be authentic. Go with your gut. Stay true to the brand.

 

My biggest setback was… Leaving a job that I really loved too quickly for silly reasons. I would have eventually left, but I probably had a good five years to go before I did that. I did it in haste. I was turning 30 and thought I needed to grow up.

 

Work/life balance is… Never checking your emails after work, unless absolutely necessary. Keep two separate phones: one personal, one work.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… Take time to congratulate even the little successes of your team.

 

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I am socially awkward and shy.

 

I stay inspired by… The people I work with everyday.

 

The future excites me because… I have hope, despite everything that’s going on in the world today. Human beings are human beings, and we’ll continue to do great things.  

 

 

See more from Shinola.

 

 

The Dolce Vita of Debbie Travis

Debbie Travis

Ever since the launch of Debbie Travis’ Painted House in 1995, she’s been inspiring people in Canada (and beyond) to do a little more with their home decor. Now, Debbie’s inviting women to join her at the Tuscan villa she transformed from top to bottom – but that’s not nearly all she has on her plate.

 

By Hailey Eisen

 


 

“I’m currently living on a plane,” Debbie Travis says with a laugh while marvelling at the new phone system she’s just managed to set up to overcome the Wi-Fi challenges she’s been having in rural Tuscany. A brilliant multi-tasker, Debbie quite obviously thrives when she’s got a lot on the go.

 

Her personal brand is synonymous with home decor and DIY, and includes six television series – the latest being last year’s Oprah Winfrey Network documentary series La Dolce Debbie – nine books and a weekly syndicated newspaper column read by 6 million people. With the 2016 launch of the Debbie Travis Home Collection at Sears, an approachable fine-wine collection with Pillitteri Estates in Niagara and the recent transformation of a 100-acre medieval property in Tuscany into a stunning villa for women’s retreats (where she serves as the host), to say Debbie’s life is busy would be an understatement.

 

“What people often don’t know about me is that the most important hat I wear is that of TV producer,” she says. She and her husband, Hans Rosenstein, work together in the production and distribution business at their company Whalley Abbey Media (WAM), through which they produce all of Debbie’s shows plus other lifestyle series. They also produce a number of crime shows, including the hit American docudrama Real Detective. “I was trained in the U.K. in television production, and that’s what I love doing the most,” says Travis.

 

Born in England, Debbie met Hans at a television festival in Cannes. A few weeks later, they were married and living in his native Montreal. Because she didn’t speak French, she had trouble getting a job in TV in Quebec, so she started a painting business, bringing paint finishes that were hot in the U.K. to Canada and painting offices, restaurants and homes from Montreal to New York. From there her first television show, the award-winning Debbie Travis’ Painted House, was born in 1995 and helped pave the way for other decorating and home-improvement shows that followed.

 

“When it comes to starting any new venture,” Debbie says, “you need to have the confidence to just do it. And that’s not easy.” While she understands how a lack of confidence can hold a person back, Debbie says she finds the adventurousness of being an entrepreneur addictive, and that has fuelled all of her projects.

 

“Women are very good at talking and sharing – but there are always people who will bring you to your knees with a comment or negativity,” she says. “It takes a huge skill to get past that – to believe in yourself. You know I can’t even make a bed, and here I am running a hotel.”

 

“When it comes to starting any new venture, you need to have the confidence to just do it. And that’s not easy.”

 

When the idea of spending more time in Italy – one of her favourite vacation destinations – presented itself, Debbie didn’t stop at finding a holiday home she could share with her husband and two grown sons. “The more time we spent in Tuscany, the more incredible I felt,” she says. “I don’t know if it was the views or the people or the way of life, but I started to get this idea of, What if I shared it? If I feel like this when I’m here, then why not create a place where women could come, from all over the world, and be with other like-minded women?”

 

So in 2009, when she was giving a speech in Vancouver and the presenter asked, “What’s next?” she only half surprised herself with her response: “Well, I’m inviting women to a villa in Italy.”

