Oh, hey there. 👋

Welcome to my corner of the web.  I occasionally write about the joys (and frustrations) of  entrepreneurship. Want to follow along?

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Justin Veenema Photographer

Hi, I'm Justin.

I’m a creative entrepreneur with a background in tech/marketing. I'm currently building a career that maximizes my creativity, fulfillment and freedom so that I can spend more meaningful time with my family.

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Builder / Maker
Founder of Brand Stories™ and Photos for Tinder (and previously PixelPaws). I enjoy the challenge of building a brand from scratch.
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Video producer
I currently spend most of my time producing high-impact marketing & branding videos for small-to-medium sized businesses.
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Creator
This year I started sharing my journey with the occasional blog post. I'm also making an effort to share templates and assets I've built.
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Photographer
I work primarily with founders, entrepreneurs, accelerators and startups - but I also help people level-up their dating profiles.

📊 What I'm working on right now

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🎬 Brand Stories™

I built Brand Stories™ to give small-to-medium sized businesses access to powerful video production for marketing purposes. I spend the majority of my time running the company, producing videos and working with top-notch brands.

Learn more → 

 🔥 Photos For Tinder

In 2018 I launched a  boutique photography service to help people optimize their dating profiles. Word-of-mouth spread fast, and it's really taken off. I'm currently in the process of expanding to the US market and hiring top-notch photographers.

Learn more → 

+ much more (will publicly announce at a later date)

🖥 Where you might have seen my work

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→ Photo & video production

I'm super grateful for the opportunity to work with some of the most forward-thinking brands in my first two years of running Brand Stories™.

The majority of this work has been through video production (brand story videos, paid social ads, customer testimonials) and photography (custom stock photos, creative portraiture, event photography).

→ Unsplash & stock photography

In my spare time I contribute to Unsplash - a forward-thinking stock photography website that partners with major brands. Thanks to Unsplash, my photos have over +34,000,000 views and counting.

Even more exciting is that my work has been utilized by major brands in apps, websites, publications and more.

→ Community building

In my previous career track, I worked with major startups in western Canada to build and maintain customer communities.

Milestones include helping Clearly.ca build a +1mm social community across 5 platforms in the US, building the Unbounce Conversion Community from scratch and teaching the Digital Marketing cohort at BrainStation for two years.

👇 Want to connect or collaborate?

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The best way to get in contact with me is via email, but you can also find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Medium, Unsplash and YouTube.

🎙 Consulting, Speaking Engagements, Podcasts, etc.

I’d love to speak at your (virtual) event, be a guest on your channel/podcast, contribute to your blog, or collaborate in another meaningful way.

→ Send me an email with your idea here

🎬 Video Production

Want to create a high-impact video for your brand or business? We specialize in brand stories, product videos, explainers, social ads and website video backgrounds.
→ Apply to work with us here

📸 Portraits & Custom Stock Photography

Want a unique, custom headshot that isn't so damn corporate? I specialize in stunning custom portraits for founders, business owners and creatives.

→ Send me an email here (limited)

Why use video for business?

Generalize → Specialize

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View examples of our work →

Read the latest posts from the blog. 📝

In 2020 I started writing a little bit every day, and I found that it helped me think. Now I write in the open about life, creativity, tech and entrepreneurship. → Check out the blog.

"A gifted and compelling visual storyteller.
I have had the pleasure of utilizing Justin’s videography skills to tell the story of Community Building at Staples STUDIO. As well, we had him present in our Spotlight session. He is a joy to work with and more importantly is hyper-focused on delivering impactful results."

Matt Stewart
Community @ Staples STUDIO

Photographing people.

Some photographers enjoy shooting landscapes. For me, it's people. I seem to have a certain knack for shooting candid, authentic photos of people who typically hate photos of themselves. The best way to describe my individual style is "not-so-corporate" headshots.

View more photos → 

Brayden
Girl
Manuel
Nutrition
Learn more about

My background.

I'm an open book when it comes to my background and my career.

