my story

What's in a Brand? How I became an entrepreneur...

What's in a Brand? How I became an entrepreneur...

"Sometimes you just have to take the leap and build your wings on the way down." - Kobi Yamada

The story of how I got started in business, and the reasons behind my current branding choices.

The Pot's On, C'mon Inside

I was raised with a "community" mentality.

Yes, we were considered "rural", being seven miles from the nearest town. But we lived in a pioneering community whose roots--and neighbourly ties--ran deep. My family, and many others in the area, had been prolific breeders, and many were inter-married with the other pioneering families. So not only was everyone within a five-mile radius your neighbour--they were most likely your relative. (My friends and I used to joke that I would have to move just to find a boy I could date! This didn't turn out to be true, but only because Jason was born in Saskatchewan, and didn't move to Red Deer area until he was in Grade School.)

I sometimes think that the reason driveways tend to be a little longer in the country is that you have a little more lead-time to get the coffee-pot on. You see the vehicle slowing down as it approaches your mailbox, and you holler "Put the coffee on, Martha! Ned's comin' in!" By the time he approaches your doorstep, the fragrant aroma is already wafting on the breeze, and there's no way a good neighbour would turn down a friendly cup with good company. (Everyone knows that's the reason he came over in the first place--to "set a spell.")

Actually, Martha really was my paternal grandmother's name*, and she was probably the personification of this country hospitality in my mind. If anyone ever always had coffee on, and always had cookies in the cookie jar, it was her. Growing up a farm wife, with nine children (eight of which are boys!) and numerous farm-hands and shop-hands around for every meal and coffee break, no wonder she cooked for twenty all the time, and the coffee-pot never ran dry. I wonder what would've happened if it had? Would the household's whole social order have fallen into chaos?

This "pot's always on, and there's always more room at the table" mentality was passed on to my father, and then to me. Jason often jokes that I don't know how to cook for two--which I don't. When it was just the two of us, I'd still cook for about eight and we'd be eating it for the next two weeks, because at that time we did not even have a deep freeze, other than what was included with the refrigerator. Even now, I often (purposely) plan for about double the portion we need. If someone shows up just in time for supper, great! We can throw a few more plates on and we're good. If no one does, great! We can throw the leftovers in the fridge or the freezer, and enjoy another, less labour-intensive meal later in the week.

If you ever happen to drop in on me when it is not mealtime, one of the first questions out of my mouth is likely to be "Would you like some tea? Water? Hot Chocolate? Coffee?" (Okay, the first four questions.) We are not coffee-drinkers as a general rule, but there is something about having a hot beverage in your hand that gives you an excuse to linger, to not rush out the door and back to your busy life. In this day and age where heading over to the neighbours just to set a spell is almost unheard-of, we need these excuses to slow down and catch up with each other. Our door is always open for visitors. (Okay, realistically, not really. If we're not here, we lock the door. I mean, c'mon people. We live in town--right across from some high-density housing! We're friendly, but we're not idiots. But! If you show up before we actually have to leave, you are welcome to hang out as long as you want--just lock the door and turn off the lights behind you!)

When I first moved in here, it didn't take me long to realize that I had some very interesting neighbours. I first noticed it when I saw some of them peeking in the window, hands cupped over their eyes to block out glare, watching what we were doing. One of them had their ear pressed to a glass against the window. I went to the door to tell them they were welcome to come in for a cup of tea, but as soon as they saw me, they bolted--I barely caught a glimpse of their faces.

However, they kept coming back. I would see their footprints in the snow, or the flowers in the front bed might be a little trampled. Sometimes I would even be talking with friends or family in other places and they would say, "Oh, I read your blog watched you do such-and-such the other day."

"Really?" I would ask, a little non-plussed. "Why didn't you knock and tell me you were there? We could have had tea."

"Oh," they would say, looking a little lesser-plussed than myself. I'd feel bad for making them feel bad, so eventually I stopped asking that question. I was just glad they were coming by to see me, even if they didn't stop in to say hello.

