Justine brings ten years of Strategic Planning at Pfizer, and ten years running her own holistic wellness businesses. Blawesome's mission is the culmination of her life’s work in service of supporting people to unleash their potential.
“I believe in the power of tech that supports people’s wellbeing, and creates tangible impact and lasting change that helps propel the wellness revolution!”
You have a unique depth of understanding of physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, as well as high-level business development and strategic thinking. How did these two passions grow in tandem?
I've always been correct and left-brained…have you ever heard that Victorianism, "A change is as good as a rest"? I remember recognizing this early in my career in the innovative healthcare industry while unapologetically working as a full-time competitive dance teacher–gosh. I had stamina back then! I would arrive at the studio in the evenings, on weekends. I would recall feeling so restored by the shift in stimulation as I scrolled for the right song, thinking, "this feels outstanding!" and vice versa on the more challenging days of teaching, choreographing, or managing dancer highs and lows, my corporate work felt like such a welcome offset. I would pull that creative influence into my daily work.
Over the next ten years, ranging from sales management and business intelligence to working on corporate integrations and restructurings as an internal business consultant, colliding my dual worlds in ways that excited me. This dual path kept presenting new challenges and opportunities while remaining active in performing arts and design throughout the years. These years left me with a unique insight into the business of health, the growing demands being placed on our healthcare system, and perhaps most of all, a deep understanding of corporate dynamics, work-induced stress and the challenges of maintaining the elusive state of work-life balance.
There was a point somewhere in the mix where I reconsidered my relationship to movement, and it was at that moment I discovered yoga in 2006. What can I say? For those who have a yoga practice, you'll get it. It was a whole new world revealed to me that enabled me to systematically investigate and extract my experience in such a way I could not access prior. As with most things I love, I looked for ways to teach to grow my practice, study and gain knowledge rigorously. As my movement language shifted from dance to yoga or somewhere in between, I started to long for a world that did a better job integrating holistic wellness practices like yoga into our conventional work, play and passions. To me, it was this great link to access a new level of daily consciousness, self-awareness and problem solving, leading us collectively into activities and actions emerging from higher degrees of creativity, mental fitness and transcendent states of being. What if everyone had access to this toolbox? Just think of the potential to bring people together, to acknowledge our interdependencies rather than our self-interest. I believe a thoughtful wellness practice can provide us with this to build stronger, more stable societies. Now I'm on a mission to help expand the collective consciousness, and Blawesome is the vehicle to drive this forward because we are capable of so much better. Our survival depends on it.
How did you join Blawesome?
Jen and I are old friends… it began with simultaneous career pivots, a global circumnavigation and an unexpected death…
Over a decade ago, we were introduced through mutual L’Oreal friends, and even though I'm a gen-Xer, Jen liked me anyway (she's younger than I, lol), and we became fast friends! It wasn't long before I left my decade-long career with Pfizer to pursue my passion for preventative health. I wanted to help people take care of themselves before they got sick or, if they were ill, to support their path forward and regain health in body and mind. I kicked off my transition wanting to learn and experience as much as I could on the subject, which led me to travel around the world to places like India, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam and Bali to study yoga and other eastern approaches to wellness and healing.
Meanwhile, Jen, too, was pivoting away from corporate in pursuit of more of an intentional career path. Once I returned, Jen and I continued living together in Montreal and merged our shared passions into a brick-and-mortar idea of wellness. A center for yoga, combining lecture series, group study, and a comprehensive yoga program that crossed over into creative movement and the arts - inspired by the concept of noblesse oblige. We translate this into the sentiment that with privilege comes great responsibility. In this place, one could safely investigate their claim and recognize how to use it for good and pay it forward, all within the holistic framework that yoga provides. We were so excited to continue studying these meaningful traditions while reaching a broader community of people in our corner of Montreal, in St. Henri. It was at this moment where fate took a turn… while we were tirelessly working with an architect and moving forward with our mission-filled concepts and business plans to create a new community-based wellness experience – the landlord died suddenly just as we had verbally agreed on terms of our lease.
I'm not superstitious or anything, but that felt like such a warning signal to slow down and reconsider the approach…we questioned, was a brick-and-mortar the right move? Have we been spared in some way? As the dream lay dormant, we never lost sight of our shared purpose even though our personal lives took us in different directions with family. With my move to the USA in 2015, we saw little of each other. Fast forward to a chance encounter on Instagram, witnessing the birth of Blawesome. It seems like a natural reunion for us to re-emerge into the 21st-century language of our shared vision to create more conscious spaces online based on a growth-focused global wellness community.
Synchronicity is a real thing; before reconnecting with Jen and discovering Blawesome, I became obsessed with wellness technology. I felt strongly that my next wellness business must also be a tech company to impact the good I longed for positively. With Jen's vision and Blawesome gaining the momentum it has, I’m convinced the time is now for this long-felt mission and partnership to soar!
What practices do you use to take care of your wellbeing while raising a business and a family simultaneously? Three most essential tips/practices?
