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Woman of the Week: Janet Mohapi-Banks

Janet Mohapi-Banks is nothing short of a truly inspiring woman.

Hers is a journey of never giving up and of having the faith to continue to push towards your dreams, even when all the chips are down and hope is in very short supply.

In today’s fast pace and seemingly hectic culture, it is never easy to feel as if all of the time, effort and love you put into creating the life you were proud of, all seems to be crashing down around you; and it takes a very special, committed and brave woman to not only weather the destruction, but to also stand up and do it all over again.

Mohapi-Banks is one such woman.

She  went from being at the top of her game as a Luxury Wedding Cake Designer,- even winning a Precious Business Award in 2010 to being burnt out and trying her best to manage a seemingly incurable digestive disorder as well as chronic fatigue  in just under a two year span.

“By 2012 I had burned out so badly I was left literally at death’s door for nearly 5 years with a rare (and according to my specialist at The Royal Free Hospital) incurable digestive disorder and chronic fatigue.

As a result, I was forced to close my cake business which was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.  I moved out of the London area, got my affairs in order and prepared for the inevitable.” She said.

For any entrepreneur, being forced to say good bye to your ‘business baby’ is a very hard and painful process which can fill you with feelings of guilt, frustration, resentment and a lot of fear.

It was unbelievable to her that in only a span of 18 short months she had gone from delivering cakes to some of the most prestigious venues in the UK, including the Ritz Hotel Mayfair and winning awards for her fabulous designs, to being so exhausted and in pain that she was not able to even get out of bed to care for her children- a boy aged 12 years, and a girl 15.

A second chance on life came for Janet in the form of a chiropractor who by cracking her spine released her vagus nerve, thereby curing her and allowing her to grow back to optimal health.

With this new lease on life, Janet launched her coaching business in an effort to help other women to grow their ideal business without the stress that had nearly crippled her.

“Before I was critically ill, I used to overwork, which lead me to burnout.  I now realise that my overworking was due to a lack of self-belief that I truly deserved my amazing successes,” the Transformational Life Coach for Entrepreneurs revealed.

Mohaphi-Banks, who is a proud and happy mother of two explained that women almost always tried to do everything by themselves and her biggest take away from her own experiences was to know when you needed help and to outsource reliable people for the job.

When I asked what got her through the day, she said it was her refusal to waste a minute of her second chance and her amazing children. She noted that while she had gone through some ‘incredibly challenging times in my life’ she continued to get back up with a smile on her face and a determination to face her challenges.

 

Vegan meat is the future to a greener Earth

There was a time in my life when I tried to go vegan.  I gave up meat and turned to tofu and a lot of soybean based products in the hope to replace the meats with a more plant based and healthier option.

I failed.

The tofu taste was disgusting to my sensitive palate and even now, the thought of its scent makes me very, very sad.

So imagine my amazement when I found out about Beyond Meat, the 2009 founded company that just won the 2018 Champions of the Earth Award, which is the UN’s highest accolade for the environment along with, Impossible Foods. Both are producers of revolutionary plant-based meats which are alternatives to beef.

What is even more interesting is that these plant-based meat alternatives are outperforming grass fed beef in the fast food arena around the world, including the USA and Canada.

This is great news for anyone who understands the need to preserve and nurture the Earth as livestock cultivation is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

This is a distressing fact in and of itself as greenhouse gases are basically responsible for and the hole in the ozone layer and thus climate change.

With the advent of these plant based meat alternatives having proven to be sustainable choices, it means that being ecologically conscious no longer translates into  giving up on taste and enjoyment.

“This proves that positive climate action can taste even better!” Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment said. “Saving the planet requires something of a gastronomical rethink in some parts of the world, and Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods prove that this doesn’t mean our taste buds are making the sacrifice.”

Founder  and Chief Executive Officer of Impossible Foods Dr. Patrick O. Brown, explains that he knows that the big global problems are not the responsibility of someone else and agreed that in order to save the planet, it would be important to pleasantly appeal to the world’s tastebuds.

