XO Chats

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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XO Chats with Oonagh Duncan

Mom to Felix, 8 and Buddy, 6  // Owner of Fit Feels Good

Written by Jessica Gedge // Photographed by Joelle Segal

Spending time with Oonagh Duncan, aka the Fit Feels Good Inc. coach, was truly uplifting and energizing. Oonagh and her husband and business partner, Dylan, welcomed us into their charming, colourful home in downtown Toronto (with a to-die-for rooftop patio view of the CN Tower) and we chatted all things fitness, business and parenting. 

Tell us about your business.

I created the Fit Feels Good 28 Day Transformation, an online fitness and nutrition program. I also do keynote speaking, coaching, all with the main goal of specializing in helping women in their 40’s to get lean, strong and healthy and feel good.

What did you do before you had your business and how did you decide to start this venture?

I was an actor and then a documentary playwright, specializing in verbatim theatre, which uses first person testimony as it’s source material (so, transcripts from interviews and court cases). I picked up some fitness classes because I could teach them first thing in the morning and then again in the evening and have all day to focus on my play-writing. Then one day I had an epiphany that I was actually enjoying the fitness more than the theatre stuff.  As soon as I made that switch, my career took off. They say everything happens for a reason and I really believe that. 

What is your favourite part of your business and why?

My clients! I have the most hilarious, smart and supportive community that I call my MF’ers (Masters of Fitness, obvs) and I’m so grateful I get to hang out with them and watch them morph and become healthier than they ever thought they would be. After that, I have to say that doing the retreats and generally having location freedom is pretty rad – especially during Canadian winters.

If you could meet anyone, who would it be?

Richard Simmons. Barack Obama can come to the party too. 

How do you carve out time for yourself?

OOO! This is one of my favourite areas of personal growth right now! We incorporate a LOT of travel in our lifestyles.  I’m trying to stretch myself by scheduling outrageous amounts of time off (my family and I spent most of the winter in Mexico and we are off for an epic European trip next week) which is forcing me to be much more efficient in my business and get really focused on:
1 – What really needs to get done in order to serve our clients?
2 – What really needs to be done by ME?
3 – What is just a distraction? Like – do I really need to rebrand, or is that just my ego talking?

I’m not going to lie – these last few days before leaving for our trip feels a bit 24/7 stressful but I prefer doing ’sprints’ of intensity and then enjoying a luxurious amount of time off. It suits my personality better than a 9-5 Monday to Friday type thing. 

What is your go-to dinner recipe?

Cauliflower rice with peanut tofu/chickpeas. So good, simple and family friendly! It goes something like this:

  • Rice-ify a head of cauliflower (just chuck a couple of florets in a blender, pulse until it looks like rice. Repeat.) 
  • Then steam the rice with a bit of water in a pot or microwave it until tender. 
  • In a big pan, take 1/2 cup real maple syrup, 1/2 cup Tamari sauce, 1/2 cup peanut butter and mix it up. 
  • Sautee your chickpeas or tofu (a block of tofu or a can of chickpeas) in the sauce until it’s thickened and gloopy delicious.
  • At the last min, you can throw in some extra veg like spinach.
  • Serve the gloopy delicious over the cauliflower rice and then sit back and watch your kids ask for more. CAULIFLOWER.

How do you stay organized?

I so don’t. My assistant winces whenever she sees my desktop and my husband has fired me from most domestic tasks due to tragic ineptitude. However, I as disorganized as I am about space, I am militant about time management. We have a system of Google calendars for both business and family stuff and my team and I use Asana for project management so we can always see who is doing what – and by when. 

We currently have a remote team of 4 so staying connected is a great way to stay organized – we have meetings 3 times a week to stay on track. We also employ a virtual CFO. I spend each Wednesday of every week working ON the business instead of working in the business. 

Tell us about your support system – as a parent and business owner.

I have to be totally honest about this – I have Ward Cleaver levels of support as my husband is the primary child care giver and household manager. He does all the cooking, cleaning and grocery shopping. He knows when the boys need new running shoes and when it’s pajama day at school and where the immunization records are. Basically, Dylan does for me the unseen work that women have done for generations so that men could shine in their careers. It works really well for our family and our personalities but I would be a total dickhead not to acknowledge that I’ve benefited greatly from all that support. This lifestyle also gives us a ton of flexibility in our days. 

For business I also have a great group of entrepreneur friends who are all passionate about what they do. 

What are 3 books/magazines/resources you would recommend on parenting or entrepreneurship?

Parenting: The Idle Parent and Free To Learn. We travel with our kids a lot and are considering doing that full time, so I also loved WorldSchooling.

Business: Profit First, The E-Myth, Building a Story Brand. I’ve also very much benefitted from mentoring under Jeff Walker and using his Product Launch Formula system as well as Stu McLaren’s Tribe course. 

And what about your own book? Tell us about this awesome publication.

I always wanted to write a book but there was no time, or I THOUGHT I had no time. But then one of my clients called me on my bullshit and pointed out that a lot of authors are very busy and it was the first time that I saw that I was using the same ‘no time’ excuse that my clients do. We all have the same amount of time – just different habits and priorities. So she challenged me and  I realized that I literally just had to go for it. So I had a writing partner, someone else that I could be accountable to. And the book, is coming out September 17th, available here for pre-order. (Go to http://www.fitfeelsgood.com/healthyaf to get all kinds of bonuses just for pre- ordering!).

How do you stay motivated?

I get up and move. So often people are trying to *think* their way out of a funk when the best thing to do is to change your state through movement. A good run or a living room dance party will solve most problems way faster than sitting in front of your computer or complaining to a friend, which is just going to reinforce your funk. Get UP. What works is to set a 55 minute timer and every time it goes off, get up and move for 5 minutes. Sitting is the new smoking. Meditative walking is something that I love to do to relax and unwind – inhale 4 steps and exhale 4 steps – and it’s easy to implement into everyday life. I also work using a treadmill desk which keeps me active when I’m on a long conference call. 

What are your favourites – music, skincare, items of clothing, podcasts, places to eat, etc.?

Skincare: Caudalie – all natural and cruelty-free

Contraceptive: My Mirena IUD has made me blissfully period-free for years now. No cramps. No mood swings – nothing.  It’s my favourite thing I’ve ever done for myself. 

Protein powder: I have a green smoothie every day and Genuine Health Vegan Fermented Protein Powder in Vanilla is amazing (use my code TRANFORMER at http://www.genuinehealth.com to get 15% off).

Turn my brain off TV: The Office (US version) and the Baroness Von Sketch show. 

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

Creating the most extraordinary life with my kids and setting an example of unlimited possibilities for my kids is my ultimate driver. Having my kids has turned all my ‘it would be nice’ ambitions into absolute musts. 

Thanks so much to Oonagh and Dylan for having us their home and sharing their lifestyle and work balance. We felt like the partnership they’ve built together works so well for them – with Dylan supporting Oonagh in her business pursuits. To learn more about Fit Feels Good, click here. To pre-order Oonagh’s book, click here.

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xo Chats with Lee Hawn

Mother of a girl, 11, Stepmother of two girls, 13 and 15 // Owner of The Lemonade Stand

Written by Jessica Gedge // Photographed by Joelle Segal

Our perfect day includes sleeping in (pure luxury!), meeting each other for coffee at a local spot, and spending time meandering through pretty main street shops on a gorgeous summer day. We spent a near-perfect morning (it was all of the above minus the sleeping in!) at The Lemonade Stand, a gorgeous shop in Uxbridge, Ontario. Lee was so gracious in spending time with us talking about her experiences as a retail-shop owner and mother and step-mom to three girls.

We were so interested to find out that you don’t have a background in retail! Can you tell us about your career and the path that led you to The Lemonade Stand?

Before I started The Lemonade Stand I worked my way up the corporate ladder as a Human Resources Professional. I have a Bachelor of Human Resources and Labour Relations, and started my first career-oriented job out of school as an HR Assistant. Throughout the years I worked my way up to become an HR Business Partner, and eventually started an HR Consulting Company of my own. In my “other” time, I worked towards my goal of owning a creative business full-time.  

What is The Lemonade Stand?

The Lemonade Stand is a creative vintage studio that was started as a part-time venture back in 2014. I originally started painting by stumbling upon a dresser in a Style at Home magazine. It was a  gorgeous yellow colour, and I had to have this colour in my house. The colour was called Mustard Yellow, by Miss Mustard Seed. I started reading the Miss Mustard Seed blog and got very inspired! I painted a sideboard in the yellow, and kept on painting different items in my house. I took some classes and got some great guidance from other women entrepreneurs in the same industry. 

Things have evolved since that time. In early 2016 I left my full-time corporate job as a Human Resources Business Partner to pursue The Lemonade Stand full-time. A big part of my business is handmade signs and workshops. In Fall 2018, my husband and I opened up a brick and mortar in beautiful downtown Uxbridge – 26 Brock St. W. It has been a dream come true, and I am constantly growing, learning and evolving.  

What’s your favourite part of running The Lemonade Stand?

The favourite part of my work is the creative aspect. In particular, I love using the Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint (MMSMP) on items and seeing how it reacts to each piece. I have been very passionate about MMSMP since I started using it 6 years ago. It was an essential component to my store and branding. It does things that no other paint can do. I love to start with a piece and see the different effects that I can get with this paint. I also love that I have flexibility as a business owner to open my shop at 10am, meaning I get valuable time with my daughters in the morning and am able to do the school drop offs. 

