Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dao Tea: “Farm-to-table” Tea Movement

Last month, Pedro Villalon came by The Network Hub for a tea session. He brought along a whole set of teas and tools to inform us about all the different aspects of tea – sustainability, health benefits, preservation of leaves, properly brewing it to bring out the most flavour.

From the couple of hours he was here, you could instantly tell that he was passionate and dedicated to tea which is exactly what lead him to form Dao Tea.

Pedro started learning about tea in small shops across Guangzhou, where he lived for two years and invested much of his time learning about tea. “I travelled across the province of Zhenjiang (Hangzhou, Anji, Changxing, Qian Dao Hu) to learn about green and flower teas; Fujian (Anxi) and Northern Guangdong (Phoenix Mountain) to learn about oolongs; Yunnan (Yiwu, Menghai and Xishuangbanna) to learn about Pu Ers and to the village of Hwagae in South Korea to learn about Korean green, herbal and balhyo teas.”

His reason to focus on tea came naturally after his travels; “I love Asia, its culture and its people. I’ve always wanted to be a farmer; working with farmers is close to that. I learned to love tea. It’s an art, it’s good for health, and it’s good for Earth (low impact agriculture).”

With Dao Tea, the concept is simple: “from farmer to table.” This is what makes Dao Tea so special – there are no additives in the tea. Pure tea leaves from farms on the mountains of Asia are put straight into the eco-friendly package.

In the end, the tea is good for you and the earth. “The package is eco-friendly while preserving tea in optimum condition. The recyclable aluminum foil bag keeps the leaves fresh and protects them from light; the recycled cardboard keeps the leaves from breaking,” Pedro explains, “my friends at Webb Scarlett deVlam (recently re-named Webb deVlam) in London designed both the identity and package. They graciously supported my new upstart company.”

Dao Tea has been in business for a few months now and Pedro described the process as fun, challenging and something completely new. “The great news is that a large community in Vancouver celebrates life and great food.”

He plans to make Dao Tea the choice for foodies in BC and reach out to yoga communities. “I’m working to create distribution in gourmet food shops like Capers and Meinhardt, fine restaurants (Nu, C) and boutique hotels. And Pedro has a concept in mind for 2011: to open Vancouver’s first farm-to-table tea shop where all food and beverage ingredients can be traced to the famers who produced them.”I believe that it’s critical to maintain a close relationship with the farmers and artisans who are the heart of the company.”

In a longer term, he sees business opportunities related to sustainable energy in Canada, Asia and Latin America. For aspiring entrepreneurs, Pedro leaves a piece of advice: “Drink a lot of tea.”

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The Undisputed Queen of Turntables

While most business owners are stuck in their office from 9-5, Leanne Bitner gets to entertain crowds all over Vancouver and sometimes even around North America. A typical day entails hitting up the gym, answering emails, event & wedding client meetings, and prepping for events. Most days she isn’t known as Leanne Bitner – just call her DJ Leanne. She started her own events entertainment company in 2008 called Girl On Wax. Her hectic career gives her opportunities to be part of some amazing events. Last week, she was in Las Vegas hosting and writing back to me!

coworkingresized DJ Leanne head copy1 237x300 The Undisputed Queen of Turntables

Leanne turned her overwhelming love for music into her profession. “I was the girl that requested all of the songs that in-turn, annoyed the DJ’s,” Leanne admits. “Why don’t you go buy the track if you love it so much?” DJs would ask. Why not? So, from there, she began her collection of records – vinyl records to be specific.

With about 15 years of experience DJing and entertaining large crowds under her belt, she has mastered the art of turntablism so Girl On Wax came naturally to her. “GOW came out of having access to so much amazing talent. It was only appropriate for her to hand pick the talent. “They are all professional DJs with experience in nightclubs, weddings, and corporate events. Besides skill, they all have fantastic charisma and are excellent in any musical situation.”

Building up a name for her company with all the talent was one of the harder tasks, she admits, “It was not just me as the voice anymore; I had to be a part of making them heard.” Her hard work and passion for music definitely paved ways for the specially chosen group of talented musicians. 

