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Celebrating Women: Kristy Fletcher

Kristy Fletcher didn’t expect to work in the music industry. She left her previous job at Maple Leafs Sport and Entertainment after 20 years with the company in 2016 and hasn’t looked back.

Fletcher started working for the NHL’s Calgary Flames when she was 15. It was, as she puts it, the “family business”. Her father Cliff, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, was the President and GM of the Flames at the time and provided both Kristy and her brother Chuck, the current General Manager of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, an insight into the world of sports business and management.  As an avid sports fan herself, she knew that was where she wanted to be.

Fletcher did a little bit of everything, working in communications, PR, sales, and premium ticket service. She was also instrumental in the development of the Leafs Fund, the precursor for what is now the Maple Entertainment Foundation. This position allowed her to merge her love of sports with the charitable world and help create a fundraising strategy for the company.

And then, after 20 years of working with the NHL, Fletcher decided to take the plunge and try something new.

“On paper I had reached a level of success within my company,” she said. “It was taking a big risk to quit my job, but I felt it was the moment. I had 2 kids [and] I wanted to feel like I was contributing to the community in which I lived and worked.”

Fletcher is now the Executive Director of MusiCounts, a music education charity that raises money for instruments and programs in schools across Canada. She said that as soon as she walked through the door for the interview, she immediately knew MusiCounts was where she wanted to be.

“I always liked the music industry,” she said. “I had friends in the industry. It was not a big stretch to me. I think both of the industries have a lot more similarities then imagined. Sports and music bring people together, rooted in passion, social connectors, everyone has an opinion. It was a natural transition. “

Over the past 20 years, MusiCounts has awarded nearly $10 million worth of musical instruments to schools and community groups across Canada. Their mandate is to raise awareness about the importance of music education, as much as it is to generate funds for these programs.

“Our priority for this year is making people aware of the work we do and that music education is at risk. [There is] a generation of students missing out on the value of creating and understanding music,” Fletcher said.

In September, the charity is set to launch this year’s Band Aid Program. Schools are welcome to apply for musical instruments in increments of $5,000 or $10,000. They also started a micro-funding campaign in which Canadians can donate by texting MUSIC to 20222.

Fletcher said she feels lucky to have been involved in both the sports and the music industry, and has never felt anything but supported by her mostly-male colleagues.

“I was certainly aware that I was in a male-dominated industry,” she said. “But I found my own way to manage it. I never let it get in my way. I have not personally felt I was held back due to gender, but I also think that has to do with women who blazed the trail before me.”

In that form, Fletcher offers advice to women trying to move up in their respective fields.

My advice would be … you need to build your network and you can’t let it go. It takes time to do that and it takes energy and a lot of confidence. You need to get out of there and establish those contacts,” she said. “We get busy in our careers, but you have to be out there making sure you are promoting yourself.”

It is MusiCounts 20th anniversary this year. To commemorate this occasion, MusiCounts announced that, with the support of singer Eleanor McCain, they will issue five enhanced “True North: The Canadian Songbook” commemorative Band Aid grants of $20,000 in conjunction with her new CD release.

 

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Woman of the Week: Lisa Martin

Lisa Martin is a testament to perseverance. After facing a hostile takeover of her business and a serious health scare, she returned with force, rebuilding and rebranding her business with immense success.

“When you think your worst nightmare has hit you — it can sometimes prove to be a blessing in disguise,” she said.

Martin is the co-founder and CEO of Hear for Life, a healthcare network that provides diagnosis and preventative hearing services throughout Ontario, including hearing tests, evaluations, hearing aids, and rehabilitative counselling.

It all started with Martin’s sister, Rhonda, who is in the hearing healthcare field and decided to open up a clinic in 1988. As Martin puts it, her sister is the “heart and the hand” of Hear for Life. She takes care of the patients while Martin takes care of the business operations.

In 2013, the company had what Martin calls a near-death experience.  According to Martin, their business associate abruptly and without warning gave away their licence to a competitor, with the support of a supplier. Martin lost everything — their telephone numbers, their locations, their website, but most of all, their money.  They lost about $14 million overnight and were given three months to leave the premises.

“They just gave away my licence agreement [to a competitor] – which is everything. It is where we built our business, housed our clinics,” Martin said. “Lots of my suppliers turned their back on me. They weren’t sure if I was able to make it.”