“This problem wasn’t going to be solved by pleading with consumers to eat beans and tofu instead of meat and fish. And it wouldn’t be enough just to find a better way to make meat; to succeed we would need to make the best meat in the world.”

The vegan meats by these companies have already outperformed grass-fed beef burgers by at least 40% at Luna Grill, and were sold out at Taco Bell in the USA, as well as at  A&W locations in Canada and was recently added to a burger chain in Italy, called ‘WellDone’.

So how can a vegan meat switch really make any difference? Is it just because it tastes better?

Well not only has many reported that the vegan burgers actually still taste like burgers, but this seemingly simple food choice equates to a greener world.

Here’s how.

Americans switching from beef to plant-based patties would be the equivalent of taking 12 million cars off the road for an entire year–or saving enough electricity to power 2.3 million homes.

A study coming out of the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan, which conducted a ‘cradle- to- distribution’ life cycle assessment of the popular vegan burger, discovered that the Beyond Burger generates 90% less greenhouse gas emissions, requires 46% less energy, has 99% less impact on water scarcity and 93% less impact on land use than a quarter pound of U.S. beef. That means a 41-square-foot plot of land can produce just one beef burger for every 15 Beyond Burgers.

 

 

 

FIN Atlantic International Film Festival wrapped for 2018

Attending a film festival has an integral social impact  and offers the opportunity to experience more than just sitting in a theatre and watching a presentation, which is what the FIN Atlantic International Film Festival offers its patrons.

Having just wrapped up its 38th year, the film festival has been well established as a premier event in Halifax, Nova Scotia. They do more than highlight the best in film, by presenting unique ways for people to enjoy the screen presentations and exciting special events.

You may be surprised to learn that ‘FIN’ is not an acronym.

Wayne Carter, Executive Director of the festival, explains, “Although ‘FIN’ does not represent three words, ‘FIN’ itself has meaning. Halifax is on the Atlantic Ocean, which is full of fins and it is the word that appears at the end of French films.”

FIN is also a stroke of branding genius, since it comes up at the top of search engine results.

 

 

For the second year in a row, FIN partnered with Autism Nova Scotia to offer relaxed screenings and the films presented at these specialized venues were, ‘designed to be attended by anyone on the spectrum.”

Autism Nova Scotia provided free tickets which encouraged people with varying abilities to see films in more comforting environments, as the theatres offered soft lighting, subdued sound and a safe and calming atmosphere.

People seem to want more from theatres, which has led to the emergence of 4DX films that incorporate effects such as motion, rain, wind and even scents into a movie. Carter suggests that this type of film will appeal, ‘to a certain type of audience looking for a specific experience.”

He continues, “Virtual reality could also be an interesting sensory adventure.”  However, it is unlikely that the majority of those going to the theatre would want to be tossed around in their seats and sprinkled with water among other things for a full 90 minutes, making the probability of complete immersive films becoming mainstream nn unlikely expenditure for most film makers.

An exciting feature for film lovers to look forward to is the prospect of a digital pass. Carter explains that, “We are going to adopt a digital aspect to the festival as a way for us to bring FIN to people who cannot attend in person.” As the planning for next year’s festival has already begun, you can be sure adding digital attendance will be on the agenda.

One other way FIN is garnering attention is that women are getting the opportunity to demonstrate their talented filmmaking skills. At this year’s awards ceremony, women were the predominate recipients.

Deanne Foley won The Gordon Parsons Award for Best Atlantic Feature for ‘An Audience of Chairs’, Shelly Thompson won the Best Atlantic Short award for ‘Duck Duck Goose’ and Reneé Blanchar won the Best Atlantic Documentary award for ‘Dans L’Ouest’ (Shadow Men).

Within the film culture, women are definitely forging their own path and being recognized for their efforts.

“I am proud that 59% of our gala performances were directed by women. They are showing their strength and women will continue to be elevated in this profession”.  Carter said during an interview.

