Laura Townsend; Toronto; @detoxmarketcan
Let’s say if we just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe in a nutshell what you do?
I would say that in the past four-and-a-half years of my life, I’ve been educating people on lifestyle choices—whether it be health and wellness, fitness, skincare or beauty products. The second part would be I run probably the coolest store that exists in the natural beauty industry. It’s the greatest opportunity to have this concept store in Canada.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I was a professional student for a while. I went to Humber College for fashion arts, which was focused more on business and retail. I worked in fashion for a while, then I went back to Humber to study recreational fitness. Then, I went back to school again for alternative medicine at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. It all kind of ties together with my career now at The Detox Market. I have that retail business background to oversee the company, but I also have a keen understanding of natural ingredients, which is what our products are made out of.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
My internship through my fashion program led me to work for the YM Group [which operates retailers such as Urban Planet and Bluenotes]. I was able to work my way up to overseeing a bunch of the visual merchandising.
What was your big break and how did you land it?
I don’t even know how to describe my first big break! I was actually quite successful seeing nutrition clients [full-time] but I really missed the retail industry. But I wasn’t completely happy, and I put it out there to the universe to give me a little more direction. I was actually walking down King Street in Toronto for a conference, and I walked right past The Detox Market. I hadn’t seen it before because it was a pop-up store at the time and had literally just opened. I took a peak in because I was super curious. I went back after a couple days, and I tried to get the Toronto owner’s contact so I could try to work there part-time. And that’s what happened. I connected with the owner we quickly came to realize that there were a lot of opportunities for future development for both myself and the company. That’s how I started with The Detox Market—which is my proudest accomplishment in my professional career to date.
Can you describe one moment when you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
There actually have been a ton of those moments for me. When we opened The Detox Market, we were very much a pop-up store, so every couple months, we were re-evaluating and seeing if it still made sense for us. We continued to keep the store open longer. We were creating more relationships and building our brand selection.” In winter 2014, I was banging on the doors of Hudson’s Bay and Holt Renfrew for opportunities. Holt Renfrew came to us and said, “Let’s do a three-month pop up.” So, we did that and it was amazing. We launched our e-commerce platform after that. That’s when I thought, This is really happening.
What’s your biggest failure or shortcoming career-wise has been to date? And how did you bounce back from that?
I don’t know if I can necessarily say that there were any failures in particular, but in terms of having a difficult time, my dad passed away when I was 19 and in the second year of the fashion program at Humber. That hit me quite hard. I finished my program and started to work in the fashion industry. It can suck you dry, and I was working tireless hours for little pay. It was very exhausting and didn’t have the best energy. That wasn’t what I needed in my life at that moment, so that’s why I went back to school. I really wanted to help people and prevent the fate that my dad had—which was dying at such a young age from a stressful job. I wouldn’t say that my failure was leaving the fashion industry; I left it for a reason. I went back to school to study different things, which really rounded me and gave me a true appreciation for my passions. And me bouncing back was then being able to look back and truly find the way—10 years later—to bring it all together.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
There are four tips that I give for business advice. The first one is to trust your gut completely. I feel like I’m in a place where I am today because something has told me that I was in the right place and I was doing it for the right reason. The next is to take risks and learn from them. If it’s successful that’s amazing, but if it’s not, then it’s not. The third thing is to put yourself out there and meet people. I’m not that old, but when I started out there was no social media. I had to go out to events and physically meet people; my networking skills were very important for building my career. The fourth one? Work your butt off. No one has ever handed anything to me on a silver platter. I truly feel that working hard, not being afraid, putting myself out there and trusting my gut got me to where I am today. And the help of my team has been incredible.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
When I was working for companies where it was all about money—that was the worst. You have to go to work, love your job, love the people you work with and the people around you. The worst advice that I’ve ever gotten (and made me feel the least authentic) was live within my means and to create a life that is reflective of what I have available to me. It’s not always about money; it’s about truly loving what you do.
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?
No, I don’t. I come from the beauty industry which is predominantly women. To be perfectly honest, the owner of my company and our warehouse guy in L.A. are the only two guys in our company. I truly don’t feel that there’s any barriers. But then again, I don’t have first-hand experience working for the beauty industry in more of a national-wide sense.
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
Compensation is something that my boss and I revisit yearly. We grow year to year, roles and responsibilities change, goals change. Its always an open collaborative conversation and for that reason, I definitely feel I am making a fair income.
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
As a millennial myself, it’s always frustrating to hear people say millennials have a lazy, entitled work ethic. We have a mix of older and younger millennials on staff at The Detox Market, and it’s so interesting to see the different qualities and ideas the older versus younger group have. The world has evolved so much over the past few decades; it’s really about growing, adapting, understanding and communicating.