We are proud to introduce you to the stunningly smart, strong, hilarious gem of a woman Esther Garnick. This beautiful powerhouse not only runs a successful PR consulting business but also is in the running for mom of the year. Esther shares how she balances her work, home, and social life and spills some of her “must-have” products.
Growing up, did you ever think you’d run your own business?
I was raised by a lawyer and a teacher, so I really don’t think that having my own business occurred to me at all. I actually thought I’d peaked professionally at age 15 when I was hired by Jean Machine. The silver flares were practically selling themselves in those days.
What have been the biggest challenges in establishing, owning and running your own firm?
That’s an interesting questions since my business has had a few evolutions over time. Starting in general is always the hardest thing to do. I think for me, finding the version of my business that makes me happiest has been the greatest challenge. Growing a business and a family simultaneously presented some real “check yourself before you wreck yourself” moments.
In your work experience, was there any one (or more) persons that mentored you along your way? Any standouts?
You know what, there were a lot of very supportive people who encouraged me. Media members, clients even. PR is a very competitive, and at times nasty space, but a woman named Deb McCain was really the first and only well-established PR professional to offer me any advice or kindness when I was starting out. I owe her a debt of gratitude for that – particularly because it reassured me that I didn’t need to grow a set of fangs to succeed.
How did you realize your success? Was there a particular goal or achievement that made you most proud? It’s so funny how you never recognize anything in the moment. Looking back though, I think when EGPR won the SkinCeuticals account – shout out to Isabelle Dajenais, the Marketing Manager of the time who chose us against more established PR firms at the time, it was a very proud moment. I was 8.5 months pregnant and needed a Dr.’s note to fly to that pitch meeting. It was a big deal.
In today’s workforce, what’s your opinion about female versus male entrepreneurs? Were there any obstacles for you as a female “powerhouse?” Powerhouse is a word I would reserve for someone who is making major advances in cancer research. My job is to get people interested in one brand over another competitive one. As my friend and genius marketer, Rob Linden likes to say “I sell shampoo.” One challenge I would point out in a female dominated industry (such as PR) is the cost and time it takes to look “polished” and “professional” and the judgement associated with women’s appearance in the workforce vs. a man.
What advice can you give to other women (or men!) who want to own their own business?
Ok– so they SAY 9 out 10 businesses fail. In my limited experience, I’ve come to appreciate that 9/10 people aren’t idiots. Running a business is f*cking hard. Too hard for most. If you want to run a business, first ask yourself if you want to work really hard. It’s fair to decide that it might be a better idea for your lifestyle to kick it in your 9-5, hide in your cubicle and collect that paycheck with benefits. Think it all the way through. If the answer is “yes, I want this and I am going to do whatever it takes” then get started and be prepared to stay at it – it could be a long time before anyone notices.
What’s your favorite part about working in public relations? And, on the contrary, your least favorite?
My favourite part is the same now as it was when I started. Seeing your client get a favourable review or recognition in the media always a great feeling. I think my least favourite thing is probably a product of seeing many (MANY) incarnations of “media” in my career. For me, having to navigate, dissect and evaluate the actual “influence” of someone who has a lot of Instagram followers for any client has been a bit of a thorn. But alas, I’m still here – so how bad can it be.
How has human resources changed over the past few years in your industry? Are there still interns? What’s the best way to “learn the ropes”?
Honey child – let me tell you… I am now done with the human resources portion of my work life. I made the decision to scale back EGPR at the end of 2018, and move in a consultative direction.
The work force has definitely changed, and someone is teaching smart and impressionable college and university graduates that they should roll up with the nerve to tell their potential employer how to be of service them. That approach is horrific.
No matter what has changed in the world, I still believe that interning, volunteering and just plain showing up ready to make yourself useful is the best way to learn any job. I am grateful to have had way more people walk through my door with this attitude than an entitled one.
How do you manage stress?
I drink. Next question.
When and how did you decide to restructure your business to what it is today?