The worst part of this transition was the confusion. Most of Martin’s patients were seniors in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, and all of a sudden the clinic they visited was no longer the same.

“[Our employees] spent a year phoning people telling people we moved, sending letters with pictures of staff to remind patients who they are. That took, I would say, five to 10 different mail outs and thousands of phone calls to the patients. We even did robocalls to hit everyone, to remind them we have their file – because we owned all the patient files.”

It took Martin and her sister two years to stabilize the company in different locations. By the third year, they had managed to re-brand and recapture the values they held when they first opened the clinics.

“We managed working with our own brand and we were able to capture a whole bunch of new business. But, in the third year there was a little hiccup,” Martin said. That hiccup: she was diagnosed with colon cancer and had to undergo seven months of chemotherapy following a surgery.

Martin should have had a routine colonoscopy in 2013, but she waited three years until the turmoil with the company was over. During the transition, she was hardly sleeping and was plagued with anxiety. She didn’t want to bother with routine medical examinations.

“You can’t let your life get in the way of every of health issue and that means making sure you get screened when you need to get screened. Colon cancer — people don’t think they will get it.  If a girl like me — someone who eats organic, does world games championship-training, runs three times a week, can get it…I was fit, so how did this happen to me?”

“If you are 50, get a colonoscopy. No matter what — don’t miss it.”

But, with the help of her incredibly loyal employees, Martin was able to get better while still keeping her new business afloat.

Martin and her sister have now sold their new company, Hear for Life, and have retained their position and all their staff. “The company that acquired us is an amazing organization nation-wide. You get the same personalized boutique style care, but now we have the backing of a huge organization so people don’t have to worry about being here tomorrow. I get to continue in my role, and my sister continues to work. Nothing has changed except we were able to realize [the company’s] value and have our exit strategy.”

“The Hear for Life brand is here to stay,” she said proudly.

Martin hopes that once the new transition is done, she will be able to help the bigger company grow in the marketplace. She is considering writing a book about her plight with cancer, and she has been asked to do some public speaking events on business for women’s groups.

Martin continues to be active and is considering taking up hockey and running again for the first time since her chemotherapy.

 

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5 ways to spring clean your social media

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the snow has finally melted down into the depths of the soil, making the grass green again. Life is good! And while you may take this new form of life as a way to begin spring cleaning, there are a few other things you may want to consider. For example, although the clutter in your closet needs immediate attention, so does your virtual presence. Millions of people don’t have access to your closet like they do with your Facebook album, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. So, take time this season and clean your social media platforms using these few friendly tips!


1. Get to know thyself 

Before you start cleaning anything, you have to determine what exactly is out there with your name on it. Sometimes, things slip. To prevent this from happening, it is important to stalk yourself. Do what you would do when a potential bae rolls around; put the FBI and CIA to shame. Because once you think about the countless selfies that provide evidence of your 2007 eyebrows, there will be no stopping you. No one wants to be reminded of those monstrosities. Especially your potential bae. So, do a quick Google search of yourself and see if anything suspicious arises. Finding the source of any unwanted videos, blogs, and even awkward, tone-deaf comments you’ve left on any public postings can help eliminate any kind of future embarrassment. Employers, curious bees, your future fans (just in case your modelling career actually takes off one day) don’t need access to all that old information. Because you’re better than that now. Vigilant and woke with the brows of a goddess. Remember that.

2. Unfriend, Unsubscribe, and Unfollow

Yes, she’s a great woman, but your second cousin’s roommate is not exactly the type of friend that should be popping up on your newsfeed. If you haven’t spoken to someone since bell bottoms were in fashion, it’s time to part ways with them. It just wasn’t meant to be. Mindless scrolling through your social media accounts should bring pleasure into your life. Follow accounts that can help you learn something. Whether they’re news sources that provide up to date info on current events or blogs that push content on subjects you’re passionate about, social media can prove to be quite the learning experience – if you so choose it to be. Remove the girl who always seems to be on vacation wearing skimpy outfits with a body you can never seem to attain. And although her life may seem fun, yours will be too – without her. Do the same for your Twitter and Instagram accounts. Unfollow anyone that causes extreme rolling of the eyes, and noises that showcase distress and utter annoyance. No one needs that sort of negativity in their lives!

