Meet Brianne Nord-Stewart, Writer, Director, and Editor

It’s tough to make friends in adulthood. Without the confines of a classroom to force you together, forging new friendship relies on extending out beyond your comfort zone. Enter Vancouver Neatos interviews, where I introduce you to a new face in Vancouver every week (ish). Want to take part? Drop me a line.

Photo by Lung Lui

Photo by Lung Lui

Tell us about yourself.

Make the first question a little harder why don’t ya! Well, I’m a filmmaker. I write, direct, produce and edit various works of film and media. Mostly scripted, mostly comedy. I love collaborating with musicians on music videos, whether concept, or live videos. The goal is to have most of my focus on sole directing, both in TV and feature films, while remaining a creative producer, and co-writing, or working with a writer to build the project together. Outside of that, I ride my bike, do yoga, borrow dogs and cars for hikes, dream of owning a boat, and travel at every opportunity.

What drew you to becoming a filmmaker?

As a seven-year-old actor once said to me, “I want to be a director like you so that I can tell everyone what to do.” I was lucky enough to write and direct my first short in high school. I knew right then that I wanted to be a director, and I was more than capable enough to pursue it. From then on I just pursued a a director career and didn’t leave space for any doubt in as to whether or not it would work out. I then started writing so that I would have something to direct, and edited because no one else around me was interested, nor got my humour. Now I have too many ideas to execute them all, and while I know how to edit, and I’m good at it, and others pay me to do it for them, it would be fantastic to find a collaborative editor who gets me, gets my comedy, and makes it even better.

Is there anything that particularly influences or inspires your work?

Real life. Real life x 1000. Or the over caffeinated version of real life. At this point, I will stay longer in almost any situation that I don’t particularly like just to find out: what happens next? Online date that is making animal noises at me, sure. Let’s stay awhile, this might be reaaaaal good. If you look through my body of work, you may come to the same conclusion that my grandpa did, “you seem to make a lot of films about sex, eh?” I think I just want to bring the relief of laughter to situations most of us are too uptight to laugh about. I’m currently working on some serious dark subject matter and calling it a comedy. There is a theatre show on tour that is a comedy about rape, by and for victims of sexual assault. I hope it’s hilarious, and I would love to see it.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start filmmaking?

You need to be seriously flexible with your lifestyle. You need to know how to save when you have a pay day, and make it last when you aren’t making any money, so that you can use that “not making any money” time to really hone in on your craft, and invest in yourself, to finance your own work.

Also, don’t be a prick. No one wants to do favours for a prick, and you will need a fuck ton of favours to get your indie whatever made.

Know what other people’s jobs are all about. If you don’t know what an editor is up against, you are doing yourself a disservice as a director. I have learned so much by editing my own work. I can hear myself directing on set, times when I did well, and times when I should have shut the hell up and let the scene carry on. You also get to see all your mistakes and shots you should have gotten over the ones you did.

What are the biggest challenges for filmmakers? How do you think we can overcome those challenges?

Making movies is fucking expensive. That said, you can make films for practically nothing now, and a good script is far more valuable than fancy equipment or fancy locations. Story comes first. Finding out that your story isn’t that great while you’re in the editing room, is a seriously expensive mistake. Show people your script. Pay for a script doctor. Make the film, show people, and do it again. As your skills with each project, you can also grow your budget (or not).

You also have to be self-motivated. No one will hold you accountable to write your own first feature. No one cares if you sell it. Only you do. So do yourself a favour and work hard. As for favours, make it better, and try like hell to make it.

Where’s your favourite spot in Vancouver to set up a laptop and get shit done?

My house (either my desk, my kitchen chopping block, the dining room table, or the old lady chair in my room), my office (on my office mates’ desk), JJbean on Bute & Alberni (the space chairs upstairs are so comfy). When it’s just me and my notebook, Happy Hour at Waterfront Station’s Rogue Wet Bar.

Can you share any resources you’ve found most helpful in your career?

There are really so many, and every year I just add more. William F. Whites has been HUGE in supporting my productions and I look forward to studios paying them millions in the future to rent their gear for my productions. Women in the Director’s Chair has mentored me since university, Telus and Telus Optik, Harold Greenberg Fund, BC Arts Council, The Movie Network, Movie Central, SEED in Northwest Territories, the NFB, have all financed a film, music video, or my professional development. The people I met at my old yoga studio got me more contract video work than anyone from university or otherwise ever did. I’m a hustler and have either found or created most of my paid work in the last seven years. I’ll be getting an agent very soon and hopefully I will be credited them for a lot in the near future.

What’s in the works for you right now?

I just wrapped Season One of a new comedy web-series, YOUNG & RECKLESS, written by Andrea Shawcross, which will be available on Telus Optik VOD, YouTube, and more come the fall. I have one or two new videos coming down the pipe with singer RYKKA, and my first with Vancouver’s Sadie Campbell, which will be out mid June.

I have three other web-series/series in the works, my short BEAT AROUND THE BUSH is killing it at film fests across the continent and now spilling into Europe, as well as a feature film of the same concept in development. You can keep up to date with all the things at www.Nord-Stewart.com.

Anything you’d like to add?

Please recycle. Eat real food. Respect the outdoors, and laugh at my goddamn movies.

Did you connect with Brianne? Check out my interview with Melanie Jones or drop me a line and join the party. Here’s how you can get involved.

Meet Samantha Landa, Founder of Brandcafe

It’s tough to make friends in adulthood. Without the confines of a classroom to force you together, forging new friendship relies on extending out beyond your comfort zone. Enter Vancouver Neatos interviews, where I introduce you to a new face in Vancouver every week (ish). Want to take part? Drop me a line.

Samantha Landa on Stylings and Stories

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a full-time content, branding, and writing professional (samlanda.com) who’s launching a new company (brandcafe.co) this summer. That’s “by day.” I’m also a metal drummer “by night.” Born and raised in Richmond, I now live in Mount Pleasant with my boyfriend and husky. I have a dusty geography degree from UBC and I love meeting new people. Overachievers unite–you can find me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

What drew you to the content and branding world?

I’ve been writing all my life–I’m pretty sure I was born with a pen in my hand. That later became a Windows 3.1 PC. And that later became a MacBook. As a creative writer, I always dreamed of being a novelist. I may not be one yet (although I finished writing one a few years ago), but I do get paid to do what I love, which at the moment is helping companies tell their stories and find an interesting voice–especially those in traditionally non-exciting industries.

Is there anything that particularly influences or inspires your work?

I love a great ad campaign, especially one that makes me think or makes me laugh. There are a million ways to promote a product, service, or cause, but there are only a few ways to do it right. Most of all, however, it’s people who inspire me, both in my content work and my music. I love making people happy.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start doing what you do?

