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The Jilly Academy

Academy in the City: Event Recap!

Well… that was AMAZING! We are officially on the other side of Academy in the City, and I’m still buzzing from all of the magic that took place last week!

Ever since Academy at the Farm back in September of 2022, I’ve been dreaming of bringing this event series east, and I was beyond excited to be able to host Academy in the City at my home away from home, The Fairmont Royal York in Toronto! These were possibly some of the most inspiring and uplifting few days of my entire life. 

Once again, I was thrilled to partner with Ang & Taryn from The Atelier to dream up an event that we hoped would set our attendees soul on fire and ignite that spark from within! Team Jilly first worked with Ang & Taryn back in 2018 on the very first Atelier event, which took place at a gorgeous vineyard in St. Davids, Ontario. Since then, we’ve collaborated on numerous projects, including The Jilly Academy and Academy at the Farm, and they’ve become an extended part of our team over these past few years! 

Now it’s time to grab a cup of your favourite bevvy and unwind, as I take you on a recap of the event of the year: Academy in the City! 

The Academy in the City event hosted at the Fairmont Royal York.

Our Presenting Partner

Events like this cannot happen without the support of a team who truly believe in the power of supporting women, and we’re incredibly grateful for the support of BMO, our presenting partner for this event experience. Our friends at BMO have a commitment to real financial progress for women through financial planning and literacy, which are essential for empowerment and progress. Their support extended to this community in the most beautiful way as we heard from the inspirational Jamie Doolittle, Head of Business Banking for Central Region in Ontario, on stage.

The Venue

The iconic Fairmont Royal York provided the perfect backdrop for an event that was exciting, uplifting, energizing, and DAMN FUN. For two days, we took over the Ballroom and Concert Hall of the convention floor, and it was transformed into a space that was out of my wildest dreams! 

From the moment you walk into the Fairmont Royal York, it just feels luxurious! From their fantastic restaurants, their beautiful guest rooms (including the comfiest beds ever!), stunning event spaces and their 5-star service, we KNEW we were in the hands of excellence! It was the PERFECT location that matched the vision of this event, and I must say: they exceeded our expectations in every way!

The Event Details

We had a BIG vision for this event, ensuring it was both beautiful and inspiring—and that meant that we KNEW we had to call in the best of the best in Toronto to help bring that vision to life! 

When we started brainstorming about the decorative details of the event, Ang & Taryn already knew who we’d be working with on the event and floral design. Rachel Clingen is a Toronto LEGEND when it comes to designing the most beautiful, luxurious, dreamy and magical events, and we were SO lucky to have her as part of our DREAM TEAM in executing a design plan of this magnitude. Walking into the event space was truly like walking into a dream—the attention to detail and the beauty of the space literally took my breath away! She even brought in full-sized trees to complete the space! I was BLOWN AWAY and you could see the amazement in everyone’s faces as they arrived! 

Planning an event of this size and scale is a huge undertaking, and this event could not have been so seamlessly executed without the expert event planning of Michelle Cundari, Founder of Sincerely Yours Events. She left no stone unturned when it came to the complex set-up of a venue in busy downtown Toronto, an overnight room flip and the set up of our pop-up market—ensuring everything was organized and seamless for all of our amazing vendors and attendees. 

You’ll also see the beautiful work from Emma Allen (whose art was previously featured in The Jilly Box) throughout the space—she created the stunning watercolour toile design that you can see on so many elements! 

To outfit the Ballroom and Concert Hall to our vision, we brought in a TON of gorgeous furniture from our friends at Detailz Couture. From stunning couches to cocktail tables to chairs and even pillows, Detailz ensured that we were provided everything we needed to create the perfect atmosphere to CELEBRATE. 

Simply Beautiful Decor adorned each table with one of their luxe linens, completing the palette for the event!

