Jess Hunichen and Emily Ward are friends, business partners, and co-founders of The BodCon — a virtual conference series launched in February 2021 to promote body confidence, body positivity and self-love.
The BodCon’s aim is to help people feel worthy in their own bodies. Through interviews, panels, activities, networking and a weekly podcast series, The BodCon team works with a diverse range of global influencers that are championing the body confidence and wellness space.
As two young female entrepreneurs, Jess and Emily know firsthand the joys and challenges of starting a new business.
RBC has partnered with The BodCon to launch a $10,000 Impact Grant to support one individual or organization to further their work towards body confidence.
“Knowing how much value some of that start-up cash can have is huge, so RBC has really allowed us to double down on that,” says Jess.
This year’s winner The Curvy Club was announced at The BodCon 2022 Conference. The Curvy Club was founded in Saskatchewan in 2021 to create a safe, size-inclusive space for women to come together for community, collaboration, conversation and events. Along with the $10,000 grant, founder Cierra Jade will receive financial advice to further her organization’s work towards body confidence, self-acceptance and empowerment.
For International Women’s Day 2022, RBC’s theme is “Limitless.” In this podcast, Jess and Emily share more about their journey to starting The BodCon, the importance of embracing your authentic self, sharing your voice, and what limitless means to them.
+ Audio Transcript
MUSIC FADE UP AND UNDER
|JESS & EMILY|
I’m Jess Hunichen and I am one of the cofounders of Shine Talent group and BodCon.
And I’m Emily Ward and I’m the other co-founder of Shine Talent Group and The BodCon.
Jess and Emily met eight years ago when Jess moved from Melbourne, Australia to Toronto. With a background in marketing and public relations, Jess was looking for a job when she was connected with Emily through a mutual friend.
And we started working together the day that we met, and we never stopped.
I had never worked with somebody in all of my years of PR who I just worked with so easily. It was a really exciting time, things started happening really quickly.
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In 2015, Jess and Emily started Shine Talent Group, which is a multi-faceted influencer and PR agency. They later launched Shine Influencers where they represent celebrities, athletes, and social talent with offices in Toronto, Los Angeles, and Montreal.
With so much experience representing diverse people in the body confidence and wellness space, Jess and Emily had another business idea.
We became very passionate about that movement as a whole and saw that no one was really running something that fully focused on this that was like a one-day, virtual, throw everything under this umbrella type of event. So we decided to start it.
We definitely never saw ourselves as being body confidence experts ourselves but we’re really great at building community, we’re really great at events, we’re really great at getting people excited about things. And we do represent a lot of talent who are in the body confidence space and we’ve been watching and witnessing what they’ve been doing, and we wanted to support them.
BodCon started as a one-day virtual conference with interviews, panellists, activities and networking. But like many great ideas, it grew into something much bigger.
The audience and the community that was built around it was so, so connected to it, that we were like, “I guess we have to do something else.”
So we started a podcast that goes out weekly hosted by Bri, one of the members of our team. She talks to all different people about body confidence and what that means to them. And then we did a number of smaller events throughout the year.
A lot of Jess and Emily’s work is guided by the communities they serve. In the increasingly competitive health and wellness industry, they say this is what makes their brand stand out.
We’re constantly going to our community, so we take a lot of cues from our community itself, we ask our community like, who they want to be hearing from, what topics they want to be covering. And I feel like that strategy in itself has allowed us to stay very relevant and competitive, although, you know, a bit challenging at times – we are led by the communities. So when there is a difficult topic that needs to be unpacked and discussed, we’re also not afraid to shy away from that.
While The BodCon community is predominantly female, it’s also a global movement for everyone.
The idea is that we want everybody to feel confident in their bodies and not feel like their body is attached to their self worth. It’s so nice to have that spectrum of different experiences.
Many brands, models and influencers have embraced the body confidence movement in a way that simply didn’t exist before. When asked what they think caused this shift, the BodCon partners say consumers have played an important role.
People want to see themselves in advertising campaigns. People want to look to brands and say, “Okay, I could wear that shirt, I could wear those pants, I see myself represented here.” So I think it’s primarily consumer driven, which is so cool. Like, that’s so amazing to know that as a consumer, we do have that power
I agree and I think the podcast has been a really great way to reinforce that message that there’s power in social and there’s power in sharing your voice and opinion, especially when done in a positive, constructive, educational way. Social media can get such a bad rep because there is a side of it that is really feeding into the distortion of body image and self-esteem. But then there’s this whole other side of this community and all these incredible talent and voices who are shedding another light on a different side of body confidence. And that’s incredibly powerful. And we’re really proud to be part of that.
But of course, Jess and Emily are under no illusions that change will happen overnight.
This is not an easy solve. And we certainly don’t expect everyone to walk away from a one-day conference being like, ah, problem solved. I feel great about my body, I’ll never have a bad day again. But I think it’s taking a couple of steps towards showing our bodies kindness.
There’s power that comes from attending a day and hearing 45 different people reinforcing similar messaging in terms of your worth should not be attached to your size. And we’ve seen the results of that … just having a large-scale event like that, it does wonders, the impact of it is really strong.
RBC encourages all its staff to bring their full selves to work and to embrace what makes them authentic. In an effort to bring this sentiment to life, RBC has partnered with The BodCon to create a $10,000 Impact Grant to support one person or organization further their work towards body confidence and empowerment.
We are so thrilled to have RBC partner with us on this one. We did this for the first time last year at our first conference and we’ve doubled the grant this year, which is very exciting. And we decided to start the grant because we really wanted to see what someone could do with that money, so knowing how much value some of that start up cash can have is huge, so RBC has really allowed us to double down on that.
In celebrating this year’s International Women’s Day, RBC’s theme is Limitless. Jess and Emily shared what this word means to them.
From The BodCon perspective, feeling limitless is disconnecting your self-worth from a number on a scale, and not feeling like you’re held back at all.
It never ends in terms of what we want to be doing and there’s such enjoyment and playfulness in the creativity of coming up with new ideas. The BodCon, was one of those passion projects and a seed of an idea that Jess and I came up with and has had immense success. But gosh, like, every year, every six months, Jess and I are trying something new or looking for new opportunities.
To learn more about the journey for radical self-acceptance, to stream the BodPod, and to sign up for future BodCon events, visit the thebodcon.com
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