3. Put your junk in the trunk 

Trunk, trash – you get the point. The added stress that comes at the checkout counter during your shopping spree is when the retailer asks you for an email address. You know what comes next; emails after emails about upcoming sales and promotions, including new arrivals. It floods your inbox, but empties out your bank account. Don’t forget the countless other emails you get from third party organizations, along with other friendly reminders, telling you not to forget to update your website information from way back when you tried to make it big as a blogger. Switch over to a more minimalist lifestyle by unsubscribing to unwanted programs and stores by using certain apps. It helps decrease the amount of notifications on your phone, allowing for an increased amount of productivity towards more important things. Let’s face it, nothing is more upsetting than hearing your phone beep, jumping with excitement to receive an important, life altering email, and finding out its another alert from Clearly Contacts – telling you its time to get your eyes checked.

4. Build it back up 

Now that you’ve deleted all your old pictures, and removed some much needed people from your life, it’s time to rebuild your brand. Update your social media platforms. Change your profile picture to a professional headshot, if you’re trying to look more employable. Start sharing more political articles and tidbits if the recent presidential election has you seeking change. It’s important to find an intention behind your presence on social media. Whether its for sh*ts and giggles or starting a revolution, your personal brand must be relevant to the message you’re trying to send across to your followers. Change your privacy settings to restrict your content solely for the audience you wish to reach out to. Once you’ve attained the overall look you’re going for, go ahead and start using your social media platforms to their full advantage. There’s a lot of power in that send button. So choose wisely and act accordingly!

5. Turn it off!

After you’ve cleaned out your social media platforms, backed up your files, and regained power over your desktop space, do yourself a favour and turn it off. Take some time away from social media and technology for an extended amount of time at least once a month. Refrain from answering emails, updating your status, and tweeting. Get in tune with the three dimensional world of reality. Say hi to your dog without the need to Snapchat his every reaction, visit your mom instead of calling her. And hey, clean out the clutter in your closet! Research proves that shutting down technology can help clear your mind, providing for some much needed oxygen and giving leeway to make better decisions in life. Besides, people will like you better when you’re looking at them and not their screen. You’ll like yourself better too. Trust.

Good luck and happy cleaning!

What’s trending in spring fashion 2017

April showers bring May flowers — and funky, printed outfits. This year’s trends are all about merging your own wild personality with business professionalism. Light colours, flowing moveable materials, and off-the shoulder tops are popular in most retail outlets, but each one has an element that is work-appropriate. Perfect for those who crave the bohemian styles of the 60s while still wanting to impress their partners in the boardroom.

Unleash your inner creativity with these top five trends for spring 2017:

Florals: This spring, embrace the floral. Tops, pants, skirts, and dresses — colourful prints are making a comeback. The colours, the patterns, and the style are all very flowery and young. The key is to find a dress or shirt that doesn’t overwhelm. The dresses shown below, for example, are the perfect example of how florals can work without making a woman look like a young girl. Each one ties at the waist to give shape and the colour palettes are a little more natural, which is a nice reprieve from previous years where it was all about neon colours.

Zara, $68.90s

Jumpsuit: This piece never really went out of style, but it’s making a comeback in a big way. Most women feel like they can’t pull off a jumpsuit, but in fact, it’s flattering on almost everyone. Most jumpers have a drawstring that can be adjusted to your waist, so it can be as tight or as loose fitting as you are comfortable with. There are also a number of styles — there are some that are more professional (as pictured below) and other styles that are floral and fun! Try pairing it with a blazer and a pair of heels for a  business meeting or a pair of strapped-sandals and a chunky necklace for a walk on the town.

Additionelle, $118.00

Light shawls: Keep your blazer in the closet and instead throw on a light shawl or kimono. These are great for the workplace where the air conditioner or heater reigns supreme. There are so many styles to choose from, but remember the golden rule — if you wear a print tank top, make sure your shawl is a solid colour. The opposite is also true. One of the biggest trends is to have a tight fitted shirt and then a loose-fitting, printed shawl overtop, preferably with a funky patterned collar or sleeve.

Anthropologie, $258.00

Wide Leg Pants: These are the hippie version of the dress pant, but do you know what? They work! Most are really professional looking and pair wonderfully with a fitted top, a blazer, and sandals or a flat shoe. In addition to providing a more unique and independent fashion style to the boardroom, the wide leg pant is also a lot more comfortable in the summer.

