Plank At 20: Plank in 1999

Screenshot of Brave New Waves website

This article is part one of a series of posts originally on in honour of the company’s 20th anniversary. They have moved to this website since the posts are more personal, historical reflections and are better suited here.

While Plank was registered in December 1998, it was in 1999 that our little company started to take shape. In January, Plank’s two co-founders and I moved into our first office. It was in a 1000 square foot loft space in a beautiful old building at the corner of St. Alexandre and Viger, known as the Unity Building (1080 St. Alexandre #118 to be exact). The Unity Building was, ahem, “humbly” maintained which meant that the rents were cheap and the building was full of mainly fledgeling creative and technology companies. With our lease secured, we bought some desks, dragged in our computers from home and were kindly provided with access to an internet connection from our previous employer who was six stories up in the same building. It was all very shoestring but there was enough money in the bank to take care of expenses for 6 months while we (hopefully) found the work and money to pay ourselves.

As fresh, young freelancers and casual workers, we had all developed relationships with a few companies that helped with our transition and kept us busy for the first half of the year. Both HBE Software and Columbia Communications depended on us for a series of different projects, one of which led to our first 5-figure cheque (it was a PowerPoint presentation!) That was a major milestone for three people who knew very little about what we should be charging for our work. Then Boutique Y3K, who I had freelanced for in different capacities, chose to collaborate with us on a full redesign and a year’s worth of monthly marketing campaigns for Nine West Shoes. We were all pretty happy to be working with them on such a high profile retail brand, with an agency in New York City. We felt fancy!

Over the summer, one of the founding partners departed, leaving myself and Christiane Magee in charge of what was slowly starting to feel like a bona fide company. The volume of work kept growing and the need for some extra help became more and more of a reality. In the fall, we hired our first employees — one of which was Steve Bissonnette—who is still here today as Managing Partner.

The 2nd half of the year saw us developing new projects and client relationships that didn’t pre-date Plank’s founding—although we did have friends, family and acquaintances to thank for our growing success. Founded about 10 years earlier, MECA Communications (now known as Energi PR) approached us to be their digital partner on a few website projects that they were managing. One of the biggest highlights that year was the opportunity to work with CBC Radio’s Brave New Waves to revamp their website. As longtime fans of the show, we were humbled.

Finally, we cooked up our first “passion” (read: unpaid) project, in partnership with our friends at Black Eye Design. In September, we launched (yes, it is still live although in a slightly different format!), and asked/begged a series of our friends to write reviews of strange and random things. It was great to have enough steady work to be able to spend time on a purely creative project, just for the fun of it.

1999 Fun Facts (Sources are this, this and this)

  • $1.46, the value of one share of Apple stock on January 1, 1999
  • The Euro is launched
  • The average cost of a new house in the US is $131,750.00
  • For the first time, there are over 6 billion humans on our planet
  • On April 20th,  the infamous Columbine High School massacre occurs
  • Boris Yeltsin resigns as President of Russia, replaced by Vladimir Putin
  • Napster and MySpace launch
  • Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is released
  • Canada’s Prime Minister was Jean Chrétien


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *