Living Every Day to The Fullest: Grad Turns Life Lessons into Consulting Business, Advocacy Efforts

Story by Rob O’Flanagan

   
  
    
  
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    His dog , Sawyer, in the lead, Drew Cumpson motors down the back  roads near his home, with personal support worker Matt Crosgrove alongside.

His dog , Sawyer, in the lead, Drew Cumpson motors down the back  roads near his home, with personal support worker Matt Crosgrove alongside.

Drew Cumpson books it on the back roads of Loyalist Township in his power wheelchair, an Invacare TDX SP model loaded with features. He steers, brakes and guns it with subtle movements of his head and neck. His T-shirt reads “Eat. Sleep. Travel” – the slogan of his former school at the University of Guelph.

Cumpson’s dog, Sawyer, takes the lead as Cumpson motors down the blacktop, alongside hayfields north of Amherstview, in the rolling landscape upcountry from Lake Ontario’s northeastern shore.

The young man’s personal support workers have trouble keeping up. One lags well behind, preserving her energy, while another quicksteps alongside. The chair goes just fast enough to give Sawyer a workout and Cumpson a breeze.

A graduate of the School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management, Cumpson, 26, is a determined, stubborn and resilient person who is on a mission to live life to the fullest. As a quadriplegic, he wants to help others with disabilities do the same.

His life over the last six years, he says, has been one big learning curve – a difficult process of learning to live well after suddenly losing the use of his arms and legs. He has lots of experiential learning to share.

Earlier this year, Cumpson launched his website www.drewcumpson.com, the centrepiece of his H & D (Hospitality and Disability) Consulting business. He advises restaurants, hotels and airlines on improving accessibility, while coaching people with disabilities in everything from travel planning to obtaining post-secondary education to maintaining a healthy attitude.

He also advocates for better health services for people with disabilities, and for changes to the Ontario Disability Support Program so it provides more support for those wanting to get o the program, earn a living or start a business.

“Yes, my life has changed,” he says, sitting in the open-space living room of the rural home built specially for him by his family, close to the medical services he needs in nearby Kingston.

“I cannot do all the same things that I used to do, but I try to do as many of those things as possible, in order to continue living a life that is comparable to what I would be doing if I did not have my accident. I have to go forward in life, no matter what. I am not giving up.”

A few days before the 2011 swimming accident that altered his life, Cumpson was looking out over Peru’s Andes Mountains from the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, among the seven wonders of the world. He vowed then to visit the remaining six. It was one of his last experiences on foot.

Unaccustomed to world travel as a person with a disability, he nevertheless visited Mexico’s Chichen Itza in early 2016, another of the world’s wonders. He did it because he promised himself he would.

He encountered many obstacles and inaccessible places. It inspired him to work to make travel easier for those with a disability.

“I’ve always been someone who, once something is in my mind, I am going to focus on completing that task, no matter what.”

In May 2011, Cumpson was part of a University of Guelph humanitarian trip to Peru, helping to improve the lives of local people living in poverty.

On the last day of the volunteer trip, he was swimming in the Pacific Ocean. One especially powerful wave drove him headfirst into the rocky ocean floor. The impact fractured the fourth cervical vertebra in his spine.

“I don’t really recall the first two or three weeks after the accident,” he says.

Paralyzed from the armpits down, he spent 16 months in intensive care at Kingston General Hospital. There were many complications. He was transferred to the former St. Mary’s of the Lake facility for complex continuing care, where he spent three years.

Now, Cumpson lives at home in a decidedly non-clinical setting. He requires round-the-clock care. Medical specialists monitor his health. He needs a ventilator to breathe and a pacemaker to ensure his heart rate remains above 60 beats per minute.

It was at St. Mary’s that he decided to resume his studies at U of G. He had been away for ve semes- ters. The option of transferring to Queen’s University in Kingston was suggested, but he said no. He would stick with what he called U of G’s “best in the nation” hospitality program.

“I wanted to show that even though you have a disability, you can still do everything from an educational perspective,” says Cumpson, whose tattoo of a leaping Moby Dick on his left bicep is a symbol of his own story of strength and survival.

