The Road to Radio: Rachel Ettinger’s WorkStory

By Michael Slipenkyj, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

Most young people begin post-secondary education with some idea of what they want to do for the rest of their lives. But many quickly discover that the career they dreamed of won’t actually be a good fit for them.

Rachel Ettinger is one of these young people. As a horseback rider she dreamed of following her passion for animals with career as a veterinarian. She attended St. Francis Xavier University on a scholarship to study biology, but during her second year, after genetics and botany classes, Rachel realized that she was no longer enjoying biology the way she thought she should be. She then made the difficult decision not to pursue a career as a vet.

While contemplating switching her major to business she talked to one of her professors who explained how she could take her electives and a couple summer classes -- and graduate with a double major resulting in two degrees!

Rachel followed this advice and took all her spare classes in business. After her fourth year she graduated with a Bachelor of Science along with her biology classmates.  And after her fifth year she graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration.

One summer, wanting to stay in Halifax with her friends from school, Rachel got a job working with Virgin Radio Halifax as part of its Summer Cruiser program. A friend-  who had previously worked at the Summer Cruiser program - recognized what a good fit Rachel would be for the job and recommended she apply. Rachel loved working for the Cruiser Program as it gave her the opportunity to see a lot of the city, meet new people, and attend many fun events!

Toward the end of the summer, Rachel was offered a job filling in on the morning show at 101.3 The BOUNCE in Halifax. Even though she had little experience as a radio host, she took the opportunity and loved it!  By the end of the summer she was offered the job.  Valuing her education, she declined the first full-time job offer as the morning show co-host. But after she finished her fifth year at university and graduated with her B.B.A she was again offered the job as the morning co-host at 101.3 The BOUNCE in Halifax. This time, without any hesitation, she took the job.

At first, it was not easy. Rachel began with very little knowledge about how to be a radio and television host. But she did not let the stress bring her down. And, as she looks back on it now, she notes that “In one way it was good, because I didn’t have any bad habits.”

Rachel started off working solely on the radio but, after a couple of months the 2015 World Men’s Curling Championships in Halifax gave Rachel her first television opportunity.  Working as the lead correspondent for CTV News, she proved her capabilities and got her foot in the television industry door, so to speak.

Rachel worked in Halifax for a year and a half before being promoted to the morning co-host at 97.5 Virgin Radio in London, Ontario.  She doesn’t know where her job will take her next, but she hopes the skills she learns from her current role will help her evolve along with the drastically changing radio and television industry.

Rachel’s advice?   While a university degree is not a prerequisite for a career in radio and television, Rachel observes that people with post-secondary education are often successful in their career because “they build certain skills, I believe, through education. They learned how to be on a team and how to do projects together and all those things will help with any job”.

One reason Rachel loves her job is that it’s a great fit -- with both her education and her personality. Her education provided her great life skills on how to handle teams and show up prepared. And her outgoing personality really meshes well with her co-host, Jeff Kelly, making them a relatable duo for their listeners. In Rachel’s own words, “Somewhere in a car, somebody will relate to you, and that’s the entire point”.

Rachel also loves working in the media industry because of the many opportunities it provides. She loves being part of community events and has met many people and made many friends.  And these interactions provide her a great way to connect with the people who she is actually trying to speak to on her radio show. While she is by no means the biggest fan of early mornings, Rachel absolutely loves scanning through all the social media, figuring out what’s popular and important, and getting that information to her audience in the morning.

Overall, Rachel loves working in television and radio because it provides her an outlet to communicate issues that she cares about. She loves learning about current issues and telling more people about them. While degrees in biology and business may not seem like ideal path for a radio host, Rachel’s education taught her important life skills which really help her connect with her audience. As Rachel puts it, “It doesn’t really matter what your background is for certain things…it’s based on foundational skills…and getting where you want to go”

Check out Rachel every week day on Mornings with Jeff and Rachel from 5:30am-9:00am on 97.5 Virgin Radio!

