Concordia-based young designers attend fashion show for the first time

Concordia Fashion Business Association hosts fashion show

The world of fashion is constantly evolving, and young designers are at the forefront of innovation. In late March, four young designers from Concordia University showcased their talent at a fashion show hosted by the Concordia Fashion Business Association (CFBA). The event provided them with a platform to express their creativity and gain exposure in the industry. 

The CFBA is a club founded by Concordia students that aims to introduce students to Montreal, but as co-president Sydnee Grill put it, they introduced Montreal to Concordia. Preppy punk was the theme of the show and designers interpreted it to their liking. 

First to show was Oliver Suri-Cernacek, who showcased a collection that combined traditional fabrics and modern silhouettes. Some designs were influenced by his Indian heritage while other pieces challenged the idea of sexiness in the workplace. 

One of his pieces, for example, was a skirt that focused on the Hindu concept of Āśrama, a system that seeks to explain the stages of human life. Suri-Cernacek’s collection was a standout at the fashion show, and his use of bold colors received a lot of attention from the audience.

Next up was Hannah Silver King, who presented a collection that was inspired by her fabrics. Her handmade designs were a fusion of different recycled fabrics, all cut and sewn together. 

King’s collection was both sustainable and fashion-forward, and her innovative approach to design was praised by the spectators. She dreams of being able to work alongside other talented Montreal artisans to create collections of upcycled garments. 

Third on the list was Mariana Tropea, who showcased a collection that was entirely made up of crocheted items. Her designs were feminine and punk, and she used soft fabrics such as yarn to create tops, hats, shoulder sleeves and more.

“Seeing my friends wear my own clothes, it’s like a dream I had when I was a kid,” said Tropea. She sold many pieces at the marketplace held after the show. 

Last but not least were Ethan Irwin and Adam Garcia, who presented a collection that was inspired by streetwear and Montreal culture. Their designs were grungy and minimalistic, and they collaborated with other Montreal artists to create their pieces. 

Their collection was a mix of cut and sewn handmade pieces, made with all kinds of fabrics such as denim. It was the first time they showed their pieces on models. “It used to be made in my basement, so it’s definitely nice being on our first small runway,” said Irwin. 

Overall, the fashion show was a great success, and the young designers received a lot of praise for their talent and creativity. 

“The show was actually pretty good. I really like the designs,” said audience member Jeremie Omeomga. “The pieces actually spoke for themselves […] Concordia students can be very proud of themselves.”


Nuances self-care: the Montreal-based beauty brand catering to women of all shades

Keisha Lamptey helps fill a gap in the Canadian beauty industry with inclusive haircare and skincare products

Keisha Lamptey wears an apron and clear plastic gloves as she carefully adds seed oils and seed butters to her stainless steel KitchenAid mixer. It loudly whips all the ingredients together, creating a smooth and uniform texture.

After a few minutes, she shuts off the mixer, lifts the mixing bowl and gently pours the contents into her filling machine. 

An off-white creamy product comes out of the tube, filling the empty jar that she holds in her left hand with her homemade Moisturizing Hair Butter.  

Lamptey is the owner of Nuances self-care, a company that manufactures natural, vegan and eco-friendly haircare and skincare products for women of all shades at an affordable cost. 

Growing up in Montreal, Lamptey noticed that there was a minimal selection of products designed specifically for Black women in Canada. “I felt very underrepresented when shopping for products,” she said. 

Courtesy photo provided by Keisha Lamptey

She explained that none of the mass-market beauty companies were Black-owned and none of them understood her needs as a woman with thick, curly hair. Products that did work for her had to be purchased from the United States, making it “just absolutely crazy expensive.” According to Lamptey, one small eight-ounce product would cost her $50. 

“I thought to myself, ‘Canada deserves to have these products, too,’” Lamptey recalled. So, in 2017, she used her background in organic chemistry to begin experimenting with various formulas to create products catered to all skin types and kinky hair types. 

But it wasn’t until December 2020 that she incorporated Nuances self-care after receiving the Canada Starts grant — a $5,000 cash prize sponsored by RBC Ventures aimed at helping aspiring entrepreneurs launch their business.  

According to Lamptey, the grant covered all her start-up costs — including federal and provincial incorporation fees, website expenses, and the cost of necessary equipment, ingredients and packaging — all of which totalled about $3,700. 

“Receiving that grant was so amazing,” she said. It allowed Nuances self-care to start off profitable from the get-go.

According to Lamptey, sales were high in the first few months of business. This was not only because it was the holiday season, but also because Quebec was under a lockdown, making it easier for customers to purchase their beauty products online.

Many of these early customers still support Nuances self-care nearly two years later, like Yasamin Fawzi. 

‘[Nuances self-care’s products] feel good for my skin and hair and they’re really affordable,” Fawzi said. “I’m always about buying local, or buying stuff that’s more ethically sourced and natural.”

Today, Lamptey has 15 products listed on her website, each of which have gone through a detailed process. The process begins with months of researching, experimenting, and testing. Once Lamptey is satisfied with a product recipe, she orders the labels and packaging from the supplier and makes a batch for customers. 

The final step of the process is marketing the new product. 

According to Lamptey, she typically uses social media and her email newsletter to tease upcoming product releases and to announce new products when they come out.

But with the most recent launch, the Apple Cinnamon Body Butter, Lamptey tried a new marketing technique: she planned a launch party at a local Montreal shop. Those who wanted to purchase the product had to attend the event. It was so successful the product nearly sold out, totalling 35 sales and over $1,200 was made.

“It was a great way to create buzz and boost sales,” she said. “But it was also a good way to make myself relevant in people’s eyes.” 

While Nuances self-care started as a retailer business through an e-commerce website, Lamptey is now exploring the wholesale business, too. Nuances self-care’s products are now sold in two hairdresser salons, one perfume store, one hair accessory store, and a few cafés around the city. 

Courtesy photo provided by Keisha Lamptey

Lamptey shared that regular customer sales are highest in months with celebrations or holidays, with about 50 to 200 customer orders per month.

