In Business: Dr. Joey’s SkinnyChews

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Nutritionist has the skinny on weightloss

Best selling author and nutritionist Dr. Joey Shulman had just finished telling her husband she was considering going on Dragon’s Den when the couple ran into one of the show’s panelists.

“It was very serendipitous because we were walking and talking and my husband said, ‘Yeah, that’s a good idea’ and then literally we turned and I’m face to face with Jim Treliving so it was like a sign to go on the show,” Shulman says from her office on Avenue Road north of Dupont Street. “I love the idea of Canadian entrepreneurs getting the chance to take their products or their ideas to a higher level.”

Although Shulman is a regular health and wellness expert on Cityline, author of five nutrition books including The Natural Makeover Diet and The Last 15 – A Weight Loss Breakthrough and the owner of Shulman Weight Loss clinics, she says she went on the show asking for help when it came to marketing Dr. Joey’s Skinnychews, her line of low-calorie treats.

“I’ve been in the weightloss world for 11 years and I could see there was one common theme, which was every woman, every man started their day off really well with a good breakfast but people didn’t finish their day as well,” she said, explaining that she found from 3 p.m. on is when people tend to fall off the nutritional train: eating the wrong foods, high sugar and high-carb foods.

Her discovery led her to develop the chews — chocolaty morsels that have fewer than 20 calories each and are high in fibre. She purposely created them in a chew format so it would take consumers longer to eat them and they couldn’t binge on them.

“I knew this would be a hit because I could see from my own clientele it was keeping them back on track instead of them falling off the rails,” she said. “They’re not eating junk — they don’t have to eat junk — and these will satisfy and get them back to healthy eating choices, so it’s really a bridge to their next meal or snack.”

The Dragons were convinced.

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Four of the panelists offered Shulman a deal, but she took on a partnership with Arlene Dickinson that offered $375,000 worth of media placement and marketing on top of a $375,000 buy-in for a 25 percent stake in the venture.

Dr. Joey’s Skinnychews are now available at stores across the country, including GNC, Longo’s and Pusateri’s stores in Toronto.

Shulman is in the process of developing a caramel flavour but believes the chocolate chew will remain the biggest seller.

The self-proclaimed nutrition geek admits she’s been reading health and wellness books since she was 11. A chiropractor by trade, she got into nutrition and weight loss because she thought it was where she could make the biggest difference, she says.

Although partnering with Dickinson has been a recent career highlight, she also counts her time on Cityline and being asked by nutritional guru Dr. Andrew Weil to present the latest information on natural approaches to ADD to 300 doctors as big career moments.

After more than a decade in the industry, she still finds it satisfying to see the before-and-after results of her clients, she says. Some of these women, who have lost as much as 69 pounds, are featured on her website.

“Seeing people really reclaim their health and vitality through food, that is still the greatest work I can do,” she said. “It continues to be exciting, it continues to show me just how powerful nutrition is and I think that’s what keeps me going.”

Behind the scenes with Chantal Kreviazuk

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A few weeks ago I was invited to an independent school in Mississauga for a talk and performance by Chantal Kreviazuk. Although I went for work, to write a feature for our education guide, I was quite excited to attend.

Back in 1997, when I was barely a teenager and Kreviazuk had yet to become a household name, she played my hometown of Thunder Bay. The show marked my first ever concert and although she was the opening act, it was her album I had on repeat following the show.

I will post my article soon, but for now I wanted to share a video and some pictures from the performance at Holy Name of Mary College School. My biggest highlight was the last song she played, a track off her debut record Under These Rocks and Stones. I was so glad a mom in the crowd asked her to play “Surrounded” and then even more excited when Kreviazuk agreed. Listening to her sing one of my favourite songs a meter away gave me goosebumps. It was nothing short of amazing in my books.


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In Business: Reasons Mommy Drinks

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When you get poo in your hair: Local writers produce funny essays on the untold truth about parenthood

While on set of NBC’s The Today Show in New York, where they were celebrating the launch of their book, Reasons Mommy Drinks, co-authors and comedians Lyranda Martin-Evans and Fiona Stevenson were paid a big compliment.

“They actually called us the Sex and the City girls with babies,” a smiling Martin-Evans says from a coffee shop on Mount Pleasant Road. “I was like, ‘Did you get that off a poster somewhere? That’s the greatest thing I’ve heard in my life!’ ”

Friends since high school, it was at North Toronto Collegiate Institute that the duo began writing together, in the form of full-length musical comedies. Years later, when they were on maternity leave at the same time, the idea for a blog was conceived.

They picked the name Reasons Mommy Drinks, to stand apart from the 4 million other existing mommy blogs, and launched in January 2012. Within six months they had secured a book deal.