For those wanting to write for businesses: volunteer a lot, if you aren’t walking out of school with a communications degree (and even then, you should get experience your own way). There are plenty of people looking for writing help, and you can plump up your resume very quickly. Go to networking events. Check Meetup.com. There are tons out there!

For those wanting to quit the day job and work for yourself: do it. But have a plan, and a backup plan. Start moonlighting and meeting people who could become potential clients. Just don’t let the planning get in the way of your dreams. It’s never going to be the perfect time, which means now is the perfect time.

For those wanting to learn drums: you’re going to suck after just a few tries. Don’t give up. The number of people who say “I’m a horrible drummer” but have only sat down on the drums once, is astounding. I was a terrible drummer for a long time, and I’m a musical person; I just didn’t want to practice enough. Find your passion and do whatever it takes to get there, no matter how long you need to struggle. Rent an hourly rehearsal space (there are plenty in town) and get a good teacher.

What are the biggest challenges for writers? How do you think we can overcome those challenges?

The biggest challenge for many writers–especially freelancers–is setting one’s self apart from hundreds of other Vancouver writing professionals. There are many of you out there, but there’s more than enough work to go around. Shake hands. Get outside. Make and receive referrals. Be a good writer (“maybe she’s born with it”). But most importantly, be genuine, and people will respect you and trust you to do good work. Then go in there and prove how awesome you are, champ.

Where’s your favourite spot in Vancouver to set up a laptop and get shit done?

I’m biased, but I work a few days a week (when I can) at Spacekraft, a great coworking space in Burnaby. It has everything I need to be productive, but it also provides the social setting I miss from when I used to work in a corporate office.

Also, my patio is awesome.

Can you share any resources you’ve found most helpful in your career?

The most helpful resource I’ve found so far has been a closed Facebook group called Girl Gang. I’ve found clients, contractors, referral partners, and friends through this group. I highly recommend finding Meetup groups like this, or starting your own accountability group, especially if you’re a solopreneur or a new small business owner.

What’s in the works for you right now?

I’m launching my company, Brandcafe, this summer. It takes the SaaS package business model and applies it to the content world (to the uninformed, it means businesses sign up for a package to get ongoing custom content every month). And my band is recording our second album!

Did you connect with Sam? Check out my interview with Sara Bynoe or drop me a line and join the party. Here’s how you can get involved.

Meet Melanie Jones, Filmaker and Artist

It’s tough to make friends in adulthood. Without the confines of a classroom to force you together, forging new friendship relies on extending out beyond your comfort zone. Enter Vancouver Neatos interviews, where I introduce you to a new face in Vancouver every week (ish). Want to take part? Drop me a line.

Melanie Jones on Stylings and Stories

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Melanie Jones. I am an artist and filmmaker and my “day job” is Assistant Professor of Sculpture & Extended Media at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford. I grew up making art and pursued a BFA and MFA. After all that I decided to throw it all aside and go to film school! I’ve been making films for about 10 years now. I went to Langara College for my film education. Since then I’ve made 13 short films and just completed my first feature film called “FSM” which played at Vancity Theatre Apr 16 and 18 during Canadian Film Week and was featured on the cover of the Georgia Straight last week.

What drew you to becoming an artist?

I have wanted to be an artist since I was a kid. So I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t creative or trying to be. It’s in my DNA I think. My parents were both musicians (jazz and opera) so I grew up in a house where creativity was highly valued. My parents also both became teachers and I’m certain that influenced my decision to pursue a teaching career as a parallel path to my creative work. It gives me just enough free time to pursue my own projects, while still feeling grounded and able to pay my rent.

Is there anything that particularly influences or inspires your work?

I have a deep desire for honesty. I think that some of the best art in the world is about truth-seeking. That’s what always draws me in. I personally find it very hard to lie, which has sometimes gotten me into trouble. So I think it’s just part of who I am. I like truth and a certain kind of raw vulnerability that comes from art-making and storytelling in the mediums I’ve chosen. My goal in filmmaking is always to find the honesty of the scene or the moment. To get there with the actors. My biggest criticism of other films is when the acting feels like “acting.” It’s gotta be genuine to make that deep imprint on us. Now that I’ve started writing, I’m searching for that kind of honesty on the page in the subjects and dialogue in my films.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start making films?

Start. When I decided to apply to film school I looked up the nearest film club and jumped on set as a crew member. I’ve always been a bit of a keener in school and I was worried about going to film school and knowing nothing about being on set! Haha. But it really was an amazing way to learn and begin to network. I still know and work with people from that very first film. In Canada, and especially Vancouver, there are so many opportunities to make films—Crazy 8’s, Hot Shot Shorts, Whistler 72 Hour Showdown, Raincity, Storyhive—and you don’t need a lot of money to make a short film. You need realiable friends and some gear. Even then, you can shoot on your phone nowadays. It might not be the most beautiful film you ever make, but you learn every time you make a film and that experience is invaluable. It’s important to recognize that film is a collaborative medium. If you have ideas but no interest in compromise or working with others, then film isn’t for you—better to choose another art form where you can be in total control. Me, I love that part of making films—it’s the “two heads are better than one” idea except you literally have hundreds of “heads” working on solutions to the challenges that arise. It transcends what any one person would be able to do alone. I feel energized by working with others and encouraging everyone to bring ideas to the table and shine.

What are the biggest challenges for filmmakers? How do you think we can overcome those challenges?

Almost always it’s money and time. People who want to be filmmakers often end up working in the industry in other positions and the hours can be long—leaving you with little time or energy for your own projects. I decided to go a different route with my “job” so I would have more time and energy for my dreams. But you have to live, and living in Vancouver is expensive. And films can be expensive to make. How else do you raise money to make one? There’s stiff competition for real funding, and not everyone can crowdfund successfully. It’s a tough balance to strike. For female filmmakers, it’s unfortunate but true that there is an uphill battle. The stats are abysmal. But there’s hope. I think we just have to rally around each other and keep busting down that door, as many times as it takes until the funders and studios realize they are actually missing out on something by not supporting literally half the human population’s stories. I believe it will get better, and I just hope to be part of it.

Where’s your favourite spot in Vancouver to set up a laptop and get shit done?

I wrote my first feature film, “FSM,” almost entirely while sitting at the Granville Island Tea Company. But they’ve gotten rid of their seating area now so lately I write more at home. I do have a new-ish favorite spot because it has no wifi, so I don’t get distracted when I go there to work. It’s busy a lot so sometimes can be hard to get a seat. That’s why I’m not sharing the location…haha.

Can you share any resources you’ve found most helpful in your career?

The indie film community in Vancouver is actually pretty rad. There are TONS of groups for support and networking. I find it exhausting actually so it’s best to probably pick a couple that you like and not try to do them all. There’s Celluloid Social Club, Cold Reading Series, Women in Film and Television, Raindance, Cineworks, and plenty more on Facebook that you can join for jobs and networking. I have my own group called FADE IN where I host script reads sometimes—just with a few friends. But I’ve attended or been a member of all of the above at various times in the past decade. I also really love this online newsletter called Mentorless.