But in slower months, like last September and October, Lamptey noticed a decline in customer orders but an increase in wholesale orders. According to Lamptey, this shift is more profitable because businesses purchase more units compared to one regular customer. 

Lamptey said that she dreams of selling her products in the United States and Europe, as well as selling in bigger stores like Walmart and Amazon.

While there are big dreams of expansion for Nuances self-care, loyal customers like Fawzi will continue to support them in Montreal.


A local Quebec flower farm is leading the way in the Slow Flowers Movement

Learn about the secret to growing healthy cut flowers

During the month of August, Au Beau Pré is a sight to see. Over 300 varieties of Dahlias are in full bloom. They come in every shape, size, colour and texture that one could only dream about. This flower field gives visitors the option to come and cut their own flowers to take home. Walking through the rows of the field, it could be hard deciding which Dahlias to add to your bouquet. 

The methods of production for flowers have always involved the use of pesticides, which in turn harm the people that produce them. 2,000 Canadian farms are trying to find better solutions to produce them organically, without pesticides. The Slow Flower Movement (SFM) is one of those remedies in terms of how farms treat their soil.

According to Flowers Canada Growers, there are over 1,600 flower producers in Canada. Flower farms cover over 75 million square feet of land combined. Among these flower producers is Sarah Beaupré Quenneville, a young entrepreneur heading her family’s beloved flower farm. Au Beau Pré flower farm sits in Saint Anicet, also known as “Quebec Florida” for its higher humid temperatures than the rest of the province. Au Beau Pré implements the SFM.

The secret to success for this flower farm is in their soil. “For the soil, we put compost every year or every two years depending on the crop,” Quenneville explained. 

According to Architectural Digest, the Slow Flowers Movement refers to the methodical preparation of soil before a seed is even planted. Farms across Quebec are slowly adopting this movement, like The Enfants Sauvages, among others.

Before Quenneville took on her family’s farm, her parents Roger and Lilianne were in charge and adopted the SFM. They started the Au Beau Pré farm back in 2007. 

Lillian Quenneville cutting off the roots of the dahlia bulbs Dalia Nardolillo/ THE CONCORDIAN

“This is my parent’s project. They were selling Dahlia flower bulbs for years,” Quenneville said. “Before, they specialized in wheat production and made grain based products.”

Growing up, Quenneville had no interest in the agricultural sector and she didn’t want to be as involved in the farm.

“I saw my dad working hours and hours on end, with no days off,” Quenneville recalled.

With a family of her own, Quenneville explained that she didn’t want her children to experience the same memories she had as a child. 

Quenneville studied communications during her undergrad and worked in media for a couple of years.Though she would sometimes help, Quenneville never envisioned  the farm as a potential career opportunity.

“With each year that passed, my parents kept on asking me, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to do anything with the land?’” Quenneville recalled. “I proceeded to telling them, ‘No it’s not my thing, it’s maybe yours but not mine.’” 

However, one day her mother told her about the endless possibilities of utilizing cut flowers. A cut flower is a bud or a flower that is cut from its bearing plant. Customers usually opt to buy cut flowers solely for decorative purposes, such as a bouquet. 

According to Slow Living LDN, the SFM aims to not only have a better understanding of the soil before a flower is planted but also a more mindful consumption of how they’re cut.

Dahlia Flowers in the summer Dalia Nardolillo/THE CONCORDIAN


“We discovered I had a certain talent with selling flowers. I always helped my parents during the summer. My parents always said, ‘You’re good with the flowers,’” Quenneville recalled. During the times where she couldn’t be as involved in the field, she would help her parents with the website and the online selling of the products. “My parents are not really good with selling their stuff online, they’re good producers but not very good sellers.”

For newer flower producers like Quenneville, ressources and helpful guides are always available. At Flower Canada Growers in Toronto, Pest Control specialist Cary Gates explains that the SFM may work for some flower farms but not all. 

“I don’t know if I see a lot of farms embracing that kind of approach,” Gates explained. “I am supportive of it, I just don’t know logistically if it is super functional, I see it for smaller acreages as being very achievable.”

Smaller farms like Au Beau Pré implement the utmost care into the soil before the Dahlia flower bulbs are even planted. “I really like the focus that farmers put into soil health,” Gates said. The care that is put into the soil equates to better quality flowers.

Quality control is also very important to the family. Roger and Lilianne make sure that the Dahlia flower bulbs don’t have any illnesses; however, sometimes unpredictable things can happen.

“One year we lost 75 per cent of our bulbs, we didn’t know exactly what happened in the fridge but they all rotted. I tell our customers I am not selling ‘Post-Its,’ we are selling living things and sometimes things like that can happen,” Quenneville recalled.

With Quenneville taking the reins on her parent’s farm in 2019 came its problems. “The first challenge I really faced was that I didn’t know how to produce flowers,” Quenneville said.

As the years progressed, Quenneville took more of an interest in the cut flowers business and became  a project that she eventually took on. Quenneville explained that at Au Beau Pré, they sell flowers when they are cut from the stem itself. When guests come to visit the field in the month of August, they pay per flower stem. 

With the help of various workshops through an American cut flower guru called Floret Flowers, Quenneville learnt the ins and outs of how to produce cut flowers. 

Learning how to produce cut flowers with Floret Flowers also taught Quenneville another important lesson of the SFM: how to produce flowers at the most optimal time.

Au Beau Pré tries to keep up with business year-round. The winter season preparations start in October, right at the first freeze.

“We do some chores with an old tractor, but most of the time we work the soil manually. This way we don’t mess with the soil structure too much and we can start working in the field faster in the spring,” Quenneville said.


One of the ways floral producers band together is through flower associations to help each other learn about sustainable ways of production.The Flowers Canada Growers Association (FCGA) has members all over Canada, including Bailey Dueker, owner of The Boondock Flower Farm in Saskatoon. 

Dueker got into the business by accident, she recounted. “This will be my fourth season growing in 2023. In the spring of 2019 I was sick of Facebook so I joined Instagram. I wanted to see flowers in my recommended page, so I started to follow all these flower farmers,” Dueker said. 

