How To Create An Awesome Personalized Customer Experience

How To Create An Awesome Personalized Customer Experience

Customers find us in many different ways. Some find us offline and in-person at a trade show or a market, or even as a product in the local store. Some find us online by typing a search term into Google. Some find us on social media. And still, some find us by referral.Each road to our business is different, and the experience on a particular road is going to be different than the other roads. Because we are competing on the basis of customer experience, it is important that we personalize the journey on each road to ensure that our customer reaches their destination and has a pleasant journey along the way.

What is Customer-Centricity?

What is Customer-Centricity?

In Salesforces' 2017 State of Marketing Report, research suggests that companies today are no longer competing on the basis of pricing, features or benefits, but on the basis of customer experience. And with the perpetual compression of NewsFeeds, continued integration of data and explosion of content, this experience will only become more important.

Customer-centricity hinges on this principle: the more you know about your audience, the better, more magical experience you will create for them.



World of Choices is an annual event facilitated by Junior Achievement of Southern Alberta designed to empower, mentor and guide young women as they start to explore career opportunities. The event connects over 300 young women in grades 10-12 with nearly 50 local female career mentors for a morning of mentorship and inspiration.

Feature Friday: Big Girl YYC


What does it take to grow a community from zero to 800 in less than four months? Purpose. Support. Gratitude.

I met Erin, the founder of Big Girl YYC, one of Calgary's newest and most heart-centred communities, at a private spin class at Stax Cycle Club. Between the tired legs and beaming smiles, Erin and her crew gathered the energy and inspiration from each other to power through a tough spin class. The secret: they did it together. Using each other's energy, power, determination and heart, Big Girl YYC provides a safe space for women to work out and be healthy without the threat of judgement.

I sat down with Erin this week to chat about the story behind Big Girl YYC and what fuels this powerful group of ladies.

Q: Tell me about Big Girl YYC. How did this group start?

A: I've been a big girl my whole life, and I have always tried to be the person that prescribes to the "love the body you have" idea. So I would always try to encourage my friends and others who would get down on themselves.

So one morning, I was talking to a woman I know who spins regularly. I thought "oh, that would be cool to try." In the same breath, I thought, "you can't. You're too big. You won't be able to make it." By the end of the day, I said to myself, "Erin, that is so ridiculous. Of course, you deserve to go to spin class and be healthy. Yes, just do it. You can."

I put out a call on my Facebook profile, shared my story and asked if anyone else felt that way to share their stories. I got feedback from women of all sizes, so I said, "Okay, I'm going to do this. I'm going to set up some events and we can go to fitness classes without the fear of judgement." So, I thought of a name, started a Facebook page and within three days, there were 100 people following the page.

What Big Girl YYC has grown into is a space where women can feel safe and welcome.

And I chose the word "big" because there are women who are big in height, big in heart, big in personality, big in size. It's the all-encapsulating word that describes this group, and it's filtered into what it means to be a part of this community.

Another guiding light in Big Girl YYC is the recent loss of my father. He valued people and community and creating safe spaces for people, so this has been a part of my healing journey.

big girl yyc
big girl yyc

Q: What has been your favourite moment since starting Big Girl YYC?

A: There was a woman who approached me within the first few days and she posted this harsh status on Facebook about herself and her body. I invited her to come to an event and said to her "let me support you and we can move through this together." She was approximately 50 years old, and this was the moment I realized that women of all ages were part of this. We had a pool party in the summer, and a photographer came out to take some photos of the day. She took a photo of this woman as she was climbing out the pool, and she thought this photo was going to be hideous. But when she saw it, she welled up and said to me, "Wow, I really don't look that bad. Thank you for creating this space where I could see myself."

Q: With all the messaging around body image in the media, from pictures of models to body positive anthems, how do you respond to that?

A: What I've seen happen are there are two different ways of looking at body positivity. The first being the f-the-world-this-is-the-body-I-have-I'm-going-to-eat-what-I-want-this-is-me. The other being acknowledging your body and that we deserve to be healthy in our bodies. What's missing from these body positive messages is that it's okay to take up space in the world.

Big Girl YYC is taking up space in the literal sense, but we are also taking up space in places where big girls, or anyone who has struggled with body image would feel unwelcome.

We're saying "We're here, and it's okay for us to be here. And it's okay for us to be healthy. We are going to work out right next to you, and we deserve to be here just as much as you do."

