Month: July 2019

XO Chats with Sasha Exeter

Mom to Maxwell, 22 months // Brand Storyteller at SoSasha.com

Written by Jessica Gedge // Photographed by Joelle Segal

Meeting someone that you follow on social media is tricky, right? Maybe that person just isn’t who they portray at all. Maybe they ARE the living embodiment of what you see on the ‘gram, but then come across as extremely manufactured. Sasha Exeter wasn’t either of these. We’ve been following this woman for a while now and love her focus on health, family and retaining her identity as an individual throughout parenthood. Meeting her in person, and hearing her story, just reaffirmed that this lady is a POWERHOUSE. And we cannot neglect the fact that her daughter, Maxwell, is simply too cute for words (but okay if we had to use words – adorable, sweet, charming, spunky…) Dive into Sasha’s world and hear about how a life-altering change in her twenties influenced her journey.

Tell us about your entrepreneurial venture.

My entrepreneurial venture is my lifestyle website, SoSasha.com that started off as a cathartic, creative outlet that ended up turning into a business and brand. I get to work with all the tier one companies I would have died to work for as an employee, but do it by way of sharing my experiences through brand collaborations. I’m also lucky enough to do some consulting for some well known brands.

How did SoSasha.com come to life?

This venture started much differently than most would imagine. I was on the corporate fast track shortly after graduating from university in the United States. I had some pretty interesting gigs within sales, then branding and marketing – however an illness that I was diagnosed with in my early twenties returned and hit me full force, requiring me to take an extended leave of work for over 1.5 years (without pay may I add). I had a lot of time to think during that time, as you would probably imagine, and after what felt like forever laying on bed rest, I started to think that it was time I took charge of my life and health and do the things I really want to do.

What is your favourite part of your business and why?

Gosh, there is so much that I love about my job and these things have changed over the years as my content and brand have evolved. With the landscape of content creation and social media changing so much in the last few years, it means that parts of my job have evolved also. But in short, I love traveling and I get to do quite a bit of that. I love that I am able to go on adventures (real or proverbial) and get to share my experiences and stories with people. I LOVE that my personal journey from someone who was suffering from a debilitating illness to one who is living the fullest life possible can inspire other people. I enjoy being able to use what little influence I have to shed light on matters and subjects some people may not have been aware of.

What advice have you received that really resonated with you?

To remember to celebrate my wins. Big wins. Small wins. All wins basically. We all have a tendency to downplay our accomplishments if they seem less than extraordinary but it all needs to be recognized and celebrated. I find that it helps keep my head in the game and motivated.

Who inspires you?

I feel super lucky enough to have some pretty phenomenal women in my life that inspire me. My (late) grandmother was my biggest inspiration and even after her passing, she still inspires me every single day. A woman with only a 6thgrade education and widowed in her late twenties found her way from the tiny island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines all the way to Toronto, Canada with no money and eight children to take care of. She put herself through school and worked her ass off in three jobs as a nurse. She never complained. She never cried. She knew everything. She could solve anything. She was my rock. She was everyone’s rock. My grandmother was the strongest woman I know. I feel insanely privileged to have her blood running through my veins.

What does your typical day look like?

I’m usually awake between 6-6:30am. If Maxwell is still asleep then I like to get a head start on some emails and have some quiet time for myself but she’s usually up between 6:30 and 7am. The morning is pretty much dedicated to her until our nanny comes, unless I am on set and have a super early call time. We eat breakfast together and go for a long walk with the dog. During the summer months we go out on the balcony and hang in the sun. I also like to start the day off with some stretching and meditation. For some reason Maxwell has really taken a liking to stretching which I find hilarious. She will be out there with me on a yoga mat doing her own thing.

From 10:30 until about 4:30 is when I lock down for work. I book all my meetings and shoots during this time. When I am not out and about, I’m either plugging away on my laptop in my home office or in a shared workspace. I also try to fit in a workout or run during the lunch hour if it didn’t happen in the morning. I mean, there are a lot of days where I am on set for 11 hours at a time or working late on projects but I try to have a good balance.

Maxie time is again from 5-7pm, which often ends up being a dance party to Beyoncé’s Homecoming tour concert, running a couple of errands or going out to dinner. Yes, even on a weekday with a toddler. Once she’s down and I’ve had dinner, it’s my last ditch attempt to get through a few extra emails or get organized for the next workday. That reminds me, I need to still send a handful emails and put my clothes in the dryer or else I will have nothing to wear tomorrow!

With your busy schedule, how do you carve out time for yourself?

I’ve had to learn to set boundaries for myself the hard way. Working crazy hours in stressful jobs did not help my health situation at all. Once I started to navigate myself to a space where I was feeling healthier, I decided that the most important act of self-care I needed to practice was to take time for myself. It seemed a bit odd at first, and selfish, if I’m being honest with you, but nobody else is going to take care of me the way I do. That often means, saying “no” to attending some events/parties, turning down a job, not having my inbox completely empty before I go to sleep at night. Putting the “Do Not Disturb” feature on my phone every night at 9:30pm. When things are crazy busy with work, I have to sometimes go as far as carving this time out in my calendar to ensure I do it. Luckily, my “me time” is often my workouts.

How do you stay organized?

This question could not have been timelier. I am currently in the midst of organizing my life here at home. It’s been a complete clusterf*ck over the last 9 months. My home office has been a disaster for more months than I would like to admit and it got so bad that it became a challenge to work in it. I have meticulously de-cluttered all the packages and products and it’s looking more like a place where I can be productive. I have just hired a Project Manager that is going to assist me with keeping larger projects organized and rolling smoothly. The missing puzzle to staying organized is finding the right PA and then I think I will be in a very good place.

XO SNAPSHOT WITH SASHA

What is your daily uniform?
Some activewear/whatever I plan on wearing to workout in that day or high-waisted denim and a white tee.

What Instagram accounts do you have a crush on?
@valerialipovetsky
@scoutthecity
@kahlanabarfield
OBSESSED. I know them all but still crush over them daily. They are all intelligent, strong, classy business-women who are also mamas with the best style.

If you could meet anyone, who would it be?
The Obamas. I know that’s two but there is no way I would want to meet one without meeting the other.

What’s in your purse?
The “what’s in my purse” game is a fun one isn’t it. Well, let’s see…right now the YSL bag I used earlier today has my iPhone charger, a lipgloss (Charlotte Tilbury’s Latex Love in Dirty Dancer), four pens (I have no idea why there are so many pens in this bag right now), Trident chewing gum, embarrassingly a pile of receipts for expenses, my airpods, two tampons because I just need that kind of safety at all times, a pack of Fisherman’s Friend lozenges, and cbd oil.

Do you have a go-to dinner recipe?
I love a trifecta meal – simple, healthy and quick. We eat red meat a couple times a week and we also enjoy our fair share of fish. I usually pan sear mine in a cast iron pan and after years and years finally learned to cook salmon fillets to perfection. Both are super easy to whip up at home with sautéed veggies. Oh, and I love to make lasagna too.

What are 3 books you would recommend on either parenting or entrepreneurship/business or both?
I did not really go crazy with parenting books when I got pregnant with Maxwell. Well, we bought about 4 or 5 that still remain in the Indigo shopping bag somewhere in the house. However, I did pick up a copy of The Contented Baby Book when I was about six weeks postpartum, recommended by my neighbour and it was a super useful book in regards to teaching me the importance of routine for newborns. It alleviated a lot of anxiety because I had no clue what I was doing. The routine made it easier for me to travel with her at a young age and start sleeping training. Two other books that I recently picked up ironically are geared towards mamas. Lisa Canning’s, The Possibility Mom which I am almost finished reading. I mean who better than a mom of seven to share insight on how to juggle work and home life? Cat and Nat’s Mom Truths is another recent purchase that I can’t wait to dive into.

There are of course a ton of business books that I have read over the years but to be honest, right now what resonates with me are books that are going to help better me at both my jobs, because being a Mother is one of the hardest gigs ever.