Anthropologie, $98.0

Urban flat: This spring is all about being comfortable, yet stylish. This type of flat shoe is perfect to wear with jeans or dress pants, making it the ultimate accessory. The urban flat has a slight heel to help with ankle support, but not enough of one to cause actual pain while walking around the office or the streets of your home town all day. They also have just enough of a design to make them more chic.

Call It Spring, $44.00

 

What style are you looking forward to wearing this spring? Let us know win the comments below!

Woman of the Week: Jennifer Reynolds

Jennifer Reynolds, president and CEO of Women in Capital Markets (WCM), thinks there is an ingrained corporate and economic culture that is to blame for the lack of gender equality within the financial industry. The number of women in positions of power has stagnated, and in 2017, that isn’t a good thing.

“I think sometimes people aren’t aware that Canada has fallen behind in terms of women in senior roles, on boards for examples,” Reynolds said. “Our representation is 12 per cent. Europe has representation up to 30-40 per cent. We, as a country, have fallen really far behind.”

WCM is the largest network of professional women in the Canadian capital markets. This group of women try to educate younger generations in the finance industry to consider careers in capital markets and advocate for greater gender diversity on boards and senior management. The organization hosts over 80 events a year and leads a number of campaigns, both in-person and online.

Reynolds became involved with WCM in 2000 and started volunteering for the then-grassroots organization helping educate young high school girls about careers involving math. She also volunteered for the mentorship program.

“When I graduated in 1994, I thought our generation would be the one where women would have leadership roles in the economy,” she said.

Obviously, WCM had an influence on Reynolds because she remained an active member of the organization for 13 years before becoming the president and CEO. The organization is shaking things up a bit under Reynold’s leadership, trying not only educate young women as to the many opportunities in finance and capital markets, but also trying to involve men in the dialogue.

“Most of these initiatives was about women discussing diversity. It took us a long time to get here, but now we are getting there and we have to involve men in the discussion because they are in senior leadership roles and we need to have dialogue with them to encourage progress,” she said.  “We need to give them a voice and an opportunity to see what they can do personally.”

One of the WCM programs Reynolds is most proud of is Return to Bay Street, an award that helps women return to the workforce after a career break. Each award-winning woman will receive a minimum four-month long paid contract with a sponsoring financial institution, $5,000 towards an education program, access to a WCM mentor, as well as a one-year membership with WCM.

Return to Bay Street is in its sixth year and will be accepting applications until April 13, 2017.

“Too often for women, if you need to take a break, it’s hard to come back,” Reynolds said. “You fall off the track because people think your skills are stale. [Return to Bay Street] helps replenish the pipeline for senior leadership. It brings back senior talent.”

Reynolds studied economics and political science at McGill University with the intention of becoming a lawyer. She found herself enjoying her economics classes immensely, and after four years decided she was better off in business.

“I ended up, fortunately, getting to know some people in the investment industry … and it sounded like a great career — fast paced, opportunity to travel, rewarding,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds worked with the Bank of Montreal as director of capital markets for 10 years before moving on to work with WCM. She is also on the board of the Canadian Development Investment Corporation, a crown corporation that works for the federal minister of finance and is responsible for a number of initiatives.

Reynolds thoroughly enjoys working on the board. In addition to her role with the Canadian Development Investment Corporation, she is also the director on the board of Studio 190, an independent, Toronto-based theatre company.  For her, being on various boards allows her to explore different industries and be creative. It’s also a great way to diversify her network.

As Reynolds explains, every organization has a president and CEO that runs the business, but that person reports to a board, “a bunch of senior people with expertise who help guide strategic vision.” This can be everything from where the company should be heading to overseeing financial statements — it’s also why it’s so important that boards be gender diverse.

“So, what does it matter? It matters because I think women should be part of creating strategic missions of businesses and companies in Canada,” Reynolds said. “From a purely data and research perspective, studies that show if you have that gender diverse boards, it makes your business more profitable. But, you need that diversity on your board – and from a common sense perspective, if you are recruiting from 50 per cent of talent pool, you’ve got to be limiting yourself. You are not getting the best. It’s common sense.”

