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Mission Critical

Author: Rathnelly Group Media Inc.

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Mission Critical is a podcast hosted by Bay Street Bull Editor-in-Chief Lance Chung about the purpose and values that drive today's most inspiring leaders. From innovative entrepreneurs to cultural game-changers, each episode will introduce you to someone new who is defining their community and redefining the status quo.
58 Episodes
Apply for the Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman Award: is it that draws us to comedy? Some of our favourite experiences and memories center around moments of laughter. But beyond the obvious, perhaps another reason that explains the magnetic effect of comedy is its ability to speak to the human experience—to illuminate ways in which we are all alike, and also ways in which we are different. Today’s top comedians are masters of observation and have conquered the ability to use comedy as a trojan horse to distill the human experience and, sometimes, complex issues in a relatable and funny way. Today’s guest embodies the very best of what comedy is and can be. Allana Harkin is an award-winning director, producer, actor, and comedian who grew up in Hamilton, Ontario, cutting her teeth in the community as a member of an all-women comedy troupe called the Atomic Fireballs. That’s where she first met Samantha Bee, her friend and eventual partner-in-comedy when she became the producer and correspondent of the talk show, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. In her role, she was tasked with tackling complex and politically-charged issues like global warming and abortion bans through the filter of comedy, offering a mirror to the joys and maladies of society. It’s her uncanny ability to reflect the human experience that eventually earned her an Emmy award in the Outstanding Short Form Nonfiction or Reality Series category. Nestled in Yorkville’s cozy and luxurious Kasa Moto restaurant, Allana joined Lance in front of an audience for another recording of Mission Critical live, presented by Veuve Clicquot, to talk about the power of comedy, her career trajectory, and how humour can be used as a force for progress and activism. Enjoy!
When Turning Red debuted in early 2022, Canadians rejoiced. Directed by Canadian filmmaker, animator, and Academy Award winner Domee Shi (who became the first woman to solo direct a Pixar feature film), the animated film told the story of a young Chinese-Canadian tween girl torn between meeting the expectations of her immigrant parents and her experience navigating the changes that we must confront as we come of age. It was not only a love letter to Toronto (where Domee grew up) but also one to Asian-North American communities and diaspora who continue to grapple with the realities of intergenerational and cultural trauma. It was also an ode to the often awkward, clunky, and imperfect experience of growing up, manifested through the eyes of the film’s protagonist, Meilin, who just so happens to turn into a giant red panda throughout the film. Presented by BOLD by Veuve Clicquot, in this episode, I spoke with Domee about self-discovery, her early influences (Spirited Away!), representation, and why transformation remains such a strong theme in her work, career, and life. 
According to a 2021 survey conducted by The Podcast Exchange, the potential for podcasts continues to grow. Nearly 12 million Canadian adults (or 38% of the 18+ population) have listened to podcasts in the past year. Podcast listeners also over-index for being young and diverse, have higher educations, and live in households of over $100K. In the US, these numbers are even larger with over 82 million people listening to podcasts in 2021, as reported by Statista. That number is expected to reach over 100 million listeners in 2024, which means an increasingly significant audience to market your brand to and establish your voice. Fatima Zaidi is the founder and CEO of Quill Inc., an award-winning production agency that specializes in corporate audio, and CoHost, a podcast growth and analytics tool. She actually helped us get on our feet with Mission Critical and, suffice to say, is a leading voice on the matter. Hosted on-site at Toronto’s Valerie located in Hotel X, Fatima joined Lance at the first live taping of Mission Critical: The Bold Conversations in partnership with Veuve Clicquot. Together, they discussed the growth of the audio format, what businesses should know before starting a podcast, and how they can amplify your marketing strategy.
If you’re a basketball fan and a Canadian, few experiences will ever be able to match what happened in the summer of 2019. In the best-of-seven playoff series, the Toronto Raptors (Canada’s only basketball team) went on to defeat two-time defending and six-time NBA championship winners the Golden State Warriors. It was a season of many firsts, including the first championship win for the Toronto Raptors, as well as the first win by any NBA team based outside of the States. It was also a barometer of basketball’s growing influence within Canada’s sports culture ecosystem, historically dominated by hockey. Much of that influence can be attributed to the efforts made on the ground and from the offices of NBA Canada, led by Managing Director (and this episode's guest), Leah MacNab. The first woman in the Managing Director position in Canada, Leah’s responsibilities are no small undertaking. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen the development and growth of the league’s business in Canada, including television and digital media, marketing and retail partnerships, licensing, special events, and basketball development. Under her leadership and tenure, the league’s revenue and marketable database in Canada have grown significantly.In the third installment of the Mission Critical Live podcast series, Lance was joined by Leah in front of an intimate audience of entrepreneurs and leaders at Toronto’s Clio social club to talk about advocating for yourself, what responsibilities an organization like NBA Canada has to its community, and the ways in which the league is leveraging technology to drive a more streamlined fan experience.