 

“I’m still not sure where that came from,” she says, laughing. The retreat, which had been a spark of a great idea, didn’t yet have a physical location or a solid plan in place. But the next day, it was sold out.

 

In her true “just do it” fashion, Debbie found herself on a plane flying to London to get her best friend of 30 years on board. The two women, who maintain a great working partnership, rented a villa that summer and ran two successful retreats. They continued that way with one retreat per year until they found the perfect property, a 13th-century watchtower and farmhouse, and invested a huge amount of personal time and money into transforming it top to bottom.

 

While it’s still winter in Canada when Debbie Travis and I speak, there’s nothing cold or dismal about the place she’s working from. Nestled among organic olive groves, lavender fields, vineyards and orchards, Debbie’s luxurious Tuscan villa is not only her office away from the office, but a wildly popular retreat destination that’s now booking up years in advance.

 

Debbie isn’t just the creative force behind the operation, she’s actually involved in every single retreat, working alongside a life coach, yoga instructor, holistic medicine practitioner, chef and other experts that she’s hand-picked. “Some women arrive and are surprised that I’m here participating in the retreat,” she says. “Well, yeah, I’m here. I’m taking toilet paper rolls into every room. I love it.”

 

Her weeklong retreats that run from May to October provide women the opportunity to get away, by themselves or with friends, for a uniquely rewarding journey that involves a lot of talking, eating and drinking, self-care, hiking, biking, swimming, dancing and the forming of invaluable connections. Lifelong friendships and even business partnership have been forged among women who’ve arrived knowing nothing about one another. As Debbie explains it, “Whether they’re at a crossroads in their lives, are about to turn the page of a new chapter or are perfectly content right where they are – every woman leaves happier, revitalized and more empowered.”

 

Thanks to the huge success of the Girls’ Getaway retreats, they’ve opened up spots for a couples’ retreat as well as for private groups and corporations. Currently, Debbie is spending about eight months of the year in Tuscany – once you see the photos of her villa you’ll know why – but she’s back and forth a lot between Italy, the U.K. and Canada.

 

“What’s amazing about technology is that you can really work from anywhere,” she says. “I can sit outside with a glass of wine from my vineyard and this fabulous view and I can be working in my PJs.” It’s from this perch that Debbie will likely spend a good part of this year working on her next book, which is still under wraps, as well as adding to her Sears collection and expanding her wine offering. Of course, she’ll also make time to hand-pick olives from her grove in order to create her annual batch of organic olive oil and stuff bags with lavender (also freshly harvested on-site) to use within the villa.

 

“People ask me when they come here, ‘Why are you doing this?’” she says. “And it’s true, I could make more money selling mugs with my name on them in a department store. But this makes me a better person, and a happier person. And we all have to be able to find that – to be open to that.”

#MOMBOSS: Meet Trina Boos, Whose Business Growth Plan Included Having Three Kids

Over the past few weeks, Hafsa Pathan has chatted with several working moms in various fields to get a feel for how they balance, well, everything. Their home life, their personal life, their social life and their work life. Oh, and the lives of their little ones (and sometimes significant other), seeing as the mother figure is responsible for so much in many families (ever wondered why they call it the motherboard?). One of her first meetings was with the ever-talented Trina Boos, president of Boost Agents, a now 6-year-old recruitment agency in Toronto that specializes in matching professionals with careers in digital, advertising, creative and marketing.

 

By Hafsa Pathan


 

Trina has accomplished a lot in her career: she has started two successful businesses; she worked in one of Canada’s largest and most successful advertising agencies; she helped to grow a startup digital agency that was then sold to Arlene Dickinson’s Venture Communications; and she also sold customer experience, insights and strategy to companies across Canada. In addition to this, she’s a mother of three kids aged 6, 2, and 7 months.  

 

How does she do it all?

 

Almost six years ago, Trina started Boost Agents in her living room while she was still breastfeeding her first child. She has memories of planning a business, sticky notes covering the living room wall, meeting with the bank, accountant, designer and web developer, and launching her business in the industry, all with a baby in tow. Two more babies later, she’s seen Boost Agents take shape in ways she never thought possible.