Taking his shot: Simu Liu, HBA’11, brings entrepreneur skills to Hollywood

By Angie Wiseman   

Becoming an actor on a popular new Canadian TV show or a stunt double on a Fall Out Boy music video was not at all on Simu Liu’s radar when he was working as an accountant in Toronto. Until he was laid off – and his world opened up.

“I remember feeling oddly free in that moment. I was without a job, but I thought I can do whatever I want. This is my one chance to really just try something. I owe it to myself to really give it a shot,” said Liu, HBA’11.

This past year, Liu’s acting career has gained momentum, with the success of his roles on CBC’s Kim’s Convenience and NBC’s Taken. Despite his respect for Toronto’s strong film industry, his ultimate goal is to move to Hollywood. On a recent trip there, he met with agents and casting directors in Los Angeles, including doctor-turned actor Ken Jeong (best known for his role in The Hangover) about a possible buddy cop movie that Liu hopes to write.

“I started talking to him (Jeong) on Twitter. When I got to L.A., he said come by the set and we can hang out more. So I ended up spending a lot of time with him. His advice was that you can’t wait. I joked that we should do a buddy cop movie for both of us and he said, ‘If you write it, I’ll be in it,” Liu said.

While there is no formal training to show actors how to network, Liu credits his networking and soft skills courses at Ivey Business School with giving him the tools he needed to push forward in his career and not be afraid to reach out.

“The hard part is to think of it (your career) as a start-up and think of yourself as an entrepreneur rather than an artist that waits for the phone to ring for opportunities,” he said.

“I spent so many years struggling as an actor. Then suddenly, I’m in demand. The only thing actors want to do is work. It was amazing – tiring, brutal and amazing,” he said of his recent schedule shooting two television shows at once.

In a long list of acting credentials Liu also includes stunt man, writer, director and producer – all skills that round out his already full resume.

Following his layoff from his accounting firm, Liu started out by looking at TV and film opportunities on Craigslist. In amongst some of the more unsavory ads was a posting for the movie Pacific Rim by director Guillermo del Toro. The movie was being shot in Toronto and they were looking for extras. The role paid just $10 dollars an hour, but it was the stepping stone Liu needed to start his acting career. As soon as he arrived on set he knew he was home.

“I ended up falling in love with everything I saw. People have careers devoted to the movies. It wasn’t just the actors – the assistant director, the gaffers working the lights – it was everything. It was such a big production.”

While Ivey attracted him to Western, Liu credits one of his first experiences as a frosh with giving him his first taste of fame and one he would reflect on often as he launched his acting career.

“The three sciences do O-Week together. So they had this big talent show where each of the sciences would audition one champion. Then on the final night of O-Week, they compete against each other on stage – and I won,” he said.

Liu used his dance, gymnastics and martial arts skills to put his routine together, all skills he would later draw on to expand his acting offerings.

“I had a very interesting first few months because everyone knew who I was,” he laughed.

While Liu majored in accounting, he was always involved in extracurricular activities that fed his interests and would later act as experience as he built his resume for acting.

“I loved that I could find a group of people that were passionate about the same things as me and when I did graduate and found myself laid off a few months later, it was really great to have those other skills,” he said.

Although he didn’t always recognize acting as his future career, when Liu thinks back to the first spark of interest in acting, he harkens back to his childhood when his parents dropped him off at the movie theatre for the day. “I don’t think I even entertained the thought of bringing that up to them. I was raised by movies, musicals and TV shows. And I loved all of it. Of course, it’s totally natural that I would want to go into that eventually,” Liu said.

Despite his passion for the craft, growing up, Liu didn’t feel comfortable broaching the subject of acting with his parents, Chinese-born immigrants determined to provide the best life for their family in Canada.

“I never really gave myself permission to fully pursue it. For me, my parents, above all else, wanted stability because their life, coming from a different country, had been anything but stable,” he said.

Liu’s drive, determination and his ritual of checking Craigslist every morning enabled him to build his resume and gain experience. Some days he was paid as an extra on a movie or a TV show and some days he worked for free in a music video.