Seeing the flower farmer feeds inspired her to get into the field and she did not return to her regular job following her maternity leave. During the fall of 2019, Dueker did what she called a “soft-launch.” She acquired all the sunflowers and zinnias from her garden. Over the winter she spent her time buying seeds. “You really don’t know how much you don’t know until you get into it,” Dueker explained. 

Across Canada, flower farms are underestimated in terms of the leg work that it takes to produce. According to a Chatelaine article on the subject flowers have brought in an estimated $158 million in profit in 2021. 

FCGA represents floral producers all over Canada. Their members across Canada include greenhouse growers, distributors and importers/exporters all dealing with cut flowers, potted plants, bedding plants, cut greens and specialty suppliers and services to the industry.

Dueker explained that the main goal of being a part of the FCGA is providing more knowledge about the floral industry to others in the country. When you have a question that needs to be answered, there’s always someone there to help. “Connecting and marketing with other growers is the main idea of the association,” Dueker said.

Dueker also explained that there is a Facebook group for the association where members can connect with a community of flower growers.

According to Deuker, the future of cut flowers lies with the grassroots movement, which has a similar idea to the Slow Flowers movement. “I see a lot of people getting out of it in a couple of years because they come to realize that you have to do quite a bit of an investment to make it a living,” Dueker explained. Dueker has seen within the industry that perhaps selling to florists is maybe the way to go. 

Roger Quenneville preparing the Dahlia flower bulbs for winter at Au
Beau Pré Dalia Nardolillo/THE CONCORDIAN


As the farm plans for the future, Quenneville explained that the future lies within the flowers themselves. “I really want to try to make products from the flowers themselves. We worked a lot from the dried flowers and we liked working with them.”

Working with the dried flowers over the past summer was a trial and error process. We weren’t quite there in terms of the final product with the dried flower bouquets,” Quenneville recounted.  

Before perfecting any sort of dried flower she wants to master the production of them. 

“We try different things, of course our Dahlia bulbs are our most popular product. We try to keep the cut flowers during the summer. This year was the first time that we tried the tulips but I don’t want to get into making my own seeds because that’s its own production.”

Quenneville believes that the future of her business lies with online sales through her website. While visitors travel to Saint Anicet during the summer to get the cut flowers from the farm, Quenneville wants to have flower-based products that she can sell year-round to customers.

The cut flower industry is always changing and florists are always trying to adapt, whether that is in the different dried flower products or brushing up on their knowledge of how to better treat their soil. Gates explained that the future of the cut flowers isn’t going anywhere for now.  “I see the cut flower industry as pretty stable, I don’t know if I see it expanding exponentially like other ornamental commodities grow.”


CFBA: The student source for all things fashion business

The CSU organization is the on-campus remedy for all your vogue cravings

The Concordia Fashion Business Association (CFBA) was founded in 2017 in order to connect student fashion enthusiasts to the industry by providing events, cocktails, talks, and mentorship involving experienced professionals in the field.  

The CFBA isn’t “just about networking with professionals, but other students as well because there aren’t any means provided by the school to do that,” mentioned CFBA co-president Sydnee Grill. 

Last year featured the first appearance of the Cocktails & Connections event held at Apt. 200, where the turnout of business-professional guests and student attendees alike surpassed expectations. The guest speaker for the night was Zach Macklovitch, co-founder of Saintwoods. 

“This year we want to do it bigger and better because we won’t have to worry about the vaxicode,” said Grill, “and we have a much higher cap on the amount of people who can attend the venue.”

Before 2021, the CFBA only held one or two of these events per year. Fashion Conversations was the recurring activity, which won an award for Best Virtual Event 2020-21 from the CSU. The fashion conference includes different events involving several speakers, workshops and a session after a cocktail event for recruiters to talk to students.

The club will also participate in Fashion Spectrum, a Quebec-wide case competition for all universities. The deadline to enter is Nov. 14 for students who want to get involved and enhance their skills in fashion and business. The competition is from Jan. 13 through 16, and the team will meet weekly with fashion mentors in order to prepare. 

As for the weekly timings, the CFBA meets once a week on Sundays for a general meeting. Closer to an event, many more meetings and a lot more work and time is put in.  

“At that point the events team is planning, the business relations team is reaching out to sponsors and speakers inviting guests and the social media team is pumping out all the content for that event,” said Grill.

“In the past, websites have been the main source to find business information. Now, Instagram is the top platform to keep consumers up to date, whether it’s student-run or professionally run,” added the co-president.

This year, the club’s new content creator Lucie Sarrazin created and posted a video on “what Concordia students are wearing” that garnered almost 50,000 views on Instagram. From that video, the club gained around 300 new followers in a matter of two weeks — more than what they gained throughout all of last year. 

“If you don’t go out and seek us out, the only other place you’re going to find us apart from going straight to our website is finding us on the CSU clubs website page. Every time someone new finds us, they’re amazed at how they’ve never heard of us,” Grill said.

Stay tuned for late April activities involving Concordia-based businesses and possible thrifting. 

This Nov. 10 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., students who attend the event at Apt. 200 will be able to network with each other and business-professional guests over food and drinks. The event will also feature a main guest speaker who will speak for 30 to 45 minutes.


Where halal meets fast food franchising

Chadi Sreis and his franchise B12 Burger are making an impact in the Montreal food industry


Danial Farshchi and his friends enter a small burger shop in Laval. Inside they are graced by one room with a few tables and a counter to order food. From the back, they can see freshly cooked burger patties being flipped in the kitchen. When asked what to order, the group scours the menu available — the selection contains a wide array of halal angus burgers, subway sandwiches, fried chicken, and hotdogs. The young man decides to try the special B12 burger trio served with fries and chips. When he gets his order, he opens the box and is faced with a juicy halal burger. The enormous patty, practically the size of his own head, is covered in a huge load of cheese sauce, and stuffed with onion rings, bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes.

B12 Burger was once a small mom-and-pop shop in Laval. It is one of the few local fast food restaurants that provided an option for halal burgers for Muslim Quebecers like Danial Farshchi.