 

Her growth plan for the company and herself included having three children by 2016. This equated to having a child almost every two years, which meant that the business needed to either grow or remain stable while she left to nurse each one. 

 

Trina knew that she would never be able to take a full 12-month maternity leave as is typical for many mothers in Canada. She was able to take almost four months off after both her second and third children, but any more than that would have left her team back in the office in need. That said, she set up a temporary nursery in her office, breastfed during meetings with staff, and pumped between interviews to juggle things as the nurturer of a newborn baby, and the leader of a growing business.

 

While many entrepreneurs understood the challenges of balancing family and work, many others in the community did not. A fellow mother asked her, “Don’t you want to be with your baby?” Another looked her up and down on a Friday afternoon and asked, “Why are you so dressed up? What?! You’re going back to work ALREADY!?”

 

The outward criticism was a little surprising, but Trina had known that not everyone would relate to her experience. What she does by juggling her two major priorities works for her, but it’s not something she would wish for most people. “It’s not for the faint of heart,” she says. “Juggling is just part of the job. If I were to listen to what everyone thinks about how I handle my life, I would be crippled… I wouldn’t do a thing. It’s important to stay strong, and stay focused on your goals, what’s best for you, your kids, your business and your family as a whole.”

 

She was nursing her eldest when she signed legal papers during the launch of her business. She’s given speeches to groups of entrepreneurs with a newborn in her arms. And she’s brought each child in to meet the team of eleven employees currently employed at Boost Agents. She jokes that she’s got little recruiters in training.

 

“If I were to listen to what everyone thinks about how I handle my life, I would be crippled… I wouldn’t do a thing. It’s important to stay strong, and stay focused on your goals, what’s best for you, your kids, your business and your family as a whole.”

 

“It’s been incredible to see the business develop and reach these key milestones, and to see that with each milestone I’ve managed to have another baby while the business continues to grow.”

 

After baby number two, Trina realized that in order to focus on Boost’s management and growth initiatives, she needed to remove herself from the day-to-day tasks of her business and hire a team that could support the client management and business development aspects. Doing so has helped tremendously, and given her employees more confidence. She says that “it’s been exceptional to see how empowered they feel.”

 

She had hoped to take six months off after her third child, but three months in decided that the business needed her back part-time. She set benchmarks and guidelines for the team and for herself, so as to be more disciplined around when she would work and when she would be more hands-off. It’s changed the whole vibe of her maternity leave, providing some structure to her time away, and as a result she’s really been enjoying her time with her newborn, while also being available to the team.

 

One of the most important things Trina told me was that she designed her life with one key word in mind: simplicity. She’s only responsible for the things she wants to be responsible for and those are her kids, her husband, and her business. That’s it. When she and her husband aren’t working, they’re spending quality time with their kids, rather than dealing with household chores.  “I was forever exhausted when I came home from work, and I dreaded doing the laundry, cooking and cleaning, so it made perfect sense to bring in some extra help.”

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Trina hired her mother to clean, cook, and maintain the house. Her mom also plays a part in raising the kids (alongside Trina and her husband, of course). It’s popular strategy — I spoke with a handful of other moms who say that they, too, have hired a cleaning service or grocery delivery service to get these mundane tasks done.

 

Trina also believes that a working mom is invaluable to her children. She describes her 6-year-old daughter like this:

 

“She’s fierce, she’s independent, she’s a strong little woman. She has opinions about life that she’s willing to stand her ground on. She’s not a fighter — she’s a very cooperative person — but she has principles. She’s only ever known a life where her father is as equally as involved as her mom — in fact, he sometimes handles 70% of the household stuff. She has a progressive way of looking at her world; she hears a lot about business and its challenges, and I can attribute that to her having a working mom.”

 

Another key takeaway from my chat with Trina: a happy parent leads to happy kids. Kids want to see their parents happy, and this in turn makes them happy, whether they realize it or not. Trina also stresses that it’s so important for new moms to know that their children are adaptable.

