From laid off to new business launch, pair of ex-Canopy employees take 'charge of our own destiny'

Seasoned copywriter and graphic designer team up as partners of new Ottawa-based creative service studio
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From left, Ottawa entrepreneurs Joanne Gallop and Taralyn Carver launched their new creative service studio, jane doe., exactly one year after losing their jobs as part of the massive layoffs at Canadian cannabis company Canopy Growth. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Taralyn Carver and Joanne Gallop didn’t really see it coming.

They heard there were going to be some job losses at Canopy Growth but, given their senior leadership roles in the creative department of the Canadian cannabis company, they thought they might be spared.

They weren’t.

They were among the 200 employees who were suddenly and swiftly laid off on April 29, 2020. It took place over a Zoom call that lasted less than a minute. They hardly had time to process the information before the bearer of bad news clicked the "End Meeting for All" option and sent everyone’s screens into darkness. 

Carver and Gallop sat alone in front of their computers in their respective homes, wondering what had just happened. They’d devoted so much of their time, energy and talents to building strong marketing teams and exciting new brands for one of Canada’s largest players in the legal cannabis industry. They had adored their jobs, as well as the people with whom they had worked at the company’s Kanata office.

“It was devastating,” Carver recalls of that videoconference call a year ago. “It really made me feel like a number, like our contributions really didn’t matter. We worked our butts off for that company.”

Adds Gallop: “It was hard not to take it personally.”

But like a modern-day phoenix rising from the cannabis ashes, they are back and stronger than ever, proving they don’t need Canopy when they can sprout a new offshoot of their own.

Exactly one year after that fateful Zoom call, they launched their creative service studio, jane doe., late last month. As the generic name suggests, they’re helping medium-and large-sized businesses build a stronger identity through branding and marketing strategies.

“The lesson we learned from Canopy is we want to be in charge of our own destiny and not be vulnerable to the decisions of other people.”

“The lesson we learned from Canopy is we want to be in charge of our own destiny and not be vulnerable to the decisions of other people,” said Gallop. 

Adds Carver: “It’s about building our own relationships, building our own client base and doing work that we want to be doing.”

While at Canopy, the women created teams, landed clients, built strong networks, collaborated with major agencies and managed multiple projects.

“We learned so much there that was incredibly valuable to what we’re starting today,” said Carver.

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Taralyn Carver, partner and creative director of jane doe. Photo by Rémi Thériault.

Jane doe. is helping its clients in the areas of strategy, branding, digital and content production. As creative directors, the women will be working with their own network of partners to assist with writing, graphic design and illustration, web development, photography and video production services. It’s a group that includes some of their former colleagues from Canopy.

“This is the perfect time for a studio like jane doe.,” said Gallop. “We’re taking big agency, international, and large corporation experience, and channelling it into something fresh: a team of kick-ass creative thinkers taking on choice clients and setting its sights on producing award-winning brands.”

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Joanne Gallop, partner and creative director of jane doe. Photo by Rémi Thériault.

Gallop and Carver first became friends and colleagues while working together at Ottawa-based marketing agency McMillan. Gallop is an experienced copywriter and self-described science nerd (she did her pre-med biology degree at McGill University) while Carver is a registered graphic designer who learned her craft from the ground up.

While at McMillan, Carver also established a program to mentor young talent. As well, she’s the director of Ottawa’s Brewery Market, a not-for-profit event series that’s raised more than $50,000 for local charities since 2012.

The women not only have complementary skill sets but share the same work-life balance goals. Carver is a mother of two, ages three and six, while Gallop’s kids are turning 14 and 15.

Jane doe. clients include Kanata-based Auxita, a secure digital platform to improve patient care and communication, and local real estate developer and builder Caivan. They’re also collaborating with companies in other parts of Canada, as well as south of the border.

The key to good branding, they believe, is to help clients set themselves apart from the competition and to better communicate their objectives to their respective audiences. 

“If I’m visiting your website, you have that eight-second window to grab someone’s attention and tell them what you’re about,” Carver explained. “We can come in and we can create a site that is interesting enough to hold your attention and have the message clear enough for you to understand what they’re offering.”

Interestingly, some of the strongest companies have been formed during tough times. Economic slumps involving large numbers of layoffs have, historically, led to more entrepreneurial activity, as workers use their unexpected free time to launch businesses that, before, were only ideas.

Statistics Canada recently reported that almost 17,000 new businesses were created in December. That's a lot, considering the monthly average in the five years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic had been 15,725. The December figure was also 13.1 per cent higher than observed in February 2020.

“Even though it’s been a really tough year, all around, it’s been heartening to see how supportive people are to one another, in business and personally,” said Gallop.

“It feels great to be in a place where we have the experience and confidence to build a company together. We're excited to see where we can take it.”

— caroline@obj.ca