Staples International Women’s Day Spotlight - Renée Warren, Onboardly

By Stefanie Neyland, Small Business Content Developer at

Today, in celebration of International Women’s Day, we find out how Renée Warren, co-founder of Onboardly, juggles a thriving business with two young kidsall while wearing stilettos!

Renee WarrenRegularly referred to as a ‘geek in stilettos’, Renée understands entrepreneurship more than most, having founded her first business at the tender age of 17. After discovering a passion for marketing, she’s dedicated her professional life to working with startups. She helps them create an online presence that gets hundreds of thousands of potential customers in front of their products by providing the PR, content development and social media muscle young businesses so desperately need in today’s tech-savvy world.


Renée has given us insight into the entrepreneurial mindset, and a glance at what it’s like to be a successful entrepreneur, professional marketer, and mother to two kids under two years of age.


What inspired you to start your own business?

When I was 17 years old my mom told me to go and get my SIN card. I feared having a boss, so I started a restaurant with my sister. It seemed to be a great investment—and it was—but I didn’t realize just how much work it would be. Running my own company at such a young age was a real eye opener but it was addicting, I loved the challenge. The adrenaline is what kept me going and still does today.


How did you get your business off the ground?

I partnered with an amazing co-founder, as it’s hard going at it alone. We compliment each other very well—she’s the closer, I’m the baiter. It’s like fishing; I get all the great gear, bait the hook, cast the line, and she reels in the big fish.


How long have you been in business?

We’ve been in business for two years as a company, but we’ve been working together on projects for a while now.


What’s it like being a female entrepreneur?

Empowering. I’m not a feminist—in fact, I may be quite the opposite—as I feel that women groups and organizations sometimes actually do female professionals a disservice. I just like that more women are following their passions and putting themselves and their bold ideas out there.


Who is your ideal customer?

Fast-growth, funded, tech and lifestyle companies.


What makes your business unique?

I would say that our uniqueness is most evident in our mindset; the way we feel about the work we do. Our staff and our clients might as well be family, and we have a fairly gruelling interview process that tends to vet the right candidates. The ultimate question we ask ourselves at the end of the process is this: “Would we want to be stuck with this person in an airport for six hours?” Making work a fun place to be is a priority for us, and we want our clients to feel like we really love what we do and love them too.


What has been your greatest achievement so far?

When we first started out, we set lofty revenue projections for the year. Our accountant and bookkeeper kind of laughed at the thought of what we were trying to achieve—boy were we naive! Little did we know come year two, that we’d be surpassing our expectations. We are one of very few women-led agencies in Atlantic Canada doing so well.


How do you find having to juggle your home life with your business?

It’s an interesting logistical nightmare. I had two babies 11 months apart—the youngest one being seven months old today.  While it seemed as though I was forever pregnant, the challenge really presented itself when both my husband and I decided to take our own businesses to the next level while having our family at the same time. Some people have called us crazy!


What challenges do you think female business owners face?

The biggest challenge for a woman is herself. If she thinks she can’t, she won’t. Some industries are all boys clubs because we’ve let it get that way. Come on now, let’s break that glass ceiling—actually, shatter it, and GO FOR IT!


Which marketing channels have worked best for getting the word out about your business?

Content marketing and networking has yielded our biggest return on investment. We would be hypocrites if we didn’t consider ourselves our own clients, so we also focus a lot of what we offer our clients towards our own business.


What’s the best thing about owning your own business?

Creating a lifestyle. Sure it’s a juggle, but my work hours and days aren’t set in stone which makes taking the kids to their appointments and running errands much easier. I feel a little spoiled!


How has your business evolved over time?

Our service offerings and expectations have become more consistent. We refuse to be everything to everyone and only focus on what we do really really well—integrated PR, content marketing and social media.


Is running your business harder than you thought it would be?

Emotionally, yes. Physically and mentally, no. But since we are a team of like-minded, driven women, we can openly chat to each other about our challenges—work-related or not—and feel better about our tasks and goals.


What is your best time management tip?

Say NO more often.


To what do you attribute your success so far?

Not in any particular order, but my husband (Dan Martell, who is also an entrepreneur), my business partner Heather Carson, and my family for supporting my decisions.


What are your goals for the future?

A yacht. Seriously. Heather and I have this goal that someday we will own a company yacht. It will be a milestone purchase for a record year. Could be five to eight years from now, but it will happen. It’ll be called the Hop Onboardly, a place to gather the team and our clients for a long weekend or holiday ‘brainstorm’ sessions.


How has Staples helped you ‘make more happen’ for your business?

Staples has always been our go-to destination for all office supplies—even laptops!


If you could offer one piece of advice to female entrepreneurs, what would it be?

I would say the same thing to anyone, young entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs and even male entrepreneurs—just make a decision and own it!





By Adam

March 08, 2014