How do companies do that? Reynolds said it takes two steps. The first is to actually hire women in positions of power and the second is to change your business’ culture. It all starts with statistics, ensuring the company counts and measures everything. “How many women in each level of organization, how long does promotion take, wage gap at each level, then you will figure out what the problem is. Is it that your leadership team only brings forward candidates that are men and non-minority, for example,” Reynolds said.

“If you leave it to chance, it won’t happen. But, if I have anything to say about it, it’s going to change!”

 

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Woman of the Week: Manjit Minhas

Be concise and know your financials — that’s Manjit Minhas’ advice for young entrepreneurs pitching their business ideas.

Minhas is the co-founder and CEO of Minhas Brewery, Distillery, and Winery, and is one of Canada’s new Dragons on the hit CBC show Dragon’s Den. She is a straight-forward and blunt businesswoman with an incredible passion for innovative ideas. When she speaks of the new products she is constantly exposed to on Dragon’s Den, she does so with tremendous respect and excitement.

“I see myself in a lot of these entrepreneurs,” she says. “I know there is no book to map these challenges. I love that I can help guide them and, on the flip side, help people stop when I think they are dumping their own money, and sometimes other people’s money, on something that in my experience is not going to work.”

“If I can save someone’s livelihood, that’s necessary and my role as a mentor and venture capitalist.”

The 36-year-old started her own business at the age of 19 after her first year of university, where she was studying petroleum engineering. At the time, her father had been let go from the oil patch and decided, with much pushing from his friends, to go into the liquor business. He purchased three stores in Calgary. Minhas and her brother grew up in the industry and both realized there was an opportunity for growth.

The siblings sold their car for $10,000 and launched Mountain Crest Spirits. “I discovered that bars and restaurants were not brand loyal,” Minhas says. “They were looking for cheapest bar stock that week.” The idea was to create good quality spirits that, because of the low price, restaurants would become accustomed to and the result would be loyalty. Tequila and Irish cream were some of their best sellers.

“Our goal was, service, quality, and volume volume volume. That was the start of our real big empire story.”

In 2002, they launched into beers. Their first beer, a classic mountain lager, was made with only four ingredients and sold for only a dollar, which was unheard of at that time. They eventually purchased their first brewery in Wisconsin — the second oldest brewery in the U.S. — and since then, the company has grown immensely. Minhas and her brother now have breweries in Calgary and Mexico, as well as two wineries in Chile. Their products are sold throughout Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Ontario, and Manitoba, as well as 43 states throughout the United States and 15 other countries in Europe, Asia and South America.

In 2016, Minhas’ companies made over $187 million in revenues. Minhas has been honoured with several industry awards for her success, including PROFIT magazine’s “Top Growth Entrepreneur”, Top 100 Women Entrepreneurs in Canada, Canada’s Top 40 under 40, and the Sikh Centennial Foundation Award, among others.

“I can say I didn’t have much of a typical university life, but no pain no gain,” she says. “My sacrifice was my 20s, and I guess I say my education because I could have done better. I had other dreams and passions and I’m glad that I did. I don’t regret the last 17 years.”

Minhas is constantly looking for ways to expand and grow her thriving business. They started to fashion new beer flavours, even appealing to the gluten-free crowds and the boxer beer enthusiasts. When Minhas purchased her first brewery in Wisconsin, she also happened upon the rights and recipes to the old-fashioned soda the facility owner made during prohibition. This inspired her to continue that business, selling soda and soda-inspired nano-filtration boxer beer. This summer, they are adding new flavours of boxer beer, including black cherry and ginger. Last year, they added hard root beer, grape, and cream soda to their repertoire.

“We had a great award-winning soda line that we added clear malt base too — a proprietary method we have discovered,” she says. “We clarify it and it becomes colourless, tasteless, odourless and we add alcohol to the soda. There is no bad aftertaste of beer because we’ve taken that taste out in order to taste the soda, unlike other brands in the market. Innovation is key to success.”

In 2015, Minhas was invited to appear in Dragon’s Den, a Canadian reality television show that allows entrepreneurs to pitch business ideas to potential investors — known as “the Dragons”. She prides herself on her bluntness and her honesty, but above all else, she loves the mentoring aspect of the show. Minhas says she was surprised by how many products she has seen that didn’t already exist in the market. Her investments are plastered proudly all over her website.