What’s in the works for you right now?

I’m editing a music video for a Vancouver artist named “ROYAL,” hope to release that in May. And writing my next feature called “Switchback”—it’s a wilderness thriller set on the West Coast Trail here in British Columbia. I’m building the funding application for that right now—looking for funds and investors so I can shoot it next spring. FSM is off to Nice, France next.

Did you connect with Melanie? Check out my interview with Laurel Brown, Founder of Cinema Spectacular, or drop me a line and join the party. Here’s how you can get involved.

Meet Ciele Beau, Vancouver Creative and Musician

It’s tough to make friends in adulthood. Without the confines of a classroom to force you together, forging new friendship relies on extending out beyond your comfort zone. Enter Vancouver Neatos interviews, where I introduce you to a new face in Vancouver every week (ish). Want to take part? Drop me a line.

Ciele Beau on Stylings and Stories

Tell us about yourself.

I always have the hardest time answering this question. I always feel like there is so much to boil down. I do a lot of things. My name is Ciele, and I am a maker of things and a creative thinker. I spend a lot of my time making music (under “Ciele”). Right now I am dabbling in writing for electronic producers, but also working on my own music which could be defined as electronic alternative-pop.

When I’m not making music I split my time making art. I am a professional painter, graduating in 2013 with my BFA from UVic, majoring in Visual Arts. I am currently working a lot with my experience of synesthesia; a condition where the stimulation of one sensory pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory pathway, for example I experience colour when I hear sound. (Examples and further explanation can be seen here). I also started my own art and design company this year, Honey and Heart Co., which focuses on freelance graphic design and illustration, as well as an etsy shop! I opened up my etsy shop a few months ago, so you can check out some of that either on Etsy or on Instagram. I am currently attending Emily Carr University, getting my 2D Design certificateto brush up some skills, which I will hopefully have completed in the next year.

What drew you to becoming a musician and creator?

Ever since I can remember I have been creating, constantly doing crafts and drawing, and singing at every waking moment. My friends call me the walking jukebox because I often start singing whatever song reference comes to mind based on a single word someone has said. I grew up being very shy, and introverted, and relatively private when it comes to my emotions and feelings, so I found a great space for expression in art, of every medium. I have been striving to make my art my main profession in my adult life because that is what makes me whole. For a few years after graduating university, I was working some minimum wage service jobs and found myself getting really depressed because not only was I broke, working full-time, but I also didn’t have a lot of energy for my creative passions, and what I actually wanted to be doing. So the last three years especially has been a journey of getting to a place where I can work creatively and be more fulfilled in my life doing things I love.

Is there anything that particularly influences or inspires your work?

I’m very influenced by the condition of the human heart, and the way we connect to each other. Ideas of acceptance, diversity, honesty, and the meat of human emotion and what rocks us. In my music I write a lot about the human condition, and from experiences I have been in. I try to be as honest as possible so people can relate to something real. In my art I try to do the same thing but in a bit of a different way. While my music is a bit more serious, my art is bright and poppy, and I use a little dark humor here and there to get my point across about something I’m feeling or an issue that’s important to me. I’m influenced by nostalgia, and being present. By small moments, and quiet conversations. By loud colours, and natural phenomena. By people’s laughter, and by their tears. By the human bond that moves between each and every one of us.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start being an artist?

This advice seems a bit cliché, but honestly you just have to keep working hard and truly believing that you’re on the right path. The arts, in general, can be an “off the beaten path” profession regardless of which creative avenue you’re following, but if you believe it’s what you’re meant to do, and you can find a way to express yourself authentically , than GO FOR IT. I read something a while back that talked about how often times its not about how talented you are at something but how long you committed to doing it, because along the way, no matter what, people will give up, and it’s the people who stuck it through that end up “making it” (whatever that means to you). So, keep at it. Allow yourself days when you simply feel like shit and don’t have energy for anything else, and then pick yourself up the next day, and get back to the hustle. Stay curious, and inspired by the small things around you, and the people you see every day. You don’t have to fly halfway across the world to get inspiration (but if your work takes you traveling, hallelujah! ENJOY IT!) And, most of all, remember to play, to keep things fun, and try not to take yourself too seriously.

What are the biggest challenges for artists? How do you think we can overcome those challenges?

A huge challenge for artists/musicians/freelancers is the common expectation of working for free. Which I think is pretty ridiculous. I’m sure many of you have seen a meme or video on the internet showing what it would look like if you asked professionals in other fields to work for free and how silly that looks. I think in all professions there is a point and time where you are the “student” and you need practice, so sometimes you do it for the experience. I would say in situations like that, if you don’t want to charge money, perhaps it could be an exchange of services with the other individual, or something that makes it an energy exchange versus a financial exchange. At a certain point though, you can’t just be doing jobs for free–you’ll never actually make money if you aren’t charging for your services/paintings/vocal features.

How can we overcome this? It’s such a hard question. If you’re a non-creative person who ever requires the assistance of someone creative, please pay them. Value their time, and skill set, and put a monetary value on it. Creativity isn’t all about monetary gain, but like anything it’s a job and these wonderful, magical, creative people have rent to pay and families to support. If you are a creative type–I want you to think about this. If someone asked you to sit in a room for an hour, doing nothing, how much would that hour be worth to you in dollars? 20? 50? 100? Now try applying that to how long it takes you to make your art, or write a song. I bet the amount is a lot higher than you would arbitrarily charge someone for your craft. Don’t be afraid to charge for your time and your work. You are valuable. You are worth it. You are a unicorn.

Where’s your favorite spot in Vancouver to set up a laptop and get shit done?

I live off Commercial Drive, so within that area, I am a regular at Continental, as well as Moja (which has great tables for setting up camp and working). I also really love Elysian near 7th and Quebec. It’s tucked away, and usually pretty quiet. And Kafka’s on Main and Broadway. I could go on… but I also really love coffee so… that’s a different conversation!

Can you share any resources you’ve found most helpful in your career?

Hm.. a lot of my resources have come from online communities, either through Facebook, or Soundcloud, and even Instagram at times. And most often through the people around me. I haven’t had a lot of outside help from bigger organizations, or grants. One artist I have found particularly inspiring is Lisa Congdon. She is an artist based out of Portland now, and she wrote a book called Art Inc. which I found helpful and a great resource on how to make it as a painter/fine artist especially. Look it up! Also the book “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert, if you’re in need of a major pep talk. That book is now highlighted and dog-eared like nobody’s business.

What’s in the works for you right now?

Music-wise, I just released a vibey electronic-pop version of Work by Rihanna (on Soundcloud & Spotify), and am recording a lot of demos at the moment in preparation for an EP of some kind. Art-wise, I am putting together some proposals for art grants and gallery shows, and also creating a new painting series of works based on the discomfort and stress of every day life pressures. And coming up with some new illustrations to add to my Etsy shop!

Did you connect with Ciele? Check out my interview with Zoe Welch, a Vancouver visual artist, or drop me a line and join the party. Here’s how you can get involved.

Meet Heather Vince, Founder of True Work

It’s tough to make friends in adulthood. Without the confines of a classroom to force you together, forging new friendship relies on extending out beyond your comfort zone. Enter Vancouver Neatos interviews, where I introduce you to a new face in Vancouver every week (ish). Want to take part? Drop me a line.

Heather Vince, Founder of True Work

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a Vancouver “orig-i-nal” who gets far too excited about Indian, Filipino, and Thai food. I’m passionate about accessibility, girls’ rights, travelling, design, and dogs!

I’m hard of hearing and wear two hearing aids. People ask me all the time where I’m from. They say “I can’t quite pin down where your accent is from.” They’re always surprised when I say I’m born and raised here. I love the stories and artwork that come out of the Deaf community, and I wish more people knew sign language so they could have the same appreciation. On the other hand, I’m a huge music fan with too many instruments for a person who can’t play a single one. I’m trying to learn the harmonica but my dog hates it. Music is cathartic and healing and I’d like to start a project to make music accessible to anyone who wishes to learn by creating a skill-sharing and instrument lending community (Hit me up if you’re interested in getting involved)!

What drew you to become an advocate for the Deaf community?

I was born hard of hearing, and while I was fortunate not to be teased by my classmates about my hearing aids, I knew I was different from my peers and that I had different needs—I also had the superpower of being able to lipread, so that gained me some serious cool points!

In grade nine, while working at my first job as a bus-girl at a restaurant, a deaf family came in and I practically abandoned my work to eat dinner with them—I felt like I had met my “people.” From that day on, I did everything I could to learn more about deafness and American Sign Language (ASL). I also quickly recognized my privilege in being able to step out of the Deaf world and back into the hearing world when it suited me. It bothers me.

In my high school, we could learn French, Spanish, or Punjabi, but ASL wasn’t an option. I teamed up with another young man who was on a mission to add ASL to the British Columbia education curriculum, and together with some friends, deaf and hearing, we collected thousands of signatures and took them to Victoria. The Government approved it and today students can choose American Sign Language as an elective course. My activism began when I was 15 years old.

Is there anything that particularly influences or inspires your work?

Anyone who is a Dancing With the Stars fan, or perhaps enjoys America’s Next Top Model, will know the name Nyle DiMarco. Nyle is a phenomenal role model for the Deaf community in that he celebrates his deafness and takes pride in his language and culture. And he’s done really well. His exposure on these two widely-watched shows has given him a platform from which he can educate hearing people on the Deaf experience of stigma and oppression. But his message is very positive in that the more we know, the more we can all come together to support one another.

In the Deaf community, there are many Nyles. Some of the most intelligent people I know are Deaf and it’s so frustrating to see limits placed upon them. I’m a big believer in accessibility and equity and I would love to see Vancouver become an inclusive city for the Deaf community.

What advice would you give someone who wants to learn American Sign Language or more about Deaf culture?

Do it. There are tons of ways in which you can learn sign language but please know there is a lot of misguided education coming from hearing teachers who have no business teaching a language that does not belong to them. Be an ally—support the Deaf community by learning from a qualified Deaf instructor. Vancouver Community College has some intro courses as well as the ASL/Deaf Studies program, and QueerASL is a queer and transgender positive space to learn with awesome, fun instructors! You won’t regret learning, I promise.

What are the biggest challenges for the Deaf community? How do you think we can overcome those challenges?

We live in a phono-centric world, which means we place a lot of value on the ability to hear. The way hearing people take in the world, the way they navigate it and communicate is through sound, so they pity those who can’t hear because they can’t imagine life any other way. But deaf people are in no way missing out—the biggest hurdle for them is not that they can’t hear, but the world refusing to meet them halfway.

I think if more people were open to learning from the Deaf community about what it’s like to have important decisions made for them, have opportunities taken away, to be kept out of conversation, and always told “no,” we could begin to make some real change. And I would love to see more people making an effort to communicate. Lipreading is not dependable, so using your phone or pen and paper is best. Hey, try gesturing!

Where’s your favourite spot in Vancouver to set up a laptop and get shit done?

I have a dog and I would give anything for an office that would allow me to bring him in with me. Until then, I can be found working at home with him and my computer on my lap.

Can you share any resources you’ve found most helpful in your career?

+Acumen! The first course I took was the Design Kit: The Course for Human-Centred Design and it’s changed the way I approach problem-solving and solution-finding. They have some great courses on leadership, storytelling for change, marketing, social enterprise 101, and business models—just about everything for anyone looking to create social impact in their communities.

I was also a cohort member of Groundswell, which gave me an amazing opportunity to collaborate with some of Vancouver’s biggest hearts and brightest minds. You need mentors? They have’ em. Also Groundswell is a social enterprise café with a really great working space if you need a place to work and get caffeinated.

(Also, Girl Gang – holla!)

What’s in the works for you right now?

I just got True Work up and running. I have a vision for a new workplace, one that is inclusive and embraces new ways of communicating. True Work is an initiative to showcase professionals in Vancouver’s Deaf community and highlight the work they are doing and their personal projects. I want businesses and organizations to have an opportunity to get to know these incredible individuals, and have my website be a way to connect employers to highly qualified candidates.

I also want to have it be a catalyst for learning about the Deaf community and its vibrant culture, by sharing news and current affairs happening in Deaf communities worldwide.

Anything you’d like to add

If you or someone you know has an organization with a mandate for inclusive hiring, I’d love to chat! If you’re interested in learning more about ASL or the Deaf community (or travel, dogs, music, Indian food – anything really), I’d be thrilled to meet you.

Did you connect with Heather’s story? Check out the rest of the interview series or drop me a line and join the party. Here’s how you can get involved.

Meet Sandra Garcia, President of Conscious Public Relations Inc.

It’s tough to make friends in adulthood. Without the confines of a classroom to force you together, forging new friendship relies on extending out beyond your comfort zone. Enter Vancouver Neatos interviews, where I introduce you to a new face in Vancouver every week (ish). Want to take part? Drop me a line.

Sandra Garcia Conscious PR on Stylings and Stories

Tell us about yourself.

I’m 34, the President of Conscious Public Relations Inc., a transcendental meditation practitioner, yogi, runner, self-development junkie, and film buff. I also like to dance to old-school hip hop, bake, watch HBO + Netflix original TV series, and am an aspiring vegan. I love sweets but I am making the effort to cut refined sugar out of my diet this year. Also am taking up hiking, French, and getting married in July.

What drew you to becoming a PR practitioner?