There are a handful of consumer brands here in Canada that have established themselves as captains of their respective industries. Iconic institutions that have not only withstood the test of time but have also known how to adapt and evolve with the changing tides of culture and commerce. Harry Rosen is one of them. Take a stroll in any high-end mall, financial district, or along a luxurious retail promenade here in Canada and chances are, you’ll see one of their instantly recognizable shopping bags, stuffed with garments from today’s most revered menswear brands like Tom Ford, Brunello Cucinelli, Loro Piana, Zegna, and more. And despite their ascent to the top of the industry, Harry Rosen has managed to operate as a family business since they were established by their namesake founder in 1954. Fast-forward to 2022 and they’re still at the top of their game. From outfitting Prime Ministers and NBA legends to dressing today’s most stylish men, their influence is sizeable. On this episode, Lance is joined by Ian Rosen, President, COO, and third-generation leader at the iconic institution. In the second installment of our Mission Critical live podcast series, Ian joined Lance in front of an intimate crowd of entrepreneurs and leaders at Toronto’s Clio social club to talk about his style essentials, leading a heritage brand into the future, and the key to successfully working with your family.
When it comes to real estate, everyone has an opinion on the matter. To buy or not to buy? Invest now or wait for the bubble to burst? Rent or own? And let’s not even get started on these interest rates…One thing that remains largely unanimous is the increasing difficulty of being able to tap into the market, to get your foot in the door and assume the mantle of property owner. That’s where today’s guest, Khushbhoo Jha, comes in. The CEO of Toronto-based tech startup, BuyProperly, Khushboo and her team are revolutionizing the real estate landscape by democratizing access to ownership. Through a model known as fractional investing, real estate investors can buy into properties in a way similar to buying shares or stocks of a company, except that company, in this case, might be a one-bedroom condo in Toronto or a multi-residential complex in Houston.  In the very first installment of our Mission Critical live event series, Lance speaks with Khushboo at Toronto’s Clio social club in front of an intimate crowd of entrepreneurs and leaders about leveraging the power of technology to solve problems, fractional investing in real estate, and how Canadians can get started on their homeownership journey. Enjoy!
Hotels are so much more than places where we choose to rest our heads. Traveler or not, today they serve as cultural institutions—multi-hyphenate anchors within our communities that serve as a destination to break bread, share drink, collaborate, inspire, build, and forge cherished memories.Brad Wilson is the CEO and co-parter of Ace Hotel Group and the brand’s in-house creative agency Atelier Ace. If you’re not familiar with the brand, they’re a group of hotels known for their charm, collaboration, and whimsicality, choosing to open new locations in cities that serve as hubs of innovation and art. In his opinion, today’s leading hotels serve not just as a place of room and board, but as destinations for discovery and curiosity that facilitate cultural communion. On the heels of their first foray into Canada, Lance sits down with Brad to talk about good hospitality, how hotels bring community together, and, of course, the Ace Hotel Toronto. Enjoy!
Rami Atallah is the CEO and co-founder of SSENSE, a technology platform that focuses on nurturing emerging talent while simultaneously championing today’s most powerful and established luxury brands. What started as part of his computer engineering graduate thesis, Rami founded SSENSE alongside his brothers, Firas and Bassel, to address the needs of the new generation of consumers. They wanted to build a platform that was, in his words, "interesting, pushed boundaries, and leveraged the internet to reach a global customer base."Today, the company has a valuation of over $5 billion, carries 1,600 brands ranging from Gucci to Balenciaga, and employs over 1,750 people in permanent positions.An immigrant from Syria, Rami’s journey is one that exemplifies the power of harnessing diverse perspectives and skill sets, and using your work as a springboard for talent in order to usher a new generation of leaders. Recorded live at the SSENSE headquarters in Montreal on set for our 50 most impactful companies cover shoot, Lance sits down with Rami to talk about his immigrant and entrepreneurial journey, how he uses his engineering background to solve problems, and the future of luxury, commerce, and culture. 
