I thought I would offer an update on my life and projects heading into the new year.
After spending 4 years on Sarnia City Council, last year I ran for the mayoral seat and lost to incumbent Mike Bradley. Soon after the election campaign I had found out that the beloved Sarnia Journal was struggling and its future was uncertain. I was able to get a meeting with the last owner left, of a group previously of four, to offer any help I could give. A number of months later, he approached me and said they were looking to get out of the business and retire and offered to sell his shares to me. This was a future I had never even considered for my life before, and for a whole bunch of reasons and feeling like the universe just placed this opportunity right on my lap, I found a way to make it happen. So as of August 1, 2023, I own 80% of the Sarnia Media Group which publishes the Sarnia Journal.
I’ve spent the last 5 months envisioning what the Sarnia Journal can become over the next decade and putting things into place to get it there. I’ve imagined a ten year vision for the Sarnia Journal that in a lot of ways embodies so much of my philosophy on life in ways that I believe will be so beneficial to Sarnia-Lambton. Over the years I’ve grown obsessed with the idea of worker-owned cooperatives, anarchist-philosophy based businesses and studying alternative business models and I am excited to be able to put a bunch of these principles into practice with the building of the Sarnia Journal. The alternative models embody so much more of my life’s philosophy; collective liberation, anti-capitalism, decolonized approaches and the belief that love and the world is abundant. My time in politics also taught me about the power of the media to create narratives and frame stories and how that shapes the communities that we live in. Politicians manipulate that for their direct benefit or to cause unrest that will make the general public have no other option but to trust the politician. The importance of having independent journalism to hold the people in power that run our institutions accountable can not be overstated.
I also have always been into the idea of the media and its role in forming communities. Twenty years ago, I started my university’s student-led magazine because I saw the value of all voices being heard and students being able to speak out about what was going on around them. Stories being shared, in other words, the media, has a way of bringing people together with shared purpose, expands imaginations, and holds people accountable to the collective’s benefit. I’ve followed independent journalists and organizations for years knowing that their independence from large capital and powerful interests is what gives them their credibility. For a community of only 120,000 people, the role of independent and locally owned media is absolutely critical to its health and ensuring that people know what’s going on around them, and who is going on around them. This kind of media also is very instrumental in inspiring youth to be through stories of people that live here as an alternative to the dominant narratives of what is possible (ie.getting a full time job and working to live).
Part of the ten year vision of the Sarnia Journal is that I will have offloaded a majority of my shares to the different people who are invested in making this vision come to life, and building a corporate trust structure that makes it immune to being gobbled up by national interests. So I’m actively looking for partners, people who want to join in on this ride because of what it means for Sarnia-Lambton and who want to be part of a legacy community corporation. I’m looking for businesses who want to partner as well in all aspects of the business including sales, journalism, video/audio and businesses that see value from this kind of advertising that happens with news media. The more community minded folks and businesses that want to join in this with me, the better. I can’t do this alone, and don’t want to. So reach out to me please if you have any interests in hearing more. I am also looking for donations to the Journal from friends and folks that are able to help out and see the value in what the Journal is to this community. Community owned journalism is funded by your support and donations, so anything that you can help out with would go a long way to making this a sustainable business.
Beyond the Journal, I’ve been really trying to connect with more people that are starting businesses in Sarnia-Lambton and give them any tools or insight into what needs to happen to make their dream a reality. A couple of friends are launching Honestly Dough downtown first thing in the new year and I’m so excited to see these two guys take the leap to do this on their own! If you are one of those people, that want to try something new and risky, reach out to me and let’s grab a coffee and talk more about it. I have a deep seeded desire to see and help more and more business start here and I’m investing all my extra energy into making it happen. I recently was the recipient of the Entrepreneur of the Year award at the Sarnia-Lambton Chamber of Commerce’s Outstanding Business Achievement Awards. I was honoured to be recognized this way because I believe that one of the primary ways that cities flourish is through the creative and innovative visions that small-business owners have. It’s the way they see the future and what is possible that inspires entire communities to build infrastructure and businesses that make this a community that people want to stay, invest and raise their families in. Those that see their own life from a larger perspective than simply to just “get a job” and instead take the risks to create something new in their community that didn’t exist before is the kind of ethos that we need more of in Sarnia. It’s an alternative lifestyle that has infinite secondary benefits to the community at large, not to mention quite a bit of freedom from the golden handcuffs that traditional employment often ends up becoming.
I’ve recently stepped down from my role as director with Refined Fool Brewing Company. It was quite the decade of learning and adventure getting to start a business with friends. All the accomplishments and challenges that come with starting something that was just a small group of friends putting in $300 a month to what is now a top brewery in Ontario and three bumpin locations in Sarnia has been a true gift to me. I look forward to seeing Refined Fool continue to thrive and be a shining example of what is possible in Sarnia when people work collectively together and care about the people and places that they engage with.
As we go into 2024, I am overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude and love about just how incredible our community is and all the beauty that it embodies. Peace and love to you all and don’t forget the world is abundant!