“There are not many trusted fast food chains that are 100 per cent halal. A lot of places will say they’re legit, but there’s no proof, there’s no nothing,” he said.

One of the main competitors to the B12 franchise is Bergham, which serves halal subway sandwiches. Customers like Danial Farshchi believe their food is good, but the quality of service does not meet the same level as B12.

In 2018, the business caught the eye of entrepreneur Chadi Sreis. He is one of the owners of the Lebanese fast food franchise Boustan. Sreis is a respected businessman  who deals with an intense time schedule — our brief conversation was held on the phone while he was in his car. He was excited to discuss B12 and its origins while also bouncing in and out of other work situations that came up during our conversation over the phone.

“I tried out the burgers there and really liked it,” he said. “Initially we [Sreis and his business partners] were looking at all kinds of brands and this is one that we really liked. We believed in it and took it to the next level.” Three restaurants are now open in Laval, Kirkland, and Acadie Boulevard. “After acquiring the first shop, we had to go to the banks to loan us the money to set up our own burger restaurants.”

The growing franchise remains successful despite the pandemic.

“Our revenues went up because the big strip malls were closing, so all these small, quick service restaurants did fairly better in the pandemic,” he said. “The rent is lower, the space is lower, and the bills are generally lower.”

B12 made a yearly volume upwards of $1 million in 2020 according to Sreis. The store set up in Kirkland continues to have around 75 to 150 customers daily with an average customer spending around $18 to $20 on an order. “During the pandemic, the sit down [area] was closed, so our menu was strictly available to people who wanted to pick up and go, or delivery through third parties.” Expenses for the company increased with delivery services such as Uber Eats and DoorDash charging over 30 per cent on orders. Mr. Sreis asserted that the volume of sales during the pandemic balanced out the extra expense of third party partners without debt accumulation. “It wasn’t really that bad. Don’t forget we didn’t really need people to serve in the restaurant, and stuff like that. All you needed is people to cook.”

Going forward, Chadi Sreis has big plans for the B12 franchise. “Right now, our main focus is to expand the business. Montreal is still a virgin market for us, and we only have three stores.” The goal is to have 20 to 25 more locations on the island of Montreal in the next two to three years.

“There is a big demand on the product because it’s part of a niche market,” he added.

There are some things Danial thinks the franchise could improve upon. The locations are small and do not make for comfortable dine-in experiences. “When I go there with my friends… I can’t tell you how many times we sat on the curb outside the parking lot just because there’s no space in the seating inside!” he said. Another issue he has with the business is the food packaging. Often when he orders from them through Uber Eats, the food is delivered soggy and cold. He also wishes that the burger could be served better while also keeping its humongous size. “For the love of God, why can’t they cut the burger in half? When I pick it up it’s so messy and I have to make sure the burger doesn’t drop out of the buns.”

Graphics Courtesy of James Fay


The Willy Wonka of Montreal

One exotic snack store, winning the hearts of Montrealers

Snaxies is an exotic snack store that sells delectable treats that you won’t normally find at any other store in Montreal, or Canada for that matter. Sergiu Paunescu, the owner of Snaxies, located in the Mile-End, explains that during the pandemic, his business never stopped running.

Paunescu opened Snaxies in April of 2020, at the age of 26. Before owning Snaxies, he operated a tutoring business during his studies at Concordia’s John Molson School of Business. During the pandemic and over the course of 2020, he decided to quit his other jobs and open up Snaxies. He explained that when he opened Snaxies, he had to build it from the ground up. “So, you dig your way up, then you learn how to breathe, walk and talk. It was non-stop when we opened. I had to do every single shift for close to three months,” Paunescu explained.

The first platform that truly launched Paunescu’s business was DoorDash. “I turned it on and within the first five minutes, I got a $60 order,” Panuescu explained. The owner also described how apps like Uber Eats and DoorDash are not exactly the easiest platforms to manage. “I started operations [in] July of 2020, so that was the first COVID summer. I did not expect the online platforms [referring to Uber and DoorDash] to get that much volume in terms of orders.” Paunescu also explained that 80 per cent of his revenue comes from these platforms, with hundreds of thousands of products sold in the last year.

A turning point for Paunescu was during the curfew in January 2021. “The first day of curfew, I read the law. Quebec issued a certain legal document of what businesses could and couldn’t do. We are an online business, essentially, so we were allowed to operate. However, customers were not allowed to enter the store. So I used my store as a storage space. The only people that were in my store were my employees and I,” Paunescu recalled. At the time, grocery stores and depanneurs were not allowed to deliver, but online platforms like DoorDash and Uber Eats were still permitted.

On the first day of the curfew, his business was still running as usual. “We were working, there’s about 10 Uber drivers lined up outside my door. Then there’s this guy that comes up to the door and knocks. My employee goes up to the door and tells him, ‘Give me a second.’ The guy still knocks at the door and lo and behold, it was four cops. They call me up and say I was not allowed to operate. However, I told the cops, look in the store. There’s no pricing, we’re an online business and we are allowed to operate.”

This situation was a great lesson for Paunescu, as he realized that in these unprecedented times, information changes quickly each and every single day, so it’s hard to get the facts straight. 

The first set of cops who came to the store believed that it was functioning illegally. Then, a second team of cops said that they were not sure. Finally, the third group of cops came to his business and said that it was completely fine for him to operate. “I got an apology, saying we [the police officer brigade] tried to pursue you in court, however, the court said we wouldn’t win. We’ve advised all the police in your area not to bother you anymore.” After the incidents with the police, Paunescu relocated Snaxies to its current location at 5026 Parc Ave. in May 2021. He wanted to move to this location to give his customers an in-store experience.

Kaitlynn Rodney, a journalism student at Concordia University, explained her experience inside the store. “When I first heard about Snaxies, I was really excited to show my boyfriend. He is a sugar addict! When I first got in, I remember thinking it was a little more expensive than I expected, but when I thought about it a little bit more, he is importing snacks from outside so it must be expensive.”