What’s on your playlist right now?
Anything Diplo, Major Lazer or Beyoncé

What are your favourite – skincare, makeup, office tools, software?
I love so many things. This is why my home office needed that overhaul. I desperately needed a space to organize all my makeup and beauty products because my bathrooms just don’t have enough space.  Here is a short list of the things that I am currently obsessing over:
any Charlotte Tilbury lipstick or lipgloss
YSL Beauty Blur Primer
• Glow Recipe’s Avocado Night Mask
Shhh Silk pillow cases (they help keep your hair and skin soft while you sleep)
Amandine Botanicals Inner Glow Face Oil (a new Canadian brand. I love supporting local businesses)
Brazilian Bum Bum Cream
Moroccanoil Night Body Serum
• Dove’s Exfoliating Body Polish
It Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores bronzing powder

I consider my iPhone an office tool. I always keep my phone devices up to date when the newest phones come out. It sounds crazy but the camera and lens on my phones get so much usage that you can start to see it in the quality of the photos. I also rely heavily on some phone editing apps as I do snap a lot of images on the go to use on my social channels and website sometimes, so I need to be able to edit on the fly. I love using both Darkroom and Snapseed.

What is your childcare situation?

Maxwell isn’t in daycare. We opted to not have her to one right now. I did some research and really didn’t find any that I loved. Because both of our jobs are very flexible and we don’t go into an office, we figured we didn’t really need to force the whole daycare sitch but that meant we had to be on the hunt for a nanny. It was a painful, tedious and long process – weeding and trialing out candidates – but we ended up finding the most amazing woman to help us with Maxwell. They are absolutely in love with each other and it’s such a beautiful bond to watch. Emma is with us during the block of time that I have set aside to work Monday to Fridays and often stays later if I need her to. I get questions a lot about whether I think it’s a bad idea to not have her in school, you know to help her socialize with other kids her age, but I am not worried about that at all.

What are the challenges you face as a parent and entrepreneur?

I think some of the toughest challenges are finding balance, taking vacation time for the family, and saying no to certain opportunities. When you’re self-employed you feel you need to be on and working all the time. The emails don’t stop and there is always an opportunity presented that can take you away from time that has been set-aside for family. Taking vacation or sick days for myself when I am ill is hard because I know if I don’t work, I don’t get paid.

Has parenting changed the way you run your business, or vice versa?

100%. I mean, I was always conscious on the brands I partnered with and the messaging I put out there but after becoming a mother and having a little girl, I felt even more responsible in regards to who I collaborate with and more importantly, the topics discussed – especially around body positivity and inclusivity in media.

The term ‘Social Media Influencer’ tends to be thrown around a lot these days. Sasha stands out as one of the true Influencers for moms who want to be inspired to be the best versions of themselves – she is living her life in a truly authentic way and using her platform to create a positive impact in a space where there can be so much negativity. She’s built a strong community by not just portraying, but really being true to, the strength, integrity and beauty of what it is to be female entrepreneur in today’s world. Follow along over at her blog hereInstagramTwitter, or Facebook. And if you want more stories like Sasha’s delivered to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter here.

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XO Chats with Muhammad Kermalli

Father of two boys // Owner of Skytek

Written by Jessica Gedge // Photographed by Joelle Segal

We don’t typically think of executive office spaces as being inspirational but that’s exactly the feeling that was invoked after meeting with Muhammad Kermalli at Skytek. Though he originally started with the intention of providing executive spaces for businesses, the concept evolved into becoming a complete ‘success centre’ for his clients. Upon our arrival we were met by the staff with smiles and multiple offers of tea and coffee – we felt like we were being hosted at a good friend’s home. This authentic ‘good vibe’ feeling, coupled with the array of professional services, makes it easy to understand how Muhammad has built Skytek into a true success story. 

What has your journey as an entrepreneur been like?

I started in finance, moved to IT and realized that I was just hitting too many limits. Limits with how I could service my clients, limits with ideas and innovations. I guess you could say I discovered that I may be an entrepreneur when I just couldn’t seem to “fit in” with a “job” where I constantly ran into limits that unreasonably curbed the growth and joy I strive to experience every day.

I wanted to create a specific kind of culture and a community and this is where Skytek came from. Skytek provides industry leading solutions for flexible, furnished office space layered with more support options than any other. We’ve brought paradigm change to convert what was once referred to as a virtual office or executive office centre to a true Success Centre that clients can rely on to help them navigate all cycles of their business. We give our clients everything they need to succeed – whether it’s virtual services, physical space, technology, or any backoffice support. 

It feels like you’ve built up a really tight-knit community here.

I believe in making people feel at home – that’s why one of our ‘fireable offences’ is not smiling at guests or offering them a drink! We want people to feel welcome when they come here. We’re also selective with our clients. We’ve built a great culture here so we don’t just accept anybody – there has to be a fit in terms of how they treat our front staff, how they treat other clients, their culture, and their vibe. 

