A couple of years into publishing Montreal Families, Dominique Trudeau, head of the education program at the McCord Museum, referred to us as “The Little Paper That Could.” This, of course, was a play on words taken from The Little Engine That Could, the classic tale of a determined little engine that, despite its small size, triumphantly pulls a train full of toys to children anxiously waiting on the other side of a mountain.
The story teaches kids the value of optimism, hard work and a refusal to be daunted by the challenges that lie ahead. Indeed, we certainly needed plenty of optimism to believe we could successfully launch an English print publication in Montreal and we knew it would involve a tremendous amount of hard work. However, we were motivated, not daunted, by the challenges we faced.
It all began back in 1997 when I (Kelly Wilton) was in Calgary on business and read an article in the daily newspaper about two women who were celebrating their second year of publishing a free pick-up newspaper for parents called Calgary’s Child. I was immediately intrigued and started to comb the city for a copy. Once I had a chance to look through an issue, I began to get really excited as I imagined launching a similar paper in Montreal.
After a few gruelling months of writing a business plan, applying for loans (from banks… and my parents), and submitting applications for grants, Montreal Families was born. The Gazette wrote an article about the business venture, which was read by at least one very important person – Debbie Kellerman.
As a senior sales manager for many years, she was interested in meeting with me to offer some friendly advice about selling advertising (she had read that my background was in journalism and that I had zilcho sales experience, apart from having furiously studied the book Selling for Dummies.)
We became fast friends and not long after realized we would make ideal business partners, having expertise in critical areas of publishing: sales and journalism.
Since then, the paper has grown exponentially and so has the number of wonderful people who work with us. There is no doubt — it is an absolute team effort; day in, day out. We have a group
of fantastic, dedicated people who contribute to the success of the publication and we are so thankful to be surrounded by such nice, hard-working women (and a number of hard-working male distributors!)
We don’t “toot our own horn” very often but the truth is that each and every one of us has an incredibly strong work ethic and are not happy unless every issue, newsletter, article, layout, advertisement, etc., is the best it can possibly be. And that is why the phrase ”The Little Paper That Could” resonates so strongly for us. The success of Montreal Families is because of the sheer commitment and hard work that is put into each and every issue.
The high standards that we have set for ourselves have resulted in 125 international journalism awards for our editorial, design, promotional advertisements and website. Last year, we were even nominated for best e-newsletter, which we had only been sending out for six months. And no doubt, we are very proud to have been recognized over the years as one of the best parenting publications in North America.
We continue to grow despite the screams of “print is dead” that we’ve been hearing for so many years. We believe there will always be a market for a quality publication that makes the lives of parents a little bit easier by giving them local parenting advice and suggestions for fun things to do with the kids.
And down the road, when we launch new projects, we will just keep chanting: we think we can … we think we can …
Thank you to everyone who has picked up our publication over the years and to all the loyal advertisers who supported us and believed it would be a good idea to have a presence in our now, not-so-little paper!
Meet some of the Montreal Families’ Team!
Pat McIlroy has been proofreading ads and stories since the very first issue and is not shy to let us know if the editorial or ad design isn’t up to our high standards. She also does several other tasks around the office and gives us all motherly advice.
Isabelle Richard has been our creative art director since the second issue! She does the ad designs, editorial layout, and front page. She still loves what she does after 15 years and is a rock within the company. She never lets us down or misses deadlines… for any reason. She has won numerous international design awards and there are no words to describe her brilliant creative ability.
Jane Nakano was so passionate about Montreal Families when she saw it that she contacted us immediately. She told us she wanted to be involved in any way, shape or form. At the time, we only had a position for a sales person so she enthusiastically took on that role. That was 14 years ago! She is still motivated and provides advertisers with amazing customer service! You could say she was the paper’s official first “fan” and has been a major player in its success.
Sandie Blair has a background in marketing and sales, and applied for a position about six years ago. She has been a great asset and comes to work with a positive, happy attitude. Just one of those people who is a pleasure to have in the office.
Tracey Stafford was a full-time mom looking for part-time work six years ago. Her job has evolved greatly; she started as the event organizer for our Camp and Education Fairs, then helped with ad production and she got our website up and running. She is also responsible for the calendar of events, our weekly e-newsletter and our social media. She can sure get a lot of work done in one day!
Franca Spinelli was looking for part-time work three years ago as her son was ready to begin school. As a former executive assistant, she was happy to take on clerical tasks, accounts payable and receivable as well as the distribution of the newspaper. She also fact checks our stories and proofreads. In small companies, it is so important to have a “Franca” who is prepared to pitch in wherever help is needed.
Diana Brocca, our accountant, came to us about 11 years ago because she felt sorry for us! We were desperate to find someone to do the books and we approached her while she was working at the Monkland Tennis Club. She said she wasn’t taking new clients but we pleaded with her to consider taking just ONE more; after all, our offices were located just around the corner from the club. Thankfully she agreed and has taken so much stress off us. No more worries about payroll, GST payments etc…
Liz Warwick was with us for eight years as our associate editor and writer. She was someone we had our eye on for some time but we didn’t have an editorial budget for the first couple of years. When she did come on board, she didn’t disappoint. She is a strong writer, has a great feel for what parents want to read about and a wonderful editor. She has moved on now to do her Master’s in Education but she was an integral part of our team for a long time.
Alissa Sklar has been sharing personal essays about her family for more than 10 years. She also tackles the topic of bullying and education-related issues. She speaks with authority, is incredibly knowledgeable; a sane and reasonable person who knows how to write about complicated topics. And she often injects self-deprecating humour into many of her award-winning essays.
Kelly Di Domenico was a journalism student at Concordia when she saw a posting for a freelance journalist needed for a new monthly parenting paper. She contacted us and offered to write children’s book reviews. We tried her out and we were more than pleasantly surprised — we had found a gem! Kelly has written almost every book review since the beginning and has won numerous awards for her columns.
Betty Skagkos worked with us for several years doing clerical work but left to take on a full -time job. However, twice a year, she takes on the difficult task of proofing and fact-checking all 2,000 listings in our Resource Directory. It is a detailed, difficult job that she is meticulous about and we thank her for that.
Morgan Lowrie is currently our busiest freelancer. She writes a couple of stories each month and several briefs. She has been with us for a short few months and we are enjoying having her as part of our team.
And then there are the many other freelancers who write for us — we thank them for coming up with ideas and letting us know what mothers are talking about.
Also, several doctors from the Canadian Paediatric Society have contributed over the years, letting us know about various health-related issues for children.
And last but not least, we want to thank our distributors who make sure you get the paper each month whether it is raining, scorching hot or snowing.