I've lived here at the Winters' Day In for over a year and a half, now. Some of the neighbours have managed to overcome their shyness and make themselves known, while some remain, lurking by the window, watching from the outside. I allow this voyeurism--the curtains remain open, and I just hope that someday, they will get up the nerve to come in out of the cold, sit by the fire and drink some hot cocoa with whipped cream on my couch, so I can get to know them a little better.

This is the first day of NaBloPoMo '07. I have made the commitment to post something to my blog every day for the month of November. I would just like to open up the month with this invitation:

Whether you have been reading my blog for a while now, or just started, I invite you to comment on at least one post this month. If you want to protect your anonymity, that's fine--you are allowed to comment anonymously on this blog. Don't fear the security system--it is only meant to protect the WDI from random drive-by shootings, not those who actually want to partake of its hospitality. And do check back--I respond to comments 95% of the time.

You never know--you might find you like it.

*To my knowledge, we (and they) had no neighbours by the name of "Ned".

Hockey Night In Canada

Most people around the world are aware that the sport of hockey is something that is integral to our image as Canadians. In the famous "I. Am. Canadian." ad campaign, we are even referred to as the "first nation of hockey."

I have never been what you call an "avid" fan of the sport, myself, despite having been raised in a house where we had two options: we could cheer for the Calgary Flames, or we could live somewhere else. (My dad believes in freedom of choice.) While my brother plugged into this program with full watts on (able to recognize the entire Flames team by name at the age of 5), I was always, "Okay, yeah, whatever. It's a sport on television. Do I know anyone on that team? No? Lanny? He's the guy with the funny mustache who sells cars on T.V., right? Okay, go Flames. Rah, rah, rah."

I was somewhat flabbergasted when, upon entering Grade 10 Phys. Ed. class, I was informed that hockey was not, in fact, our national sport--lacrosse was! Something to do with the fact that it was invented by Native Canadians, long before the imaginary map lines that created our country existed. This situation has now since been rectified, making us one of the only (I'm sure) countries to have national summer and national winter sports.

For those of you who don't understand the full cultural impact hockey has on our province of Alberta, let me give you some background: Alberta has two hockey teams. The Calgary Flames are located in the city of Calgary, in the southern half of our province. Three hours drive north of this, along a straight, densely-populated (for our province) corridor of highway lies our province's capital city, Edmonton, home of the Oilers. Traditionally, everyone north of Edmonton (or the northern two-thirds of our province, land-mass-wise) cheers for the Oilers, those near-to-and-south-of Calgary root for the Flames, while those in the middle are raised in a confusion of conflicting loyalties that can lead to all kinds of problems, such as losing sleep, business partners, harmony amongst extended family, and the occasional marital separation during the playoffs.

My hometown of Sylvan Lake is at almost the exact half-way mark between these two Hockey Cities. (Fifteen minutes west of Red Deer on the map I linked to.) While most of our friends cheered for the Oilers, due to the fact that they had Wayne Gretzky, five Stanley Cups, and the audacity to put "The City of Champions" on their city sign, the little enclave of my brother, parents, and I put on the Red and Gold colours every spring. My dad taught us that loyalty was important, and called many of the so-called Oilers fans "Romans" who only cheered for the Edmonton team while they were winning, alluding to the way the Romans in the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar would be swayed back and forth between "Kill him!" or "No, don't kill him!" every time a new speaker opened his mouth. So we would cheer for the Flames.

I remember 1989. Oh, glorious day for any Calgary Flames fan, when instead of coming to the last round of the finals and failing, the great Stanley Cup got to live in the Saddledome for one magnificent year! Every year, as anxious Flames fanatics follow the playoff stats, watching Calgary come this close, they think Maybe this will be the year. Maybe we will get the Cup! This might be 1989: The Resurrection! Oh, how painful it was when their nemesis team, the Oilers, took the cup north again in 1990. Oh, how often since then could they taste victory, like a kid who stuck his tongue onto the swing set in January, only to have it ripped away by another team. The bitter, bitter gall of it all.