I graduated from English literature and film studies in 2005, and was interested in film communications at the time. The administrator of the film department at UBC passed me an internship for a PR firm that specialized in events for the film industry, so that really intrigued me. After the internship, I got hired at the company, and pretty much learned everything about PR on the job. I ended up going back to school and taking some courses at BCIT, but felt that what I was learning in school was already becoming outdated. After I left the company in 2007, I didn’t feel like applying to other PR firms, so I opened my own business in 2008.

Is there anything that particularly influences or inspires your work?

I’ve always had a love for language since I was a child, though I didn’t admit it until later in life. I was reading and writing from a very young age and I think that’s what’s carried me through to corporate communications. In 2012, I rebranded to Conscious PR Inc., which specializes in PR for socially and environmentally responsible companies and individuals who are changemakers and disruptors, so people who are actively changing the world for the better are who inspires our work. I also am in awe of marketers who are ahead of the industry and leading the charge, because associations are so slow to see the changes happening in the marketing world. So people like Gary Vaynerchuk, Mitch Joel, and Sunny Lenarduzzi inspire me because they share their knowledge so openly so that the rest of us can follow suit.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start public relations?

Know that you’re a good writer and don’t stop practicing. Blogging is an easy way to do that. Also, internships are the best way in to getting work experience, and most PR programs in the Lower Mainland have practicums as part of their programs. Even if you go the traditional route and get a degree first, you can still supplement your education and volunteer or get summer internships so that you’re ahead of the game when you graduate. Have a thick skin (don’t take your work personally), and be prepared to offer service with a smile, even though you might be gritting your teeth behind it!

What are the biggest challenges for Public Relations? How do you think we can overcome those challenges?

I think the biggest challenges are the new developments, tools, and methodologies that the digital world and social media have hammered down on the PR practice. I don’t want to say that schools are behind, but they’re certainly not ahead, and neither are industry associations. Everything is changing, and you have to look ahead to keep up. At Conscious PR, we have a no news release policy because it’s so old fashioned and media don’t tend to read them.

Trying everything out to see how it might benefit our business or our clients is what we have to do to stay ahead of our practice. This is why I’m on Snapchat now! (Plug: Follow me @sandragarcia604!) For people who aren’t PR practitioners, there are SO many resources out there and we often share a lot of those on our Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.

Where’s your favourite spot in Vancouver to set up a laptop and get shit done?

Before moving to Main Street, I would have said any café on Main Street. But now that I live here, I love my office and getting shit done at home. My office has natural light and if I need to unplug, I can go for a walk in the park. If I do want to post up in a café, I walk to my neighborhood Roots Café on Main at 49th.

Can you share any resources you’ve found most helpful in your career?

Mentorship programs all the way. Early in my business, the mentor I received from Women’s Enterprise Centre’s Mentorship program, Cathy Kuzel, was hugely instrumental to me. She helped me create my first sales funnel and we overhauled everything from my business plan to email templates and business cards. Two years later when I rebranded, I was a member of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE) and had a mentor, Dawn Bowles, through their program, who taught me the ropes of where to network with social ventures, enterprises, and green businesses. She helped me a lot when we started offering social media management as a new service.

What’s in the works for you right now?

I’m finding the competition for public Relations clients is rising, so I’m moving to more of a tiered vs. full service model whereby we can offer a DIY online course and offer a combination of online courses and coaching. I am also excited to bring on our first Director of Good Media who will be solely responsible for managing client projects and other staff. We’re also waiting B Corp Certification and are excited to join the 1600+ companies around the world who are committed to ethical business.

I’m also planning my wedding in July and having a lot of fun with that. It helps when your fiancé also has event planning experience!

Did you connect with Sandra’s journey? Check out my interview with Lucy of Salt Design Co. or drop me a line and join the party. Here’s how you can get involved.

Meet Navi Gill, Co-Founder of Global Girl Power

It’s tough to make friends in adulthood. Without the confines of a classroom to force you together, forging new friendship relies on extending out beyond your comfort zone. Enter Vancouver Neatos interviews, where I introduce you to a new face in Vancouver every week (ish). Want to take part? Drop me a line.

Navi Gill Global Girl Power on Stylings and Stories

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Navi, I am 28 and just starting up my practice as a holistic wellness coach in Vancouver and India, and soon, globally. My training is in Ayurvedic healing, yoga, meditation, as well as being a certified life skills coach. I’m currently navigating my way through the scary, exciting world of creating my dream life where I get to help people, travel, be connected, and be financially free enough to do bigger, badass philanthropic projects through my organization Global Girl Power :)

What drew you to becoming an entrepreneur?

My family is full of entrepreneurs including my father, so growing up I saw it as a way to really be in control of my destiny and create a life of work that I was passionate about. My dad always had the motto that you should be your own boss and even though I hated how much he worked as I kid, it stuck with me in many ways. As I got older, I saw the value of the choices you have when you run your own business, and with the type of work I do and the hobbies I enjoy, I need a career where I have the freedom and flexibility to play with my schedule, my income, and where I work.

My many trips to India were also very inspiring for me to build up my own business because almost everyone there is an entrepreneur of sorts, from the street flower vendor, the tea stall boy, the saree shop uncle or aunty, and I loved seeing their hustle. The way they have a reverence for their work because it is not only their livelihood but something they created through dedication, hard work, and of course more often than not, survival.

I went through the pretty standard operating procedure of what we are taught in high school of getting an education at a post secondary institute in the so called glamorous marketing industry and thought I was going to be set for life. Little did I know how important it was for me to be in an industry that I was not only passionate about but one where I was heard, seen, able to connect to real people in authentic ways, and where I felt like I was making a difference in the world. I absolutely hated the shark tank we call the corporate world and dreaded the idea of working to make someone else successful by exchanging my time, energy, and ideas for dollars. As I build my wellness practice now, I see that I was born to be my own boss and create my own “normal.”

Is there anything that particularly influences or inspires your work?

People and their stories. We spend a lot of time defining ourselves by our stories and also using them to either separate or unite us with others, for me hearing and being a part of people’s stories connects me to this world and brings me closer to myself. I don’t feel like I am one particular way and belong in one place. Through connecting to the hearts of the people I work with and meet, I feel like the whole world belongs to me and I belong to it. When we connect at the heart we can drop our stories and barriers and come to the core of who we are, and in that there is profound strength and healing.

The varying degrees of suffering I see on a daily basis, like people having road rage, or getting irritated in the coffee shop line up, or not being able to sleep, or chronic pain, or emotional imbalance shows me that everyone is in need of some type of healing. With a few changes to someone’s lifestyle choices, they can dramatically change the quality of life they are living and being able to facilitate that is deeply rewarding. Having done my own internal work to get to this point, I really see the value of the work myself and other healers and teachers are doing, the world needs it.

