Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is MJ DeCoteau, who’s behind one of Canada’s most most inspirational movements. We caught up with her to find out what inspired her career path and what advice she would share with other young professionals…
1. Describe what you do in less than 140 characters. Go.
I lead Rethink Breast Cancer, the young women’s breast cancer movement.
2. What was the inspiration for your career route?
My mom died of breast cancer when she was 53. I was 22. I went seeking information and ways to get involved, to do something. All I found were drab, scary brochures of how to do a breast exam and a whole lot of pink ribbons and pink teddy bears. These materials all targeted ladies over 60 years and weren’t really my style (even though I love pink!). It was time for a new breast cancer organization, one that was relevant to young women. Breast cancer is not just an older woman’s disease.
3. What is the most memorable milestone in your career so far?
Our charity launched in fall 2001 by bringing the world-famous Fashion Targets Breast Cancer t-shirt campaign to Canada. We came out of nowhere, debuting on the cover of Fashion Magazine and in the windows at Holt Renfrew with supermodels and celebrity endorsements. All very glamourous, but I can’t even describe the intensity and long hours of work involved. We had assured Holts we would have our official charitable status in time for the launch when they signed on as partners. The government gave us notice of approval 48 hours before the tees dropped. Blood, sweat, and tears, but achieving official charity status is a memorable milestone indeed.
4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
The world is changing so rapidly that it’s hard to think beyond 18 months in any detail. I will say that I see myself leading an even bigger, bolder Rethink Breast Cancer.
5. Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Surround yourself with really good, smart people who love what they do. You’ll soak up so much. And don’t over-plan. Get going and learn on the way. Learn by doing. I’m an eternal optimist and tend to plunge in. Things don’t always work, but you learn from stumbles and mistakes and can always course correct.
6. Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is it (or they) important to you?
I support Rethink Breast Cancer because breast cancer is not just an older women’s issue. I believe by educating, empowering and advocating for young women, we can improve their lives and their loved ones. I also support CAMH because depression and addiction have affected many of my loved ones and I think they are best-in-class in their field. I’m also a donor for the National Ballet of Canada and AGO because art matters to me.
7. What does the word notable mean to you?
Standing out. Doing something worth noticing.
1. Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
I love Tabule on Queen East in Riverside. It’s in my hood, super yummy, and I love the vibe, especially when the belly dancers suddenly appear on a Saturday night.
2. What’s the most visited website on your Internet browser?
Refinery29. I want Rethink to be the Refinery29 of breast cancer!
3. Who’s one person you think everyone should be following on social media? George Takei.
His puns can be “mwha mwha” BUT he’s consistently shedding light on issues I care about. Makes you think and smile.
4. What’s your favourite cocktail?
Well, because it’s my go-to place, I do love the Marrakech at Tabule: vodka, fresh lime and fresh mint, jallab (date molasses and rose) and lem-Marrakech bitters topped with Perrier Citron. So refreshing!
5. What gives you the greatest FOMO?
Life has gotten really hectic lately and I’m a bit sleep-deprived so I’m mostly in JOMO mode.
6. What would be your last meal? And don’t hold back…
I’m keeping the Middle Eastern food theme going here… Could you fly me to Paris for a sandwich at L’As du Fallafel? It’s as big as your head and unlike any falafel sandwich I’ve had here, but part of the pleasure is eating it while wandering around the cobblestones in the Marais. But then for dessert, I’d want one bite of each one of the gorgeous, delicious desserts from Nadege. Patisseries in Paris have nothin’ on her!
7. What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
I secretly love sparkle, glitter, and rhinestones – from sequin dresses to Dorothy’s slippers to silver eye shadow, I’m drawn to it. In my next life, I’ll probably come back as a drag queen!