Montreal native Priya Chopra had already made a mark at companies like L’Oreal and Cambell’s Soup by the time she was 22-years-old.
After a brief stint living in Milan, Chopra returned home to Montreal and launched public relations agency 1Milk2Sugars in 2004. In 2011, Chopra separated from her partners to become the sole owner of the business, marking a rebirth of the company that coincided with the birth of her first child. Now with offices on both Toronto and Montreal, 1Milk2Sugars has tripled in size (in both clients and employees) in the past five years. Chopra, a mother of three, has been featured on BloombergTV, Breakfast Television and Global Television, and in publications like the Globe and Mail, Chatelaine and The Gazette.
How do you define success?
The definition of success varies by individual – to me, success has never been about financial success. Call me crazy, as we commonly hear that “we are in business to make money.” Of course this is true to a certain extent, but I always felt money would come as a result of being happy and being true to yourself. For me, success was to follow my instinct and create a career that I would conceptualize, define and deploy – and that is exactly what I did and here I am 12 years later.
What has been a career highlight to date?
There have been several key milestones in the growth of my agency over the last several years, but I would say the most recent was when I was approached by Forbes, to join the Forbes Agency Council. They took notice of me and the agency and we were asked to submit our candidature to their board. It was amazing to, first of all, receive such an invitation, and then to be accepted and recognized – it’s like years and years of hard work being validated. Certainly, it is a nice pat on the back. Since being part of the Forbes Agency Council, there has been a lot of interest from the media, in particular Bloomberg TV Canada invited me on to share my story, as well as Global and Breakfast Television. Whenever I am invited on broadcast TV, I am always brutally honest when I share my experiences, I make sure to never sugar coat the reality and hard work it is to be an entrepreneur in any field.
What was the biggest challenge in breaking into the Toronto/English Canada market and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was a matter of perception; we were very well known in the Montreal market in our niche, however, there was a perception that we were just a Montreal-based shop with a very small presence in Toronto. It was hard to get sizeable contracts from larger brands, since they felt we had a stronghold in French but not English Canada. We decided to do some very active PR & social media for 1Milk2Sugars, to make it widely known that we were in Toronto, and we were not going anywhere! In fact, now just 4 years since opening our Toronto location, it has become our head office for the agency! We have staffed up our team and we employ key talent that can bring added value to all our clients’ programs. It is wonderful to hear us being called a “Toronto PR Agency”, although I am so very proud of our French roots.
What causes are you most passionate about?
Definitely anything related to children, in particular after becoming a mom. Every child should have the right to grow up innocent, joyful and carefree and it breaks my heart to see it otherwise. Our Agency does support a number of kids’ charities, including SOS Children’s Villages, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto as well as the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation. Still, I wish I could do more, and ultimately this is where I would love to put more and more of my personal time. In particular, helping children from under-developed parts of the world, including my country of origin, India.
How do you find a sense of balance in your life?
I must admit that there are some days where I am still trying to figure it out! I have a very busy personal life with three children under the age of seven, so there are days that can be very trying to say the least. But then I realize that this moment in time will soon be a thing of the past, and in some crazy way, I may want to go and do it all over again! That makes me slow down and appreciate the hustle and bustle of my every day life. I know I always won’t be as busy as I am today, since this is the peak of my career, so I truly appreciate and embrace this. That being said, when I need to just ‘chill’ and have some me-time, I am an avid fitness gal. I really believe in releasing those endorphins, and feeling great from a good sweat. It doesn’t have to be a hard core workout, I try to fit in what I can – whether it’s doing some burpees at the park with my kids, grabbing a jump rope from our office closet (yes we do have a bunch of skipping ropes at hand!), or going for a full-on run.
What surprised you the most about becoming a working mom?
That it’s not that hard! You have to just go with it. You do have to be supremely organized; I literally have a calendar for work, one for my personal life and then one for the kids’ activities. I also live by Post-it notes – you will find them everywhere: in my pocket, on my desk, in my car…I need to ‘see’ my to-do list at all times. But overall, I think many women often overthink the task of raising kids while they grow their career, and perhaps everyone’s threshold is different. For me, I take it as it comes and the joy my kids and family bring me far outweighs any of the work involved.
What do you look for in new hires?
Is it too egotistical to say people like me?! I would hope that my team is a reflection of me, and also the values of our agency, which essentially are my values and my vision. I love individuals that can rise to the occasion, that are doers, go-getters, resourceful and proactive. I love people that have a strong work ethic and when they give their word, they just get it done. Having a solid team can make any business owner sleep better at night – it’s that important.
What Toronto spot (store, restaurant, bar) should be on everyone’s radar?
The Bisha Hotel with its rooftop resto, bar and infinity pool is definitely at the top of my list.
What are your guilty pleasures?
Lately it has been bite-size Twix & Oreo thins! Can you see the trend here?! I love to indulge – just in moderation!
What does the future of 1Milk2 Sugars look like to you?
Sky is the limit has always been my philosophy – if you can dream it, you can do it. Thus, in my dreams soon-too-be reality is our US expansion, which is currently in the works. Having a presence North American-wide is the next steps for us, and my instinct tells me we can make it there in a big way – it’s just a matter of timing. We have also had some interest from different M&A firms, looking to merge or acquire ours, thus there have been some interesting routes we could take as we grow. For now, I am still enjoying the ride, there is certainly never a dull moment when you are an entrepreneur!