Walk us through your typical day.

A typical day starts in the morning when I am at home. I take some time to identify how I am going to spend my day and write it out in my planner.  Once I get into the studio, I start with studio maintenance, paperwork and responding to emails. I then spend the rest of my day running the store and either making signs or painting furniture (this creative part is the most fun). It is always a bit of a juggling act as things always pop up in the day that we did not plan for…but that is part of the fun!  

How do you make sure to get family time?

The way I carve out family time is by planning things out in quarters. My business has a couple of different revenue streams, including workshops. I always plan the workshops in quarters, so I know exactly what I will be doing and when. This gives me the flexibility to choose the evenings I want off and plan around special events. When I am at home, I try and only do a maximum of one hour of work. After dinner, the rest of the evening is dedicated to family. I also choose to close the store on Sundays so that I am able to devote one full day to my family each week. Work-family balance is so important, and I think you need to set some real boundaries around when you are working and when you aren’t. Sunday is my family day, so I make it a rule for myself not to do any work at all on Sundays. Everybody has a different measure of success and for me, a part of the success is being able to find a balance between work and family life. 

Do you have people that inspire you?

There are many women entrepreneurs that inspire me, but I would have to say that Melanie from Mango Reclaimed is a constant inspiration for me. I met Melanie years ago when I was a customer of hers. I have watched her grow her business each year, and have learned from her knowledge and positive attitude. That girl is a rock, and I look  up to her and am very grateful for her friendship and mentoring. Not only does she have the creative mind, but she has such a great business sense as well.  And she is always smiling!!!

What’s your relationship with social media?

Instagram has been great for my business – whether that’s been through sharing store tours, featuring new items, highlighting the workshops – it’s been key to the success of the brand. Since we are a destination store, it’s allowed me to reach a wide range of audiences. I also have found it so great for sourcing new items for the store. We’ve also participated in the Digital Main Street program and with that have been able to put some money into ads online which have gotten a great response. 

There can be a downside to the social media world. The concept of community over competition hasn’t rung true for me unfortunately and I’ve experienced forms of exclusion via social media. It’s interesting to see how some people portray themselves online vs. how they actually are in real life!  

When you’re going through rough patches, how do you stay motivated throughout your retail journey? 

I stay motivated by surrounding myself with a “girl gang”. I have a small group of women friends who have very similar businesses to mine. They help to lift me up, offer great advice, and keep me going when needed. I also belong to a coaching group. This is a very specific group of creative entrepreneurs, all owning retail shops. I can ask questions at any time, and look for guidance from this group. It works through a private Facebook group and its great to bounce things off each other and get ideas. Our coach also provides us with training and a lot of information that applies specifically to our businesses. I think it is so important to surround yourself with positive people that are there to encourage you along the way. There are going to be bumps along the way…it is all about how we handle those bumps. For me, finding these special up-lifting people has been so important. 

Everywhere we looked there were beautiful gift items and treats throughout the carefully merchandised space. The Lemonade Stand truly made us feel like we were on a treasure hunt, and Lee has done a great job with layering items so that you feel like you’re rummaging through your most stylish friend’s house! To visit Lee at her shop, check here. Don’t forget she runs the coolest home decor workshops, which you can check out here. And be sure to follow her on Instagram here

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XO Chats with Lisa Canning

Mother of seven children aged 10 months to 9 years // Author of The Possibility Mom 

Written by Jessica Gedge // Photographed by Joelle Segal

Having a child is hard. Having more than one? Difficult. But having SEVEN? That’s like next, NEXT level. Not only is Lisa Canning parenting seven children, she’s also been a successful entrepreneur for the last few years. We’ve been following Lisa since her days at HGTV and knew we had to chat with her for XO Project to share all the deets on how she manages everything. Lisa welcomed us into her gorgeous space (#views) and we immediately felt at home – this girl personifies warmth! Three of her seven kids were with us during the interview and she calmly navigated through it all like the bad ass that she is. 

What did you do before you had your business?

For the last ten years I have run an interior design business (I got my start on an HGTV show if you can believe it), and more recently I’ve pivoted my business to helping moms design their lives through online coaching programs and online courses. When I was an interior designer, I had no degree or background when I started and a big chip on my shoulder feeling like I really had to prove myself. I was struggling with life—taking anywhere from 2 weeks to 4 months of maternity leave with each child and feeling the constant pressure to work as much as I could to maintain what I thought was success at the time. But with each goal I reached, I felt like the happiness was fleeting. So I knew that I had to move on from this period and rediscover what my true purpose was.

That brings us to what you’re doing now. How did it come to life?

My new business in mom-coaching came out of a period of time where I was epically failing at work-life balance. I was working around the clock and I was so time strapped. I never saw my children and was just falling apart trying to juggle it all. It all came to a crushing implosion when I had, just seven days out of hospital with my fourth baby in five years, convinced myself that I needed to go into work at a messy construction site. That was the day I realized my priorities were so messy, and something had to change! From that point on I become obsessed with the pursuit of work-life balance and finding a new way to measure success in my life. The common thread that I found with everything I was passionate about led to motherhood and a desire to help other moms.

Let’s talk about work-life balance for a bit. Clearly you have a lot on your plate, and yet you’ve found a way to ‘balance’ it all.

I think the concept of balance is very misleading, because it’s assuming that there is equality across all areas of life. It’s never going to be a 50/50 split of energy and effort. Moms put a lot of pressure on ourselves about this and it’s something that means a lot to me. I’ve found a way and a process to work through all of this that’s led me to living my ideal life. 

Your book has just launched and we are super excited about digging deep into it. Can you tell us about the book writing process?

I was seven month pregnant with one of my kids and was invited to a dinner with a book publisher. I had no desire at that time to write a book— but a colleague of mine really felt there was a story to be told. I signed the contract November 9th, 2016 and then had 2 babies while writing it! I was really stuck in a rut at one point, and then I attended a talk called Mind Your Business. When the speaker said “perfection is a shield from criticism“— wow that just really hit home. I knew that was what was holding me back from finishing the book. I literally sat there in the conference centre and finished the book that day! It resonated with me so much that I was never going to be satisfied and that I could literally spend forever refining the book, but to just move forward with it. 

That is a great quote. What other advice have you received that really resonated with you?

To “fail faster.” I absolutely love this quote. The faster you fail, the faster you grow. It is a huge paradigm shift for a recovering perfectionist like me.

Do you have a mentor?

I have several! I am currently in a high level coaching program with a marketing expert named Ryan Levesque. I have a few moms ahead of me by a few years on the journey who are a source of support as well.

What is your favourite part of your business and why?

I love to speak hope into moms. It is such a challenging time today where so many messages are being thrown at us as moms—be hot, and be fit, and crush it at work, and have perfect kids, and go on a regular date night, and take a great instagram photo. This pursuit of “all the things” can be exhausting. I am all for moms designing success for themselves and not for anyone else.

With all the different content you’re putting out – what is resonating the most with your audience?

The content that’s the most engaging is anything I share around depression and marriage. If I can do my part in helping couples realize that mental illness doesn’t define a marriage and that you can have a successful partnership that includes mental health challenges, then I’m happy to share this intimate content in an authentic way. 

Having said that, what do you think about the pressure social media can put on parents/entrepreneurs?

Naturally we put pressure on ourselves and Instagram and social media takes that up a few notches. What people have to understand is there are a myriad of things happening behind the scenes and in the background that bring that ‘perfect’ image to life. It’s a false reality and while it can be great for building community, we each have to be aware of the information we’re taking in and to take it with a grain of salt. 

Do you think the benefits of digital media outweigh the potential downfalls?

Having been involved in traditional media, both in front of and behind the camera, I can say that there is nothing like the speed of information being passed and the connection you can get with your audience through digital media. 

What’s your typical day like?

Typical morning routine is waking up before my kids to pray and exercise, and then begins the regular routine of breakfast, packing lunches, last minute homework help etc. After school is precious time to me. We eat dinner early as a family (as soon as they come home from school – because I found if I served a snack when they all came home, no one is eating the beautiful meal I made!), we have a nightly ritual of saying some prayers as a family after we eat, and then we break either for play time, TV, or for kids in activities we divide and kids go and do their independent activities. Between the hours of 4 and 5:30pm, my phone is away and I am spending aimless time with my children.

Let’s talk self care. How do you carve out time for yourself?

I schedule it. I fight for it. I set recurring appointments in my calendar and I show up for them like I would anything else I make a priority.

How do you stay organized?

Intention behind everything. I prioritize the important things in my life, and those things get captured in my calendar. I find that if they are not scheduled, things can really easily get missed.

Describe your childcare situation.

We have had childcare in all shapes and forms, from very full time, to very part time, to my husband being home primarily, to me being home primarily. Currently, we have a wonderful live in full-time nanny who assists us in running our home successfully.

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

Being afraid but doing it anyways. I am in a season of my business where we are taking a lot of risk—there are new things I am doing that I have never felt success in doing before. But what I have learned from my mentors is to move forward even though you might be afraid, and always keep this in mind: “You either get the result that you wanted, or the lesson that you needed.” – James Wedmore.

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

I would say parenting has changed the way I run my business, for the better. I now do more in less time and I value REST and aimless time with my family in a huge way. A part of the reason why I wrote The Possibility Mom is to share the processes I use that help me maximize my time. Success looks different for everyone and that’s a big part of the message I’m trying to share. 