Like any other industry that has remained largely unchanged in the way it operates and functions, it’s an exciting time to talk about real estate right now. Not just because of how hot this or that market is or rising interest rates, but because of the increasing impact that technology and innovation are having on the sector. Real estate agents are, by any measure, entrepreneurs. And entrepreneurs love to solve problems. Just ask Ryan Serhant.Ryan made a mainstream name for himself thanks to his starring role in the Bravo series Million Dollar Listing New York and its spin-off Sell It Like Serhant. Yet as one of the world’s most successful real estate brokers, his credentials surpass the bright lights of the Bravo production. He’s also the founder of SERHANT., a vertically-integrated mega brokerage comprising an in-house film studio, technology platform, education arm, and marketing division. In his view, the future of real estate goes far beyond just selling a property. It’s about utilizing technology, creating media, and forging real human connections. On this episode, Ryan and Lance discuss his approach to real estate, how technology is impacting the sector, and what the brokerages of the future will look like. Also, what’s a low-rent habit? 
There are few people in media who radiate the kind of glowing, positive, and unabashedly joyful energy quite like Jonathan Van Ness.Known primarily for their co-hosting duties as the resident beauty guru on Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot, it is the magnetic charm and personality of Jonathan (who is non-binary and uses “they,” “he,” and “she” pronouns) that has helped them build the foundation of a media empire that spans everything from New York Times bestselling books, soldout standup comedy tours, and, most recently, a second Netflix series based on their wildly successful podcast, Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness. Whether they intended it or not, Jonathan is an entrepreneur by every definition and their latest endeavour is just another addition to their impressive CV.Launched in 2021, JVN Hair is the result of over two years of development that shifts the focus to hair concern over hair type via its hero ingredient, hemisqualane (a derivative of bio-fermented sugarcane.) Naturally, the vegan haircare brand is an extension of Jonathan. Yes, it’s a product that performs, but it’s also a platform where Jonathan can parlay their values, mission, and body of work through the lens of beauty. It’s one that espouses inclusivity, sustainability, and a larger dialogue around what it truly means to have freedom of self-expression—or, as they put it, to “come as you are.”On this episode, Lance sits down with Jonathan to talk about self-expression, what Pride means to them, and how to engage our communities into protecting trans rights.
There are many parallels that can be drawn between running a kitchen and leading a business. Both require leadership, focus, tenacity, and, above all, passion to get you through the inevitable hills and valleys that come along the way—something that internationally-renowned chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson knows a thing or two about. With restaurants around the world from Miami to Sweden to Montreal, a James Beard award, and celebrity appearances on Food Network shows (just to name a few accomplishments), success is something that Marcus has achieved throughout his illustrious career. But the journey has not been without its own hurdles along the way. While he first made a name for himself as the executive chef of Aquavit in New York in the 1990s, his story began 7,000 miles away in Ethiopia. Marcus and his sister were adopted as young children by a white family in Gothenburg, Sweden, after their biological mother passed away from tuberculosis. This fusion of cultures would later inform much of Marcus’ culinary vision and barrier-breaking career. On today’s episode, Lance is joined by Marcus to talk about the kitchen of his childhood, how being an immigrant has helped inform his perspective on food and culture, and how he built a global restaurant empire. Plus, what's it like to curate the menu for the Met Gala?  
“If you want specific outcomes in your life, then you are a designer.”These are the immortal words of Canadian multi-hyphenate visionary, Bruce Mau. From architecture to advertising to product design, Bruce has worked across a broad spectrum of disciplines that have changed the way we approach problems and see the world. His name is exalted by many and yet unfamiliar to others. What is certain, however, is that the impact of his work has been felt around the world. He is the one who Coca-Cola asked to restructure their entire organization and identity towards sustainability. He was the one who city planners from Mecca (yes, the Mecca—Islam’s holiest city) approached him to redesign the Hajj, and after 36 years of civil war, he was the guy that Guatemala commissioned to literally rebrand the country and its ability to hope for the future. These are but a few projects that illustrate the scale and influence of Bruce’s work. And yet for someone whose accomplishments have had such an impact, it is perhaps his approach to his work that Bruce is most admired for. A radical optimist, his belief is that designers do not have the luxury of cynicism if we want to change the world. It’s a tough pill to swallow when you consider the times that we live in today, but Bruce charges forward.On today’s episode, Lance is joined by the legendary designer to discuss his illustrious career, the power of optimism, and the making of the first feature-length documentary on him, MAU.
