It started with a simple question.
The affable Mike Martin, a well-known and well-liked renovator and member of the Greater Ottawa Home Builders Association (GOHBA), was probably the first to ask it.
How could a group of renovators tell Ottawa and area homeowners about an exciting and powerful new program that would put their minds at ease and safeguard their renovations at the same time?
That year, 2009, Mike had brought the new program, called RenoMark™, to the attention of his Ottawa colleagues on the GOHBA Renovators’ Council. RenoMark was already becoming successful in Toronto, where Mike, as chair of the Renovators Council for the two previous years, had attended meetings. RenoMark was about to change the face of the renovation industry, and Mike was on fire about it.
The program was simple but intense and effective. It came at a time when the underground economy was increasingly a threat not just to Canadian homeowners but to professional renovators everywhere.
Jason Labelle, another member of the renovators’ council (and later a council chair), was also a RenoMark fan. He worked alongside with Mike to make it happen in Ottawa.
Reaction to the program among their colleagues was slow at first. The renovators weren’t quite sure. Many hadn’t heard of it. Eventually they began to listen, and to realize RenoMark was the best chance at getting rid of the underground economy – “which hurts everyone,” Mike said, “except the people who take your money and run.”
Bit by bit, the Ottawa renovators began to sign on. “We worked together on it,” said Jason at RenoMark’s five-year anniversary in 2014. “But Mike was the driver.”
Most Ottawa homeowners had never heard of RenoMark, either. How was the council going to get the message out to them?
So the council of renovators hunkered down at one of the regular meetings and discussed the most efficient way to tell homeowners that the remarkable RenoMark was worth their attention.
Mike Martin was one of the people who envisioned a magazine that would inform Ottawa and area homeowners about this bright new world of RenoMark. His colleagues liked the idea.
After some deliberation and research, Mike and the council brought in top experts from the print magazine business in Ottawa: Gordon Keith, a talented and experienced graphic designer and artist; Mark Buckshon, a veteran news publisher and publication specialist; Brian Warren, an accomplished advertising and marketing expert in the radio business and also an editor of several successful magazines; and Paul Scissons, a businessman with impressive sales and marketing credentials — a kind of magazine dream team, if you will. They became the magazine’s owners and publishers.
Brian Warren remembers how three of them ‒ he, Mark Buckshon, and Gordon Keith ‒ met to talk about what they would do. Brian instantly suggested a glossy magazine called Ottawa Renovates. They talked about printing and distribution costs, advertising, and all the nuts and bolts that go into such a large project.
They agreed it would be a beautiful magazine, full of great photos of current renovations in Ottawa. It would offer advice and stories about renovators and their projects. It would tell readers why using professional (as opposed to unprofessional, especially of the fly-by-night ilk) renovators ‒ renovators who embrace the RenoMark program ‒ are their strongest defense against renovation nightmares.
Now all they needed was an editor and main writer. Gordon Keith called Francie Healy, an established writer and editor who had worked with him on other publications, and asked if she’d take on the job. She jumped at it.
It was a success from the very first issue, with 30,000 copies distributed inside a weekend edition of The Ottawa Citizen to various affluent Ottawa neighbourhoods.
“It took off,” says Brian. “It made money from day one.”
A year after the launch of the magazine, Brian started his own massively successful magazine, Bounder. It was such a hit, in fact, that he realized he couldn’t do both. After three years, he left Ottawa Renovates to devote all his time to Bounder, which continues to be successful.
Brian says today that although at one point advertisers gravitated to online advertising (therefore impacting print revenue), the trend is beginning to turn around because online advertising is becoming less effective and reliable.
“There’s so much fake news out there that no one knows for sure what to believe anymore,” he explains. “Many big companies are going back to conventional print advertising.”
“Ottawa Renovates has done a fine job,” says Mike Martin. “And so has RenoMark, especially when you think practically no one had ever heard of it. There’s no going backwards now!”
We hope to bring you more. Stay tuned.
Reflections of an editor
When Gordon Keith asked me to take on the job of editor of Ottawa Renovates, I’m not sure I had ever even met a real live renovator. But over the past 10 years I have been constantly awed by the integrity, intelligence and helpfulness of this group of professional renovators, designers, and builders. I have learned, because they have taught me. I have loved writing every word and editing every page, and discovering what an art it is to make and re-make a home that is not only beautiful and safe but valuable. The trick is in the experts, and these are some of the finest experts I’ve ever met. That’s half the fun of doing this magazine. The other half is working with a talented team ‒ Gordon Keith, Paul Scissons, Mark Buckshon, and, for the first few years, the amazing Brian Warren. Ottawa Renovates has been a bright light in my career. Here’s looking to many more issues to come.
Reflections of a publisher
Ottawa Renovates has provided a focused environment to highlight the value of the RenoMark™ program — and I think has served to elevate the reputation and recognition of members through the past decade. It’s exceptionally relevant because of its durability; some readers save several back-issues before starting active planning on their renovation projects.
Reflections of a sales and marketing expert
I have always been one to do it myself – you know, do my own house repair, build my own fence and even design and build a custom home. So when the call came to help with marketing RenoMark™ and Ottawa’s professional renovators, I felt somewhat in touch.
As a consumer, I never knew who to talk to or hire. Could they be trusted? RenoMark made sense. The renovators I met knew the renovation business through and through. Combine this with their deep integrity, and it was easy. I wanted to help.
We started Ottawa Renovates with the advertising support of a handful of very committed companies with a vision to educate the public, establish a higher standard through RenoMark and the Greater Ottawa Home Builders Association, and of course promote their own companies.
I wasn’t too sure how it would go. But the initial response was incredible. The phone started ringing. “Book me ad space!” and “Can you help with artwork?” and “What else do you need?”
And so it began: the creation of our own local renovation magazine.
Over the past 10 years, we added to that handful of committed companies, but the loyalty of our core group of advertisers still runs deep. They’re still here, still supporting a common cause. They have become real friends. We all have a mission to provide quality and integrity to the renovation industry in Ottawa. We know the best way to do this is to educate consumers, promote RenoMark and establish a higher standard on all levels in a challenging industry.
For me, doing the job of sales and marketing for this magazine is not work. I enjoy helping to make it all happen. It’s great to be part of something bigger, and especially to work with the great professionals who renovate our city.
Ottawa Renovates is all about people: people working together, connecting the dots with a common goal.
Sales and Marketing