The lineup at Girl on Wax not only includes DJs but singers, drummers, saxophonists and more. The tremendous amount of talent under one roof has already caught the attention of celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Goldie Hawn who have used Girl on Wax for their private parties. 

The most recent event was spinning for 3 weeks straight during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. “We had 15 DJs and musicians spinning every single night. It was the best time of our lives. From DJing and playing in the Athletes’ Village and meeting athletes to spinning at BC Hydro’s Club Energy for thousands of people each day,” Leanne proudly tells me.

Girl on Wax has a long resume and that may be because they call themselves DJ Chameleons, spinning whatever styles the events call for. “We don’t discriminate; It’s a ton of fun playing Motown, Top 40 , 80’s and Dance Remixes all in one night!”

Starting her own company was a huge learning process for Leanne. “[I] kept at it, followed my passion and found a way to be unique in the industry.” She also adds “stick to your niche and be kind to every person you come in contact with!”

Right now, you can catch DJ Leanne at Milestones in Yaletown on Fridays and Saturdays, and various Joey’s locations. Soon she’ll be at 560 Club on Fridays from 5pm-10pm and watch out for her at Fleuri at Sutton Place and Society!

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Vivian Kooch: Wink Beauty Lounge

We see trends come and go all the time because once a celebrity flaunts in on the red carpet, it’s in stores within the week. But there’s a trend that celebrities have started that seemed to have stayed: eyelash extensions. The need to make their eyes pop in an HD photo is enough reason for women to want them for themselves. There’s been much buzz surrounding it but not many services for it.

coworkingresized 5014 111018691046 697921046 3278122 4091976 n Vivian Kooch: Wink Beauty LoungeBut Vivian Go Kooch came around and launched Vancouver’s first specialty spa that offered semi-permanent eyelash extensions. She started her business in 2004 as a mobile service and gave it the short, sweet and appropriate name – Wink.  The mobile service then turned into a little studio in 2006 for the public to go to. “I opened it for all my equipment and for those who didn’t want a house call.”

And finally, in 2008, it became an open-concept retail boutique beauty lounge in Gastown. The two floors include space for waxing, facials, manicures, pedicures and many other beauty needs. In addition to that she also offers a range of services as add-ons or alternatives to the lash extensions such as lash tinting and brow shaping. Vivian recommends having your manicure, pedicure done at the same time as lash extensions. “It is a great time saver because you are lying comfortably anyways in our recliner.” But having something stuck so close to your eye may be a little scary. “Lash extensions are painless and easy to maintain with proper care,” Vivian ensures, “there are also full strip lashes or alternatives like serums for natural lash growth.”

As a leading specialist in Vancouver, “all the beauty professionals are certified and licensed. We do extensive training on the girls we choose.” Vivian, herself, runs wink with over a decade of experience. “I’ve been in the industry since 1996 so, make-up, hands, feet, removing hair and adding hair to ladies’ faces is fascinating.” It’s not just the service she loves. “What is interesting is the ability to really connect and meet some great people. You learn a lot about the human mind and about yourself when you’re with a client for a few hours. The beauty industry is 50% cosmetology and 50% psychology!” she admits.

Being in the beauty industry may look like a breeze but she admits there were some tough times. “The hardest part about opening [the lounge] was trying to transition from a sole proprietor to incorporation. I highly recommend to anyone to start by incorporating from the get-go. A rapidly growing company should be incorporated in the early stages. Paperwork is rough! [Also] I found out later in my business, that you really have to step outside of yourself and be the cause for others to be leaders in your business. As the “Master Organizer”, your job is to organize and re-organize that machine you call your business until it runs the way you want. Throwing a bunch of money at it also won’t make it run any faster or better. However, inspiring people to be leaders in your project and organizing the money coming in, will allow your business to really grow and florish.”

With that said, her focus is to set an example. “This year’s theme is all about community, compassion and contribution, so we are spending time supporting our local Gastown businesses by combining forces for special events but also doing volunteer work to help out the less fortunate in the Downtown Lower East Side area.