When I started seeing Jason, it wasn't long before I found out that he was not a Calgary Flames fan. Instead, he cheered for the Blue and Gold. Fearing repercussions against the only dating relationship my father had ever approved of, I said, "Don't tell Dad!"

And he didn't. It was not until after we said "I do," and the first fateful post-marriage hockey season was upon us that the truth about his hockey loyalties came out. As it so happened, we were actually residing in my father's basement that year while Jason took one more year of college education. There were a few brief moments where I thought my dad was going to follow through on that "cheer-for-the-Flames-or-live-somewhere-else" rule, but thankfully, he reluctantly conceded and allowed us to finish out the college term!

Not that he would ever admit it, but the rivalry in hockey loyalties between my father and my husband has been one of the most fun parts of their relationship--they thrive on it. They call each other to gloat after each victory for their own team or loss for the other's; when my dad gets free tickets from a vendor or client to a Calgary/Edmonton game he will often try to take Jason. While living in Sylvan Lake, Jason would go over to watch the games on Dad's satellite, since we got no television reception at all at our house in the trees.

Since moving to Peace River, I think Jason has been feeling a bit hockey-deprived. We had not been able to get T.V. reception here, either, so he would occasionally go over to his friend Wes' to catch the games, when possible. I don't think it is quite the same, though, since he and Wes cheer for the same team. What fun is there in that? Also, with the additional considerations required for Wes' family time, these events have been a little few and far between.

Last week, Jason decided to change all that. He went to Liquidation World and bought a Radio Shack digital rabbit ears device. He has determined that our house will be hockey-less no more!

Apparently, it was not a moment too soon. When he turned the game on last night, Jude asked, "Dad, what game is this?"

Let the education--and the continuation of generational loyalties in the Battle of Alberta--begin!


Jude and I read a story about a little boy who wanted to take dance classes tonight--between that and his current obsession with the movie "Happy Feet", I thought it was high time he had some point of reference for what REAL dancing looks like. So, we got onto YouTube and had fun finding all kinds of dance videos. I came up with some real treasures, including this video. (Which, apparently, everyone on the internet has seen. Well, except me, that is.) If you have six minutes, and are with me in the "haven't seen it before club," I highly recommend it. Enjoy!

Your butt gets cold in Memory Lane

After I got the kids in bed, I decided to take advantage of Jason's absence (having a Guy's X-Box Night) to continue prepping our guest room to be painted. Yesterday, I had managed to clear out all the furniture, but the largish closet (which we use for storage) still needed to be emptied, and 12 semi-ancient Canada Flag stickers needed to be removed from the walls. This is the part I was dreading.

With a combination of soapy water, a sponge, and a plastic drywall knife, I managed to painstakingly remove three--the ones lowest down, where I had the most leverage. The remaining nine are on the small vertical edge of a section of dropped ceiling, and after several unfruitful attempts, perched atop a low stool, I decided to buy some wallpaper remover tomorrow and give it another go. But! I figured I may as well keep prepping the other parts of the room.

A few minutes later and the baseboard was laying haphazardly scattered on the carpet in spiky strips, like a giant game of Pick-Up-Sticks gone awry. I laid it (mostly) out of the way, then set to work on the closet. Jason organized our storage room yesterday (HALLELUJAH!), so there was now room in there for the temporary storage of even more junk! (We have so much storage space in this house, it scares me--what are we going to put into a storage area and then just forget about? Until we have to pack it up and move it, that is.)

I would like to tell you that, other than the impossible-to-remove stickers, the room is ready for paint, or at least putty, to be applied. But that would be less than honest. Truthfully, I got the closet about half-way emptied, and then came across a box full of Memory Lane. Dangerous.

Never mind that it was already quarter to midnight. Never mind that I was standing on the cold cement floor in the absolute coldest room in the house (which in this drafty old beast is saying something), I was soon flipping through books, binders, and artwork. I decided that my thirteen-year-old self was a much better artist than my twenty-nine-year-old self. I can't even believe I drew some of that stuff!

And then I came to the journals. The first two journals I ever kept, starting at the age of fifteen. That was the year my parents split. I entered high school. I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. I changed schools. I changed churches. I changed the parent I was living with. There was a lot of change that year. In many ways, that year defined me, and the way my life would unfold.

