A Flair for Flavorful Design

Bronwyn Mondoux, owner and creative director of Ottawa-based Cinnamon Toast New Media, focuses on maintaining a fun, friendly work culture while cooking up original and innovative designs for clients

The cooks of creativity (from left): Alix Mitchell, Bronwyn Mondoux, Beverly Hyatt, Lauren Reid, and Sean Vincent.

Inspired by the owner of a small lingerie shop where she worked in her teens, Bronwyn Mondoux earned her bachelor’s degree with a specialization in new media from Ryerson University, in Toronto, and went on to launch the design-savvy marketing business she had been dreaming about for years. The name of the company, Cinnamon Toast New Media Inc. (CTNM), came easily.

“Cinnamon is one of those things that harvests a feeling of nostalgia, warmth, sweetness, and comfort. I can’t think of a better way to conduct a business and grow its culture.” —Bronwyn Mondoux, Owner & Creative Director

“The root of the name is my childhood love for cinnamon toast and a longtime joke I had with my dad about naming my future business by this yummy breakfast snack,” Mondoux explains. “The funny thing is, the name Cinnamon Toast was one of the smartest business decisions I have ever made. If they don’t remember my name, they definitely remember the business name! Plus, cinnamon is one of those things that harvests a feeling of nostalgia, warmth, sweetness, and comfort. I can’t think of a better way to conduct a business and grow its culture.”

Not long after establishing her company, Mondoux was approached by a multimillion-dollar print company in Toronto and offered a job. Not wanting to lose the brainchild she had just gotten off the ground, she pitched a partnership to the company. Two years later, she bought out her former partners (though it came with some unexpected costs and legalities).

After the buyout, Mondoux faced a new challenge: her boyfriend (now husband) was given the opportunity to attend medical school in Ottawa and invited her along. She decided to follow her heart.

Why do you like working at Cinnamon Toast New Media?
It has an extremely fun and creative environment. Complete fluidity maintains an open and honest community.

What makes it different from other marketing/design agencies?
There’s no stuffiness or competition. We all work together to create amazing designs.

What makes Cinnamon Toast shine?
We not only make designs, we make long-lasting friendships.

“Moving the business to a completely new location where I knew no one was a huge risk,” Mondoux says. “The good news is that it encouraged me to network like crazy! I was lucky enough to meet a small handful of businesswomen who were also growing and developing their businesses. With their support and backing, I was able to make enough connections to jump-start the business again, and shortly thereafter I was able to hire my first employee, Alix, who is still with Cinnamon today.”

Since its incorporation in 2006, CTNM has grown its staff to five full-time employees. “We work together in ‘the design kitchen,’ to cook up and develop clever, personalized product recipes that help foster and support business growth and brand advocacy,” Mondoux says.

Serving as both creative director and owner, Mondoux’s typical days consist of project management, creative direction, the odd HR task, and personally working on her design accounts.

Why do you like working at Cinnamon Toast New Media?
I love working at Cinnamon because it’s a place where you can be truly creative and try anything. We pride ourselves on creating something different, fresh, and polished. Our environment is fun and family-like, but we are still able to keep things professional. Who wouldn’t love that?

What makes it different from other marketing/design agencies?
We are given the freedom to try something new and put our ideas out there. We work together as a team to create something amazing for our clients.

What’s on the horizon?
We are young and quickly growing. We stop at nothing to make our clients happy, and we love to see how quickly the company is growing and stepping into bigger and better things all the time.

Mondoux also makes every effort to keep her employees happy. “Maintaining a warm and inspired work culture is incredibly important to not only my personal belief but also the success of Cinnamon,” she says. “The key to CTNM’s past, present, and future success can be accredited the dedication to nurturing a positive team environment. The office thrives on creative energy and a playful, relaxed atmosphere that includes riveting playlists, takeout picnics on the office floor, impromptu dance parties to alleviate stress, and a mix of Modern Family or New Girl during lunch. Revolving around the age-old philosophy of ‘work hard, play hard,’ I believe that a positively energized and empowered employee results in stronger client relationships and an unrivalled work ethic; and the proof certainly lies in the cinnamon-flavoured pudding!”

In addition to cultivating a fun and friendly internal culture and promoting work-life balance, Mondoux also ensures that her team members are good at what they do and well equipped to manage accounts and service each client. “I train my employees to be capable and confident problem-solvers so that clients may be guaranteed an efficient and productive experience at every stage of the design process,” she says.

Why do you like working at Cinnamon Toast New Media?
We share a lot of the same values. Our work environment is very much like a family, and we treasure positive attitudes and good humour. When taking on new projects, we are continuously pushing ourselves to come up with new and surprising ideas that exceed the challenges given to us by our clients.

What makes it different from other marketing/design agencies?
At CTNM, the designers work closely with our clients. Designers act as project managers to eliminate the middleman and create better relationships with our clients.

While CTNM takes every measure to not only please but thrill its clients, the agency believes each client needs to be actively involved for a win-win outcome. “A good marketing campaign is often a bottom-up approach that asks your target market to think and participate,” Mondoux explains. “Our particular industry is changing drastically with the introduction of social media, and next to a stylish chic approach, it is all about brand value and philosophy. Customers are interested in purchasing from brands that parallel their beliefs, and this means that a brand needs to know their beliefs. Believe it or not, a lot of clients haven’t thought about marketing this way, and when you ask them to talk it through, they get really excited.”

By involving the clients in this unique process and employing a firm policy to never use templates, CTNM guarantees clients final, polished products that nobody else will have, which has resulted in approximately 90 percent of CTNM’s contracts being referred by word of mouth. It has also helped the agency land a number of notable clients, including Canada Post, Passport Canada, Signature Foods, Welch LLP, and the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.

Looking to the future, Mondoux says her team will continue to find new ways to maintain its upbeat culture while also creating one-of-a-kind designs for clients. “We have a lot of fun at our office, and we make sure to showcase this in our approach to social media and the Cinnamon brand. We are design-obsessed, and we aren’t afraid to show it!”

On top of her business success, Mondoux has found new happiness at home as a mother to a seven-month-old baby girl. “It has added its complications to being a very focused businesswoman and wanting a family,” she says. “My husband and I are both career-minded but have always wanted a family. Juggling both lives is an ongoing challenge, but one with so many rewards.”

In the end, Mondoux has no regrets. “Owning my business has added interesting ups and downs, but it has also given me the freedom to live my life my way,” she says. “Like I’ve heard other business owners say, being an entrepreneur isn’t always about the money. Being an entrepreneur will ultimately set you free.”