Some of Paunescu’s best selling products include Dunkaroos and Nerds Gummy Clusters. “I have whole palettes that are reserved for wholesale customers. To give you an idea, one palette is 2400 gummy clusters. A palette of Dunkaroos is 3600. It’s fun to have both products because people enjoy them so much.”

With his continuous success, Paunescu plans not to open another location, but instead to venture more into distribution. “A lot of companies are steering away from that. It’s costly and a lot of maintenance to take care of the operation. I want to expand my business into distribution. I want to focus on distributing the products rather than retail.”

The stay-at-home order did not stop Paunescu in the slightest. He is quite literally the “Willy Wonka” of Montreal, attracting customers from every corner of the city, and hopefully soon across North America.


Feature photo by Dalia Nardolillo

How-to reduce your water use

Here come the waterworks — Canadians need to use less water, here’s how:

*Please note that the statistics on Quebecers’ water use do not represent water use or access on Indigenous reservations.

How much water does the average Montrealer use every day in their home? Enough to fill two bathtubs.

That’s 225 L of clean water. The province-wide average is even bigger, at 400 L per person every day, according to McGill University.

How much fresh water do private industries use per year? About 10 times household use, Statistics Canada notes.

Most of our household water use comes from addressing basic physical needs. 65 per cent comes from toilet flushing and bathing. The rest is accounted for in our drinking, preparing meals, and cleaning (including laundry).

We could trim down our water use by letting it mellow when it’s yellow, but a more impactful change could simply be redirecting our efforts to curb the wasteful practices of big industries, which make up 68 per cent of Canada’s annual fresh water use, according to McGill University.

Why is this important? After all, Canada is known for its abundant access to freshwater lakes and rivers. However, that’s not the full story.

“Canada has some 20 per cent of the world’s total fresh water resources,” according to Environment and Climate Change Canada. Of that, only seven per cent is renewable fresh water, making the supply “heavily used and often overly stressed.”

Household water use accounts for 20 per cent of the total fresh water use in Canada, and farming practices use just 12 per cent.

Still, voices in green consumption continue to refocus the lens of public discourse about climate change on personal action, despite the well-documented majority impact coming from private industry.

How can the public influence the ecological footprint left by private industry? We can start by reducing our consumption of the products these companies sell.

This logic runs counter to the profit goals of private industry, and they’re putting up a fight against it.

Marketers have identified a key change in the public: people want to feel like the companies they shop at share their values. “Sustainability, trust, ethical sourcing, and social responsibility are increasingly important to how consumers select their products and services,” according to Harvard Business Review (HBR)’s analysis of The EY Future Consumer Index.

HBR puts it this way: Pre-pandemic, “Your brand should stand behind great products.” As an additional requirement post-pandemic, “Your brand should stand behind great values.” The association of a brand with values creates the phenomenon of “brand values,” which amount to the marketing strategies that companies develop to target a particular consumer profile and its associated value system.

This loophole absolves the public from facing the actual scale of the problem of over-consumption, while validating the feeling that we’re curbing our personal climate footprint. Compliance with this marketing strategy also helps to reduce our guilt without requiring companies to actually improve their production practices.

Some might call this a win-win, others a lose-lose.

Reducing water use within the production line and reducing consumption of those products altogether would ultimately have the biggest impact on water waste in Canada.

Instead, companies look to their marketing teams to come up with how-tos that focus on tweaks in the public’s household behaviour (like switching the laundry setting to cold water) and divert attention from industry and consumer waste.

In the current cultural focus on resilience catalyzed by COVID-19, HBR elaborates, “Marketing now has the opportunity to seize an ongoing central role in that dialogue.”

Corporations have identified a key role that marketing plays in the way the public talks about the health crisis, and by extension, the climate crisis. When brands dictate the narrative surrounding these discussions, solutions are limited to those that propel their “broader growth and innovation agenda.” Those solutions all require our participation in industry waste.

Comparing the respective impacts of personal versus industrial water use provides a distilled picture of the biggest threats to sustainability. It is vital to critically assess the narrative around consumption by considering who tells the story, who benefits from the story, and ultimately, how the story obscures the harder truths about our contribution to climate change.


Feature graphic by @the.beta.lab

The spread of COVID-19 and the surge of entrepreneurs

Why bored twentysomethings are starting businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic

I was three weeks away from starting a new season as a tour guide in Europe when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global pandemic. My company cancelled all their trips, and I was left unemployed. Bored and unstimulated, my options were to get an uninspiring job at the grocery store or the pharmacy, which were the only businesses open during the peak of the first wave. Or, I could go back to school.

The fear of boredom pushed me to pursue a new career by going back to school while the world waited to return to normal. I had everything to gain by trying something new.

I found a graduate diploma program in journalism, an area that intrigued me, and was accepted. For the last few months, I have been studying harder than ever, but, for the first time, I am thoroughly enjoying school.

I noticed that the people closest to me were also understimulated and started using their free time to challenge themselves in new ways. But they chose a third option: starting their own businesses.

Friend after friend launched new online businesses hoping to make a little extra money, but most of all, to keep busy while the world was at a standstill.

Here are some of their stories.


In the Great White North, a national lockdown was announced in March. Non-essential employees were forced to work from home and social gatherings were banned, which was horrific for self-declared extrovert Jessica McLaughlin.

“I needed to find something to keep me busy because I was going crazy,” said McLaughlin. The 26-year-old government employee said that while she was thankful to keep her job, the loss of social activities left a void in her life. So, McLaughlin focused on the one hobby she could do alone within her house: baking.

Thus, Sweet Ginger Bakes (SGB) was created. Named after her red hair and love for all things sweet, SGB offers people in the Ottawa and Montreal areas various baked goods, the most popular of which are the customizable sugar cookies.

“I was a big ‘procrastibaker’ during undergrad,” she said. “I would bake to put off studying or writing papers.” In her spare time, McLaughlin would spend hours intricately decorating goods for friends and family, who saw the potential for her to start a baking company.

SGB opened its virtual doors on Instagram in April, and, for the following six weeks, McLaughlin was extremely busy.

Instagram calculated that, in 2019, 83 per cent of users discovered new products and services on the platform, which allows small businesses like SGB to find marketable audiences. Acquiring 138 followers since her launch, McLaughlin earned enough revenue to buy a new baby blue KitchenAid mixer and quality sprinkles, which, she says, “are deceptively expensive.”

Though McLaughlin doesn’t see herself doing this full time in the near future, she isn’t stopping either.

“I think the pipedream would be to open an actual store,” she said. But even if this never happens, McLaughlin said all the effort it took to get the business going, like decorating at 2 a.m. or running to the grocery store for last minute eggs and butter, were worth it.

“I find joy in making new designs and making people happy through baking,” she said. “It’s nice to be part of someone’s moment … knowing that something that I enjoy doing can make others happy.”


Italy was the first European country to enter a lockdown on Mar. 9, when the virus took over the northern region of Lombardy before spreading across the country. Marta Santo, an Italian tour guide, was working in Austria when Italy announced it would soon close its borders.

Santo was in the middle of a 21-day tour, but had to leave her group with another guide and race home or risk being stuck abroad. The journey took several days, but she made it home in time. From then on, “It was full-on crazy,” she said.

The lockdown in Lombardy lasted two and a half months, during which people were only allowed to walk a short 200 metre distance from their homes.

“There were police everywhere; they used drones to check on people,” she said.

Then, in August, Santo contracted COVID-19 and was quarantined for 18 days. With boundless time on her hands, Santo, a trained artist, started drawing again.

“It was like people baking bread, but for me it was painting stuff,” she said. Santo hadn’t painted in five years, due to her nomadic job limiting her ability to carry art supplies.

But her family, friends and the boredom of unemployment inspired Santo to open an online art store on Etsy, an e-commerce site focused on selling handmade crafts. The store, called UnaTea, launched in October, selling prints of Santo’s illustrations, as well as personalized paintings, drawings and magnets.

Santo even used the time to teach herself how to draw on her iPad so that her work could be safely stored and printed, and — when tourism resumes — will allow her to keep drawing on the road.

Since its launch, UnaTea has sold over a dozen pieces, the most popular of which are the personalized items drawn in Santo’s unique style. Santo can spend up to nine hours creating a single piece, from the conceptualization of the work all the way to the final touches.

“It’s sort of my meditation, I think, when I paint and when I draw,” said Santo, adding that she feels no pressure to make UnaTea her main source of income.

“I think it’s always going to be a hobby to be honest, and I’m happy with that,” said Santo.


Starting an online business has become increasingly easier, with little-to-no funds needed to create Instagram, Facebook and Etsy business pages. According to Stats Canada, national retail e-commerce sales grew by 99.3 per cent between February and May of 2020 and many new online businesses have appeared since the pandemic.

One of them was created by Toby Moore.

Moore had just graduated from McGill University with a master’s degree in urban planning when the virus spread globally.

“That first job … that’s generally the hardest barrier to get over, so having a whole global pandemic on top of that is definitely not conducive to helping someone [find a job],” said Moore. But the 26-year-old saw his ample free time as an opportunity to learn and expand his interests.

“It started with a few ideas, interests or passions of mine,” he said. Moore had been DJing as a hobby for eight years, so naturally streaming his DJ sessions was the first step. But he wanted to expand on this idea and brainstormed, “What other online events or things can I do to bring people together?”

From inside his childhood bedroom, he created T1K, a diverse entertainment company providing trivia nights, a podcast, roundtable discussions, a radio show and many more events.

“T1K is about bringing people together in a knowledge/education/learning environment where people can share, discuss, grow [and] have fun in a positive way,” said Moore. Topics like management, the environment and careers are discussed on the podcast and at events to engage listeners and dive deeper into current issues.

The podcast, playfully named “Toby or not To be,” explores the different career paths and choices of interviewees. Moore also created a roundtable discussion centred on sustainability and has welcomed guests like Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Mayor Sue Montgomery and Councillor Christian Arsenault.

T1K started in June but has not made any sales as of yet.

“I’m continually thinking of how I can incorporate a financial side into it,” said Moore. He believes that the company is still too small to charge customers for services and selling ad space doesn’t support his business concept.

But the project has been fruitful in other ways. T1K attracted the attention of Sur Place, an non-profit that offers free experiential arts education, where Moore is currently on the board of directors and occasionally offers workshops on podcasting.

“It’s been such a big opportunity, experiment and learning process, and I think that’s what I wanted,” he said.


Victor Hugo wrote in Les Miserables, “There is something more terrible than a hell of suffering — a hell of boredom.” And right he was.

A wave of boredom spread around the world just as fast as the pandemic, but McLaughlin, Santo and Moore turned it into an opportunity to develop their hobbies.

While the businesses differ, what is common among all three entrepreneurs is that their ventures were not created with the aim of making money or becoming a full-time job. Instead, it allowed them to use their time to do what they love within the confines of their homes.


Photos courtesy of Paula Sant’Anna

Owning your dream amid a pandemic: the hard way up to a functional rock climbing gym

A look at new bouldering gym/cafe Café Bloc on Saint-Laurent Boulevard

The story of Café Bloc begins with a dream about comradery, a sense of community and a tasteful amount of the main ingredient: a passion for rock climbing. After two years in the making, what started simply as an ambitious concept has recently turned into a reality for young entrepreneur Sébastien Aubé. Alongside his now-business partner Jean-François Gravel, the duo managed to pull off a fully functional bouldering gym in the heart of downtown Montreal at a time that does not respect any uncalculated boldness in developing new business models. Some may call it a shot in the dark but for Aubé the coronavirus comes as “an outside event that we have no control of. The only thing we can change about it is the way we perceive it.”

Sébastien Aubé, co-owner of Café Bloc

Just like the sport itself requires from its enthusiasts, you need to overcome obstacles to make your way to the top. As Aubé puts it, “A key element to motivation is to keep yourself active towards your goals even when you don’t feel like it.” The current situation definitely affects the business negatively but it does not put an end to the adventure.

