Relaxing back in the booth, twirling his glass of Perrier, Antoine Elhashem, owner of INspired Media and its affiliates, reflects on his childhood dream, “I decided to get into media at the age of 13.” Whether it came as a calling or an epiphany, 13-year-old Antoine made a decision that day that would touch the lives of many. INspired Media is home to INspired Creative, The Local Biz Magazine, Pink Play Mags, The Pink Pages Directory as well as partners in PositiveLite.com, Conxity.com, and ThatGeek.ca.
Antoine graduated Cum Laude with his diploma in Creative Advertising and Broadcasting. At the time he was working as a part-time sales representative in a retail store. Soon he was elevated to manager and was responsible for the store’s marketing as well as the marketing for a number of other business ventures by the retail owners.
In 1992, Antoine cut his teeth professionally as the advertising assistant for a well circulated LGBT publication. Rapidly advancing through the ranks it was not long before Antoine was headhunted by other magazines. His first serious brush with The Pink Pages Directory, at the time an entity of Kenmara Inc., was as its Director of Operations. Once, he briefly left the Pink Pages to assist another successful publication, only to return to Kenmara Inc. as the Publisher and Creative Director of The Pink Pages.
December 2004 was a year of upheaval for Antoine. He pulled up roots and moved to the Durham Region to branch out on his own. INspired Creative was born and quickly became a respected advertising and marketing agency for the Region. Soon INspired Creative was incorporated under the name of INspired Media Inc. and acted as the umbrella company to numerous media outlets. Shortly thereafter, the owners of The Pink Pages Directory, Antoine’s old bosses, approached Antoine with an offer for him to purchase The Pink Pages Directory. Antoine did not hesitate and now The Pink Pages Directory has a sister publication called Pink Play Mags and has expanded into Ottawa. Just recently, they have embraced cutting edge technology by launching The Pink Pages Directory as a smart-phone App.
Antoine now has two of the most popular publications in the LGBTQ community as well as a quarterly publication recognized by Durham businesses and a respected media corporation. His efforts have been recognized with the Impact Award for INspired Creative in 2005, a nomination for the Business of the Year by Durham Home & Small Business Association also in 2005, and personally, he was awarded the Durham Region Champion Against Homophobia for 2010. PFLAG Canada honoured him for “Outstanding Community Awareness and Corporate Support on the Local and National Levels” for his participation in many facets of the LGBTQ community.
Antoine now feels that it is his turn to give back to the community that has supported him so fondly. He is the Vice President of Pride Durham currently, and sits on the World Pride 2014 Planning Committee as the Chair of Marketing, Communications and Media Committee. Lastly, Antoine chairs the Marketing and Branding Committee for Fife House’s “Spotlight” fundraiser. His biggest efforts to date however, is an award to honour the 2010 “best of the best” in youth, adult and business for the LGBTQ community in the GTA. On January 30, 2010, nominations for the INspire Awards opened. Partnered with Pride Toronto, PFLAG Canada, PFLAG Toronto, Durham Region and York Regions, Rainbow High Vacations, Deb Pearce (FoQus with Deb Pearce), Club 717, and PositiveLite.com; Pink Play Mags & The Pink Pages Directory plan to bestow an award on Fife House for its efforts in the gay community as well as an award each to the individual youth and adult whose work has had the greatest positive impact within the gay population of the GTA.
With such strong sponsorship behind the INspire Awards, the group has secured a float in Toronto’s 2011 Pride Parade, and is planning a Gala Event for the award ceremony. “On my own I can only get the word this far. By bringing in a bunch of people, we all can benefit off a much more cooperative viral marketing. So now we have a huge name behind it. People are calling it ‘magical’. People have called it inspired. It’s inspiring me that we are proving to the rest of the community that eight organizations could come together for the good of everybody,” Antoine’s heart and pride show through with his smile as he describes the response by GTA businesses and organizations.
Antoine states for a second time about media and advertising, “I have always, since the age of 13, been obsessed with doing this. Nothing has ever taken me away from this path.” Little 13-year-old Antoine could not have envisioned at the time where that path would eventually lead him and how he would become an inspiration himself.