Member Spotlight

Spotlight on Esther Bordet

We had the pleasure of learning more about longtime Yukonstruct member, Esther Bordet, and her new business. Esther has been a member of Yukonstruct since the early days, first joining the old makerspace where she constructed elements of her cabin (which she built herself!), transitioning to the current Makespace, and then becoming a Cospace member shortly after it opened. She brings a lot of expertise, humour, and interesting conversation to the space, and we are so happy she is a part of our community. 

Hi Esther! So, I know you’re a geologist and artist, but it looks like you are working on something new. Can you tell me about your new business?

In the fall of 2020, I launched a new business called Yukon Graphic Recording. I offer illustration and live graphic recording services.

Can you tell me the difference between graphic recording and illustration? How are these two services different?

These two services use a similar set of skills. Both take concepts and ideas, map them, and present them in a clear and synthesized way by combining text and images. Ultimately, these are tools which can clarify and elevate the process and outcome of a project. 

The main difference between these two services is the delivery format, the product generated, and the audience they address.

  • Live graphic recording is a powerful tool to facilitate productive group meetings or individual brainstorming sessions. It is a very effective way to visualize the different components and steps in a project, and making a plan for moving forward. The outcome of graphic recording usually consists of raw visual notes captured on a paper board during a meeting. Graphic recording is a tool which can be used to advance a project within an organization and achieve clarity within the team.
  • The illustrations I have created in the past consist of 1 to 3 pages of visual summaries, including graphic elements and text. They are visual communications tools, usually published in reports, posters or web pages. The creative workflow involves researching visual elements and layouts, creating multiple rounds of sketches, and eventually turning these sketches into a clean, nicely laid out deliverable.  The outcome being a communication tool for the client that will easily and clearly reach the intended audience, often the public.

My website includes examples of both live graphic recording projects, or finished illustration work

That sounds really useful! How did you get into illustration and graphic recording?

I used to work for the Yukon Government, with the Yukon Geological Survey. I decided to quit my job because I wanted to ramp up my existing artistic practice as a professional activity. 

A week after I quit my government job, I was having lunch in the Cospace kitchen, when John Glynn-Morris came and introduced himself . When I told him my background in geological mapping, and that I am an artist, he asked if I had ever thought of combining the two. He mentioned this tool called graphic recording (which I had never heard of) – a few weeks later I was working my first gig at a meeting he was facilitating. And I really saw how impactful it was. 

During the following months, I had a few other contracts, all thanks to new Cospace connections. One of these projects was with Dennis Zimmermann, which led to more collaboration in 2020, including both graphic recording and illustrations. 

One contract leading to another, I decided to fully establish my illustration services as a separate business, distinct from my artistic practice

It sounds like you discovered a new way to put your illustration skills to work. Your background as an artist obviously lends itself well to this type of work, but have you found your geology background helpful?

Absolutely! I think my geology background is helping me in several ways:

  1. My scientific background means I am used to dealing with multiple layers of complex data, analyzing the data, and synthesizing them. Most of the illustration projects I have been working on deal with complex issues (land, communities, industry, health), involving several layers of historic data or events, and need to be communicated in an effective way, usually to the public. So my scientific brain really helps me focus on the important facts.
  2. One of my favorite definitions of graphic recording is that it consists of mapping ideas. Since I already specialize in mapping rocks, why not transfer the process of map making into a different field? A geological map comprises colours, lines, and symbols. It is a synthesis of months, or years, of scientific research. However, for a map to be useful, it has to look good! The map design and layout is as important as the map content, and in this case, visual skills totally support the delivery of the information. What I have found is that this principle of presenting complex content in a visually appealing way enhances the potential of all kinds of data. 
  3. My field geologist experience is also very important in a Yukon context. I have a unique understanding of the land, acquired from years of roaming remote mountains on foot. During my time working in the field, I didn’t learn only about rocks, but also about vegetation and animals. I have already had a couple of opportunities to transfer this knowledge of the Yukon wilderness into illustration projects, which I am very grateful for!

It sounds like your skills are uniquely well suited to this work. What do you think are the greatest benefits to this service?

My services can be seen as a vehicle, or filter, helping people to see clarity in the midst of a complex process. The use of graphic recording or illustrations completely depends on the project needs, but can also be complementary. 

Projects are like stories, and they really benefit from a visual output, which illustrates the dynamic evolution of thoughts and ideas over time. Ultimately, the text and image content create a cohesive map from which to organize and plan from.

It sounds like you are revealing a hidden potential in not just the content of the information being discussed, but of the contributions being made throughout the meeting or presentation. That must be really satisfying. What do you enjoy most about this work?

I really enjoy learning about new subjects! In the past year, I have worked with a French university on a Europe-wide translation program, I have learned about the Chinook salmon life cycle and its importance in the culture and life of Yukon First Nations, and I have created an illustrated timeline for the Dawson Regional Planning Commission. I also always learn new skills and tools: last fall I created my first animation for Yukon U (IncubateNorth).