 

People often talk about how children feed off the negative energy of their parents, and how running a business can feed into that. But by structuring the time she devotes to her family and her business, Trina brings her positive energy to both, and has been able to see both her family and her business thrive.

 

 

Hafsa Pathan is a PR Account Executive at Eighty-Eight, and also the founder of Honey Lemon Events, a party styling and planning business in Toronto. She spends her time trying to balance motherhood, her career and entrepreneurship. She even manages to take a shower daily. (Ok — every other day.)

Meet Jean Blacklock, Founder of Prairie Girl Bakery

Jean Blacklock

Jean Blacklock grew up in Saskatchewan, where she graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with degrees in Commerce and in Law. She then became a partner at a major law firm in Calgary and later joined BMO Financial Group as an executive in wealth management. Her last role at BMO was managing wealth services for BMO Harris Private Banking and as COO of BMO Trust Company. What’s she up to today? Running one of Toronto’s most popular cupcakeries, Prairie Girl Bakery.


My first job ever was as a freelance caterer when I was a teenager. I made crazy dishes like duck breast in puff pastry. My Mom and sister were my unpaid staff whom I barked at a lot.

 

Growing up in the prairies was…wonderful. Most people in the Prairies are straightforward, friendly and hardworking and those are traits I try to emulate.

 

I decided to leave the corporate world because…I could do more interesting things outside the bank than if I stayed. Also 2009 was the height of the financial crisis, so executives were given incentive to leave.

 

My proudest accomplishment is…the family Andrew and I have raised. Right now our 4 young adult children are ages 18 to 23 and each of them is a good solid person making his or her way in the world. I like them as well as love them!

 

My boldest move to date was…opening a cupcake business. But I always had a good feeling about it…

 

I surprise people when I tell them…I’ll become a registered psychotherapist next spring. Telling people this often catches them off-guard. Then they change the subject!

 

My best advice for someone looking to start their own business is…stop talking about it and do something. There are so many things to read about, develop, explore and just do to even decide if it is viable. Simply talking about ideas doesn’t get the momentum going, and in order to open and run a business, creating and sustaining momentum is essential.

 

My best advice from a mentor was…don’t have a partner. This advice came from my Dad, also an entrepreneur. I know some people thrive in partnerships but for me, owning a business can offer such independence so I feel, why weigh myself down?

 

My biggest setback was…opening the 3rd store and realizing the revenue wasn’t nearly what I had forecast for that location.

 

I overcame it by…working hard on building the local customer base and using that location’s kitchen for a new division, Cakes by Prairie Girl.

 

Related: Interested in becoming an entrepreneur? Learn more about the 3 signs that say you should take the plunge.

 

I balance work and life by…frequently reviewing my priorities and just focusing on those things. Also, I’m well organized and this helps me not to spin my tires, wasting time in frantic mode. For example, if I know that in 3 weeks I want to give someone a present, I’ll add buying it to my list now. That old saying “Don’t put off till tomorrow what can be done today” is golden.

 

Being an entrepreneur, a mom, and a wife is…really fun. I love having such variety in my life. Also I don’t have time to meddle in my kids’ lives and I’m sure they appreciate that!

 

My diverse experience helps me…run my business in a professional way. If I didn’t have my law and corporate experience I don’t think I would be so inclined to try to create a work environment where people are treated with respect. It makes me sad to read about small businesses that try to get away with not paying severance or overtime, for example.

 

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know…I’m a slave to my cat Betsy. She is mostly indifferent to me but I love seeing her little grey and white face when I come home every day.

 

Creativity is an important part of my job because…to stay relevant a business needs to keep evolving and growing. When we opened 5 years ago I never imagined having the big menu we have now but it’s important to stay fresh in the customers’ eyes through products, website updates, social media and so on.

 

I stay inspired by…my husband. Andrew has a big job but he always has a sense of humour and keeps work in total perspective. And he is so encouraging of everything I do.

 

The future excites me because…I have many more things I want to do and I feel that I’m just hitting my stride now.