After starting back at the University in January 2013, he learned that his mother was diagnosed with cancer. She fought a strong battle, he says, but died on July 17 that year.

Cumpson persevered. He took all the distance education classes he could. Skype allowed him to attend further courses remotely. Other students took notes for him. Faculty and sta did whatever was necessary to make it happen. “They were just amazing,” Cumpson says.

Mike von Massow, now a professor in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics, was teaching in the College of Business and Economics when Cumpson made his return to his studies.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it,” says von Massow. “His commitment to finishing the program – and the support he got from other students – was admirable. It really was amazing. It was inspira- tional when he came across the stage to graduate.”

Cumpson’s body is confined, but his mind is unconstrained. It darts and dashes, keeping him awake at night.

“My brain never shuts off,” he says. “It does not shut off at all.”

He is bombarded by thoughts about his future, his consulting business, the challenges he faces and how best to overcome them. There is a connecting thread of optimism running through it all.

   
  
    
  
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    Cumpson’s optimism, and his smile, shines through.

Cumpson’s optimism, and his smile, shines through.

 “I’ve honestly never seen him have a negative day,” says Madison Simmons, a best friend. “He’s always positive. He’s just so driven. When he sets his mind to something, he has to see it through.”

Before his accident, Cumpson had no idea of the challenges facing people with disabilities. “As someone who went from being able-bodied to disabled in an instant, I realized very quickly how inaccessible it is, and how many barriers there are in this world for people living with disabilities of any kind.”

Yet Cumpson doesn’t think of himself as disabled. “In terms of my disability, I look at it more as not really a disability, but something along the lines of just having different abilities now than what I had before. My abilities in life have changed, but I still have these other abilities to push forever and work through in life.”

This story, reprinted with permission, originally appeared in The University of Guelph’s Portico Magazine. 

H & D Consulting, Cumpson’s consulting practice offers practical guidance for people with disabilities on

  • the dos and don’ts of world travel
  • the pursuit of higher education
  • the art of self advocacy
  • sex and relationships

 

Associate Account Manager: Tanner Fryfogel’s WorkStory

By Erica Pulling, WorkStory Ambassador  at Western University

Tanner Fryfogel.jpg

Tanner Fryfogel is an associate account manager in commercial banking at RBC.  He is responsible for maintaining positive relationships with business owners, and introducing them to other bank employees to help with their specific needs.  In addition to working with existing customers, he also tries to meet new clients and bring them over to RBC. 

Tanner completed a two-year diploma at Fanshawe College in Business, followed by an advanced diploma in leadership and management.  During his time at Fanshawe, he realised that getting a university degree would open more doors in the field he was interested in, so he decided to use the credits he had already earned towards a degree at Nipissing University.  With those, he studied another one year and a semester to complete a Bachelor of Business Administration degree.

While completing his last semester of university, Tanner learned about The RBC Career LaunchTM Program offered through RBC.  Each year, this program hires 100 recent graduates from around Canada for a one-year contract.  Because of his interest in commercial banking, Tanner felt this program would be a good fit for him.  Initially, he applied for the program online.  He was then contacted for a phone interview, followed by a Skype interview.  After successfully completing the first three steps, Tanner was brought to Guelph for a panel interview with other applicants from the area.  During the interview, applicants were put through a variety of tasks designed to test how well they could think on their feet.  After successfully completing this interview, Tanner was accepted into the program. 

In late January, Tanner and the other new employees in the program were brought to Toronto for a three-day conference.  During these three days they were given the opportunity to hear a number of speakers and get to know the other members of the program.  After the conference, Tanner returned to London, where he completed the program.  The first six months of the program were spent working in a branch.  During this time, he spent four days a week working as a bank teller, helping clients, and doing tasks around the branch.  The fifth day was spent on training and personal development, where he was able to develop skills like communication, teamwork, and critical thinking. 

Next, Tanner spent three months working at Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU). YOU is a not-for-profit organization located in London, Ontario dedicated to helping youth in the community by providing them with the skills, confidence, and independence they need to succeed.  During these three months, Tanner was responsible for helping with business development.  This involved taking care of marketing activities, selling products created by young people in the program, creating and pricing gift baskets, and helping in any other way he could. 

