Jen’s Bio

Welcome!  This is long, but not nearly as long as it could be!  I am a very open book.  I have plenty of skills…  many gifted to me, and many more learned…  but my best attributes are my open mind, and big heart.  I love to help, and even more,  I love to listen.

Jen’s biography.

I grew up in Ottawa, Ontario.  Canada’s beautiful capital city.

As a child I was always drawing, painting or working with something I could mold and change… always creating something.  I wrote stories or I built miniature cities in the giant sand pile at our cottage.  My imagination was always on.

Another love is music and dancing.  I was in ballet and other forms of dance classes from the young age of 4 through 15. I took classical and modern ballet, jazz, tap and excelled in acrobatics.  Now, I just love to dance!  I found my favourite music when disco arrived back in the 70’s.  I was a little disco queen.  Not allowed (legally) in discotheques, I listened on the radio, records I bought and at the roller rink.  From Disco to R&B, Reggae and any Island Beat I am happy.  That doesn’t mean I don’t love the classics and classical music.  I can appreciate almost anything (except music with derogatory lyrics and harsh sounds… not a fan of punk and hated hard rock/acid rock).

Both my parents were avid photographers and Mum especially talented with a camera.  I joined in and had a small 35 mm before my 10th birthday.

I thought perhaps I might become an architect because I loved to imagine and design houses… But, then I had to grow up.

My parents were of the generation that girls like me became secretaries or nurses or teachers and since I really wasn’t cut out for the latter two, I was directed to become a secretary… Just like my Mum.

Besides growing up with summers at the Cottage, we also spent a lot of time at the tennis club.  My Mum and Dad were quite athletic… In the winters we skated along The Canal or on our backyard rink, when we weren’t building snow-forts and on weekends we were alpine skiing.  Dad, who had played semi-pro football in his university years was also on the National Ski Team, was a Slalom coach with the Carleton Board of Education where he was also a Mathematics/Physics/Algebra Teacher and Department Head.  (I hated anything math and failed miserably at it throughout school)

In high school, I did not pass grade 9 typing (to be fair the teacher was very boring) and was pathetic at shorthand or accounting… Not my thing – at all !!!  looking back I realize my Mum – who was also extremely creative and talented, thought I should follow in her footsteps.

Many years later, looking back, I would wish that she had been brave enough to try to find working doing the things she loved.  I think she would have been much happier.  Don’t get me wrong, she could type 100 WPM on a manual typewriter and she held very high secretarial positions (now called Executive Administrative Assistants).  But she was a extremely talented and could have made a living with those skills, I’m sure!

In looking at my Mum’s life I began to realize I had taken and was living a somewhat similar path.

After high school (when it was obvious I really wasn’t cut out for ‘secretarial’ work due to lack of skills (and perhaps because of lack of interest in it) I took a course in Travel and Tourism.

Travel was always a huge part of me.  I was fortunate to have parents who took us on holidays and although we didn’t see the whole world, we did manage to experience different cultures and see different landscapes… Country and City.  Every summer we went to the sea (usually Main or Cape Cod and Nantucket).   I didn’t know a lot, but I did know that I wanted to see the world!  Not just holidays, but to live in different places, live and learn from locals…  In the dead of our bitterly cold winters I’d sometimes think a couple of weeks on and island would be nice but spending all my time on a Caribbean island wasn’t quite what I’d had in mind when I was thinking cultural immersion.

After college I had a few jobs and then I landed my first dream job.  Well, not quite dream job but I did love it.  Despite the fact that I didn’t speak much French, in a now officially bilingual city, I landed a job with a commuter airline. I was the luckiest girl in the world.  I got to go to work every day at the airport (for minimum wages ?).  Airports (back then) were exciting.  As I sold tickets and processed passengers at the gate, I would imagine where all these people were off to.  Business men and women, families, world travelers off to some exciting destination.

As for me, by this time I was dating my future husband, who by now had moved home to New Jersey, and so my free flights (and free time) was spent in Long Branch, New Jersey, by way of Newark Int’l Airport.  A stone’s throw from NYC, I loved going to NJ.  I loved his family, the people (yes, Americans) and loved being able to walk to the beach (the North Jersey Shore has some beautiful beaches) or taking a drive into The City (aka Manhattan).  So different from the white collar, politically driven capital of Canada.

After marrying my NJ sweetheart and moving to Long Branch, we had our daughter and settled into our lives.  Then, not long after my daughter was born, we took a visiting Uncle up to the airport… A perfect opportunity to show off my beautiful baby to the girls I knew at my former airline’s ticket counter.