How does Skytek differ from a co-working space? 

What we found through research and talking to business owners and entrepreneurs is that they want to be close enough to others to collaborate, but when it comes down to buckling down and getting work done, reaching goals and making things happen – they need focused space. So while we do offer co-working solutions, our private offices enable people to really ‘do vs. talk’. We don’t serve beer every day at 4pm!

But on the same note, we encourage the relationships and community through offering regular meetups and networking events. This way the folks here have the option to get together whenever they want, when it makes sense for them, but not to the detriment of reaching their goals.

You mention networking – in this day and age it seems there’s a networking event happening every day! What are your thoughts on how to build true connections?

People can get very one-dimensional with their definition of networking. Deep relationships don’t usually happen if you go out there with the mindset of pitching your business at every chance you get. The best way to network is organically, let the relationships happen naturally and talk about anything other than business! Often at networking events it’s like one big pitch-fest or speed-dating session, with people basically exchanging verbal business cards and it’s very fabricated. I think most of my network has been built up by just being open to conversation – whether it’s someone sitting beside you on a plane or someone in line at a coffee shop.

Absolutely. Connecting on a human level! With everything you’re doing, how do you stay motivated?

Easy.  I love what I do, and I only do what I love to do. When it’s such a pleasure, motivation comes naturally.

What advice have you received that really resonated with you?

There’s so much, and they all connect. All related to the fundamentals – Integrity (be true), Compassion (be kind), Courage (never give up), & Balance (work hard, and have fun).

Do you have a mentor?

I have many mentors. That’s all I try to surround myself with. It’s not just people who I can learn from, but people who inspire me. What’s amazing is just how “ordinary” they can appear to be.

What is your favourite part of your business and why?

People – I’m fascinated by how diverse we all are, yet how we simultaneously have so much in common.

Challenge/Change – What we do is not easy and we’re constantly offered opportunities to raise the bar. It’s never boring!

Has parenting changed the way you run your business, or vice versa?

Absolutely – parenting affects business. After all, your business is like your baby! Patience is probably the greatest element. The kids are a big part of the day (person to professional balance), and a big reason when I’ve chosen to work the way I do. 

What are the challenges you face as a parent and entrepreneur?

Parent – The biggest challenge is making the kids independent of me while still keeping them close. It’s the ultimate paradox.

Entrepreneur – The only two real challenges: 1. Getting the vision across correctly to minds that may filter based on limits. 2. Navigating across various industries where objectives are often not aligned and we need to build enough common ground to bridge the distance to our goals.

Describe your typical day (or if you don’t have one, describe your ideal day!).

My day, every day, has two parts:

  1. Offer/Accomplish something: Could be anything. Talk to a new prospect/client; Moving a project forward; Meet new strategic partners; Overcome or help someone overcome a hurdle.
  2. Stop and smell the roses: Introduce amazing people to one another; Play; Learn/Teach; Family/Friends; Pray/Offer thanks.

If you could meet anyone, who would it be?

This is a tough one. I already meet everyone I want to meet – primarily my family/friends; and there’s no one I’d rather spend more time with than my mother (God rest her soul). 

However, amongst the mere mortals…if I could turn back time: Ghandhi, Mother Teresa, Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee.

Today: The Dalai Lama, Barack Obama, Angelina Jolie, Roger Federer.

 How do you carve out time for yourself?

Read the book Essentialism, and then like Nike says, “Just Do It”! There’s a saying, “Everyone dies, but not everyone lives”. Say that enough times, and is not a question of, “how do you….”, it is “how MUCH do you”. 

What is your go-to dinner recipe?

Anything my wife makes, otherwise I’m making eggs.

How do you stay organized?

Since I’m very forgetful, I use prompts and triggers; and set them all up from the start. One just leads to another until the task is complete.

Do you recommend any books/podcasts/social media accounts that you’re inspired by?

The Alchemist – The first book I read that got me to really start thinking.

The Magic – A great read on how to make things happen.

The Qur’an – I’ve never seen a book that offers great insights every time I read it, no matter how many times I read it.

What are your favourite tunes to listen to, to get motivated?

I love listening to the sound of water, any kind. Rain (calming), streams (inspiring), waves (motivating).

What are your favourite – office tools, software, restaurants, things to do with your family?