“I do believe it’s important for women to support each other and people in different industries to talk to each other,” she says. “In my industry, there is not a lot of women. It’s about guiding a newcomer, a new entrepreneur through the challenges everyone has — work-life balance, finances, regulation, all those things that are really generic to any business, human resources. That, I feel, is my biggest contribution.”

Minhas starts filming season three of Dragon’s Den at the end of this month.

 

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Are Canadians investing in women?

March 8 is International Women’s Day. During this time, it’s easy to think back to all of the trials and tribulations women have experienced. Just last week, there was a tragic case in Halifax in which the victim of sexual assault was wronged thanks to an outdated definition of consent. There has been a large investigation into “unfounded” sexual assault cases by the Canadian police. And of course, there is the incredible sexism women are facing in the United States from their own politicians.

No, Women’s Post is not going to focus on that this March 8 (at least, not too much). Instead, Women’s Post is choosing to celebrate this important day by speaking with successful business women, gathering their advice for other women, and learning about who they invest in. Here is a teaser with some of the results:

 

Visit our women of the week page for profiles of successful Canadian women.

‘Love Your Age Fitness’ guru Kate Maliha on staying healthy

The cliché, ‘age is just a number’ can be your reality if you look after your mental and physical health.

Kate Maliha, director of Love Your Age Fitness in Vancouver, is a Gerokinesiologist – certified as a Functional Aging Specialist and Medical Exercise Specialist – who believes exercise needs to be more thoughtful as we get older. Women’s Post sat down with Maliha to learn more about her business and her experience in the fitness industry.

Q: When did you form the company Love Your Age and why?

A: I saw there was a real need for programs geared to experiences of aging. I decided to go back to school to learn more about exercise and aging, so I got my masters degree. While my focus in human kinetics was on a variety of areas related to the aging body, I was particularly interested in the social aspects of exercise as we get older, in knowing more about what keeps people exercising as they get older.

My experience in the fitness industry prior to my graduate degree was that the industry did not seem to reflect an understanding of life as we get older and was fairly one-note in terms of both message and offerings – so I wanted to help change how the fitness industry provides solutions for older bodies.

What did you see were problems in the industry, in terms of responding to people who were getting older?

There aren’t a variety of fitness options that adjust for the changes people experience when they get older. For instance, what happens when you get an injury, or have a medical condition and you can’t do your favourite class or sport? Exercise needs are varied as we age, just as the experience of aging is different for everyone. Some exercise needs to be modified for a medical condition or a chronic condition, and some exercise needs to actually be the medicine for a health condition. And just as with any medication, there are specific dosages and specific prescriptions for exercise depending on your health. We need specialists in functional aging to really focus in on these aspects, rather than generalists. And as exercise specialists in aging, our focus is on the nuances of many, many different aspects of aging and the body.

You have a very personal story related to what you do?

Life has an interesting way of driving home lessons we really need to learn. During the course of completing my graduate degree I had both my children – really lucky for me actually, because I had experienced infertility for seven years. I had complications though, and my health really suffered. I also had trouble putting my health before all my family responsibilities. Here I was, after having my second child, and my body seemed broken. I had back pain, some incontinence from child birth, I couldn’t move quickly like I used to, getting up off a chair was hard, let alone the floor. I was stiff, tired. I understood what people mean when they say they feel old, regardless of their actual age. So I was really fortunate that I had lots of research information on functional exercise for aging, and I could apply that to myself.  I was able to take the information I had learned and get my function back, and be really healthy and pain free.  Now I’m so excited, it feels like having super powers, to have applied the knowledge and seen my body bounce back.  And I fully understand what it feels like, to be broken, in a sense. And then get put back together.

What excites you in your role as Director of Love Your Age?

A: Managing stress and keeping emotionally strong were the main reasons I got into the fitness profession 25 years ago, and it’s still my main motivator. It’s really exciting to see where the research is going now in terms of exercise for both mood and cognition. When we think about how we want to age, it’s great to think of the body but we aren’t bodies alone. They aren’t separate from our minds. We need to have strategies to optimize mental and cognitive health if we are going to age well. And new brain research in neuroscience supports the idea that the brain can regenerate, this concept being termed, neuroplasticity. That’s why our team created The Brain & Body Workout. There are just so many aspects of exercise for aging well, and they are all important. We can’t leave out cognition and mood. So we’ve incorporated research-based techniques used in brain therapy, techniques that work on the interplay between cognitive and physical aspects of balance training, as well as mind-body techniques. We are fortunate to have staff with specialities ranging from Osteofit and Steady Feet as well as research experience in brain health and socio-cultural aspects of exercise. We’ve been able to create something new and exciting.

