Meet Laura Murray, a classical ballet dancer turned communications entrepreneur

Recognizing the need for a marketing agency dedicated exclusively to the arts and culture sector, Laura Murray launched Laura Murray Public Relations in 2011. As the principal of what is now known as Murray Paterson Marketing Group (MPMG), Laura has built a company founded on the passion, creativity, and integrity that define the artistic process. A classical ballet dancer and journalist by training, she brings the strength and discipline of dance to her leadership with the insight and exactitude of reporting to her work. Now six-years-old, the agency has grown from a two-person operation to a 15-person company that has earned numerous accolades for its innovative, full-service marketing and communications. Most recently, Laura was recognized as a 2016 Business in Vancouver ‘Forty Under 40’ winner, acknowledging the city’s most successful entrepreneurs under the age of 40 and the ones to watch.





My first job ever was… A very brief stint at Dairy Queen.

I decided to be an entrepreneur because… Truthfully, I never set out to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to wake up every day and do meaningful work that I was extremely passionate about, which meant circling back to my first love: the arts. Following my gut and heart, I started my own full-service marketing company – at the time of launch, it was called Laura Murray Public Relations – dedicated exclusively to servicing the arts & creative industries.

Transitioning from the arts to the business world was… Exciting, nerve-wracking, and challenging, but also filled with endless opportunities. Walking away from a career in dance was a difficult decision, given this had been my dream from the time I was six years old; I definitely mourned the loss of my former life when transitioning from the studio into an office environment. But I still carry a piece of the studio with me, and attribute much of my professional success to the drive, discipline, and persistence ingrained in me as a dancer.

My proudest accomplishment is… Being selected as one of Business In Vancouver’s 2016 ‘Forty Under 40’ winners. It was a tremendous honour and incredible validation of the countless hours, the sleepless nights, and the tremendous emotional & physical investment made as an entrepreneur. Being recognized by BIV for work I feel privileged and grateful to do every day meant everything. I’m still pinching myself!

My boldest move to date was… Taking the risk to launch my company, with no business degree or formal education, while remaining steadfast in my vision to work exclusively within the arts (despite the critics).

I surprise people when I tell them… My business partner, Brian Paterson, is also one of my best friends. We couldn’t be more different – he’s the yin to my yang – but I believe our complementary partnership and distinct roles are what has made MPMG so special. We recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses, respectfully challenge one another, and collaboratively develop big, audacious goals.

My best advice to people starting out in business is… Love what you do. You are going to eat, sleep, and breathe your business 24/7; it will become your greatest obsession, your biggest stress, and your most fulfilling joy. Beyond that, draft a solid business plan, hire an excellent accountant, persist in the face of adversity, prepare to hustle, trust your gut, ask for help, and dream big.

My best advice from a mentor was… “Go for it. What do you have to lose?” Growth is only possible when you’re prepared to take risks and make real change. If something scares you, chances are it’s worth doing.


“Growth is only possible when you’re prepared to take risks and make real change.”


My biggest setback was… To be honest, I don’t believe in setbacks. A willingness to try and fail is the cornerstone of innovation, creativity, and success. Every challenge I have faced throughout this entrepreneurial journey has been an invaluable learning experience and ultimately helped me grow stronger and even more determined.

Work/Life Balance is… I’m still trying to figure that out! It truly is a balancing act, and as a result, it is never static. Setting clear boundaries and priorities while also remaining adaptable is a constant exercise in discernment.

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… Fun fact: my father, Hugh Murray, was Senior Vice President and Executive Producer at IMAX before entering retirement last year. He was a pioneer in 3D film technology, working on films such as Avatar and Harry Potter, as well as many of the films screened on the OMNIMAX at Science World.

I stay inspired by… The people in my life. My husband and family always inspire me, as do the dedicated, driven, insanely talented dream team at MPMG. I also draw inspiration from the artists whose visions we have the privilege of promoting across Canada.

The future excites me because… It’s full of endless possibilities. I believe that your dreams are only limited by your imagination and work ethic. In many ways, I feel like I’m just getting started.

My next step is… Discovering the answer to that is the fun part! In the not-too-distant future, I would love to create a foundation that focuses on supporting the needs of start-up artists and arts organizations. Creating an opportunity for burgeoning artists to excel is one way for me to give back to the community that has been instrumental to my success.

Meet Rosanne Hertogh, founder of Sololu

Rosanne Hertogh is the founder and designer of Sololu, a lifestyle brand that specializes in ethically made, seasonless women’s clothing. As an avid traveler, Rosanne’s mission is to inspire women to live life to the fullest and empower them to feel beautiful and confident while doing so, all while making ethical and sustainable clothing choices.





