Founder’s Diary: Happiness Is Now.

I cried in front of six strangers a few weeks ago.

And not drops of tears, dignified kind of pretty crying. I full out bawled, ugly face, makeup streaked, snotty dripping kind of crying.

The last few weeks (months) have been really rough. I’m writing this now after I’ve overcome the worst of it, but it was tough going for a while. I was supposed to go away for the weekend, but through a fortunate (and many ways, unfortunate) turn of events, I had to cancel my trip and stay in Toronto for the weekend.

So, distraught and sad and unhappy and full of self-pity, I took on a Hail Mary of sorts. For years now, a good friend of mine had been badgering me to attend a class with the Art of Living Foundation and I always brushed it off.

“I’m not available that weekend,” I’d say. Or I would say it was too expensive. Or the class wasn’t that interesting. But when my friend, her Spidey senses tingling, messaged me out of the blue recently and told me to take this course, I took it as a sign.

“You’ll thank yourself for this,” she said. I was skeptical to be honest, but I was desperate enough and unhappy enough that I had to try something. So I signed up literally the night before for a three-day retreat with the Art of Happiness Program

I won’t go into details of the program (you should just check it out) but in spite of myself, I did genuinely thank myself for going. And I continue to say my thanks to this day.

The course is called The Happiness Program, so obviously we talked a lot about how to be happy. But my biggest takeaway wasn’t necessarily the tactics or strategies to find happiness. It was pointing out all the ways that I’ve intentionally, or unintentionally, chosen unhappiness. That for so much of my life, I’ve been postponing my own happiness, the same way a kid might postpone her homework.

Jerome constantly tells me, “it’s not about the destination. It’s the journey that’s important.” To which I would roll my eyes and say, “but if the road isn’t bringing you anywhere, WTF is the point?!”

As an entrepreneur, life is stressful af. You can set little goals for yourself like, “reach $1000 in sales this month” or “find 3 more freelance clients” and you can have a mini celebration when you reach it. But the folly of humans is that we’re always waiting for what’s next.

We hit the $1000, maybe treat ourselves to a little mani/pedi or a sushi dinner (for Jerome and I, it’s usually the latter 😉 . But once the party is over, then it’s like “okay, so where is the next goal? The next challenge? The next this and that and this.”

We think, “When X happens, then I’ll be happy.”

But the nature of entrepreneurship is that it’s never easy. And it’s never over.

When I make my first sale, then I’ll be happy.

When our business makes a profit, then I’ll be happy.

When we break $100K in revenues, then I’ll be happy.

When I can go on vacation, then I’ll be happy.

You see, once you reach “success” as a business, that’s not even the last step. How do you stay successful? How do you keep your place in line, continue finding the best clients, stay above the competition, stay up to date with technology, continue to grow?

Is there really a destination at the end of it all?

I learned a lot of things after my breakdown. But one of the best lessons that came to me was this:

Once you accept the beauty of the present, then life becomes more than the pursuit of happiness. Instead, it becomes the expression of it.
Julia, my Art Of Living Instructor

Happiness is now. Not later. Not after a big sale, not after you land 5 clients, not after you book your dream vacation. Being happy is a conscious decision. And you have to make it every single day, every single moment.

I learned this amazing lesson.

And all I had to do was cry before a roomful of strangers.




Founder’s Diary: Leap

This week, J and I found ourselves in the most unexpected situation.

There we were, in a crowded Moxies. Having dinner and drinks with a guy who, two years ago, we would have had no business knowing. This guy has spent the last 25 years working with the hottest, emerging retail brands, and has the ears of CEOs who manage companies I could only dream of working for.

And somehow we were there with him, swapping stories and talking strategy over potstickers and guacamole.

Surreal, right?

How did we even end up here?