What advice would you give emerging entrepreneurs?

Well, I am one of them so I am also learning as I go, I would say ask for help and reach out to people who are operating personally or professionally in the way you would like to be and ask them if they can meet face to face for a coffee and pick their brain. For me, it always helps to know that the super successful people didn’t get that way overnight and they also had struggles, fears, and doubts, but made it out alive.

People always say networking is the key, and to a certain degree it is but as a budding entrepreneur sometimes I would get so overwhelmed by trying to be everywhere at once that I had no energy to actually put into my business. So network but in the right places and build a solid tribe of supportive people in the community who you can learn from and also support your fellow entrepreneurs, if you align with someone, go to their events, buy their stuff, promote them, collaborate with them, because that is how you build long lasting relationships, by supporting each other’s growth.

Also, don’t be afraid to get messy and fall on your face. I am one of those people who loves having everything about my work composed, beautiful, and perfect. I realized that by preserving it on this pedestal is not allowing me to grow and learn important lessons that I would learn by just getting into the thick of things and making mistakes. Another important one is, don’t compare yourself to others, it will subconsciously kill you and drain of your energy that you could be spending learning new things that will elevate you to what you want to be, instead maybe reach out to that person and ask them how they did it!

Leave time for your own healing and health, as rewarding as starting your own business can be, it is also very stressful at times, so it’s important to know when to slow down, ask for help, take a break and regroup. Have time outside of your work with non work related friends to let loose, be vulnerable, and share the scary or exhilarating things happening in yourself. When you can recharge yourself, you will be that much better with your business, it’s like a little golden circle.

What do you like best about the entrepreneur community in Vancouver?

I really love that there are so many of us! It is amazing to see how many young entrepreneurs and female entrepreneurs are bringing so much talent and innovation into the world and really following their dreams. I love listening to the stories of entrepreneurs and how their work has shaped their lives. I think the older generation of entrepreneurs I grew up around was a lot more focused on just financial independence and there was not a lot room for dreams and right now, we have the luxury to dream and create our own realities. I also rarely saw any south Asian female entrepreneurs growing up, it was always a male dominated career path, and now I see women just taking charge and owning shit, I love it!

What are the biggest challenges for female entrepreneurs in Vancouver? in Canada? in general? How do you think we can overcome those challenges?

Some of the challenges I can think of are the lack of resources that are available in cities outside of Vancouver. A lot of events, workshops, and educational resources are available in Vancouver but as someone who doesn’t live in downtown Vancouver, I have to invest a lot of time and energy to get those things and be a part of the groups that align with my business. Vancouver also can feel really small sometimes and if someone is already known for a particular business or industry, I sometimes find it can be challenging to find support and break into that industry without stepping on peoples toes and still holding value for what I am offering. I have had the good fortune of meeting some very supportive female entrepreneurs like Glynnis Osher, Madeleine Shaw, and Suzanne Siemens in Vancouver very early on, and through them I was introduced to a whole world of resources and business acumen, so I wish more people would be open to just giving others a chance and share the space.

Over the last few years I have found it very interesting that many of the events I have attended, I am usually one of the only South Asian females in attendance and I am not sure why that is but I would like to see more diversity and inclusion and room for collaboration ( also, especially amongst other female south Asian female entrepreneurs).

Where’s your favourite spot in Vancouver to set up a laptop and get shit done?

I would say a nice coffee shop but honestly I get too wrapped up in my coffee, pastries, and people watching so I would say my home office is the best place when I am not sharing it with my Dad!

Can you share any resources you’ve found most helpful in your career?

I would say that SVI women is a great event to attend, I was a part of it a couple years ago before I started my practice but the connections I made with some incredible women will really be useful to learn from and gain support from while I grow as an entrepreneur.

Karma Teachers where I did my yoga training is an invaluable resource for me because of my dear friend Emerson and the work he has put into creating a community where anyone from any walk of life has access to yoga, resources, teachers, and high quality training. It really brought together and opened up a community that can often be intimidating and exclusive for newcomers.

Girl Gang Vancouver is my favourite resource right now, it’s a Facebook group that has over 4000 female entrepreneurs from all industries in Vancouver and you can post questions, ask for feedback, throw out ideas, share what you are doing, and there is a whole community with a wealth of knowledge that responds. Through Girl Gang I found Stylings + Stories!

What’s in the works for you right now?

I have some more trainings I am doing this year in Ayurveda, yoga, and body work to add to my repertoire, I would like to actively be a part of some community business activities and groups this year. I would also love to create a physical shared studio space for healers to work out of in the South Surrey area so more people can benefit and more people like me have a place they can offer their services out of. Other than that, just putting myself out there, getting messy, offering what I know and hopefully whoever is looking for it, comes!

Did you connect with Navi? Check out my interview with Natalia Chouklina or drop me a line and join the party. Here’s how you can get involved.

Meet Lucy Gregory, Co-Owner of Salt Design Co

It’s tough to make friends in adulthood. Without the confines of a classroom to force you together, forging new friendship relies on extending out beyond your comfort zone. Enter Vancouver Neatos interviews, where I introduce you to a new face in Vancouver every week (ish). Want to take part? Drop me a line.

That's Lucy on the right.

That’s Lucy on the right.

Tell us about yourself.

I am a young entrepreneur with roots around the world. I was born and raised in England but visited British Columbia a lot as a child and teen, as I have dual nationality and family here. I moved here to attend UBC in 2009 and have since completed various art and design qualifications, lived in New Zealand, traveled Europe and South East Asia extensively, and then found myself (in more ways than one) back here in Vancouver. I’m now working as a self employed Graphic Designer–I work freelance for Flipside Creative, an ad and marketing agency here in the city, plus I co-own Salt Design Co., a graphic design services studio.

What drew you to becoming a graphic designer?

As someone who has always been creatively driven, I’ve dabbled in and learnt a lot of art forms. I’ve studied textiles, surface pattern design, photography, and graphic design. Whilst working as a lead barista and event planner in England I found I needed a way to combine all of my skills, plus I needed to broaden that skill set even more and improve on my design knowledge rather than my art knowledge. Graphic design was the perfect medium for all of this, as essentially it’s visual communication, combining all of my skills into one slightly more flexible role.

Is there anything that particularly influences or inspires your work?

My main inspirations for art work and designs come from being out and about in the world. Nature, plants, other people–it all acts as inspiration for me. I also draw inspiration from the work of others, which is nothing new or exciting to state. Learning art and design history, the reasons behind art movements and the people involved in them is so interesting to me. There was so much behind art and design in the past, much more than there is today–art was influenced by society, politics, everything! To see that and learn about it, and find ways in which to apply it to your own work adds depth and purpose for me.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start doing graphic design?

Find your niche, your passion. It’s been said before and it will be said countless times again, because it’s so true. The only way you will be successful as a designer, or entrepreneur, if you are doing what you are best at. Hone your skills to find what it is that you are great at, and then keep doing that. This is tough though–it’s something I’m still working on for sure!