Let’s leave off on the one message you want to share with other parents who are entrepreneurs.

You need to fuel you passions and your dreams – but not at the expense of your family. One of my goals is to provide a framework for how to chase your dreams but to keep your family priorities in mind. 

Lisa is as close to superwoman as we’ll probably get in real life. Not only has she cracked the code for how to live her ideal life, but she’s happy to share that information with the rest of us. One of her goals is to help 100,000 women in 5 years – be it through her book, online program or workshops. What works for one may not work for all, but it’s absolutely definitely inspiring to learn about this process and hear Lisa’s story. To buy The Possibility Mom, click here. To visit her website and learn more about her work, click here

XO Snapshot with Lisa

What is your daily uniform?
Ha! This changes everyday depending on my mood. But I do love a high waisted jean and a good front tuck, or tie t-shirt. Add a blazer to that if I am going to a meeting and I could live in that outfit everyday.

Is there something in your closet that makes you feel great?
All my structured blazers. Whether I am pregnant, losing baby weight, or somewhere in between I always feel awesome in a structured blazer.

What’s in your purse/fridge/desk drawer/laptop bag?
Always snacks like Kind bars, water, lip gloss, essential oils, and a charger!

What is your go-to dinner recipe?
Whatever shows up in the Hello Fresh box LOL.

What Instagram accounts do you have a crush on?
Oh my goodness so many! @sashaexeter, @birdspapaya all the girls from Dancing With the Stars LOL.

If you could meet anyone, who would it be?
This is a great question! I would love to meet author Rachel Hollis and comedian John Crist.

What are 3 books you would recommend on parenting or entrepreneurship?
High Performance Habits by Brendon Buchard, Atomic Habits by James Clear, and Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis.

What are your favourite tunes to listen to, to get motivated?
Give me a good Disney ballad or Broadway classic to belt and I am ready to go! Or anything Spice Girls circa 1999.

What are your favourites – skincare, makeup, office tools, software?
Skincare – I love my Smashbox primer oil, so nourishing.
Makeup – I am a bit of a Nars addict, their lip liners and glosses give me life.
Office Tools – I am grateful everyday for things like Calendly and Infusionsoft that automate many parts of my business.
Software – iMovie has been my friend since I started my YouTube channel! It is a great basic tool that even the most tech un-savvy can figure out to create simple videos.

If you had an entire day to yourself, what would you do?
I would definitely go see a VIP movie and have them bring the wine and snacks to me! Then I’d probably go eat something yummy, like ramen. I’d throw in a nap somewhere in there and that would be my ideal day.
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XO Chats with Jessica McEwen

Mother to Patrick // Owner of Periwinkle Flowers

Written by Jessica Gedge // Photographed by Joelle Segal

If you ever want to be transported to a floral dreamland in the middle of the city, visit Jess at Periwinkle. We’ve known Jess since our days at ReBash, and she’s been a literal ray of sunshine ever since our first meeting. With her bright and positive attitude, being a florist is the absolute perfect fit. We covered some interesting topics during our discussion, like a partnership break-up, the ever-changing landscape of retail, and the strategies she uses to balance life as a business-owner. 

What did you do before you had your business?

Flowers have always been part of my life and when I was 19 years old I went to college to study floristry before working for various downtown floral studios. My whole family has the entrepreneurial bug so I guess it isn’t surprising that I decided to open my own business doing what I love, and that I didn’t wait very long to do it! I opened a shop (also called Periwinkle Flowers) with a business partner and had that company for 13 years before closing in 2013 when she left. I couldn’t leave flowers though, they have my heart for sure, so I opened up my current shop by myself, moved to a different part of the city and changed just about everything to make it exactly how I wanted.

Wow, a family of entrepreneurs!

Yes – both my brothers opened a cabinetry business together, my mom ran a daycare and my dad had a bookstore. My sister is an artist. From a young age I was encouraged to be creative and remember typing out my own gardening magazines!

What is your favourite part of your business and why?

Working with such gorgeous flowers is, of course, the best thing ever. You just can’t be sad when you are surrounded by such amazing beauty. But other than the obvious lovely flowers, I’m somewhat obsessed with the puzzle of retail. It truly fascinates me. I love having to constantly be thinking of new ways to get possible customers attention- dreaming up our monthly DIY bar activities or brainstorming collaborations with other businesses. We theme each season at the shop with new displays outside and in to keep people’s attention and show our creativity so I get to dream up things like a massive installation of colourful streamers under our shop awning that we did last summer, and then make it a reality with little to no budget and never enough time! So many florists either never go into retail or start that way but transition to being event studios, but I can’t imagine ever wanting to do that.

How do you carve out time for yourself?

If I’m honest, I wasn’t very good at doing this for the first few years, which I think is important to acknowledge. Very often it was just not possible to fit anything else into my schedule and I was somewhat overwhelmed with juggling parenthood with business life. One thing I do have is a really amazing group of women friends, and in the past five or so years I’ve worked hard at strengthening those relationships and making time with them more of a priority, even if that means just checking in with each other via a quick text. We are all busy and all have very full plates but I’m trying hard to not give in to the urge to say I’m too tired or too busy and instead meet up for a quick coffee or short breakfast date to connect. I always feel better. I also organize a monthly craft night with my amazing staff and a few friends here at the shop, and again want to acknowledge that I have to work hard not to blow it off times that I’m having a busy week or feeling too scheduled. Spending a couple of hours just chatting and doing something creative that isn’t work has brought such joy to my life and strengthened the friendships I have with these wonderful ladies. My work schedule isn’t very regular, sometimes I can go several weeks without a day off, but I try to take at least one day off a week when I can that my kid is home for too and we get out for a bike ride to the island or hike through the Don Valley Trail. Being out surrounded by trees is very calming.

Does the nature of your work, being bricks and mortar, plays a part in how you organize your time?

Definitely having a physical location helps – I don’t know how people who work from home do it, since it would be hard to split between regular home responsibilities and work since it’s all in one place. There are things I literally cannot do at home for Periwinkle (create arrangements, sell to customers) so I cherish the time I make at home. 

When you’re home, do you have a go-to dinner recipe that makes life easier?

Full disclosure here – I very rarely do the dinner cooking! I’m usually the last one in the door so my husband has dinner ready and waiting when I get in, which is incredibly, amazingly wonderful. He is a very good cook, certainly far better than I am. On the rare days I do make the dinner it’s usually one of my three standby recipes such as spicy sausage with lentil and kale soup (I’m good with the soups!). I do make a mean poached egg on toast for Sunday breakfast though.

How do you stay organized at work?

I’m a list addict! I carry my notebook everywhere and have finally managed to be disciplined at keeping everything in the one book – ideas, to do lists, project notes etc. I also use a paper planner to write down appointments. I do use Google docs and Google Keep to hold things that I want to be able to access from anywhere. Running a small team I still find challenging. My staff all work part-time with me so I try to be good about keeping them up to date on the constant flow of ideas and projects happening in my brain.  

What about at home?

At home we have a wall calendar in the kitchen that I try to keep updated with my work days and our personal appointments etc. so my husband and son can see if I’m available for family things or not. It’s a daily challenge to keep it all organized, I often feel that there must be a simpler way to streamline it all but I haven’t found a system that works perfectly for me yet. The reality of being the owner of this type of business and wearing all the hats is that I’m constantly interrupted, there’s never a full day working on one project. I sometimes find I feel scattered and a bit too reactive, and those are the times I have to carve out space in my day to write things down and make a plan.

Tell us about your team.

My team is amazing – they each have other jobs that they are involved in since their work here is part-time- which include photography, textile design and social work. So I have a great group of people that I admire and respect who each bring a unique perspective to the business and are bringing their amazing talents to the table each and every day.

People, especially in the creative industries, often talk about ‘Community over Competition’ – what are your thoughts on that?

I like to support local businesses and creatives and have close industry friends, so I do believe in community over competition. There’s room for all of us doing what we love to do. I’m a member of a local flower collective where it’s a great opportunity to exchange ideas and communicate with others in the industry, meet new people and keep current with trends. It’s a great movement for the floral industry and supports a lot of micro-growers. 

Can you describe what it was like having your son and starting your business? 

My son is 13 now, but when he was born I had a business partner so luckily I was able to take 6 months “off” to be with him and we hired a freelancer designer to cover for me at the shop if needed. I still did paperwork and the bookkeeping at home and went into the shop with him once a week as well as covering weekends when my business partner wanted to be off and when we had events. My husband also took 9 months of parental leave that saw my son through to one year old which was amazing to have. From there we couldn’t find any daycare spaces close enough to us so my husband worked a night shift and I worked days, and we took opposite days off. It was hard. In the mornings I’d wake up super early to take my son outside and tire him out then put him down for a nap while my husband finished getting some sleep so I could head to work. At the end of the day I’d come home and meet my husband at the door as he handed our baby off to me on his way out. We didn’t get to spend much time together as a couple or as a family. We did that for 4 years until my son went to all day kindergarten at which point my husband switched to a shift that starts super early. I am home with Patrick in the morning before school and Tony is there for him after school, and I arrive home for a late supper. We don’t have any relatives in the city for emergency babysitting which has made it hard to juggle sick days. Basically, if my son can’t be at school he’s with me at work. We really relish our family time together after not having it for so long, so we’ve never even left Patrick with a babysitter for an evening out, we just all go out together! Now that he’s older it’s so much easier, but ever since he was a baby he’s been hanging out at the shop with me for weekends if my husband is working or summer “vacation” (we call it Camp Periwinkle).