We are also working on a training program and distribution for lash extensions and in talks with the Cosmetology Association of BC to introduce the single lash extension products to future beauty professionals at schools and tradeshows. Also a web-store and second out-of-town location is in the works.”

Be sure to stay updated with Vivian on her Twitter and Facebook. Keep your eyes open for a hot pink Wink car around town!

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Coworking: The freelancers’ sanctuary

coworking3main 300x206 Coworking: The freelancers’ sanctuary
This blog post originally appeared in as part of a series about Coworking around North America.

The popularity of the coworking movement in Canada is gaining ground. An alternative to working alone from home or in noisy cafes, coworking spaces allow freelancers to work independently alongside other professionals in a casual environment designed for work. This week we are highlighting one of Canada’s latest coworking spaces, Calgary’s CoworkYYC.

CoworkYYC was launched late last year by a trio of men: Nik ThierryJeff Gibson and Quinton Rafuse. Nik, originally from London, England, arrived in Calgary in March 2009 and worked out of his mother-in-law’s basement. “[I was] becoming even paler than in the damp climates of the UK,” he adds.  Jeff is a freelance graphic designer who worked out of his office for a few years. “[I] slowly [started] going stir-crazy with the solitary confinement. But after CoworkYYC, “[ I’ve] been successfully re-learning to speak out loud (and get responses).”  Last but not least, Quinton Rafuse; an oil & gas professional who is interested in innovation and technology worked downtown before CoworkYYC opened. He situated himself at the space to house his energy start-up.

Their reasons for opening up a coworking space are just as diverse as their backgrounds. Through a spectrum of reasons, in the end, it brought them to the same place. “After discussing the idea, we decided that the only way to get things underway was to look around and create the space ourselves. If you want to stay fresh and involved in your work you need a routine, and it really helps if you have a dedicated work environment,” agreed the entrepreneurs. “Our main goal is to create a working environment that gives people the space and social interaction that you can’t get from being home alone.”

Freelancers will find that discipline, focus and productivity are present in a coworking space. “We have discovered here is that people are finding they are getting their work done more efficiently, as the distractions of home (the pile of dishes to be washed, the unmade bed, that 10 minutes of bad morning TV) are being LEFT at home,” Nik points out. “With CoworkYYC based on the edge of the city’s centre, we’ve found that some workers can walk to work, and for those that drive, there isn’t ever any gridlock on the journey in.”

This easily accessible space houses a lot of different skill sets. “The majority are in the creative field, as the world of freelance fits in very well with the creative set,” explains Nik, “We’re pleased, though, to have quite a bit of diversity in our clients’ professions and skill sets – we have graphic designers, front and back-end web designers, an interior designer, a structural engineer and advertising/marketing people. Alongside these we’ve got an HR specialist, two international vocational trainers, a grad student and a communications professional specializing in emergency management plans.” On the whole it seems that almost anyone can use the space. “Though we’d probably draw the line at heart surgeon,” jokes Nik.

With a dynamic collection of creatives in one space, the first collaborative project started just a couple months after their launch when one needed a brand identity, printed stationary and a website. “The people who could do this work [were] sitting only a few desks away. It was a nice short trip across the office to talk the job through and get things underway,” explains Jeff.

The space is almost filled up after half a year into business. “We’ve only got six desks left until we reach capacity in our current floor plan, so we’re already drawing up options for the space to make it more efficient from a business perspective as well as for our clients’ needs,” says Quinton. The most recent announcement at CoworkYYC is a daily drop in rate for people that aren’t able to commit to a whole month or simply want to try the space out. There’ll definitely be a great vibe with the light-hearted and laid-back creative bunch behind it all.

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Coworking: It’s a Learning Space

This blog post originally appeared in as part of a series about Coworking around North America.

This week, we bring you a fairly new coworking facility founded by Chad Ballantyne: The Creative Space – a casual and laid-back place with a level of professionalism that is perfectly suited to bring out creativity, productivity and discipline while still including camaraderie. “The idea was to have a place where people can relate, collaborate and create,” he says. Nestled on Dunlop Street East by the water in Barrie, Ontario, the space is in a prime location for business start ups and entrepreneurs.

