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Top Picks: Virtual Mentors

Real Type

July 20, 2020

Mentor. Confidante. Counsellor. Guide. Synonyms that at the core, refer to an experienced and trusted adviser.

We are asked from a young age who our ‘heroes’ are, and we are told to emulate those qualities we so admire. Having a mentor is essentially the grown-up version of asking a child who their hero is. While having a mentor is important to our personal and professional lives, the reality is that few of us have just one. We may have a mentor or adviser for different aspects of our lives, that help guide or inspire us.

As social media expands, the world gets seemingly smaller, and those celebrities don’t seem so far away anymore. Some of these people have used their platform for good and are sharing their stories of triumphs and tribulations with their community. These are the people we follow. Whether we know them or not – they are our virtual mentors.


Well before Social School was born, or Instagram Stories, AirPods, Alexa or my second child, for that matter, I was sitting in a waterpark hot tub with my eight-month-old, lamenting to my very wise sister-in-law Jessica that I was tired of writing press releases. And tweets, and blogs, and status updates for The Facebook, for companies that could – and should – surely be able to do it themselves. Not by paying an arm and a leg through an outdated, overpriced PR agency, but through simply learning the storytelling skills and technology required to become their own killer in-house marketing team. 1.png

Jess looked me square in the eye and said, “So take your business online.” To which I stared blankly back and said, “What the hell are you talking about?”

It was December 2012, and Marie Forleo was coming on strong as the go-to source for steering women into ‘building a career and life they love.’ Jess suggested I checked out Marie’s annual online training program called B-School, and one glance at the curriculum on my swank iPhone 4, and I was hooked. The registration deadline had passed, but I begged Marie’s team to let me in, and threw my $2000 USD investment at them as fast as they would take it. Little did I know at the time that Marie’s teachings, let alone her personality, authenticity, authority and accessibility as a leader and educator would form the basis of everything that is today known as Social School.

After a profound (and pregnant) year of learning, coding, building and sacrifice, with creditors calling and not a dollar left to invest in my build, I proudly launched my first online program in February 2014 – a 4-week media relations course called PR Pioneers. It was a new education arm of my then PR agency, and if the course recordings weren’t peppered with hints of me peeing my pants, they can be summarized by sheer breathlessness, exhaustion and fear.

Fast forward 6 years, 14 certificate programs, 33 live conferences and 5,500 students from across the globe, and I remain infinitely grateful to these two women who I will forever call my online mentors. Jessica Doody and Marie Forleo – one I know and love intimately, one I will forever admire and adore from afar, and both who steered and inspired my shift from a one-woman service-based consulting firm to a scalable online business that’s grown beyond 7 figures, 6 continents, and hopefully, if we’ve paid it forward properly, a few inspired and empowered businesses, too.


For the amount that I reference her and her online presence, it comes as no surprise that my virtual mentor is Jillian Harris.2.png

My hope is that the reason I am choosing her is the surprising part. Jillian’s made her career inspiring people with her beautifully curated feed and equally beautiful home and lifestyle. The reason I love following her is because of her business acumen. But actually! It has been really fun watching her grow her insanely loyal audience using social media, in particular Instagram. I am constantly looking to her for cues on how to engage an audience, how to respond to and manage negative feedback and most recently, how to leverage social media to launch a product that EVERYONE wants. The Jilly Box launch created such incredible hype within her ever-growing community, that hundreds of thousands of us (yes, I am one of them!) wanted to get our hands on one of the 5,000 available. With the announcement of the second Jilly Box and the new lottery system Jillian and her team put in place to make securing one of these coveted boxes purely luck of the draw, I was again in awe of how she quickly adapted her business model to appease and delight her fans. Not only is Jillian Harris an online superstar, but she’s a savvy businesswoman who has figured out how to strategically use social media to build and grow her brand, and that is someone I can look up to.


My virtual mentor is Rachel Hollis because I love her online content and message. She is always positive and encouraging, in a tough-love kind of way.3.png

I follow her because she is an enneagram 3 like me, and is driven by accomplishments, and she has accomplished so much in such a little time! I look up to her because she is very goal-orientated and helps others to identify goals and make plans to achieve them, and she helps keep people accountable to move towards those goals. When I grow up I want to be like Rachel Hollis.

Also, I am an event planner and she used to be an event planner and now she’s a New York Times Bestselling Author and CEO… so just saying… watch out world!


Is it cheating if I say someone I know instead of a famous person?

While I do spend a decent amount of time on social media, I have found myself avoiding celebrities and focusing more on people I know in real-life.

I don’t have one particular person that I follow religiously or necessarily look up to, but I do have a small group of people who I would follow off a ledge, if they asked.

Maria Koutsogiannis – Food by Maria

#Authentic is a buzzword, but I can’t think of a better word to describe Maria. She has always been energetic, outspoken and fiercely loyal. Her openness and hard work has helped garner international attention and ultimately made her immensely successful. An advocate for self-love and body positivity, Maria does so much for her community.

Maria has inspired me to think of my relationship with myself in a different way. Appreciating everything my body can do, while giving it the proper fuel and love to succeed. All while not compromising who you are in a world where it’s easy to blend in.

Darion Balfour – Wedding Photographer & Owner of One Pack Pets

This self-proclaimed “mother of dragons” is the real deal. Darion is a go-getter who can’t/ doesn’t want to sit still. Always on the move, she lights up rooms wherever she goes. Her big brain and giant heart help make her an amazing wedding photographer who can connect to people in a way I’ve never seen before. And if you think that’s too adorable to handle, check out her OTHER job – which is owning and operating One Pack Pets.. where she walks dogs!

Watching Darion navigate through her daily personal triumphs and tribulations has taught me the importance of how transparency can create an amazingly supportive community.


My all-time favourite virtual mentor is Rachel Hollis. Copy of Top Picks.png

I first started following her after I finished one of her best-selling books “Girl, Wash Your Face.” She inspires me with her tough love attitude and passion for self-love. I can’t stop following her because of her motivation, encouragement and reminders to be the best version of yourself. Whether it is in school, work, relationships or even following your big dreams, she’s there for you. She has all the tips and tricks on how to live your best life. Rachel Hollis is real and authentic and isn’t here for excuses. If you are looking to be a better you or even needing a little encouragement, check her out!

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