Office tools and software keep changing…I simply rely on much smarter people in this area to guide me.

I don’t have a favourite restaurant since they all pale in comparison to my wife’s cooking. The Cheesecake Factory has my favourite desserts though!

As family, we do just about everything together – meals, boardgames/sports/walks, travel, humanitarian work.

If it were always up to me…golf and being on a boat.

Where do you see Skytek in 5, 10 years? What are your goals with this business?

I totally expect Skytek to make more of a global impact, we’re now well on our way. What’s exciting is that we may just be able to become the “game changers” we aspire to be. Skytek has been the basis for a new project I’m working on, Lavita, that combines the concept of ideal working space with ideal living space and providing life experience. It’s a passion project that will enable people to travel and have a life while growing themselves independently. 

It’s fitting that Muhammad’s business is called Skytek – we see him as a unique combination of being a ‘blue sky’ visionary with the determination, mentality and skills to execute and move those big ideas into reality. To learn more about Skytek, check here. If you’re an entrepreneur wanting to connect with others and solve business challenges, Skytek offers a very cool event BlindSpot, that you can learn more about here. To learn more about Muhammad’s new project, Lavita, check here.

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XO chats with Jessica Gedge

Mom to Hunter, 8 and Max, 6 // Marketing + Communications Consultant

Written by Jessica Gedge and Joelle Segal // Photographed by Joelle Segal 

Learning how we do our best work as an entrepreneur takes a lot of time and consideration. This week we are diving into the life of another XO Co-Founder, Jessica. Jess and I (Joelle) have known each other for over 12 years and having worked on various ventures together, we jive very well as a team. Similar in many ways, yet we both bring different strengths to the table. Jessica is a marketing rockstar, strategizing in ways that my brain just cannot! Read more about Jess – who finds she is more productive when working outside of her home – photographed at the beautiful and new co-working space and studio, Artscape Daniels Launchpad.

What has your career journey looked like so far?

I co-founded my first business straight out of university. It was a high-end kitchen textiles business and I did everything from product design, sales and marketing and PR to wholesale and retail tradeshows. After running that business for over seven years my partner and I sold it. I’ve had stints in corporate communications, worked as a small business consultant for a municipality, and as a marketing and communications manager for a non-profit. Mostly though I realized that wherever I was I like to carve my own path and being an entrepreneur has really allowed me to be present with my kids in a way I really appreciate. You and I met over ten years ago and really clicked, and we started our first venture together, ReBash, where we realized how well we jived both creatively and professionally. This led us to create The XO Project.

Why did you start The XO Project?

I remember you and I were talking together about how often we felt like a lot of what we saw on social media just didn’t truly reflect our lives and our experiences, in terms of being parents and entrepreneurs. We wanted to create a platform that is able to inspire, provide resources and a community for parentpreneurs that we felt was missing from the space.

For The XO Project, I create the editorial content and work on marketing and branding. I source out cool entrepreneurs to connect with and interview them and have so much fun working on this.

Tell us about the consulting work you also do.

I’ve had a wide range of experience throughout my career, but I’ve always been drawn to working with entrepreneurs. Much of my work revolves around helping businesses reach their goals through strategic marketing and communications and I absolutely love talking anything around partnership development and branding! I basically just love helping people find ways to grow their businesses and learning about all the different types of entrepreneurs there are out there.

Where does your inspiration come from?

I get inspired by everything from music and art to dining and travel experiences. And a lot from conversations – I’m inspired by people who are really passionate about what they love to do.

Describe your typical day.

I wake up around 6am and get ready before the kids are awake. I don’t ever feel like I’m truly ‘ready for the day’ if I don’t put on makeup and get dressed properly, it’s just my thing. I’m definitely not a ‘work in jammies’ person. Since summer has started we’re on a camp schedule so I let them sleep in until around 8 then I get them ready and feed them and drop them to day camp. I typically schedule meetings in the first half of the day and then leave the second half of the day to catch up on client work, emails and administrative work. I pick up the kids around 5 and then we have dinner before my husband gets home because they’re usually ravenous. We typically go out to the neighbourhood park each night after dinner until dark hits. My husband and I Netflix and chill after the boys have gone to bed or sometimes we go out on a date if we can get babysitting.

How do you carve out time for yourself?