Creative Space
And like any coworking space, TCS includes the basic fundamentals: a meeting room, kitchen, bathroom and high speed internet. But the atypical placement of a foosball table in the middle of the room ensures a relaxed atmosphere. Fitting, as coworking spaces are meant to relieve some stress from the home office.

Since the launch early last year, Chad has gathered almost twenty full time tenants: graphic designers, a photographer, children’s worker, public relations, social media marketer, web developers, writers… and the list goes on. The wide range of tenants gave us a bit of insight on how TCS is helping their business run smoothly.

A business developer finds TCS very stimulating and healthy, adding that it provides a level of professionalism when talking to potential clients.

“I’m able to work but love that I can ask for help, suggestions and opinions,” states another tenant. “I have people around to ask a question or get help for a problem I have searched tirelessly for the answer to. I also am able to give back with my advice, experience and business savvy.”

In a space that is social and open, productivity increased and networking was made easier as referrals were made out of the office. “I had no one to bounce ideas off of working in an office. Now I parade my clients happily though our bull pen of creatives working away quietly or loudly depending on the moment.” For that reason, coworking exists. It relies on a team of people who make work social. Simply put, this is what coworking is all about.

“I’ve made a lot of new contacts, and I am constantly meeting new people. The interesting part is the way that many of the independent businesses collaborate, refer, and piggy-back off of each other in a way that consistently generates new clients and projects for almost everyone who enters the space.”

One tenant stated that working independently doesn’t provide an opportunity to ask questions or learn from others. And perfectly rounded out that TCS is not just a workplace but it’s a learning space.

Though a year of business has passed by, TCS’s one year anniversary was April 9th to be exact – the potential for the space is still a goal. The team hopes to see a working pod for 3-4 coworkers to interact and work. The expansion of TCS is always on mind. “It would be great if it could keep expanding as I really enjoy the creative environment and learning from others.”

The possibilities of the Creative Space are vast and endless. They believe that the coworking model will guide most of the businesses in the future. “When you think of all the positives to it, our clients are happier, we are happier; we have bigger bottom line results. How could it get any better?”

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Social Space for Social Change

This blog post originally appeared in as part of a series about Coworking around North America.

Coworking, as we’ve mentioned, is a movement that brings entrepreneurs and freelancers together in one space to share values and creativity while still being independent. Like all coworking spaces, you are sure to meet and discover new and different companies. This week, we are bringing you 10 Carden - a quiet congenial space where one can share what they’re doing or planning with like-minded people.

Julia Grady & Annie O’Donoghue opened 10 Carden in downtown Guelph, ON because they knew there was a real opportunity at hand to create an inviting multi-purpose meeting space and office space for organizations that didn’t need a full-time office. “We realized that a lot of organizations struggle with day to day sustainability, and that a shared space could alleviate some of the work, leaving them with more time and resources to do their work. And fundamentally, we believe that all groups have so much more to gain from working collaboratively,” says Julia.

10 Carden
10 Carden’s space is a bit different than most; they focus on not-for-profit organizations that help develop social change. “It made the most sense for a NFP to be working to bring together other NFPs, incubate new ones and also work with the for-profit social change businesses,” Julia explains, “Time, effort and funds put into 10 Carden all go to furthering the mission of the organization and we’re able to harness more community power this way. If 10 Carden wins, we ALL win.”

Being nonprofit, they have a committed team of volunteers to operate the space. And membership is not exclusive to NFPs: “We don’t make a distinction between [them]. It’s the long-term goal of social change that is the driver. The for-profits we support are generally small business or emerging social entrepreneurs,” says Julia.

The community is made up of individuals and members working on social change. “[They] are [all] very community-minded, collaborative, open to sharing and innovative. Expressive, fun, passionate and plugged-in are all other ways we’d describe our members. You’re going to discover a new social change project/workshop/group that tweaks your interest. This is where the real potential is.”

All members go through a detailed application because “part of [their] long range plan to harness the collective energy of all our member organizations. So, knowing about their missions are size, sustainability, etc is key to us being able to move forward together.”