Periwinkle started off as a partnership. What was that experience like?

To be honest it felt like a bad divorce getting out of the partnership. I was left in the old shop space and it just didn’t fit who I was at that point. I realized I didn’t have to stay there and when the opportunity arose to move, it reinvigorated how I thought about the business and it occurred to me I could rethink everything about the business and make decisions on my own. The possibilities really opened up, I didn’t have as much trepidation as I did before. 

Those first few years sound really challenging. What have you found to be the biggest struggles since then?

For a long time I really struggled with guilt. I felt like I was never able to give my best to both the business and my child, so often I felt I was only managing to do a mediocre job at both. The first 6 years were the hardest. Patrick still has to come with me to the flower market sometimes, or set up an event with me, which is great because I’m getting to hang out with him (he’s really good company!) but I struggled for years with feeling unprofessional because I’d have my 5 year old sitting in the corner of the hall while I was setting the tables up for a wedding. Funny thing is, no one ever commented negatively on it, in fact everyone has always been lovely and gracious about it and offered him food & drink while he waited. So I think that I was creating a problem where it didn’t exist. Truth is, being a working parent is hard, adding in the fact that you are working for yourself just makes it harder in some ways and easier in others. It took me a while to realize that being a good mother isn’t about whether I’m there at the end of the school day or not, nor is it about giving him the idyllic childhood I had. We’re writing our own story and I’m doing just fine.

What is your daily uniform?

In my head I wear floral dresses with pretty sandals, but in reality it’s handmade cotton tops with my jeans and converse sneakers. My day-to-day is diverse, sometimes I’m sitting in a client meeting in the morning but then loading up the truck with heavy arrangements, or hauling branches into an event setup so I need to be able to get a bit dirty or wet without worrying. I’m also on my feet a lot of the time so the sneakers are a necessity.

Being so visual, do you have any Instagram accounts that you’re loving?

Instagram has been eye-opening for me. We all fall into the curation trap but it’s been so game-changing for my business since everything we do is visual. I’m so inspired by seeing people’s ideas and concepts and sharing what we’re doing also. But it’s important to be aware that everything we see is controlled and a version of what the author wants us to see, and not to get sucked into the idea of perfection.

On the business side I adore @electricdaisyflowerfarm, a U.K. based small flower farm and florist. The feed is inspiring and the florist behind it is incredibly talented. This is a second career for her at a later point in her life and she doesn’t have formal training so I love that she does things in different ways because she didn’t learn the standard method, it helps keep me thinking out of the box. And frankly it’s good to see a florist closer to my age having some instafame. On my personal account I’m obsessed with @aestheticsofjoy which is a colour-filled feed focusing on how we actually find joy through everyday moments in life.

Do you have any books you’d recommend?

Business-wise, the two books by Fiona Humberstone Brand Brilliance and How to Style Your Brand – on finding brand clarity have been amazingly helpful in the past couple of years as I’ve honed in on what I want my business to truly feel like. It was enormously helpful as we worked through a rebrand for the shop, which we’re in the middle of launching now. I’ve also just finished How to Own the Room by Viv Groskop. I listen to her podcast and have found that and the book very helpful in getting to grips with being more authoritative in meetings with clients as well as feeling more assertive and speaking up when meeting with some business committees I’m part of.

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

Yes, absolutely! Being a mom means that I have someone relying on me to show up outside of the business. Before Patrick I would go in early, stay late and happily work everyday. Now I am far more organized and far more disciplined about scheduling days off, vacation time and will schedule extra staff in rather than stay late myself to get projects done. I’ve not had to turn down any business yet but have had to ask clients to make changes to expectations – for example the shop doesn’t open before 10am because I’m the parent at home getting my kid up and ready for school. If someone needs a breakfast event delivered it can’t often happen at 6am so I negotiate delivery the day before. I do think it is important that my son sees his mother having priorities and a life outside of being a mother, and that he understands that being an adult with a business and a parent is a balance and that sometimes you have to make concessions to one or the other without that meaning you value either less. I am very aware of making sure Patrick gets to see the fails as well as the wins. I don’t think we do kids any favours in hiding the realities of the world from them, they need to see that you can try something, not be able to make it work and then see you still be ok. And I have to say, my kiddo is actually really good to talk to about the business now! He’s only 13 but for the past couple of years I’ll chat him about ideas I have or issues I’m facing while we’re out riding our bikes or hiking together and he has really great ideas, things that wouldn’t occur to me. I guess because he’s young so limitations that I see, he doesn’t. I know that sounds a little crazy, but he’s a smart guy and has helped me come up with some very creative solutions to things.

We learned so much from Jess and, like many of our chats with inspiring founders, could have spent so much more time with her. What especially struck a chord with us was her positive attitude and the balance she has developed between being creative and business-savvy. For more about Jess (and to check out her brand new signage and branding!) visit her website and Instagram.

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XO Chats with Emily Chung

Mom of two boys // Owner of AutoNiche

Written by Jessica Gedge // Photographed by Joelle Segal

When your interviewee has a tool that’s a hammer named “Thor”, you know it’s going to be a good time. Emily Chung not only owns an auto repair shop, AutoNiche, and works as a licensed auto technician, she also writes for Canadian Reviewer and Autosphere and teaches in the Automotive Business School at Georgian College. Emily is also a media veteran so you’ve likely seen her on Breakfast Television, Cityline, or the Marilyn Denis Show. Meeting Emily, it’s clear from the start that she’s passionate about her work and her mission to bring better communication and client service to the auto tech industry. We sat down with this #boss at her shop to learn more about what drove her (pun intended;) to start this business. 

What did you do before you had your business and how did you decide to start this venture?

I was in corporate before. I was a Psychometrist, Human Resources Associate, then Project Manager. Right before I launched my business, I was working for my father’s business which sells auto parts wholesale. I now buy from those who buy from him, as part of the supply chain. At the time, I knew the manufacturing process for the product, how long it took to ship over, how much to price it at, how to market it, etc. though I didn’t know the technical aspect. While I was on maternity leave with my second son, I enrolled in a pre-apprenticeship program at Centennial College. I figured I was off work and I could learn more about my car since I didn’t enjoy the auto repair experience. I also thought it would help me in my father’s company. I didn’t think I’d have my own business. 

It was a hectic time. I had my son and was still nursing him while I was in school, so I remember waking up at 5am to nurse him, go to trade school, and in between shop class I’d run to the other side of Centennial to pump milk. I’d store the milk and head back to class, back and forth, head home, nurse, study, etc. My eldest son was about 2.5 years old at the time so things were busy. 

It sounds really rewarding get a deep understanding of something you didn’t have a background in previously. How did you make the jump from learning the trade to launching AutoNiche?

Around that time, I became a Christian and I really felt like God was calling me to open up an auto repair shop. I decided to step in faith, and started AutoNiche while going to trade school. I eventually got my license as an automotive service technician and built the business to what it is today. 

Can you share some advice that you really value?

Last year, I completed a leadership training program and out of that, I learned “choose and move”. Sometimes what I’m doing isn’t working or I’m spending too much time and effort on something that isn’t worth it. Choose and move is a reminder for me to choose something else, anything, and quickly before I have too much time to overthink or doubt myself, and move on that new path. If that doesn’t work, I get to choose and move again. Sometimes I get hung up on the past, why things didn’t work out, or my own perceived shortcomings in the situation. That rarely helps me move forward and keep going. Choose and move – keep pressing on.

Do you have a mentor? And do you mentor any startup founders?

I’m part of a Mastermind group with 8 other auto repair shops. We meet once per month and discuss important issues in our business and industry. It’s something I really value. I’ve always had business coaches. Having a coach also holds me accountable and helps me move forward. I’ve had many coaches over the course of my business and the most important thing is finding one who will encourage me to the next level. I do a few informal mentoring/coaching to startups, females entering the skilled trades, etc.

How do you carve out time for yourself?

I don’t have much time for myself though I will do a quarterly prayer retreat. I usually go away, at least 2 hours from the GTA, on my own for at least one or two nights. I’m naturally introverted so this time really helps me recharge. I pray and plan for the next quarter. Before I leave, I’ll book the next retreat so that way it’s in my calendar. I do a lot of driving so I think of time in my car as my alone time too. Being an introvert, this time is nice to just be left to my thoughts, music, sermon, etc. It’s literally like I’m in my own bubble. 

Something that’s really important to entrepreneurs is accountability. How do you stay motivated and accountable?

The business coaches play a big part in this, and I’m a big list person; it’s a part of how I stay motivated. I’m extremely goal-oriented and structured. From the leadership program I mentioned earlier, I learned a way to track goals. I have 4 goals every 2 months tracked using a spreadsheet. They’re professional, personal and overarching goals. I then have 3 action items to support each goal. It all rolls up into a Goal Summary. Every 2 months, I reset. This method keeps me accountable AND motivated. 

This sounds awesome and we want to incorporate some of those tips into our own lives. But do the lists ever seem never-ending?

The lists ARE never-ending. It took me a while to actually understand and be okay with the fact that the lists would never end. 

We notice you sometimes offer keynote/speaking engagements. What is your favourite topic to speak on?

One of my favourite topics to speak on is working in a non-traditional career and my main point has always been that gender isn’t an issue until we make it an issue. My gender has nothing to do with how successful I am, and if I believe that I’m receiving a bias due to my gender there is not much I can do to move forward. 