What are the biggest challenges for graphic designers? How do you think we can overcome those challenges?

For graphic designers, the biggest challenge I’ve found is in having actual work. Studios and agencies are very select about who they hire, and working freelance tends to be the majority option for designers. There’s a lot of work to be involved with but you really have to go out there and get it. Having the initiative and drive to pitch to clients and take on those business roles can be tough, and isn’t part of every designer’s skill set. It also often means working other part time jobs to pay the bills and allow you some time to create these pitches. A lot of the work we do is un-billable; it’s prep for future paid work, and I don’t think many new or aspiring designers expect that.

Where’s your favourite spot in Vancouver to set up a laptop and get shit done?

As a freelance designer I’m constantly coffee shop hopping, jumping from one team and one location to the next. What I’ve found works best for me is having a few select spaces that have big windows for lots of light and people watching, decent music selection and the ability to be cheeky and eat my own food! In Vancouver, the best places for that (for me) are Prado in Gastown, Lost and Found, and the Blenz on Granville and Davie. The beauty of a lot of spaces in Vancouver is that they are now recognizing the freelance life, and have communal work tables. Plus a few are starting to host their own freelance work days–The Juice Truck opens their community space for co-working Wednesdays and other spaces across the city open up for Freelance Friday events. This is great for networking, but not always suitable for getting actual work done.

Can you share any resources you’ve found most helpful in your career?

There are almost too many list, but the main thing I would say is that most of my resources have come and been found through other businesses or people sharing them. It’s said countless times these days, but social media is your best tool for this. I’ve been following countless blogs, websites, and professionals in my industry for almost a decade now online and they’ve taught me everything I know–almost more than I’ve ever learnt in school! So make the most of the that!

What’s in the works for you right now?

Right now building my company, Salt Design Co., into a sustainable business is my main priority, but I also freelance with Flipside Creative, a wonderful team of ladies with whom I design and work with on some wonderful clients. Maintaining my freelance design life and building my career is my current focus, and I’m really excited to see where it leads! I’m also in the works of designing a product range with my business partner, under the Salt name, which should be launched later this year! Woo!

Did you connect with Lucy? Check out my interview with KAITCREATIVE or drop me a line and join the party. Here’s how you can get involved.

Meet Zoe Welch, Vancouver Artist

It’s tough to make friends in adulthood. Without the confines of a classroom to force you together, forging new friendship relies on extending out beyond your comfort zone. Enter Vancouver Neatos interviews, where I introduce you to a new face in Vancouver every week (ish). Want to take part? Drop me a line.

Zoe Welch Vancouver Artist on Stylings and Stories

Tell us about yourself.

Well, I was born and raised in Vancouver. I grew up in Kitsilano, moving around a fair bit, but always close to the beach. It was the 1960s and 1970s, and Kits was the Haight-Ashbury of Canada. The women’s movement was rising strong, the peace movement, great music on AM radio, counter culture was spilling out onto the streets up and down 4th Ave., the NDP was in power for a while, and it was a gentler time overall. I was hugely influenced by all this.

I moved to Quebec in 1981 because I wanted to learn French, and I lived there for 17 years, with a one-year break when I lived in Holland to go to art school. I lived in the British Columbia interior for a while, and then returned to Vancouver, for what was supposed to be brief stay—that was 16 years ago. I have a very uneasy relationship with this city, and would very much like to leave.

I’ve always been a maker, picking up enough to be able to play and write music, design and make clothes, home décor objects, handmade books, jewelry, knitting, the list goes on. My professional life includes working in media arts as an administrator and an advocate, and as an artist making film and darkroom photography (often combined), with some writing on the side. I’ve also worked leading community-based projects with the disenfranchised, and social and cultural development programming in public schools. After running my own clothing design company, and my own store, I’ve returned to photography in the digital world; and have returned to a not-for-profit work part-time, so that I can continue to focus on my photo practice.

What drew you to being a photo artist?

I honestly can’t remember. I bought my first SLR camera in 1979. The camera was stolen a few weeks later when I was camping at Long Beach, so I worked until I’d saved enough money again and bought the very same camera. I then began shooting more or less non-stop until 2000 when I moved to back Vancouver and could no long afford the square footage to have a darkroom in my home.

When I returned to photography in 2013, it was a gradual thing. I’d had a clothing design company for three years, and had been operating a store for almost a year, and I was using a little point-and-shoot digital camera to photograph my designs for promotion. I enjoyed doing the photowork, and had finally become comfortable with the migration from analogue to digital. In the fall of 2013, when I was beginning to shut down the company and the store, I started shooting images with a different intent, and noticed that my visual language was transforming somewhat with the new technology. One day I spilt tea on my camera, so I bought another one, getting something slightly better for more serious work. But I kept it light.

Clothing design and production is materially heavy—it involves a pretty big work area, with a fair bit of equipment, tools, and supplies. While I’d loved the work and the experience, I had a sense of the weight of it all. Now with that business behind me, I embraced everything that was light about digital photography—literally and figuratively. So, while I have a camera that shoots in RAW and has a lot of manual options—all important for pretty good print quality and shooting options—it’s still a point-and-shoot so it’s lightweight and quite small. I love the portability and freedom that comes with it. As they say, the best camera is the one you have with you.

Is there anything that particularly influences or inspires your work?

I’m very taken with forms of biography and personal narrative, particularly what I might characterize as the exploration of origins and exile. What tends to spark a new piece or a new series—lately anyways—often comes from my memories about growing up here, and from my deep desire to leave. (Origins and exile.)

I’m also really interested in the workings of experience—what composes our reality, what composes our feelings about what we experience, how perception is constructed, what feelings look like. I’m a big believer in the subjectivity of experience, and that’s what I explore and try to communicate through my work.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start photo art?

Follow your own sense of aesthetic and instinct. Learn about the technology, for sure, but concern yourself with your ideas more. Stay true to what you want to communicate, not to what’s pleasing to others, to what’s in style (and sure to pass). It’s easy to feel overwhelmed or intimidated or inadequate in the face of what’s fashionable, and before those who might seem more fortunate. But I believe it’s worth it to commit to hard work, integrity, and sincerity in one’s practice and process, and to stay on your own track. There’s more than enough coolness, compromise, and copycats out there. Let’s warm things up with earnestness and wholeheartedness. I believe the world needs this.

Keep learning, about all kinds of things, because exposure to new ideas, to new ways of seeing things and thinking about them, is hugely stimulating.

Find your tribe. We all know about the haters and the posers, but why put one’s self in that line of fire? Being connected in a community of like-minded and positive folks is not just fun, it’s healthy and good for production.

What are the biggest challenges for artists? How do you think we can overcome those challenges?