To encourage growth and movement, individuals and organizations at the space can make requests for things they would want to add; programs they’d like to see run, ideas for expansions, and other services. They even have filing cabinet space members can book, a shared fax/printer/copier, a store-front window display and a projector & screen with seating for 50.  The space also hosted an art show and sale that showcased original art, photos and poetry celebrating big tree(s) on March 20th.

The expansion of 10 Carden is still underway. “We see the public meetings, discussions, workshops offered by both 10 Carden and our list of more than 30 organizations as something that will continue to grow over the next year.”

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Coworking – It’s about the people

This blog post originally appeared in as part of a series about Coworking around North America.

This is the second part of our series on the growing Coworking movement and some of the spaces that have embraced the philosophy, both locally and abroad. The aim of the movement is to create a community of cafe-like collaboration spaces for developers, writers and independents.

In 2008, Patrick Tanguay and Daniel Mireault noticed the lack of spaces that catered to its independent workers, freelancers and entrepreneurs. “We first started toying with the idea as we were both freelancing and were either working from home, at our clients’ or in cafes. We wanted our own place – a professional yet cozy place where we could work and be surrounded by like-minded individuals without feeling guilty of sipping our latte for 3 hours just to be able to use the local cafe’s WIFI network.” So, just as the Coworking movement was emerging, they introduced Montreal to its first coworking facility and named it Station C.

Station C is situated in an area known for arts, an indie music scene and rich cultural heritage, giving their space a cool, relaxed vibe and to pull in a mixture of entrepreneurs.

Aside from the apparent practical benefits of being in a space designated for work, members of a coworking space soon discover the unexpected benefits of being part of the community.“The key contributing factor that makes coworking appealing is the people. [They] make most of what interaction and opportunities possible [because] collaboration is a big part of the coworking movement,” says Daniel. Their space has enabled freelancers and entrepreneurs to have focus, gain resources and create connections. “Some have said they work better, have better concentration, have more motivation. Some made new friends.” Besides coworking, Station C holds various events at their space such as BarCamps, meet ups and the occasional informal cocktail evenings.

The environment that Station C has created supports an open community that encourages collaboration and gives entrepreneurs opportunities and projects they wouldn’t normally have come across. There is a constant energy at the space that sparks creativity among the designers and web developers. Getting a number of smart, passionate, like-minded individuals in the space creates a buzz around the office as they bounce ideas off one another. “Having access to a bunch of talented and smart individuals on a daily basis is also a bonus when you’re looking to fix a bug in your script or trying to figure out which page layout is more intuitive,” says Daniel.
“Where we differ from most coworking space though is the amount of effort and money we put in selecting and designing the space.” Being designers themselves, Patrick and Daniel had custom tables made for their space and furnished it to their standards. “Pat and I wanted to make sure people feel comfortable and enjoy their work environment enough to want to stay for several hours a day,” explains Daniel.

Patrick Tanguay and Daniel Mireault have successfully put Station C on the coworking map by creating a space where individuals can connect and build a community of support.

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Camaraderie in Coworking

This blog post originally appeared in as part of a series about Coworking around North America.

The future of work is evolving. The recent economic downturn has encouraged the growth of independent knowledge workers and entrepreneurs willing to strike it out on their own. This group of workers, armed with their laptops, smart phones, and web apps, can work from their homes or coffee shops. However, an alternative option has been gaining popularity amongst this group over the past few years. Referred to as ‘Coworking’, it’s a movement to create a community of cafe-like collaboration spaces for developers, writers and independents. Pioneered in San Francisco by the Hat Factory and Citizen Space, these places provide a space for web workers, consultants, freelancers and entrepreneurs to work independently, together. In the coming weeks, we will be highlighting a few spaces that have embraced this philosophy and its new breed of workers.

coworking4406638346 9fb48d2ab1 Camaraderie in Coworking
A perfect example would be Rachel Young and Wayne Lee. Seven years ago they were freelancing out of cafes with friends and local writers for, what they called, ‘creative’ sessions hoping to get out of the isolation and rid the distractions of working from home. Realizing that they were building the same foundations for a business, they recently launched Camaraderie, a coworking facility located in Toronto.