Let's start with college  🏫

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I've always loved learning and creativity, so when it came time for post-secondary, I decided to go all-in on Graphic Design. Going to design school taught me three things:

  • 1. Traditional schooling is broken. I learned more through tutorials on the internet than I did actually in school learning from outdated curriculum. The only reason I completed my schooling was because of pressure from family/society to "get my education."
  • 2. I didn't do well in a this kind of learning environment. I had a lot of trouble focusing in class. This caused a bit of friction and disruption with my professors, on which I reflect regularly. I got diagnosed with ADHD in my first year of college, but medication butchered my creativity, so I didn't continue taking it. Needless to say, I struggled.
  • 3. I didn't want to be a graphic designer. Don't get me wrong, I love graphic design and still to this day believe that the skillset is extremely valuable (case in point: I built this site myself without hiring a designer/developer)... I just didn't want to design for someone else. I was much more interested in what design could do when applied to things like apps, or campaigns.

Working in marketing/tech/social media 📈

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After school I made it my mission to "work in a tech startup". I remember reading about the foosball tables, bean bag chairs and beer on-tap - and the creative people who made magic happen behind the doors. I hopped on a one-way flight from Windsor ON → Vancouver BC and elbowed my way into a trendy online eyewear company, Clearly.ca.

I started in customer success, but eventually made my way into the marketing department as a Social Media Moderator. This started my career path in both Community + Marketing. After helping to build their US brands' community past +1 million, my role evolved to Social Media Coordinator and then Social Media Strategist.

From there I did a short stint at Indochino, but ultimately left as the company was in it's infancy and wasn't quite a culture fit for me (I hear it's much, much better now).

Unbounce CTA Conf 2016 in Vancouver, Canada.

I left directly for greener pastures and joined the team at Unbounce. This is where I helped design, build and curate the world's strongest community of landing page marketers on the web.

We built a customer advocacy program with all-star marketers from around the world (dubbed the Unbounce Experts) and took surprise & delight to a whole other level with the Unbounce Market. We held class-leading conferences and did some really amazing stuff there.

I left the company after a few years to move to the Okanagan, but the whole Unbounce team, especially the founders, have my highest regard. Unbounce CEO, Rick Perreault, reminded me a few years ago "Once an Unbouncer, always an Unbouncer." I can't recommend this company enough.

Presenting a strategy at Loop Digital in Kelowna, BC.

After Unbounce I also spent some time at Loop Digital, a Facebook Advertising agency, as Creative Director. I learned really valuable lessons at this company, particularly around what kind of creative actually converts and what falls flat (hint: it's a lot more complex than you think). This knowledge gave me a huge head-start when I decided to open my own creative video agency.

Discovering my passion for teaching 🎓

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While traditional education wasn't my cup of tea, I still loved learning.

I continued my education throughout my entire career, but it wasn't through any kind of traditional school. Books, blogs, podcasts, tutorials, youtube, Udemy... I was, and still am, obsessed with learning.

Speaking on stage about social digital marketing trends.

While at Unbounce, I regularly had the opportunity to speak in front of the company (150+) which led to me becoming more comfortable with an audience. I also had the opportunity to mentor or speak for really interesting initiatives, such as Girls Learning Code and Epicentr Academy.

But my love for teaching came from working with BrainStation, where I stumbled into an instructor role, and becoming Lead Educator for their popular Digital Marketing Course for 2+ years.

At BrainStation HQ in Vancouver, BC.

BrainStation flipped the traditional education model on its head and brought in industry experts  who were actively working in their field to teach niche, specific classes, like SEO and paid search. It was phenomenal working with such passionate, career-focused individuals who wanted to give back.

And over time, I got the joy of watching my students (and faculty!) go on to land phenomenal roles in companies like Adidas, Herschel, Lululemon and Netflix.

My road to entrepreneurship 🚀

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After college, I also opened a boutique wedding photography business that focused mostly on destination weddings. I don't talk too much about this because, well... it tanked.

There was definitely demand, and I got to capture some truly phenomenal destination weddings while we were open, but I didn't have the proper skills to develop the company without becoming overwhelmed.