I'm answering this by acknowledging that families had to adapt to all kinds of changes during the pandemic. It's safe to assume for most families with young children, much of our wellness programming these days includes children underfoot, myself included; here are my quick 3…
Tip 1: Taking note of what works is half the battle. So after you do something that makes you feel fantastic for having done it (laugh, cook, shower, walk, nature, swim, craft, whatever), I always try to take note, and when I'm feeling crap, I go back to that proven mental list, and I know exactly what to do.
Tip 2: It's the little things, often practiced…throughout a given day, I incorporate
- pranayama (especially in the sea air to open my sinuses and clear my head),
- I take cold showers,
- Savasana or meditation
- I practice nauli on an empty stomach (an abdominal organ massage technique)
- an impromptu inversion for a boost to my postural alignment, to warm-up or to move fluid around,
- facial massage with my gua sha,
- healing soundtracks,
- burning some palo santo or
- drink something fermented because it makes my tummy feel good
….any chance I can activate healing through my senses. I have a set-up to support frequent access to these kinds of micro-breaks.
Tip 3: My Goldilocks sweat: A high-intensity, cathartic sweat session 3-times a week is essential…3 feels good to me, not too much and not too little. You can feel it when something is good for you, right? This trend is a combination of yoga and contemporary dance methods, followed by time in the sauna.
As Chief Sales Officer at Blawesome, you are building meaningful relationships and adding value that increases sales; what advice do you have for another wellness business owner who wants to grow their mission-driven business?
My approach to sales has always been quite intuitive; I have never been one to parrot overreaching talking points from marketing departments – only when the boss was in the room. By nature, I'm a collaborator, which shapes my consultative sales style. Still, psychologically to be effective in sales, I had to believe that what I was selling was in faithful service to someone - getting specific on who that someone was. It's the only way I can deal with conviction. For you not to sell feels like a disservice; that is the sweet spot! If you have to shoehorn a purpose onto an idea, product or service, it's your signal to pivot or make a change. Not only will you not sell (and if you do, it will not be a loyal relationship), but you will also damage your spirit. I have experienced both sides of this coin - one is sustainable, the other is not. Whatever hat you're wearing running your business, take the lack of internal fire as a warning sign against your creative tap and shift, outsource, get help, reposition toward your strengths. A wellness entrepreneur without a clear relationship to their creativity, imagination and ingenuity is sliding the backyard into a state of anguish. It's taken me two decades to figure out how to recognize and respond to imbalances taking me away from my most optimal form of life and work. It's a practice that I accept will never be fully mastered and is a place where working with a coach myself can play such a supportive role.
You have mentioned teen girls as a dance teacher, with your Unshakeable Me programme, and now as a mother to two little girls (under 7). Please share where your passion for mentoring girls comes from and the impact you believe whole-hearted, confident, embodied girls can make in the world.
I’m having such a guttural reaction to this question…
Where does my passion for mentoring girls come from, and what impact does it hold? If I drill down on the answer, I think it points to wanting to rescue the little girl within myself somehow. I reflect on what my own coming-of-age and young adult challenges looked like; it involved: the mean girls who turned into cruel bosses, the competition, the heartbreaks, women not standing together, the longing for the older girls to show me the way, and for the female leaders in my life to be eager to bring me into the fold - I hungered for that type of female kinship, mentorship and generosity with their attention and wisdom. I have a wonderful mother; she provided me all the love a child could hope for, and still, I was left wishing for more collegiality among the women in my life (and hers), the kind I would observe between men, especially in the business arena.
It would frustrate me when I slip into a scarcity thought pattern, feeling like I'm sliding backyards as you see other women making gains; it feels isolating and overwhelming to feel left behind. It has taken me years to recognize, investigate and redirect these limiting beliefs, and age certainly helps. My self-work is reinforced through work with teens; to offer a bridge to the younger generations of women to live a life of togetherness and realized potential without all the detours. Imagine if we could ensure that our girls would grow up without getting in their way as much. See a world that wanted them to soar. Expected them to inspire a meaningful change and valued their contributions and voices, all strengthened by tight-knit and supportive communities of women guiding the way. If technology can assist in this effort at scale, a different level of progress for women would be achievable in less time and increase global reach. Bringing feminine leadership influences closer to equal representation directing progress through more humanistic and life-centric considerations.
Today, the youth I work with (and these are kids with economic means and parents that love and support them), and yet they're sad, lonely, more anxious than I ever remember. I see more body image distortion among young dancers, not less. We know that this is large because of toxic social media, the external validation feedback loop that is so pervasive and counterproductive to our youths' self-confidence building and spiritual development. It's a pandemic of "likes"! I feel like the ones weathering the storm were the girls who had a limited appetite for social media compared to their peers. They never said "no" to trying new things. They had deep personal integrity and had solid and frequent relationships with nature. Oh, and not only did they study yoga with me, but they also developed strong self-practices. One girl stands out, Megan, and she has become my muse for what a world of content and unshakeable girls could look like! She embodies Blawesome in my mind, and her example will carve a new path forward for all our little girls, including my own.