Hi! I'm Justin. 👋
I'm a creative solopreneur with a background in tech/marketing. I left my job in tech to build a small portfolio of creative businesses. Now I spend my time learning, scaling & connecting with other creatives.
⚡️ Here's some quick facts about me
👨💻 For Work
- 🙋♂️ 100% self-employed creator
- 🎬 I make brand videos for a living
- ❤️🔥 I own an intl. photography agency
- 👨💻 My background is in tech/marketing
- 📈 Over 43,000,000 views on Unsplash
- 📸 Photos featured on Netflix, Hubspot and more
😎 For Fun
- 📝 Writing about solo entrepreneurship
- 📸 Taking photos
- ✈️ Exploring & travelling (when I can)
- 🏕 Camping with my gf and 2 dogs
- ☕️ Exploring coffee shops & cafes
🎯 Current Goals
- 🏄♂️ Live a dope life on my terms
- 👨👩👦 Optimize for health, family & fulfillment
- 🎓 Prioritize personal development
- 🚀 Build scaleable businesses (while...)
- 🚫 Avoiding 40 hour work weeks
A Brief History
🎓 Let's Start From College
I've always loved learning and creativity, so when it came time for post-secondary, I decided to go all-in on Graphic Design. Going to design school taught me three things:
- Traditional schooling is broken. I learned more through tutorials on the internet than I did actually in school learning from outdated curriculum. The only reason I completed my schooling was because of pressure from family/society to "get my education."
- I didn't do well in a this kind of learning environment. I had a lot of trouble focusing in class. This caused a bit of friction and disruption with my professors, on which I reflect regularly. I got diagnosed with ADHD in my first year of college, but medication butchered my creativity, so I didn't continue taking it. Needless to say, I struggled.
- I didn't want to be a graphic designer. Don't get me wrong, I love graphic design and still to this day believe that the skillset is extremely valuable (case in point: I built this site myself without hiring a designer/developer)... I just didn't want to design for someone else. I was much more interested in what design could do when applied to things like apps, or campaigns.
👨💻 Working in Tech
After school I made it my mission to "work in a tech startup". I remember reading about the foosball tables, bean bag chairs and beer on-tap - and the creative people who made magic happen behind the doors. I hopped on a one-way flight from Windsor ON → Vancouver BC and elbowed my way into a trendy online eyewear company, Clearly.ca.
I started in customer success, but eventually made my way into the marketing department as a Social Media Moderator. This started my career path in both Community + Marketing. After helping to build their US brands' community past +1 million, my role evolved to Social Media Coordinator and then Social Media Strategist.
From there I did a short stint at Indochino, but ultimately left as the company was in it's infancy and wasn't quite a culture fit for me (I hear it's much, much better now).
I left directly for greener pastures and joined the team at Unbounce. This is where I helped design, build and curate the world's strongest community of landing page marketers on the web.
We built a customer advocacy program with all-star marketers from around the world (dubbed the Unbounce Experts) and took surprise & delight to a whole other level with the Unbounce Market. We held class-leading conferences and did some really amazing stuff there.
I left the company after a few years to move to the Okanagan, but the whole Unbounce team, especially the founders, have my highest regard. Unbounce CEO, Rick Perreault, reminded me a few years ago "Once an Unbouncer, always an Unbouncer." I can't recommend this company enough.
After Unbounce I also spent some time at Loop Digital, a Facebook Advertising agency, as Creative Director. I learned really valuable lessons at this company, particularly around what kind of creative actually converts and what falls flat (hint: it's a lot more complex than you think). This knowledge gave me a huge head-start when I decided to open my own creative video agency.
🎓 Discovering Teaching
While traditional education wasn't my cup of tea, I still loved learning.
I continued my education throughout my entire career, but it wasn't through any kind of traditional school. Books, blogs, podcasts, tutorials, youtube, Udemy... I was, and still am, obsessed with learning.
While at Unbounce, I regularly had the opportunity to speak in front of the company (150+) which led to me becoming more comfortable with an audience. I also had the opportunity to mentor or speak for really interesting initiatives, such as Girls Learning Code and Epicentr Academy.
BrainStation flipped the traditional education model on its head and brought in industry experts who were actively working in their field to teach niche, specific classes, like SEO and paid search. It was phenomenal working with such passionate, career-focused individuals who wanted to give back.
And over time, I got the joy of watching my students (and faculty!) go on to land phenomenal roles in companies like Adidas, Herschel, Lululemon and Netflix.
🚀 The Road to Entrepreneurship
After college, I also opened a boutique wedding photography business that focused mostly on destination weddings. I don't talk too much about this because, well... it tanked.
There was definitely demand, and I got to capture some truly phenomenal destination weddings while we were open, but I didn't have the proper skills to develop the company without becoming overwhelmed.
Fast forward to 2018. I photographed a friend and colleague of mine for a blog post, which I then found out he used on an online dating app called Tinder. The next day he came in and said "Man, I've never had that many matches in my life!", which was odd to me, seeing as he's an arguably handsome dude and a beautiful human being.
Turns out, building your profile is kinda like marketing - you need to know your audience, make the offer appealing and showcase great photos/copywriting. A mix of skills that I happened to have.
After consulting with friends, colleagues and conducting some highly-scientific market research (ie. I swiped a whole lot)... I decided to open a side hustle, aptly named PhotosForTinder.com.
I had no idea it would become successful - but within 6 months I was making more from photography than I was at my day job. What's even better is that my clients, who pretty much all turned out to be amazing individuals who take self-improvement seriously, started matching with more and more amazing people because of my efforts. Their results have been out of this world, and some of them are now even engaged to be married.
A year later, I saw another gap in the market while working at Loop Digital, this time in the B2B content space. Companies were heavily investing in video production for ads, commercials and content, but many of them were getting back low-impact/low-converting videos.
There was no shortage of videographers, but there was a shortage in video people that knew the in's and out's of marketing, conversion, copywriting and paid advertising.
Again, I saw where my unique cross-section of skills could come together and offer immense value for my clients, and soon after opened Brand Stories™, is focused at helping small-to-medium sized businesses achieve better marketing results through strategic video creation.
This video production company seen some really impactful results in the 2.5 years we've been in business, and I've had the opportunity to work directly with major brands such as Staples, VIATEC, Ethical Bean, Accelerate Okanagan, Spud.ca and so many more.
Growing and scaling this business is where I spend the majority of my time. Turns out, helping business owners achieve better results is also super rewarding.