I think it’s important to maintain a life outside of kids and work – so I try to schedule regular hangs with my friends and dates with my husband whenever we can. For solo time, I don’t schedule it in but I know I need it when I’m getting super impatient and cranky and at that point I’ll head to a bookstore and grab a coffee and just try to zone out.

To be honest I don’t really prioritize self-care, but I’m getting there. I’ve been making steps towards taking care of myself since I know logically that if we don’t take care of ourselves, our families in turn suffer, but it can be surprisingly hard to put this into practice in everyday life.

I suffer from anxiety and for the first time in my life I’ve been making effort to address it through therapy. I’ve tried a few variations of it but I’ve found that Inkblot has been amazingly helpful. So many things about it work for me – the ability to have sessions online, the convenience of doing it from home and to be able to select a therapist based on their background and profile and my needs. Pretty cool that it’s a Canadian company, too!

Working out is going to be another priority this year and even though it’s pretty much halfway over (2020, I see you!) it’s better late than never, right!?

How do you stay organized?

I’m all about the old-school notebook and agenda! I need to have everything written down and I’ve been using Moleskine for awhile now and love the simplicity of the calendar. I pair this with Google calendar and reminders to make sure I get out the door on time for meetings. But I’m pretty organized as a person, probably to a fault. I’m the one in the friend groups who’s coordinating the Christmas get together in July lol.

How do you balance work/life priorities?

“Balance” is a tricky word, right?! There are days when I feel so on top of my game with work and then I have some kind of kid-related “crisis” and it kind of feels deflating. But it’s just is how it is, whether you’re working a 9-5 or running your own business, the benefit of being your own boss is having the ability to set your priorities and timelines according to what makes the most sense for you. Nobody has their lives together 100% of the time and it’s important to have those conversations so we can all relate and help each other.

In terms of childcare, both boys are in after-school care and we’re lucky enough to have grandparents and aunts/uncles that help out whenever we need a break.

What are the joys/challenges you experience as a parent and entrepreneur?

I think the luxury of being an entrepreneur is the ability to be flexible. I can be there for the appointments, the after school programs, the sports etc. as long as I build it into my schedule.

The challenge for me has always been working from home. It’s not a problem for me to adhere to a routine and be disciplined enough to get the work done – what IS a problem is not having regular adult interaction. I mitigate the loneliness by making sure to have regular meetings and appointments set up for each week and also working in a co-working space, like Artscape Daniels Launchpad. It’s taken me so much longer to understand this about myself than I thought. Connecting with other people on a face-to-face level is essential to my well-being. In today’s remote world it can be all too easy to become isolated, so I’m making sure to take action against that and fill my ‘bucket’ with positive, challenging and interesting interactions.

What is your style?

I’ve always gravitated towards tailored looks – as much as I love the way certain styles look on other people at my age I definitely know what suits me especially after my body’s changed after having kids! I wear a LOT of black but am making a conscious effort to include more colours in my staples – so I love a good neutral like olive green, mustard, burgundy and navy.

What are your favourite ways to get motivated?

Music plays a big part in getting me motivated – if it’s too quiet I can’t think! I’m a big 90’s kid at heart so I love some 90’s hip hop, R&B and dancehall. Much to my husband’s chagrin I’m also a big Drake fan lol. Getting up and moving around helps, and checking in with my awesome business partner always motivates me 😉 We also have this awesome motivation tool we created that includes other tips for staying motivated.

What are your favourite – skincare, makeup, office tools, software, restaurants, things to do with your family, ways to unwind?

I wish I was better at skincare and I KNOW that I need to start a routine at my age, but to be completely honest there are even nights I go to bed with my makeup on. It’s my dirty (literally) secret. I know that’s truly gross but I’m usually so exhausted and I get a lot of compliments on my skin so…maybe the secret is laziness???

I love the routine of putting on makeup and my favourite products are Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer (it gives JUST the right amount of coverage without being cakey), black waterproof eyeliner, Tarte eyeshadow, Glossier highlighter and Nars blush.

In terms of software I’m a big fan of the Instagram add-on to Chrome that allows me to post using my desktop. It’s changed my life!

We love eating out as a family and you’ll find us brunching on the weekend or enjoying a good patio during the summer months. We also love to hit up the Evergreen Brickworks to hike and take in the markets and we love a good festival, too.

Has parenting changed the way you run your business, or vice versa? 

Parenting while being an entrepreneur has made me value TIME. So whether it’s being as efficient as possible or having flexibility to rearrange my schedule, I love the #boss life because it allows me to create a life with my family where I don’t have to choose them vs. work (most of the time). I also like being able to demonstrate to my kids that there are different ways to be successful, and that life doesn’t always have to fit a preconceived notion of what you should do in order to be happy.

Now you know about both of the creatives behind the Extraordinary Ordinary Project. Note that we offer business services to help your company reach your goals – check out Jessica’s work over here and be sure to drop a comment or reach out to us and let us know if you have any other questions for Jess and the work she does!

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XO Chats with Joelle Segal

Mom to Sage, almost 9 and Finley, 7  // Owner of Lovely June Design Co.

Written by Jessica Gedge // Photographed by Joelle Segal and Sage M.

Sometimes being on the other side of the camera means we tend not to focus so much on ourselves – kind of an analogy for parenting or running a business, actually – pouring ourselves into our kids/venture. This week we’re taking time to get behind the scenes with one of the XO Co-Founders, Joelle. Being her business partner and friend, I (Jess) have so much respect for this woman! She has a gentle ease about her, super strong work ethic and has been a ride-or-die for two ventures with me. Time to shine the spotlight on Joelle, read on to hear her story!

Tell us about your journey that brought you to where you are now.

I’ve taken a long, windy path to where I am now as a graphic designer! I actually studied Biology at The University of Guelph. I’ve always loved art and design and have come from a long line of artists in my family (my great grandmother was a “commercial artist”!). I took what I thought was a more practical route in my education, but as it turned out I just wasn’t happy studying physics and calculus and some of the other courses that came along with my degree. I finished my Bachelor of Science though, and discovered a Plant and Wildlife Illustration Bachelor of Fine Art (Hon.) degree at the University of Newcastle in Australia where I could use my Science degree to apply. I was accepted and before I knew it, I was studying illustration Down Under and admiring the graphic design projects I saw in the building next door. When I returned home, I started working at a software company and formed a greeting card company with a friend just for fun. Soon we found ourselves getting requests for logos, marketing materials and websites. I quickly learned Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and Flash and was able to apply my artistic side to the field of design. Due to some major events that were going on in my life, the business partnership didn’t last and I started running my own graphic design firm, as well as an event design company with my sisters. When I had my first daughter I simplified and focussed on graphic design – I couldn’t do it all – and started getting into photography as well. I’ve now come back to my roots and offer art and illustration too.

What advice have you received that really resonated with you?

I can’t recall one good piece of advice I’ve received, but I’m a collector of quotes. I love this one and keep it on my dresser as a reminder – “Be kind. Work hard. Stay humble. Smile often. Stay loyal. Keep honest. Travel when possible. Never stop learning. Be thankful always. And love.” I’m not sure who wrote it, but this is kind of my life mantra!

What is your favourite part of your business and why?

My favourite part of my business is the flexibility. I love that I have been able to have so much time with my girls as they are growing up. It’s been tough and I’ve had to squeeze work into nap times, tv time, night time and any nook and cranny, but it’s so worth it. I feel very fortunate that we’ve been able to make this work, as I will never get this time back.

I have some pretty great clients too, and I love meeting and working with people around the world through my Etsy shop, Olive + Iris.

What does a typical day look like?

On a typical school day, I wake up at 6:10am and get myself ready, finish making everyone’s lunches, get the kids up and ready, empty the dishwasher and tidy up. My goal is to be entirely ready for the day once the kids are off to school. We walk to the bus stop for 8am and once they are on the bus, I continue to walk and listen to my favourite podcasts, for about an hour. At 9am I start working – whether that is client work, an XO photoshoot, etc. At midday I usually need a break and to see a human being, so I run an errand or two – get groceries for dinner, etc. I continue working until I pick up the kids from the bus at 3:30pm. I let them watch a bit of TV to unwind and I finish up my work then. I then make dinner, we do homework, head to the park, bath and bedtime for the kids. I often continue to work once the kids are in bed! I think I’m just used to doing this from the days of having young kids and I feel, even though I’m tired, I’m actually able to focus better at night without the distractions of emails, texts, etc. I don’t work every night though – sometimes it’s really just Netflix and chill and a yummy treat.