Do you think that some of the times you get approached to speak is because you are a female in a male-dominated industry?

Yes and I always use this as an opportunity to speak about my experience focusing on the skills that I have and the work that I put into building up this business. Raising two boys has made me more conscious of not emphasizing gender and this goes back to my point that it shouldn’t be an issue, and usually only is if we make it an issue. I treat everyone in my shop the same regardless of their gender, age or circumstance – it’s based on skill and willingness to work together as a team. This is something I really strive to teach my sons.

What’s your management style?

Even though we are often each working on separate things, we have team meetings each week which is an opportunity to update one another. We also communicate a lot with each other constantly as we work. In the beginning when I first started, managing people was a struggle, though with the help of some of my mentors and through experience and practice it has become easier.

Do you have any favourite tools of the trade that help make your life easier?

My newly discovered favourite is the Turban Hair Towel! It’s a small thing, I know. It works great and I always bring it with me when I travel. I know I can use a regular towel, this isn’t the same. I can put my hair up while it dries and get everything else ready. Saves me time!

My favourite tool in the shop is my beloved hammer named “Thor”. Every now and again we need to hit parts to separate and replace them (e.g. brake rotors, etc). There’s nothing like hitting something hard with Thor, it’s just really satisfying hearing the pitch change when you know the part you’re hitting is released. And I mean…it’s Thor!

What really resonated with us after speaking with Emily was that she seems to have struck a great balance between being structured and methodical AND being adaptable and quick to pivot. Her faith led her down the path of entrepreneurship, and it’s been her tenacity and determination that have helped her persevere and run a successful business. If you want to learn more about AutoNiche, check here, follow on Twitter here and Facebook here.

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xo Chats with Dwayn Ramadhin

Father to Ave // Owner of Dream Factory

Written by Jessica Gedge // Photographed by Joelle Segal

What we loved about interviewing Dwayn was his complete honesty and unwillingness to sugarcoat his experiences with parenting and business ownership. We visited him at his print shop, Dream Factory, where he had recently expanded to a larger space in order to accommodate his growing clientele. He gave us the scoop on his entrepreneurial journey and we got to hang with his 10 year old daughter, Ave, who has been a mainstay in his shop (outside of school, of course!) since she was young.

What is Dream Factory?

We do large format printing and promotional materials that cater to small and large businesses. Anything from brochures, stickers, banners, store signage, apparel and commercial vehicle graphics.

How did you start your business?

Due to previous job roles, I saw an opportunity in the industry and decided one day to give it my best shot. I used to work for a digital merchandising company and saw an opportunity to fill gaps where I had expertise. I decided to go for it and within a few days had my first client and had to scramble to install signage on a main street shop. That’s still a client to this day.

You’ve recently moved your shop to a larger space, purchased more equipment, and are running business around the clock! To what do you attribute your success to date?

Drive and Determination. I am always willing to be the first one here and last to leave.

That must give a clear example to your staff of your dedication.

I don’t expect my staff to pull the hours that I do, but when you run a business like this where I need to keep my clients happy – I want to make sure I have an eye on everything that needs to get done and make sure everything’s running smoothly.

Since the business has grown, how have you managed hiring?

The business has grown very rapidly. We get all work strictly through word-of-mouth and referrals. I have hired and have various full time and part time employees. To determine a fit, I look for people that would mesh well together and usually get them to come in and shadow and see how things work. I make sure they are a good fit with the team and bring a positive energy.

Positive vibes are so important especially when you’re working together for long hours! Do you have a mentor or someone you admire and look up to?

I have a few friends in the same industry with more experience, that I think very highly of and know I can call on at anytime for mentorship. I would say these are informal conversations, not really structured, but it feels good to know I have people I trust who have gone through similar challenges and that I can bounce ideas off.

What is your favorite part of your work and why?

Independence. Setting your own destiny. Because every time I create a product, I take pride in our customers satisfaction and find it rewarding.

What does a typical day look like?

I usually wake up at about 7 am. First thing after getting ready is dropping my wife to the Go Train. Then I get back home and get my daughter up, after much persuading. Get her lunch packed and ready for school. After the bus stop it is straight to Timmies for my mandatory tea before heading to the shop. I get to the shop at about 8:30am to prep for the day. Employees arrive at 9:30 to 10. Then the day is in full swing.

I leave around 5pm to pick my wife up from the GO and head to my mom’s house for a quick dinner and pick up my daughter before dropping my wife and daughter home. I then head back to the shop and usually set a deadline of midnight to stop. Then home for the night and repeat the next day.

When you said you were running business around the clock you weren’t kidding! That’s a demanding schedule.

I’ve worked 48 hours straight a couple of times and to be honest I usually burn out every couple of weeks.

Ah burnout…every entrepreneur and parent’s reality at one point or another. Do you do much in the realm of self-care?

No! I probably should but I don’t. I pretty much go through my days without eating breakfast and sometimes even lunch. I’ll grab a snack of peanut butter that’s in a jar on my desk. Dinner is usually my main meal and the lack of sleep gets to me once in awhile.

It goes without saying that business owners hustle hard to make things work. Do you try to carve out time for yourself?

I find time for myself very challenging. Extra time I find for myself usually means less sleep. When I get home at midnight I watch some TV before falling asleep or on the weekends, if I am not working, I spend the time with my wife and daughter walking around the mall or working on my cars.

Related to that – have you ever had to turn down a client or make a difficult business decision?

Yes, I occasionally turn down some clients because one of the most difficult decisions I have to make is being realistic in what can be done in a day and within a specific timeline.

I never want to fall short of a client’s expectations – customer service is the most important and that’s why all our business comes through strong referrals. And overcommitting usually means no sleep, so I guess in a way turning down business is a version of self-care.

With all of the busy-ness of the shop, how do you balance work with parenting?

My wife and I both work full time. My mom is a big part of childcare. She helps out by picking my daughter up from the bus stop and feeding her after school and keeping her entertained when my wife and I work late. My wife also plays a big part when I have to work late. She makes sure Ave is in bed as early as possible and makes sure her clothes are set out, lunches  and snacks are put aside and ready for me to pack in the morning.

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

TIME. I feel that being a entrepreneur is very demanding. So it usually leads to homework help sometimes being done late at night. And having to make an asserted effort to have quality family time.

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

90’s hip hop and R&B is usually my early morning music before employees arrive to get me in the groove.

If you could share one piece of advice with someone starting out in this business what would it be?

Make sure you have a good plan and supportive network. Concentrate on the positive. Avoid the negative energy that can appear at times. Stay determined and keep moving forward.

I subscribe to our slogan of “Dreams are a reality to be achieved” and remind myself of it everyday.

This was an eye-opener for us, though it shouldn’t have been. In an age where there is a lot of rhetoric in the online space (and in real life, tbh) about self-care and balance, here is a business-owner not afraid to admit he literally grinds it out to the point of burning out every couple of weeks. A part of our mission with the XO Project is to show the gloss AND the grit, and Dwayn clearly exemplifies the grit of running a successful business. We talked offline about some strategies to help curb that burnout (from hiring, to eating habits, to taking vacation time) and it kind of just reinforced to us that opening up these conversations and being REAL is important – for our businesses, our families and for ourselves. To hit up Dwayn for your print needs, you can reach him here (but you better hurry if you wanna get on that client roster! 😉

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xo chats with Mindy Applebaum

Mom to Annie, Marlie and Joey // Founder of Luxury Move Management

Written by Jessica Gedge // Photographed by Joelle Segal

When we think of entrepreneurs, we often have a romanticized image of someone who has a deep passion that they feel compelled to follow. This was not the case for Mindy. After being let go from her full-time position while 5 months pregnant with her second child, this powerhouse female figured she had to do something to set herself up for success after her baby was born. She sat down and literally documented in a spreadsheet all of her skills and strengths, spoke to everybody she could within her extensive network about all of her ideas, and decided to start Luxury Move Management. Luxury Move Management provides solutions for your move from start to finish. Whether you are downsizing, undergoing a renovation, estate clearing, moving into a condo, a new home or retirement residence, Mindy’s business streamlines your tasks and makes the entire experience more enjoyable. We chatted with Mindy during one of her moves at a client’s house, catching her right in the midst of all the action.

What did you do before you had your business?

After I completed my MBA degree at Schulich, and before I started my company, I worked in the admissions and marketing department at a private school. Before that I worked in inventory management for a clothing retailer. I never quite felt well suited for my previous roles and had imposter syndrome thinking I was ill qualified. 

We really admire the fact that you literally sat down and documented all of your skills to figure out what business would make the most sense.

I’ve always known I would be a ‘working’ mom and I’ve always been a bit of an anarchist, in that I have a hard time not being my own boss. I had never dreamed of being an entrepreneur and it was a very calculated decision that involved a lot of research and talking to a ton of people before I decided to go for it.

How did you go from idea to actualization?

My business is a result of the circumstances that I suddenly found myself in. I was downsized out of my job when I was pregnant and could not job hunt in that condition. So over the course of that pregnancy and subsequent maternity leave, I had nothing but time (and pressure!) to brainstorm and research and figure out my next career move. My move management business idea hit me like a ton of bricks during my endless hours of watching HGTV. And once I had the idea, I was so excited that my mind raced with ideas nonstop until everything was up and running! I’m not a ‘to-do list’ person because I feel like that just opens you up to excuses for not doing something – instead of putting it on a list, I literally just do it or put the ball in motion to get whatever it is done – if I realize the kids are growing out of a particular size of clothing, for example, I don’t put it on a to-do list, I whip out my phone and order whatever they need. If the laundry needs to get done, I fit it into my day. If I need to get back to a client I either do it then and there or I write a draft and save it in my emails so that I can just hit ‘send’ when the timing is right!

