Andrea is the founder of award-winning parenting site mommygearest.com, where she uses a scrutinizing eye to help consumers navigate the marketing-fuelled world of products, services and travel destinations. Backed by a healthy shopping addiction, her reviews are often met with love/hate for their honest-to-a-fault approach.
She is also a travel addict, brand ambassador, social media strategist and freelance writer with nearly 15 years of public relations and communications experience. Her work appears in The Huffington Post Canada, CanadianFamily.ca and TravelingMom.com and she’s been featured on Today’s Parent’s new YouTube channel, CTV’s The Social, Global’s Morning Show with Liza Fromer, CBC’s The Current, Global TV’s evening news and Rogers Daytime Durham, among others.
What was your first job?
If we aren’t counting babysitting neighbourhood kids, my first real job was at Dairy Queen when I was 14. I worked there for about 40 lbs. (also known as a year-and-a-half) but quit before I could be fired for participating in a (playful) food fight during store hours. I can still do a mean DQ swirl.
Best advice for people getting started in your industry?
I always tell people to blog because they love writing. Don’t do it for the money—there are very few true career bloggers in Canada. Be sure you secure your social media channels with a consistent name or brand before you purchase your URL; ideally you want to have consistency across the board. And with so many social media channels out there, it would be impossible to focus efforts on all of them. So while you should “own” a handle on every channel, choose two or three platforms that you enjoy the most and do them really well. Watch what established influencers are doing and take inspiration from them, but never copy. Find your own voice and know that you’ll get out of it what you put into it. Finally, be ethical and stay true to yourself. Sure, it’s easier to take shortcuts and buy likes and followers or use excessive contesting to artificially inflate web traffic but it’ll eventually catch up with you and hurt your reputation and brand.
What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
I love flipping through magazines. Real magazines made of actual paper—not digital ones. Chatelaine has stepped up its game and is really wowing me these days, and I’ve always loved Canadian House & Home. When I can get my hands on a Toronto Life, I’ll spend hours reading a single issue. In the air, I always look forward to Air Canada’s enRoute magazine as well; it feeds my wanderlust!
Three of your favourite accounts to follow on Instagram?
For travel, it has to be @globeguide and @solomomtakesflight. They both take the most stunning photos and I love that they’re Canadians who feature a lot of Canada but also go far beyond our borders. When it comes to parenting humour, no one does it like @pregnantchicken.
Best interview you’ve ever had?
A year or two ago, I did a sponsored post with Depend—yeah, those absorptive Depend undergarments. The goal was to help normalize light bladder leakage, which for those of us who have had children vaginally can be a legit issue. And while all of my post-baby Kegels seemed to do the trick so I don’t personally need Depend (yet), I know plenty of women out there do. There’s no way many of them would think you could wear, say, yoga pants and sport Depend underwear, so I wanted to show them that they could. It really resonated with my readers and the post got a heap of engagement, both publicly and behind-the-scenes. I had women PMing me through my Facebook fan page thanking me for helping eliminate the taboo of needing such a product.
We went on a trip to a beloved resort in Ontario’s famed cottage country… and hated it. So much that we checked out a day early. People seemed shocked that I wrote so honestly about our experience, and risked burning a bridge or scaring away other travel opportunities, but that’s what my whole brand is built on. I feel like I owe it to my readers to give it to them straight. I even got hate mail from long-time guests who were defending the resort! I stand by that review and every other negative one I’ve ever had to write. After all, it’s just my personal opinion—you’re still allowed to have yours.
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
The worst anyone will ever tell you is “no.” So dream big and go for it.
Paying full price. I’ll spend a lot of money for quality stuff, but I still want to get it on sale.
Alone time. I’m an ambivert (an extroverted introvert) and crave time by myself to fully recharge.
You’re boarding a plane tomorrow. Where are you headed?
Out of all the destinations in the whole wide world?! Wow. If I could choose any itinerary with an unlimited budget, my husband and I would take our kids to New Zealand via Ireland so they could learn more about their Irish-Kiwi heritage. Then we’d boat-hop to experience Fiji, the Cook Islands, Bora Bora and Tahiti. (Like I mentioned earlier, I’m all for dreaming big.)
I honestly don’t even think I could name them all. I’ve never even seen an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians. But I always thought Brody Jenner was the hottest guy on The Hills.
Who would be cast to play you in the movie version of your life?
Can we make it a NYC stage show so I can cast myself? That would fulfill one of my bucket list items: perform on Broadway. (Still dreaming.)
Real Housewives all the way! Any city. It’s such a guilty pleasure.
The last book I devoured was Lion, but I don’t read books as much as I’d like to. By the time I finish getting the kids fed and into bed, catch up on work and social media, I want to nothing but lie in bed and watch TV.
My mom. She made motherhood look easy despite working a full-time job. Somehow, she managed to keep us organized, clean our rooms, do our laundry, make our meals and play with us in the small windows of time we had together outside of a work week. Now she’s Super Grandma and still keeps my house organized and my kids entertained while I’m working. She has a gigantic heart, volunteers, hits the gym several times a week and makes sure her elderly mother gets to functions and doctor’s appointments. Her capacity is huge. I have no idea how she does it all.
Song of the moment?
My kids and I are LOVING Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” right now. It’s impossible not to car dance when it comes on the radio, and it’s one of those catchy tunes that makes us all sing along.
Snapseed. It’s a free photo-editing app that can seriously transform your photos. It’s easy to use, even if you have zero editing experience. I use it much more often than Photoshop.
One thing you can’t live without?
Snuggles from my kids. There is nothing in my life more frustrating or challenging than parenthood, but the rewards are enormous. Those little creatures we created amaze and fill me up so completely.