Photo by Rounack Deb Roy on Unsplash

Fast forward to 2018. I photographed a friend and colleague of mine for a blog post, which I then found out he used on an online dating app called Tinder. The next day he came in and said "Man, I've never had that many matches in my life!", which was odd to me, seeing as he's an arguably handsome dude and a beautiful human being.

Turns out, building your profile is kinda like marketing - you need to know your audience, make the offer appealing and showcase great photos/copywriting. A mix of skills that I happened to have.

After consulting with friends, colleagues and conducting some highly-scientific market research (ie. I swiped a whole lot)... I decided to open a side hustle, aptly named PhotosForTinder.com.

I had no idea it would become successful - but within 6 months I was making more from photography than I was at my day job. What's even better is that my clients, who pretty much all turned out to be  amazing individuals who take self-improvement seriously, started matching with more and more amazing people because of my efforts. Their results have been out of this world, and some of them are now even engaged to be married.

My very first client! Yes, I took their proposal photos. :) 

A year later, I saw another gap in the market while working at Loop Digital, this time in the B2B content space. Companies were heavily investing in video production for ads, commercials and content, but many of them were getting back low-impact/low-converting videos.

There was no shortage of videographers, but there was a shortage in video people that knew the in's and out's of marketing, conversion, copywriting and paid advertising.

Video shoot for Haven Mattress Co. in 2017.

Again, I saw where my unique cross-section of skills could come together and offer immense value for my clients, and soon after opened Brand Stories™, is focused at helping small-to-medium sized businesses achieve better marketing results through strategic video creation.

This video production company seen some really impactful results in the 2.5 years we've been in business, and I've had the opportunity to work directly with major brands such as Staples, VIATEC, Ethical Bean, Accelerate Okanagan, Spud.ca and so many more.

On set filming the finale for the Angel Summit by Accelerate Okanagan.

Growing and scaling this business is where I spend the majority of my time. Turns out, helping business owners achieve better results is super rewarding.

Fave books, creators and resources 🎬

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Books
  • Essentialism - Doing it all can lead to burnout. Great read on the pursuit of less but better.
  • Company of One - Why staying small is a profitable/flexible way to grow a business.
  • Dark Horse - Why engineering your passions and living a life of fulfillment matters.
  • 4 Hour Workweek - The original lifestyle hacking guide. Don't let the spammy title fool you.
  • Show Your Work - 10 insightful ways to share your creativity and get discovered.
  • The E Myth (Revisited) - Every entrepreneur/business owner should read this book.
  • The $100 Startup - So many amazing businesses that got started on a shoestring budget.
Creators
  • Matti Haapoja - Phenomenal filmmaker from Ontario. Best buds with Peter McKinnon.
  • Sara Dietschy - Creative entrepreneurship, tutorials and how-to's.
  • Gerald Undone - Straight facts about cameras & filmmaking. Super technical. Nerd fodder.
  • Gene Nagata (Potato Jet) - Filmmaking info & tutorials, with a hilarious and personable tone.
  • Ali Abdaal - Doctor turned online educator. Talks about mindfulness, growth and productivity.
  • Bryce and Rasa - Showcasing how the world is moving to less, but better, through tiny homes.
  • Manny Ortiz - My favourite introverted photographer with no B/S photography tips.
  • Matt D'Avella - All about personal growth hacking, minimalism and productivity.
  • Matthew Encina - Phenomenal Designer, educator and public speaker.
Podcasts
Apps / Software
  • Notion - The ultimate productivity, planning, organizing, life wiki and writing/content tool.
  • TickTick - The best "to-do" app on the market, bar none.
  • Honeybook - How I manage bookings, invoices and client comms for both of my businesses.
  • Final Cut Pro X - My linear video editor of choice.
  • Unbounce - Best landing page builder on the market (by far).
  • Webflow - The web-building platform I used to build this site (and my business sites).
  • Spotify - All the music. All the time.
  • Headspace - Guided meditation to help you think better.
  • Adobe Creative Suite - From lightroom to photoshop, I use this to do 90% of creative tasks.

My five year plan 💭

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Build a rich and fulfilling life for me and my family by providing an absurd amount of value to people.

Start now.

Sound like a good fit? Apply now to see how we can work together to make some marketing magic.