This event ran SO smoothly with the support of Magnetic Staffing, a Toronto-based female-founded business that offers staffing and photobooth services for events across Canada! Their staff made sure everyone was greeted with a smile, and provided exceptional customer service throughout the entire experience!

The Gala – Wednesday, April 24th 

It ALL started here! We welcomed our Academy in the City attendees for a night to remember in the iconic Ballroom where we danced the night away! Everyone was dressed to the NINES and we had SO much fun! The space was complete with gourmet food provided by the Fairmont Royal York and wine by one of Ontario’s most notable wineries, Trius. 

The Wine

You KNOW that having delicious wine at this event was a must-have for me, and Trius did NOT disappoint with their selection of Ontario VQA wines. With their incredible “Bubble Bar” featuring their Trius Sparking Rosé and Trius Brut, we had the perfect bubbles to toast one another with! The bar also featured Trius’ 2022 Sauvignon Blanc (a PERFECT summer sipper!), Trius Rosé and Trius Baco Noir. 

Special Experiences

Our VIP ticket holders were welcomed into the Ballroom early for a very special private reception (with yours truly!) that included a truly unique gifting opportunity with one of my FAVOURITE Canadian brands that I’ve been working with for years, Melanie Auld! Guests were treated to an item of their choice from Melanie’s collection to adorn their gala look! 

We were SO thrilled to feature Jilly Academy Alumni, Chelsey Cook, and her company, The Cookie Bag at our Opening Gala Reception! I dream about these mouthwatering cookies on the regular, and was SO excited to finally get to sample her ‘frosted” cookies! YUM!

Another one of my favourite brands, Purdy’s Chocolatier, joined us at the gala with a decadent chocolate bar! Featuring vegan dark chocolate hawaiian black salt caramels (my personal fave), mini hedgehogs and milk chocolate himalayan pink salt caramels… let’s just say everyone’s sweet tooth was satisfied!

From live artists providing fashion portraits to our guests (a big thanks to Nessa Lilly and Beckie DiLeo), to a DJ and a surprise saxophone appearance, to SO many photo ops… this night was seriously SO much fun!! I LOVED meeting all of you and my cheeks actually hurt from smiling so much!! 

Thursday, April 25th – Conference Day!

After a few winks sleep and a WHOLE lotta ReHydrate from withinUS, we all returned to the convention floor for a day of inspiration and learning! Doors opened at 8:30 am, and guests were welcomed into the Ballroom (which had been flipped from the Gala to the Pop-Up Market overnight) and the Concert Hall for all of our programming!

The Food

I have to say… Fairmont Royal York *blew us away* with their incredible food! From the stunning breakfast spread to the beautifully plated lunch service and fancy hors d’oeuvres at happy hour, they really outdid themselves! 

And we added a little ‘surprise and delight’ to everyone’s day with two snack drops that featured some of our favourite bites! In the morning we enjoyed a bar from Made with Local, juice from Mandy’s Salads (Shay and I stop here every time we’re in Toronto) and Healthy Crunch Coconut Chips from the team at! The afternoon featured truffle popcorn from our faves at Kanel, the ‘famous’ cookie from Mandy’s Salads, Healthy Crunch Dark Chocolate Coconut Chips from, and mouth-watering caramels from Salted!

The Beauty Bar

I absolutely LOVED this aspect of the event, with guests being able to get their makeup freshened up throughout the day with an offering of either: Lips and Lashes or Brows and Blush! Canadian brand, Elate Beauty (a fellow B-Corp certified company), was our presenting Beauty Partner for Academy in the City, and we were so thrilled to be working with Melodie, the inspiring founder, on this event! Melodie’s dedication to sustainability is evident in every aspect of Elate Beauty’s operations, from packaging to sourcing practices!

The Beauty bar wouldn’t be complete without the execution support of a VERY talented team of makeup artists! Fancy Face, a Toronto-based, female-founded company, supported the Beauty Bar (and the speakers!) throughout the day with beautiful makeup touch ups! 

