Kevin Bourne and Joe Mebrahtu are the co-founders of Shifter Magazine. SHIFTER was founded in Ottawa on August 2013, and today SHIFTER continues to provide its readers with inspirational and thought-provoking content that challenges consumers to be creators, and creators to be influencers.
Tell us a bit about the magazine.
JM: SHIFTER is a platform that inspires, empowers, educates and provides practical leadership tools for creators. We have cultural commentary, how-to’s and stories about people using their creativity to impact the world around them. Many creators have gifts the world needs, and we want to help them not only unearth these gifts but learn to utilize them to positively influence culture at large.
What inspired you to start a magazine?
KB: We were both inspired by Oprah. She has this ability to find experts, platform them and help them become influencers. I mean, Oprah launched Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, Rachael Ray, Nate Berkus and Iyanla Vanzant. That’s impressive. HGTV has done the same thing with their roster. We developed this obsession using our media and marketing expertise to platform people and help them become influencers.
Where did the name SHIFTER come from?
KB: At first we started with the name SHIFT. Our focus was on shifting culture through our way of thinking and the stories and insights from the people we featured. All along we were branding our readers as Shifters, people who used their creativity and ideas to impact culture. With the name SHIFT we started to lose focus and became more of a general culture magazine. After doing some soul searching we defined who were speaking to: Shifters. In renaming the magazine we defined that we were speaking to aspiring creative entrepreneurs and influencers who want to impact culture.
When did you realize that this was something special?
KB: Whenever we’d finish a meeting there was this sense of awe in the room, like we were serving a purpose greater than ourselves, like this was something that would change the world. Whenever we would explain the vision to someone they would be in awe, like they’d never heard of something like this before. We also had some well-known international speakers give us encouraging words and counsel. The feedback we received let us know we had something special on our hands.
What is SHIFTER’s biggest accomplishment so far?
KB: I would say being able to interview 2016 Oscar nominated director Lenny Abrahamson. That was huge. We also got to attend the Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards and cover the red carpet. That was huge as well.
What does being an entrepreneur mean to you?
KB: For me it means being able to create opportunities for yourself and live a limitless life. Whatever you want to achieve is within your grasp.
JM: It means to use your God-given gifts and talents to solve pressing societal problems and get rewarded for it.
How do you characterize SHIFTER’s style?
KB: When it comes to the aesthetic of our visuals, everything is clean; not exactly minimalist, but close. We love black and white. We see ourselves as a downtown type of mag. Cool and cultural yet thoughtful and intelligent.
Do you recommend mentorship?
JM: All of us need mentors in our lives. I have invested thousands of dollars seeking out trained mentors to help me reach a new level. At the moment I have surrounded myself with five mentors who help me daily to accomplish my goals. I look to the team for mentorship, especially in areas where I need clarity.
KB: I definitely recommend finding a mentor. I’ve been a bit hit and miss with finding mentors, though. For a while I’d request mentorship from someone and they’d say no. But I found the more active you are and have something tangible you’re working on to show a potential mentor, the more you’ll be successful in getting a positive response. They have to see your potential.
Where do you see SHIFTER in the next five to ten years?
JM: I see SHIFTER becoming a media platform that houses different properties. I see the magazine having a readership of one million, a suite of flagship products that help creatives with tools and resources to become influencers. I see 200k in our SHIFTER Network Plus, creating cutting edge content for TV and online — a movement that empowers creatives to change culture for good.
What advice would you give someone who is trying to pursue their dreams?
JM: Stop thinking and act! Something special happens when we move towards our dreams. Do something daily to feed your dream, and above all, find partners who will help unearth your dream. You can’t do it alone, so find like-minded individuals and ask for their help and support.
Where do you feel most creative?
KB: In the past I would’ve said the shower, but for some reason that’s changed. I’d say I feel most creative in downtowns, whether that’s downtown Ottawa or Toronto. Downtowns have energy, people hustling and bustling. Downtowns signify opportunity. The bigger the city the better.
JM: I feel most creative in environments that are bursting with life and creativity. Coffee shops, downtown, parks, places like that. Even though I don’t drink coffee, I spend a large percentage of my time working out of coffee shops.
Do you regret any mistakes you’ve made?
JM: I wish I didn’t waste my life pursuing work I was not passionate about.
KB: I don’t really have regrets in business. On a personal note, I wish I would’ve saved more money when I started working at 14 years old. Other than that, I usually learn something from my mistakes.
Why do you love what you do?
JM: I think Kev and I are very similar in this. We both love to champion other people. This is why we created SHIFTER, to build a platform that launches people into their destiny!
Who (or what) is your motivation to keep going?
KB: I’d say my faith motivates me to keep going. The fact that we feel we’re serving a purpose greater than ourselves keeps me going. The size and scope of our dream and the thought of it becoming a reality keeps me going. My obsession with impacting our city, Ottawa, really keeps me going. I want to build something that makes our city proud and puts it on the map, something that gives Ottawa folk a reason to puff out their chests a bit.
JM: I see this as a mandate from God. It’s a gift that was given to me and I have a responsibility to steward it properly.
If you had the opportunity to work or collaborate with anyone, who would it be and why?
JM: I would love to collaborate with Magic Johnson. Growing up he was my favourite basketball player and had a massive influence on my life. He’s one of the few athletes who have been able to build a business empire that touches all aspects of society. He’s an entrepreneur, philanthropist, TV personality and motivational speaker. There’s much I could learn from him, and maybe we could own a sports team together one day.
KB: Jodianne Beckford? Seriously though, I’ve always wanted to collaborate with Kanye West, but my number one would be Drake’s manager and OVO business partner, Oliver El-Khatib. From what I’ve read, he has a keen eye and ear for all things creative. He’s touching fashion and retail with OVO clothing and their store. He’s obviously touching music. He’s touching events with OVO Fest. He’s a crazy brand builder. Those are all spaces I’d like to be in.
What is the one thing you can’t leave the house without? (Other than your cell phone!)
KB: Other than my wallet, I’d say my SHIFTER baseball cap. I pretty much wear it everywhere. It’s more than just merch for the magazine for me; I wear it because the word “Shifter” means something. It’s me saying to the world that I’m a creator and influencer.
JM: My wallet. I have an obsession with my wallet. I am constantly checking to see if it’s in my pocket!