Photography by Becca Lemire
Allison Dore has opinions and she’s not afraid to share them.
As the host of SiriusXM Canada Radio's The Breakdown on Canada Talks and BroadCast on Just For Laughs Canada as well as the founder of Howl and Roar Records, a Female Centric Comedy Label, Allison celebrates women in comedy all over the world.Because she can’t get enough of interviewing people and sharing their stories, she also hosts and produces the podcast "Digging In", which features one on one conversations about life philosophies, overcoming personal struggles, and how guests think about life. Allison shares her story of battling mental illness and addiction in order to bring hope to those who are currently struggling.
Grab a cup of tea, get comfy and dig into this juicy read.
Tell us about a time that life handed you lemons. Did you make lemonade?
I have dealt with mental health issues my whole life, and when I was 23 I had a nervous breakdown. I could no longer function and had to quit my job and move back in with my parents. Just showering was an overwhelming prospect, and most days I barely got out of bed. I was afraid I would never get better. Now, I call it ‘The Nervous Breakdown That Saved My Life’. I was forced to confront some of the harmful, debilitating beliefs I had about myself. I became open to trying new things to help my thinking, and emotional state, because I was more afraid to be miserable forever than to try something new. And the best part about having your mind and your life fall apart? You get to put the pieces back together the way YOU want them. Now when I get overwhelmed, and question if I can do something, I look at how far I have come and KNOW that I can handle whatever comes my way.
Describe your ideal work environment to get sh*t done.
Oooooh – Immaculate desk. Low overhead lighting, and a desk lamp. Quiet instrumental music, usually classical or original movie scores. Laptop, 4x6 yellow, lined Post-It notes, and Le Pen pens. I also really like working at the library. Any library. Maybe it’s nostalgia, or just that as a kid I got trained that the library was a place to focus, I don’t know - but it still works. However, most of the time I end up working at my messy dining room table, because life is crazy and you just gotta get it done sometimes. The real necessities are the laptop, the Post-Its and the Le Pen.
What have you learned in your first year of business?
This year has been about learning how to hold back. I want to do it all! I want to say yes to everyone! However, I know exactly what the next projects will be to take Howl & Roar to the next level when we finally get there. What I can tell you is that those things won’t necessarily be directly in line with what we do now, but they will be adjacent and complimentary. If the company was a family: instead of just bringing in the siblings, I’m looking to bring the cousins in as well.
How much of your success as an entrepreneur has come from taking risks versus playing it safe?
For me, it’s all about taking risks. My version of playing it safe is to get so worried/overwhelmed about it that I never do it. If I look, I will NEVER leap. So I jump first and ask questions later. Which means I have had to get very good at dealing with mistakes and “failures”. As long as I am not repeating mistakes, it’s all an acceptable part of the learning process. The one way I play it safe is that I have a certain amount of money that I am not allowed to play with or invest in the business. It is my ‘crash and burn’ account, so that if the business fails and I have to shutter the doors, I am not left homeless and destitute.
How do you measure success in your career?
I measure my success by asking 3 questions: Am I happy? Am I helping? Am I making enough money to live? If I say yes to all 3, I AM CRUSHING LIFE! Obviously I’m not happy 24/7, that is impossible, what I really mean is do I love what I do, and does it inspire me? If yes, that is a big ole checkmark. And being of service in some way is very important to me: I have a great life, and living in gratitude and paying it forward only seems right. And while money is, of course, important, it is definitely not the most important for me. So as long as my bills are paid and I’ve got a little bit to play with – I feel rich.
You're 30 minutes away from walking into an important meeting. What do you do to get yourself in the right headspace?
Most often it’s music: songs that jack me up and make me feel confident! Lizzo is my current go to, either “Good As Hell” or “Juice”. Strutting down the street on my way to a meeting just gets me in the right headspace, and reminds me to be myself and trust myself. 30 minutes out there is nothing more I can do to prepare, so it’s just about getting my energy right.