Hydration Station

This was a NECESSITY after the epic Gala, and I made multiple trips here throughout the day! Everyone got their hydration on thanks to our friends at withinUs, which featured my all-time favourite Lemon reHydrate! TOTAL lifesaver!!!

The Pop-Up Market

One of my greatest passions is supporting female-founded small businesses, and the Academy in the City Pop-Up Market was filled with the most talented Canadian brands! Check ALL of the brands in our Pop-Up Market round up here!

VIP Lounge

We curated an extra-special space for our VIP ticket holders to relax, unwind, and caffeinate! 

You know I love my coffee, so Pilot Coffee Roasters also joined us in the VIP Lounge with the *extremely* popular, fan-favourite coffee bar, featuring espresso and handmade espresso-based beverages. We were also spoiled with a complimentary visit to their nearby cafés (the Union Station location across the street from the Fairmont was especially convenient)! 

Elate Beauty, our presenting Beauty Partner, also pampered our VIP tickets holders with mini touch-ups in the Lounge! Not only did they make every feel their best, within the VIP space they also allowed guests to select their favourite shade of lipstick! 

It’s ALL about the experience, and the team at PURA Botanicals did NOT disappoint! Within the VIP Lounge, they created a stunning botanical garden and dazzled guests with a sensorial experience featuring an express ‘Glow up’ facial—AND gifted each person with PURA’s Overnight Watermelon Mask and Radiant Face Drops.

The Speakers

This speaker lineup was filled with some of the most incredible folks I have ever met, and I am so grateful to have had each and every one show up in a big way to inspire our 400 attendees!

Melissa Leong

Let’s just say Melissa brought the ENERGY from morning coffee until evening cocktails and everything in between! A sought-after speaker, national media personality, bestselling author, and award-winning podcast host, Melissa is currently the resident money expert on CTV’s The Social, Canada’s leading daytime talk show, and a repeat guest on The Drew Barrymore Show. Melissa is on a quest to help people better manage their money while maximizing their happiness. 

Hina Khan

Hina’s visualization exercise on finding your spark was the PERFECT way to open everyone’s mindset for the event! Hina is a peak performance coach and former registered psychotherapist, who has been a student of the mind, human behaviour, and human potential for almost 2 decades!

Coach Carey

Can we get a YES YES! You all know how much I ADORE Coach Carey, and I was overjoyed to have her as a keynote presenter for this event! As a 3x Certified Life Coach and motivational speaker, Raia ‘Coach’ Carey is passionate about encouraging others to tap into the confidence they never knew they had—and her keynote proved to be EXACTLY what so many people needed!

Vanessa Fraceboud

Everytime I visit Toronto, a stop at Mandy’s Salads is at the top of my list of things to do, so I was thrilled to have the President of Mandy’s, Vanessa Fracheboud, join us for a fireside chat! Vanessa comes to Mandy’s with a plethora of experience, most recently as the vice president of Legault Group, CEO of Mondou. 

Pauline Brown

I learned about Pauline Brown through Ang & Taryn after they were transformed by a podcast she was featured on—and let me tell you, this woman is BRILLIANT. Her resume speakers for itself: She is the former Chairman of LVMH North America, where she provided regional leadership for 70 brands in 5 sectors, including fashion & accessories, wines & spirits, watches & jewellery, perfumes & cosmetics, and selective retailing, and currently on the faculty of Columbia Business. You could hear a pin drop during this education-rich session!

Melodie Reynolds

Offering a Ted-talk style keynote, we were so lucky to have Melodie Reynolds, founder of Elate Beauty, join us on stage! With a background in marketing and a passion for ethical entrepreneurship, Melodie launched Elate to redefine beauty norms. Her commitment to clean, vegan, and cruelty-free products reflects her dedication to sustainability. Beyond CEO duties, she advocates for conscious consumerism and female entrepreneurship. 