My first job ever was… Being a babysitter to my little cousins –I loved spending time with them. I was quite young, but simply loved it (and the fact that I was making a bit of money for the first time).


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I wanted to do what I am passionate about, make my own rules and create something I was missing.


My proudest accomplishment is… Receiving a government grant after putting in a lot of time and effort to get my business plan and presentation in front of a jury approved.


My boldest move to date was… Moving to Canada from the Netherlands.


I surprise people when I tell them… I auditioned for the Dutch versions of American Idol and X-Factor when I was 16.


Starting a business with an ethical purpose is… What a lot more entrepreneurs should do. I can’t imagine my clothing designs being made under terrible work conditions. I like to treat people the way I’d like to be treated and that’s why the choice for being ethical was simple. I find it important to have my clothing made in an ethical work environment and keep our planet, the people we share it with, the environment and our future generations in mind.


My best advice to people trying to get an idea off the ground is… Start working on it as soon as you can, before someone else does, and start small – you can always invest in it more (money and time wise) once things take off. Also, do your research of course. Nowadays there’s a ton of information available online and there may have been others who have done or launched something similar to your idea that could be helpful to you.


My best advice from a mentor was… Trust your instincts.


My biggest setback was… Finding a right manufacturer for my clothing collection who is ethical and shares the same values.


I overcame it by… Not giving up and keep searching for that right manufacturer.


Work/life balance is… A healthy combination between living life to the fullest and working on your passion.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I’ve lived in Italy for an internship.


I stay inspired by… Traveling – visiting new places and meeting new people.


The future excites me because… I have so many ideas for my business and lots of fun things coming up with family and friends.


My next step is… Creating and adding new clothing designs to Sololu’s current collection that contribute to a better everyday life, whether at home or abroad. I’d love to add more collections as well, such as swimwear and loungewear. My goal is to become as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible. It would be nice to become an inspiring go-to brand for women that travel on a regular basis or lead active lives.




Do you know a successful female entrepreneur who deserves recognition? Nominate her for the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards!

Meet Heather Barnabe, CEO of G(irls)20

Earlier this summer, Heather Barnabe was named CEO of our charity of choice, G(irls)20. With over a decade of experience in the not-for-profit sector, Heather knows what it means to manage complex, multi-country education interventions. Her career has thus far taken her across Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America for Right To Play, advocating for women’s and girl’s rights around the world. 





My first job ever was… Working at the movie theatre. We were allowed to eat popcorn on our break and after our shift. It was heaven.


I decided to start my own thing… I was fortunate to move into this role after Farah Mohamed, now the CEO at Malala Fund, started G(risl)20.


My education prepared me for where I am now by… Teaching me multidimensional thinking, reasoning and analyzing… the good, the bad and the ugly. It also opened me to the world of political, economic and feminist theories that have, in many ways, shaped my values and guided many of my career choices.


My proudest accomplishment is… Having worked around the globe, I’m proud of the incredible network of colleagues and friends that teach, motivate, inspire, amuse and push me to do awesome things. 


My boldest move to date was… I’d say bold is a character trait many of my friends would use to describe me. Whether that be my career choice, my statements, my values, the type of wine I bring to a dinner party, or my strong eyebrows: I’m no stranger to bold moves. In fact, jumping into this CEO position felt bold – it’s exhilarating and terrifying and incredibly rewarding, like any bold move.


I surprise people when I tell them… How many countries I’ve visited.


My best advice to people starting in their career is… Understand this is a long game and adjust accordingly. Find a mentor, have a strategy, seize opportunities when you can and, most importantly, speak up.


My best advice from my mentor was… Go into every meeting, job interview, sales pitch, whatever it is, with a few well-formulated, critical points you want to make and don’t leave until you’ve made them. It seems obvious and simple but it has helped me stay focused when articulation and brevity are key.


My biggest setback was… I once found myself heartbroken, with a job coming to an end and living in a city I didn’t love. When everyone else seemed to be moving farther ahead in their lives, I felt lost, stuck and heading in the wrong direction.


I overcame it by… Besides leaning heavily on family and friends (and wine), I focused entirely on my career. I worked hard, ended up in a job I loved and found a fulfilment in my career that I hadn’t had in my personal life. When I look back at that time now, I feel like I dodged a bullet as that life was never going to be a satisfying one for me.