Q: Tell me about some challenges you've had starting this community.

A: One of the challenges is ensuring that everyone who is interested in an event shows up. For the Stax event, we had over 50 people interested and approximately 20 showed up. That's amazing, but it's been a challenge to get those interested to show up to the events. I'm trying to figure out whether people are looking at the event and not coming because they might be scared to go for whatever reason. So the challenge here is how to support those people who are in that space.

big girl yyc
big girl yyc

Q: What's next for Big Girl YYC?

A: Our next event is October 29 called 3-Minute HIT. It's a boxing/kickboxing circuit, run by two women in Calgary.

We are having a workshop on November 4 called Every Body Bends, co-facilitated by Gloria Schwabe and myself. She teaches you how to use yoga props properly and how to alter your practice to accommodate for your body type or whether you have an injury. The workshop blends in some self-love, insecurities and body image work.

Q: How can people get involved?

A: All our events are posted on our Facebook page. I also share events on Instagram.

Q: Is there anything you want people to take away from this?

A: Gratitude is at the forefront of everything we do. I'm grateful for everyone who keeps showing up, for the businesses I get to work with. My message is to keep showing up. I will be there to support you even on your toughest days. Every single woman I've met in this group has been kind and wanted to support the other women. Every woman has an amazing story, and it inspires me to keep going.

You can connect with Big Girl YYC on Facebook and Instagram.

Do you know of a person, business, non-profit or other organization doing amazing work in Calgary? Tell me about it! Visit the Feature Friday page for more information!

Feature Friday: Foothills Holiday Roadshow


Does anyone else dread Christmas shopping? Luckily the Foothills Holiday Roadshow makes it so easy. If you're keen to support local artisans this holiday season and enjoy perusing the market scene, check out this feature.


The Foothills Holiday Roadshow Pass is an $8 pass people can purchase to gain a discounted entry to the following Markets (which are HUGELY popular each year, check them out on social, too!) as well as exclusive savings:

  • Okotoks MarketSquare Christmas Festival @marketsquare.okotokschristmasfestival on Facebook
  • Millarville Christmas Market @millarvillechristmasmarket on Facebook
  • It also includes up to 50% off at 16 shops & eateries in Olde Town Okotoks and the chance to win a $350 shopping spree in @oldetowneokotoks (Facebook and Instagram)

This pass was created to unite the Millarville and Okotoks MarketSquare markets and to provide attendees with the most unique and exclusive in artisan markets and holiday shopping. It was coined "the Foothills Holiday Roadshow" because the pass allows you discounted entry into the two markets AND gets you savings, whereas you normally pay $5 per market entry and gain no savings, nor the chance to win anything.

The pass also benefits the Okotoks Food Bank with $6,000 being donated each year from $1 from each pass and the events are family friendly with sleigh rides and opportunities to visit Santa.

foothills holiday roadshow


The Foothills Roadshow started in 2013 after we saw more and more people coming out to Okotoks and Millarville to attend the Millarville and Okotoks MarketSquare Christmas Festivals. As creators of the Okotoks MarketSquare event, we wanted another chance to make both markets bigger and more exclusive in order to support local artisans and local shopping.


Alberta is all about local - whether it be supporting local farmers or handcrafting something yourself, you can really find some neat items in Alberta. We LOVE this. We also just love our community for who they are. Kind, giving, always willing to help out. We wanted a way to be apart of this.

foothills holiday roadshow


The Foothills Roadshow, simply put, is the very best way to support local artisans and also, gain exclusive access to some of the best gifts for the holiday season. It is also a wonderful way to get out of the city and explore our backyard (prairie side). Whether you're spending a day with family or friends, it is the perfect get-away and you're bound to come back with stuff you really, really like and memories you are likely to never forget.


Since we started.....

  • We have grown from one market to two, in two locations, three buildings and with over 450 vendors.
  • Each year we donate $6,000 to the Okotoks Food Bank as well as donations from photos with Santa
  • Each year we see over 30,000 visitors

foothills holiday roadshow



Instagram: @foothillsroadshow

Facebook: @foothillsroadshow

Do you know of a person, business, non-profit or other organization doing amazing work in Calgary? Tell me about it! Visit the Feature Friday page for more information!

Feature Friday: TreeEra 


It started with a complicated, overwhelming problem. It became a simple, practical solution. TreeEra co-founders, Micheal Bernard Fitzgerald and Ryan Heal, began a revolutionary social enterprise just one year ago in October as an effort to help businesses and individuals reduce their carbon footprint. Their goal: plant one billion trees - together. Centred on impact and rooted in community, TreeEra has enjoyed incredible growth that most businesses only dream of.

This growth, of course, was earned through dedicated passion and hardwork. I recently sat down with Ryan to talk about the birth of this innovative yet simple approach to empower businesses and individuals to fight climate change.


Climate change. That's a big issue to tackle. How did you decide that planting trees was your solution to this overwhelming issue? What was the inspiration behind the brand? 

We looked at climate change and thought just how overwhelming a problem it was. And the more we researched, the more we realized that something had to be done. Planting trees was something simple that anyone could get involved in. We asked ourselves "how do you make climate change cool and relevant?" We also wanted to match current buying patterns like offering a subscription model.

How did you come up with the name TreeEra?

We went through a few different versions including Trees + People. We decided on TreeEra because it was like we were ushering in a new era of trees.

How do you stay connected to your community to share this story? What inspires you about your community?

We have an incredible global community. We love being able to use social media to connect with them and have real-time conversations. Locally, we have been involved with cool events like Ride the Roof and Garbage and Coffee, which is exactly what you think - pick up garbage and then have coffee afterward.


What has been the most surprising thing about this work? 

I think one of the most surprising things was the overwhelming support we've received this year. We never expected this response. It's crazy to me that people are now reaching out to us to collaborate or share our story.

What were some of the major highlights?

We had our first plant this past spring! We planted 12,000 trees just north of Kamloops, B.C.

We grew internationally. Many of our subscribers come from Australia, Italy, U.S.A and other countries. We have a retail partner in the U.K. We also expanded our business, creating a retail program.

We developed a patch which people can buy at any one of our retail partner's locations and we will plant ### trees on their behalf.

We also have been able to partner with other local businesses where we plant a tree for every good or service sold.

I think one of the highlights for me was when we were running our Christmas campaign at Market Collective. There was a little girl - she was about 10 years old - who had $50 to spend on Christmas gifts. She went around to all the booths and decided that she wanted to spend it all on planting trees.

Tell me about some the challenges you experienced this year.

One of the biggest challenges is establishing credibility. You know, why us? Why would someone sign up for a subscription or buy our retail product? Our other major challenge was brand awareness. We spent very little on marketing this year, so garnering that exposure and awareness was difficult, but we managed to grow very organically.


What's the one thing that you want people to know about what you do? 

It's easy to get off the sidelines and do something. The first, small step makes a huge difference.

What is one piece of advice that you would give someone looking to start a social enterprise?

Think about the net benefit for your community. Focus on the goal. The structure (social enterprise vs. non-profit) is less important.

Tell me three fun facts about TreeEra.

  1. The company was born at Monogram Coffee. It wasn't until we were taking up six tables that we realized we needed an office space.
  2. Our office is nicknamed "Treehouse" because it literally looks and feels like a treehouse.
  3. TreeEra was originally called Treedom.

How to get in touch:


Facebook: TreeEraCo

Twitter: @treeeraco

Instagram: @treeeraco

Do you know of a person, business, non-profit or other organization doing amazing work in Calgary? Tell me about it! Visit the Feature Friday page for more information!

Feature Friday: Alzheimer's Society of Calgary


Feature Friday has always been a way to share the stories of people who are doing incredible things in Calgary. In the 13 months I have been creating these features, I have not featured a more deserving and worthy cause. Today, I am humbled to share the story of the Alzheimer’s Society of Calgary. I sat down with two women who have been affected by this disease in some form, and you can read their stories below. I hope this feature is more than a feature; I hope it is a call to learn more, understand what more than 12,000 Calgarians live with every day and to support them with compassion and care.

Dementia is not a not normal part of aging. It is a progressive, degenerative disease that destroys vital brain cells. More than 12,000 Calgarians are living with dementia, and every day approximately eight more Calgarians will develop Alzheimer’s disease or a related form of dementia. In Canada, over 564,000 people are living with this disease, and this is expected to double by 2031. More than 65% of these will be women.

There is no known cause or cure, and it can affect anyone. The Alzheimer’s Society of Calgary supports those affected with Alzheimer’s disease and their families.

I sat down with two women who have been affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Here are their stories.

Janet: affected by Alzheimer’s by two generations

Can you share a little bit about your experience with Alzheimer’s disease?

My grandfather and grandmother were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the 1970’s. Both my mom and dad were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the early and mid-2000’s. For my mom seeing her family members living with dementia was traumatizing.

Dementia develops insidiously, and people – especially spouses – think it’s their fault. So they don’t reach out or ask for help. Sometimes friends and family abandon because they don’t know how to deal with it. Finding a support group was helpful because you get the opportunity to talk with other people, and take their advice, lean on their support and know that you, as a family member, don’t have to go through this alone.

I think one of the biggest things I learned going through this many times is that it’s not about right; it’s about being kind. I remember driving my dad home one evening and he told me that he wanted to marry this woman. This woman was my mother. I said, “Dad, you’re already married to her, and I’m your daughter.” He became very quiet and withdrawn after that. I have learned that you need to be with that person in that moment however they are experiencing it. I had to remember that it wasn’t my dad who was acting this way, it was the disease.

In your experience, what common misconceptions do people hold about Alzheimer’s disease?

I think there is still a misconception out there that you can’t talk about it, that people with dementia are often violent and it’s not safe to be around them. There’s also a cloud of shame that follows this disease. What I have learned is that if you don’t talk about it, things are not going to get better. Talking about it will help you get the help you need.

How does an organization like Alzheimer’s Society of Calgary help support those living with dementia?

They have a great workshop where they teach the Best Friends Approach. It’s all about how to be with that person as they are in that moment. It’s not about correcting them, but it’s just about being with them.

The Society has been invaluable to me providing support. The support groups are wonderful – you can connect with other people going through the same thing, get some advice, learn how to not only care for the person living with dementia but also yourself and know that it’s okay to laugh, cry and have fun.

The Society also does wonderful events like this weekend’s Walk + Run. And I think they are very progressive as they are launching a Dementia Network.

No one should go through dementia alone, and the Alzheimer’s Society of Calgary provides that support.


Allyson Kenny: Alzheimer’s Society of Calgary Program Coordinator and currently living with Alzheimer’s

Can you speak a little bit to your experience with Alzheimer’s disease?

Both my grandmother and my uncle lived with dementia. My grandmother had a stereotypical case of dementia, and my uncle had vascular dementia, which is damage to the brains caused by a stroke or other vascular event.

What are some common misconceptions you believe people hold about dementia?

One of the biggest misconceptions of dementia is that it just affects memory. Dementia can affect more than memory – it can affect depth perception, emotions, personality and more.

Many people often think that dementia is like a death sentence, that life is over. However, we know that people living with dementia can live full, healthy lives.

There’s also significant fear surrounding this disease. Often, people don’t know to be around those with dementia. There are questions like, “What do I talk about with them?” or “Will they recognize me?”.

It’s important to know that dementia affects more than memory, people with dementia can live life well and reaching out to support the person and their families can be invaluable.

Tell me about the Alzheimer’s Society of Calgary.

The Alzheimer’s Society of Calgary started 35 years ago by Jeanne Bentley. Dementia was a growing issue, but there was little support for those living with dementia and their families. Jeanne gathered 8-10 of her friends to form what is now the Alzheimer’s Society of Calgary.

We are a person-centered organization – we focus on the person with dementia first, but we also offer programming to support caregivers, family and the community.

Our tagline is “where community, empowerment and insight begin.” Rallying the community through our Walk & Run, creating support groups and giving people the power to educate themselves on the disease is important to reducing the stigma around dementia and continuing to support those living with this disease.

You are launching a dementia network in Calgary. Can you tell me a little bit more about this?

No one organization can tackle dementia alone. The Dementia Network is a collective of organizations working in concert to provide a holistic, coherent system of support for those living with dementia and their families.

We have two main initiatives going on right now. We host a community gathering where people can bring their thoughts, ideas and questions about dementia to this space. We are launching the Conversation café on October 11, where we will gather at the new restaurant at the Kensington Legion. We are launching this to create an open space to gather as a community, to socialize, have a meal and simply be together as a community.

How can people get involved with the Society?

Join us on October 8 for the Thanksgiving Walk & Run. Online registrations close on October 7 at 2:30 pm, but people can still register on the day of the event.

People can also volunteer with the society. They can get more information about our volunteer opportunities on the website.