Before long, as I read through those journals, I had sunk to the cold, painted cement floor in the dimly-lit storage room, reliving the joys, sorrows, confusion, and drama of a fifteen-year-old boy-crazy girl. The name of the Object of My Affection changed almost weekly, yet I had recognized how hormone-driven it all was. The book included all kinds of lists, poems and songs, (some original, some copied). My handwriting went through innumerable incarnations. And as I re-experienced the emotions poured on those pages by a hurting-but-healing fifteen-year-old girl, I cried out loud several times.

It was an interesting look back at the person that was, and it made me stop and think: What would I say to her now?

  • That dating policy you have about only dating people who love God as much as you? That's a good one. Keep to that, and you'll avoid a lot of future pain.

  • That dream house you wrote about? I just designed it--and most of those things you wrote about are in there. I think you'd like it.

  • Do not judge people who have made mistakes so harshly--someday someone else may be judging you the same way.

  • Hold on to your idealistic purism, but do it in love.

  • Hold on to your dreams, too. Dreams really do come true.

  • Keep seeking for the Truth you long for.

  • Tough love is tough to give sometimes. True friends give it--and receive it. Tough love shows you who your true friends are.

  • God designed woman to desire men, not to pursue them, so let go and don't run so hard after male attention. It is only after you become confident in the woman He made you to be that you will attract the kind of attention you truly want, anyway.

  • That list you wrote about what you really want in a man? You'll get to marry him someday. Don't collect baggage with the runners-up in the meantime.

  • Time really does heal--if not all, then many--wounds. Knowing that doesn't make it much easier to go through the dark times, but sometimes it helps to know that it won't always hurt this bad.

  • Hang on to your hope. Your life holds so much in store for you--go out and live it!

Then Jabin started fussing in the room over my head. I dried my eyes, forced my frozen carcass to rise from the floor, and went to rock my precious baby--such a vivid reminder of all that is good in my life, fourteen years later--to sleep.

Why I Was Destined To Marry A "W" (or The Power of A Nickname)

"I don't know if we each have a destiny, or if we're all just floatin' around accidental-like on a breeze. But I, I think maybe it's both." - Forrest Gump


"Popilchuk? No."


"Sawyer? C'mon!"

It's English 10. Cara, Pamela and Tegan (I think. Tegan, you were in on this, right?) were teasing/comforting me as only friends-who-know-too-much-about-you can. The boy I had a long-time crush on was unable to attend our Youth Group's Valentine banquet, so they were playing a little game to see if they could figure out who would be a suitable date for me. Despite my complete lack of confidence where boys were concerned, I was playing along (sort of.)

The game was this: while in a lull before class, they were looking around the room and pairing my first initial with the last initial of the males in the room. A little "just-a-date's-not-good-enough-let's-see-if-your-names-would-work
-if-you-got-married" to break up the afternoon. Of course, because we were, after all, teenagers, and my friends seemed to enjoy getting a rise out of me moreso than was healthy, they were putting my initial with all the boys I would be least likely to want to accompany me, or would be least likely to want me to accompany them. Go figure.

"TL," said Pam.

"I'm not Chris's type."


"C'mon, guys, that's enough."

Finally, they stumped me.

"TW," said Cara.

I peered around the room earnestly. I knew the first and last names of everyone in that class, and the middle names of some, but I could not, for the life of me, think of the person to whom they were referring.

"Are you guys just making this up, now?"

"No, TW," chirped Cara again.

I could see realization dawning on the faces of my other two tormentors, so I knew that this must be a real person. I looked around the room again. Still nothing came to me.

Just then, the teacher called the class to order. We faced forward in our desks and paid attention (as much as one ever pays attention to a substitute teacher). In actuality, I was doing a mental role call in my brain of every person in the room, and some that weren't. Finally it hit me like a paint pellet right between the eyes.

"Garrett Watson?!" I exclaimed in a hyperventilating whisper, leaning toward my friends. "You're kidding, right?"