Work/life balance is… Finding time for self-care and fun. Self-care for me means exercise and proper eating. Fun is Greg, friends, family, laughter and getting outside. The balance is easier when you have a job you love and you find joy in work.


If you google me, you still wouldn’t know… That I’m a Jeopardy fanatic and my bucket list consists of one thing: becoming a Jeopardy contestant.


I stay inspired by… Look what I do for a living! I’m inspired every day by the young women who come into the G(irls)20 family to grow their leadership skills and give back to their communities in the most amazing, innovative and meaningful ways.  


The future excites me because… When everyone else is complaining about millenials, I think they are the greatest generation. They care about the world around them, they are less prejudiced and they have innovative, creative minds that we already benefit from daily.


My next step is… To take G(irls)20 to the next level, growing existing programs, creating new programs and continue to raise awareness about the importance of access, resources and agency girls and young women need to reach their potential.



Like this? Meet Caroline Riseboro, a CEO leading another one of Canada’s leading organizations advocating for the advancement of women and girls.


Meet Marcia Woods, an entrepreneur bringing fresh produce to the masses

Despite the increased demand for farmers’ and micro-produced crops, logistical challenges have prevented farmers from entering the commercial market, forcing buyers to pay high prices for imported items. Marcia Woods is addressing that problem as Founder and CEO of FreshSpoke, a innovative new platform that is disrupting the traditional food distribution process by connecting producers and wholesale buyers using tools that streamline the process. It’s a timely solution that, having launched in late 2016, has already grown to 125 food producers, selling over 700 locally produced products. But Marcia’s career hasn’t always been defined by success. Learn her story. 





My first job ever was… Picking cucumbers as a young teenager. I was so excited about the job and had big ideas about all the money was going to make. It turns out I was the slowest cucumber picker ever and since you got paid by weight, my wages were dismal. Needless to say, I didn’t last long but did develop a deep appreciation for the stamina of farmers.


I decided to be an entrepreneur because… When the Internet was burgeoning in the mid 90’s, I was completely blown away – it was going to change everything and I wanted in. So, I gave up my day job and started a web design company. Becoming an entrepreneur was not a deliberate career path for me. Starting in my 20’s I always had a gig or two on the side of my day job so the idea of running a business wasn’t a foreign concept.


My proudest accomplishment is… The work we are doing right now at FreshSpoke to improve the health of our fragile food system. For too long distribution challenges have kept our local food producers out of the supply chain. We are changing all that with a marketplace platform that connects local food producers with wholesale buyers using an innovative shared delivery system that leverages the excess capacity that already exists in the distribution system.


My boldest move to date was… Making bold moves that have taken me out of my comfort zone on a daily basis. It’s hard to isolate just one.


I surprise people when I tell them… That I much prefer to be behind the scenes.


My best advice to people starting out in business is… Build stuff that matters! I teach entrepreneurship and occasionally judge pitch competitions. The idea that gets me excited isn’t the next great social network but rather disruptive products or technology that solve real problems for people or businesses, and one that your customer is willing to pay for.

Secondly, we’re all in love with our own ideas but it’s important to be coachable. Seek out potential customers, mentors and experts in your space and really listen to feedback and heed advice. It can be really tough but it saves precious time and resources in the long run.  


Pitching for venture capital is… Is serious business. You can never be too prepared.


“Seek out potential customers, mentors and experts in your space and really listen to feedback and heed advice. It can be really tough but it saves precious time and resources in the long run.”  


We can support more women entrepreneurs by… Continuing to to tell the stories of women in entrepreneurship.


My best advice from a mentor was… Brevity! Be as clear and concise in your pitch.


My biggest setback was… In 2012, the bottom completely dropped out of my life professionally and personally. My second start-up failed which set a series of unfortunate events in motion.


I overcame it by… Being resilient and resourceful by nature (and one bottle of scotch later), I moved to Barrie, Ontario and began to design my life in such a way that would afford me one more chance at launching a successful tech start-up around something that really mattered — that turned out to be local food.


Work/life balance is… Challenging when you’re in start-up mode but oh so necessary if you want to be at peak performance. We trick ourselves into thinking that working 18 hours a day is productive when in fact it has the opposite effect.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I am a political junky.


I stay inspired by… Listening to the stories of our customers, and local food producers. Their passion and determination against all odds is inspiring.


The future excites me because… I hear lots of negative commentary about the generation coming of age but I don’t share that mantra. I love the way millennials think, live and work. They are driving a positive economic and cultural shift in our workplaces and marketplaces.