There were 194 films on the roster at this year’s FIN and they strive to include a mixture of all genres in order to guarantee there is something for everyone. As quoted on their home page, FIN is “Atlantic Canada’s curator of epic and unforgettable stories” and they have certainly demonstrated their commitment as this year’s Atlantic International Film Festival was a resounding success.

The ugly sneaker trend is celeb gold!

If you’re like me and are prone to scrolling through your instagram and twitter feeds, then you would have seen one of the strangest, yet hottest trends for footwear in 2018 and its ‘ugly’!

I’m talking about the ‘ugly’ sneaker trend that has taken the world by storm with its decisive departure from the sleek, sexy and elegant styles, to that of the bold and un-streamlined look usually reserved for men.

With such powerful female influencers  as Kendall Jenner, Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, Hailey Baldwin and even  Bella Hadid rocking  these bulky, 90’s era shoes, it was really only a matter of time before the whole world accepted that this revamped look was all the rage.

The ‘ugly’ sneaker or ‘dad sneaker’ usually features a double or triple sole, adding favourable height to the wearer while offering extra support and minimizing strain on the legs for a more comfortable feel.

The shoes usually come in either all white or all black styles, themed with curvy lines in bright hues or neon colours .

In short the ‘ugly sneaker’ has become the canvas on which many of the well known footwear companies, including Adidas, Reebok, Sketchers , Nike and Puma have all used to lure the female consumer to embracing the sneaker culture for a revolutionalised fashion look.

The sneakers, which honestly have zero seductive appeal on their own, have however a certain curious  charm that creates a fearless fashionable statement, with sneaker wearers mixing the shoes with high end layering and daring styles, including cut off shorts, elegant dresses and some sporty themed clothes, resulting in a fresh, funky and feminine fashion statement.

In an interview with Forbes, Alegra O’Hare, vice president of global communications at Adidas, said their version of the ugly sneaker the ‘Falcon’ has come to represent a new generation of female consumers.

“Its bold and unapologetic DNA is at the core of today’s Falcon and reflects the confident mindset of a new generation of female creative consumers,” she said.

Recently, Adidas also announced its partnership with style royalty Kylie Jenner,  who has over 150 million followers over her social media platforms and is still set to becoming one of the youngest ‘self made’ billionaires, for the launch of the Falcon shoe which was inspired by Falcon Dorf, an iconic model from the 90’s.

By doing this, Adidas has cemented its shoe as a metaphor for fun and fearless feminine confidence. In its marketing for the shoe, the innovative footwear company said “Falcon is for those who do what they want regardless of what anyone thinks. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but for those who know that living unapologetically is the only way to live.”

As the colder seasonal months approach, it is a very safe bet that the ‘ugly’ sneakers are here to stay, especially with the styles already being featured in a plethora of Fashion Week shows, being sold out in Australia and holding pride of place with the millennial fashion icons on their social media feeds.

The french airport passport challenge (Pt 1)

I’m about to be very dramatic. It can’t be helped really, as I found out the hard way that having a Caribbean passport in some countries, doesn’t give you a leg up at customs.

This stage-play unfolded as I made my way from Barbados to England. New country, new life, new terrifying experiences.

Okay, let me back up and bring you up to speed. In late March I decided to quit procrastinating about moving to jolly old England, and just do it. What resulted was a flurry of activity, saving and absolute madness – but sure enough I was on a plane to Martinique by August. I can almost hear you ask – Martinique? Thought you said England? That brings me to part two of this backstory.

I’m a lover of deals and in this case, all I had to do for a cheaper fare was find my butt in two other airports before ever setting eyes on balls of fluff – sheep – from above the British countryside. Caught up? Okay, moving on.

After nearly missing my connecting flight in Martinique, as Air Antilles was late, I enjoyed a welcome respite on my XL Airways flight to France. So innocent then, I believed transitioning from flight to customs would be a breeze.