For 27 years, Jeanne Beker was the voice in fashion media—a trailblazer that earned her stripes by reporting on the industry’s most spectacular events and personalities. The host of Fashion Television, her show was syndicated around the globe to 130 countries, offering a glimpse into a pre-social media world that was often guarded and gated. It was her tenacity, warmth, and unapologetic pursuit of a story that led her to interview the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Kate Moss, Jean Paul Gaultier, Naomi Campbell and so many of the industry’s icons and juggernauts.But looking past the sequins and the tulle and jewels, Jeanne’s reporting on fashion offered a perspective that translated the language of style into a larger dialogue around culture. Through her electric and supercharged interviews, she was also having a conversation about sustainability, commerce, politics, culture, and values. Fashion has always been a barometer of the times, and Jeanne always understood the assignment well. On today’s podcast, Lance is joined by the legendary journalist to talk about her foray into the business, the most entrepreneurial designers, and her best advice on fighting for your own opportunities. 
If the eyes are the windows to your soul, then what does a pair of eyeglasses say about you? For many, eyewear is an extension of one’s self. Quite literally, when you consider the fact that approximately 68 percent of Canadians wear corrective lenses, and figuratively as a reflection of personal style and expression. For years, however, the $160 billion global eyewear industry was controlled by a handful of companies that kept prices high and quality low. That is, until Warby Parker stepped onto the scene in 2010, shaking an entire industry up by offering high-quality eyewear at an accessible price directly to the consumer.  Founded in Philadelphia by Neil Blumenthal, Andrew Hunt, David Gilboa, and Jeffrey Raider out of a Venture Initiation Program of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the company soon learned that there was a community clamouring for elevated design in prescription glasses that wouldn’t cost hundreds of dollars. Within a year of launching, Warby Parker had earned the interest of Vogue with a feature that caught the attention of both customers and investors alike. As of 2021, Warby Parker is valued at USD $6.8 billion and has distributed over 10 million pairs of glasses around the globe. But despite their commercial success, Warby Parker’s founders have set their sights on far more ambitious pursuits. In this episode, co-founder David Gilboa joins Lance to talk about how Warby Parker grew into a multi-billion-dollar company, his biggest lessons learned along the way, and their mission to revolutionize access to vision care around the world. 
When it comes to international studies, Canada is a top pick for students thanks to the quality of our education system and multicultural reputation. According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education, the years between 2010 and 2019 saw a 154 percent increase in international students visiting Canada, 60 percent of which planned on pursuing permanent residence. In 2021 alone, there were 621,565 international students in Canada across all levels of study. It’s true that Canada is a nation known for its diversity, and that extends to post-secondary campuses across the country. But for many who make their way over to pursue academic studies, the experience can be daunting. Such was the cause for Martin Basiri. After experiencing hurdles as an international student from Iran, he formed his recruitment platform, Applyboard, with his brothers Meti and Massi. Today, ApplyBoard has helped over 300,000 students in over 125 countries, secured over $50M in scholarships, and solidified partnerships with over 1500 schools in a bid to drive up diversity and international minds across campuses in Canada, the US, and the UK. With over 1500  team members around the globe and a valuation of $4 Billion, the vision has always been singular: to provide easier access to education. In this episode, I’m joined by Martin to talk about empowering future talent through education, his entrepreneurial journey, and how we can all embrace a student mindset. 
It’s a big responsibility when you’re given the keys to an international community platform with an audience in the millions. So, what do you do with that kind of power? That ability to influence both micro and macro community and industry change? Certainly, there are individuals out there that would take the opportunity to amass further growth by any means necessary and with reckless abandon, and then there are leaders like Erin Elofson.In her role as Pinterest’s head of Canada and APAC region (which includes Australia and Japan), Erin’s philosophy around leadership means cultivating a platform through the power of positivity. But, what exactly does that mean? Unlike other platforms that have been slow to enforce change and policy, Pinterest took a stance against misinformation and problematic content before anyone asked them to do so and they did that through policy in an effort to create a safe and progressive space for its users. Today, what that means is a concise and intentional effort to build positivity into its platform by banning things like weight loss ads, political campaigns, and COVID misinformation so that users can feel safe.In today’s episode, Lance speaks with Erin about what it means to be proactive about building beneficial change, how to build a responsible community platform, and why Pinterest might just be the most positive corner of the internet. 