 

 

A new view of “having it all”

Mary Anne Turcke

“In the workplace, we need to be asking, ‘How do we get better at helping everyone spend time the way they need to when their loved ones are in need?’ It ought not to be a women’s issue.”

By Shelley White


When it comes to women’s work-life balance, Mary Ann Turcke wants to change the conversation.

It shouldn’t be about “women having it all,” it should be about “families having it all,” says Mary Ann, president of Bell Media and one of Canada’s most influential leaders.

“Balance for me is my whole family’s balance,” she says. “No matter who you define as your family, everybody [in that family] has to ‘have it all.’ And in the workplace, we need to be asking, ‘How do we get better at helping everyone spend time the way they need to when their loved ones are in need?’ It ought not to be a women’s issue.”

As the head of a multimedia giant, Mary Ann is an example of just how high women can rise in the workplace. An engineer by trade, she began her career as a district manager for the Ministry of Transportation in her hometown of Kingston, Ontario, working in highway operations. A move to Toronto and a series of management positions in the private sector followed, until she joined Bell Canada in 2005. At Bell, Mary Ann took on executive positions in customer experience, operations, and sales before landing the top job in 2015.

It has been an enviable career path, but Mary Ann vividly remembers when her two children were young and juggling work and home life was a challenge.

“My husband and I both struggled. I remember many days, waking up and one kid is sick and they have to go to the doctor and us shooting ‘rock-paper-scissors’ to see who will take them,” she recalls. “It was tough, very tough, but we somehow managed.”

“Balance for me is my whole family’s balance,” she says. “No matter who you define as your family, everybody [in that family] has to ‘have it all.’”

By working together and being open about what they needed, Mary Ann says she and her husband were able to balance those work-life challenges. She also wasn’t afraid to “make the ask” at work when it came to important moments with her kids.

“I managed to find the pockets, where if I really wanted to do something, whether it was to go to school to watch a volleyball game or driving home from school with my kids, I made sure I did it,” she says. “I didn’t do it all the time, but I made sure I got to do those things and I worked for people who were very, very supportive of that.”

As her children have grown, Mary Ann says that openness has continued to be a vital part of keeping their family balance in check.

“I have a 21-year-old and a 16-year-old — two girls — and when they want me at something, they are open about that,” she says. “When we need each other, we make the time to be with one another.”

Mary Ann says that her children have also come to recognize that they enjoy certain benefits of having top executives for parents (her husband is Gordon Mcilquham, senior vice-president at Shaftsbury Films Inc.) and understand the trade-offs they’ve all made.

“For my kids, the trade-off was, if your health card is expired, you figure out how to take the subway down to Service Ontario and fix it. If you forgot your lunch at home, don’t do it again tomorrow, you’re only going to be hungry,” says Mary Ann. “We’ve had help and caregivers which obviously eases things on the home front, but I think they’ve ended up being quite independent and confident in what they want to pursue.”

When her family spends time together, they make it count, says Mary Ann. One of the special activities they enjoy together is sailing.

“We get on a sailboat, we depart the whole world and we have a great old time,” she says. “We’ve done everything from pretty intensive racing as a family to cruising in the Caribbean. There’s a lot of time on the boat where you’re not in connectivity with the world, so it’s fantastic.”

She has this advice for families trying to “have it all”: Find your own balance.

“What people want in their own heart in terms of spending more time at home or at work, it’s different,” she says. “One family’s balance isn’t another’s.”

 

We’ve partnered with Ricoh in engaging our community in important discussions about the advancement of women, focusing on “having it all.” How you define it, what factors enable you to achieve it, and how you have worked differently to meet your goals. Ricoh is a global technology company specializing in office imaging equipment, production print solutions, document management systems and IT services.

 

Why Attitude Matters

As Vice President, External Communication at Loblaw & Shoppers Drug Mart, Tammy knows a good attitudecoupled with skill, opportunity, and luckcan go a long way toward career success. That’s why we’ve partnered with SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU.—Putting Women’s Health Firstto bring you the lessons Tammy has learned through her business experience, plus plenty more tips and advice that will help you achieve health and balance in mind, body, and spirit. Because you’ll be at your best, in your personal life and your career, when you LOVE.YOU.