My next step is… Looking forward to continuing to be involved in the local food movement and sustainable farming beyond FreshSpoke.



Do you know a successful female entrepreneur who deserves recognition? Nominate her for the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards!

The Real Issues Uncovered by #WomenNotObjects

By Stephania Varalli, Co-CEO, Women of Influence

If you haven’t seen the #WomenNotObjects video, which takes a critical look at the ads that show up when you Google “objectification of women,” take two minutes now.

Produced by New York advertising agency Badger & Winters, it has received over 1.5 million views so far, and plenty of media attention. Many articles praise it as a needed reminder to the advertising world that objectifying women is not okay.

It’s a position I personally agree with, so it’s no surprise that the video elicited from me a strong blend of anger and sadness. What I didn’t expect? How much the feelings would intensify after reading the accompanying YouTube comments.

The #WomenNotObjects video has received more likes than dislikes, and the roughly 1,500 people that have typed out their review represent the standard mix of supporters, detractors, and trolls. I found it easy to ignore misspelled rants about “Feminazis.” I found it difficult to read opinions that shed light on the cultural state that enables these ads to be seen as okay.

“If consenting adults signed up for this work, what is there to complain about exactly? You’re beautiful, and you get paid to be beautiful.”

“What a bland world you people want to live in. Men and women have fought for sexual freedom and expression. Now here you are wanting it all to be locked back up in your little box of things you don’t like.”

“I don’t think it promotes anything harmful, like it’s not showing an ad that promotes rape or anything. Am I missing something?”

All of these comments were posted by women, so ignore any inclination to consider this a male issue. Our culture needs change. Here’s what I think these commenters—and certainly many other men and women in our society—are missing:

There is a difference between being paid to be beautiful and being paid to be degraded. And there is a difference between sexy and objectified. I can see how a woman posing in lingerie for a lingerie ad makes sense, but for a truck? A burger? A men’s clothing line? Add in the suggestive copy and pose that portrays her as submissive, as property, as entertainment for men, as “open for business”—what message does that send? It’s not “women are beautiful,” it’s “our beauty is for you.” Even if the women in the ads are consenting adults getting paid for the work, the message doesn’t change. The problem isn’t their explicit consent, it’s the quiet consent of a society that enables this work to be produced.

No, this is not about sexual freedom. We’re not clutching our pearls because women should be portrayed as chaste. I’m not going to digress into the topic of how women’s sexuality is judged, but suffice it to say, these ads are not about championing their (or anyone’s) right to be sexual.


Yes, this is harmful, including to women’s career advancement efforts. Every individual that sees these ads, regardless of age, gender, education, or socioeconomic background, takes in the message that it’s okay to objectify women. What does all this have to do with career advancement? As the ending of the video points out: I am your co-worker, your manager, your CEO. When advertising supports an unconscious bias that women are submissive creatures designed for men’s pleasure, does it create difficulties for female leaders? Does it make it harder for women to image themselves in positions of leadership? Does it shape men’s views towards how a woman should behave?

Maybe not all women and all men, hopefully not all boys, girls, and adolescents, but is any number acceptable? No. We are #WomenNotObjects, and that’s the message we should be sending.








Heather Reisman: A Timeline of Reinvention

Her name is easily recognizable by the Canadian public from her popular “Heather’s Picks.” To the business world, Heather Reisman, Chair and CEO of Indigo Books, is not just the face of the company’s reading shortlists—she’s revolutionized the country’s bookselling industry. Heather has worked diligently and strategically, constantly evolving her entrepreneurial career, and her business, to ensure success. We’ve mapped out 45 years of her most impressive milestones.

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How Do You Want to Get Ahead?

I was in my fourth year of university when I first went to see a female CEO speak. I was among a crowd of ambitious women in a ballroom at a convention centre, and I was hooked. I wanted to get ahead. I wanted the opportunity to be a female CEO. I also wanted to have the option to be a mother too, and I didn’t want these two goals to be mutually exclusive.

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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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An Inspiring Case Study in the Rise of Social Enterprise and Social Entrepreneurship

What business entrepreneurs are to the economy, social entrepreneurs are to social change. Sharon Hapton, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers (“Soup Sisters,”) a Canadian not-for-profit charitable social enterprise that provides comfort to women, children and youth through the making, sharing and donating of soup, is definitively one of them.

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Becoming a Role Model For Success: Four Lessons To Put into Action

There is a new and positive mindset in women in business today and in their approach to their careers, and they are showing this genuineness in their style of leadership and management. Their attitudes and actions offer these 4 lessons women can begin practicing today!

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