How Christine Magee became the face of Sleep Country Canada: A conversation with Arlene Dickinson

Christine Magee, president and co-founder of Sleep Country Canada, talks to Arlene Dickinson about what it was like when she walked away from a secure day job to pursue her dream — and just how well she sleeps at night.

Episode 5 of the Venturing Out podcast, featuring candid conversations some of Canada's top entrepreneurs

Venturing Out with Arlene Dickinson (CBC)

CBC Calgary presents Venturing Out with Arlene Dickinson. It's a seven-part series of candid conversations between Dickinson and some of Canada's top entrepreneurs. They cover the highs, the lows and everything in between when it comes to starting and running a business in Canada. 

In this week's episode, Arlene sits down with Christine Magee, president and co-founder of Sleep Country Canada. She finds out what it was like for Christine when she walked away from a secure day job to pursue her dream ... despite what her family and friends thought. Arlene also asks Christine just how well she sleeps at night. 

Arlene chats with Christine about what it felt like to risk a stable day job to follow her dream. 28:35

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: As I'm listening to you, I'm sure people who are listening are thinking it's that voice, that voice, why buy a mattress anywhere else? You became the face and the voice for the brand. Why did you do that? What made you feel like you wanted to put yourself out there and be that person? What was that instinct that drove that?

A: You know, it was a tough decision for me… Steve [Gunn] and Gord [Lownds] approached me to come and be a partner with them, and start Sleep Country. We looked and saw how a successful company down in the U.S. was operating. We looked across the Canadian landscape, and figured out what wasn't being done well and what we thought the opportunity and the gap in the customer experience was.

And one of the things that we had come to well understand is that no retailer really had a great brand awareness. And so, as we thought about how to create a brand awareness, personifying the company we thought was a unique approach at the time. Very few companies had started it that way. Our target market at the time we believed was women, 25-54, they made the decision. If a couple came in, even though both would walk through our stores' threshold, it was the woman who made the ultimate decision.

So as we thought about marketing and advertising and branding, we thought it was very important to try and put a face to the company, right? So we weren't just a jingle or trademark. We thought it was appropriate for someone from the company, you know, that really believed in what we were trying to offer, the experience we wanted the customer to have, in store and home delivery. And it made sense, out of the three of us, that the female, the president, and that was me.

Christine Magee, president and co-founder of Sleep Country Canada. (Sleep Country Canada)

Q: That was you.

A: That was me. I had never been in a recording studio, it was not my comfort zone. They wanted me to smile and be natural and authentic, and I was thinking … there's a camera in front of my face, and I can't remember a word I'm supposed to say, are you kidding me? But I think over time it's what you sort of get used to. Truthfully, for me, I'm very proud of what we've done, and what we do. So it's far easier today for me, and every time I get a chance to …have a conversation with you, or speak, I feel an obligation to do a great job because I work with a tremendous professional group of people that I'm very proud to work with. I think those are all the things that have made it a successful approach for us.

 Q: And you did put yourself out there and that is risk-taking and that is part of being an entrepreneur, right? You don't know how that is going to work in the market, but it has turned out very well. You are a natural and you did learn how to smile and be natural on camera, Christine. So I think you're OK! But is it fair to ask the face of Sleep Country Canada, how well you sleep at night?

A: Yes.

In 2015, Sleep Country Canada donated new mattresses to shelters in Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton in New Brunswick. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

Q: How do you sleep at night?

A: I sleep perfectly well! No. And when I don't, for whatever reason, like, when you have little kids that wake you up in the middle of the night, or for a whole host of reasons of worries and whatever, I really do feel the impact of it. I always sound like an ad when I talk to my family and friends and colleagues when I ask them how well they are sleeping. I really think it's so important to our ability to function, and to be good at business and be good as colleagues and friends and moms when we're well rested. And so I think it's an obligation for me to say, yes, I value sleep.

Even when I don't get a great night's sleep, it's probably a cause of my own making because I'm going to bed too late, because I'm distracted or I don't have the right environment. I always have a great bed. I value good sleep. And I think it's so important for your and my health to make sure we get that every day.  

Q: Well I would hope you had a really great bed, not just a great bed, a really great bed.

A: One of the benefits is I do get a chance to try out different brands on a more regular basis. But it is such a personal thing. Most people follow that question up with, well, what bed do you sleep on? And I say, it doesn't matter what bed I sleep on, to be honest, because my comfort level and your comfort level might be very different. But I do enjoy a good night's sleep.

As I've got older, I am not one to say that I don't need a lot of sleep. There's that pride factor, right? [You want to say] "I'm so busy, and, no, I don't need a lot of sleep to function." I do think that if you are saying that, you don't know the value of what you're missing. It's that opportunity lost and the cost of it. 

  • If you're interested in Arlene and Christine's thoughts on what its like to evolve as an entrepreneur, go to

New episodes of Venturing Out with Arlene Dickinson are available every Tuesday. Next week she will be speaking to Terry O'Reilly, an entrepreneur and host of CBC's Under The Influence.

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