Wrong.

In the past while I’ve travelled on my British passport, I’ve never had any problems and gave no thought that it could be different on the Barbadian blue.

After heading into the security check line for what would be my first challenge, I took my passport out and shuffled on until it was my turn.

The officer took a long, puzzled look at my Barbadian passport, then me, before inquiring about my business in France. I chirpily explained I wasn’t staying and would be leaving in a few hours. He continued to stare at the passport, before asking me where Barbados was, and wondering aloud if I would need a visa to continue. Nonetheless, I managed to pass the inquisition and was promptly off to baggage claim.

Note, I had one piece of carryon luggage and my handbag . . . that’s it. As I approached baggage, I saw people flashing passports and rolling on through. From the looks of it most were British or European (EU) and I figured it’d be the same for me, so I flashed mine like I was on a cop show.

Denied.

This massive officer stopped me in my tracks and carted me over for a more intense check. To be fair, the guy who unpacked everything was pretty nice, even with the added difficulty of the language barrier, since I did not speak French nor did he speak English.

He did a thorough check and all was well, until he came to my makeup brushes. The moment he took them out I knew I’d have another problem. Following a discussion – in French – with his colleague, he went over to the X-ray machine to check my brushes one by one. So I’m standing there, praying to the makeup gods that the manufacturers didn’t have any suspicious-looking substances in the handles for better balance or whatever. I look serene as ever, while in my head I’m like – it’s okay, YOU’RE OKAY!  and explosions of fear are detonating within my stomach.

He didn’t find anything, and after making a bad joke that he didn’t understand, I hurriedly repacked and trotted off – finally -into the main airport area where I almost ended up being lost in translation.

Part 2: Nosey sniffer dogs, men with guns, and you just might have to stay in France.

 

 

 

Woman of the Week: Peggy Van De Plassche

 

Peggy Van de Plassche is a finance professional by trade, who after a varied career as an investor, bank executive, consultant, and entrepreneur decided to bet on herself and set up her own venture capital firm in July 2018.

Peggy is the Managing Partner of Roar Ventures, whose focus is on early-stage data and AI startups that are targeting the financial services industry. Her beginnings in technology go back almost 15 years, well before FinTech broke through in public awareness.

Aside from running Roar Ventures, Peggy sits on a number of boards including Invest in Canada, is a senior advisor to Portag3 Ventures, guest lecturer at Rotman on AI in financial services and she is also involved in the community via Hackergal and the Wild Animal Sanctuary.

Born in Lille, France, Peggy’s French native accent carries the classic elegance of the language. She left France when she was 26 to relocate in Montreal where she joined CGI and contracted the technology bug.

Following seven happy years in Montreal, she and her husband decided to relocate to Toronto to get closer to the financial services centre. After working at BMO as a Director Strategic investments, Peggy joined a wealthy software entrepreneur with the mandate to seed/launch fintech startups and used the countless experiences she gained to become a freelance consultant working with the likes of Omers VC. Subsequently, she spearheaded innovation initiatives at CIBC as a VP in 2016-17.

This July she started fundraising for Roar Ventures with a target close of $35 million. She focuses her efforts on strategic corporate investors – banks and insurance companies aiming at accelerating their transformation. Her fundraising is global with a significant traction coming out of Switzerland where she will be joining the Canadian delegation to present her fund on the stage of Fintech+.

She is collaborating with a team of professionals that she is proud to call “The most creative, bold and energetic people in the industry”. Peggy admits that like anyone starting something brand-new, she has encountered some challenges along the way. First of all, the act of raising money is a notoriously hard task as “Canadian investors tend to be very conservative and funds are allocated to people who are well known in the industry” she said. In addition to that, “being a female immigrant in a very male-dominated area of work does not really play in my favour” Peggy continued.

On the bright side, she has applied to a government initiative called Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative (VCCI) that supports VC firms financially while also addressing gender imbalance and diversity in VCs. While still waiting for the results, Peggy was happy to mention that this initiative was really the catalyst for her to decide to go on her own.