Food has always been a powerful way of exploring themes beyond its function as a means of sustenance. Think about the best meal you’ve ever had or your fondest food memory. Chances are they involved being in the company of others by breaking bread or engaging in long-held traditions. Food is culture—it brings people together, cements our most cherished memories, promotes powerful dialogue, and forces us to ask important questions about ourselves and our communities.It is through this perspective that entrepreneur Shiza Shahid created her company, Our Place. You may recognize them for their buzzy social media campaigns and kitchenware essentials that promise to make everyone’s lives easier. But beyond that, Shahid’s LA-based company has inevitably ignited meaningful conversations around racial identity, culture, and equality by inviting others into the kitchen.Building a mission-focused company isn’t new to Shahid. Before Our Place, the Pakistani entrepreneur co-founded the Malala Fund alongside Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai to provide better access to education for girls around the world. She also built her own investment company (NOW Ventures) that focused on supporting mission-driven and women-founded startups. Throughout her career, Shahid has devoted herself to not only creating more seats at the table but to building bigger, more inclusive ones altogether—all in an effort to provide others (women and people of colour, in particular) with a voice and opportunities of their own.In today’s episode, Shiza joins me to discuss her fondest food memories, her experience building Our Place, and the best way to support other women entrepreneurs.Registration for the ninth edition of the Veuve Clicquot Bold Awards in Canada will open on September 2022:
The year is 2016 and a new phenomenon has thrown the world into an absolute tizzy. People are out in the streets, running into traffic, and flocking to seemingly random destinations. They are zombies attached to their phones on a singular mission to catch them all. And what exactly are they looking to capture? Pokémon. If we rewind and look past the pandemic, you might remember the sheer frenzy that Pokémon Go sent the world into. Shortly after launching, it was almost impossible to avoid the topic entirely as friends, family, and colleagues became consumed in their quest to capture as many pokemon as possible. It was an instant hit that saw app downloads soar to the top of the charts, its popularity is driven largely by a mix of nostalgia and novelty. Unlike other video games, Pokémon Go harnessed the power of augmented reality (or AR) to offer users a heightened real-world experience. While it can be argued that Pokémon Go drove AR into mainstream popularity, the technology has actually been around for a while now. According to the Harvard Business Review, we saw the first commercial application of AR in 2008 when German advertising agencies used the technology to market a BMW Mini. Since then, it’s likely that you’ve used AR in your own experience as well, whether as a Pokémon Go user, viewing real estate listings, trying on a pair of glasses, or placing a filter over your face on a social media platform. The opportunities are endless not only for the end-user, but for the companies that operate directly within the space. Snap Inc is one of them. Joining Lance on today’s episode is Matt McGowan, general manager of Snap Inc. Canada, which bills itself as the “leader in Augmented Reality” and owns Snapchat, Spectacles, Bitmoji, and Zenly. In today’s episode, Matt joins Lance to talk about building community through technology, what the big deal is about AR anyway, and more.
Take a look inside the boardrooms of corporate Canada and you’ll find that over the years, they’ve largely stayed (and looked) the same. While it has been proven again, and again, and again that a diverse executive suite directly contributes to the growth of a company’s bottom line and overall performance (and is just generally the right thing to do,) straight, white cisgender men have kept the c-suite looking pretty much the same for a long, long time. Wes Hall is working to change that. One of Canada’s most powerful figures on Bay Street, Wes is the executive chairman and founder behind Kingsdale Advisors, an investor on Dragons’ Den, and the founder of the BlackNorth Initiative—a non-profit whose mission is to end anti-Black systemic racism in the corporate world.In the wake of the George Floyd murder and Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, Wes was moved to take action by doing what he does best—by using business as a vessel for change. Specifically, by having the country’s top executives and companies commit to diversifying key decision-making positions. Almost two years since he founded the non-profit, Lance chats with Wes on today’s episode about building BlackNorth, their Racial Equity Playbook, and how long it takes to make progress. 
When Tata Harper pivoted her career from industrial engineer to beauty entrepreneur, no one could have predicted that she would soon go on to be known as the Queen of Green Skincare. Yet today, Tata’s eponymous skincare brand has reached astronomic levels of popularity counting the likes of Gigi Hadid, Jessica Alba, and Tracee Ellis Ross among loyal brand fans. But Tata’s commitment to restoring the beauty counter with more transparent and sustainable options doesn’t end with the serums and creams within her bottles. It extends into every aspect of her company, from her Vermont farm right down to the type of ink used on her paper packaging.But perhaps it’s Tata’s personal, intimate approach to her business that is the company’s greatest asset. She is a glowing (quite literally) category leader that takes a hands-on approach to her principles of maximalist beauty. In this episode, Tata and I talk about how her Colombian upbringing influenced her worldview of beauty, the future of the industry, and what “clean” and “natural” beauty even mean. Are all synthetic ingredients bad? And are all natural ingredients good? Listen to find out.
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