If you could attend a dinner party with 3 people of your choice - past or present - who would they be?
Number one, hands down, Maya Angelou. She is such an ongoing inspiration to me, and I think the meaning of life is basically her quote “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” So much wisdom can be gleaned from those two simple sentences! Number two would be one of my grandmothers. When you’re a kid you don’t know what to talk to older people about; then you get older and wish you could have just one more conversation. Both of my grandmothers died when I was seven, and I wish I knew more about their lives when they were young. What their dreams were, who their favourite singers were, what life was like. Number three would be Tom Hardy. Because he is smart and interesting but ALSO GORGEOUS. SO GORGEOUS.
Do you have a mentor? What role have they played in your success?
Yes, several! Mentors, coaches, whatever the title – you need people who can advise and guide you in life. Some of those people are actual people in my life, and some are people who write books, give talks or have podcasts about business, philosophy, time management, etc. I think when people think they know enough, or are good enough at their job, that’s the moment they start to slip. So I am constantly looking to learn and be inspired. Time management is an area I need improvement in, so I recently started working with time management expert and founder of Take It Easy Personal Concierge service Tarra Stubbins. I’ve known her for a while and she has always been so helpful with advice, but now having her coach me has been so helpful. Do not be afraid to ask for help! In the wider world of personal development, I just discovered Mel Robbins last year, and I love her. Her audio series “Kick Ass with Mel Robbins” has been so helpful and inspiring for me.
What excites you most about your career?
The fact that there are endless possibilities. When I think of some of the places I want to take Howl & Roar, what used to seem like fantasies I now know are totally possible if I work hard, take risks, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I used to talk myself out of doing things, tell myself that they were impossible when really all I had to do was start doing. Now my problem is I get too excited and start trying to put a roof on before I get the walls built! What works for both over-excitement or overwhelm is actually the same thing: just focus on the next step. When a comedian says I made it so easy for them to make an album, or that they would have done it without my help, I am so excited to just keep building better ways to support and promote the talented people who trust me with their work.
Give us the play-by-play of your typical morning routine.
I was recently diagnosed with a sleep disorder after years of being exhausted for seemingly no reason. The messaging around entrepreneurship is “HUSTLE 24/7! SLEEP 5 HOURS A NIGHT! GO GO GO!” and I can’t do that and function. And that’s okay! So my morning routine looks a little bit different. Waking up is very difficult for me, and I have learned to be gentle with myself. I get up around 7, take my dog outside, and then sit with my coffee for up to an hour. Maybe I’m reading, or watching TV, or journaling, but it is a quiet time to slowly wake up. On my best days I will then go to the gym, take my dog for a walk, and then meditate. On my worst days I have slept in and have to get ready to go to the studio because I am behind. On those days I remind myself that I am okay! I’ll work a little later, or re-prioritize my to-do list, or grind it out on a day I feel stronger. Most mornings fall somewhere in the middle, and the main thing is not getting into a negative headspace just because the morning wasn’t perfect! The rest of the day can be great if you let it.
Remaining fresh and innovative as a business owner can be hard. How do you stay creative and where do you look for inspiration?
Being curious about other businesses and the people who run them is very helpful. The book “#GIRLBOSS” by Sophie Amoruso about her business has both comforted and inspired me. It doesn’t matter if they have a completely different kind of business, there are always things that spark an idea for me, or how I can tailor something someone else did to work for me. In addition to what people who started before me are doing, I also look to what people who started AFTER me are doing. Change happens so fast these days, and I don’t want to get left behind on anything. Listening is also very important. When a comic comes to me with an idea and says “I’m not sure if we can do this…” I definitely want to hear what is coming next. Because one thing we forget, even in the arts, is that THERE ARE NO RULES. Yes, maybe everyone has been doing it a certain way up until now, but that doesn’t mean WE have to do it that way. I think the most important thing for me is that, if I feel stuck and I focus on it, then I stay stuck. But if I feel stuck, and I tell myself to just breathe, something will come to me…eventually it does.