After his time at YOU, Tanner spent the remaining three months working at a regional branch in commercial banking services. He was put in charge of a special project investigating how best the branch could open up communications and get better wealth management referrals.  RBC noticed that clients who used RBC for their business banking often used a different bank for their personal investments, and Tanner was responsible for investigating why this disconnect existed, and how they might be able to solve the problem.  According to Tanner, this was a great opportunity to learn more about commercial banking, as well as to network and meet people who he may not have otherwise met. 

At the end of the 12 months, Tanner and the other employees were brought back to Toronto for a final conference that signalled the end of the program.  Shortly thereafter, Tanner was called back in for his current position as an associate account manager.  

Tanner’s favourite part of the job is working with a variety of people, and getting to know clients.  Since every business owner is different, he enjoys figuring people out and getting to learn about people. 

When asked his opinion regarding how current students could be successful in finding a job after graduation, Tanner stresses the importance of networking.  He recommends taking the opportunity to get out and meet new people, and to keep in touch with them.  He believes the Career Launch Program was very useful because it allowed him to meet so many people in his field of interest.  According to Tanner, knowing people makes it that much easier to find a job! 

Alumni Husband-and-Wife Collaboration A Success

By Jennifer Ammoscato

Everything in life is a process.  Just ask University of Windsor grads Tristan Boutros BComm ’06 & Jennifer Cardella BA ’06

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  Photo credit: Steve Biro

Photo credit: Steve Biro

Boutros, who majored in business, and Cardella, who focused on psychology, not only collaborated on their book, The Basics of Process Improvement—they even applied its principles to planning their wedding.

“Life is full of processes, whether you’re talking about how a business functions, or how to make sure your wedding goes off without a hitch,” says Boutros. “The idea of process improvement is something that goes far beyond the corporate world.”

When it comes to business, Boutros suggests thinking about every company as an ecosystem where everything is interconnected to a wide variety of touch points, both inside and out.

“Process connects it all. How a company operates from day to day within itself and with its suppliers and customers, including people, process and technology, he says. “For example, how an order is placed, right through the entire order to cash process. My job is to make sure things are being handled as efficiently as possible.”

Boutros serves as chief operating officer, Product, Technology & Design, for The New York Times. In that role, he spends his days considering ways to optimize how the 165-year-old news organization operates, and develop solutions which allow it to maintain its high-quality, well- respected product while saving costs.

Boutros, who began in the position in January 2016, brought to it more than 10 years of business, technology, and management consulting experience at such companies as DTE Energy, IAC, BlackBerry, and Warner Music Group. He also holds more than 10 professional designations.

“I’ve always been a process-oriented person,” says Boutros. “Very analytical and organized. It’s in my DNA.”

In university, he focused on marketing and advertising with a minor in computer science.” As a student, he ran his own e-commerce business selling DVDs, Books and CDs. He says that experience was the basis for where he is now.

“I learned all about business processes. I dealt with orders, kept track of revenues, and learned how to automate. I was learning about process management without knowing it.”

In his current role, Boutros focuses on the digital side of The New York Times—its robust website and the consumer products it offers, as well as its internal systems. It must compete in a difficult environment in which most newspapers are undergoing large, digital transformations in the wake of declining ad revenues and increasing market pressures.

“My specialty is to come into those difficult transitions, where companies want to be excellent and efficient, and find a way to increase quality while increasing agility and efficiency.”

Jennifer Cardella says her “passion” for process management was ignited courtesy of UWindsor psychology professor Ted Vokes.

“He was a phenomenal professor,” she says. “I took one ofhis courses and we had a great conversation about organizational psychology. I immediately connected to it. I saw how psychology and business go hand-in-hand. He had a large influence over where I am today.”

Post-graduation, Cardella held positions at some of the same places as Boutros, including Pernod Ricard, IAC and Blackberry. Her roles evolved from the accounting department, recruitment and business analysis to project and process management.

Today, she is Vice President, Strategic Vendor Management, and Project Management Office for Viacom, an American media conglomerate that’s home to such brands as MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1, CMT and Comedy Central. She joined the company almost two years ago.

