I am a marketing, digital strategy and social media advisor with a few key outside interests that keep me busy throughout the year.
I have several pastimes, but there are six things that tend to take up most of my free time. These are Disney travel, backyard BBQ over hardwood heat, songwriting/guitar, snowboarding and photography.
You can find out more about each of these in the interests section of my site.
For Those Who Like to Read More, Here is The Detailed Version of My Background & Professional Experience
I was born and raised in Toronto and moved to Oakville in 1997. I live here now with my wife and daughter. Along the way I have lived in a few different cities, including Calgary, Vancouver, Hillsburgh (part of our living in the country experiment), London (Ontario) and Nice, France.
I graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a Bachelor of Arts Degree. After graduation I attended the L’Université de Nice, in Nice, France, where I lived for just over a year. After returning home to North America, I headed west and began my full-time career as a copywriter at an advertising agency in Vancouver. Ultimately I was promoted to Creative Director of the agency and while I did love the convenient after-work access to local mountains from downtown Vancouver, I returned home to Toronto after four years in Vancouver to pursue greater business opportunities.
A Marketing & Digital Strategy Expert
For several years after moving back to Toronto I held progressively senior roles with several major organizations in the areas of advertising, marketing, communications, media relations, sales support, business development and public relations. My interest in the investment industry led me to a position with the investment brokerage BMO Nesbitt Burns, where I joined as a Senior Manager in the Marketing Department. Over the course of 15 years with BMO I held progressively senior positions, including my role as the Director of Digital Strategy for BMO North America. In that position I managed an exceptional team of top performers and had offices in both Toronto and Chicago (I commuted to Chicago twice monthly for two years). This role provided the foundation for my digital strategy skills in particular, which I leverage effectively today both professionally and personally.
The Business Side
At one point in my career I was promoted to a senior role overseeing a business unit (out of the marketing area) in BMO Wealth Management. Here I was asked to create and lead the first ever Wealth Management Group at BMO. As Vice President and Managing Director of the Wealth Group, I was the executive in charge of a high-performing group of 25 professionals, including estate lawyers, tax professionals, certified financial planners, marketing staff and more.
In this group, I led and oversaw the curriculum development and implementation of a very successful advanced Wealth Advisory Training Program, which coached our top Wealth Advisors on how to position themselves as the central most trusted advisor for their clients. The goal was to bring added value to the client relationship and focus not on selling products, but on doing what was best for the client and their overall wealth management situation. From a career perspective this was amazing experience and I worked with an exceptional group of individuals who really came together as a high-performing team. During this time in my career I actively honed my approach to brand management, brand governance and the importance of developing and living a unique value proposition for the brand (and individuals as well). This is something that I incorporate today into everything that I do.
Beyond My Formal Career: from Celebrity Photographer to Indie Music Label Owner
I have always had the desire to try new ventures to satisfy my creative and entrepreneurial side. Running in parallel to my business career were my outside interests (or “hobbies that pay,” as I called them), which I threw myself into driven by my personal passions. My outside activities and entrepreneurial businesses have proven to be valuable to me because running these businesses allowed me to test out marketing, sales and digital strategy approaches and various client service models. Most all all, though, it was all about having fun doing things that I love to do.
Here are a few of my creative ventures over the years:
- Professional Photographer. I discovered my passion for photography in Nice, France where I bought my first SLR camera. As a self-taught photographer, I began with special-event coverage and celebrity photography in the South of France, including red carpet events at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival (I managed to get myself Media credentials as a foreign reporter). I continued this love for photography back home in Canada in both Vancouver and Toronto, where I had many photos published in major U.S. magazines of celebrities who were quite big at the time. These included people such as John Travolta, Michael J. Fox, Rob Lowe, Madonna and many more. As my skills grew, my photography then developed into studio work, travel photography and unique portraits. Today I still love taking photos, but now I do it just for fun or for posting online in support of my outside interests.
- Snowboard and Skateboard Magazine Publisher. Board sports have always been a passion of mine, so when I started snowboarding in the early ’90s I saw a void in the marketplace for a grassroots snowboard publication that focused on the local snowboard scene in Ontario. With that in mind I launched 360 Spins Magazine in 1995. I spent most of my free time taking photos, writing stories, covering local events, interviewing riders and skaters, analyzing the boarding business, selling ad space, creating the layout of each issue, getting it printed (and then delivered) and much more. It was a massive amount of work and I had to figure it all out as I went along. But I loved what I was doing. Over the course of two-and-a-half years, 360 Spins grew from 500 copies of a four-page photocopied leaflet (distributed in four Toronto area board shops) to a 40-page offset printed magazine with 15,000 copies of each issue distributed nationally in nearly 100 skate and snowboard shops across Canada (and into parts of the U.S.). I had writers, photographers and advertising sales personnel working for the magazine and I made a lot a great friends in the industry. 360 Spins was one of my most fun endeavors of all.