“Looking back through it all, at no point did I say, ‘I’m going to give up or call it quits.’ I was still convinced this was something I loved enough to keep going. It’s not just about getting a degree and conforming to someone else’s idea of success,” he said. “You need to be honest with yourself about what your interests are because if you do have something that you are truly passionate about but don’t pursue then you run the risk of waking up one day and realizing that you don’t actually like your life. Take the time and know yourself.”

This article appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of Western University’s Alumni Gazette. Reprinted with permission.

The art of newspaper design

By Andrew Vowles

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  Photo Credit:  Lindsay Lapchuk

Photo Credit:  Lindsay Lapchuk

Matt French tells stories not with words but with design.

An award-winning page designer and assistant art director for The Globe and Mail newspaper, he aims to create eye-catching page layouts that give readers a clear idea what the story is about before they read a sentence.

“The designer is there to make the message as clear and effective as they can,” says French, adding that a skillful design draws attention to the article rather than to the design elements, including graphics, photos and typography.

Take the Globe’s front-page coverage of last fall’s final report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The story was illustrated by oversize numerals that punched out the key points: numbers of victims, witnesses and deaths associated with the country’s former residential schools.

“The story was the numbers, and the numbers are the impact,” says French, B.Comm. ’07. “It’s not about any highfalutin’ image or fancy colour.”

Most days, French, 30, helps design the newspaper’s front page, working with a “cast of many,” including editors, headline writers and the paper’s creative director. Over the past year, he’s designed more than 300 front pages and thousands more inside.

French’s design skills are self-taught, but his career path started at U of G. Always driven to do creative work, he pursued a commerce degree thinking he could “make a living doing something creative in business” such as working for a marketing agency.

During a summer job in a marketing department, French took a stab at creating promotional material for trade publications. Back on campus during third and fourth year, he then worked at Guelph’s student newspaper, The Ontarion, as photo and graphics editor, and layout editor. Recalling those days, he says, “You were able to cut your teeth doing what you wanted. Learning from your mistakes gave you the freedom to make mistakes.”

Following graduation, he worked at the Woolwich Observer. After three years there, he worked for 24 Hours, a Toronto commuter newspaper, and the Toronto Sun, among others.

French got called up to the “big leagues” in 2011. Up to 400,000 people read The Globe and Mail’s weekend edition.

Among his notable Globe projects, he points to an “Unremembered” series of articles last year about the suicides of Canadian soldiers and veterans who fought in Afghanistan, as well as the 11th-hour package of reports covering the 2015 federal election that vaulted Justin Trudeau’s Liberals into power.

Another favourite was the 2012 Remembrance Day cover, with the word “Remember” stamped over a soldier’s image. “It did what it was intended to do: cause the reader to pause and reflect.”

A fan of the Washington Post and the Guardian, French brings what he calls a simple and subtle but graphic approach to his work, as well as a refined sense of visual literacy — all without getting in the way of the story.

Sitting down to assemble a page, he knows that reporters and editors might have put months of work and passion into the article. “At the end, I’m the person responsible for taking it over the finish line, making it sing so that people connect with it.”

 

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

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!

 

Food for thought: How my co-op at a local eatery led to multimillion-dollar success

By Katherine Murphy, General Manager, Nourish Kitchen & Café,  BCom ‘13

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     Katherine Murphy (left) and Hayley Rosenberg with a signature dish, “CultivateSharing,” made up of local harvest produce, cultured cashew cheese, beet pâté, herb pesto, buckwheat seed bread and house crackers. Delicious! 

Katherine Murphy (left) and Hayley Rosenberg with a signature dish, “CultivateSharing,” made up of local harvest produce, cultured cashew cheese, beet pâté, herb pesto, buckwheat seed bread and house crackers. Delicious! 

When I was first looking for my original co-op job before entering the BCom program at the University of Victoria, I was searching for a restaurant placement, with the idea of finding a business that was small and still in the start-up phase. My secret vision was to help grow the business as well as become involved in the creation of food culture in Victoria. Food has always been the cornerstone of my family and the main way we created connections, taught values and fostered a family environment.