We are in the summer months now and that routine has shifted a lot! The girls are older and are pretty good at playing together. They completely destroy their bedroom and listen to crazy loud music, but that time allows me to work a bit during the day. But I’m back to fitting work into nooks and crannies again.

How do you carve out time for yourself?

This I still have trouble with, and I’m not sure why. When the kids were young I found it very hard to take time for myself and leave them for too long. Even though the kids are a bit older now, I still have that lingering mom guilt, although I do go out a lot more. I think my morning meditative walks are my “me time” and one of my favourite parts of the day.

Do you have a go-to dinner recipe?

Yes! We love this Sheet Pan Chicken Fajita recipe. My youngest daughter is basically a vegetarian but she will eat chicken if it has this seasoning on it! It is such a consistent recipe and I love you can just chop everything and throw it in the oven.

Do you have a daily uniform?

Pretty casual! You will usually find me in ripped jeans and a cute shirt. I’m trying to wear more dresses in the summer.

How do you stay organized?

My agenda! It’s nothing fancy, just a Walmart version, but it works for me. Also we keep a family calendar on the fridge. Honestly, I’m scribbling in my agenda all the time. I wouldn’t remember a thing if I didn’t write it down.

What are the challenges you face being both a parent and entrepreneur? Conversely, what benefits do you see to being a business owner while also being a parent?

Definitely the time issue is the biggest challenge. There just isn’t enough time. My kids aren’t in daycare, we don’t have a nanny. I’ve had to learn to just relax and acknowledge that when I’m with the kids, that is family time, and I will get to my work when I can. I will work until the wee hours of the night to meet a deadline if need be. As an anxious person, this was a huge learning curve for me.

A huge benefit of being a business owner and parent though, is learning to work smarter – I’m waaaaayyy more efficient than I was before I had kids. I am much quicker when designing, I make decisions so much faster. If I’m with the kids during the day, I use those in between times while driving or waiting at an appointment to think about the business, or how to respond to an email, etc. I’ve learned to cut out the overthinking aspect of business because just simply, there is no time for it.

What would you tell yourself at 20 years old?

Don’t be so stubborn. I was determined to finish my Science degree, even though I really wasn’t happy in that program. I did well, however I remember walking by the Landscape Architecture building on campus and knowing I should have been there or doing something more creative. I didn’t want to quit and I wanted to prove to myself I could complete my program. If I could go back, I would tell myself to move on to something I loved much sooner.

Also I wouldn’t listen to as much “well-meaning” advice! I really wanted to be an Interior Designer when I was younger, but listened to advice that discouraged me from that – I was told the field was much too competitive. Who knows if I would have enjoyed being an interior designer, however if I could talk to my 20 year old self, I would recommend being stronger in my decisions.

What are some podcasts/instagram accounts that are inspiring for you lately?

I listen to the Goal Digger podcast which is a wealth of information and inspiration! I also enjoy listening to the Side Hustle School podcast – I find all of the business ideas and insights really fascinating.

On Instagram, I love @yogaofcooking – her recipes and photography. @mcgeeandco for interior design inspiration, @apairandaspare for her creativity. And about a thousand other accounts!

My favourite and most used app is AnyList. You can create any list you want (e.g. grocery list) and share it with someone else, and add to your list using Siri. I use it daily.

Any favourite things to do with the family?

My kids love eating at our local spot, Kings Landing. We enjoy going to the beach and often head to De La Salle Beach on Lake Simcoe for a quick day trip in the summer. Winter months we spend a lot of time in the hockey arena but love to ski or go tobogganing and try to make the most of the winter months.

What impact do you hope to make with your work?

I struggle with this a bit, and how graphic design makes an impact. I love making things beautiful so I guess in that sense, it brings more beauty to the world and also helps businesses get more attention with a well-designed brand. In terms of photography, I love helping people or families capture moments in time in a beautiful way and to create a keepsake. With the XO Project, I hope to connect other “parentpreneurs” in a community that is welcoming and supportive to one another. I do hope I’m making an impact in what I do, even if it’s in a small way.

So now you know more about one of the creatives behind the Extraordinary Ordinary Project! If you didn’t already know, we offer business services to help your company level up – check out Joelle’s work over here and be sure to drop a comment or reach out to us and let us know if you have any other questions for Joelle about the work she does!

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Creative Problem Solving Document

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