"Is there a problem, Miss Hilman?" came the imperious voice from the front of the room.

"Uh, no," I mumbled, to the titters of my friends. Sheer glee filled their eyes and I felt the heat rising up my neck and into my face. I spent the rest of the lecture alternately glaring at them and fearfully glancing across the room at Garrett, afraid he somehow knew about the terrible game my friends had been playing.

(Side -
Just in case Garrett should ever find this blog through a random Google search or something, I just want to say: the only bad part about this was that you really weren't my type. Really not. As I am sure you would agree that I wasn't yours. And possibly, just maybe, I might have thought you were a bit immature in grade 10. And my friends, if asked in the right conditions, under a full moon, with no less than a pack of wolves surrounding them, threatening them with certain death if they told an untruth, might have agreed with me. In the years since then, I have only seen you a few times, but I am sure you have turned into a delightful man, as I know your mom and I've always liked her, and thank goodness we don't stay at the maturity level we are at in Grade 10, eh?
- End side)

Well, this wasn't enough. They [my so-called friends-turned-torture-masters] couldn't leave well enough alone. They decided, after this delightfully humourous episode (on their part, at least), that my nickname should henceforth be "T.W.". Apparently the fifteen or so other nicknames I had already collected that year weren't enough. (For someone as seemingly un-popular and socially inept as I was, my friends sure thought I deserved a lot of nicknames. Maybe my real name is too hard to say. Or remember. Or something.)

Later on that night, we were at a youth group event at our church, and Cara was enthusiastically regaling my second-cousin Laura with the Tale of Talena's Torture, and had just got to the part where they had decided to call me "T.W." from now on, when Laura pipes up with "What's the "w" for, Windstick?"

To this day, I'll never know why she said that. But the reign of "T.W. Windstick" was born.

It became one of my more commonly-used nicknames. To my relief, most people shortened it only to "T.W.", and as long as they didn't ask where it started, I was fine. (I think Cara was the only one who insisted on adding the "Windstick" until we lost contact sometime after high school.)

With a nickname like that, you would think that it would die off at graduation. But apparently, that little episode in English 10 was the foreshadowing of things to come. (I wonder if we were studying the parts of a story that day?)

My first serious boyfriend was Richard Wadsack. By "serious", I mean that we dated for longer than three weeks, and before we broke up, the word "marriage" had crossed our lips--probably more enthusiastically over his than mine, as I was only 18, and he was 26. (My dad probably would have given me stronger lectures about the age gap, if only he hadn't also been dating a 26-year-old at the time.) At any rate, I had only met him once at a conference, and after meeting him again after exchanging phone calls for six months, I realized I was not ready for the type of relationship which he was (Duh! I had just graduated!), so we "broke up." (Thank goodness. I really can't imagine having the moniker "Wadsack" my entire life. Although the last time I spoke with him, he had found some other lady who had willingly taken it on, and I am so happy for them.)

My next brush with the letter W got me closer: I found Mr. Wright. After dating for six months, Dean and I actually got engaged. It looked like the fulfillment of the "T.W." prophecy was close at hand. However, after some rough times, and some serious soul-searching, we also broke up. That's a really long story I don't want to get into, but it looks like destined to be Mrs. Wright, I was not.

And then Jason. Jason had been on the perimeter of my vision since grade 10. (How close to the same time as the "Night of the TW Windstick", I don't know.) Sometimes so far on the periphery that I couldn't see him at all. But we did have one date in that year. I had asked him out--I don't think he had really even noticed me before. He is, after all, four years older, and had spent the majority of time that I had been part of his church's youth group away at college and summer jobs and all that. We went to a movie. I don't remember which one. But I did write in my journal afterwards, "Now Jason. There's an open door that I am not sure if I will ever go through. He's a nice guy, but I don't know if he would ever want to date me."

We barely spoke for the next five years.

To make a long story a little shorter, we got to know each other when I accompanied him on his third trip to India. After developing our friendship for a year and a half, we were engaged.

And on May 27, 2000, "T.W." became a nickname no longer. It was my monogram for life.