Life lessons for exporters from Julia Rivard Dexter
Thursday, April 23, 2015
On May 21st, Nova Scotia Business Inc. along with its partners and sponsors presented The Nova Scotia Export Achievement Awards, an annual celebration and recognition of excellence in exporting across Nova Scotia. Julia Rivard Dexter was the event’s keynote speaker. Julia sat down with Nova Scotia Business Inc. to share her life lessons for exporters, which included encouragement for entrepreneurs to set goals and dream big.
For Halifax-based business leader and former Olympic athlete, Julia Rivard Dexter, the path to success has been shaped by her diverse accomplishments and her powerful sense of drive and determination. Rivard Dexter has an impressive background as a sprint canoe paddler and competed internationally in the late 1990s and early 2000s including competing in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia as a member of the Canadian CanoeKayak team. Today, Rivard Dexter is Senior Partner at Norex.ca, Vice Chairperson of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design Board of Governors, an avid volunteer and a mother of four. Rivard Dexter will be the highly-anticipated keynote speaker at this year’s Export Achievement Awards and says that her dedication and focus as an athlete helped set the stage for her successful and multi-faceted career.
“I think a lot of my success in business stems from having the background as an athlete. I’m so lucky to have been introduced to sport at an early age. It gave me the ability to have a goal, focus on it and get there,” says Rivard Dexter. “Sport is so unique because the path is clear and it’s all about goal-setting and reaching those goals. It was a fantastic introduction for me in achieving milestones and I believe that when you have a passion, it inspires determination.”
Sport helped Rivard Dexter build her unique skill set but the transition from athlete to entrepreneur was not an easy one. Originally from North Bay, Ontario, she has a Bachelor of Recreation Administration from Dalhousie University and a Bachelor of Graphic Design from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. However, when Rivard Dexter initially set out to land a position as a graphic designer, she was met with rejection from local agencies. Rather than letting this deter her, she decided to branch out on her own and co-founded Queen Street Studios in 2004 in Dartmouth - an incubator for creative marketing professionals.
“I would’ve gained another set of experiences altogether if I had landed a job at that point. It may have saved me some mistakes and there’s a lot of value to working in an environment with mentorship,” says Rivard Dexter. “But stepping into the freelance world, I had to learn a lot of things on my own and I also had opportunities that I may not have had otherwise. As a freelancer, you feel concerned about whether or not you’re really qualified but you have to believe in yourself and keep moving forward.”
Rivard Dexter moved on to work as a partner at SheepDog, a global company creating and implementing cloud software, where she developed brand and public relations strategies. During this time, SheepDog established a premier partnership with Google Inc. Rivard Dexter also worked to develop an extremely popular widget for the 2008 Olympics. More recently, her current company Norex developed Hashpi.pe, a social aggregation canvas used for the Sochi Olympics 2014.
Rivard Dexter is also passionate about giving back and encouraging others to dream big. She and business partner Leah Skerry launched a not-for-profit crowdfunding platform called pursu.it to help Canadian athletes raise funds and achieve their dreams in sport. In 2014, Rivard Dexter co-founded Eyeread, an accurate eye-tracking application designed to improve literacy in young readers. With a truly mind-boggling list of projects to balance, Rivard Dexter seems to thrive on keeping busy. Her advice to aspiring global entrepreneurs is to be innovative and to keep setting goals to track achievements.
“Recognition is so important. One way to achieve recognition is through awards. Our company won awards that recognized achievement in web design and we started getting calls from companies around the world,” says Rivard Dexter. “Recognition can also be achieved through building a strong online presence. These days, you can very successfully build up your brand with high quality content such as blog posts that educate and provide information to a global platform. And a really important topic that I’ll be focusing on in my keynote address is innovation. I can’t stress enough how valuable innovation is. In my opinion, embracing innovation is what will really make your company stand out from the pack.”
On May 21, 2015 Nova Scotia companies, partners, and industry professionals came together to celebrate exporting success at the Nova Scotia Export Achievement Awards (EAA) luncheon. To learn more about the event including information sessions and the awards luncheon, please visit ExportAchievementAwards.com