Ottawa entrepreneur Stayci Keetch grows side-hustle video firm into full-fledged business

Stayci Keetch
Stayci Keetch is CEO and creative director of video production company Eyes on Ottawa. (Photo by Caroline Phillips)

At an age when most young adults are getting their working feet wet, Stayci Keetch was already holding down a job as a television production manager and learning everything there is to know about the industry.

She had accumulated an entire career’s worth of experience by age 26, but – little did she know – still had the world of entrepreneurship waiting for her.

Today, Keetch, 37, is the creative director and chief executive of Eyes on Ottawa, a video production company that she grew from a side-hustle to full-fledged business.

The company markets and brands a wide range of small and medium-sized businesses and employs a team of four editors, along with a video cameraman and post-production co-ordinator.

Eyes on Ottawa has been garnering attention, earning two award nominations in recent months from the Orléans Chamber of Commerce and the West Ottawa Board of Trade. It has more than 100 clients ranging from law firms to real estate developers to a cannabis company.

“Each one of my clients is so different and I learn so much from how they do business,” says Keetch. “It’s helped me grow my business.”

The Ottawa Chamber of Commerce ambassador was born and raised in Killaloe, a small Ottawa Valley community of 660 located about two hours northwest of the nation’s capital. Her grandfather, Bert Keetch, manufactured masonry cement blocks that were used in the construction of the village and surrounding areas. Her tradesman father helped to run the family’s building supplies store. Her parents, Brian and Liz, have been together since they were 15.

Keetch knew from an early age that she wanted out of Killaloe. At age 17, she scored a high school internship at CHRO-TV in Pembroke. On the first day, all hell broke loose. CHUM had acquired the station and rebranded it as The New RO.

“There’s nothing like seeing half the staff let go,” quips Keetch.

She studied TV broadcasting and video production at Loyalist College in Belleville and gained experience from her internships in Toronto, one of which led to a job with YTV.

Keetch had a tough time getting a cushy broadcasting gig back in Ottawa, though.

“It’s where people in broadcasting go to die. Literally. You had to wait for someone to die before getting a job,” she says.

Her big break came in 2004, when executive producer Chris Knight, known for such food shows as Licence to Grill, hired her on.

Cooking knowledge

Keetch, who was working at Westboro Flooring at the time, brushed up on her knowledge of cooking for the job interview. That’s why she was so surprised when senior producer Kathy Doherty asked if she knew the difference between band and scroll saws. Of course she did, having grown up in a family that sold building supplies.

“Are you ready to give up your illustrious career in the flooring industry?” Knight asked in offering her the job.

Keetch worked on Junk Brothers, a brand new furniture-refurbishment reality series. Canadian television is no la-la-land; it was all hands on deck. Keetch was responsible for wardrobe, hair, makeup, art direction, set design, props, supplies and meals.

She put in 18-hour days but loved the work and learned valuable skills and lessons.

"I never had to show my resumé to anybody else in the industry.”

“It was the best job that I ever had,” says Keetch. “When I left, all I had to say was ‘Chris Knight,’ ‘full-time,’ ‘four years’ and people would say, ‘When can you start?’ I never had to show my resumé to anybody else in the industry.”

Knight has high standards, so anyone who can last as long as she did has got to be good.

Keetch valued her creative crew, particularly after it saved her bacon.

“I still get goosebumps when I think about it,” she says of how the team rallied around to solve a potentially job-ending goof that she made relating to wardrobe continuity.

“To this day, I always try and pay as fast as I can, communicate as much as I can and be as loyal as I can because people will be loyal to you.”

A bad case of vertigo combined with work-related stress led to Keetch’s decision to quit in 2009. She good-humouredly shares a recurring nightmare that plagued her: Knight pulling up to the set in his silver Porsche, only to have a large sign come crashing down on the luxury car.

“Every night at 4 a.m. I would shoot up out of bed going ‘Aaaaaw!’” she laughs.

It also dawned on Keetch that she didn’t have much going on in her life other than work.

“I was 26 and amazingly successful. I owned my own house and had all of these things, but I hadn’t had a boy over for dinner in three years, and I had no life.”

Keetch made friends, had fun, fell in love and started a family while Knight launched his own specialty channel, Gusto, by 2013. Keetch did production work on the award-winning documentary The Quantum Tamers and got jobs with a bunch of web development companies.

By October 2015, she was ready to make Eyes on Ottawa her full-time thing, with the encouragement of her husband, serial entrepreneur Alex Proulx. The couple also has two young kids.

Douglas Ivester, former chief executive and chairman of Coca-Cola, once said, “Never let your memories be greater than your dreams.” In other words, the best is yet to come.

The quote was featured on a plaque that was gifted to Keetch when she left Knight Enterprises. “My ‘amazing thing’ hasn’t happened yet,” she says.

It’s only a matter of time.

Five things to know about Stayci Keetch

  1. Since 2016, Eyes on Ottawa has produced more than 300 videos for local businesses. While busy with that, Keetch also had her second child. “I had my laptop in the hospital, closing deals and approving edits.”
  2. She was raised as an only child but later learned she has a much older sister living in the GTA.
  3. Her birth name was Stacey but she switched the spelling to Stayci in a youthful act of rebellion. She’s since had it legally changed.
  4. Keetch is creative director of Recovery Matters’ one-day Heroes Challenge obstacle course competition, held in support of the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.
  5. Keetch is also co-founder of NOW Marketing and Communications with Kimothy Walker and Andrée Paige.