In her role, Cardella is responsible for the vendor management and project management offices. On a day-to-day basis, that might mean making sure that the departments within Technology have the process, tools and services available to execute their projects whether that be internal initiatives or an award show.

“I’m not the project manager delivering the solution,” she explains. “I’m making sure they have the right agile project management tools for both planning and execution. I oversee the greater portfolio.”

Cardella considers herself “in love” with “agile methodology”—a disciplined, project management process that encourages frequent inspection and adaptation, a leadership philosophy that encourages teamwork, self-organization and accountability, a set of engineering best practices to allow for rapid delivery of high-quality software, and a business approach that aligns development with customer needs and company goals.

There are several different software methodologies thatcan achieve this. Cardella is an ardent fan of Lean Six Sigma,a methodology that relies on a collaborative team effort to improve performance by systematically removing waste. The training for Lean Six Sigma is provided through the belt-based training system—white belts, yellow belts, green belts, black belts and master black belts— similar to judo.

Earlier in her career, she acquired her Green Belt and then continued to earn more certifications. “It was really important to me and I paid for it on my own.”

She brought the green belt course to Viacom. “I want people to recognize that we want to invest in them. At the end of the day, it’s the people who make the company.”

Cardella volunteers as a mentor to young women today and is looking forward to volunteering in co-ordination with Viacom as a part of Girls Who Code, a national mentoring program in the US meant to encourage young women to consider technology as a career.

“Tech jobs are part of the fastest-growing in the country but girls are being left behind,” she says. “The job is to close the gender gap in technology. I want to help women succeed and to be fully integrated into that.”

The decision for husband and wife to collaborate on a book about process management was a natural one for them. But it wasn’t Boutros’ first book on the subject.

In 2013, Boutros and his mentor, Tim Purdie, published the award-winning book, The Process Improvement Handbook:A Blueprint for Managing Change and Increasing Organizational Performance with McGraw Hill. “It was much more of a textbook about process management,” he explains.

The second, The Basics of Process Improvement, in collaboration with Cardella, came out in 2016. “It’s much more of a practical read. The feedback we’ve received is that it is very easy to use in day-to- day jobs,” says Boutros. This book has also received critical praise, and has been a finalist in both the USA Best Book Awards, and Book Viral Awards, while being nominated for several others.

Working together had its challenges, the largest being how to divide family responsibilities while writing. “Some days I was largely with the kids and other days Jennifer took the lead,” says Boutros. “I think the toughest thing was dealing with the amount of timeit took to write the book with a young family, as we had deadlinesto meet.”

The Basics of Process Improvement was featured at a January 2017 conference with the Process Excellence Network in Orlando, Fla. The couple gave the keynote address. Cardella is also slated to be a panel speaker in April at The Workfront 2017 Leap Conference.

They plan to launch a new book in summer 2017, Agile Process Management. “It won’t be focused on process improvement as much as how a company can be agile—more responsive to needs and changing situations,” says Boutros. “It will be for people who want more innovative and newer methods of product delivery.”

So devoted is the couple to the value of process management that they incorporated it into their wedding planning.

Says Boutros, “We planned a destination wedding in three or four hours. We prioritized, assigned duties, and largely completed any needed tasks within a four-week period.”

“We had sticky notes all over the walls,” says Cardella. “It was our wedding war room.” The wedding went off without a hitch.

This approach has continued into their marriage and daily lives. “We look at every aspect of our family and assess if and how we could improve it. Things like, outsourcing certain household chores such as having groceries delivered directly to buy us more time as a family together. We also use visual management, like having a family board with chores and tasks on it.”

Although Boutros and Cardella are in the same field, Boutros admits that they differ on how rigorous to be about planning. “Jen is more relaxed. She’s accepts shifts and evolution more so than me.I push execution a bit much sometimes.”

“I know when to slack off a little,” adds Cardella. “But, he’sthe one who gets us back on the right path. He’s definitely had an excellent influence over my path and I attribute a lot of my success to him.”