I’ve asked myself this question SO many times in the past two years. Like how did we end up in the Philippines last February, interviewing sex trafficking survivors and displaced peoples? How did we end up in the homes of artisans, people we barely knew, who welcomed us in with open arms? How did we wind up at some exclusive bloggers’ event in Toronto, with the endless flashes from phones and the posed selfies clouding our vision?

The absurdity of it all boggles my mind.

See, I’m a compulsive planner. I love making to-do lists, writing out timelines, figuring out how to get from entry level to senior manager within X years. But even with my obsessive tendencies, there’s NO way I could have foreseen any of this.

Two years ago, I was still working a 9-to-5 job, working in a financial institution (which is as corporate as it gets). I had a so-so salary, good job security, a clear cut path to becoming a manager within the next two years, and a growing sense of dread that my life was not going where I hoped.

So I quit my job and hoped that something better would come my way.

I guess you could call it a leap of faith.

But here’s the crazy thing. Entrepreneurship is one big leap, every day. And as a freak planner, that’s a tough pill to swallow. People like me are not on friendly terms with The Unknown. Not knowing where your next paycheque is coming from, where your business is headed, whether you’ll even have a business in a year, and what you’ll do with yourself if it turns out that’s not the case – all of that gives people like me anxiety.

But on those quiet mornings when I have a chance to slow down and reflect, maybe while I wait for the kettle to boil, or while I stand on the subway platform awaiting my next action, I see the lesson. I see my life then, and my life now, and I see the void inbetween.

Could I have imagined any of this? Probably not. But my reality is far greater than what any figment of my imagination could have drummed up, or planned for.

So, the way I see it, my life right now is about taking leaps forward.

Where will it all lead me? I don’t really know.

And for the first time, I’m tempted not to care.

Founder’s Diary: Sometimes, Everything Is Shit

I’ll let you guys in on a little secret.

I don’t always love my business.

Some days, I hate it.

That may be taboo to say in the world of entrepreneurship. We’ve been fed so many tales of how being an entrepreneur is sexy and savvy and liberating.

We listen to the Gary Vaynerchuks of the world who talk about the hustle and grind, how you just can’t stop, that somehow living off of ramen noodles is part of the glamour of being an entrepreneur. You might be broke and have no social life, but you still better love every freaking minute of it because otherwise you have no business being here.

Case in point, I went to a panel event recently and lo and behold, this is what one of the speakers shared:

“I can never turn my phone off. When I bring my kids to school, I’m working. When I’m with them at practice, I’m working. But I love everything about what I do. I work all the time because I love it. Work doesn’t feel like work to me because I love every second.”


NOBODY feels that way. You’re telling me you love doing your taxes? Sifting through all your receipts and inputting them? You love dealing with poor performing employees? Supplier issues? Broken products? Difficult customers? Scrambling to find clients? Working weekends all summer instead of lazing about sipping sangria on the porch (I would LOVE a lazy sangria porch day).

One of my favourite greeting cards from Cambio Market. Very fitting, don’t you think? 🙂

Maybe someday when you’re actually Gary Vaynerchuk and have a team you can delegate the humdrum to, then perhaps. But most of us are not in that boat. I definitely am not.

Truth is, even if you’re the most passionate person in the world, you won’t love everything you do. ESPECIALLY if you’re a startup or a solopreneur. There’s many things to dislike, and I’m going to tell a truth that’s been buried for ages:

Work feels like work. Running a business is work. Creating a brand is hard as fuck, and life can be pretty thankless.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my business. When I think long-term about what J and I are building, I am filled with so much excitement (and anxiety) I feel I could burst. I enjoy the work I do, many parts of it I love. But there are many parts of running a business day to day that are just awful.

Like waking up at 5AM to pack all our inventory for a farmer’s market, unloading things in the rain, working 50 hours during the week and then eight hours on a Saturday to sell products instead of spending time with family. Having to fire poor performing employees. Dealing with lost packages or broken inventory. Struggling with uncertainty. Scrambling to find contracts or part-time work so you can still pay the bills. Trying to find time to still be a good mom/daughter/sister/friend.