I think most artists are racked with doubt. Making art demands a lot exposure of one’s self. Whether your subject matter is personal or not, it still requires that you expose your way of seeing things and exposing to the public your technical prowess with your medium. Most other types of work don’t make such demands, and so most people operate in a more protected environment. Most artists, though, are also driven—they can’t not do what they do, and this is a great counter flow to the doubt. We just keep going. Getting with a good community of artists helps, and indeed getting with a good group of friends in general. Nothing permeates like love.

Earning a steady income is also a big issue as few us make a living at what we do. So there’s the need to strike a balance between the time it takes to do paid work, and making sure we have enough time and energy left over to work on our art practice. There’s no one pat answer that offers one solution. Artists are a creative bunch, and there are so many different ways that people make it work.

Where’s your favourite spot in Vancouver to set up a laptop and get shit done?

My home studio. I know myself well to know that I get too distracted in a café or other public space to really get much done. I also love my studio, and I love being at home, so it’s a fortuitous combination of circumstance and personality. And while I have a lot of my work on my computer in terms of files and software, I have fair bit of material in notebooks and archives that I may want to reference or to scan, so it makes sense to be in the studio where everything is at my fingertips.

That said, I also know that I need to pull myself out of the work so that I can get some perspective. I’ll often go to the park next door to exercise and to swing (there’s a children’s play park with a swing set) while I listen to music. There, at some remove, I always enter that abstract, problem-solving space in my mind where I get great insight and resolution around what I’m working on. Then I return to the laptop.

Can you share any resources you’ve found most helpful in your career?

I took a great Continuing Ed course at the Vancouver School Board when I hit my learning wall with Photoshop. It was more affordable there than elsewhere, and I learned a ton. (I took VSB classes in couture sewing when I had my clothing line and was happy with them too).

I really love Creative Live, the on air page offers free viewing for any course that’s airing when you happen to visit (it’s my browser homepage). The courses are otherwise fee-based, but very worth it too. I’ve bought four of them for Photoshop.

Lynda is also very good, and access is free through the Vancouver Public Library website if you have a library card and ID number.

And, of course, YouTube—the plethora of good instruction is amazing. Once waded through the search results, I subscribe to the channels where I find the instruction good and easy to understand; that way I don’t have to reinvent the wheel the next time I’m looking around for quick tutorials.

I spend a lot of time hunting around on social media for organizations and artists that jive with my interests within my photo practice. I find a ton of calls for submissions this way, occasionally information on funding, as well as tips and tricks of the trade. I also engage with like-minded artists in my effort to expand my network and connections on the ground.

What’s in the works for you right now?

I have two photobook projects on the go, both combining writing and images. One’s taking the lead over the other right now, and I really need to commit to just one of the two so I can actually complete each of them with the focus and thought they deserve. I have another couple of text-based books on the back burners, which is where they’re going to stay for a while because they aren’t as important to me to finish right now—I don’t consider them as central to my practice.

And, as ever, I have a suite of images at various stages of completion, either stand-alone pieces or series, most of which involve writing as well as the photographs themselves.

Lastly, I need to tend to my website. It’s built with Weebly, which is a great platform for a quick and easy start, but I need something more robust that I feel better supports, presents, and serves the content. This is a priority “to-do” that I keep putting off, and the procrastination has to stop.

Did you connect with Zoe? Check out my interview with Here’s how you can get involved.

Meet Audrey Wong, Founder of Living Lotus

It’s tough to make friends in adulthood. Without the confines of a classroom to force you together, forging new friendship relies on extending out beyond your comfort zone. Enter Vancouver Neatos interviews, where I introduce you to a new face in Vancouver every week (ish). Want to take part? Drop me a line.

Living Lotus on Stylings and Stories

Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in North Van, so I am one of the very few people that are from Vancouver. My mom moved here from Hong Kong when she was 21 without knowing the language. My Dad was born on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

When I was out of high school, I very badly wanted to work in the film industry so I decided to volunteer and learn that way. I would work two waitressing jobs back to back so I could do deferral (free) jobs in film. After 15 years into that career, I decided to quit my full time career and go back to school to study raw food culinary and nutrition.

The film industry is still very much a part of me and it’s still something that I love. I just love healthy desserts more :) I also love that I am helping people get healthy if they desire to do so!

Living Lotus Food & Nutrition Inc started in 2013 and last summer we built our own gluten free vegan kitchen. We make plant based, gluten free, vegan desserts free of refined sugar without compromising taste.

What drew you to the art of sweet whole food?

In 2007, I was put on an alkaline diet. there is a lot more information out there now, but back then I REALLY didn’t know what I was doing. I had already eliminated sugar and meat from my diet so getting a new list of foods to avoid was daunting. Someone had given me a raw food cookbook as a gift two years prior and I had never really looked at it until then. That was when my way of eating changed. It was also a way to satiate my sweet tooth without damaging my health.

Is there anything that particularly influences or inspires your work?

All Food! That is a very broad answer, so I’ll explain. I like to take conventional food and find a way to make it raw gourmet. You’d be surprised at the amount of things that are possible by using blending, dehydrating, and sprouting methods.

Travel also helps inspiration. I’m also a big fan of Pure Wine & Food in New York and Plant Food in LA. And, cookbooks of all varieties–I would just sit and read them all day if I could. They get my creative juice flowing for sure :)

What advice would you give someone with a sweet tooth who wants to incorporate more whole food?

Switch to raw desserts. That way you’re not eating all the empty calories and wreaking havoc on your digestive system. I always say it’s not about raw. It’s more about what you can add to your nutrition . If you switch out one raw dessert a week/month/day you are adding so much more nutrients into what you are eating and by default cutting out a whole bunch of other additives that your body doesn’t need.

Do you have a favourite sweet recipe go to?

I have been making these chocolate cookie dough balls at home. They are amazing.

What are the biggest challenges for female entrepreneurs? How do you think we can overcome those challenges?

I can think of many challenges of being a entrepreneur. Mostly the rollercoaster is challenging, but I find since I’ve started Living Lotus, community is a big piece of being able to navigate the ups and downs. Also, shifting my perspective has been valuable–everything is a lesson, that’s the fun part!

Where’s your favourite spot in Vancouver to set up a laptop and get shit done?

Kafka’s on Main Street they have Hojicha there–which I love.

Can you share any resources you’ve found most helpful in your career?

The best resource I’ve found most helpful is the community around me. Meaning the other food businesses that I have met and will meet along the way. Our kitchen is inside Makerlabs (where we have been part of the community there for a long time) and there is a good group of makers there as well.

What’s in the works for you right now?

Since building the kitchen and moving in last summer we are wholesaling to a growing number of stores. I’m starting to grow the catering side of Living Lotus.

Did you connect with Audrey Wong? Check out my interview with the fellas of Bestie or drop me a line and join the party. Here’s how you can get involved.

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