The Basics of Process Improvement (CRC Press 2016)  Agile Process Management (CRC Press 2017)  Available on Amazon

This story, reprinted with permission, originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of VIEW, the University of Windsor Alumni Magazine

Camille Porthouse Returns as “The Fairy Goth Mother”

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Camille Porthouse was last interviewed for WorkStory in 2014 at the beginning of her career as an Alternative Photographer. While she initially took photos for the music industry, a “Zombie Walk” ironically brought her passion to life. From there, Camille Porthouse Photography focused on the darker, more twisted things in life. It has since been rebranded as Fairy Goth Mother Studios in order to reflect Camille’s mission: “to help people be themselves and learn that you can find empowerment in letting your freak flag fly”.

Camille’s metamorphosis into “The Fairy Goth Mother” took a year to complete and she explained how something negative turned into something positive along the way: “I decided to re-brand in early 2016 after a year-long hiatus.  I wasn’t in a great place emotionally in 2015, and I felt unable to channel it into my art so I took a break. When I started to find myself and live more, I felt my passion coming back, and sat down to evaluate what this company is to me. I came upon the name Fairy Goth Mother Studios when I thought about the models I worked with that loved the alternative industry but didn’t fit into it. I worked to transform them … and thus acted like a fairy god mother of sorts-- just darker, of course…. At this point, I finally feel like my art can help people embrace their bodies, their sexuality, their inner weirdo, and see media and pop culture as a usable platform and not just some ‘body shaming industry’”.

When asked about what remained the same as the company changed, Camille replied: “My pre-shoot nerves are always tried and true. I have this moment the day of a shoot where I think to myself, ‘Oh my gosh! What have I gotten myself into?’ It doesn’t matter how long I have been preparing, I always have a huge inner panic”.

Fairy Goth Mother Studios is actually located inside Camille’s home, which helps relieve some of the stress for her and the models. Before each session, Camille gets to know her client(s) and they plan their photoshoot together over a few drinks:  “I like to really know the person modelling for me. It helps me pull out the emotion I am hoping to capture.  I recently bought a townhouse and chose to convert the basement into a studio. This is why we can have casual beers and hang out.  I have started to furnish my home with shooting in mind. I added a fireplace in my bedroom and a lovely canopy over my bed. I even [positioned] it so it would get the best natural light for Boudoir sessions. What can I say? I love this career.”

In November 2016, Camille displayed her work at RAW, a Kitchener-Waterloo based art show. In the days that followed, she was then approached to have her work on display in another Kitchener gallery. When she asked the curators what type of art they were looking for, they responded, “The weirder, the better!” and Camille is up for the challenge! In the past, Camille has described her work as “risqué” and originally didn’t see herself as an artist. Today she accepts her artistry and stresses that “it is so much more than a half-naked girl in a weird pose”.

“I started out not wanting to think of myself as an artist. I shot the things people wanted me to do and acted like photography was just a chill side-job…. I downplayed what I loved the most and in turn I doubted myself….  Over the last year I have really embraced what my art is. It’s a part of who I am [and] it’s how I view aspects of society… I always felt that everyone has a little hidden side to them, a side that they don’t show off to the rest of society because it isn’t appropriate or the social norm…. My work is risqué and provocative to some, but as I have grown as an artist I see the human body as something completely different than what some take at face value….”

Seeing the body differently may also be due to do with the fact that Camille works 6 days a week in the medical field as well! “I absolutely adore human anatomy, biomechanics, blood, gore, emergencies etc. so a career in the healthcare industry is a no-brainer! I am nerdy and logic-based and adore reading medical textbooks, but I also daydream about covering a model in cake and glitter.”

Before RAW, Camille had never been face-to-face with a critic, but she said overall the “response was amazing”. “I got to watch strangers look at my work for the first time.  There were [some] that didn’t seem to enjoy my work, but … people wanted to know the inspiration behind my images! No one had ever asked me that before and I got to open up and discuss the different layers and how I integrated them into my work. I was told that my work was inspiring, that people could see how comfortable I am with myself from my work, that they hoped to push their personal boundaries with their work after seeing mine, and that I should absolutely refuse to ever censor [myself]! I could have cried! I never thought that anyone would feel that way about my work.  It made me realize just what kind of impact I can have on people and that makes me want to do more and make people celebrate their oddities and just be free.” Camille Porthouse said that her goal as The Fairy Goth Mother in 2017 is to “push more boundaries, meet more people, and make them loosen up!” She will probably also cover models in cake and glitter.

