Judy Brooks
Credit: John Lehmann

Judy Brooks has become the mentor she didn’t have when she built three international businesses

Key to the success of any entrepreneur is the ability to go it alone—to swerve right when everybody swerves left, and to rely on your own smarts, intuition and, often, money to make your dream a reality.

For Judy Brooks, a serial entrepreneur used to the idea of being self-sufficient, mentorship was long something of a foreign concept. “I never had a mentor,” says the woman behind BodyLogic (a workplace “injury prevention programming” company), ProActive ReSolutions (a workplace conflict management business) and the wildly successful Blo Blow Dry Bar franchise, with 65 locations in three countries. “Up until Blo, I really wasn’t a huge part of the Vancouver business community,” Brooks recalls. “My first two businesses were multinational. I started in business really early, and I didn’t know that you could ask people for help.”

Although she says she never had a mentor during her formative years, the ebullient Brooks has since made it her life’s mission to be a guiding force to others. Over the years I’ve learned to ‘bucket’ my mentoring or support,” she says, calling from Venice Beach while on a rare break from work. “There are the people who, at some point in their lives, I’ve given time and support around a situation or their business. And then there’s a second grouping of people who I’m a mentor or supporter of, and I will meet with those people more regularly. And then there is a bucket of people that I really champion.”

Among those Brooks says she plays a regular mentoring role with are Val Litwin, president and CEO of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce (and a former business partner at Blo); Katie Dunsworth-Reiach, co-founder of Vancouver PR firm Talk Shop Media; and Christina Anthony, vice-president, director and portfolio manager at Vancouver-based investment firm Odlum Brown Ltd.

Anthony, founder and chair of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, got to know Brooks 12 years ago when the latter took a class offered by the FWE before joining its board. “Judy asks questions that help guide me in terms of my role as chair,” says the mother of four. “She asks questions that guide me in what I am doing in the community and how I am helping other people.” It’s not a formal “let’s chat at this time” kind of relationship, but Anthony says Brooks always knows exactly when to call and what to say.

“She might reach out to me with a question about something happening with me, even when I didn’t even ask her for the help,” Anthony explains. “That’s when the mentorship is the most needed, because typically people who really need help at certain times don’t ask for it.”

Not everybody is cut out to be a mentor, of course. “My husband, who’s from a corporate background, doesn’t do any of that,” Brooks says. “We were talking about this at one point, because I work a lot, and he said to me, ‘You should do less of this—this non-paid bucket.’ But you know, it’s actually the one thing that gives me such a sense of purpose. It really fills my heart.”