What advice have you received (either in parenting or business) that really resonated with you?

Not everyone is going to hire you and that’s ok. It’s easy to take things personally when you put so much work into what you do, but at the end of the day “it’s just business” and this perspective saves me a lot of stress about things that are beyond my control.

Customer service can make or break your business. I’ve always believed that exceptional customer service is key and I do whatever it takes to make sure that our clients are happy. Most of the work we get is through word-of-mouth and referrals so this is really important to me and to the organization.

Do you have a mentor?

My brother is a successful entrepreneur and I seek his advice regularly. His perspective is great because he’s a real people person and he’s business savvy. His work schedule allows for him to be available to me throughout the day and late into the evening which is when I do a lot of my work, so I really appreciate his accessibility, which is something not all mentors and mentees can enjoy. He also manages a number of employees, as do I, so he advises me on inter-client and inter-employee relations.  

What is your favourite part of your business and why?

I am an independent person who has always marched to the beat of my own drum. So having the flexibility to make my own schedule is the best! I also love that there is no company politics or management or bureaucracy that limits my decisions, my risks or my successes, which is what I often faced in the corporate and non-profit worlds. In this company I am in charge of budgets and spending and all creative decisions, and I find that to be very rewarding.

What does a typical morning routine look like? After school routine?

My husband is in charge of getting our older two kids to school. I hang back and have a slower start to the day with our baby. I have full-time help (a caregiver) in the house since I elected not to take a maternity leave. I try and go to the gym after the kids leave for school but sometimes I dive straight into my work.

Can you elaborate on not taking a maternity leave with Joey?

Yes, I was literally getting client calls while I was about to have my c-section. That was on a Friday and I was calling those clients back on Monday when I was back home from the hospital. I’m in a position where I can continue the business because it is growing so rapidly, and still be there for my kids and have the support I need to make everything work. Sometimes this means I’m scheduling my meetings around times that I can either drop back home to feed the baby or make sure I have a place I can pump. 

And what are the afternoons like?

After school is busy in our house. Our kids are in aftercare so I take a break from my work at 4:45pm to pick them up and hang with them until their 8:30pm bedtime. Then back to work!  

If you could meet anyone, who would it be?

I just read my first book in about 6 years. It was Michelle Obama’s Becoming. I found it truly inspiring and I think she’s a great role model. I’d love to have a cup of tea with her!

How do you carve out time for yourself?

There’s a sacred hour in the late afternoon before I pick up the kids, usually around 3:30pm. If I happen to be home I will try and relax. It doesn’t usually happen!! I also make time to take a hot bath and read a magazine each night before bed. I do that once all my work is complete so that my mind can truly unwind. Magazines are relaxing for me as they are short and light and don’t require too much focus.

How do you stay organized?

I use Google calendar and color coordinate my work related bookings. I also add my husband to relevant calendar entries so it pops up on his phone as well. I use spreadsheets and track all my conversations with industry people so I can refer back to it when needed. 

What is your childcare situation?

We have a 5 year old in full day kindergarten and a 3 year old in full day daycare. We actually decided to hire a nanny 2 days before I gave birth to our third child. Originally, I intended to run my business while taking care of our newborn baby. But the week before I gave birth I panicked and realized I am NOT SUPER WOMAN! Luckily we found a gem of a lady who was looking for work and she’s been the best addition to our family!

It’s amazing that you were able to realize you needed help and that you reached out to get that support. Do you feel like you have a good work/life balance? If so, how do you maintain that?

Yes! I make time for everything I want to do. I plan my day meticulously and make good use of every hour. I put calendar entries into my phone for everything (for example 8:45am drive to the gym) which my family and friends make fun of me for but it works! If it means I only get to Walmart at 9:00pm then so be it. But I’m making sure I get to go! I will also randomly book a babysitter weeks in advance and make a dinner reservation far in advance because then my husband and I will have that date night to look forward to and don’t have to scramble for childcare when the time comes. I’m a big fan of the Sunday night date night. Babysitters are more readily available to us on Sunday nights and it’s easier to get a dinner reservation. And let’s be honest here…. what parent doesn’t need a night out after a busy weekend with 3 young kids!

Being a manager of staff, has being a parent changed the way you manage people?

In the past 5 years I have learned how to manage children and staff. The key is to understand their perspectives and take the time to listen to their ideas and feelings. Then I can make an informed decision. One of the biggest challenges of running my own business is staffing, but keeping the lines of communication open has been huge for making sure that this runs smoothly. I take all the feedback my staff has into consideration so I’m constantly updating processes and procedures based on their input since they’re boots on the ground at the client’s homes. 

What is it about your business that makes you stand out?

One thing that really stuck with me that I learned during my MBA was the importance of branding. We are Luxury Move Management which means our staff wear the shirts with the logo, our labels on all the boxes are branded, we take care to have premium quality services and really live up to that name and high standard because that is what our clients expect. I make sure everything reflects that brand, from the initial consultation, to making sure we only use clean moving boxes, to a meticulous operational process with my staff, and working with reputable third party companies. I think this really makes this business stand out and is part of the reason why so much of our business comes through referrals. 

Some Fun Tidbits from Mindy:

What are your favourite – skincare, makeup, office tools, software?

Skincare and makeup:  I keep it very simple. I’ve watched dozens of YouTube videos about makeup application and developed a routine that is fast and easy to do with budget makeup. 

Software:  I rely on cloud computing. All of my work files are saved on the cloud which allows me to access them for virtually anywhere. It allows me to be efficient. It’s great!

What is your daily uniform?

Post-baby mom jeans, semi-stylish shoes and a casual top that feels comfortable and not restrictive.

What’s in your purse right now?

In my purse is a ziplock bag of Cheerios (ew!), gum, lipstick and wallet. I’m sure there’s chocolate somewhere in there too!

We learned a TON from spending time with Mindy. What we found particularly interesting is the entrepreneur who is thrown into the position through circumstance – she definitely worked hard to swim and not sink and her business is truly thriving because of the thoughtful way she decided to go for it. Taking her natural skills and abilities, pairing them with her background and figuring out where the gaps were in an industry that she had no prior experience in – this woman exemplifies resourcefulness! Also, we are definitely implementing Sunday Night Dates in our household…#genius! Learn more about Luxury Move Management here, follow them on Facebook and Instagram here

Do you want to be featured or know someone who should be? Hit us up at extraordinaryordinaryproject@gmail.com. We cover all industries, male and female – as long as you are an entrepreneur/business owner and a parent – we want to hear all about your story and help inspire others by sharing it here.

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xo chats with Nunzio Presta

Father of David and Leia // Founder and CEO at BizON

Written by Jessica Gedge // Photographed by Joelle Segal

Nunzio is the Founder & CEO at BizON, an online marketplace where people can buy, sell and grow businesses or franchises every day. We were put in touch with Nunzio by the Vaughan Business Enterprise Centre, which provides one-stop services for aspiring entrepreneurs and existing business owners. In (one iteration of) my former life, I had the pleasure of working at one of the business enterprise centres where I was able to coach up and coming entrepreneurs – and let me say, there are a TON of amazing resources available that founders can tap into and a great network of people (like Nunzio!) that you can connect with.

The thing that immediately struck Joelle and I upon meeting and talking with Nunzio is how deeply entrenched in family he is. He suggested having our photoshoot at Amazon Indoor Playground – a business that was successfully sold/purchased through BizON – and featuring his wife and kids in the shoot, which we absolutely loved.

Here’s our conversation with Nunzio where we really got to dig deep into his thoughts about parenting while being an entrepreneur.

How did you begin your entrepreneurial journey?

After my hockey career, I decided I wanted to go to business school. Out the gate, as a mature student, I was extremely motivated to fast track through my Bachelor of Commerce program with a focus on accounting – just like my father. However, I quickly realized that accounting just wasn’t for me. From there, I explored the entrepreneurship program (relatively new in 2009) and was intrigued by the similarities it had with the world of professional sports. Being an entrepreneur and an athlete are very similar. Like sports, entrepreneurship is grounded by hard work, focus, team effort, discipline, time management, taking action on uncertainty, speed, rebounding from failures and the list goes on.From there, I was hooked, I found my new “hockey”, something that drove me towards uncovering my “calling” in life – and that is “creation”. I am absolutely obsessed with turning ideas into something real, and entrepreneurship is the vehicle.

Where do you see your business in 5, 10 years from now?

I don’t know – I think setting 5 – 10 year plans are kind of tough. The truth is that businesses of “today” change way too fast and are filled with too many uncertainties to have a 5-10 year plan. Truthfully, you can have a 6-month plan that can potentially be obsolete, so it’s critical to be fluid in your thinking and adapt/evolve with clarity and speed. With that said, I can give you the answer as to where I see my business in the next 2 or 3 years, because as a leader it’s important not to get pulled into “today”. If we get too short term in our thinking, we miss opportunities to be truly creative and go a level deeper in terms of what we’re trying to build and if we get too long term our plans may be obsolete, so for me a 2-3 year plan is a balanced approach. With that in mind, I focus on looking at the business environment and world through a model I call S.E.T. This allows me to question everything through the lenses of social, economic and tech trends. This guides my vision and direction. So, in the next 2 or 3 years, I definitely see BizON as the market leader in the business & franchise for sale micro market – a marketplace serving a global community of professionals and business owners looking to buy or sell businesses or franchises between the prices of $1,000 to $5,000,000. I see BizON developing forward thinking technology that can help these segments grow and do better business. I see BizON as the go-to marketplace that empowers people to love what they do.

