Photography by Melissa D'Souza, Ripe Resolution

How to Be a Boss with Devon Brooks

When Devon Brooks walks into a room, one gets the sense that a very contained tornado has entered the room. Her manner is bold and self-assured, yet every few minutes she lets her guard down and an adorable quirk comes bubbling up to the surface. Brooks is, of course, the co-founder of blo blow dry bar, the Vancouver-based chain of no cut, no colour, blow-dry only salons that count Gwyneth Paltrow as an investor.

Brooks started blo with her mom Judy Brooks, when she was only 21 years old. They based the business model on the concept of the “lipstick index,” a term coined to illustrate that women splurge on affordable luxuries, like lipstick, in time of recessions. Adhering to the lipstick index  allowed blo to flourish as it launched in 2007, a year before the worst recession in history since the Great Depression. Brooks left blo after four years to become a life coach and is now on the verge of launching a new business; an app called Sphere that launches in July. Sphere is a personal development app that connects people with life coaches who can help them access their full potential.

On Tuesday evening, Brooks took the stage at Coco Con: Startup, an event organized by Halo PR powerhouses Catriona Smart and Halla Rafati gathering women entrepreneurs who want to network, learn and grow from one another. (Not to mention enjoy margaritas, gumball machines that vend Smarties and jelly beans, and a Ferris wheel of chocolate chip cookies at Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel.) Everyone packed into the small conference room is self-assured,  beyond gorgeous, and exudes confidence. In short, everyone here is already a boss, but still wants to nurture and cultivate those existing qualities as if they were precious succulents.

Brooks began the evening by leading an ‘energy check-in,’ meant to determine the amount of enthusiasm everyone’s bringing to the room. Its a concept I initially found corny but deemed valuable once I felt the positivity pulsating throughout the room. She then proceeded to deliver an hour’s worth of raw advice that veered from scaling one’s personal brand to making peace with the unobtainability of balance.  Read on for Devon Brooks’ best nuggets of wisdom for entrepreneurs, female or otherwise, looking to start their own business or app.

Photography by Melissa D’Souza, Ripe Resolution

Pick your business partners wisely

“Don’t underestimate the power of your network,” Brooks says in regards to finding talented people you want to work with.  She met Shona Beats, her current business partner via mutual friends on Facebook. They work well together because Brooks’ blind spots are Beats’ strengths, which allows both of them the freedom to focus on what they’re good at.


“De-risk” yourself

Brooks acknowledges that most relationships – business or otherwise – don’t last forever, but notes there are measures you can take to make sure that a relationship souring doesn’t signal the end of the business. When working with a co-founder, it’s crucial is to talk about what the co-founder relationship will look like, map out various scenarios and ask each other, “How can we create an agreement we’re both prepared to honour?” Brooks and her Sphere co-founder consulted with a coach while preparing to launch the app and have essentially “derisked” themselves if the partnership is ever to dissolve.


Be true to yourself.

“If something is depleting you the majority of the time — when you have more bad days than good — it’s time to step away,” Brooks says.


Surrender to imbalance

No on can have it all, Brooks says frankly. Individuals have a finite amount of energy and if they pour energy into one area of their life, then other areas suffer. Instead, Brooks says that women should “surrender to imbalance,” and be intentional and mindful about what you are investing your time in. It’s key to have a good support system to rely on when you’re feeling drained and need to ask for help.


Don’t let a lack of expertise stop you from pursuing your dreams

When Brooks started blo blow dry bar, she didn’t know anything about hair, she says. Instead, she realized there was a gap in the marketplace she knew she could fill. “Don’t let the vernacular stop you from pursuing an industry you don’t have formal training in,” she says. If you have a solution to a problem, that’s good enough.

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