Category Archives: Life

Update: From Toronto to Las Vegas to San Francisco to Costa Rica!

1st March 2018

Volcano Villa La Fortuna

Hola from Costa Rica!

It’s been two months since we left Toronto. Sorry I’ve left this blog neglected! I haven’t been able to find the right words to describe what I was going through without bringing on the tears. So I decided that what I really needed to do was unplug, soak up life and take it day by day rather than battle it out with writer’s block.

Moving Boxes

The last quarter of 2017 was intense and anxiety ruled me.

My departure was an overload of emotions. I was excited to escape the deep freeze that blanketed the city over the holidays, yet all the farewells and moving out of our King West condo — the home where we started our little family, completely broke me.

I could still hear the screeching sounds of tape running across box after box after box. The never-ending packing did eventually end and now it was just waiting for our ‘grand plan’ to unfold.

Everything was about to come together or maybe not! Over the next three months, we would be checking into 10 hotels and Airbnb’s… so I was anxious about double booking or worse, skipping a day and not having a roof over our heads!

Zumanity Las Vegas

Deep breaths… because adventure awaits!

What I told myself as I watched the New Year’s Times Square ball drop on TV… is that I probably won’t ever truly be ‘ready’. But it’s still ok to say yes even if I don’t have all the answers yet.

Nervous AF or not, it was 2018 and our first stop was Las Vegas. (You can read all about how I kept CJ entertained in Sin City while hubby attended his annual marketing conference here.)

After we flew to San Francisco where I had three weeks to pull together a plan and figure out where to live, where to setup our office, which school CJ would attend and all the other fun grownup stuff. Yep this is #momlife!

San Francisco Caltrain

By the end of our SF lag, poor hubby commented that he felt like an Uber driver. Sitting in I-280 traffic and patiently driving me from one neighbourhood to the next as we went through our extensive check-list.

Twenty one (yes, 21!!) neighbourhoods later, we shortlisted the top four: Burlingame + Los Altos on the Peninsula side and Lafayette + Walnut Creek in East Bay.

 

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Happy Holidays And Only Good Vibes For 2018

16th December 2017

2017 City Refinery 1

Hello friends!

I just resurfaced from fighting off one beast of a cold and now I’m onto my next battle – packing up our lives in Toronto and getting ready for our move to California in the new year!

2017 was a whirlwind of uncomfortable challenges, self discoveries and big emotions but many fond memories were also made….

BFF and I celebrated our birthdays in Barcelona. I was part of #TelusStories. We got our US Business Visas after a long and tedious administrative process! CJ started Little Kickers soccer and it’s so freakin’ cute. We threw a DIY pizza + cupcake party and went to Great Wolf Lodge for his 4th birthday. We also spent the summer exploring our beautiful Ontario backyard with trips to Blue Mountain, Deehurst Resort and Prince Edward County. After four years, I taught my final CampTech blogging class. Adfluent recently turned 7.0 and we celebrated our second year as a Google Partners ad agency! And well, since it can’t all be sparkly unicorn farts year round… I did have a mommy meltdown earlier this month. Lost my sh!t working through the insane logistics of our move and travel itinerary while trying to answer CJ’s gazillion questions (he’s at the ‘why’ phase now).

 

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This Is Spaces Toronto

7th December 2017

Spaces Queen West - Elevator Lobby

I am really excited that Spaces has opened up in Toronto! This means freelancers and girl bosses like myself will have another place to call their ‘second home’. Or third, fourth home. That’s right they have 60 locations worldwide!

I was invited to their launch party a few weeks ago and got a chance to check out the stunning new space myself.

Spaces Queen West - Entrance

Having the ‘right vibe’ in a co-working space makes all the difference. It’s the place where you get your hustle on, find inspiration and meet other creative makers. So it’s way more than just a place to plug in your laptop… think of Spaces Toronto as a cool 46,000 sqft office (without the politics and drama)!

Spaces Queen West - Business Club

Spaces sits snug in the Queen West neighbourhood. It’s actually the former Urbane Cycle. Which explains why there are bicycle spokes dangling from the lobby ceiling. And that wooden spiral staircase… it takes you up to the glass meeting rooms, private offices and reserved desks on the 2nd and 3rd floors.