By Tammy Smitham

When I first began my career in the world of communications I set some aggressive goals for myself. I wanted to be a director by the age of 30 and be a vice president by the age of 40. I have always had a competitive drive, somewhat nurtured by my parents. I distinctly remember bringing home a test in elementary school and discussing it over the dinner table. The conversation consisted of me telling my parents I got an A, and instead of offering applause and compliments their response was: “Why wasn’t that an A+?”

What I didn’t know when I started my first job, was that my competitiveness and drive would only get me so far. I was progressing well and being awarded projects of increasing complexity, but also doing my fair share of the grunt work. Most people working in public relations know that you must put in your time lugging boxes and stuffing press kits—that’s part of the job and I embraced it. However, there was a day when my commitment to my job was challenged.

The company I worked for was under pressure to cut costs and a decision was made to lay off the receptionists on select floors. I happened to overhear a conversation in which it was suggested that I could take on some of the receptionist’s duties like photocopying and making coffee. I was enraged, thinking these tasks were not part of my job description. In fact, I didn’t even know how to make coffee. I marched into my boss’ office and pleaded my case. I thought she would wholeheartedly support me, but to my surprise she said: “Tammy, life isn’t fair.”

And you know what? She was right. It isn’t. That day I learned to accept the fact that as hard as I might try, some things were still out of my control. I could learn to make coffee (although I am still an amateur) but what I really needed to do was change my attitude. I believe skills can be taught, but attitude cannot.

My own experience in business has taught me that career advancement depends on a combination of factors: skill, attitude, luck, and opportunity. While you can control some of these, others will always be beyond your control.

Skill

Communications and public relations is an evolving field. It is important to continue to grow your skills by taking on new projects, sharing best practices with others in the industry, staying on top of trends, and working to improve your writing. Learning, in most fields, is ongoing and should be embraced.

Attitude

What I love about the team of people I work with is that they all care deeply about our work, our company, and their jobs. They come to work every day wanting to make an impact and a difference. Their attitude is palpable and contributes to the overall dynamic of the group. There have been times when I have made a decision to promote someone, not based on their skill set but on their attitude. This, above all else, can make or break a career.

Luck

I am not suggesting you throw your fate to the wind and hope that luck will bring you the job you’ve always wanted. But, you can position yourself to be ready for luck by having the skills and attitude that will make others want to give you a chance. When I first received a call from a recruiter for a position at Shoppers Drug Mart, I eagerly interviewed for the role. I didn’t get the position though. While disappointed, I figured it just wasn’t meant to be. Luckily, six months later I received another call from the same recruiter. She explained that there had been a change in management and they were open to interviewing me again. This time, I got the position and ended up working for a manager who helped guide me toward the next stage of my career.

Opportunity

When it comes your way, take it. That may mean you overload yourself at some points in your career, but you will be surprised by the capacity you actually have to manage it all. The outcome will not only build your portfolio, but it will also signal to others that you are open to the challenge.

I did achieve those career goals that I set for myself so many years ago. But they weren’t accomplished as a result of my drive alone. I have been supported, trusted, and mentored by some of the best people throughout my career. And, I’ve always tried to maintain the right attitude to achieve success. After all, sometimes you just have to make the coffee!

 

SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU. – Putting Women’s Health First – is our commitment to helping you stay focused on being your best in body, mind and spirit. It shares the expertise of our partners and connects you with others in support of local, community-based Women’s Health initiatives across Canada. Find one that moves you and join our journey to strengthen Women’s Health across Canada! If your charitable group has a program to help women in your community lead stronger and healthier lives, we may be able to help.

Living #InSync: Dina Pugliese on overcoming her inner critic and making her dream career a reality

After ten years as Co-Host of Breakfast Television, Dina Pugliese is accustomed to the spotlightbut it wasn’t always that way. We’ve partnered with Activia to share Dina’s story of how her experiences taught her to listen to her inner critic, trust her instincts, and find the balance that allows her to achieve her best.

