Our newest Man Of The Week is a Man who believes in the power of connection, community and creativity. More important though is the role these factors play in positively impacting our media, culture and mannerisms as a society. Chris Unwin is the Founder and Executive Director of ‘Free’, a creative studio that promotes collaboration with artists so brands can connect with millennial consumers in person, and across the social web. Chris is a founding member of two national media brand launches- MTV Canada and Dose Magazine. His unique and versatile approach to brand management is illustrated through his work with partners such as Apple, Bell, Microsoft, Nokia, RIM, Rogers, Sony, Virgin Mobile, and all major record labels, to name just a few big brands.
What may seem like a regular agency, Chris has formulated a secret recipe that promotes collaboration between brands hoping to communicate an emotion/story, creative artists who have the experience, but may lack the platform, to produce engaging content that inspires millennials. His work has given previously-unknown artists the space to showcase their talents and blossom into leading figureheads in the community who help shape our everyday culture. Chances are you’ve come into contact with branding that Chris was directly, or indirectly, involved in without really knowing the story behind the man. Check out his story below!
Age – 34
Why do you do it?
Because I believe in the power of community, creativity and entrepreneurship and that, when given the chance, our generation can positively impact our media and culture.
How do you make a difference in the world? (Work, business, life, family, self)
Ultimately, I see myself as building “sandboxes” – spaces and moments in time that are opportunities for people I value to come together, share experiences, and create together. Though so much of my focus is currently applied to work, I intend to extend such a strategy to my friendships and family.
What are 3 defining moments in your life?
1. Leaving Vancouver in favour of a media/music career in Toronto.
2. Leaving a comfortable, established career path at MuchMusic and MTV.
3. Finding the audacity to start Free. Come to think of it, every defining moment has been borne out of discomfort.
What is your life purpose?
To pursue my passions for a living, and to empower others around me to do the same.
How did you tap into it?
By losing patience with my own complacency, and following gut instinct.
Who is your Role-Model or Mentor?
Role Models – There are a number of careers that have informed my approach such as Stephan Sagmeister, Alain De Botton Jeff Staple, Seth Godin.
Mentors – My mother, my financial advisor and coach Josh Zweig from LIVECA.
Do you have any daily habits? If so, what are they?
I try to maintain “Inbox Zero” daily – the act of clearing out all emails by the end of the day. By assigning tasks, and capturing action items in my productivity apps, I diminish the chance for things to fall through the cracks.
When do you know your work/life balance is off?
If I fail to make my bed in the morning. Failing to accomplish this simple first task of the day is the “canary in the coal mine” for my state of mind. This sentiment was once brilliantly conveyed by Admiral William McRaven.
Vulnerability is a challenge for most men – share a vulnerable moment from your life with us.
I felt like a fool the first time I practiced yoga. I was awkward, tangled, and feeling totally out of my element. However, over time I adjusted and it’s led to balance and positivity at some crucial points in my life.
What did you learn from it?
Embracing being terrible at a new activity can open doors in life.
If you are or were going to be a mentor for another man, what is one piece of advice you would give him?
Establish life priorities, and stick to them. Don’t waste time on anything else.
How do you be the best partner (Boyfriend/Husband- past or present)
Be present. See them, listen to them, feel them consciously.
Do you support any Charities or Not-for-profits? (Which one(s) and why?)
To date, we’ve been fighting to make a very pro-social for profit model succeed. Though our projects have been associated to causes idiosyncratically, we’ve yet to align to a specific charity, which I’d like to change in 2017.
If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
“Now I’m Ready” by Arcade Fire
Where do you see yourself in 3 years?
Instigating collaborations centered around creativity, entrepreneurship, and the future of work with collaborators I admire. Spending my time between Toronto, New York and Europe.
What legacy do you want to leave for future generations?
That one can create the conditions of their own freedom with creativity, intellect, and determination.
What One book would you recommend for any Man?
“Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter” by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown