Local Love Blog Series – Defending Awesome

Local Love Blog Series –
Defending Awesome

This Local Love Blog Series feature is one that we’ve been so excited to share! Grab your preferred drink of choice and buckle in because this feature is a bit of a longer one, but I promise it’s worth it!

Jim Kwan – AKA Tee Ninja, Asian Sensation, Kwanton – is the mastermind behind Defending Awesome, currently based in Banff at the Bear St. Mall.

His amazing work throughout the Bow Valley made him the perfect collaborator for this series and I’m so excited to show off all the great work he’s been doing! 

First off though, if you’ve ever thought, “That would make a great t-shirt!” you need to go see Jim! 

Defending Awesome can customize just about anything you can think of, from t-shirts to vehicle magnets, storefront decals to camping mugs, and so much more! The possibilities are endless to create a unique gift for any occasion, or to get your business name out there and seen!

Defending Awesome started with a stand at the Banff Farmers Market selling hand-crafted tie dye tees. 

Soon enough, they transitioned to their own branded clothing, and then started small with printing year-end garments for ski hills. Jim has now worked his way up to printing just about anything for small businesses, artist merchandise, and personal occasions. Jim also loves the opportunity to use his creativity in the items his customers are looking for. The reactions of customers when they see their finished product for the first time is priceless. 

Seeing the business grow and being an active part of the community is what keeps Jim going. 

He’s also doing great work in giving back to the community by working with all sorts of non-profit organizations and fundraisers in the Bow Valley. Jim has been a loud-and-proud supporter of local businesses – you will surely have seen “Support Local” stickers, pins, and bags around the Bow Valley recently! As restrictions have eased and local businesses have started re-opening, Jim went to all the small independent restaurants, retail and service clients who support Defending Awesome with Support Local stickers in tow for the businesses to hand out to their best local customers as a little “thank you”! 

Now you can see why Jim and Defending Awesome is such a good fit for our Local Love Blog Series! 

But for Jim, Supporting Local is more than just financial support from customers or clients. Which is why he’s encouraged 5 things that everyone can do to support local without spending money! 

  1. Like their social media accounts
  2. Write a positive review/feedback 
  3. Engage in their posts by liking, commenting, and sharing
  4. Post your own photos to social media, making sure to tag them
  5. Make referrals and recommendations to friends and family 

Jim believes that supporting local also includes a responsibility for local businesses to rise to the occasion. 

Jim believes that businesses need to demonstrate their willingness to actively help the communities in which they operate and serve. He’s amazed to see that while COVID impacted small local businesses more than anyone could have imagined, they were still helping, donating, and giving back to the community! For example, Banff Roasting Company has donated free coffee to essential workers/hospital staff, and Domino’s Banff has hosted a day where funds from pizza’s sold that day went to the Banff Food Bank. If you’re looking to get involved, Jim recommends connecting with Alanna from Banff Food Rescue for volunteer opportunities with a great local initiative. 

Jim has so many ideas for Defending Awesome to grow… 

But to do that, they need a bigger space so if anyone has any leads, make sure they touch base with him! He first showed up in Banff in 2000 expecting to stay for one winter but 21 years later we’re happy to still have him around! He’s always known he had an entrepreneurial spirit, which really kicked off 8 years ago with the first market booth. Despite having explored buying an existing t-shirt shop at the time, the financial requirements were unreasonable, and Jim figured he could do it better, and with less! 

Even though Jim supports all things local, we still asked him for a few of his favourite businesses and people to shout out here! 

He wanted to make sure that Nikki Goodwin at Nak.Creative got some attention for her use of ink, watercolours, and real foliage in her original artwork, as well as Michelle Brown from Root and Revive who is making hand-rolled protein balls with gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and naturally sweetened options. Ryan De Alwis from Curry’s Curries is also getting a shout out for his new line of hot sauces (we at LDF can confirm that they’re awesome)! 

As much as Jim supports local in everything he does, the best thing to happen for Defending Awesome is the community support they’ve also received! 

With so much of their business being word-of-mouth, it’s really what drives Jim to keep being involved with so many of the community initiatives that they do! He is beyond grateful for anyone who has recommended them or given them a social shout out! He’s also got some really great help from Jay and Dan, who are an essential part of the Ninja family! With a rise in the urge to support local businesses through COVID, Jim is thankful to have a great community and wouldn’t be where they are without it! 

We also asked Jim what he would like to see improve or change in the Bow Valley. 

He is definitely concerned with the cost of living and seeing so many people leave town due to the lack of affordable housing is disappointing. He hopes to see more availability of affordable housing and the potential for tiny home communities in the Bow Valley. Jim also wanted to point out the lack of green-initiative programming in the Bow Valley, considering being in or around national and provincial parks! He wishes everyone, from businesses to individuals, would do a better job at recycling, especially when blue bins are almost always right beside the garbage. 

So, where can we find Jim and Defending Awesome? 

As mentioned, Defending Awesome is currently located in the Bear St. Mall in Banff. He will be doing Canada Day-themed live t-shirt printing at the Banff Farmers Market on Wednesday, June 30 and Thursday, July 1! You can choose your own design, t-shirt style, and colours, then watch it get printed in front of your eyes! If you prefer to avoid the line-up, you can pre-order on their Facebook or Instagram Page. 

So, next time you think your inside joke needs to be immortalized in print, don’t dismiss the idea – pick up your phone and get in touch with Defending Awesome to see what awesome product Jim and his team can come up with to capture that memory!

Get in touch with Jim and the whole Ninja family via Facebook or Instagram, or go visit them in the Bear St. Mall where they’re tucked just behind the stairs.

Interested in being featured in the Local Love Blog Series? Check out more information here and make sure to follow us on Instagram!

Lou Doyon Freelance also offers copywriting, editing, content marketing and social media services. Reach out for more info!

Local Love Blog Series – Poppy Flower Works

Local Love Blog Series –
Poppy Flower Works

Welcome back to the Local Love Blog Series!

This week’s feature is guaranteed to make you look around your space and plan to pick up some beautiful flowers from the Canmore Mountain Market on Thursday. We’re so excited to feature Robyn Buzzee from Poppy Flower Works

It’s easy to get lost in the beauty of Robyn’s amazing creations. 

Taking some time to scroll through the Poppy Flower Works website or Instagram allows for a few minutes of pure bliss and beauty.  It also makes you wonder when was the last time you treated yourself to beautiful flowers? If it’s been a while, then this is your sign to pick up an arrangement. 

With all kinds of arrangements available, Robyn provides easy access to beautiful flowers. 

Robyn can create anything from wedding arrangements to custom centerpieces for any occasion. She also sells dried wreaths and bouquets, as well as amazing mason jar arrangements. There’s even a Summer Flower Subscription that will start on July 1, 2021 and run for 6 weeks (check it out here)!

Flowers bring Robyn so much joy and this is what she hopes to share with everyone around her. 

Having worked with flowers since her early twenties, Robyn has plenty of experience and knowledge driving her creations. She spent some time managing the floral department of a grocery store, which exposed Robyn to what she calls the “darker side” of the industry. She recognized the environmental impact of flowers being sourced from overseas and the preservatives used to keep them fresher for longer. 

Through that experience, Robyn developed a passion for sustainable gardening and floristry. 

With an education background in fine arts, and a passion for learning everything she could about sustainable floristry and flower farming, Robyn was in the perfect position to get going. Poppy Flower Works is now able to offer ecologically sustainable flower arrangements grown using local, organic, compostable practices. 

Robyn’s business launched in January 2020 after a whole year of planning and preparation!

Eager to create a career where she could work for herself and be happy long-term, opening Poppy Flower Works seemed to be the perfect solution. Robyn is also a mom to a beautiful little girl and knew that she wanted to make her schedule as flexible as possible to spend time with her. 

Robyn is now growing her own flowers locally in Canmore!

You can find her in the greenhouse with earbuds listening to podcasts or around town with a pair of shears in her back pocket, because you never know when you might need to cut a plant! The passion Robyn has for plants and flowers is so apparent in her work. She continues to learn about floristry and sustainability, and explore with new techniques and blooms which motivates her to keep going! 

Currently she works primarily close to home in Canmore. 

However, Robyn loves the idea of travelling a bit for flower deliveries, especially around the Bow Valley! With family in places like Medicine Hat and Lethbridge, there is hope to see Poppy Flower Works get established there as well. 

Being raised in Canmore, Robyn had plenty of Local Love to share as well! 

Her grandmother, Marilyn, is the amazing watercolour painter behind Kinsella Art Studio, and Robyn also loves the work Katie Borrowman is doing at Of Cabbages and Kings.   She was also keen to shout out two wonderful ladies doing Reiki: Christi Adari of Rockies Reiki, and Krista Callachan of @littlehandshealing. She made sure to acknowledge Mixed Culture Beer Shop for the best beer selection in Canmore, and a true local’s spot, Rusticana Grocery, for having great local products! Lastly, Robyn has partnered with Liberty Clothing and Wildheart Canmore, where you can find some of her arrangements!

Despite still being a new business, the past year has been the best yet!

In the past couple of years, Robyn has learned that she’s not going to win them all but that’s okay. She’s overcome imposter syndrome and is now running a thriving business spreading beauty all over the Bow Valley. 

It’s easy to find Robyn around town for your dose of flowers! 

When we asked her what she wished people did more regularly, she answered with “Buy flowers for themselves!” So, with that, make sure to go find Poppy Flower Works on Thursdays at the Canmore Mountain Market, visit her website shop to purchase an arrangement and brighten your day, and follow Robyn on Instagram @poppyflowerworks!

Interested in being featured in the Local Love Blog Series? Check out more information here and make sure to follow us on Instagram!

Lou Doyon Freelance also offers copywriting, editing, content marketing and social media services. Reach out for more info!

Local Love Blog Series – Canmore Pie & Sell

Local Love Blog Series –
Canmore Pie & Sell

We’re back with another delicious installment of the Local Love Blog Series, this time featuring Tanya Masters from Canmore Pie & Sell

Tanya and her partner Brad have an all-too-familiar story of coming to the Bow Valley in 2012 for a winter of instructing snowboarding, and next thing you know it’s 9 years later and they haven’t left. Lucky for us, this means we now get to indulge in Tanya’s classic ‘British’ meat pies. 

Staying true to her British roots has been working for Canmore Pie & Sell.

Sticking to two classic filling options gives Brits a nostalgic taste of home, while sharing the real British meat pie experience for others. Currently, you can get Peppered Steak & Mushroom in Onion Gravy or Potato, Leek & Mature Cheddar pies. While Tanya definitely receives requests for different types of fillings, such as pot pies or Aussie classics, she hasn’t strayed just yet but hasn’t written off the idea yet! 

Luckily, Tanya had some help from other local businesses when she first got started. 

She’d long admired the set up at Frankie D’s Donuts, so reached out for some advice. With their help and support, these ladies put Tanya in touch with Yuka from Yowza Kitchen. Yuka has been helping small start-ups by renting kitchen space for business owners to create their own goodies! 

Ever since she arrived in the Bow Valley, Tanya has been making her own pastry and pies. 

Since the only option for pre-made pastry in stores was canola oil based, Tanya started making her own pastry to achieve the same texture and taste that she was craving.

The more she made her own pies, the more her friends were requesting them for each group dinner. They even started wanting extra pies to bring home with them and was often told she could easily sell them! 

And with that, Canmore Pie & Sell was born in January 2021! 

Drawing inspiration for the fillings from her nan’s cooking and cozy pub dinners, Tanya’s favourite part of making pies is the taste testing! The feedback Tanya’s received has been nothing short of amazing and hearing how much people are enjoying the pies is what keeps her going. 

While she’s not making pies, Tanya is keeping busy with offering personal services and as a Shred Sisters mountain bike coach.

Her main job as a cosmetic tattoo artists and esthetician has been limited due to the pandemic for the past year, which was difficult but also allowed the time to really dive into opening Canmore Pie & Sell.  She loved learning how to run her business, focusing her time on the red-tape tasks that had always seemed daunting. Tanya is now looking for options of stocking frozen pies with different retailers so that her customers can have access to delicious pies at their convenience. 

Hopeful that she’ll soon be able to see some family in the UK and New Zealand, Tanya is staying positive about things reopening. 

The past year has been tough, with the Loft Beard & Beauty Lounge closing three times due to COVID restrictions. Constantly adjusting to new restrictions, loss of income, interrupted routines, and less social time with friends and family has taught Tanya to embrace what comes from being forced to take some time off in a place as beautiful as the Bow Valley.

We asked Tanya who else she thought was doing great work in the Bow Valley…

And, as a new local business, Tanya had so many businesses she wanted to shout out! In addition to the three mentioned above, Tanya wanted to shed some light on Mountain Fabrics and Sheepdog Brewing, as well as past Local Love Feature The Wick’d Candles and future Local Love Feature Project A Shop! She also had some strong opinions about finding the best pizza in town at the Stewart Creek Golf Club, promising to start a petition if it’s not on the menu for this summer!

But the real person she wanted to make sure got credit for helping every step of the way was her partner Brad. 

Brad has been there behind the scenes encouraging her along, crunching numbers, spreading the word, listening to all her crazy ideas and brainstorming to make them a reality. He’s even stepped up to learn the pie making process! 

Despite working to overcome the internal voice of self-doubt…

Tanya has proven to herself and everyone around her what a success Canmore Pie & Sell can be! Since opening, she’s learnt to stay true to her vision especially when there is limited time and resources available at the beginning. She knows the importance of staying excited to bake, and so prioritizes not running herself too ragged trying to do too much!

So, until we can find Tanya’s pies in a store, she’ll keep focusing on the direct-to-customer deliveries so be sure to keep an eye on her Instagram, where batch releases are announced, and orders can be placed! 

Interested in being featured in the Local Love Blog Series? Check out more information here and make sure to follow us on Instagram!

Lou Doyon Freelance also offers copywriting, editing, content marketing and social media services. Reach out for more info!

Local Love Blog Series – The Wick’d Candles

Local Love Blog Series –
The Wick’d Candles

Welcome back to the Local Love Blog Series

If you’re a fan of colourful labels and delightful scents, our Local Love feature this week will be right up your alley. We’re thrilled to be giving some love to Samira (Sam) of The Wick’d Candles!

These candles don’t just smell amazing… 

Made from 100% vegan, coconut soy wax with zero paraffin or preservatives, Sam’s candles are systematically taking over bathtub trays, side tables, and offices all over the Bow Valley. The Wick’d Candles also use phthalate- or toxic-free fragrance oils, and wooden wicks made from cherry wood which are sustainably sourced from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-Certified Mills. 

 Every detail in her candles is carefully selected for maximum enjoyment! 

Sam’s favourite part of the candle-making process is testing fragrances. She loves putting together the most random or contrasting fragrances, only to find that together they smell amazing! From there, she finds the rest of the process incredibly relaxing. There’s a sense of calm in making the candles, designing the labels, brainstorming and picking the candle names and finally taking photos to get each candle ready to sell! 

A sense of calm was exactly what Sam was looking for when she started The Wick’d Candles. 

While work-from-home was becoming the new normal in the fall of 2020, Sam was finding less and less separation between her work and personal life. Eventually, it all came to a breaking point when she realized a little bit of time for some self-care was needed. Immediately, candles caught her attention as a perfect hobby and great product to sell locally. Now Sam hopes to help someone else focus on their own self-care a little bit each time they light one of her candles. 

Originally from India, it’s safe to say that winter in Canmore isn’t Sam’s favourite season!

She has openly admitted to not being a naturally outdoorsy person and prefers to hibernate throughout the winter, especially when it gets bitterly cold. But, while growing up with tropical weather and a beach right around the corner was incredible, Sam is now a proud Bow Valley homeowner who doesn’t go one day without being in awe of the Rocky Mountains. 

Ever since she can remember, Sam has had a candle in every room of her house.

But as she started doing more research and spending time walking around the shops of Canmore with her husband, she realized that there wasn’t really a local candle maker creating cleaner, greener, eco-friendly products. Being curious by nature and a life-long learner, Sam dove into figuring out how to make eco-friendly candles with as many sustainable and Canadian ingredients as possible! She spent weeks experimenting with fragrances, testing her first few candles, and talking to other Canadian candle makers to get an idea of how to start. 

In February 2021, The Wick’d Candles opened for business! 

Now Sam has a dozen different candles available on her Etsy shop and she’s still experimenting with more fragrances, including some subtle or scent-free options. While her most popular candles are the Eucalyptus Spearmint, Tahitian Vanilla & Lavender, and Lemongrass & Vanilla fragrances, Sam also holds a special spot in her heart for the Blood Orange & Agave candle. She’s even released a new fragrance to celebrate the warmer season called Summer Slush which is a watermelon and lemon candle. 

Sam’s dream is to see The Wick’d Candles in every house throughout the Bow Valley. 

She’s also hopeful to get more support from local store owners where she could sell her products in a retail store environment. Owning and operating a small business has been an exhilarating, albeit tough, experience but she finds inspiration from the many amazing female-owned businesses in the Bow Valley. 

Speaking of which, Sam is passionate about supporting local businesses while still keeping a connection to her home country. 

She hopes to soon be able to contribute a portion of her sales from The Wick’d Candles to a charity that she passionately believes in. GiveIndia is an online donation platform that supports various programs and non-profit organizations dedicated to fighting inequality throughout India. Sam particularly supports GiveIndia’s Every Girl In School mission, which aims to provide young girls the fundamental right to education that so many don’t have access to in India. 

So what’s next for The Wick’d Candles?

More amazing fragrances, of course! She has and is working on several custom candles, as well as getting more traction around the Bow Valley in general. The candles make for great gifts for weddings, birthdays, business events, and more!

So next time you’re looking for a little self-care splurge or want to treat someone special in your life, go check out The Wick’d Candles on Etsy and make sure you’re following all of Sam’s endeavours on Instagram and Facebook

Interested in being featured in the Local Love Blog Series? Check out more information here and make sure to follow us on Instagram!

Lou Doyon Freelance also offers copywriting, editing, content marketing and social media services. Reach out for more info!

Local Love Blog Series – Farine Workshops & Events

Local Love Blog Series –
Farine Workshops & Events

Welcome back to the Local Love Blog Series

This is our first food-related feature, and we couldn’t be more excited to show off the amazing Lilliane Frechette from Farine Workshops & Events! Lilliane is not only creating the sourdough loaves that you could only dream of, but she’s also determined to teach her skills to others and empower them to make beautiful bread along with her! 

Lilliane’s sourdough is seriously amazing – trust me. 

When we first reached out to Lilliane to do her Local Love Feature, she immediately offered a sourdough loaf in return, and we just couldn’t say no to the generous offer. Not 24 hours later, there was a delicious loaf sitting at the doorstep waiting to be unveiled. The loaf she baked was nothing short of perfection in both beauty and deliciousness. 

Lilliane is a creative food lover, looking for anyone who appreciates delicious food. 

The concept for Farine Workshops & Events was born when she was teaching a friend to make sourdough. Lilliane had such a good time, and her friend was so happy with the results, that it inspired Lilliane to teach others! She now hosts virtual group workshops on Sourdough and French Baking, as well as a 1:1 workshop for a more personalized experience. 

Opening Farine was a leap of faith during COVID, but it’s well worth it!

Lilliane retired from her 20-year career in January to devote all her time on her new business, and it’s already paid off! She’s partnered with chef Stephanie Naudot to host a virtual Sourdough Baguette workshop (check out the link here to register)! Lilliane is also working with a flower farm near Edmonton on a food and floral design workshop, as well as plotting out what a food and photography retreat could look like locally and on Vancouver Island with a local photographer. 

It’s so apparent that Lilliane loves connecting with her workshop participants. 

She’s not just connecting with her clients but also providing them with knowledge to nurture their own families in breadmaking. The joy she gets to experience with workshop participants when they pull out a beautiful loaf of bread is what it’s all about. Lilliane isn’t just teaching them the skills to make beautiful sourdough, but also inspiring them to make food special. 

Drawing inspiration from art, nature, and travelling, Lilliane shares her experiences through her baking.

Something as simple as beautiful produce at the local farmer’s market can inspire Lilliane to experiment with adding some flair to her breads. She’ll play with things like sesame seeds, honey, herbs de Provence, olives, gruyere, caraway, figs, molasses, cranberries, walnuts, and the list just goes on! 

So, we just had to ask who she looks up to when it comes to making food…

And the genuineness of her answer blew us away. Despite finding it hard to choose from so many amazing women who inspire her every day, Lilliane chose Julia Child. Having started her career in her late-30’s, Julia Child proved to still build a legacy through her persistence, determination, work-ethic and passion for food that will continue to inspire many chefs to come. Lilliane sees Julia as being the beacon to light the way and fits perfectly with her dedication to constantly evolve while not being afraid to jump into new challenges. 

Lilliane has long dreamed of pursuing her creative passion. 

Having lived all over Canada, including Southern Manitoba, the Yukon, Okanagan, Vancouver Island, and Kamloops, Lilliane has pulled inspiration from each place and the people she met there. Having moved every few years due to her past career, Lilliane made amazing friends who were there to remind her what it is to be kind, grateful, caring, genuine, loving, and generous. Food was always the one thing that made her feel at home, and to share it with those closest to her was the simplest joy.

She’s now been in the Bow Valley for four years. 

And while Lilliane would love some warmer weather, she loves to spend her time supporting local businesses doing great work! There are so many to name, but here are just a few that Lilliane wanted to shout out: portrait photographer Alexis McKeown, Chelsey Tennant from Adventure Floral, and Lovely Ice Cream. She also supports organizations providing food for those in need, like Bow Valley Root Cellar and Bow Valley Food Alliance

While her current endeavours are keeping Lilliane busy, there’s so much more in the works!

Lilliane is excited for when she can teach clients in the comfort of their own home, or at a local venue. She also hopes to scale her business to be able to accommodate corporate events and local wedding parties, with great ideas for group experiences such as teaching long graze-board styling. The ultimate goal would be to purchase property where she’ll be able to build a large indoor/outdoor kitchen with garden boxes to provide local produce, meanwhile clients can stay in guest rooms to attend longer or larger events and workshops. 

Until then, be sure to sign up for the Farine Workshops & Events newsletter for all the latest updates, including some sneaky intel on events like new workshops pairing yoga and breadmaking in Bragg Creek! You can also keep up with Lilliane’s amazing work on her website, where she’s now offering a membership to get access to all her Sourdough Workshop Resources, including recipes, tips, videos and more!

Lastly, make sure to follow her on Instagram for mouth-watering teasers of Sourdough loaves that Lilliane can teach you to create on your own!

Interested in being featured in the Local Love Blog Series? Check out more information here and make sure to follow us on Instagram!

Lou Doyon Freelance also offers copywriting, editing, content marketing and social media services. Reach out for more info!

Local Love Blog Series – Wong Buddies

Local Love Blog Series –
Wong Buddies

Welcome back to the Local Love Blog Series

This week’s feature is almost too cute to handle, all thanks to Stephanie Wong and her amazing creations at Wong Buddies. Along with being irresistibly adorable, each new Buddy is (hygienically) snuggle-tested before shipping to ensure top snuggability. Drawing inspiration from her love of cute things, Steph is methodically making the world a little bit better and a whole lot cuter with every new Buddy. 

What goes into making a Buddy? 

Each Buddy is completely unique and unlike any other Buddy out there! Wong Buddies currently come as bunnies, fawns, deer, lamb, whales, ravens, and reindeer, but there are plans for more fun Buddies soon, such as bears, dogs, mice, and foxes! Steph is also creating incredible baby mobiles with a wide range of animals and nature elements.  

Each Buddy is made of chenille for the body, linen or cotton-blend for the clothing, cotton-blend or wool yarn for the toques/headwear, embroidery floss for facial features, and felt for any accessories.

But Wong Buddies aren’t just for babies…

Steph’s combined love of making and gifting cute things is the reason Wong Buddies exist although she’s not only creating for kids, but for herself and her friends who love the imagination and care that goes into making each Buddy. What’s best for Steph is seeing videos and photos of the Buddies being enjoyed in the wild, fulfilling their destiny of making someone (of any age) happy!

Wong Buddies turned from hobby to side-hustle, just like that!

Well, maybe not just like that… But, with a lot of support from her extremely caring husband Ryan, Steph was able to take her long-time passion for crafts and turn it into a real business!

Starting with an Instagram page in March 2020, Wong Buddies is quickly taking off! While Steph hopes to move her workspace from the living room into their spare room, for now she’s grateful for Ryan’s patience and encouragement! 

Of course, diving into this during COVID was a bit daunting.

But, if there’s one thing Steph learned in the past year it’s if you want something, you should just try it. While Wong Buddies is still a new and fresh venture, the feedback she’s received already has been amazing! Her biggest obstacle so far has been the hurdle of actually launching. Once she had decided to start selling the Buddies, things started to fall into place. 

So, where did the ideas for Wong Buddies come from?

To answer this question, we need to give a couple of shout outs to friends who helped Steph get going.

This starts with who Steph calls her HLM (heterosexual life mate), Megan, who introduced her to crocheting and knitting while they were working at the Lake Louise Ski Resort. With Megan’s help, Steph started creating toques for herself and to give as gifts – Steph had an entrepreneurial foray even then when she sold a few of her toques. 

From there, Steph’s creativity really took off! 

She was crocheting stuffed animals and making herself some incredible costumes  since if there’s something Steph loves, it’s a good dress-up party! At this point, Steph was mostly hand-stitching felt with the help of a handy glue gun. In comes the second friend shout-out who helped Steph expand her sewing skills. Anna Back gave Steph her old sewing machine that had a broken LED, when the company sent her a new machine on warranty! From there, Steph started sewing Christmas Ornaments and just kept going from there! 

Each Wong Buddy is made-to-order, and fully customizable! 

When a customer contacts Steph to make a Wong Buddy to join their family, the journey starts with a simple conversation to get an idea of what they want. She’ll start with the colour and type of material for the body, then move to picking the material type and colours for clothing, headwear, and accessories. While most customers have an idea of what they’re looking for in their new Buddy, a lot of Steph’s creativity still shines through. Steph spends a lot of time making sure their Buddy is the right fit for her customer, and if it’s not, she starts over!

And while Steph is originally from Richmond Hill, Ontario, her heart now lives in Banff. 

16 years after first arriving in the Bow Valley, Steph is now a happily-married homeowner. She loves supporting local, small businesses doing great things, such as Summit Lifestyle & Performance and Bow Valley Crossfit who are keeping people mentally and physically healthy, as well as Ange Helie who runs AfterGlow and is a wellness and life coach showing women how to heal from the inside out and overcome body image insecurities. 

Luckily, the past year wasn’t so bad on Steph, but she’s still seeing room for improvement. 

She’s hopeful that more discussion about issues in the Bow Valley such as mental health and addictions will push to the forefront. It’s not hidden that the Bow Valley is heavily reliant on tourism, making it transient and a very tough place to be during COVID. Steph also values any organization working towards ensuring the environment is top of mind.

All around, Steph is making sure to keep grounded by making sure she has a little bit of these three things in her life every single day: 

  1. Some amount of exercise, even if it’s just a walk 
  2. Social, face-to-face interactions – as much as is possible while still respecting COVID restrictions
  3. Laughter – be it because she finds herself hilarious, or she’s laughing at/with Ryan

It’s hard not to play favourites with all the Wong Buddies. 

Steph finds that Dexter Deer is probably her #1 fella (aside from her husband, of course)… But overall the Hipster Bunnies and Flora Fawn are also very popular Buddies. Of course, the buffalo plaid clothing has taken the cake as the “mountain casual” outfit of choice.

Ultimately, the idea of Wong Buddies started early on, well before Steph launched in March!

The original Wong Buddy was actually crocheted, as Steph always loved to make handmade creations for friends and their kids.

When COVID hit last year, Steph found herself with far more time on her hands, and started to dabble in different techniques and designs. She now works with patterns from @bonpatterns designs, and fell in love with them. Incredibly, @bonpatterns is happy to have creators use their designs, as long as she receives credit and the designs aren’t used for mass-production. 

But keep your eyes peeled for some exclusive Wong Buddies originals, coming soon!

As Steph gets more and more into doll-making, she is now working on original patterns that are truly unique to Wong Buddies. She has visions of creating an entire line of Woodland Critters with mountain casual clothing and accessories. As soon as she can get some inventory created, you’ll be able to find Wong Buddies on the shelves of local shops in the Bow Valley.

Make sure to follow Wong Buddies on Instagram and Facebook for all the latest updates, or email her at wongbuddies@gmail.com to welcome your own Wong Buddy into your family. 

Interested in being featured in the Local Love Blog Series? Check out more information here and make sure to follow us on Instagram!

Lou Doyon Freelance also offers copywriting, editing, content marketing and social media services. Reach out for more info!

Local Love Blog Series – Bec Design

Local Love Blog Series – Bec Design

Welcome to the very first feature of our Local Love Blog Series!

We are SO excited to be featuring the amazing Rebecca (Bec) Richards from Bec Design! Originally hailing from New Zealand, Bec arrived in Canada 10 years ago with a knack for making her own homemade jewelry. As friends and family showered her with compliments and questions, she eventually gave in and started making jewelry for others.

Soon enough, this blossomed into what is now Bec Design!

The idea for Bec Design properly started in mid-2019, however Bec has been crafty for as long as she can remember. Her first foray into the artisan realm was at the 2019 Banff Christmas Market, and her small business has bloomed ever since with the launch of her Etsy page in April 2020.

But Bec isn’t only creating beautiful earrings…

Her pieces now include earrings, necklaces, bracelets, hair scarves (coming soon!), home décor (trinket dishes, wall hangings, concrete pots), and jewelry organization (hanging and freestanding organizers). Bec draws inspiration from fashion, interior design, and architecture, while always making sure to add her personal touch to make all her pieces totally unique and so very eye-catching!

So we just had to know what Bec’s three go-to daily accessories were:

  1. Bec Design Earrings
  2. Hair Scarf (coming soon to the Bec Design shop!)
  3. Sunnies 😎

Now, along with being a mum of two beautiful girls…

Bec Design allows Bec to work for herself, by herself, in her own time. She gets to spend time with her girls, while also having her own thing to create, to build a community around, and ultimately contribute to her family.

However, we all know this past year has tested everyone differently.

Luckily, Bec and her family stayed healthy and happy throughout the months. Bec Design filled the gaps COVID left in her time and allowed Bec to meet so many amazing people through social media. While in-person markets were difficult to attend, the amazing women Bec has met through social media have been generous with their knowledge and encouragement while sharing her beautiful pieces with their audience!

We also asked Bec what the biggest life lesson was in the past year.

For Bec, her lesson learned in the chaos of COVID was a mixture of being content with her beautiful family, while still prioritizing her creativity. Bec knows that giving herself a channel to focus her creative energy makes her happy, and ultimately helps her be the best version of herself for her friends, family, and amazing Bec Design customers!

So, what keeps her going?

Bec has an unparalleled eye for creating pieces that her customers will feel great wearing! She is truly creating pieces with her customers confidence and beauty in mind. Her love for connecting in a personal way can be felt in every piece she puts together!

It’s no surprise that every single detail has been carefully thought out in her pieces.

Bec carefully blends a mixture of style and aesthetic to create pieces that she loves and would want to wear herself. She often designs based on how she’s feeling that day and where she can imagine the pieces being worn. If she’s feeling bold, we get to see statement earrings. If she’s creating for someone wearing a mask all day, it’s subtly stunning studs. If it’s bright and sunny when she’s creating, you’ll find lots of colour in her pieces from that day!

Bec is a true creative in every sense.

Each piece is handmade in her home studio in Cochrane, AB where she spends her time taking her jewelry from conception to completion. She loves seeing her ideas turn into a physical product that her customers will love! Bec’s pieces are made of polymer clay, silk/cotton tassels, gold, acrylic and resin.

And even better – Bec does custom designs!

She’ll happily design anything from custom bridal pieces to matching earrings for a group of girlfriends, or exclusive designs for retail stores. If the customer brings her a design to replicate, she’ll offer them an interpretation with a little Bec Design flair on the original.

She even does amazing collaborations to help raise funds for charities!

Bec is a strong supporter of the Alberta Children’s Hospital and anything to do with children’s health. She’s passionate about getting behind causes like Build Them Up, and Team Evelyn. Bec has even collaborated with them to raise funds, spreading some of her beauty and light to the lives of those who need it most.

Bec and her family are now based in Cochrane, AB.

They have found a beautiful, welcoming neighbourhood and love their new home. Even still, Bec has lots of love for the mountains of Banff, AB where her family began! She hopes to see the Bow Valley community prioritize the families working so hard to make their home here. Unfortunately, we’re seeing small businesses that were providing essential goods and services to locals being replaced by more tourist-focused businesses, including loss of kids programming. This highlights the importance of supporting local and supporting the community around you! While Bec and her family aren’t far away, the Bow Valley would be a better place with them still living here!

So, what’s next for Bec Design?

While the past year was a careful balancing act between growing her small business and supporting her family with seemingly not enough hours in the day, Bec has no intention of slowing down creating beautiful jewelry and other pieces! Her Etsy shop will stay active, but Bec is also working on putting together her brand-new website right now! Make sure to follow Bec Design on Instagram and Facebook for all the latest updates!

Interested in being featured in the Local Love Blog Series? Check out more information here and make sure to follow us on Instagram!

Lou Doyon Freelance also offers copywriting, editing, content marketing and social media services. Reach out for more info!

Local Love Blog Series – Intro!

Local Love Blog Series – Intro!

Here we go!

We are so excited to finally get started on this blog series. It’s been a long time in the making, and we can’t wait to start sharing some amazing stories!

So, what is the Local Love Blog Series?

In short, we’re going to highlight local artists/artisans, businesses, and creatives in the Bow Valley every week. A longer blog will be posted here every week or so, where we’ll dive deep into each featured Bow Valley local! This will be paired with some shorter, fun, and interactive social content so make sure you’re following us on Instagram.

Why should you check in every week?

Well, if the past year has taught us nothing else, it’s that shopping local is so important! We’re seeing restrictions affecting local businesses in ways that we never could have imagined. And when we shop local, we want to make sure the businesses we support align with our own personal morals and ethics.

Get involved with us!

Do you know a local artist, artisan, business or even just a local legend with a story to share? Have them reach out to us on Instagram @loudoyonfreelance or send us an email at info@loudoyonfreelance.com

Thanks for checking this out – we’ll be launching the first piece next week, featuring Rebecca Richards from Bec Design!

Lou Doyon Freelance also offers copywriting, editing, content marketing and social media services. Reach out for more info!

CMH Blog Post – Dec 24, 2020

Writer’s note: if you feel so inclined, throw on some music as background noise while reading. My recommendation, as a die-hard no-shame Taylor Swift fan, is her newest album Evermore. But… I suppose I’ll settle for Christmas music if you prefer to keep with the festive times 😊

Being tasked to write the Dec 24th Blog Post is daunting, I won’t lie. I’ve been told that I’m a bit of a Grinch – I don’t decorate until the last minute, I don’t listen to Christmas music until the day of, and everything is taken down by Boxing Day. Truth be told, I’m not a big Christmas person; but I do love this time of year.

The holiday season is a time for reflection and resolutions, for gratefulness and generosity, for kindness and caring. There is a tendency for compassion, benevolence, and lightness during the holidays – in my opinion, all things the world could have used a bit more of this year.

That being said, we (all of us at CMH) have received an overwhelming amount of support, kindness, and understanding from our guests throughout this year that we won’t soon forget – here’s a (quick) recap:

  • January saw us blissfully thinking that things would be fine, and our guests were all enjoying care-free skiing and riding! 
  • As things got more serious in February, we heard from guests that they were thankful for the updates about how we were responding to the early stages of COVID. 
  • By March, guests made sure to tell us how impressed they were with our organized reaction to the realities of COVID and felt taken care of during the lodge evacuations and season suspension.
  • As we moved through the months of April to July, our Summer guests sadly, but understandingly, rebooked their trips for 2021 knowing that their Summer Adventure is worth waiting for!
  • In August and September, we successfully executed a huge call campaign reaching all Winter 2020-21 guests to check in, say hello, and show off all the hard work done testing our new COVID protocols. In short, guests were thrilled and the stoke was still high!
  • October saw us launch (and crush!) a Canadian-only season option at the Bobbie Burns, reinvigorating our teams and Canadian guests with hopes of seeing the rotors turning this winter.
  • Since November, the Guest Services team has been hard at work cancelling the regular Winter 2020-21 trips and rebooking guests into the same trips for Winter 2021-22. At this point, over 75% of guests have kept their later S21 trip or rebooked for next season!  

The Sales and Guest Services teams have remotely kept each other going by sharing some of the funniest guest moments in various Teams chats. Here are a few good ones the past few months:

  • Inquiries of single family members and offers of marriage so they can legally enter Canada
  • Guests writing to the government petitioning the borders to open so they can come skiing
  • One suggestion to nebulize peroxide and put it into a hookah at the bar and people can “have a puff to sanitize themselves, then we don’t need masks”
  • Countless hello’s, well wishes, thinking of you’s, and miss you all’s to go around

My all-time favourite guest response and subsequent group chat is courtesy of @Phil Mathewson, with this gem:

I called a guest named Scott and the guy that answered said “Scott’s no longer with Janice, I am with her now and took his number.” Damn dude, stole the guys girl and his number!??!?!

You will all be happy to know that Scott now has a new number and is still stoked to come skiing!

What this shows me is that there is good in this world, and while a lot of it is embodied in our guests, even more of it is present in all of you. The uncertainty has been draining and we’ve needed to re-invent nearly every aspect of our company. On a personal note, this has been the most challenging year for me on so many levels – yet one of the only things I can say with 100% certainty is that I would not be here right now if it wasn’t for so many of you.

With all that said, I hope you let compassion, benevolence and lightness guide you through the rest of the holidays and into 2021 (because, frankly, we don’t know what kind of gongshow that might be too). Take a moment for reflection, set resolutions, express gratitude, share generosity, show kindness and be caring with your words and actions.

Someone said in a Teams meeting yesterday, “I forgot how infectious someone else’s happiness can be!” – let’s make that the infectious thing we spread this year! ❤

With love,


PS – When in doubt, I strongly believe gin solves all problems so a stiff G&T can’t hurt