“It is challenging,” agrees Aubé, “but not to the extent where I am going to sit in the corner and give up.” Hardships were what defined the journey of the place as it took two long years for the project to come into existence.

After a rock climbing trip in June 2018, the exciting idea to create an environment where people can simultaneously sweat it all out on the climbing wall and relax with a cup of coffee and friendly company began to grow.

At last, the moment they all had been waiting for was here. On Feb. 9, 2020, Café Bloc welcomed its first rock climbing customers and for six weeks, the dream of a community united under a mutual passion carried on. Working at full capacity, the place easily became a hotspot for those eager to solve “problems” (that is how climbing routes are referred to in a bouldering gym). No extra equipment is needed — just you and your climbing shoes. To ensure the safety of all participants, the gym follows basic security standards. There are big bouncy mats under the boulders that will catch anyone’s fall, regardless of their position on the wall.

According to Aubé, there are different challenges and they are all rated with a level of difficulty. For example, “six moves, using only blue holes, from the ground to the top can be a warm-up for someone more experienced or a good beginner problem to start with.” For better engagement and constant physical stimulus, the gym is designed to change the style of the walls regularly, thus providing new problems almost every week.

“We were open for six weeks and then we had to close on March 15 like everybody else,” Aubé vividly remembers. Despite the successful launch, COVID-19 did not spare the bouldering gym and jeopardized all the effort put into the place. However, Café Bloc learns to adapt to the changes as they come.

“We are running at a 25 per cent capacity,” says Aubé, “and we lack our main demographic of the people who work in the downtown offices and would normally swing by for a session after-hours.”

Their routine now consists of pressure washing the climbing holes every week, which adds to the accumulated business losses. Aubé’s team has also put hand sanitizers everywhere to accommodate the health regulations and the climbers’ needs. However, it’s up to everyone to have the responsibility of adhering to disinfecting before and after an exercise.

“It’s all about the energy everyone brings into the place,” says Aubé.

Indeed, prior to the coronavirus restrictions, the gym was running smoothly. According to Aubé, before the pandemic, they would have “people come in and overstay their welcome beyond the staff’s shifts, simply soaking in the atmosphere.” Now, Aubé wishes for nothing more than to have the gym run normally. Yet, the co-owner reflects on the current social implication as a mental challenge. Apart from technique, rock climbing represents an inner battle of overcoming your own limitations and doubts.

“Similar to rock climbing, this is just another problem we need to face and persevere, so that we can come out of it stronger and better.”


Photos by Yordan Ivanov and Kit Mergaert


A great year for golf

COVID-19 has had a positive impact on local golf businesses

This infographic released by the Texas Medical Association lists sports and activities, and ranks their COVID-19 risk factors on a scale of one to 10. Tennis and golf scored a two and a three respectively, while the next sports on the chart were basketball and football, both deemed moderate to high risk activities.

By nature, golf adheres to social distancing protocol. The sport involves individuals playing amongst each other but doesn’t require any physical contact with other players, which explains why golf isn’t considered to be a team sport, even though it is usually played in groups. Players carry their own equipment and the outdoor environment of a golf course caters to having six feet between players at all times, with a constant supply of fresh air.

COVID-19 has left its mark on all kinds of activities, beyond sports. For Charles Patton, a co-owner of Patton’s Glen Golf Club in Kahnawake, the year that seemed to have nothing positive in store changed for the better when his business was given permission to re-open in early June. His ninehole course saw an uptick in clientele that still persists to this day.

“We’re very fortunate that the business actually may have benefited from the pandemic,” Patton said. “Our golf course has always satisfied people who want to relax and get away from the stress life presents. I think more people need that these days.”

In June, Patton was given the challenge of re-designing the course to minimize contact points between players. This meant removing ball cleaning stations and benches, having to clean the golf carts and bathroom after each use, and lengthening tee boxes to better manage the distance between golfers. Despite all of the changes, the golf course is as busy as ever.

“I don’t want to take this for granted, because I know how many small businesses are struggling these days,” Patton said. “We’re not the biggest or fanciest course in the area, but we still make ends meet and that goes to show how popular the sport is right now.”

Patton’s Glen Golf Club was designed to accommodate all levels of golfers. Skilled players can hone their skills and attempt to break prior scores, while beginners can enjoy a round with their friends without enduring the pressure that comes along with a traditional 18-hole course. The quaint course has hosted its typical clients from past years, but Patton said the biggest increase in players this year is with beginners.

“Beyond the regulars, it’s the couples who are trying to learn something together, or the guy who is trying to teach his buddies how to swing a golf club,” Patton said. “It’s things of that nature that I see more often than ever. It’s a lot less competitive and a lot more relaxing.”

Sports have a way of bringing people together through competition and teamwork. In 2020, golf and its inherent distancing is bringing people closer together.


Graphic by Taylor Reddam

Surviving the pandemic: How a local restaurant owner managed to stay afloat

JMSB student Daniel Lomanto tells us about the highs and lows of opening his own business at 23 years old

Months into the pandemic, we’ve seen its devastating effects on our economy and local businesses. Though the federal government has been scrambling to offer guidance and financial support for business owners, the sharp decrease in clientele and consumers’ continuing aversion to retail therapy has hit hard.

As COVID-19 spread, the situation evolved rapidly everywhere: within days of the announcement of the first case of the virus in Canada, the federal government announced a countrywide lock down, and Quebec ordered to close all non-essential businesses. For Daniel Lomanto, the owner of  Italian deli-grocery shop BOSSA, it was the ability to react quickly to the new measures that spared him from needing to close shop and allowed his store to flourish. Located on Wellington Street, the main artery in the borough of Verdun, the store serves a large portion of the neighbourhood; it was therefore crucial for him to adapt not only for his customers, but also to make a living with the business he is passionate about.

However, the pandemic was only one of the many adversities faced by Lomanto, who, as he opened the business at the age of 23, lost everything to a fire. In true socially distanced fashion, we discussed his store’s story over the phone, and how he was able to overcome difficult times.

