If you’ve spent much time in a canoe, you’ll likely be familiar with the ‘J-stroke’. For those who don’t know, the J-stroke is a paddling technique that allows one to propel a canoe forward in a straight line without constantly switching the paddle from side to side. It’s the type of stroke one can spend years practicing without perfecting, but once mastered will allow one to journey out alone with confidence.

In 2019, after more than a decade in the marketing department at Blue Mountain Resort, Julie Kaden decided it was time to journey off on her own. With the confidence of an experienced paddler, Julie started her own business as a content creator, and chose to name it (you guessed it) j.stroke. “Coming up with a name was probably the hardest part of starting my own business,” said Julie, “but I grew up canoe tripping and working at summer camps and I thought, ‘I’m the captain of my ship and I’m steering this boat’. It’s also a bit of a double entendre because a stroke can mean a keystroke or a pen stroke, and since ‘J’ is the first initial of my name, it just stuck.”

With one difficult decision behind her, Julie re-oriented herself to launching her business. She had made a reputation for herself over the past decade working in the industry, so it didn’t take long before she had her hands full with new projects. As a content creator, Julie offers many services, though nearly all of what she does revolves around writing. Her work includes online content; scriptwriting; news articles; technical writing and editing; and social media strategy as well. She also enjoys writing scripts and working on production-based jobs for clients, which comes natural to her since she originally went to college for film and broadcasting. Some of her more well-known local clients include the Scenic Caves Nature Adventures in The Blue Mountains, The Georgian Peaks in Thornbury, the Town of The Blue Mountains, the Town of Collingwood, the Toronto Ski Club, and the Canadian Ski Council.

Julie’s easy way with people has allowed her to connect with the business community in Collingwood, which has contributed significantly to the success of her business. Since launching her own business, she has continued to meet other entrepreneurs at co-working spaces like The Foundry, and through networking events and webinars she has attended through the Small Business Enterprise Centre (SBEC) in town. In the past year, she was able to virtually attend a bookkeeping webinar and a women’s day networking event. “The bookkeeping webinar was so helpful. I learned so much and felt such a huge sense of relief. It was the missing piece that I needed, and I just didn’t even know where to start. I’m not ashamed to say I needed the help, because I’m good at other things, but this is just not one of them”, said Julie. Julie is thankful to be part of a business community that supports independent entrepreneurs and has had many of her clients referred to her because of her connections in the community.

Julie’s first year running j. stroke brought many challenges, as she juggled her roles as business administrator, content creator and mom of two young children, all from her home office amid a pandemic! At times this was frustrating, as she hoped that working as a contractor would offer her more flexibility to spend time with her family. She also knew that it would take time to get past the initial learning curve that comes with running your own business for the first time, and she quickly started learning how to set boundaries for herself. “I’m a creative person at heart and I love having my hands in a number of different projects, so it’s really hard to say ‘no’ sometimes. But I do think it’s important to draw boundaries in order to find a healthy work-life balance,” said Julie. Two years into running her own business, and with the hardest steps behind her, Julie is starting to find a rhythm for herself. She remains excited about the prospect of new projects and is finding ways to make time for herself and her family as her business continues to grow.

Julie’s desire to find a better balance between her professional and family life encouraged her to start her own business, but it was also what brought her to Collingwood in the first place. Julie grew up in the big city and was certain she would always want to stay there, but when she graduated college and was looking for work, she decided to come to Collingwood to spend the summer. The summer came and went, and before she knew it Julie was settling down to start a family in Collingwood.

“I managed to take parts of my education and worked in broadcasting for a bit in the early to mid-2000s when I first moved to Collingwood, but it was a lot of commuting. Then I discovered the world of marketing and content and it sort of just led me to where I am now. I love the outdoor lifestyle in Collingwood and it’s a great place to raise a family. Really, I can’t say enough great things about the Town,” explained Julie. Julie still misses many parts of her life in Toronto, but because the city is so close, she can pop back for concerts and to explore the food scene whenever she wants to. In the end, Collingwood offered Julie a pace of life that she wasn’t likely to find in Toronto, and Julie offered Collingwood a service that most wouldn’t expect to find outside of the big city.

Julie is energized by the prospect of continuing to build her business, but she is trying to focus less on growing its size and more on developing the quality of her work and clients. She hopes to finesse some of her writing processes and continue developing new skills that will round out her work. She has also signed on to co-author a book in the latter part of 2021, which will chronical the journeys of women who have left the big city in search of simpler living. Julie has a seemingly bottomless well of creative energy and a broad set of skills, which are certain to take her and j.stroke to many exciting places in the coming years. Be sure to keep an eye out for her work as she makes a name for her new business!

For more information or to request to work with Julie, you can email [email protected]
Photo Credits: Dave West Photography