“Bell Media is my first client. And I got this client before I even started my company!” Temo Primrose Gare says, laughing. After speaking with this WOSEN alum about how she landed a six-part television series while completing CSI’s WOSEN Start program, it’s easy to see why a group of major media execs signed on to platform her first project: Temo’s conviction is infectious. So is her vision.
After working as a journalist for years, often covering stories about people from marginalized communities, something shifted for Temo when news of George Floyd’s murder broke. A year later, her debut show, “Our Stories,” (now streaming on Bell Fibe TV1) is the result; a series determined to tell the stories of marginalized people beyond the limits of a tragic news cycle or a trending topic:
In May of 2020, a video of George Floyd’s final moments went viral. Eight minutes and forty-six seconds captured the world’s attention. And while George Floyd’s murder reignited a multinational movement against police brutality and systematic racism, the constant sharing and re-sharing of the video was also unsettling. While many non-Black people spoke to how it ‘opened their eyes,’ many Black people asked: at whose expense? Soon, people took to social media to express the trauma and dehumanization bound up in having to watch George Floyd die again and again across their screens.
It’s part of what Temo says is an ongoing trend, a tendency for news stories about marginalized people to centre on violence and by extension, for marginalized communities to be associated with violence, loss, and helplessness. In the midst of the horror and ensuing media frenzy, Temo desired a different outcome. So, she created one.
“[In journalism, there’s a saying:] if it bleeds, it leads. If the story is full of violence and blood, that’s the story that leads. At the same time, there’s no context,” Temo explains. “What happened before? What happened during? And what happened after? It’s why I wanted to do this show. It’s great that we are telling these stories, but we need to give people hope. I didn’t want to just be part of talking about the problem. If I tell my stories of racial discrimination, it will probably go viral for a day or two and then what? I wanted to take action in a way that would be unforgettable. ‘Our Stories’ is here to stay.”
Developing the Show
“Our Stories” moves beyond the scope of the two-minute news stories Temo covered. “I wanted to be able to tell stories that are really critical to marginalized communities,” She explains. “I really wanted to go into these communities, sit down with these people and give them a platform to tell their own stories in their own voices.”
But, before she could create the show, she needed funding, and if she was going to make good on her vision of reframing mainstream narratives, the show needed a major platform.
True to form, Temo dreamed big: she sent her project proposal to Bell Media. At the same time, she applied for CSI’s WOSEN Start program. Why? Her research showed it usually takes nine weeks for major media producers to respond, so the nine-week WOSEN program seemed like perfect timing for someone without business experience to learn the foundations of entrepreneurship. Temo jokes she wanted to learn “how to sound like a business person” for when she got in front of the big-time execs.
Well, it turns out her research was wrong. Bell Media emailed her just two weeks later. They asked to set up a call. Temo says she was “freaking out. I don’t know what I’m doing. I didn’t know anything!” She recalls one of the WOSEN coaches telling her, “If they were able to look at your proposal and think it was good enough to schedule a meeting, it means they saw something in you. You are downplaying yourself right now. Just fake it till you make it. Just go for it.”
So, she did. The meeting went very well. The Bell execs liked what they heard and wanted to form a partnership with her media company. The only problem was,“I didn’t have a company!” Temo recalls, laughing. But, she was determined. She’d always dreamt of creating a multimedia production company; it was just becoming official a lot sooner than expected. Fake it till you make it, right? Okavango Media was born.
“As soon as they gave me that contract, I had to register for the business name on the same day. I ran to the bank and opened a bank account,” Temo exclaims. “I started to look for other creators. I found an editor, a photographer, a videographer, and I allocated money for them from my budget.” A production budget, she says, she learned how to create through the WOSEN program, along with other business skills.
“Through the WOSEN program, I learned how to fine tune my idea [so as] to produce a viable product,” Temo explains. “WOSEN [program leads] Mitalie and Peggy Sue will ask you: what is the problem you are trying to solve? How are you going to solve that problem? What are the pros and cons? What it really teaches you is how to hone in on the most important aspect of the idea that you could take and scale your business with. It really helped me to flush my idea down, tear it apart and build it up. I plan on making Okavango Media one of the largest independent media companies in Canada.”
That plan began with last week’s launch of “Our Stories.”
Just over a year after Temo first had the idea, “Our Stories” is now streaming on Bell Media’s Fibe TV1 and on the Bell Fibe TV app. The six-part series goes in-depth; each episode focuses on a different issue, including anti-Black racism, transgender workplace discrimination, homelessness, immigration, and drug addiction.
“I invite someone to tell me their story, what hardships they’ve experienced and then, what they did to overcome them. My last question centres on: what did you do to get yourself out of that situation? Who helped you? Because I want to give people hope,” Temo emphasizes. “I want people to think, ‘Oh, so if I am discriminated against in this manner, I can go to this person to seek legal help.’ Not only do we tell stories, we also invite subject matter experts to say ‘if you are a refugee claimant and you’ve been told to leave Canada but you cannot go to your native country because you are seeking refuge, this is what [you can do].’ We talk about really serious topics but there is also joy in it. It gives people the feeling that ‘you know what, I may be going through this but here is someone who can help me and I am going to pick up the phone and take action.’”
That’s what Temo did. She saw a problem, she had a dream, and after seeking out people to help her, she created a solution.
Her advice for entrepreneurs just starting out?
“There will never ever be a better time to start than right now,” Temo promises. “What would have happened if I had said, ‘you know, I don’t have a company yet so I can’t send this proposal to Bell right now?’ I would still be working on myself waiting for the right time to come. No, you don’t need anything to start. You just need your idea and the passion you have for your idea. You don’t need money. I started this with zero dollars. I didn’t have a bank account for my business. My advice is if you are waiting for the right time, you are wasting your time. The right time is right now.”
And if, like Temo, you’re looking for guidance and a supportive network as you get started, applications for the WOSEN Start program are now open.
Here’s how you can watch her show (right now)
- If you are already a Bell Fibe TV customer, go to TV1, and look for “Our Stories.” You can watch the series right away.
- You can also watch the show on-demand with the Bell Fibe TV App on your smart device.
Are you an emerging entrepreneur looking to hone your vision and gain the skills to start your social enterprise?
Applications for our WOSEN Start program are now open! Over 9 weeks, you’ll refine your social purpose idea, build a business model, and develop an action plan to help you move forward alongside a tight-knit, supportive group of early-stage women and gender non-binary entrepreneurs. Apply by August 29, 2021!