By Hailey Eisen | Photography by Genevieve Charbonneau

 

Dina Pugliese spends her mornings in front of the camera, entertaining and informing Torontonians as they begin their days. Despite the rigid early morning schedule she keeps in order to work as Co-Host of City TV’s Breakfast Television (BT) Toronto, it seems as though she’s permanently in a good mood. And that’s not just an act. Unabashedly quirky, Dina remains committed to being her true self, or what she refers to as “that crazy Italian girl,” both on and off camera.

“In the age of YouTube, what’s resonating with people is authenticity and integrity, being yourself rather than the polished, perfect, robotic version of a person we’re used to seeing on TV,” she says. “What you see is what you get with us.” And that’s the way it always been, since Dina assumed the role of BT co-host in 2006. She writes all her own Tweets and tells her own jokes—and admits she’s no longer afraid of what others think of her. “Love it or leave it, I’m not going to pretend to be something I’m not.”

But back in her 20s, Dina’s inner critic plagued her. An A+ student who graduated first from York and then from Humber College’s broadcast journalism program, Dina spent the early part of her career “doing her time” working behind the scenes, monitoring police scanners, making coffee, working the shifts no one wanted, and trying to build up the courage to apply for an on-air position. Like many women (according to a worldwide study conducted on behalf of Danone Activia, a full 62 per cent of women), she felt that her inner critic was holding her back more than most other things in her personal life.

When she finally did put together a demo tape and asked the news director at Global Television, her employer at the time, to take a look, he brushed her aside saying something along the lines of, “don’t get your hopes up, just keep doing what you’re doing.”

While she remembers feeling as though she might throw in the towel before really giving it a shot, she was lucky to have some incredible female role models rooting for her success. “I took the advice of Beverly Thomson and Mary Ito, both of whom I was working with at the time, and sent out my demo tape, which I happened to think was pretty terrible.”

Within three days she had two job offers.

Thankfully for viewers across the GTA who now rely on Dina’s uplifting spirit and natural on-air talent to kick start the day, the young reporter was able to work constructively with her inner critic, allowing it to guide her to her full potential. She pushed beyond her comfort zone in her first on-air job as entertainment reporter, writer, and producer of Toronto 1’s Morning Show, Toronto Today. “The truth is, if you work hard enough and really put yourself out there, you’ll get rewarded. I’m so grateful to be doing what I’m doing today,” she says.

“Love it or leave it, I’m not going to pretend to be something I’m not.”

It’s this gratitude that guides Dina in her personal and professional life. “At 4 a.m. when I’m exhausted and people are Tweeting me to say good morning and wishing me a good show—that’s when I say to myself ‘let’s take on this day, let’s find the good, find the joy, and find the positive moments.’”

Feeling good about herself and overcoming her inner critic has allowed Dina’s positivity to flourish in all that she does. But working crazy hours and spending much of her life in the public eye means Dina needs to take time to find her balance, look after her own well-being and to connect with her husband, whose work hours don’t coincide with her own. “People used to say to me, ‘you have to get yourself out there and attend and host more events’,” she recalls. “Suddenly I found myself feeling burnt out. I didn’t want to disappoint people, but I had nothing left for me.”

Finding that balance was key to Dina’s success, and it has allowed her to maintain the same hectic schedule for 10 years as of this October. When she gets that gut feeling that she needs to rejuvenate, she says she goes into her “bubble” with her husband, spending a day or even a whole weekend in their PJs, watching movies, working on their backyard, or just doing nothing together. “It’s important that we make time for us to reconnect, just the two of us, and then schedule in other time to be with our families, our parents, nieces and nephews, and siblings.”

Family is extremely important to Dina, and a big part of the reason she’s never taken a job in the US (though she’s had the opportunity). “We didn’t try to have children until I was much older, and by then my body told me it was too late,” she recalls. “But I don’t have any regrets. Everything happens for a reason, and I’m so blessed to have so many things to be grateful for.”