You can connect with Camille on social media here, here and here.  

Painting the Town Red: Carly’s Work Story

By Abigayle Walker, WorkStory Ambassador at University of Ottawa

We last saw Carly Silberstein in her first WorkStory back in 2012, when the Western University grad was working as a corporate event coordinator at KCI Management. Now, Carly comes back to share her journey on becoming a successful entrepreneur. She is the CEO and cofounder of a startup company, based in Toronto, called Redstone Agency . Being active members of industry associations, Carly and her business partner noticed that there was a gap in the market – younger generations were just not being represented or engaged by these types of organizations.

Redstone–  the youngest-run association management company in Canada– was created to fill this void.  

The agency provides its clientele with a well-rounded assortment of services that include event and association management, digital and technology solutions, and consultations. The business works with organizations such as TalentEgg, the Women’s Business Network, Women in Nuclear Canada and the Planning Standards Board to name a few.

Carly is truly passionate about her career and company! She especially loves the team that she works with and interacting with clients. Since Redstone represents a wide array of companies in different fields, Carly has the opportunity to wear many different hats and is required to perform a wide variety of tasks. She enjoys that every day is new and exciting.

The team at Redstone is constantly hard at work. Some days, they work on client events while other days are spent in the office, brainstorming and strategizing. Being a startup company, the Redstone team works vigorously to increase professional development and acquiring networking opportunities. The priority, however, is always to serve the client.

The success of Carly’s business is dependent not only on the hard work the team does, but also their ability to build and foster relationships. They always make a conscious effort to stay up-to-date on the constant pulse of the trade. The team also contributes to the field by volunteering, writing in industry publications, and participating in industry and non-industry events.

For aspiring event planners and entrepreneurs, Carly strongly recommends joining professional associations to create professional ties. She also stresses the importance of volunteering and internships/co-op, which she says are crucial because the experience gained is invaluable. Volunteering one’s time is a great opportunity to learn from others in the business. Carly’s closing remark was to always say “yes”…you won’t know what you’re going to love until you try it!

Natalie Pecile…Making the world a better place

By Danila Di Croce

Photo by Giulio Muratori

Photo by Giulio Muratori

When Natalie Pecile decided to study science throughout high school, she was planning to follow in her father’s footsteps and become an engineer. However, that all changed when she realized that her extroverted personality was far better suited for the business world. 

Her decision was definitely the right one as this recent alumnus of York University’s Schulich School of Business has flourished with the opportunities her program provided her. At 21, this native of Toronto has already garnered a pretty impressive résumé. She spent a semester abroad in Bangkok, Thailand, developed a literacy program at her old elementary school, competed in Dubai for the Hult Prize, held the title of VP of Operations of Schulich’s Undergraduate Business Society, and she was just recently hired for a full-time position with the Tim Hortons Leadership Development Program. “I’ve always been interested in how to apply myself to benefit society,” she says. “Originally, I specialized in accounting and the non-profit business sector; however, I then switched to focus on marketing and entrepreneurship.”

That switch is what led her to Dubai. In her fourth year at Schulich, Pecile directed her focus on social entrepreneurship and social business. This resulted in her, along with three of her classmates, entering a local competition organized by the Hult Prize Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to launching the world’s next wave of social entrepreneurs. The competition invites students to develop new ideas for sustainable start-up enterprises that will help to solve the planet’s biggest challenges. Although Pecile and her team did not win, she points out that the experience was definitely worthwhile. “It was very empowering; it allowed me to use everything I had learned at school up until that point and apply it to a global challenge that I am really passionate about. It helped me to look at our issues with new perspectives and taught me to be more flexible and open to change, which I think will be very helpful moving forward.”

Pecile’s experience in Bangkok, Thailand, also left her with a positive impression. “Meeting people, discussing career options with them, and observing individuals who were pursing entrepreneurship was a great career influence.”

 Nowadays, Pecile is focusing on her new position at the Tim Hortons Leadership Development Program, which allows individuals to train in different areas of the business before deciding on which sector to commit to. “I am excited about the program as it gives me the opportunity to try out new things; most especially to experience marketing in ‘the real world,’ outside of school.”