 

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Holiday Gifts Worth The Splurge

1st December 2017

Holiday Gifts Guide 2017

Have someone super nice on your list that is splurge worthy? Then these luxury gifts will surely surprise and delight…

I love Tumi products for their stylish functional designs. This leather trimmed Dara Carry-All is the perfect go to bag to tote around a laptop, wallet, makeup and everything else in between. Free personalization available. $475

The Sonos compact speaker is mini but has mighty big sound! Streams over wifi so the dance party and beats never stops. $200

The Dyson Pure Cool Link removes up to 99.97% of pollutants and does so while directing a cool stream of fresh clean air. City condo dwellers can breathe a sigh of relief again. Available in blue or white. $500

You don’t need to be a gamer to fall in love with the new sleek Xbox One S. With a library of 1300+ games to chose from, it’s also a solution for your cable box and can stream 4K content from Netflix and YouTube. My son will soon be introduced to the world of Minecraft and I can’t wait to play Cuphead, an unique 1930s-inspired art style game with a banging soundtrack. $250

Give the gift of rest because sleep really is the new luxury! Casper has created this unique pillow-in-pillow design that boosts the perfect balance of softness and support. $85-100

Foodies will be obsessed with the Philips Air Fryer. Prepare healthier versions of favourite comfort foods lickety split with minimal mess to cleanup. $330

APL has made a pair of TechLoom rose gold sneakers for her. And these heather grey kicks for him are pretty sweet too. $140 USD

 

#TelusStories

16th November 2017

When technology meets creativity, opportunity, passion + grit, online businesses are born. Sharing my story of brand evolution, big dreams, crushed dreams and becoming a digital nomad with Telus.

Big thanks to Virginia Hastings and the Shine Media video crew for a fun day and helping this camera shy gal shine!

 

The Suspense Is Killing Me… Give Me An Update Already!

16th August 2017

GoodVibesOnly

One of my pet peeves is Facebook updates that go something like this… ‘omg can’t believe this is happening, send me good vibes pleeeease’! WTF right?!

Well I wasn’t planning on being one of ‘those people’ that create unnecessary suspense with no followup but I’ve probably annoyed enough of you over the last few months — dropping hints then disappearing to the cottage and Spain for half the summer.

So I owe you guys an apology and update.

Before the guessing game continues that I got a job (no!), that I’m pregnant (nooo!), moving (yes), here’s what’s up with the fortune cookie photo I posted on Instagram…

Fortune Cookie

At the beginning of the year, we applied for a US Business Visa. Which explains why I was extra busy and cranky. Government paperwork is a beast!

Spring rolled around and we still hadn’t heard back. That’s when I started to lose my mind! Planners have to plan right?! Boxes were half packed. The deadline for CJ’s school tuition was coming up and we had no backup if he loses his spot. Travel plans grind to a halt. Our life was (almost) put on pause.

 

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#GirlBoss: Chakameh Shafii of TranQool

12th August 2017

TranQool App

TranQool is a health and wellness service that aims to offer affordability and convenience to see a virtual therapist. Chakameh Shafii is the #GirlBoss who started TranQool as a result of her own struggles with anxiety. We spoke to her about startup life and how her team hopes to reduce the stigma associated with mental health.

1) What’s a day in the life of Chakameh Shafii like?

The first hour includes either a 10 mins meditation on Headspace or writing in my 5 mins journal, commuting to work, listening to podcasts and drinking coffee, of course. The rest of the day is filled with meetings, emails and work. I try to exercise almost every day (not weekends) at lunch or in the evening.

Chakameh Shafii 1

2) Tell us about TranQool.

TranQool was started from a conversation between friends. I did CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) for my anxiety while working full-time at a Fortune 500 company. It was very effective so I definitely recommend therapy to almost anyone seeking a better quality of live.

 

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A Step By Step Guide On How To Apply For An E1 US Visa

7th July 2017

US Visa

This post is based on my personal experience. I’ve linked to resources on the US Homeland Security and US Consulate websites but am not affiliated with them. 

Our journey started a year ago when our ad agency, Adfluent Media was in its sixth year of operation. Even though we are based in Toronto, a thriving tech hub,  we felt like we were constantly hitting a brick wall with our Canadian clients — who made up less than ten percent of our business. Meanwhile things in the US were rapidly growing. Pair that up with a long and harsh Canadian winter and I was often Googling “how to get a US visa”!

That’s when I discovered there was a lot of out dated and inconsistent information. Which prompted me to write this post to share my experience as a Canadian applicant. I’m not an immigration lawyer so I did have to hire one to help me get through the copious amount of paperwork but hopefully these 9 steps and tips can help you navigate through some of the daunting process…

 

First off, what is an E-1 Visa?