The companies Roar Ventures focuses on are “gender-diversity friendly” startups, with women in the management team, on a Board or as founders. Empirical research shows that greater gender balance generates superior returns.

The person who inspired her the most is her mother. Peggy describes her as a dedicated and hardworking woman with a strong work ethic and the ability to build good relationships. She taught Peggy a love for learning and always pushed her boundaries. Outside of home, she finds inspiration through reading biographies of people who from humble beginnings, took risks and managed to get through life challenges and turn their life around — Andre Agassi, Serena Williams, Sam Zell, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, to name a few. A European immigrant like her, Schwarzenegger has done it all, from champion bodybuilder, to a successful actor, to governor.

Peggy acknowledges that it is a more empowering moment to be a woman in business now than ever before. This is due to a radical transformation that is taking place within individuals as well as the within the community as a whole. This transformation is shifting everyone’s views to a higher level of awareness. As she states, “For many years, we accepted certain behaviours as normal. Now we need to relearn a new model and reject the old one which does not work anymore”. Peggy thinks that the patriarchal model of society takes a toll on men as much as on women. She has known many successful men who suffer from a tremendous pressure to support the whole family and a wealthy lifestyle.

Aside from work, Peggy reads, spends time with friends and family, and enjoys cultivating her spiritual side through meditation, brain, and energy work. She said, “I’m very intuitive, but I am well aware that I only use a small percentage of my brain. I’d like to access more of my brain and increase my capability to be in a state of flow.”

When asked what tips she would give to women who want to embark on similar ventures, recalling her own path, she recommended, “Prepare, take action, and network.” She warns that fear of not being ready may delay action. “Women tend to be more cautious in business, due to lifelong social conditioning. But you need to believe in yourself, avoid anyone who is negative especially when you start a business because you’re at your most vulnerable” Peggy continued.

Last, she added that networking is more about building relationships with people over the years than having ten-minute conversations at conferences. “You must allocate time to meet people who matter to you. It has to be a deliberate choice. You need to build that precious time in your schedule.”

Banning plastic straws: Only the first step

 

When I saw that haunting , viral YouTube video of the poor sea turtle with a plastic straw lodged in its nose, I shuddered.

When I witnessed a Good Samaritan prying the plastic out of the turtle’s nasal cavity, with a pliers no less, my brain and heart hurt.

I was ready to never touch another plastic product again and so it came as no real surprise to me when I saw the first headline touting the ban on plastic straws in America and around the globe.

Finally, the world was realizing just how much damage plastics were doing to marine life and to their communities.

And as the ban picked up steam and more companies and countries got on board, switching out their plastic straws for other variations such as  paper, pasta and even metal, I realized quickly that the focus was on the wrong thing.

It was not about just the plastic straws. That could only be the first step of many to come, if the marine and agricultural life was to continue to thrive.

The real problem with plastic pollution is not just the use of plastic products, but the mindless way in which they are disposed of as well as other trash items and the  harm that occurs as a result

While I am happy that this ban on the straws campaign has taken off, with so many seemingly understanding that their daily actions have far reaching consequences, I am left wondering if this will translate into a decisive progression into taking more responsibility for proper trash disposable strategies.

So while the ban on straws is an amazing start, the campaign must not stop there, rather more people will have to take responsibility for properly disposing of their trash, or risk further poisoning of the planet.

While plastics have had the most media headlines, due to it taking years upon years to break down and the immediate threat it poses to wild and marine life who are vulnerable to choking as they consume it or being entangled within it, other materials also pose a threat.

Trash items such as tires, steel rims and other man made products that are unceremoniously dumped into the oceans, unfortunately can end up in the stomachs of other fishes, sharks and whales.

The oceans are the life blood of the planet — not only do they provide the human population with employment, they also provide nourishment, secure borders and the oxygen needed to fuel all living creatures.