 

Want to know more of Dina’s story? Watch her personal video as part of Activia’s Women InSync series, and see her in person on October 27, as she hosts an evening with Rocket Scientist and Explorer Natalie Panek. For even more inspiration, follow @activia_canada on Instagram and look out for the Live #InSync hashtag. You’ll see how exceptional women from across Canada are achieving that special state when body and mind are in harmony, and they are driven from within to achieve their full potential.

A Day in the Life with Cheryl Hickey

As the host of Entertainment Tonight Canada, Cheryl Hickey is not only a successful reporter and celebrity; she is also a mother of two, a budding entrepreneur, and a wife. But all of those roles didn’t grow overnight. Cheryl worked diligently and strategically to bring her career to where it is today, and that drive and determination has followed her into her role as mother and entrepreneur. So how does one elegantly juggle so many roles?

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Meet the Woman Championing Canada’s Most Ambitious Energy Program

Susannah Pierce, vice president of Shell Canada and external affairs director for LNG Canada, is currently leading Canada’s most ambitious energy program. Susannah has truly championed the energy sector – leading controversial projects with TransCanada and Shell, and has been ranked No.2 in the Fortune Global 500 list of the world’s largest companies. Read on to learn more about this inspirational woman.

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Fives Minutes With the Newest Dragon on CBC’s Dragons Den

Currently Head of Marketing at Snap by Groupon, Michele is a serial entrepreneur with four successful businesses under her belt—and she just turned 29. She is the co-founder of Buytopia.ca and Snapsaves (recently acquired by America’s couponing giant, Groupon). You can see her in action as the newest (and youngest) dragon in CBC’s hit TV show, Dragon’s Den.

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22 lessons from successful female entrepreneurs

These 22 women were selected from over 4,000 nominees to become finalists for the 2014 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards. From construction to retail, communications to industrial services, they manage more than 2,300 employees and over $190 million in gross profit. Here they are with their biggest lessons learned.

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How healthy are you?

Dr. Brown is a noted family physician and international and national speaker on health prevention, wellness, continuing medical education and women’s health. She is a member of numerous advisory bodies for both the provincial and federal government, helping make decisions regarding healthcare of Canadians. She was awarded, Family Physician of the Year, 2012 by the Ontario College of Family Physicians.

Profile: www.linkedin.com/in/drvivienbrown


The Benefits of having a Personal Health Risk Assessment

Don’t we all want to know how we’re doing from a health point of view and if we’re on the right track? That was a question posed centuries ago by the learned Hippocrates-the father of modern medicine who focused on diet and exercise to forecast the health of his patients.  Fast forward a few centuries later and we now have a more formal process, called the Personal Health Risk Assessment.

The process refined over the years is a four-part questionnaire used to evaluate the health risks and quality of life of patients.

The questions are based on lifestyle including what level and form of exercise is practiced, demographics such as age, sex, personal and family medical history, and physiological data such as your weight, height, blood pressure and cholesterol. Another important part of the process is your level of willingness to change your behaviour in order to improve your health.

A personal health risk assessment can have enormous benefits, whether the assessment is for an individual or used as part of an employee health and wellness program.

It provides a snapshot of your current health. Enables individuals to monitor their health status overtime. Having concrete information helps prepare you for a change in your lifestyle.  The information is there, before you, and makes it clear in black and white what needs to change.

If your company is engaged in a health prevention program –it can help determine on an aggregate basis how healthy and productive the company work population is AND what health related programs they might include such as lunch and learns, flu shot clinics, reviewing the company cafeteria menu to ensure healthy food choices are available, and introducing a health management program.

Hippocrates was imprisoned for 20 years for believing and arguing that disease was not a punishment inflicted by the gods, but rather the product of environmental factors, diet, and living habits.

The same holds true today.
You can make changes to your health—a Personal health risk assessment is one of those ways.

The more information you have—both the good and the challenges—the better able you are to make informed decisions about what you can do keep or improve your well-being.

 

Dr. Vivien Brown, MDCM, CCFP, FCFP, NCMP
Vice-President, Medical Affairs, Medisys Health Group