It is for business owners that already have existing business relationships with US partners. This non-immigration visa therefore, allows Canadians to live and work there so they can continue engaging in international business. The visa I got is good for five years. After that, if you show you can sustain your business, it will be renewed for another five years (indefinitely).

You can get more details about this visa here.

 

To qualify your business needs to…

  • Be Canadian or a nation of a country with which the US maintains a treaty of commerce
  • Carry on substantial trade
  • The principal trade exists when over 50% of the total volume of international trade is between the US and the trader’s treaty country

Even though this doesn’t sound overly complicated, I still recommend consulting with a lawyer. I’m really happy with the one I worked with from PwC so if you need a referral, send me a msg.

Our ad agency qualified — being a Canadian incorporated company who has been providing digital strategy services, media buying and online lead generation to US clients since 2010.

Point two (above) however, is pretty vague. Even our lawyer couldn’t pinpoint an amount to define ‘substantial’  but he believed we had a really strong case… in the last two years, we generated close to $2 million in US sales .

More important than the total amount though is the consistency and duration. For example, a company that does $10k every month will look more favourable than another company that has only done a one time transaction of $50k.

Note: closely related is the E-2 Treaty Investors visa so you may want to look into that to see if you better qualify under their requirements.

 

What are the nine steps involved with getting an E-1 Visa?

  1. Fill out a Nonimmigrant Visa Application DS-160

This is an online form requesting basic details such as your birthday, education, if you visited the US before, passport info, etc. You’ll also need to provide an estimated date of arrival and a contact in the US (I just used my friend). Make sure you have a current photo (yes, you can take a selfie but you’ll need to bring in actual passport photos for the consulate meeting.)

Each primary applicant and their spouse + children have to complete one. Luckily you don’t need to finish it in one sitting but you can save your work and come back to it later.

Time commitment: 60 minutes for each applicant.

 

    2. Create a 5 year business plan

By far the most time consuming part of this process was creating a biz plan. Aside from the ones I made up in university ages ago, I actually have never written a plan for a ‘real’ company! It ended up being 22 pages!

I included EVERYTHING! A SWOT analysis, a target market profile, an advertising strategy, a sales pipeline and a team hierarchy including future positions I plan to hire for. Yep all the key terms drilled into you in b-school are coming back to haunt you in real life! My accountant then helped me prepare the financial statements and a 3 years projection.

Time commitment: 16 hours

 

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Happy Fourth Of July

3rd July 2017

Fourth of July Dessert

We typically don’t do much on Independence Day unless we happen to be traveling in the US but this year we have a big reason to celebrate!

In January, we applied for a US Business Visa. After taking down copious amounts of paperwork and then falling into a ‘black hole’ for several months (aka the administrative waiting period) we finally received our shiny red, white and blue visas last month!

<insert happy dance!>

So what does this mean? A huge milestone for our ad agency! After six years of being a Toronto based business, Adfluent will open our first American office. We will also get to split our time between living + working in Canada and the United States.

I’ll write a full update soon (because you know there is a crazy story behind it of course!) but now it’s time to celebrate!

I made this fruit platter for a little party I hosted for my family. I think it was a pretty cleaver way to share our exciting news! Happy Fourth of July everyone!

 

Dear Naysayers, Why I Need You In My Life…

29th June 2017

Believe in yourself

Dear Naysayers,

I’m not going to lie and tell you that I wasn’t affected by all the times you thought my dreams were too grand. When you told me how hard it was going to be or how many other people have tried before me and failed, I got scared and doubted myself… because your opinions matter.

To help boost my self motivation, I started reading ‘how to success in life and business’ articles. I learned I’m supposed to eject the Debbie Downers and surround myself with enablers. So I did just that. One of my oldest friends is my biggest cheerleader. Even before I tell him what I’m going to do, he’s telling me how awesome I’m going to be at it!

Lately I had to overcome some massive barriers. Not entirely new to me because I didn’t exactly get to where I am without jumping over one, two or fifty hurdles.

And it was during this time I had my aha moment…

Accomplishments happen and changes occur not necessarily when you have a tribe always rallying behind you. Rather people who challenge you, those who question your sanity, the ones that ‘what if’ you to death… those ones –> YOU unleash the hungry beast in me. Because I guess nothing irks me more than being told I can’t do something. Roarrrrrr!!!!

Oh no, please don’t think I’m mad or will unfriend you. Although you can turn the pessimism down a notch or two. Here’s why I actually need you to nay all over my life…

Because I was that shy 10 year old girl who hid behind her bangs with the ‘dumb science project idea’… that ended up winning second prize at the school Science Fair.

 

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