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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.
At the start of the pandemic, Paul Davison and Rohan Seth launched Clubhouse, a new type of social network that underscored the power and influence of the audio format. As the world collectively sheltered at home, Clubhouse’s popularity skyrocketed with Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, and other notable figures engaging on the platform. Unless you were living under a rock, it was hard not to hear about the platform—from friends, colleagues, your Instagram feed, LinkedIn connections. It seemed like everyone was on Clubhouse, or at least clamouring for an invite to the platform. By the start of 2021 (less than a year later), they were hitting 10 million weekly active users.So, how does one handle such meteoric growth? What Rohan and Paul experienced as founders is an entrepreneur’s dream but comes with its own set of challenges. Where do you go once you’ve already reached the stars? How do you maintain momentum? On today’s episode, Paul and Rohan join Lance to talk about capturing lightning in a bottle, cultivating community, and the road ahead. 
On this episode of Mission Critical, we’re joined by one of the most influential and universally-beloved figures in the fashion world, Tan France. Tan’s journey to becoming a television sensation may have started with his role as a fashion expert on Netflix’s Queer Eye, but his entrepreneurial path was filled with triumphs long before he entered the mainstream spotlight.In this mini-episode, Lance speaks with Tan about the origins of his fashion sense, the importance of how we present ourselves, and how he’s empowering entrepreneurs and small businesses. From reflecting on his storied career to discussing his life as a father, Tan’s insights offer a fascinating roadmap to overcoming obstacles and maintaining joy along the way.
This episode contains content that is of a sexual nature. If that’s a thing that might bother you or you’re not quite in the right setting for it, then maybe skip this one for now.Sex sells. That’s nothing new, but how much? According to a 2021 report by Statista, the business of pleasure is thriving with recent projections of the global sex toy market expected to grow to about $52.7 billion US dollars by 2026, up from $28.64 billion in 2019. That growth, according to Johanna Rief, can be attributed to a handful of different factors, including culture, technology, and media.As the Head of Sexual Empowerment at WOW Tech Group (the parent company to a group of brands that develop and produce innovative, premium sex toys), Johanna has witnessed the explosive growth of the industry over the course of her career, which has provided her with a unique perspective into its future. From her vantage point, the dialogue around sex and sexuality is one that continues to evolve in tandem with the cultural norms and taboos of society. In many ways, they’re a reflection of what we value and where we stand on matters of politics, religion, business, On today's episode, Johanna joins Lance to discuss her fascinating job, the growth of the industry, and what the business of sex toys can teach us about empowerment.
“Buy yourself the damn diamond.” Such is the gospel of Noura Sakkijha, CEO and co-founder of fine jewelry company Mejuri. In 2015, she started her Toronto-based brand to reframe the conversation around jewelry, mainly around the idea that the industry was built for men gifting women. Instead, Noura wanted to empower women to celebrate themselves. This notion of agency and self-expression is precisely what has grown Mejuri into one of the most exciting and dynamic lifestyle brands today. Noura, who is a third-generation jeweler, has proven her business thesis and built her company into a global direct-to-consumer brand that has not only influenced the purchasing behaviour of women but completely turned the industry’s distribution model on its head by pioneering weekly style drops.Today, Mejuri has been able to amass a following of brand evangelists like Oprah, Bella Hadid, Ariana Grande, and Lizzo - along with thousands of other women - who believe in Noura’s mission. In today’s episode, Noura joins us to discuss how her upbringing shaped her approach to design, building a company while raising a family, and what it takes to create a buzzworthy direct-to-consumer brand. Bold by Veuve Clicquot:
Bold by Veuve Clicquot: Street Bull's 2021 Women of the Year: photos from Penny Oleksiak's Cover Shoot: just 21 years old, Toronto-born swimmer Penny Oleksiak has already been crowned as Canada’s most decorated Olympian with seven medals to her name. Before her dominant display this past summer in Tokyo, Penny became the first Canadian to win four medals in the same Summer Games and the country’s youngest Olympic champion. If that weren’t enough, she closed out her Olympic debut by becoming the first athlete born in the 2000s to claim a medal in an individual event, further underscoring her status as a generational talent.Five years later, Penny returned to the Olympic stage to compete under the bright lights of the Tokyo Summer Games and, once again, represented Canada in spectacular fashion. By securing a silver and a pair of bronze medals, she immortalized herself as Canada’s most decorated Olympic athlete. But holding a reputation like hers comes with its own set of challenges. When you’re thrust onto a podium and heralded as one of the greatest athletes in the world, that can sometimes affect your mental health, as we’ve seen in other instances with athletes (notably, young female athletes) like Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka. Despite these challenges, it’s undeniable that Penny (and her contemporaries) have all earned their success—and have every right to celebrate it without apology or validation. In today’s episode, Lance chats with Penny on the set of our very first Women of the Year issue about navigating the discomfort of high-pressure environments, her philosophy on victory, and what it means to own your ambition. 