After saying goodbye to ‘Uncle Wheelchair’ as he later became known to Amber, my Mother-in-Law indulged me with a visit to Terminal B and the City Express ticket counter.  Mary, the station manager, told me she had given notice and that coming Friday was her last day.  She encouraged me to apply for her job.  I thought she was nuts… I’d only worked as a Ticket Agent in Ottawa,not even as a supervisor.  But, Mary lite a fire under me.  The airline’s owner already knew me, I had excellent references from my former manager and knew the Sales and Operations Managers quite well.  Bonus, I was Canadian.

I took a huge leap of faith and applied for the position.  I left my month old baby in the capable hands of my husband and flew up to Ottawa for a meeting with the airline owner and other executives.  It was a terrifying experience (really just the owner was terrifying) but I gave it my best shot and went home to my NJ apartment and waited.  The next day I got the call.  I was hired.

I absolutely loved my position as Station Manager for an International Airline (very small, but still international).  I learned so much during that time.  I was a very small and fairly young fish swimming in a big pond.  Luckily most of the big fish were friendly and helpful.

The beginning of my new life.

Fast forward to recent history, and after all these years, I’ve discovered that there will always have new lives.  I don’t know if it’s the Pisces in me, or the sense of Wanderlust, or if it is just because after I left my job at the airport I no longer had a job that fulfilled me the way that one did…

Sadly my marriage eventually came to an end and I moved back to Canada with a small child and no father who could take her on weekends or after school.  It wasn’t an easy decision coming back home, but at the time, I just didn’t see many options.

I knew I couldn’t get the same type of job at the Ottawa airport because of my limited French, and I couldn’t work nights and weekends so I took a cosmetician course and worked as a makeup artist for a couple of years.  I enjoyed the creative aspect but worked for a company whose products I was expected to sell.  It got tiresome after a while and though I longed to become more mobile and thought I would start my own mobile artist company, the reality was I was a single mom with very limited resources (and no encouragement from friends and family).  So, I took some basic admin courses and set to getting temp jobs for a year or so until a position with a local, privately owned, Property Management company fell in my lap.  I worked for them for a few years, moving up fairly quickly.  I got to work with coworkers but also tenants, which I loved.  I began to realize that, like working at the airport, even though I was extremely shy I was really good with people.  In fact, in high school I was employee of the month several times during my 3 years at the local McDonalds… And they often put me on the early morning shift because I could greet customers with a big cheery smile at 6:30 am.

After a few years with the property management company, and again making pretty low wages, another job opportunity fell into my lap.  I was asked to join the management team of a local financial center of an international Insurance company.  I loved the people I worked with. I actually enjoyed the job (they gave me a lot of creative jobs to do) and enjoyed working with the over 65 advisors associate with the successful branch.  After a few years as a Financial Center Administrator I was recruited by one of the satellite offices to become a Financial Advisor myself.  If successful, the money would be three times what I was making and although my current job had evolved (I was now involved with the recruiting side of the business) I was itching for a change and the idea of being self-employed again was extremely appealing.  Problem was, I believed in the products… But zero closing skills.  After giving sales a go for 6 months, I joined their team as an Associate Advisor and Insurance Desk specialist.  I was also in a relationship with a man, whom I had known in my teen years… and settled in to life in the country, 45 minutes south of Ottawa.  You see this time my teenage daughter had already decided that she wanted to finish high school in New Jersey be use she wanted to go to University in New York City.

My daughter had followed fairly closely only footsteps.  She played the violin (better then I did, I’m sure), the guitar and piano (all better than me) and loved to sketch and paint as well.  Unlike my parents, I completely encouraged her to follow her passion and not fall into the trap of getting a JOB that would leave her unfulfilled.

It was while I was living in that small town, now married and settled into a pleasant life in the country that I met an old friend of his who had been working as a Virtual Assistant.  At the time, one of my hobbies, besides gardening, was making jewelry to give to family and friends.  We didn’t have access to the Internet on our rural road.   Once it became available, I started to look into this new online world.

Fast forward to just a few years ago I decided to become a Virtual Assistant. It became apparent to me that my daughter was not going to come home to Ottawa… she’d made a life for herself in NY.  So, if she wasn’t going to come to me… I’d just make it as easy as possible to be there with her.  I started off my taking a Virtual Assistant course.  Packed with all kinds of great information, the one thing that stuck with me was that I had to have a website and the industry standard was WordPress.  A foreign program, for sure… but one I launched in to with complete gusto.  There were many hours of struggling to understand this complicated system, however slowly but surely I got to know and like WordPress.  I’d already build my then husband’s website on a free – visual platform, and loved every minute of that.  WordPress is much more complex, but as you work, you see the website take life.

Because of this, instead of taking the virtual assistant jobs I thought I might do (typical administrative work) I became a WordPress VA.  I found something I enjoyed doing… combining my love of helping people with Creating something unique to them.  What I also realized, with the help of a few wonderful clients, was that I was giving them more than a website in a box.  Was helping them define their business, how they should present it to the world and creating their brands.


This is how Bohemian Branding was born!