Ep. #4 - Jeff Lohnes on Toronto vs. Halifax, Being a Great Speaker, and Becoming an Entrepreneur


"Wherever you go, whatever you do, just fully embrace it, make it your home, make it your everything. You may as well. You've got way more to lose by not doing that than by doing it." - Jeff Lohnes

This episode’s guest is Jeff Lohnes, a native of Rose Bay, Nova Scotia, who is the co-founder of Talent Bureau – a speakers bureau and creative talent management firm. He has been booking, managing and coaching speakers for over 12 years.

Jeff is also the Curator of TEDxToronto, a volunteer role leading the selection and coaching of all speakers.

Outside the office, Jeff is a proud east coast transplant to Toronto, athletic enthusiast - which he says means he is ‘mediocre at most, passionate about all’ - and started an online donair spice company, Drunken Sailor, to make the staple east coast product more readily available. It’s now carried in 85 Sobeys stores across Atlantic Canada.

In this episode we cover his early interest in business, why he chose to move to Toronto, how he deals with so many different types of people, what makes a great speaker, and more.

The audio is a little rough in parts, but push through as the episode is worth it.

Where you can find Jeff

Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram | Talent Bureau

Selected links from episode:

Show notes

  • What Jeff was like in high school [1:53]

  • Why Jeff chose to study marketing at St. Mary's University in Halifax [3:23]

  • How Jeff's interests changed while studying at SMU [7:00]

  • Jeff's first job straight out of university [9:48]

  • Why Jeff believes that Nova Scotia is an inherently entrepreneurial place [13:20]

  • Some potential reasons for the gap between the entrepreneurial spirit and the success stories we see in Nova Scotia [18:27]

  • Why Jeff chose to move to Toronto, and what he finds are the best and worst parts of living there compared to Halifax as an East Coast native [21:35]

  • What Jeff's job consisted of while working at National Speakers Bureau [28:35]

  • Why Jeff left NSB to go work for Movember [30:38]

  • Why Jeff chose to move on from Movember to go work for Shopify [34:11]

  • The side business that Jeff developed while at Shopify (it involves donairs) [37:20]

  • The new venture that Jeff has been working on since leaving Shopify [46:53]

  • What the first one to three months looked like for Jeff in building his new venture [51:59]

  • The mentors that helped Jeff and why getting advice from other industries is important [54:01]

  • What Jeff is focusing on to make Talent Bureau successful and stand out [56:51]

  • The traits and skills Jeff sees in speakers that make them successful [58:05]

  • How Jeff and his partner identify great speakers [1:01:40]

  • How Jeff deals with the many types of personalities and industries he works with [1:04:48]

  • The role that cooking and sports play in Jeff's life [1:07:29]

  • The first thing Jeff does when he comes back to Nova Scotia to visit [1:10:44]

  • Jeff's go-to bars, cafes and restaurants in Toronto [1:11:23]

  • Books that have influenced Jeff [1:13:29]

  • Jeff's advice for recent grads [1:16:20]