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Sobey School News

"Make moments into momentum"

Date Published: March 5, 2020

The French CEO of Salomon, a supplier of ski equipment, challenges a young hotshot marketer for a vision of what to do next with his established but dated brand. The brash young Canadian grabs a marker, steps to the white board and draws a mountain. He scribbles in activities – youth snowboarding, families hiking, and athletes running.

“You are more than a ski company. You need to own the share of mountain.”

The marketer is hired, and on his first day, he is called to the CEO’s office. He is nervous, but as he enters the office, he sees his mountain scribble still on the whiteboard, and his anxiety turns to elation. His quick pitch has been adopted as a company vision!

“JC,” drawls the CEO without looking up, “you a**hole. That was a permanent marker.”

It sounds like a comedy sketch, or a scene from Mad Men. This was one of the incredible anecdotes shared by Sobey School alumnus James “JC” Curleigh, BComm’89, describing his journey on the path to lifestyle brand leadership.

James Curleigh was the guest speaker at the 45th Annual Business Dinner, held at the Lord Nelson early in March.

From the moment he took the stage, leading with an acapella adapted verse from Dylan’s The Times They are A-Changin’, JC held the rapt attention of the room. His advice for students: learn to turn moments into momentum, a thought he expanded on through an extended metaphor to physics.

JC is currently the CEO of Gibson Brands, the iconic guitar maker. Previously, he was the CEO of Levis. His work has included other famous brands, including KEEN footwear and M&Ms (Mars Inc.)


Later in the evening, Nick Deal and Matt MacPhee were awarded Professor of the Year awards (full-time and part-time respectively).

The Business Dinner is organized and hosted by the Sobey School of Business Commerce Society, who also manage the voting for the professor awards. This year’s president was Callie Franson, and, later in the evening, she was joined in a photo by seven other past Commerce Society presidents who attended the sold-out event.

The Dinner was sponsored by the Sobey School as well as CPA Atlantic School of Business.

Earlier in the day, JC offered more intimate career advice in a Fireside Chat held at Saint Mary's University. He also toured the Saint Mary's Entrepreneurship Centre, and was wowed by the students he met. 

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