Category Archives: Life

This Is Spaces Toronto

1st 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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#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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#GirlBoss: Nichelle Laus of OTC Toronto

22nd June 2017

Optimum Training Centre

Nichelle is a fitness model, personal trainer and the owner of Optimum Training Centre, a 6,000 sqft training facility in Toronto. She’s known for her 8 weeks to fabu-LAUS program and oh did I mention she’s a mom of four boys?! Let’s find out how this ex-cop turned mompreneur stays on top of her fitness game and what exercises she recommends for other busy moms…

What’s a day in the life of Nichelle Laus like? 

Being a mom to 4 little ones and owning a business, it is pretty hectic. Sometimes I don’t even know how I fit it all in but I do because I have to. There is no other choice and to make things happen, you have to hustle. You can’t sit there and dream about making things happen. You have to go out and make them happen!

My average day usually starts really early in the morning. I get up at 5:00 am and hit the gym at 5:30 am for my daily workout. I like to get it done early so it doesn’t interrupt family time, and I don’t have to worry about finding the time during my busy day to get it done.

I have a pretty busy, yet manageable schedule because I make sure everything has a time slot. I also leave room for surprises, a flexibility is key when you a momtrepreneur!

After getting 3 of the 4 kids off to school, I head into work, Optimum Training Centre, which is my personal training studio in Etobicoke. I train clients for a part of the day, and of course, work on the administrative stuff that comes along with owning your own business.

Nichelle Laus

After 3:00pm, I go into full time Mom mode again, which involves after school activities, cooking, cleaning, laundry and snuggles. Once the kids go to bed at night, I relax by having a bath or shower, then work on my other business, my online transformation business.

I enjoy my busy lifestyle. A lot of people wonder why and how I do so much but I really enjoy what I do and because I love it so much, I don’t look at it as work. It’s my passion and if I can motivate or inspire one person a day, my job is done. The rest is gravy.

 

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Soundpays: make purchases instantly from digital ads

19th June 2017

Soundpays App

This is a sponsored post.

I tend to be an early adopter when it comes to technology. If something maximizes my convenience, lets me skip the lineup or is an innovation that is simply way cool… I want to be the first to know.

And that’s why Soundpays caught my eyes and ears.

It’s a mobile wallet app that… WAIT FOR IT…

Soundpays

Transmits product purchase information (using inaudible sound waves) to your smartphone so you can make purchases directly from ads you see on TV, online or from a digital sign!

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Right Here. Right Now. I have everything I’ve always wanted.

16th June 2017

Birthday 2017

I’ve got all this fancy sh!t but it wasn’t the “things” themselves that sparked joy… it was more about knowing that ‘I CAN’.

I’m exactly where I want to be right now. Today. Looking back at the bucket list I curated for my 25 year old self, my goals revolved around my career in the rat race and dining at Michelin Star restaurants. A luxury downtown condo and import cars defined success. Don’t judge! I was part of that 80’s MTV generation. I wanted to live in multiple cities and have a passport filled with stamps from exotic destinations.

All before 40… so I could retire by 43! What I realize though, after checking all these things off, it was more to prove that if I could dream it, I could ‘real life’ it.

So it’s my birthday month and I’m married to my best friend and I’m a Momma to a darling curious rambunctious boy. And I guess I am semi-retired because I co-founded an ad agency, have this blog and love what I do. Older yet wiser, happy, healthy, grateful and feeling comfortable in my own skin. All the things that really matter. Now I’m going to go eat a $7 bowl of pho in my $65 dress to celebrate! ☺️🎂