Is there an area of running your own business that you would love to get some help in?

I still spend a lot of time making plans rather than getting/doing actual work, and sometimes I feel like I could use an assistant, especially for business and marketing decisions!

Okay, maybe someone reading this knows someone who can help you with that. Thanks for sharing so much with us. Before you go, do you have any content recommendations? Cool Instagram accounts, podcasts, books, music, standup comics. . . anything that brightens your day, or enriches your life in some small or big way?

I am a big comic book reader, and I find the selection at the Whitehorse Library really amazing. I read comics in French and English, so that means the selection is twice as big for me! One graphic novel I have read lately is called “Paying the land”, by American comic author Joe Sacco. I believe everyone who lives in the Yukon or the North should read this book, whether they are into comics or not. I was very impressed at how the author handles the subject of residential schools. It isn’t an easy subject for anyone to talk about, let alone illustrating it! I think it works really well in this book, because the story isn’t actually told by the author (a white American). All he does is facilitate the storytelling, using his artist skills to give their voice to NWT First Nations.

Thanks so much, Esther!

Hall of Innovators Awards Ceremony

This year, we were so proud to launch the inaugural Hall of Innovators Awards Ceremony! A call was made to the public to nominate Yukoners who have shown exceptional dedication to improving the lives of others in the territory with their innovative spirit and contributions – the nominations that came in were heartwarming and inspiring. 

To celebrate the selected nominees and present the awards, we had a small, Covid sanctioned ceremony which was live streamed to a supportive and enthusiastic audience. You can watch the full awards ceremony here(link inserted).

The awards presented to the nominees were traditional feast dishes designed by local Tlingit/Irish First nation artist, Mark Preston, and made right here in Yukonstruct’s Makespace woodshop.   These Feast dishes symbolize the gesture of hospitality and welcoming, and are a Northwest Coast Indigenous art form.

Two categories of awards were created to recognize our local innovators:  A Lifetime Achievement Award and a Notable Innovator Award.

Please join us in celebrating these outstanding and inspiring community leaders:

Ben Powers, Carl Burgess, Tarek Bos-Jabbar

Solvest and ColdAcre

Notable Innovators Award

Ben Powers of Solvest, and Carl Burgess, and Tarek Bos – Jabbar, of sister company ColdAcre Food Systems, received a Notable Innovators Award for the incredible work they are doing to bring renewable solar energy to the North, and to address the issue of food security, expanding local options, growing fresh food year-round, and providing all-season growing systems for northerners..

The nominations described Ben and his team as “people who do the right thing, even when no one is looking”. Innovators that are driven to support their local community through creating training opportunities, strong relationships and partnerships, and jobs, and who do so with the utmost of integrity.

Solvest and ColdAcre are leading Yukon to a more sustainable future and we are thrilled to recognize the importance of their work.

Gina Nagano

Community Safety Officer Program

Notable Innovators Award

Gina Nagano received a Notable Innovators Award for her significant work in implementing Community Safety Officer Programs and crime prevention through environmental design in many First Nation communities across the Yukon. 

After a 20-year career with the RCMP, Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin citizen Gina Nagano devoted her time and attention to bringing change and reform to the justice system here in the Yukon, and across Canada. Gina founded Shëzho Zhùr – House of Wolf and Associates consulting firm to take a holistic and community-led approach to justice- she believes that justice is an integral part to the wellbeing of a community and it can not be separate from that.

Gina’s work of innovating and recreating the justice process in First Nation communities’ is having an incredible impact on both individuals and communities in the Yukon and we are humbled to present this award.

Ride for Dad Yukon

Yukon Chapter of Ride for Dad

Notable Innovators Awards

Sean Secord accepted a Notable Innovators Award on behalf of The Yukon chapter of Ride for Dad for leading the important initiative of raising money and creating awareness and openness about the subject of prostate cancer – something that has traditionally been uncomfortable for many people to address. 

The commitment and innovative approach to raising funds and awareness for this worthy cause is illustrated by the fact that, in spite of being the most northern chapter, with the shortest riding season, and the smallest population, the Ride for Dad Yukon chapter consistently lands in the top three locations across Canada (out of about 40), to raise the most money each year. This is due, in part, to the wildly successful Ride for Dad Comedy night – an annual event thought up and executed by the Yukon team.

In addition to raising money and awareness, Ride for Dad Yukon hosted a national summit in 2017 with chapters from across Canada attending. The event showcased researchers and their projects. This was the only time in Ride for Dad’s 20 year history that a summit of this nature was held. 

This is a team who shows relentless dedication to improving the lives of others in our community and their impact is commendable.

Sydney Oland

The Food Hub

Notable Innovators Award

Sidney Oland received a Notable Innovators Award for her work in establishing “The Food Hub”. 

Sidney took her experience and knowledge gained from building the first chocolate factory north of 60 and used it to develop and open a complete commercial kitchen and food manufacturing facility where she provides other small food startups an opportunity to grow in an affordable space with access to support and expertise.