- Website Mogul: BoardPark.com. With the Internet starting to catch fire in the late ’90s, printing 360 Spins and having a full-time day job started to become too much (plus, I had just gotten married so I had a new distraction in life). So I decided to end the print publication of 360 Spins and move the magazine online to be reborn as BoardPark.com — a boardsports portal (this was pre-Google and directories were all the rage). For several years I put in a lot of work and had a lot of fun running BoardPark.com (the definitive online boardsports portal at the time). I ultimately sold BoardPark.com online around the year 2000 for just over US$15,000. Not a bad take for a hobby.
- Longboard Skateboard Designer and Woodworker. In the late ’90s, a good friend of mine named Michael Brooke (author of The Concrete Wave) and I really started to get into longboard skateboards. It was a natural progression to get that snowboarding feel in the off season. Longboards are everywhere nowadays, but back in the late ’90s it was a totally different environment. No one in Ontario really knew what they were — until I featured them in 360 Spins Magazine, that is. The younger skaters of the day made fun of longboard skateboards and swore they’d never be caught dead on one. Funny how much has changed since then as you now see longboards everywhere — including younger skaters cruising and ripping up the streets. Back in the late ’90s I started my own company building custom longboard skateboards, which I sold through my website and shipped all over North America. That company was called MJB Design and my top seller was a longboard deck called the Thruster, which I modelled after a surfboard that I owned at the time. This little venture got me really interested in woodworking and before I knew it I found myself with a full production shop building high-end custom furniture. A custom woodworking business was born. You can still find my custom woodwork creations in fine homes around Oakville and beyond.
- Landscape Designer. Speaking of Oakville, when we first moved here we bought a new house and were faced with a barren property to landscape. Naturally, my creative juices kicked into gear once again. Not satisfied with the prospect of plunking down any old mundane garden features, my passion for landscaping and gardening led me to pursue and graduate with a post-secondary Diploma in Landscape Design and Horticulture from Sheridan College in Oakville. After that, I ran a successful landscape design business here in Oakville for many years.
- Indie Music Label Owner. I first learned to play guitar when I was 14 after picking up my sister’s abandoned instrument and a “learn to play guitar” book that I found in our piano bench. I became self-taught pretty quickly and played in bands on an ongoing basis throughout high school, university and beyond — even in France and Vancouver. Early on I played a lot of hardcore music and punk, but that eventually expanded to include country (quite the range, I know). My passion for music led me to start Cedar Trail Music in the early 2000s. This was my indie music label, which was mainly a country label and had releases from up and coming musicians. Cedar Trail Music allowed me to leverage my marketing and digital strategy skills, along with my media relations, music production and songwriting skills (I am a SOCAN member). Sadly, the advent of digital downloads (aka Napster at the time and similar sites) led to the end of this venture as it was a tough grind to turn a profit in the music industry at the grassroots level when people essentially wanted music for free (this was well before models like Spotify came along). Still, Cedar Trail Music was another one of my favourite sideline businesses and I had a great time running the company.
- BBQ Pitmaster and Formally-Trained Chef. My passion for cooking began (and remains) firmly entrenched in the world of smoking meats and all kinds of true barbecue (low and slow cooking over hardwood heat). I have spent a lot of time in the Carolinas and Texas over the years, so I guess it’s no surprise that true BBQ (different than grilled foods, which many Canadians call barbecue) is in my blood. I honed my craft with some skilled southern pitmasters and eventually started helping other Canadian BBQ aficionados to learn how to do it right — low and slow. I am a certified barbecue judge with the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) in the U.S. and have a large outdoor kitchen here in Oakville featuring several smokers, a wood-fired brick oven and more. Wanting to learn more — and in an effort to round out my skills and experience — I enrolled in Culinary School and graduated with my Chef’s Diploma from Liaison College here in Oakville (Liaison College is a culinary school with many campuses and is the single largest trainer of chefs in Canada). Since those early days, my cooking addiction has expanded to include many kinds of outdoor cooking. As a purist, I most enjoy foods cooked over hardwood heat (rarely will I use a gas grill). What began with lip-smacking Southern BBQ has now grown to include Brazilian Barbecue and Hawaiian Barbecue dishes. It is now to the point that I sometimes have to buy an extra suitcase to bring back authentic woods from faraway place to use in my firepits (such as Kiawe wood from Hawaii, which I use to make authentic Huli Huli Chicken). And yes, you do have to declare wood and Canada Customs is going to ask about it.
Currently I run 1923 Main Street®, an online shop focusing on unique licensed merchandise from Disney, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Batman, Avengers, Wonder Woman and many more great franchises of heroes and villains. Feel free to drop by to take a look around. Have an idea for something you would like to see in the shop? Drop me a line to let me know.
These are just a few of my outside interests that have come together to provide significant extra experience for me over the course of many years.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or just to reach out to say hello.
Everyone Has A Story To Tell.
Founder, 1923 Main Street®