“We thought we should continue to flex ourselves creatively and do something fun so we decided to start writing and thought a mommy blog would be a good way to start,” Stevenson says, noting they also studied together at the Second City Conservatory. “We have always written in a comedic voice and thought, let’s write funny essays on the truth about parenthood.”

In the book, they combined their own experiences with tales from friends and mom groups. They wrote humorous accounts of some of the struggles of having a baby, from the baby shower all the way up to the 18-month mark.

They describe the book as the antithesis of regular pregnancy books that are serious and often filled with worst-case scenarios — which can be terrifying.

“So we talk about what happens when you get poo in your hair, because it’s going to happen,” Martin-Evans says, adding the book contains 100 reasons mommy drinks, in the form of short essays. “Or sleep training: I found it so hard, emotional and the lack of sleep and taking all those things and making them funny, allowing her to laugh at them. Allowing her to laugh versus making her terrified.”

Stevenson, who calls North Toronto home, says the book links those first moments of parenthood — which she summarizes as amazing yet overwhelming and funny in hindsight — to pop culture and celebrities. Being on The Today Show was also a culminating moment. They refer to hosts Kathie Lee and Hoda by name in an entry.

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“A lot of the entries stem from that pressure that mom puts on herself,” Stevenson says. “In the moment, those moments can be so overwhelming and difficult, but months later you look back and all you remember are the beautiful moments, and you really do laugh at it. When you’re sleeping three hours in a 24-hour period, at best, everything can seem hard.”

Although every entry comes with a fitting drink recipe — such as the Naptime entry, which includes a drink with thyme in it, or the Ode to Daddy, featuring a twist on the Manhattan cocktail called the Man-hattan — they stress their parenting lessons aren’t all about drinking on the job.

North-Leaside resident Martin-Evans explains the genesis of the Reasons Mommy Drinks name.

“It was more about that feeling that you used to get at work, like ‘Ah, today’s a terrible day, I need a drink,’ but then you go home and drink a Diet Coke and order pizza and you don’t really mean it,” she says. “That’s sort of how we came up with that hook and then we thought, you know what would be even cooler is if based on the essay there was a drink, a mocktail or a cocktail, that went with what we were talking about.”

Although Martin-Evans and Stevenson, who respectively hold full-time positions as creative director and director of innovation, had big dreams of renting a cabin for a lengthy writing retreat to finish the book, they admit the idea quickly fell apart.

“We were going to immerse ourselves, and then reality sets in, which is a child and work and all these other things that you have to balance, so we literally wrote the book with the great support of our partners, with naptime constraints,” Martin-Evans says. “We would sort of like, race against time: 1½-hour power sessions during the nap, let’s go and be super productive.”


This article was originally published in the October 2013 edition of the Leaside-Rosedale and North Toronto Town Crier. All photos by Ann Ruppenstein.

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Local Designer: Tuck Shop Trading Co. & City of Neighbourhoods

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The idea stemmed from a coat.

After receiving an old buffalo check jacket from her mother-in-law, Lyndsay Borschke started thinking about creating clothes that embody both city and cottage life.

“I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if this coat were a little bit more updated and it could have more street value so you could wear it downtown,” says Borschke.

The resulting cottage coat is one of her favourite pieces in her newly launched label Tuck Shop Trading Co., a line of ready-to-wear men’s and ladies’ casual clothing and accessories.

Her line includes toques, scarves, jackets and bags made with fabrics like cashmere, fur and leather. She had already been involved in designing lines of clothing for summer camps and schools when she decided it would be “fun and a little bit of an adventure” to do something with more luxurious fabrics while still being influenced by “that outdoor lifestyle.”

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A major inspiration for the collection was the time spent at Algonquin Park growing up. She also worked as a business director for a summer camp there, and now spends summers with her family at a cottage on Canoe Lake that was originally leased by her husband’s grandfather.

Historical pictures of his family, who in the 1940s would travel by train to the lake and were, in her words, “always superbly dressed,” are incorporated into the company’s hand tags and website.

The idea for the name springs from onsite tuck shops where summer campers can get necessities and clothing.

“I thought, well it’s sort of like a tuck shop at camp but then I was also thinking fur traders bringing fur to the old trading posts and then that filtering back down to the city,” she relates.

Borschke has a subsidiary line called City of Neighbourhoods, which allows people to proudly display their neighbourhood pride — on their toques. Midtown neighbourhoods represented include Summerhill to the Annex and Yorkville, Rosedale and Forest Hill to Lawrence Park.

Leaside will be part of the latest toques added to the collection, which will be available this month. Other additions are St. Clair West and Christie Pits. Sweatshirts and t-shirts featuring the neighbourhoods are also available.