What is your favourite part of your work and why?

Seeing when a buyer connects with a seller via our marketplace and that connection leading to a successful sale. I just love seeing that we had a role in helping someone change his or her life for the better. Whether that be the seller looking to sell in order to fund their retirement or if it’s giving a 9-to-5’er the opportunity to find and buy a business or franchise that empowers them, inspires them, gets them jumping out of bed in the morning to do great work as their own boss. We are grateful at BizON to be part of this journey – a journey that can be challenging but yet fulfilling. This is my favourite part!

Being entrepreneurs (and parents) we tend to get a ton of (often unsolicited) advice. Any words of wisdom really stuck with you?

The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is that – “you’d rather own 1% of Microsoft than 99% of a startup that can’t get off the ground”. This reinforces the true motive of an entrepreneur, and that’s to build a business that adds value to the world.The motive shouldn’t be to get rich (yes your business needs to make money – there’s a difference). This advice sets the tone for how I build businesses. That’s why at the early stages of BizON, I was okay with dishing out equity to find the right team. My motive/passion was (and still is) to see my idea come to life and not to build as much wealth as possible. To be wealthy is the by-product of creating something special – it should never be the motive. 

Do you have a mentor?

Many. I definitely put value on talking, reading and hearing from the people that have created what I aim to create and that is a business that adds value to the world and a family that positively contributes to the well-being of our society. I think mentors (personal or professional) are super important because they do 2 things: 1) Set you with direction 2) Kick you in the butt with some reality checks.

If you could meet anyone, who would it be?

Richard Branson – I think he’s super cool and balances intelligence, fun and family the way I wish to. Also, his mindset on “doing good is good for business” is something that I align with. Nevertheless, it would be cool to play some tennis and have some drinks with him on Necker Island. Richard – if you somehow read this, my family and I are waiting for an invite haha.

What does a typical day look like?

I wake up around 5:30 am every morning (usually in some sort of S position with a foot in the eye courtesy of either my son or daughter – whoever decided to wake up in the middle of the night and call out for mommy or daddy, lol). If I can get a workout in, I will (usually on my spin bike), if not, I shower and meditate. By 6:30 am I am getting my children ready with my wife for the day. I usually kickstart my day by reading for 45 minutes at 7:30 am. After that, my day is scheduled minute to minute with tasks and meetings. I aim (when I can) to get home by 4:30ish to start cooking dinner for my family (something I absolutely love doing). We’ll usually eat around 5:30/6 pm and then my wife and I will get the kids ready and in bed by 7:30/8 pm. By 9 pm my wife and I get our adult time in (unless something with my business needs to be addressed). Then by 11 pm we’re in bed and resting for the day to come.

Being that the days are so jam-packed, how do you carve out family time, or time for yourself?

I stay committed to a consistent routine. This allows me to control my time and how I want to spend it. The bottom line is – I have 2 strict rules: 1) Allocating time and focus into sitting, reading, thinking and meditating – the things that centre me, energize me and keep me moving forward 2) Aiming to make it home for dinner every single day.

Being home for dinner every day is a great goal to set.

One of my role models is my dad and he made it a point, despite how busy his work schedule was, to make it home for dinner every day and I’m inspired by that.

How do you stay organized?

A lot of structure. I literally schedule everything in my calendar and then work and live by that calendar. I have realized that it’s not about the amount of time I spend on one thing, but rather how I spend the time – this keeps me super organized and efficient. 

Sometimes we can be a slave to our calendars – ever feel this way?

No – I control my calendar and that way I own my time and can stay disciplined. I have structure but I’m open and can be agile. Also, I surround myself with the right team set with high standards, operational principles and culture where my business can operate without me.

The concept of owning your time is really important to us, too. Speaking of time management – what is your childcare situation?

Do you really want to talk about this? How do I put it – it’s brutal! Ontario has the highest childcare prices in the country. Luckily my wife and I make it work and don’t look at it as a burden. However, everyone’s financial situations and obligations are different and it’s concerning because daycare has a ton of benefits for children. I implore the government of Ontario to look into this more diligently. It makes no sense (at least for me, from the outside) how other Provinces are able to subsidize childcare more than Ontario. I believe the most vulnerable and pressed segments in the world are the elderly, and new/growing families. More attention must be placed here.

This leads us to our next question about challenges that you face as a parent and entrepreneur?

Honestly, I am extremely fortunate to have the wife I have. She understands what I am doing, absorbs more of the “parenting” tasks and is extremely patient. As an entrepreneur, this is beyond important. When building a business, you experience high-highs, low-lows and relentless, hard work 24/7. Having spent 7 years with Melissa by my side, she has embraced these situations and continues to have the level of patience that inspires me to do so many things others would deem impossible. Because of this I rarely experience challenges when it comes to parenting as an entrepreneur.

What about being a parent has changed the way you run your business, or has it at all?

It has – I am now a big believer in working smarter, not longer. This has changed a lot since becoming a parent because you value your time way more – which is great since it forces you to run a business that is truly committed to operational excellence and finding efficiencies (doing more in less time). Moreover, being a parent has led me to think more long term, creating a legacy mindset. This means that I aim to create something that will make my family happy and proud, something (if they want) they can be part of in the future and something that will outlive me.

Someone told me early on that having a family and building a business doesn’t mix – there can often be a stigma that you can’t do both – I think that’s totally wrong and you can absolutely be an entrepreneur and have a successful family life, where no tradeoffs exist.

What are 3 books you would recommend on either parenting or entrepreneurship/business?

Truthfully, I’ve never read a parenting book, but I can suggest 3 books for entrepreneurship/business: 1) Little Black Stretchy Pants (actually talks about building a business with a growing family) by Chip Wilson – Founder of Lululemon 2) Good to Great by Jim Collins 3) The CEO Next Door by Elena L. Botelho, Kim R. Powell

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

When it comes to music I am not the most loyal listener. I will just hit some random playlist on Spotify and if I like it I will listen, if I don’t, I skip! In general, I am a very motivated person, I don’t need mechanisms to motivate me, my “why” in life is super strong and I am super focused on driving towards my goals every single day.

Who inspires you?

Deep question. So here’s a deep answer: My wife’s patience inspires me. My children’s smiles and persistence inspires me. My mom’s love and encouragement inspires me. My father’s focus and discipline inspires me. The fact that even the greatest in the world have failed and succeeded inspires me.

Parenthood in a photo – fun, unpredictable, keeping us on our toes.

To be honest we could have hung out with this fun-loving family all day! You could feel the love, kindness and shared sense of humour between these two parents – with two kids under the age of 3, this is a feat unto itself! Melissa took time out of her busy work schedule – just one example of the support, empathy and understanding that she provides as a partner to an entrepreneur, and how no successful business person is an island. To learn more about Nunzio’s business (or if you’re interested in either selling or buying your own business and starting your entrepreneurship journey!) check his website here, Twitter here, or Instagram here.

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xo chats with Lonelle Selbo

Mom to Sebastian // Founder of LIFE AU LAIT

Written by Jessica Gedge // Photographed by Joelle Segal

Recently we spent an idyllic day in Prince Edward County, or “The County” as the locals call it. We fell in love with 
the picturesque scenery, delicious food, the beautiful wines, and of course—the wonderful people. Lonelle Selbo was a fashionable city gal, through and through, then after her son was born she made a big move out to the country, launched a gorgeous digital magazine highlighting the best of the region, and has since fully embraced rural living. They say The County has the friendliest people and this rang true to us from the start, when Lonelle sent us her curated list of ‘must-dos’ for our day-trip, welcomed us with a big warm hug, and then insisted on switching seats with us at her farm table so that we could take in the waterfront view. We enjoyed a fabulous charcuterie board she ‘baked’ while chatting all things business and parenting. 

Let’s start with your life in Toronto and your decision to move here to the County.

Well, I ran fashion and lifestyle magazines in Toronto before my son was born in the summer of 2014. I was literally on the phone with my team from the hospital while I was in labour, “Move that story to this section! Swap that photo out for this one!” But from the first moment I met my son Sebastian—it was over: I threw in the towel for mommy-hood and stayed with it until this year when he started Junior Kindergarten. My husband Mark, Sebastian and I moved out here in 2017. Our plan was to grab a hold of the Canadian dream and live a simple country life—but what we found here was so incredibly beyond that.

And this led to the the birth of a new child…LIFE AU LAIT!

Yes! LIFE AU LAIT was born in November, 2018, but behind the scenes it had been in the works for nearly 2 years and, honestly, there were a lot of minutes in that time when I thought it would never see the light of day. The second we landed in the County, I knew right away that I had to capture what it was like to live in this place and started mapping out the concept for the magazine, but work life looked so different here. I had no team, a tiny budget and the busiest, sweetest kid who needed my focus. With every week that ticked by, I felt more anxious about whether I was up to the job. The magazine had to represent what it meant to live here—it had to be perfect. Looking back at all that went right versus wrong, I realized that we all dream and we all hit roadblocks—but what is really important is to share them with each other, so we know we’re not alone when things get heavy, and to help us find the courage to keep pushing on.