The increasing challenges of climate change, have given rise to more flooding of coastal communities and harsher hurricane seasons, along with less fishing opportunities as marine life seek out calmer waters.  All of these things impact the daily lives of the world.

It is for that reason, that the ban on plastic straws is a great start and it is my hope that this amazing campaign is the first proper step towards a global consciousness more inclined to use less harmful materials in products and to dispose of them in a non toxic way.

Australia: A kangaroo’s tale

 

When I wore my fanny pack and boarded the flight to Australia, I wasn’t quite sure as of what to expect, except for the kangaroos and what I knew from reading travel magazines and Wikipedia. Things were growing boring back in my hometown, and my busy schedule wasn’t helping at all. So, I decided to live in my suitcase for a week. Australia was the first country that caught my sight when I stared at the world map poster hanging on the wall.

Embarking on a tour to explore the Australian realm of history, environment, and culture was a whole different experience in itself. The flight was one of the most mesmerizing rides I had ever had in my life. Peeping through the fluffy clouds, I caught a glimpse of the sapphire ocean. Once I arrived at the Sydney Airport, I took the shuttle to Town Hall. With so much time ahead, I decided to saunter through the streets to explore the city. My first stop was at the Sydney Tower. Although acrophobic, I still climbed up to the top of the tower and I was glad I did. I could almost view all of Sydney from the top, and the suburbs too. Most importantly, I spotted the Queen Victoria Building which was just a five-minute walk away and decided to go there next.

The Queen Victoria Building was a grand shopping mall that didn’t look anything like a shopping mall form the exterior. In fact, it appeared much like a historical building that was surrounded by a luxurious aura. The appearance of the mall made me dig into its past and I came to know that the mall was actually a lat-nineteen-century building that was about to be taken down until an Asian corporation came forward, and leased it for 99 years, altering it into a majestic looking shopping centre.

Every twelve minutes, a tram runs from Town Hall Station to Circular Quay from where a ten minutes’ walk took me to the Sydney Opera House. The building is divided into a concert hall and an opera hall. People have to be lucky enough to grab a ticket half an hour before a show, and unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them. Next to Sydney Aquarium, is Wildlife World where I found  kangaroos and koalas. Though I couldn’t touch the kangaroos, I definitely wrapped my arm around a koala to click a selfie.

The next morning, I started off toward Melbourne and the train ride consumed half my day. I went on a tour to the Yarra Valley Winery with a few other travellers. The scenic valleys and the picturesque countryside provided a perfect backdrop for my wine tasting journey.

At Alice Springs, I rode a camel and headed over to Darwin to begin my trip to Litchfield, Kakadu, and Katherine Gorge. Litchfield National Park was a place worth visiting with plenty of waterfalls, and rock pools in which you could take a dip; whereas, the Kakadu National Park, spread over 20,000 kilometres, is home to a variety of different animals and birds. I had booked a tour that included a 4WD car, thus it was easier for me to go into those big spots like Fog Damm, Twin Falls, and Jim Jim. At Kakadu, I went for a cruise in the Yellow Water River to catch a glimpse of some crocodiles. Water birds were scattered all over the area.

It was soon time to return home and so much I had not seen. Nonetheless, I have a good enough reason to return.

Tia Brazda sparkles at CBC’s Jewel, the Glenn Gould Theatre

 

Canadian singer songwriter, Tia Brazda, performed at the Glenn Gould Studio last week, where she wowed the audience with songs from her latest labour of love, Daydream. This album reflects her natural evolution as a songwriter from the vintage sound of her previous albums Cabin Fever and Bandshell, to a more pop sound. Tia’s performance at the ‘Jewel of the Canadian Broadcasting Centre’ is part of a long tour that will take her to various stops in Canada and the US. In the past she has taken her original sound to many cities around North America and Europe.

Born in Vancouver, Tia’s style is a balanced mix of jazz and pop, “sort of Ella Fitzgerald meets the Everly Brothers” to quote her. “I really have an appreciation for that old era, the music and the fashion mostly,” Brazda went on to say. The sparkly silver dress she performed in certainly supports her style preference.