 

www.runwithit.ca
Twitter – @christineruns
Instagram – @runwithit_christineblanchette
YouTube – runwithitcb1

Woman of the Week: Criss Habal-Brosek

“What does it mean to be a member of Progress Place? It means you are not a patient. It means you are a person first.”

This line was spoken during an audio tour of Progress Place, a registered charity that specializes on recovery from mental illness. It is run using a clubhouse model, which means that staff work side-by-side with its members to keep the centre running. A variety of daily activities and programs are offered daily, focusing on wellness, health, employment, and education.

Upon entering Progress Place, I was greeted by a smiling man sitting behind the reception desk. He asked me who I wanted to speak with and called up to ensure the person I was meeting was ready to see me. He was friendly and kind, and when I left he wished me a good day — what I didn’t know until the end of my tour was that he not only works for Progress Place, but he is a member as well.

Progress Place has helped over 7,000 people since it was founded in 1984, and firmly believes that “empowering people can cure.” In fact, they claim that 90 per cent of their members are not re-hospitalized after being a part of the clubhouse for two years.

The success of Progress Place is thanks to its dedicated employees, including Criss Habal-Brosek, Executive Director and a veteran employee of 32 years.

“I feel like I can relate to the staff when they first start. The Progress Place model keeps you very humble and I think that’s really important for people to remember — everyone has issues and struggles and everyone deserves to be treated respectfully and equitably, and everyone deserves opportunities. The goal is to instill hope.”

Habal-Brosek was always interested in social work, but wasn’t sure which field she wanted to go into until she started at Progress Place. During her time at York University, she tried a number of different placements, including a contract working nights at a correctional facility, a halfway house for people on parole. “If someone came in and they violated their parole, and I was working by myself on nights, I was supposed to call and have their parole revoked and they would have gone back to prison.”

“I knew I didn’t want to do that, but I was very thankful for the experience because I think it shaped who I am, in regards to my street smarts.”

After over a year at the correctional facility, a friend of hers told her about a position that had opened up at Progress Place. Over the last 32 years, Habal-Brosek worked in about every single job available at Progress Place before acquiring the position of Executive Director. Her passion and dedication to the clubhouse is undeniable — every question about her personal life automatically circles back to her work.

Progress Place boasts over 800 members, about 200 of which work at the clubhouse itself on a daily basis.  Members help plan menus, run the café, perform clerical duties, participate in daily decision-making meetings, and even lead tours for the public. The clubhouse itself offers health and wellness programs, a boutique with low-cost new clothing, weekly “next step” dinners, young adult programs, as well as a peer support telephone and online chat service called the “warm line.”

The transitional employment program and double recovery program are unique to Progress Place.  Staff help members, who may have an uneven work history, train for and gain employment. This support includes covering the member at their workplace if they have a medical appointment. The double recovery program offers multiple anonymous meeting spaces and support for those with substance abuse or mental health issues.

Staff offer training programs to businesses or organizations like the Toronto Transit Commission, who want to learn how about the stigma of mental illness with compassion and understanding. Progress Place is also exploring modern avenues to help spread their message and educate people on the stigma surrounding mental health. Their goal is to become as well-known for mental health as the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

The clubhouse has already expanded beyond their location on Church St. They opened up a pilot seniors day program and it has been quite the success. “As people age, depression sets in because people are lonely and isolated,” Habal-Brosek said. “Half of the seniors that go to the day program never knew they had a diagnosis and they have since been able to go to doctors and get medication.”

Habal-Brosek was incredibly excited to discuss Progress Place’s latest development in Mount Dennis, a program that is run in a retrofitted recreational space in a condo tower. They run March Break programs for teens, offer health services, and mental health workshops, and Habal-Brosek hopes it leads to other partnerships with developers throughout the city.