Aurora James is a force to be reckoned with. Those of you who are tuned in to the world of fashion will likely recognize her name as the designer behind sustainable accessories brand Brother Vellies, a favourite amongst fashion heavyweights like Beyonce, Zendaya, and Solange (to name a few). You may also recognize her for gracing the cover of American Vogue’s coveted September issue in 2020 and, more recently, as the designer behind US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 'Tax the Rich’ gown worn to the 2021 Met Gala. But beyond the fold of fashion, she’s also been hard at work to create real and meaningful change within the larger community.In 2020, the Toronto-native and New York City transplant started her non-profit, the Fifteen Percent Pledge, in direct response to the wave of corporate statements issued during the Black Lives Matter movement. Focused on keeping these businesses accountable to racial equity, Aurora challenged the corporate community to commit at least 15 percent (which is roughly the proportion of the Black population in America) of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses. Today, that has manifested in a movement that has seen some of the world’s largest retailers sign on to help decrease the racial wealth gap.On today’s episode, Aurora and Lance talk about progress, community, and what it means to take the pledge. 
If you’ve walked through an airport or hotel lobby in the last few years, you may have noticed people using a specific luggage brand, distinguished by its horizontal lines and array of different colourways. That brand is Away and on today’s episode, we're joined by co-founder and CEO, Jen Rubio.Throughout her career, Jen has become one of the foremost authorities on modern retail, using her business philosophies to help redefine exceptional travel standards. It’s not an easy mission, especially following a time where travelling was viewed with perhaps more skepticism than ever before, but Jen and her company are helping to reignite the spirit of exploration and adventure.As the leader of her company, she’s also had to navigate how to run a successful retail enterprise while being pregnant with her son, who was born right on the heels of her stepping into the CEO role. Months later, she’s excelling at both the role of executive and mother, helping to break down archaic and misogynistic stigmas surrounding working parents. In this episode, Jen joins Lance to discuss the importance of a company’s parental policies, advice for ambitious and career-driven parents, and how to be an empathetic leader. 
As a decorated astronaut, engineer, communicator, author, and musician, Chris Hadfield’s illustrious career has made him one of the most renowned and universally beloved figures in Canadian history. His reputation spread into the international mainstream after becoming the first Canadian to walk in space, flying two Space Shuttle missions and serving as commander of the International Space Station. He then cemented himself into pop culture history for his legendary performance of David Bowie’s Space Oddity while floating aboard the ISS, garnering over 27 million views on Youtube.Inspired by witnessing the famed Apollo 11 moon landing on television when he was a child, Chris’ achievements have helped encourage the next generation of explorers and scholars. His books, which include three national bestsellers in The Darkest Dark, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life, and You Are Here have become some of the most valuable resources available for those searching for fascinating and accessible introductions to the field.His influence on young Canadians and the realm of space exploration at large is simply incalculable. And as we continue to embark towards a future full of more question marks than ever before, the presence of strong leaders and scientific thinkers such as himself is more necessary than ever before.In this episode, Chris joines Lance to talk about his otherworldly experiences, the importance of big-picture perspectives, the future of space exploration, and what it was like writing his latest book (and first fiction), The Apollo Murders. 
At just 35 years old, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas has firmly established himself as one of the most influential minds in professional hockey. But those who have followed Kyle’s career know that being the youngest person in the boardroom is nothing new to the executive. Kyle began his hockey career by becoming the youngest agent ever certified by the NHL Players Association before working his way up the ranks as an OHL executive at just 25 years old. He then moved up and was promoted to the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the 17th in the club’s history.His identity as an executive has always been defined by bold – and sometimes unpopular – decisions, many of which are featured in the new Amazon Prime Video original series, All or Nothing: Toronto Maple Leafs.On today’s episode, Kyle discusses what viewers can expect from the series while offering his philosophies on leadership, managing criticism, fostering young talent, and a wealth of other insights into the world of hockey and business. .
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