FEATURE FRIDAY: WORLD OF CHOICES 2017

FEATURE FRIDAY: WORLD OF CHOICES 2017

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE FOOTHILLS HOLIDAY ROADSHOW 

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.

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HOW DID THE FOOTHILLS ROADSHOW START?

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.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU MOST ABOUT YOUR COMMUNITY?

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.

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WHY SHOULD PEOPLE ATTEND THE FOOTHILLS 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.

TELL ME THREE FUN FACTS ABOUT THE FOOTHILLS ROADSHOW.

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

HOW CAN PEOPLE GET IN TOUCH?

Website: www.foothillsroadshow.com

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 

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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.

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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.

treeera

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:

Website: www.treeera.com

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

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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.

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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: www.alzheimerwalkrun.ca

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

Website: https://www.alzheimercalgary.ca

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!

Stax Cycle Club, One Year Later

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Stax: steez to the max. (For those who don't speak hip hop, steez means "plain ol style with ease.") From the minute you walk through the doors of this slightly hidden spin studio to the moment you walk out of your class, the experience at Stax is filled with warm smiles from the front desk staff, the scent of that season's blue-coloured candle, a oddly comfortable combination of butt kicking classes and heart-centred encouragement from the city's top instructors and a hard-earned high-five (and the occasional hug) at the end of class.

Stax is a spin experience like no other that I have tried. I have been spinning for many years, and if you know me, you'll likely been annoyed by my slightly evangelistic attitude toward this workout. Nowhere else in this city have I felt more positivity, unity and community than I have here. Since Stax will be celebrating their official ONE YEAR next week, I thought it apropos to sit down with co-founders Emily and Katie to chat more about their experience as entrepreneurs since Stax's launch.

It has officially been one year since you opened the door to Stax. How has the last year been?

Being an entrepreneur is hard. You have to be so mentally prepared to take it on. But the rewards are massive. When we see instructors training other instructors, there's this moment of "Look at what we built!" That makes up for all the sucky stuff. When you have those thoughts where you wonder why you did this, those shiny moments come up and you know that you were meant to do this.

Doing this together was also one of the best decisions we made. You need that other person to bounce ideas off, to keep things going when you need to give yourself a break and to keep you sane. You need someone with you who is in it, who feels the same emotions, who understands it. And Katie and I have different skill sets, and they complements each other. We don't try to do the things we aren't good at - we work well together.

What have been some of your favorite moments?

We loved the TKW Ride with the Toni-Khon Woodward Foundation. They were amazing to work with, and we have built such a special relationship with them. Toni Khon was a an incredible girl, loved spin. After she passed suddenly, they started doing charity rides to help fund Toni's House which was going to support women in need. They did a ride in Calgary, and a bunch of studios got together to help out. It was such a meaningful, teary-eyed moment that you never forget.

Another highlight was our Britney Challenge. We decided to do a challenge that was polar opposite to what anyone else was doing. It was performance based, and we weren't going to just show up and put a checkmark in a box. No, you need to work for it. We just said, "you know what, you show up and put in the work we're going to send you to Vegas." That was a such a unique approach, and it was brainstormed by the team. What I love about this place is the instructors have a huge role in our business and how we market it. Our instructors are so talented and our job is to make their ideas come to life. And so they feel like their ideas are truly valued because we make it happen.

The other one is Ride the Roof. We had two instructors teach during the event. Mel G, who is one of the most legitimate, well-known and credible instructors in the city, falls high up there. And for one of our newer instructors, Shane (who ROCKED the show at Ride the Roof), this event helped him build his confidence and motivation as an instructor. I'm so proud of those two.

How has your community evolved since Stax started?

I think for me and all of our instructors, Stax has created a whole new purpose in life. Katie and I are athletes, and we are comfortable in this team environment. There was a period of time in my life where I wasn't really a part of much, and I didn't feel connected. It's crazy that we created this little circle here. It's bigger than that, too. We have so many wonderful friends - Sweat Science, Junction 9, Barre Body Studio - in Inglewood and are working together to create the most amazing hub. I also think Inglewood is like "Inglewood up to no good." It's kind of has this badass, old-school vibe to it, and that's what I like about it.

You've already touched on this, but how have you grown as entrepreneurs? What are some of the biggest lessons you can share for other entrepreneurs?

We think the biggest thing is resilience, and you need to have thick skin. You need to be ready for the criticisms, for the opportunists who might take your ideas. Our business was trademarked by a competitor right before we opened just to mess with us and force us out of this industry. We have never felt so personally attacked than we did in the moment we found out. The silver lining is that we now know more about trademarks and branding that I ever thought I would. We ended up changing our name, and we wouldn't call ourselves anything else.

The other lesson is invest your time, energy and resources wisely. Spend time doing what you can and outsource the rest. 

What do you think has set Stax apart from the other spin studios in Calgary?

Our spin program is tough. We expect our instructors to have a solid understanding of the program. Once an instructor has shown us that they can deliver consistently, we give them a lot of freedom to create their own class experience. Our classes need to be tough, I want people drenched when they walk through those doors, but I want our instructors to put their own personality in their classes.

We also don't try to be something that we aren't. It's real. We know that life is great sometimes, and we celebrate that. But we also know that life sucks sometimes, so we are going to sweat it out together.

What can we expect from Stax in the next year?

Lots of growth. We have 20 instructors in training right now. We will be building up our schedule, adding more evening and weekend classes.

We have a cool event coming up in October. We are running a campaign with The Sweat Science called Building an Army of Strong Women. It's all about empowering each other, building a community. We have guest instructors, doing rides with some local charities and some other fun stuff!

And we might be having another challenge in November, so make sure to connect with us to be the first to know!

Connect with Stax:

Website: www.staxcycleclub.com

Facebook: Stax Cycle Club

Instagram: @staxcycleclub

Feature Friday: Timeraiser Calgary

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I have the privilege of featuring a special community event this week: Timeraiser. Timeraiser is a unique program connecting nonprofit organizations to skilled volunteers in their communities. In 2017 Timeraiser is Timeraiser150, a Canada 150 signature program. To celebrate Canada's 150th birthday, each province will host a Timeraiser150 party. Timeraiser150 attendees the opportunity to earn a piece of artwork by volunteering time, not dollars.

Tell me a little bit about Timeraiser.

Timeraiser150 is a Canada 150 Signature Project supporting emerging Canadian artists and non-profit organizations.  10 Timeraiser150 parties in 10 provinces allow Canadians to bid on original art by investing volunteer time, not dollars, to causes they care about.  Each Timeraiser150 pulls out all the stops to throw a great party - from live performances to delicious local food and drink. Timeraiser is truly a celebration of creativity and community!

Online150 is an online extension of Timeraiser150.  Through Online150 Canadians from coast to coast can purchase art by volunteering their time with a non-profit organization in their local community.

Artists are paid for their work, non-profits find skilled volunteers, Canadians find meaningful volunteer opportunities.

Through Timeraiser150 and Online150, Framework aims to collectively raise more than 150,000 volunteer hours for non-profits across Canada in 2017, connecting Canadians to their communities and the causes they care about.

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How did Timeraiser start?

The event was started back in 2004 in the hopes of bridging several common gaps in the art and volunteer community; offering a new market entrance to local emerging artists, making original artwork more attainable to those in the community, and connecting non-profits with skilled volunteers. Due to the event’s success at ticking off all 3 areas, the event has continued to happen annually, and has grown across the country. The first Timeraiser party was in Toronto, and in 2015, Calgary hosted its 10th Timeraiser event!

What inspires you most about your community?

What’s really great about the Calgary event is the diversity you see in all aspects of the event and the participants. This year especially, we’ve got a wide range of art and mediums; photos, paintings, 3-Dimensional work, and everything in-between.

In addition to the art, the non-profits that participate in the event showcase the vast diversity in the Calgary community. (Non-profits can be seen at http://www.timeraiser.ca/calgary).  The non-profits represent interests such as the arts, wildlife and animal welfare, community well-being, access to athletics, and youth engagement in STEM.

It’s the pull of the artists and non-profits that have attracted such a young, vibrant, and diverse crowd year after year, and we anticipate this trend will continue for 2017. You’d be hard pressed to attend the event and not find at least one piece of art you like, and one non-profit you’d love to volunteer your time to.

Why should people attend a Timeraiser event?

I think one of the biggest recurring themes I’ve seen with Timeraiser is the possibility for success when you’re willing to try something new and/or outside of your comfort zone. So often we hear about attendees who start volunteering for a new nonprofit that they speak with and learn about at the event, and it winds up being such a great match for both involved. The attendee finds a new, rewarding volunteer outlet, and the non-profit finds a much-valued volunteer. So many of these stories and opportunities wouldn’t have happened had the attendee not been willing to reach out to the non-profits at our event. Same thing goes for our artists – many artists have gone on to return to Timeraiser year after year, after a ‘let’s give this a try’ application for their first event.

Tell me three fun facts about Timeraiser.

Since 2003, Timeraiser has:

  • Hosted 73 events across Canada
  • Invested $1,048,851 in the careers of emerging Canadian artists
  • Raised 156,602 volunteer hours from art winter pledges

How can people get in touch?

Website: http://www.timeraiser.ca/calgary 

Twitter: @TimeraiserYYC

Instagram: @Timeraiser

Facebook: @Timeraiser

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: Sarah Beau Photography

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Sarah is one of Calgary's best and sweetest wedding photographers. With a keen eye for the perfect shot, Sarah is a master behind the lens and a rising star in YYC. Learn more about the inspiration behind the beautiful photography and what keep Sarah close to her community.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your work. Where are you from? What do you do?

I’m Sarah, the gal behind the camera at Sarah Beau Photo here in YYC. I have the coolest job in the whole world that allows me to be a part of but also capture some of the best days of people’s lives. I’m a professional wedding photographer, and documenting love is my jam.sarah beau photography

What inspires you to do what you do? How did you start doing this work?

I went to school for photography, and when I was finished I made a point to try every genre of photography to find my niche. I don’t think I ever thought I would be here photographing weddings, I figured it would be mundane. However, after one wedding I was hooked. The way love shows up in images, it sets my soul on fire. Watching two humans interact on such an immeasurable scale makes my heart happiest.

sarah beau photography

What inspires you most about your community?

Calgary is such an amazing city, the diversity in the couples I get to work with, but also the diverse locations I get to photograph at. The constant assortment of venues keeps me inspired to take new images, to find new ways to photograph and to connect with my couples on a deeper level than just a client.

If you could give anyone who is starting out in your field one piece of advice, what would it be?

Never compromise your values to collect a pay cheque.

sarah beau photography

Tell me three fun facts about yourself or your organization.

  1. Ohh! Jinx, my dog, and I have matching tattoos. I have Zzz.. on my arm and she has it in her ear. Because friends that nap together stay together.
  2. I have Narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that causes me to fall asleep randomly. Fortunately, with diagnosis and a healthy lifestyle, it’s been managed and I haven’t “randomly” fallen asleep since high school.
  3. Two Phobias: Feet & Birds, and don’t even get me started on bird feet.

sarah beau photography

How can people get in touch?

Yes, come hang out online with me!

www.sarahbeauphoto.com

Instagram : @sarahbeauphoto

Facebook : Sarah Beau Photography

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!

xo _ britt

Feature Friday: Gypsy Skulls

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When I saw the name Gypsy Skulls pop up on my Instagram nearly a year ago, I was hooked. I even wrote a mini piece about her in this article on my fall essentials. Ayla is the beautiful artist behind the company, who not only has a creative eye but a sweet soul and an infectious kindness. Read on to learn more about her art, her inspiration and community.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your work. Where are you from? What do you do?

I am the owner and artist behind Gypsy Skulls:; pressed flower art, apparel and decor. I was born and raised here in Calgary, AB and my partner and I are now raising 2 babies of our own in this beautiful city. My background lays in Kinesiology and prior to Gypsy Skulls, I worked as an Exercise Physiologist for the Canadian Sport Institute. When I had my first baby, I started doing a little bit more with Gypsy Skulls while on maternity leave and before I knew it, a full blown business had blossomed (pun intended)!

Gypsy Skulls

What inspires you to do what you do? How did you start doing this work?

Gypsy Skulls was manifested while I was working on a Masters degree in something completely unrelated. I needed a creative outlet and had my hand in making jewelry, crocheting etc when I came across a beautiful rendition of a Sugar Skull done in all water color florals. The flowers looked so real and beautiful it had me thinking that a Skull made of real flowers would be incredible....well it wasn't. Not the first time anyways. It looked a lot like Hannibal Lecter. But I worked hard at the skill of pressing flowers and working with them and as time went on I was able to tap into a creative side that I didn't even know existed.

I am definitely inspired by nature. Flowers are so incredibly unique and an absolute wonder to work with. I am also inspired by our incredible community of entrepreneurs who love and support each other. I am blown away by the support that Calgary has to offer small businesses and honored to be a part of this community.

What inspires you most about your community?

As I eluded to before, the on-going support that the community of Calgary has provided me with as a small business is incredible. People are shifting in how they shop and are excited to support local entrepreneurs; it is very inspiring to witness that shift in our culture.

Gypsy Skulls If you could give anyone who is starting out in your field one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don't be afraid to say no. This took me a really long time to learn but knowing when to say no is really important to your brand and your business. Set goals for your company, know your brand and stay true to yourself. If a request isn't in line with those aspects, it is OK to say no.

Tell me three fun facts about yourself.

  1. I hate naming fun or interesting facts about myself! I always draw a complete blank.
  2. I adore cycling. It's taken a bit of a back seat since I had babies, but I have gone on many incredible adventures on my bike, including a summer that I rode across Canada (6000km).
  3. Wine is my spirit animal.

Gypsy Skulls

How can people get in touch?

Photo Credit: @lindsay_skeans
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!

xo _ britt

Feature Friday: You Ain't Your Weight

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This week, I am sharing the story of an amazing woman with a wonderful message. I first heard about Jenna from You Ain't Your Weight from my friends at Be Social Centric. Her message is inspiring and her story is refreshing. Read on to inspire your body postivity and enjoy a great story.

you ain't your weight

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your work. Where are you from? What do you do?

My name is Jenna Free and I am a body image coach and intuitive eating counselor. I help women ditch the diet and find peace in their bodies. I was born and raised in Calgary and still live here.

I work with women privately, in group programs and in my free Facebook Group! My passion is to help as many women as possible stop dieting and move on with their lives, so many of us are waiting on the weight. No more!

What inspires you to do what you do? How did you start doing this work?

I got into this because after a decade of dieting and hating my body, losing weight, gaining weight and even getting into modeling overseas I was never comfortable in my skin. Eventually, I realized it didn’t matter what I looked like, my food and body issues really had nothing to do with food or my body! I realized I didn’t want to be skinny, I just wanted to be happy.

A couple years ago I started selling Beachbody products ( intense workout programs) and I had been doing these kinds of programs forever so I thought why not sell them? I’ll never forget one day when I was doing up my laces to do one of the workouts and I thought to myself, “ugh, this is the last thing I want to be doing right now!”. It really dawned on me that my life was no longer my own, I had to do this workout on this day, I had to eat this at this time… and on and on it goes! I had had enough, canceled my Beachbody position and started my own business helping women realize that weight loss is NOT the answer.

I help women repair their relationship with food and their bodies so they can stop being hung up on losing weight and start living! It’s amazing what women wait for when they think they need to lose weight: relationships, career goals, travel, wearing cute clothes. It’s amazing how the idea of weight loss limits us from living!! This is what I help women overcome so they can truly start living.

What inspires you most about your community?

This city is amazing, it’s big and has a lot going on but often feels like I live in a small town! The wellness community in this city is tight-knit and so inviting! When I meet one new person they know someone else I know and it’s great to have people in common in business.

If you could give anyone who is starting out in your field one piece of advice, what would it be?

Decide what you stand for and NEVER sway. At first, my messaging was a bit all over the place, I provided healthy recipes, then told someone that weight loss wasn’t the answer, then I would post a workout. It didn’t flow and so I had no strong viewpoint to provide my audience. I now hold strong in my body positive message no matter what!

Tell me three fun facts about yourself or your organization.

  1. I love pizza. (Too much? Nah, no such thing)
  2. I am filming a documentary about Intuitive Eating and Body Love right now!
  3. Our group program, The Body Love Society, is opening up in August.

 How can people get in touch?

www.youaintyourweight.com

www.instagram.com/youaintyourweight

www.facebook.com/youaintyourweight

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!

xo _ britt