Cory Stewart, founder of Toronto-based public relations firm Embrace Disruption PR, made his career by being disruptive. “I don’t like to do anything normal,” he explains, as it has been both a blessing and a curse. “I don’t tend to conform or fit in to do things the typical way. I’ve seen the processes that other PR firms go under in order to gain coverage and I just know there are alternate ways to do it.”
Looking back four years prior, Cory was juggling two jobs in the hospitality industry when he decided he needed to make a major career adjustment. “I was looking around for opportunities because I always performed very well when there’s a fire lit under me,” he says. As a result, Cory secured a contract job with Torstar Digital, which over time led him into the strategies and new ventures division of the company.
“I was dealing with building new businesses, coming up with strategies in order to expose new businesses, and business development,” he says. “With that, when we would start up new products, we would have to work with PR firms because we needed to expose them to the markets that we wanted to.”
Unsatisfied with the performance of existing PR firms, Cory took up an interest in public relations and started volunteering his acquired PR skills to local organizations. Embrace Disruption was introduced as a blog shortly after, and transitioned into Embrace Disruption PR (EDPR) in 2012.
“We get granular; I don’t care about placing someone immediately in the media,” says Cory, as he explains how EDPR is different from other PR firms. “I care about what the targets are, the business objectives, and what we’re doing to increase their sales,” adding that it’s not about throwing people in front of the camera.
With Cory’s team by his side, EDPR aims to provide unique and outstanding public relations services to both national and local organizations in fields of technology, charity, lifestyle brands, and talent. “Everyone in the company is self-taught or has been trained through me, and it’s very much a learn-as-you-go type of thing.”
As a gay man, Cory expresses he’s always been surrounded by positive people throughout his career. “I’ve been lucky to work with amazing clients that obviously know that I’m gay; I think in a place like Toronto and in a country like Canada, I’m very fortunate that it’s not a barrier.”
With his sexuality being anything but an obstacle, Cory pinpoints financials as the biggest challenge as an entrepreneur. “Obviously everyone’s always concerned about money; it’s kind of a threat that any moment some client could fall away and you can crash and burn,” he explains. “That was always in the back of my mind but, in turn, that kept me motivated to keep on it and keep going at an aggressive rate.”
As EDPR’s owner and founder, Cory says finding a work-life balance has also been a challenge. “I’m still horrible at it and my staff can tell you this as well. I don’t really leave my desk for anything.”
But with all the hard work over the company’s two-and-a-half-year existence, the EDPR team continues to build toward their five-year plan of becoming a bigger and more successful business. Focusing and continuing on the momentum is key, he says. “I think the most important thing for me is making sure nothing is sacrificed as we grow so that we always have the attention-to-detail and the ability to provide really intense and granular work to each of the accounts that we do.”
One piece of advice Cory offers to young entrepreneurs is simple: “don’t look before you jump.” And young LGBT entrepreneurs are encouraged to avoid the perceptions of other people. “If you can’t get what you want in the market that you’re in, then move,” says Cory. “I know that can be difficult and it’s easier said than done because there’s financials and everything, but chase your destiny because it’s not going to find you.”
Photo: Wil Craddock