So I pushed on. I slowed it down intentionally. I took baby steps, swallowing the guilt about this new pace. With just me behind the wheel, I wondered whether maybe LIFE AU LAIT should be a blog—but County life didn’t make sense exclusively in my voice. Plus I had lived and breathed magazines for more than 15 years and was still starry-eyed about weaving together great minds and voices to tell a story. In the beginning, I was the ‘everything’ of the magazine—creator, editor, designer, photographer, writer…as well as wife and mom. 

Eventually LIFE AU LAIT launched to the most overwhelming show of love and support from so many and I realized that the more love you put into your work, the more you get back. Then in the new year, I got really lucky and found some of the best people to beef up the masthead and help spread the word about this magical place.

Everybody we ask says this is a very special community.

It is an incredible community. There is this really unique intersection of art, food, wine and culture. Sebastian goes to school in this amazing little country schoolhouse where the headmaster comes out to greet everybody, high fives the kids and knows all of their names—it’s such a tight knit group. I truly believe that everything you do in your life leads to you finding a place that just fits, and for me, this is the place. 

How did the name LIFE AU LAIT, come about?

The early days of the brand started with the huge and eternal concept of ‘lait’—milk. Milk plays critical and controversial roles in both infancy and motherhood, it’s one of the most powerful industries in Canada and yet it’s an iconic part of the simple and sweet life. Those are all part of our experience of life and captures this beautiful chapter so very powerfully for me.

Living out here, as well as your background in a creative industry, must give you so much inspiration. 

I pull inspiration from every single thing that happens around me, particularly here. Every person I meet is talented, driven, interesting, cool—they motivate me to always be better too. And I’m moved every time I look up to see this beautiful infinite lake view. The water here changes every single day—some days it’s a classic Lake Ontario, glassy and dark, sometimes it’s the aqua blue and has big waves, like the Mediterranean Sea. Sometimes the sun and the moon glint off of it like diamonds, other days there are gigantic icebergs or sparkly ice slushies…and everything in between. Then there are the multi-coloured lilac forests, the streets lined with hollyhocks, the pop-up ponds in summer that ducks teach their ducklings to swim in…that turn into killer ice rinks in the winter. There is also culture and fun, amazing fledgling businesses run by incredible people working so hard to bring their passions to life so their children can live in this magical place. This stuff is inspiration by the heart-ful.

It sounds truly amazing. Is it even possible to say you have a favourite part of what you’re doing? Or do you love it all? 

I’m really enjoying hanging out with all the great people in all the great places. I love getting out, exploring, doing something new every day and having beloved experiences to go back to on the regular. Being able to capture moments all day long with my family and my friends fills me with an insane amount of joy. Oh, and also, eating all the food and drinking all the wine with my amazing team-mate Kirstyn Mayers (also a mompreneur and owner of @outletfoodco and @pochettebloomfield).

What about some challenges?

It can be hard to run a business when we’re (my husband and I) both working from home. It’s so tempting to want to have more family time because we’re in such close proximity. And of course, it can also be difficult to be everywhere all the time—there are so many things that happen constantly around the County that I feel obligated (and really want to) to be present at, but of course, this just isn’t possible. So, learning to say ‘sorry, but no’ is a challenge for me!

Do you guys have a typical kind of day? 

Our little dude opens his eyes somewhere between 6:45 and 7:15am and bursts into our bedroom in typical ‘Krameresque’ fashion. He’s very chatty in the mornings and we get a stream of random things coming at us about everything he’s been thinking about all night until one of us gives up and crawls out of bed to turn on the coffee. Mark makes breakfast and school lunch and I get Sebastian and myself ready and we slowly get our act together to leave the house for around 8:30. By the time we’ve dropped Sebastian at school and landed somewhere—either back home or in my “floating office” ie. somewhere cool in the County that I’m going to be working from that day, it’s about 10am and I have a solid 5 hours of work until I have to leave from wherever to pick him up again. 

It’s a busy, but beautiful-sounding day. Do you have to make a concerted effort to make time for yourself between work and family life? 

I feel like a pretty lucky person who basically gets to work every day doing my dream job or spend time with Mark and Sebastian, my number one faves. I’m a serial over-committer though, so sometimes I get burned out and totally crash emotionally and have to work from bed for a day, but I usually feel pretty self-indulgent about that considering my work week schedule reads something like: Barrel wine tasting with X winemaker / Restaurant opening, lunch with X chef / Charity gala for art auction / Floating office in mobile sauna / Beach shoot with pizza and kids / etc. I mean, stop complaining, right?! The thing is, while all the things I do here are amazing and beautiful, and wonderfully idyllic—my job is to exhibit something that represents someone’s livelihood, the embodiment of their hard labour, talent, and dreams. Because I take that job very seriously, I take on a lot of self-imposed pressure and sometimes need to force myself to step back and wind down.

What is your go-to dinner recipe?

I totally stink at cooking. My husband, however, is a former chef and he has a beautiful repertoire. I stick to creative, pretty stuff, like cheese & char boards.

Which you clearly excel at! Each item is so lovingly placed and artfully curated. Are you as organized with your work? Any tips for how to stay organized?

Organization is my lifelong challenge and especially after becoming a mom. I found that my focus was always only on Sebastian and everything else just flew out of my brain. Four years later, I’m pretty sure this is a permanent condition! These days I use a planner pretty religiously, take copious notes, and always remind everyone to remind me of basically everything constantly.

We live by our planners and we can’t seem to get completely away from analog! 

Is there something in your closet that makes you feel great?

I have totally simplified my shoe collection since moving to the County and basically, I live in Blundstones all fall/winter because they go from the vineyard to the brewpub, and then slip ons in the warm season, like Natives or Soak slides that take me from town to beach with cuteness and no fuss. It’s insanely liberating to always be comfy, situation appropriate, and look cool enough—though not high fashion in your footwear. I’m loving it.

Are you loving on any Instagram accounts lately?

My friend Lauren from @thisrenegadelove is a forever inspiration. She’s a champion for all that’s good in the blogging industry, she’s a lovely human, and she takes beautiful, honest photos. Another person I love is Tara McMullen who’s just joined the LIFE AU LAIT team as our official photographer. She’s an incredible mom to the most wonderful little boy. She’s so talented and real and brilliant and her photos and captions about motherhood and life are so inspiring. Then there are the gajillions of winemakers and chefs and farmers and makers and other County gems that make up the balance of my Instagram follows…

Being a city girl, would you ever move back to Toronto or is it PEC for life?

As you can probably tell, I’m pretty smitten with The County. When we planned to move here we planned to live our lives in the countryside and travel regularly to all the great cities we love across the globe. While we do travel a little—mostly to New York and London (my husband is English and all of his family are there), I’ll admit that we’ve stuck pretty close to home since moving. Between the beach, food, wine, and culture…it’s a hard sell to leave.

It sounds like the County has a plethora of cool peeps living and working here and it feels like you know most of them! Is there anyone you’d really love to meet that you haven’t yet? 

This year it’s David Frum. He has a place in the County and he’s a great political writer. I’m totally not—I typically distance myself from politics—but I love talking to great people about great things they know and (since Hitchens is off the table) I’d love to sit down, drink wine, and chat politics and life with David!

What are some things about being an entrepreneur in PEC that you feel are unique to the area/environment?

There’s an interesting landscape here because a lot of the business is seasonal, so people hustle really hard in the low season to stay afloat and never get to stop moving in the high one. Our magazine exists for both the locals and the tourists, so there isn’t ever a down time, but the reality of the number of tourist-reliant businesses here that we support isn’t lost on me and is something we always have to consider in how we approach our content at different times of the year.

Have you noticed differences with your parenting style in PEC versus in Toronto?

I have definitely embraced the lifestyle and the pace here. In Toronto, I felt I didn’t connect with the community as much in the mommy playgroups where I was the only mom in a sea of nannies. I loved my ‘caregiver crew’, but I was missing that connection with other parents, where we could chat about our long terms goals for myself and my child. Out here in PEC the children’s amenities are amazing. There are a ton of other young families and we’re all going through similar things with our kids as they grow up together. And don’t get me wrong, we love country life, but believe that it isn’t always straightforward! There are septic tanks to deal with, bug clouds that come out in June, and a major influx of goose shit on the lawn when they get home from Florida in the spring. But we look at all of these things as great adventures and funny down-the-road stories and, in the end, Mark, Sebastian, and I get to go through it all together.

How do you stay motivated to hustle all year long? We would be totally distracted by all the amazing things happening all the time!

I’m a romantic, I guess. I see the beauty in absolutely everything and the love I have for this place and the people in it is all encompassing. I love working with people who are extremely talented and passionate about what they do, which I’ve found here almost without exception. I’ve worked in publishing for a long time and never felt this way about my job before and I know it’s because I’m investing in the place I plan to spend my life in. The place where Mark and I will raise my beautiful little boy and watch him grow up breathing clean air, eating vegetables straight out of the garden, and feeling the soft, white beach sand in between his toes. It’s all pretty motivating.

If you’re considering a trip to Prince Edward County, be sure to visit LIFE AU LAIT and read up on all the great places to visit, and learn all about the people and their stories. We didn’t want to leave and it certainly won’t be our last trip to the County—with a vibrant and dynamic startup/parenting community there are so many more stories to share. 

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