Their newest venture, recently launched on Jan. 20, is Radio Totally Normal Toronto, a monthly podcast that hopes to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness. In their debut broadcast, hosts provide an audio tour of Progress Place and discuss how to stay mentally healthy.

 

 

The unfortunate reality is that Progress Place hasn’t received an increase in funding over the last four years, despite the increase in cost of living. The clubhouse has evolved immensely since it opened and hopes to continue to do so.

As for Habal-Brosek — she has no plans to leave Progress Place. The positive response she sees from the community and from her members makes it all worthwhile.

“You get to hear such positive stories, whereas in a hospital situation, I feel kind of sad for people that work there because they see people at their worst. What really is inspiring is getting to see people who have never worked go out to their first job, go back to school to finish their high school diploma, or go to university and graduate.”

And that’s what Progress Place is all about.

How to use social media for your business

When my boss asked me to start an Instagram page for our business, I was dumbfounded. The crotchety old grandma inside me couldn’t fathom the necessity of taking random photos with my phone and posting it to an app that wouldn’t even allow me to link to a website post.

Social media has become such a critical aspect of business that it’s getting harder to ignore. Even the silly ones like Instagram and Snapchat have a purpose. This is the 21st century, and everyone is accessing the world through their phones. Shopping, news, maps, music, it’s all done via mobile technology nowadays. It’s time to adapt. So, I made that Instagram account and starting reading about how to use it. Turns out, my boss was right — there is a place for Instagram in business.

Still a bit confused? Don’t worry, Women’s Post has you covered. Here are a few things you need to know before you start using social media (all types) for your business:

Focus/Know your audience: Understanding the demographics you are targeting with your social media campaign is vital to its success. Are you targeting young people, health-conscious people, business women, or working moms? This will help you frame your content. Make every post, picture, and link associated to that audience! Just because you think a picture of a squirrel is cute, doesn’t mean your clients do.

Find influencers: Before you start posting, gather a list of journalists bloggers, business leaders and other entrepreneurs. Follow them on social media, and retweet or comment on their posts if appropriate. The hope is that they will start to recognize your name and be more receptive to your work.

Make it about the conversation: It’s important that you don’t just throw information at your clients. Have a conversation with them. Respond to their comments on Facebook or their questions on Twitter. Ask questions and actually do something with their answers.  You can even go a step further and get involved in other similar social networks, like online hangouts or message boards. Join groups that follow the same influencers and engage in conversations. This will help spread awareness about your work and your business.

 Quality over Quantity: Sure, it’s great to tweet and post on social media numerous times a day — but if those posts are poor quality, then your clients won’t bother going to your website. Make sure that everything you post is professionally crafted, even if it’s something silly like a meme or a gif. Everything you do should be done with the purpose of expanding and spreading awareness of your business. Make sure your words are well chosen and your images are high-resolution and high-quality.

Use appropriate hashtags and tags: This is one of the most annoying and frustrating things about social media, but it’s the number one way your message or your business can hope to reach new clientele. Unless people share your posts, the things you write on the Internet are simply…there. You want people to find your stuff, share it on their own social media feeds, and then potentially go to your website to find out more. This is impossible without hashtags. If your post involves a specific person, make sure to tag them so they are aware of its existence. As the stars of the show, so to say, they will most likely pass it around the office, inspiring a whole new set of readers.

Know the network: Using Instagram is vastly different than using Facebook or Linkedin, but there is a way to use it properly in order to market your business. Using the right hashtags is much more important as the only link to your website is in your bio. For Linkedin, it’s all about the introduction to your post, what people read that hooks them in. Prepare individual posts for each network to ensure effective use.

Be creative: If your posts are repetitive, your audience will lose interest. You want them to always be wondering what you will do next. This will involve some out of the box thinking and real brainstorming sessions. Maybe try a campaign? Get involved in #MondayMotivation. Or play around with photoshop. The more creative, controversial, and outlandish the photo — the more attention it will receive.

Be patient: It will take a while for you to develop “followers” on social media. It may even take years for you to get to a point where you can compete with other businesses. The Internet is BIG and there is a lot out there. You will eventually find your loyal followers, but until then, keep plugging away. Slowly, you will build up more “likes” or “reactions” and your business will start to flourish.

Good luck!

Check out our Instagram account and let us know how we are doing!