But I don’t want to give the wrong impression. I love being an entrepreneur. I love building something that’s my own, having creative and strategic freedom, connecting with other entrepreneurs and likeminded people, doing work I’m fucking passionate about. I’ve made so many new friends, learned different skills, and grew so much as a person.

But don’t buy into the myth that entrepreneurship should be beach days and sparkles all the time. When people used to say things like “work doesn’t feel like work” to me, I used to feel guilty. Did I not love my business? Was I unhappy? Am I not cut out for this?

I still have those days when I wonder if I should just pack it all in and get a 9 to 5 (health benefits would definitely be nice). But a year and a half into it, i realize there’s nothing wrong with having off days. There’s nothing wrong with you if sometimes you feel like a mountain pile of crap everyone keeps shitting on, if you just want to give up, if somedays you just hate everything.

I’ve been there, my friend. I will be there, again and again.

Let’s stop making each other feel bad.

Work is work. It’s okay to admit it.

How starting my own business has made me a better person

How starting my own business has made me a better person

Now that it’s been a bit more than a month since I quit my 9-to-5 job to start my own business Cambio Market, I’ve had time to reflect on what being an entrepreneur really means and how it’s impacted my life beyond the typical “work for yourself” mantra.

For some context, Cambio Market is an online marketplace to connect consumers with socially responsible products and responsible businesses. Every purchase from our store directly gives back to a meaningful cause and helps socially responsible businesses grow. For those of you familiar with the concept of social enterprise, we are one. We just launched last week.

What I realize is I really do like myself more these days than before. That may be a weird thing to say, but I have to admit I think I’m a much better person. Here’s why:

1.  I’m much more informed. We research each of our partner suppliers to ensure their products are up to par and their social impact is real, positive, and authentic. As a result, I’ve been learning so much about business, international development, and the social issues facing different communities around the world as well as the creative ways social organizations attempt to address them. Being a business owner also means understanding how government policy, local, national, and international issues impact how we operate so I pay attention to the news and Reddit much more. I’m still not as informed as I’d like to be, but my knowledge has definitely improved over the past four weeks.

A photo from our Instagram account @Cambio_Market. For every selfie taken with hashtag #DrinkGoodDoGood, Naked Juice company will donate 10 lbs. of produce to help communities in need.
A photo from our Instagram account @Cambio_Market. For every selfie taken with hashtag #DrinkGoodDoGood, Naked Juice company will donate 10 lbs. of produce to help communities in need.

2.  I’m much more connected. I barely used Facebook in the past and my friends used to have to text me reminders to check my Facebook messages (everyone has a friend like that, right?). These days I manage all the marketing and social media for Cambio Market, which means I’m constantly on social media. Not surprisingly, I’ve been much more up to date as a result and know more about what’s happening in my friend’s and family’s lives. This has significantly improved my personal relationships.

I also occasionally publish updates about Cambio Market, which has prompted several of my long lost friends to reach out to me and see how things are going. In the past month, I’ve been able to re-connect with at least four friends I haven’t seen in years. I’ve also forced myself to reach out to people and ask for their help (something I was always scared to do before). This has unexpectedly opened up amazing opportunities to re-connect with good friends and learn from them.

3.  I can have more meaningful conversations. When I was working in corporate, it felt like my conversation skills were going down the drain. Office talk always centres around plans for the weekend, what you did last night, what you ate (though 80% of my conversations are still about this :D), and plans for the holidays. These days, I’m catching up with old friends or meeting new people in the community which opens up opportunities for much more meaningful conversations. It’s been awesome.

Me at last night’s We Are Cities roundtable to discuss issues facing our city and how they can be addressed from a youth perspective.