EL: Tell me about when you first opened the restaurant.

DL: We opened for the first time about two and a half years ago. We chose Verdun because I’m a resident of Lasalle, and all my friends growing up were from Verdun, so it was always close to home. When I started working in restauration, four to five years ago, I was always working on Wellington Street. I always saw that there was a potential for an Italian prêt-à-manger and catering place because there was nothing in the area like that. So I got together with my mom — she’s my business partner — and we opened this place.

EL: What did opening this business mean to you?

DL: Honestly, it’s family to me. My mother’s here all the time, my grandparents come here to help. We always make all of our sauces at home. I have a pretty big garden in my backyard that they help take care of. It just brings everyone together, and I couldn’t think of a better thing for us to be doing right now.

EL: What hardships did you encounter when you first opened BOSSA?

DL: Starting a business at 23 is really hard. I was at John Molson at the time — I still am, but studying part-time — but managing, building everything up, making everything come together, and even just having people take me seriously at that young of an age, those were some of the hardships I had at the beginning.

Then, two months into opening, we had a fire: one of my freezers short-circuited overnight, causing an electrical fire, and we had to close for seven months. We renovated the place and had to settle everything with the insurance company.

EL: How did you feel?

DL: It was a very low time. But at the same time, I tried to be optimistic about things and I saw it as an opportunity to figure out what was and wasn’t working. We sort of redesigned and reorganized the entire business after the fire, so I always look at it as a blessing in disguise.

EL: How did you react when COVID first hit in March?

DL: When COVID happened a couple of months ago, we made the decision to stay open — obviously while taking precautions. But having closed for seven months the year before, I wasn’t about to close down again. We powered through and it ended up working in our favour. We were one of the only places that stayed open on the entire street, so our clientele was really happy; they were extremely grateful.

EL: Did you find that you were prepared when COVID hit?

DL: Yeah, I could say that. When the fire hit… it changes your mentality. You just want to go through with it and nothing can stop you, you’re invincible. So when COVID hit around mid-March, the second they shut the city down, people were lining up down the corner to buy our sauces, our pasta. So from then it was just we’re going straight through, we’re not stopping anymore. The fire didn’t really help us, but it did give us the drive to keep going.

We’re pretty lucky because we were always a take-out and grocery place, we never really had seats inside. Within the first couple of days, we were able to implement having two people at a time, wearing a face mask, hand sanitizers everywhere, and we put up plexiglass everywhere.

EL: How did you feel having your family help you throughout the crisis?

DL: It’s tricky, it was a bit stressful. I don’t want to say I was risking anything, but at the same time, my mom was here. I was always making sure that she was being very careful, and I had to be very careful as well.

EL: Do you have any upcoming projects for your business?

DL: We’re always trying to improve, and I definitely embrace the feedback from my clientele. They’ll sit down and talk to me and give me new ideas, so it’s a real personal relationship with all my customers. We’re constantly working on projects, but other than coming up with new menu items, it’ll have to be day-by-day for now — we’ll have to look into picking things up once everything settles.

EL: What has been the most rewarding part of owning your business?

DL: Just having fun, every day. When I walk into work, it never feels like I’m working. It’s weird to say, but it almost feels like I’m doing a big school project. There are always new things that we want to try, and even just getting customers’ opinions — it’s really fun.


Photos by Christine Beaudoin


Reflecting on Montreal’s art scene

Panelists at the Concordi’ART conference discuss creative innovation

There is no doubt that the Montreal art scene has a unique charm. From street art to an overwhelming amount of art festivals, such as Papier, a contemporary art festival, and International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA), a film and digital art festival, the city’s bustling creativity is key to its personality. But what do the major players in the Montreal art scene have to say about the city’s success and where it’s headed?

The Concordi’ART club’s second annual conference took place on Feb. 3. With a focus on technology and interactivity, the main topic of discussion was Digital Creativity in the Arts Industry.

Concordi’ART is a student club that aims to bridge the gap between art and business by offering students opportunities to understand the art industry. They offer conferences, workshops and guidance for students interested in artistic entrepreneurship.

“Am I going to be able to live with my art?” said Yan Cordeau. This question inspired him and his team at MURAL to create a platform for artist collaboration.

“The challenge is always, am I going to be able to live with my art?” said Yan Cordeau, co-founder and curator of Lndmrk, a creative marketing agency, and MURAL, an urban art festival. Having started off his career as an artist, this age-old struggle shaped his and his team’s mission. This inspired them to create a place where they could offer work and pay to the artists they had collaborated with in the past.

However, it is not that simple. While the idea of starting a business may seem enticing, where does one start?

“[I] try stuff until I’m sick of it, and this is the truth,” said Pauline Loctin, an artist and founder of Miss Cloudy. She creates large-scale origami installations. “I have an idea in my head and I don’t know how I’m going to do it most of the time. So I try. And I fail. I try and I fail. Until I get something I really like.”

Doing what you like becomes a challenge, particularly in creative fields where finding a source of income is a primary concern. Collaborations and advertising are not always in the budget for small-scale businesses and artists. In a rapidly growing industry, what can companies do to ensure they don’t stray from their mission?

“Make sure [the company] is growing without losing its soul and values,” said Catherine Turp, creative director at Moment Factory, a multimedia entertainment studio known for their immersive multimedia shows. “The naïveté that existed in the beginning, when we started off, is still living; we’re still passionate, curious, multidisciplinary artists, and creative technologists from around the world.”

Be it through Moment Factory’s light shows or Montreal’s Art Souterrain, an annual festival aiming to promote accessibility to art, Montreal’s art scene brings people together to live and experience emotions, through multimedia experiences. “I think Montreal has an interesting recipe for events,” said Cordeau. “I think we can benefit from that and create something really unique.”

While determination, innovation and artistic integrity are among the key ingredients that contribute to the city’s charm and recognition, the root and driving-factor of Montreal’s artistic success lies, ultimately, in its sense of community.

Further information about Concordi’ART and upcoming events can be found at




Photos courtesy of Concordi’ART

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