Erin Bury: How Do I Get to that Stage?

portrait of Erin Bury
Erin Bury Erin is an entrepreneur, marketer, former journalist, and startup advisor. She is the co-founder and CEO at Willful, an online estate planning platform that makes it easy for Canadians to create a will in less than 20 minutes. At Willful she’s responsible for driving the company’s mission to make it easier for Canadians to prepare for and deal with death in a digital age. She previously spent 6 years running a Toronto-based creative communications agency, and she was on the founding team at startup publication BetaKit.

What was your first job and what did you learn from that experience?

  • My first job was as a cashier at a grocery store chain. I got the job there when I was 14, and worked there all through high school and in summers. It taught me about customer service and dealing with members of the public, and how to deal with difficult situations. Such as people waiting in a grocery store line or not always in the most pleasant mood. 
  • I learned to tell myself whenever I interacted with someone who was rude or who was really negative, I always told myself, maybe this is the worst day of their life, maybe they just got really bad news.
  • Framing it that way would not get me annoyed and be patient with people. It taught me a lot about customer service and I think everyone should work in the service industry so they know what it’s like on the other side of the counter.

Did you ever want to be working in a newspaper or pursue a more traditional journalism path?

  • I actually meant to pursue marketing actually from day one of journalism school. I was kind of a black sheep in journalism from the beginning because I didn’t aspire to have this career working day today in journalism. Instead, I wanted to take those skills and parlay them into a career in marketing. 
  • The media industry and news went through a challenging time in 2007. Now you know it’s obvious that journalism actually does give you the skills to really kind of pursue a ton of different careers.

What are some best practices for how startups can successfully work with marketing agencies?

  • If you’re a startup considering hiring an agency, the best thing you can do is do your homework. Ask the right questions and make sure that the size of the agency is right for you, and that your size of a company is right for them.
  • That means asking the agency will you be their largest client or their smallest client. If you’re collaborating with an agency that works with Coca-Cola, they’re unfortunately not going to be paying that much attention to you. 
  • Whereas, if the agency worked with mostly small clients, then you’re probably going to get the same level of attention that all of their other clients do. Companies should also ask about their areas of expertise and make sure that those match up with what you’re looking for.