Lastly, people can educate themselves about the issues surrounding dementia. Education is a great step toward reducing that fear surrounding this disease.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I think it’s important for people to know that we are all about empowering communities and having a local impact. Any donations made to the Society 100% stay local.

About the Investors Group Alzheimer Walk & Run

The 27th Annual Investors Group Alzheimer Walk & Run takes place this Sunday, October 8 at Eau Claire Market. The Walk & Run includes a 5km walk, 5km run and 10km run. This event is for everyone, whether you are 2 years old or 92 years old. The funds raised from this event will go to support a growing number of families impacted by this disease. Learn more about the walk here:

You can learn more about the Alzheimer’s Society of Calgary and get involved by visiting their website, or following them on social media.


Facebook: Alzheimer Society of Calgary

Twitter: @alzcalgary

LinkedIn: Alzheimer Society of Calgary

YouTube: Alzheimer Society of Calgary

Do you know of a person, business, non-profit or other organization doing amazing work in Calgary? Tell me about it! Visit the Feature Friday page for more information!

5 Lessons You Learn in the First Year of Business


While sipping an Americano in a local coffee shop last summer, I made a decision that would change my life. I decided to take my little lifestyle blog and turn it into a business. Back then, I was young and dumb and I didn’t realize the magnitude of what I was about to do. It has been officially one year since Bourbon & Honey went from being a blog to a business. And it has been an incredibly tough, but wonderfully beautiful year. Not only have I been able to support my wonderful family of clients to tell their stories, but I have been able to collaborate with some of the best business owners in the city, and launch a dream project – Bloom Co. Since its humble beginnings as a blog, it has since become a way to inspire, support and educate women entrepreneurs as they build their businesses.

I’ve consumed dozens of Americanos since, added some awesome clients to the family, launched a magazine and learned some valuable lessons. Here are just five of them.

Lean Into Discomfort

Whether you are pursuing your business on the side, or it’s your full-time job, discomfort is normal. And it’s good. It means you are stepping into something new and exciting. You are eschewing the status quo and moving into the unknown. Stepping into the discomfort is where you find your true grit, where you find out what you are capable of. Yes, it will feel awful in the beginning, and you may want to return to what’s comfortable, but if you press through, you’ll find that you’ve created something beautiful that was worth every ounce of discomfort.

It’s Harder Than You Think

I’ve learned that what people often only see in my business is the final product. They see the Instagram post or the article. Maybe for you, it’s an Etsy shop or a website; maybe it’s a new bath product or branding package. They don’t see the work it took to create that website. They don’t see the emails, texts, documents and design files that it took to bring your branding package to market. And when we look at business and entrepreneurship that way, it can be easy to assume that it’s easy to do. In reality, it’s incredibly difficult and requires more of you than you thought. Being in business requires you to dig a little bit deeper, think a little bit smarter and work a little bit harder. But when you do the hard work, you can look back and say, “I did that!” and relish in the benefits of your hard work.

Have a Vision 

I say “have a vision” instead of “have a plan” because I don’t necessarily believe in business plans. Business changes so frequently that by the time you finish your business plan, it’s obsolete. Having a vision for your business allows you to create actionable goals and determine your roadmap for getting there. I have found more success with setting a vision and then jumping in rather than meticulously researching and planning before executing.

Find Your People

I’m not going to be the first person to tell you to “find your tribe, and love them hard.” However, it bears repeating because it is so important. There’s no way I would be where I am one year later if it weren’t for YYC Girl Gang, my business coach, my best friend and social media community. Each person’s support propelled me forward, helping me celebrate the good times and push through the difficult times.

Take Time For Yourself

In my opinion, the “hustle” is code for “burn out.” Listen, guys: it’s okay to take a break. It’s okay to say no to a project to protect your time, energy and mental health. It’s vital to the success of your business – and to your life – that you take a break. It doesn’t need to be something extravagant – it could be a simple morning sipping coffee on your porch, enjoying a dinner out with friends or relaxing with some tea and a book. Whatever you do, take a step back from your business and relax. You’ll notice that you come back more refreshed and productive.

I am beyond humbled to have been given the opportunity to build a business I love and pursue projects I’ve dreamt about. What I have learned this past year cannot be neatly described in 750 words. Beyond these five core lessons, I’ve learned to (in the words of Ms. Frizzle) take chances, make mistakes and get messy. It’s what fuels my business. It’s what defines me as an entrepreneur. It’s what I am taking into the second season of Bourbon & Honey.