Ask the Expert – Julie McNamara, Julie & Co

December 29, 2022

Your company has a unique story. How did Julie & Co begin, and where are you now?

I have definitely taken a unique approach to growing my company! At my core, I am driven by a desire to leverage my penchant for creativity and big ideas to support people. I have always had a talent for managing events, so I founded Julie & Co in 2011 as a wedding planning company. What better way to support people than on one of the biggest days of their lives, right? 

Over time, our skills and brand recognition have grown. A few years ago, we started being approached to run corporate and political events, which gave us entirely new outlets for our creative energy. Running political events in particular made me realize that supporting organizations to work with the government and the public is an opportunity to help people in a completely different scope, and make the world a better place. So, I have created a whole public affairs team that helps non-profits, charities, and social enterprises to achieve their goals, whether that’s writing a great grant application, or enacting policy change.

Today, Julie & Co is a boutique event management and public affairs agency, boasting a team of diverse backgrounds and skill sets. 

What motivates you in your work?

I am driven by my desire to leverage my skills and creative energy to support organizations that seek to change the world for the better. I thrive on solving problems, and maximizing opportunities for our clients regardless of what services they have retained us to provide.

One thing that’s unique about Julie & Co is the integration we can offer between public affairs and events: something we are really excited about! As an example, we are currently working with a non-profit to both run their upcoming conference, and leverage it into a launchpad to translate their ambitious mandate to transform Canada’s response to youth homelessness from cutting-edge research into government action through our diverse suite of public affairs services.

What has been a highlight of your career?

The highlight of my career is the moment I knew Julie & Co had transformed from a boutique event planning company into a vibrant social enterprise.

The COVID-19 pandemic was difficult for us all, and I have really felt for the frontline workers that have worked tirelessly to keep us safe. I was looking for something positive to do with the team’s extra time when most weddings were canceled in 2020. We created and launched the Great Canadian Wedding Giveaway, offering frontline workers impacted by the pandemic the opportunity to enter to win a free wedding. The Giveaway was a great success, with over 1000 entries, and led to me both receiving a Top 40 Under 40 award, and a lot of media attention.

The success of the Giveaway made me reflect on the difficulties Canadians have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ability of Julie and Co to help. The challenges have been many, yet so too are the opportunities to address them. This reflection was what prompted me to further expand Julie & Co., to build a team that can provide services to support organizations working to help Canadians.

What has been the biggest challenge you have had to overcome? 

In my twenties I was in a relationship where I was verbally and physically abused. It cast a shroud of darkness over my life. I felt unsafe, and alone: a hardship faced by too many in communities across the world. Through support, and a creative outlet – Julie & Co – I was able to escape that darkness, and emerge empowered to build a life for myself devoid of abuse. I have since dedicated myself to helping people live happy lives, and building stronger, safer communities through serving on boards of organizations whose mandate helps people who were in a similar situation to mine but also narrowing the types of organizations we work with. 

Through Julie & Co, I have been able to spread happiness through weddings, and support organizations to make the world a better place through other event management and public affairs services. We’ve helped organizations receive funding to support their programs, influence government policy, create effective communications plans, and more: all in the name of helping people.

If you were not in event management and public affairs, what industry would you work in?

I would have to say I would probably have gone back to Law School and became a lawyer. I think there is a lot of good and social impact that can be done in the field of law but many lawyers don’t serve communities in the way they could. 

What are two pieces of advice you want to pass along to people or organizations that could benefit from hosting events or undertaking public affairs activities?

First, no matter who you are or what you do, your life is impacted by government policies or programs. Advocacy is how we shape the government policies and programs that shape our lives. Clearly, proactively defining yourself and your narrative are key to your success, whether that’s advocating directly to the government, attempting to receive government money for your organization, or building public awareness or support for your work. 

Second, if done correctly, events are an important public relations opportunity for your organization. Events are a chance to promote your narrative, knowledge, and thought leadership over the topics you represent, and can be used as a launchpad to pursue your advocacy objectives.

What are your predictions for the future of the media industry?

Over the last couple of decades, the media has seen a lot of changes. The news cycle now runs 24/7. People have constant access to news and the ability to share information through apps like Twitter or TikTok. Journalists are facing constant pressure to get stories out at ever-increasing speeds. These factors combine to make it more difficult than ever for organizations to cut through the white noise and effectively share their perspective. This problem is only going to get worse.

This makes it incredibly important for organizations to have a cohesive narrative and utilize complementary tactics to share their perspective. This is the foundation for every aspect of organization management, including advocacy, marketing, and sales. These are skills that Julie & Co has, and supports our clients with everyday.