4.  I’m more in touch with my creative side. Sometimes I forget how artsy I used to be as a kid. I used to take art classes on the weekends and would spend hours drawing. I even still have some of my old sketchbooks. It’s been about ten years since I’ve drawn something, so I’ve loved the opportunity to do all the creative work for Cambio Market. We’re literally just two people in our team and Jérôme is more on the technical side handling our IT, business compliance, shipping and logistics, so I do everything else. I designed our logo, create the creatives for our social media, write all our content, and even spent hours doing arts and crafts to package our orders. I love how I’ve been able to re-connect with that part of myself.

I spent hours doing arts and crafts to come up with our finalized packaging for Cambio Market!
I spent hours doing arts and crafts to come up with our finalized packaging for Cambio Market!

5.  I’ve been able to meet people outside of my regular circles. Networking is always important, regardless of your stage of life. As a social entrepreneur, it’s crucial. I’ve actively forced myself to attend various events in the city and meet new people. Last month, I attended a Creative Mornings Toronto event, a free speakers series in Toronto geared towards the creative community. Last night, I participated in a youth roundtable through We Are Cities to discuss issues facing our city and how these can be addressed through a youth perspective. I was definitely outside of my comfort zone for both events and some were better than others, but I’ve learned a lot from every single event I’ve attended and person I’ve met. It’s been awesome and I’ve become more aware of issues facing my community.

6. Last but not least, I’m happier. Not to say that happy people are necessarily better people, but I’m generally more optimistic than before and willing to fight for things I care about. It’s empowering.

If you’ve had a similar experience or thoughts to share, I’d love to hear them! 🙂 

Photo credit Bruno Ramos:

One month in: What I’ve been up to since I quit my job

One month in: What I’ve been up to since I quit my job

It’s been exactly one month since I quit my job to embark on my latest adventure -starting an ethical business out of my own home. It’s called Cambio Market, an online shop selling socially responsible and handcrafted products sourced from ethical businesses around the world. We just launched this week.

The last month has been a whirlwind. It’s no lie when people say starting a business takes over your life. I sometimes start work at 8AM and don’t stop until midnight, occasionally finding time in there to pound out a blog post or two (though this week has been a poor example of that *sad face*).

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Cambio Market is an online shop selling socially responsible and positive impact products from around the world. Good Paper handcrafted cards are available in our store.

Over the last four weeks, we’ve set up our social media channels, met with various suppliers (all positive impact businesses), ordered our initial batch of products, developed all of our web copy and content from scratch, took product photos, set up our Shopify store and website, and continue to source new suppliers. I also spent a whole night figuring out packaging – strips of ribbon and kraft paper strewn across our living room floor. We’re pretty happy with how our initial experiment turned out though 🙂

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Experimenting with various packaging options. Our apartment still has scraps of ribbon and kraft paper scattered about.

For the month of October, we’ll be busy with marketing and trying to drive sales. We’ve also just placed orders with two new suppliers and hope to receive their product before end of October, just in time for the November/December peak. We’ll be prepping our inventory and re-marketing all of our content for the holiday season, reaching out to bloggers and influencers to get our products out there. We’ve also got more shipping and logistics stuff to figure out, and there’s the endless work on social media and communications. I also hope to continue blogging about careers and social entrepreneurship, Cambio Market, etc. The list goes on and on…

Despite all the extra work, added pressure, and basically zero income right now, I am so blissfully happy. Working 9-to-5, somehow I always felt I was waiting for something – waiting for the day to be over, for the weekend to start, anticipating my next raise – basically, waiting for my life to begin. With Cambio Market, I wake up early and stay up late because I don’t want the day to be over. I don’t want the weekend to start because that’s the time I should “relax and rest” instead of working. The difference in perspective changes you. I only wish everyone could be this happy and excited about their jobs.

So when I think about the future, I’m filled with excitement but I’m also filled with  A LOT of fear – all. the. time. My good friend told me, “if you’re not afraid, you’re not driving fast enough.” I have to agree.

But where am I driving to, exactly? I couldn’t tell you.

I’m just here to chronicle the journey.

This is a post inspired from Day 20 of course Writing 101: The Future through Blogging U