Nat Dusome

Poppy & Peonies played a HUGE role in Academy in the City, with the pinnacle moment having founder, Natalie Dusome, join the stage for The Jilly Academy Panel! Poppy & Peonies is a Métis owned, cruelty-free Canadian accessory brand. Nat’s vision is clear: design practical pieces that align with her values and – quite literally – help lighten life’s load. Poppy & Peonies quickly gained recognition for embracing cruelty-free practices, producing sustainable accessories without compromising on style.

Breanne Allarie

I’m SO IN LOVE with Breanne’s journey from taking the Jilly Academy and growing her brand into one of the BEST Instagram accounts I’ve ever seen! Known for bringing joy and sunshine to the internet, Breanne’s online career started by showing up authentically and dancing in her kitchen! She has won the hearts of over 400,000 followers on Instagram and TikTok, and she won a spot to be featured on Dancing with the Stars – YES, THE Dancing with the Stars!!!

Anne Mok

I’ve LOVED getting to know Anne through The Jilly Academy, and was so honoured to have her on stage for the Jilly Academy Panel! Anne Mok, a fearless TEDx speaker, blind storyteller, author, and advocate, redefines a purposeful life with resilience and determination, inspiring others to embrace their unique voices. Committed to making a positive impact, Anne navigates life’s challenges with unwavering courage, illuminating the limitless potential within. 

Avery Francis

I’ve been so lucky to learn and grow from the expertise that Avery brings to the table. Avery Francis is the Founder and CEO of Bloom, a workplace design consulting firm. The company hit its first million dollars in revenue just over a year, bootstrapped and built during a global pandemic. She’s been named one of the top HR professionals in Canada, top 40 women in tech and she’s also the host of Girlboss Radio Podcast, one of the most popular podcast for women with millions of downloads. 

We were also incredibly fortunate to work with Avery and her team at Bloom to help us build a thoughtful and exceptional event experience for each and every attendee: from our guests to speakers, vendors to staff!

Happy Hour

I LOVE a good happy hour, and this one was for the books!! We kicked off Happy Hour with Emma Garner, Director of Winemaking in Ontario for Andrew Peller Limited, taking the stage to guide us through our wine experience, featuring Trius wines. Afterwards, we all made our way into the Ballroom to enjoy some gourmet food and beverage!

Swag Bag

Can we take a moment to talk about the GORGEOUS custom-designed Swag Bag by Poppy + Peonies?! I have SO MUCH more to share with you about the Swag Bag, and if you’re interested in checking out all of the goodies we spoiled our guests with, I’ll be sharing a blog very soon! 

Our Content Team

With all of the beauty that was taking place at Academy in the City, we KNEW we needed a team of professionals surrounding us to create content we could share following the event. 

The Atelier’s team of photographers was led by the insanely talented Vicki Bartel, who I was so happy to have first met back at Academy at the Farm! Vicki’s glowing personality and happy demeanour makes her a JOY to be around, and she perfectly captured the essence and soul of the event through her stunning photography! As a branding photographer focused on female founders and industry leaders, she helps amplify her client’s impact with scroll-stopping, high-end visuals!

My right-hand gal, and Jillian Harris Design Inc. photographer of many years, Rachelle Beatty, also joined us at the event to capture all of the behind-the-scenes from morning to night! She has such an amazing creative vision and eye for detail and I was thrilled that she was there to capture all of the amazing moments throughout the event!!

Lumina Videography had their crew come in from the West Coast to help support all of our film needs for this event! While they specialize in weddings, their artistic style translated perfectly to the video vision we had for this event! This crew worked tirelessly to deliver show-stopping video content in the quickest turnaround time possible so we could share with our community in real-time!

And just like that… it was over!

With our hearts full (and maybe a few tears) we said our goodbyes to the incredible attendees of the event! It’s impossible to truly put into words just how special this experience has been. I will dream of this event forever and am so grateful to all who contributed and believed in me! Until next time, Cheers!



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