When she isn’t busy trying out new ventures in the business world, Pecile occupies her time with organizing and overseeing events at York University. She also devotes time to the arts. As a graduate of the Royal Conservatory of Music, Pecile enjoys playing the piano. When asked how she balances it all, Pecile credits her family for their support. “My parents have always let me make my decisions freely. They have always been supportive and helpful with their advice.”

She also credits her strong family ties for helping shape the person she has become. “We are close; for each special occasion we all gather at my grandparents’ house, and I really appreciate that because I know that not everyone has that.” She acknowledges both sets of grandparents, who hail from the Friuli and Lazio regions of Italy, for helping keep her connected to her Italian roots. “A lot of my Italian influence comes from food and speaking the language. Initially I learned Italian was I was little, and then I switched to English. My grandparents have always shown us traditions such as making sausages, wine and pasta sauce.”

In regards to continuing traditions, Pecile explains, “I definitely want to put more time into the Italian culture and concentrate on it more. I would love to improve in my speaking and continue the language with future generations of my family.”

When asked where she sees herself in the near future, Pecile says, “I want to learn everything about the business and hopefully one day become a successful entrepreneur. Having all parts of your life balanced and working hard at something, while improving the lives of others – that would be ideal.”

Reprinted with permission from Panoram Italia    

 

Canadian Cool: Illbury and Goose putting the hip back in the Great White North

by Jason Winders

Everybody has that story – that time at a cottage, that time at the beach, that time where waves lapped at your toes while a bonfire warmed your back. Meghan Kraft and Daniel Phillips want you to remember those times every time you think of their brand.

 “We want to be a Canadian heritage brand, a lifestyle brand meant for every Canadian,” Kraft said. “People want to be proud to be Canadian, but they don’t want a tacky T-shirt to do it in. We have given them that opportunity to be cool and hip and trendy and socially responsible – all things Canadians are.”

Kraft, BSc’14 (Animal Behaviour), along with Phillips, a Fanshawe College graphic design graduate, are the creators of Illbury and Goose, a Canadian clothing and lifestyle company.

Today, the company is gaining attention not only for its style, but for its commitment to produce clothing, accessories and apothecary items for Canadian in Canada, all toward a mission of taking the definition of Canadian beyond “campfires and dogsleds.”

And it all started a handful of years ago with a couple of T-shirts.

In 2012, a gap in the “cool, unique products for guys” space led Phillips to design their first handful of shirts – one design showing a skull among geometric shapes, another bombers dropping wasps from their bays. They were cool, but perhaps not as deep as some thought.

“People thought we were sending this huge, huge political message,” Phillips laughed. “Honestly, we just thought they looked cool. I really just wanted a shirt with a skeleton on it.”

And so did a lot of other people.

The company – then known as dpms (Dan Phillips Media Studio) – was a face-to-face business from the start. It grew thanks to hustle and chutzpa.

Customers connected with them over a rented table at the Western Fair Farmers and Crafts Market or countless summer festivals across the region. Strangers came by the pair’s apartment to pick up orders. They sold beaded bracelets straight off their wrists in bars around town.

“We pretty much traveled anywhere where we could influence people in short time spurts. It was such a cool thing. We got to test market our product in this really organic way,” Kraft said. “We never forced it; there was no plan. We did something, people liked it and we decided to keep doing that.”

As the company grew in popularity, so did the product line – hats, leather goods, even personal care and apothecary items.

The breakthrough came when they were recruited into Biz Inc. (now Propel), Western’s business accelerator, and opened a popup store in the basement of the University Community Centre in November 2012. “That was the most inspirational, most important thing that ever happened to me at Western,” Kraft said.

The following academic year, she deepened her connection to Biz Inc. She lived there in many ways, using the space to study and work on the business. Today, Kraft credits John Pollock, former Director of Biz Inc., for the company’s biggest push.

“Our business would not be the same without him. He really started pushing us to figure out who we were, what we wanted to do,” she said of the man she still calls “one of my greatest mentors.” “We were forced to write our business plan, create some goals and really figure out our company’s values. We didn’t know any of that going in because it was an experiment until then.