I had ignored all signs that I needed to change something or I’d have a meltdown for a little over a year. The day (September, 2018) that I learned that one of my closest childhood friends was diagnosed with breast cancer was the worst day, but also the breakthrough that I needed. It made me understand the real meaning of the word “emergency.”
Today my business is very back to the basics. It feels like I’ve come back to where I started, with a few amazing clients, an approach that feels authentic, and back on the front line. I make all the calls, and put out the pitch emails and it’s really nice to be back.
As a mom to two young kids, what do you do to take time to yourself? Since scaling my business back, I’ve made it a priority to see real friends as often as possible. This feels like the definition of self-care to me.
What have your kids taught you about the term “working mom”? That they see no difference between a woman who works in and for the home, and a woman that works outside of the home (as well). And I think that’s really great – they see that everyone works. Period.
When it comes to wellness, what do you prioritize for your self-care? Aside from prioritizing real friends, I am someone who relies on physical activity and sleep. My 20s are long gone, so I’ve had to make sure my activity and sleep are in order or I’ll become very out of whack.
Given that you’ve worked with some of the biggest beauty and fashion brands, are there any products you swear by?
Segue from the last question, I rely heavily on This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray for overnight quality control. Over the years I have been exposed to a ton of clinical studies on skincare so my antioxidant and SPF game is very tight. I also swear by This Works’ Morning Expert Multi-Acid pads and hyaluronic serum. I will admit to some baby botox (shout out to my boo, Dr. Julia Carroll of Compass Dermatology… who I pay, to be clear #notanAd). Last, but in no way least, whenever I see a Parajumpers jacket on the street, I let out an inner (sometimes outer) cheer because I think they are by far the best quality outerwear brand – particularly in the frigid winter months.
What’s your perspective on the ever-changing media industry?
I don’t make predictions anymore –but I am always optimistic that credible voices can rise about the noise.
What’s your relationship with social media? Love or hate?
A little bit of both, like everyone else. I love that it exists because I learn about great products and brands. I am also exposed to (and #influenced by) people in the world doing such a great job of raising awareness for issues such as gun control, political + social injustices, and health matters. Where I get all f*cked up, is how I’ll look to Instagram for a mental break for “one minute” and three hours later, I’m front row at Stockholm fashion week…
How did this happen?? Why am I here?? Do I need that tiny purse? (I don’t. I do. DO I?? I DON’T KNOW).
I would not consider it my healthiest relationship, no.
What are your feelings towards “aging”?
Can we get real here? I don’t care about the number. I don’t feel any less “relevant” in the world – whatever that means. However, looking in the mirror and seeing your mom staring back at you can be a personal boner-killer. I’m working through that by reminding myself that trying too hard to look sexy always backfires on me (desperate alert) and that if I stay true to myself, I can eventually transition from “cute enough middle aged woman” to eccentric old lady – which is a stage I most look forward to…for the fashion.
Any beauty routines or procedures you love?
I love my morning skincare ritual (literal 8 step program) because it makes me feel like I’m doing something nice for myself. AND, a regular blowout. If I haven’t mentioned it yet, I’m very much a Sampson and I believe that I draw power from my hair.
What’s your preferred fitness routine?
It changes all the time. At the moment, I’m taking a minor pause from cardio heavy workouts and have come back to Barre and a pinch of Yoga. But my favourite workout is still a spin class. It’s the best place for a reformed party girl or boy to go and get out the urge to dance like *everybody* is watching.
Are you a book or tablet reader?
I really like to turn a physical page – book for me.
Have you ever thought about living anywhere outside of Toronto?
I lived in San Francisco when my husband and I first got married. I’ve often referred to it as my “Carrie in Paris” experience. I’m sure the city is as good as everyone says it is, but it was too lonely for me. Toronto is home.
Have you ever considered totally starting a new career?
YAS. OF COURSE! I think that a second career or, more likely, a spin-off opportunity will occur. I don’t feel good standing still. Never have.
What do the next ten years look like for EGPR?
You mean my transition to eccentric old lady? Probably silver hair (with bangs 100%) and tinted eyewear. The rest is still unwritten.
Where do you dream about traveling to?
Ready to die? I’ve never been to Paris.