 During that time, by sheer serendipity I met Hayley Rosenberg, the owner of Nourish. Nourish was located at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific in Saanich, had seven tables, casual counter service and a four-burner electric range.  It had been open eight months. With values that echoed my own, Nourish was involved in the local community, harvested some of the vegetables grown on site at the garden centre and was very much in the start-up phase. It was a perfect fit!

Launched with no capital investment, growing Nourish as a business has taken creativity, problem solving and a huge amount of determination every step of the way. From day one I was invited to be part of that growth. My first eight months were intensive and full time.

I began my first semester at Gustavson after those eight months and I remember looking around my class and wondering if anyone else knew just how relevant the course content was. I know for a fact that without my prior involvement in Nourish I would not have taken nearly as much value from my courses. 

Over the winter break, Hayley and I spent each day working our way through the marketing plan, a class assignment I had been given by Professor David Boag. We literally wrote the first official draft of the business plan based on that outline. The business plan allowed us to formulate our vision enough to re-open the following spring with the concept for the restaurant that Nourish has now become.

We now have two bustling locations, one in downtown Victoria and one still situated at the Horticulture Centre in Saanich. The Garden restaurant still has a four-burner stove, but has grown to 50 seats, offers full service,  and regularly sees 150 guests for Sunday brunch. Our inner harbour location sits in a beautiful three-story heritage home where we hope to host workshops and conferences, as well as fill our open and airy dining room with happy people. We have 35 employees between the two locations and I have been fortunate enough to grow with this ever-changing and exceptional business. (If you haven’t heard of us, visit Nourish visit  to get a sense of just how far we’ve come.)

At 25, I find myself the general manager of a multimillion-dollar small local business. Throughout my time at Gustavson, the single most valuable part of my education was the hands-on experience that I gained through my co-ops. There is no doubt in my mind that if I hadn’t gotten the opportunity to be a part of this business from the beginning I would be in a very different stage of life now. 

This story, reprinted with permission, originally appeared in Business Class Magazine, a publication of the Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria.    Photo Credit: UVic Photo Services.

Children’s Dreams Made Real: The Story of The Enchanted Cottage

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Caleigh Allen is the creator of Ever After Entertainment in Atlanta, Georgia. Together with Jenna Bell and several other actors and artists in Atlanta, Caleigh’s company creates an entertainment experience like no other. The goal is to create “The Enchanted Cottage” a fairy tale venue where children and their families can enjoy a magical experience with their favourite characters, without the high costs of a theme park. Currently, actors involved with the company spend much of their time in character and on the road driving to birthday parties, meet-and-greets and charitable events. After two successful years in business, they are ready to find a physical venue where children visit The Snow Queen and her sister or even a mermaid! Pirates, princes and superheroes are also part of the company where they strive to have “Children’s Dreams Made Real.”

Recently, Jenna participated in an “AMA – Ask me Anything” on Reddit to describe what it’s like to work as a princess. It snowballed to other websites including the Facebook page of fitness guru, Richard Simmons. “That was such a cool moment!” Jenna laughed, “Caleigh sent me a screen shot and I just couldn’t believe it. Even more amazing was that he posted an article, based off another article, based off my Reddit and I realized, ‘Wow…This is really spreading. People are actually interested in what we are trying to do here!’ I was afraid when I offered to do the AMA that I would get no questions at all, so to see the support has been so uplifting.”

“This project is very near and dear to our hearts,” both women explained. “…We realized there really isn’t a ‘home’ for this industry. People work out of rented office buildings, or their houses, and we thought, ‘what if we made a place where we can all come together, as a co-op and benefit?’ Everyone can be involved with events… and whatever fantastical things we think of, at a lower cost, to help cross promote and allow these small businesses to get exposure and grow.” Part of their mission also includes working with sick children and their families.