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To celebrate Tuck Shop Trading Co.’s debut, Borschke held an official launch party at the Big Crow on Dupont Street near Davenport Avenue on Oct. 1.

“It was great to have all the products on display and it looked woodsy and like a tuck shop,” she says. “It had a wood background, but then there was also this wonderful smell of wood smoke and we were serving Canadiana-themed food.”

Although Borschke is already looking ahead to a brick-and-mortar location, which she would like to see in the Summerhill area, both her collections are currently available online at tuckshopco.com and select local stores, including The Narwhal and Over the Rainbow. She also hopes to expand City of Neighbourhoods to major cities such as New York, Boston, Los Angeles, London, Paris and Sydney.

“Since the launch the response to the neighbourhood hats has been fabulous,” she says. “It’s great to see how people are responding to them on social media and posting pictures of themselves wearing the toques, and also just how they’re asking for different neighbourhoods and how they want to represent their own neighbourhood has been really great.”

All images by Ann Ruppenstein

In Business: Art Interiors ring in 20 years

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To mark their 15th anniversary, Lisa Diamond Katz and Shira Wood held a big art exhibit at Art Interiors.

The show, “15 years, 15 style makers, 15 artists”, featured pieces of art chosen by well-known interior designers such as Brian Gluckstein, Candice Olson and Sarah Richardson, and House & Home editor-in-chief Suzanne Dimma.

“It was a like a wedding,” Wood says from the second floor studio space on Spadina Road, north of Lonsdale Road, describing the workload and planning process that went into the event. “We didn’t want to do that again five years later so what we’re doing for this milestone is we’re doing something fun.”

To mark their 20th anniversary, Art Interiors has instead opted to give away art — for free. Through a different weekly contest on Facebook, Twitter or an in-store initiative, customers can take home pieces like an $1,800 painting.

“It’s also a way of giving back to our clients,” says Diamond Katz, who grew up in Forest Hill.

Diamond Katz and Wood first opened the gallery in 1993 after graduating from university and realizing there was a niche for an unintimidating place for people to buy original and affordable works of art. An artist herself, Wood says she also understood the struggle of finding a place, as an emerging artist, to show and sell her work.

“We wanted people to come in and feel welcomed,” she said. “The setup that’s here is more like the back room of a gallery, which is more engaging — people can feel comfortable actually touching the art, flipping through it.”

The gallery offers the work of mainly Canadian artists but also features some from Italy, England, Korea and Russia. The artwork lines the walls for customers to browse at their leisure. Although prices range from $25 to $6,500, most of the artwork is under $500.

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Wood says they also offer advice and education around a particular artist. “Any requests like who is the artist, where are they from, their education, what shows they’ve had, the media — we will tell you how it’s done, what to buy,” she said.

With customers ranging from the novice art buyer to a seasoned collector, Art Interiors clients also represent a wide age range.

“We have retired people moving into a condo to people in their 20s buying their first piece of art — or even 13-year-olds,” Wood said, adding that some of their clients are people looking for Bar Mitzvah gifts.

The walls in the gallery change on a weekly basis to display different artists and artwork throughout the year. There is also an annual show “Festival of Smalls”, which starts Nov. 9, where the walls are adorned with pieces of art at affordable prices — from $55 to $250.

“Anyone who has ever wanted a piece but can’t afford one by the artists can now afford a piece by them because they’ll all compromise their price point so that they can be a part of the show,” Diamond Katz says, noting the festival usually sees “a lineup out the door.”

From working with celebrity designers to maintaining longtime staff and selecting work from artists, the pair say the people they’ve been able to meet are a highlight of the last 20 years. Another thrill is seeing the pieces they selected to carry in-store on TV while watching a home interview or seeing photographs of how clients have incorporated their artwork in their homes.

While the industry has changed in the past two decades, they note their advice to clients has remained the same when it comes to selecting art: “Go with what you love.”

“A lot of people think of buying art as the last step in the decorating phase, which kind of drives me nuts because people should just buy art because they love that piece and not because it’s the last thing to put up on the wall,” Diamond Katz commented. “People have to stop thinking of it as something to decorate your wall; they have to think of it as something you’re starting to collect and something you’re going to have enjoyment from.”

When clients walk in with a paint swatch or the colour of their furniture set, Diamond Katz and Wood immediately tell them to put it away, they say, because they want them to like a piece of art before they find a place for it in their homes.

“Go with what you love,” Wood repeats. “Don’t buy for investment; buy for what you love.

“Lots of things will no longer be with you in 20 years, but art you’ll always have.”

Local Designer: Live Beautiful

DESIGN DUO: Live Beautiful’s Laura Hart, left, and Alison Nasmith show off pieces from their Rough and Tumble collection at Aime, a Yorkville boutique carrying their line.