“Wayne knew firsthand the value of co-working, so we decided to open a space we could both work from and open it up to the community,” Rachel says, “because cafes have their own set of issues. “There’s the expectation to purchase something every hour so it’s not considered loitering, the noise of the coffee grinder whirling mixed in with the music in the background, and to face the dilemma of what to do with your laptop when nature calls.” And when you’re working from home, “sometimes the video games call too strongly or the bed is too comfortable, says Wayne, “regardless, isolation is still an issue any freelancer has to deal with. While it can be great to focus, we are still human and still need some sort of social interaction to maintain balance.”

Based on years of facing these challenges, the two made sure their space provided a perfect harmony of seclusion to find focus and communication for networking. At coworking spaces, you can expect to meet a diverse community of outgoing entrepreneurs and freelancers with many opportunities to participate in open source projects. “It’s a productive work environment where one could hold client meetings, leave their laptop when they run out for lunch, and drink unlimited coffee or tea. Most things that an entrepreneur or freelancer would need is already here, plus more. All they need to do is walk in with their work implements, take a seat, and get going.”

Camaraderie’s large workspace includes two meeting rooms and a communal kitchen surrounded by white walls and dark floors. Adding to that, tenants are welcomed to a stunning view of a beautiful park right by the building. Transportation is also made easy as the nearest subway station is in walking distance. Rachel and Wayne plan to get a transit pass discount program for their tenants and even want to work on healthcare coverage for their full time members!

Camaraderie truly presents a great relaxed, organized, idea-driven, resource-sharing workspace by integrating the basics of a cafe in a functional environment so lonesome entrepreneurs and freelancers are able to mix and share ideas to progress and gain… camaraderie.

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Living Luxuriously with Lexie Lamour

Too often, we get caught up doing everything we need to do in life and not much that we want to do. With hectic schedules, meeting demands, and putting in hours and hours of hard work, stress just seems to come oh so easily. Sometimes we need to stop, relax and indulge a little… or a lot. Consider the Kitty Card. It started out as a concept from a women’s social group (Glam City Girls) and is now emerging into a full-fledged exclusive deals card that is being accepted at some of the hottest spots around town. 

Lexie Lamour, president of the Kitty Card, launched it late last year after moving to the city from South Beach with one mission in mind: “To give all women in Vancouver access to that ‘celebrity treatment’ [so they can] feel indulgent, empowered and like a queen.” To do that, “[I] partner with Vancouver’s finest retailers, salons and hospitality businesses. Each of our partnering businesses know to go the extra mile while treating Kitties.” 

Although the benefits from the card may be blissful, establishing it during one of the most difficult years wasn’t. “It’s tough to get credit in this economy, especially when you’re self employed. The hardest and most important part is to get people to believe in your vision. I had a few people tell me to come back in two years and then they’ll talk to me,” Lexie admits, “You have to put in extra work to start but it’s well worth it when it starts to take shape.” From all this she has learned to “be realistic with goals, have focus [but] be flexible and last but not least, take time off.” 

So when she’s not working, the fashion and beauty enthusiast is exploring new shops, beauty products and cool spaces just like your go-to girlfriend. 

Not only does she scope out the most luxurious spots around town, she plans exclusive events for kitties. Some of her past events include a Sex and the City style cocktail party for the launch of the card and Kitty Holiday Soiree Christmas party in Yaletown that included makeovers, and mini-manicures. A regular event to anticipate is her Country Club brunch that is located at a different location every month, so members can experience a whole new vibe. 

Her events have garnered so much attention that cities like Toronto have been asking for their own card. And they may be in luck because she plans on spreading the discounts to major Canadian and US cities in the next few years. She also aims to partner with a swanky restaurant like Earls and is already in talks with a few make-up stores! 

Along with that, be on the lookout for boutiques and lifestyle businesses such as hotels and even limo services. Who wouldn’t want to travel in style? Let’s face it, we all need a good dose of the Kitty life once in a while because like Lexie says “work will be there in the morning and you can’t work well if you’re not well. So grab your Kitty Card and live a little!”

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