Essentially, the idea for Ever After Entertainment came from Caleigh’s childhood love of fairy tales and her father’s success as an entrepreneur.   “I have a degree in Musical Theatre and a love for all fairy tales …. Add those two together, and you get an adult who started a princess entertainment company! ….My father was always a role model for entrepreneurship. He [made] his own company that eventually was dissolved into Technicolor and Sony with him near the top. …When I was younger I didn’t realize he set the stage for me to succeed. His advice for me [was] ‘Don’t stop believing, never stop growing, and love what you do.’” she explained. As her dream becomes a reality, Caleigh finds it most rewarding that she can share the experience with her dad, and that she is able to represent women in the workforce.

“… As a woman especially, it’s so much harder for us in the world of business to be taken seriously and to succeed. The fact that I have been successful in this cutthroat world with a princess company means the world to me; and to have my father support me is everything. In addition to being a “full-time princess”, Caleigh also makes and sells her own flower crowns.

Jenna joined the company on a whim and describes herself as a “part-time princess” because her character work only takes place on weekends.  “During the week I work as a digital artist, doing graphic design and computer animation. On the weekends I am usually spending my time as The Snow Queen-- and sometimes as a few other princess favourites as well. I graduated with my BFA in animation, with an obvious interest in fairy tales, and a desire to be a Disney animator. I ended up moving to Atlanta to work for Turner Broadcasting, and during a huge Halloween parade I decided to dress up as The Snow Queen. Well, I couldn’t walk ten feet without people stopping me for pictures, and was eventually approached by someone holding children’s events at a nearby ice-rink. They needed a Snow Queen character for the parties. At first I was timid about it all. I’ve never acted in my life.and  kept asking my friends, ‘Is this weird? Do people do this?’ Finally my good friend Kyle urged me to give it a try, and I thank him for that push…I met Caleigh and other wonderful people in this industry and it’s become a part of my life [that] I don’t think I can live without now.”

Jenna even took her role as The Snow Queen to Thailand, which is also how the cottage came about. “I had planned to go to an underprivileged school to deliver school supplies, but when my guide found out what I did on the weekends she was ecstatic.… I put on a blue dress from my backpack, and she wrote ‘The Snow Queen’ in Thai on my name tag. The kids were shy at first, but soon as she told them ‘who I was’ they all came running toward me and basically tackled me with hugs and kisses. It was just wonderful. I wasn’t there long, but by the end of it our guide brought over the principal and translated his thank you to me. He bowed and told me those kids will never have a day like this again, and that I brought them an experience they will never forget. It meant the world to them. It was such an interesting perspective for me because I’m just me you know? [I’m] just playing this character. It’s amazing how you can bring hope in the simplest ways, and after that I was inspired to do more. I came home … and reached out to Caleigh and said ‘So I have this idea for a cottage….’ We’ve been working towards that dream ever since.”

Despite what seem to be very magical jobs and goals, there are many challenges as well. Caleigh notes that “Making magic for children is usually great [but] every so often, it’s not. Sometimes you have crazy parents or clients who try to make your job harder, but you can’t let them! I love to perform and I love entertaining kids, so that’s definitely not the hard part. Usually the scheduling and dealing with fussy clients is a lot worse than the children.”

Jenna finds that her biggest challenge is “commanding a room full of strangers” because “Some kids believe, some don’t. But if you can convince the non-believers that you’re ‘real’, then you’ll be leaving on a high note…and in the good graces of the guests, which means recommendations for more events.”

 “… Many parents ask for us to just come in with this grand entrance of singing and dancing, but we have to explain, even though we are the child’s ‘favourite character’ that will still scare them.... It’s better to ease into it, because the kids can be nervous too! From there we read stories, sing songs, take pictures, and participate in games. ….We may be there for anywhere from an hour to four hours, and we have to always be in character and make sure each family walks away with a smile” Bell continued.

Despite the challenges, most of their days end happily ever after, making it all worth it for Caleigh Allen and Jenna Bell.  For more information you can visit their website and like their Facebook page. You can also follow them on Twitter (Caleigh / Jenna) on Twitter and for updates on The Enchanted Cottage.