DESIGN DUO: Live Beautiful’s Laura Hart, left, and Alison Nasmith show off pieces from their Rough and Tumble collection at Aime, a Yorkville boutique carrying their line.

While taking a jewellery-making course, Laura Hart and Alison Nasmith ignored their instructor’s design advice, which proved to be a key step in starting their own business.

The wide band ring — made much bigger than their teacher saw fit — wound up being the first piece they sold upon launching their jewellery line Live Beautiful online nearly two years ago.

“Someone from Australia bought it and it was really exciting,” Hart says.

“It was amazing because at that point we had this little Etsy shop and maybe our friends and family would buy things but it was like somebody bought it from Australia!” Nasmith adds. “It was cool and she got it and she loved it and to make something for someone and to know that we’re a part of their life in that little way is great.”

In contrast to poorly made, cheap and mass-produced items, the pair hope to challenge the marketplace by creating unique, handcrafted and sustainable jewellery using recycled materials, found objects and vintage pieces.

“We try to find ethical stones and small suppliers so we’re trying to put a positive product out into the world that still looks great,” Nasmith says. “We offer jewellery with a conscience so a big part of our brand is making everything by hand.”

In April Live Beautiful’s most recent collection, Rough and Tumble, debuted at three stores in Ontario including Aime boutique on Davenport Road, where they held a launch celebration in early May.

This month will also mark the release of the company’s bridal creations, which along with their other pieces are created in their Annex office near Bloor and Bathurst streets, featuring statement pieces that incorporate embroidery, beads and vintage lace.

“It’s very special to be part of somebody’s day and to create something old,” Nasmith says, adding a lot of their bridal work is custom made and she also designed her own wedding ring. “I love using pieces from people’s collection like working with their grandmother’s broach and turning that into a bib necklace. It’s personal and beautiful.”

Prior to this endeavour, Hart and Nasmith became fast friends while attending university in Kingston, where they fittingly worked together in a jewellery store and would constantly critique newly arriving stock.

Several years later they decided to take a jewellery-making course to spend more time together and to do something creative.

WHAT'S THE STORY? Laura Hart and Alison Nasmith create jewellery with a conscience made with materials sourced from small suppliers. Many of the pieces have a back story like the Herkimer diamonds, which are from an Amish farm in upstate New York.

WHAT’S THE STORY? Laura Hart and Alison Nasmith create jewellery with a conscience made with materials sourced from small suppliers. Many of the pieces have a back story like the Herkimer diamonds, which are from an Amish farm in upstate New York.

“We just kind of realized that we had a talent for it, as we were making stuff in the class, we were like this is something that feels right, it feels natural,” Hart says. “It was coming from us organically, like we weren’t really trying to do things but they were just coming out really cool.”

With varying skills and aesthetics, the pair say they bring different things to the table and complement each other well.

“I have maybe like 700 ideas and maybe three of them are good,” Nasmith says. “I just try a bunch of different things and lots of our designs are kind of accidents. I’m trying to do something else and then I’m like I don’t like it like that but maybe if I do this instead and there’s things I’ll do half way and Laura will come and tell me how she sees it.”

While their personal favourites of the current collection include the large Roxy studs and the bullet shaped Presley earrings, a popular draw are several pieces made with Herkimer diamonds they carried over from a previous line.

“A big thing we do is work with people on Etsy, we just feel like it’s a great community and they’re all small businesses all run by individuals and we want to support that,” Hart says. “The Herkimers are great on many different levels. They are beautiful pieces, people really respond to them aesthetically but they have such a great story.”

With a background in academics, Nasmith devotes a lot of time to researching where the materials come from, the story behind it and making sure everything is conflict free to see if the items suit their brand.

While investigating a batch of Herkimer diamonds, she learned they were from an Amish farm in upstate New York.

“The story just totally captured my heart,” Nasmith says. “They kind of come naturally through soil and they’re quite tough and the farm has horses that plow the fields and the stones were bothering their hooves so they let one miner very infrequently come to the farm and clear them out so its easier plowing and that’s where we get the stones. We paired them with 100 percent recycled metals from a supplier where our purchase goes towards animal welfare organizations. It looks great and it feels great, it’s like a lovely ethical piece and it really embodies what we’re trying to do with the line.”

As the business venture continues to grow, Hart and Nasmith hope the values of the brand will resonate with customers who also like the designs aesthetically.

“A big part of what we’re trying to do is create something that has a story,” Hart says. “It’s creating something that is different and hopefully they’ll want to invest in something they can keep forever and pass on to future generations. That would be the greatest thing if we could create something that people wanted to keep forever.”