After the performance I was lucky enough to sit down to talk with this rising star of Canadian music.

You seem to be moving slightly in a different direction from your previous albums more into a pop sound than before and less vintage?

Yes, as an artist you want to be growing, it’s a natural evolution. I don’t want to sound the same in every album. I like to expand, so for this album, I tried to make the best songs I could make and this is what came out. That was the sentiment behind it.

You have a tour coming up soon, where is it taking you?

I’m in New York state next week and the following week I’m in Nashville. As a songwriter I’m excited to go to Nashville as it is a major songwriters’ hub. I plan to spend some extra days there, so hopefully I will have the opportunity to collaborate with other artists.

Your album was released on September 7 and it is already no. 1 on iTunes jazz charts, how does it feel?

It’s pretty exciting. It was in BC when I got the news. I hadn’t realized that iTunes was on eastern time, so being behind in time, I thought the album was going to be released the day after whereas it had already been released. When I found out, I could barely contain my excitement to break the news. I knocked on everyone’s door — they had all just gone to bed — and we had a midnight celebration.

Who are your main musical influences?

I come from a musical family. My dad was a folk musician. He and my uncle had a band called The Brazdas Brothers. My mom would write songs. They always wrote their own stuff. The music that we listened to the most were bands like the Everly Brothers. They were one of my favourite bands when I was a kid, along with Simon and Garfunkel. I have always listened to songs with harmony and a strong chorus. Then I started listening to jazz, a lot of Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Holiday and Sarah Vaughan. I wanted to write songs that incorporated all those influences, sort of Everly Brothers meets Ella Fitzgerald.

At what point did you realize that music was your calling?

I wasn’t sure how to make a go of it. There didn’t seem to be a set program for it. And you don’t necessarily go to school to become a musician. At the same time, I needed to get a job that was practical. So, I went to university where I studied literature and some journalism. I was a student at Glendon College and became editor-in-chief of the student paper there. In fact, I am very familiar with your magazine. When I was looking for an internship, Women’s Post was actually one of the publications I wanted to work at. Anyway, I was writing articles for the campus paper on tight deadlines (as you know!) creating catchy headlines and writing the stories to go with them. Actually, if you think about it, writing an article is similar to writing song. A headline is a lot like a chorus, it has to grab the audience, and the verses are the actual story. Journalism helped me to become a better songwriter. However, I felt a bit depressed because I wasn’t playing any music at all. So, as I was preparing to do my internship, I got a musical opportunity and took it. I found that music always kept pulling me back. Then I decided that I didn’t care if I was going to be poor or if it was impractical and that I was going to do it anyway.

What is it like to perform at the Glenn Gould Studio?

Oh, it’s wonderful and such an elegant venue! CBC has been very supportive of me. My first serious jazz gig was as a back-up singer for another artist. CBC saw my name in the credits then found my music online and they played my song “Wild Jack”on the radio. When I heard my music on the radio for the first time, it was so exciting and now playing in the CBC building is great.

When did you start making music?

I have been singing since I could speak. I was five years old when I sang my first solo publicly. Coming from a musical family, I received a lot of positive reinforcement for it and it was something I seemed to be able to do. During the teen years, I sang in choirs where I received coaching and performed solos too. In high school, I was in a band and began performing my original songs. Writing lyrics is so important to me and something I love to do.

For all those budding musicians out there, what do you reckon it takes to make it as an artist?

Determination: sometimes you will struggle and make mistakes but you need to keep going. It’s a live show and anything can happen. Learn from your mistakes and just do better next time. Perseverance: There will be roadblocks and people who are better than you in some areas. You need to find what unique thing that you bring to the table and build on that. Finally, study and put in the work: Find the people that you admire and learn everything you can fr om them. Take all the workshop you can. Ask for help and advice from other women in the industry. Make a five-year plan and don’t be afraid to dream big!