“All of the pieces started connecting together at that point.”

In 2014, Kraft and Phillips won the Seed Your Startup competition and used the prize money to incorporate the business. With incorporation came a name change as the dpms name was shared with an American gun manufacturer.

Enter Illbury and Goose, a name honouring businesses run by their grandparents, Illbury Furs in Woodstock, Ont., and The Country Goose in Strathroy, Ont.

“We feel it is a really, strong Canadian heritage name. I feel like it could be comparable to Abercrombie and Fitch. It sounds so Canadian; the history behind the brand is unbelievable. That has led us to what Illbury and Goose is,” Kraft said.

Today, the company continues to sell via its website, illburyandgoose.com, and now boasts two physical locations, one opened at 884 Dundas Street in London in August 2015, a second on Queen Street West in Toronto in August 2016.

The signature product is its logo, a maple leaf fused to the top of an anchor. Not only is it the top-selling item, but it ‘anchors’ the company’s brand story better than any other single item.

“We get to hear these amazing stories from our customers wearing the brand around the world,” Kraft said. “It is absolutely crazy. We were selling T-shirts in a park and from our house, and four years later, we have all this.”

This article appeared in the Fall2016 edition of Western University’s Alumni Gazette. Reprinted with permission.

Dynamix Fitness: Lisa’s WorkStory

By Abigayle Walker, WorkStory Ambassador at University of Ottawa

Lisa Bergart owns her own personal training company called Dynamix Fitness. Her business provides professional in-home training for customers in the greater Toronto region. Saving busy customers a trek to their local gym, Lisa brings the experience to them. With customized workout plans that are tailored to each client’s fitness level and goals, Lisa is dedicated to helping her clients attain the results they desire. Lisa says that there is nothing better than seeing her clients reach their fitness goals and be who they have always wanted to be. Having over a decade of experience in the health and wellness industry, Lisa says she loves her job!

Typically, Lisa starts her day at the bright and early time of 6 AM in order  to meet her first clients. After her morning sessions, Lisa responds to email leads and client text messages. She also takes this time to post to the company website and social media pages. Throughout the rest of the day, she drives around the city and holds training sessions. Lisa says that each day is completely difference and depends on her clients’ schedules.

Lisa received her undergraduate degree at York University in Health and Social Science. She says her degree had provided her with a strong foundation in the health profession. In addition to her undergraduate education, Lisa also received a diploma at The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, becoming a registered holistic nutritionist. She also went on to attain her certification as a post-rehabilitation specialist. This allows her to offer conditioning programs for over 30 medical conditions. In addition, she is also certified as a post and pre natal exercise specialist. On top of all this, Lisa took Seneca College’s Social Media program, which helped enhance her marketing and promotion skills.

Why start her own business?  Lisa had worked at several different gyms across Toronto; the last one being a private training studio. There, she gained the knowledge to create safe and effective customized training, which she needed to start her own business. Lisa was given extra motivation when two of the gymnastic teams she had been coaching received bronze medals overseas, at the Maccabiah Games in the summer of 2013. In addition to being this thrilled by this, it gave her that much more confidence in her ability to train people to reach their fitness goals. 

Lisa says that the success of her business is due to her strong social media presence, as well as her strong community connections through and events with various organizations.  Lisa’s business was featured at the Toronto Women's Expo, Feel Good Women's Expo, Cancer Recovery Foundation of Canada, and The Thornhill, Vaughan, and Aurora Festivals. Although her success has been on an upward incline, Lisa says one of the biggest challenges with owning her own business is staying up-to-date with all the current health and fitness trends.

Lisa’s advice for other young entrepreneurs who want to start their own businesses? Create a business plan and have monthly goals that excite you. Specifically for those in the health and fitness field, Lisa stresses the importance of staying current with health and fitness trends on social media. Her closing words?  Follow your passions and priorities!

An Apple a Day?

Interesting entrepreneurial combination…an apple researcher who is allergic to apples, a sommelier & wine-maker, a chemistry PhD, a food & drink industry expert --- and the fabulous orchards of Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley!   

Read more about Annapolis Cider Company ….and if you are in Wolfville, check out the cidery and tasting bar on Main Street!