Woman of the Week: Alison Dalglish-Pottow

 

“Kindness reveals itself most authentically when people aren’t looking,” says Alison Dalglish-Pottow, and her latest venture lends a great deal of truth to this statement. Amidst the commotion of our modern world, which is often pumped with a daily dose of bad news, Alison has been crafting a movement of positivity. She calls it, Angel Love.

The idea was first conceived by Alison, her friend and co-founder, Mimi Wood, and their two adolescent daughters while sitting in a patisserie in East Toronto. As they sipped hot chocolate and munched on cupcakes in a sliver of wonderland, they chatted about the state of the world beyond these magical walls, where the weight of negativity seemed to be deepening its pull on society’s well-being. They picked apart this moment of joy, thinking of ways in which they could extend it to others and perhaps, even slightly, ripple its force across the globe. All they needed, they soon realized, was one special ingredient: kindness. And so, Angel Love was born.

Angel Love is an e-commerce platform that maintains a mission of “spreading kindness through wearable, shareable, charitable products.” Their online store sells custom clothing and accessories that are ethically-sourced, high-quality and made in Canada, often in collaboration with local artisans. Each line of product that Angel Love creates is launched in partnership with an international charity, which sees 10 percent of net sales donated towards their cause.

“It’s kind of like how people say you wear your heart on your sleeve. Well, now you’re wearing your kindness on your sleeve, quite literally,” Alison says. “We’d like to activate a megaphone around the concept of kindness through this movement.”

Their latest product line was created in alliance with Heartmob, an organization that stands up to cyberbullying, and includes custom hoodies, graphic tees and semi-precious stone jewelry that was specifically crafted with rose quartz and hematite to attract good energy and repel the bad. Partnering with charitable organizations, Angel Love hopes to create an ecosystem of positive living, ensuring all of their products are manufactured, sold and bought under the guiding light of compassion.

As the company’s CEO, Alison has dedicated herself wholly to this venture. Her innate love for helping others is most likely a trait passed down from her parents, whom she describes as genuinely good humans. Growing up, she witnessed the importance of generosity and spent years working with a slew of charities, creative organizations, and even running her own successful, and entirely digital art gallery, called FPI Gallery, which was designed to help market local artists in an increasingly online world. In 2001, she was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal for her outstanding contributions to Canada.

Along with her Angel Love partners, Mimi Wood, who is also a Canadian realtor, and Jennifer Bassett, who runs a flourishing events company, Alison measures the success of this latest venture not by the number of products sold, but by the social impact the products have. “The products are a way of keeping our audience engaged,” she says. “But the movement is truly the lead in all of this.”

Alongside their custom products, Angel Love focuses on initiatives such as the #mankind Wall, which is a way to highlight “the good guys,” as Alison calls them, in a fairly female-centralized movement. “Why girls and women leading this? It’s not because men aren’t amazing too, and we try to provide that inclusive aspect for men with our #mankind campaign,” she says. “But we really wanted this to be a safe place for girls and women because really, girls and women are born, engrained from childhood and nurtured to be the leaders of emotional compassion and sensitivity.”

They also advocate for Angel Activism — the mere task of paying forward an act of kindness in the modern world — and are hoping to popularize this trend by translating their efforts to the digital world through a predominantly online presence and their unique brand hashtag, #WithKindness. “Why the words #WithKindness? Well, we lead with kindness, we click with kindness, we can eat with kindness, meditate with kindness, help with kindness — there are so many ways that you can live and function with kindness … The possibilities are truly endless.”

And Alison’s dreams don’t stop here. As this altruistic movement grows, she hopes that Angel Love can collect enough steam to eventually partner with A-list celebs and global companies that will help spread their mission of love. Her goal now is to recruit a squad of angels who will begin to flutter their own wings in every corner of the world.

“Kindness is the new cool. Let’s create a world that stands up for that,” she concludes. “Let’s be those champions of a kinder world.”