With the successful opening and operation of the “The Food Hub”, she has provided the space and opportunity that was desperately needed, and a blueprint for the rest of the Yukons’ small businesses to support and foster growth in industry.

In addition to creating opportunities for other food based businesses, she is committed to sourcing  local ingredients first for her own manufacturing, which has allowed her to work with many other producers in the territory.

Sydney is a business innovator who generously shares her talents and competence, setting the stage for future entrepreneurs to flourish. 

Gord Duncan

Total North

Lifetime Achievement 

Gord Duncan was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in building Total North Communications and for doing so in a way that inspired an enthusiasm for innovation in his team and the broader community. Dan Johnson, current President of Total North Communications, and Gord’s son, Brandon Duncan, accepted the award and spoke about Gord’s contributions. 

Though Gord’s most visible achievement  is starting Total North Communications, a technology and communications company in the Yukon, he is best known by his colleagues, partners, family, and the Yukon community for being an exceedingly decent person and compelling leader. 

He brought innovation to the Yukon in more ways than can be cited in this short blog, but a brief snapshot of his contributions include delivering the first cable TV installations in North America, becoming the largest satellite internet service company in the North, installing one of the first fiber networks in the North to service Dawson City with distributed TV, and growing Total North to one of the largest technology integrators in the north with 24 employees and a diverse set of offerings.

A relentless inventor, his first stand out invention was Total Point –  a low power radio device that could be programmed remotely and listened to on a standard vehicle or home FM radio. Aimed at emergency response, this was a tool that allowed people to communicate critical safety information and updates. This product took Gord around the world as a member of team Canada, a group of innovators selected to go overseas with Jean Chretien and some government officials to attempt to drum up business.

His vision for innovation in the North wasn’t limited to communications or technology. He managed his teams and business relationships with the same degree of conscientiousness and integrity, this approach brought out the best in everyone he dealt with. His impact will be felt for generations to come and lay the groundwork for future innovations.

The cohort of selected nominees all contributed something unique and impactful to our community. We feel honoured to get to recognize them and humbled to get to benefit from their dedication to creating a thriving, more  prosperous, and innovative landscape in the Yukon.

 

To honour the award recipients of this year and future years, and to pay tribute to the spirit of innovation in the Yukon,  there will be a Hall of Innovators at NorthLight Innovation, designed by Tlingit First Nation artist, Mark Preston. We look forward to unveiling his work in the coming months. 

The awards were a huge success, and we look forward to adding names in the coming years. Special thanks goes to Yukon government Department of Economic Development for their support that made these awards possible. Also, we’d like to sincerely thank the selection committee members for volunteering their time to review the nominations.

Photo credit: Vince Fedoroff

MEET THE MAKERS: ASHLEY

Meet the Makers is a series of interviews to help you get to know the people who are building our community. Ashely is our new Operations Assistant.

Why did you join Yukonstruct?

I joined Yukonstruct because there is so much opportunity! I love learning and trying new things, so having the opportunity to do that while working as an operations assistant feels perfect for me.

What do you like to make?

I love making jam and friends. I like making mitts, slippers, and jewelry when I have the patience for it! It is so rewarding to work with fur and leather but it isn’t always the easiest.

What do you want to build at Yukonstruct?

I’m interested in the metal shop! I’ve never tried working with metal before and I’d love to learn how. I think it would be so cool to make an ulu, just like my Ittuq (grandfather) used to. I have a few uluit that he made for my anaana (mother), and she gave them to me as a gift a few years ago.

What inspires you?

My culture inspires me most. I try to incorporate Inuit values in my art and ways of doing, which makes it even more fun to share with others.

What do you like the most in the space? Why?

I love the wide range of makers, entrepreneurs, and handypersons! Having these skills in a concentrated space allows for so much creativity so I’m looking forward to getting to know the folks that create this ambitious environment.

Startup Bootcamp Called: Women Answered

Yukonstruct welcomed their newest Startup Bootcamp cohort with a live streamed event at NorthLight Innovation that combined both in-person introductions (at a safe distance apart) and zoom-in attendees. The event was the first opportunity for the participants in this fall’s cohort to meet one another and for the public to get their first glimpse of the businesses they may soon get to experience themselves.  

A third cohort driven by women with IMPACT

10 businesses will take part in our third Startup Bootcamp to date. Among the things that make this cohort stand out from previous Bootcamps is how well it reflects the realities of entrepreneurship in the Yukon. Of the 12 founders enrolled in the program, 11 are women. In the Yukon, 43.7% of businesses are owned by women, while nationwide that number shrinks to just 16%.  Another exciting direction this cohort has taken is the nature of the businesses being explored are almost all experiential businesses that will directly impact the community. Think experiential bakeries, an antique shop, a Play Emporium, just to name a few.  These are businesses that will bring happy outings and experiences to the community. 

Now more than ever, work-life balance is important. The Startup Bootcamp program puts the individual behind the business first.

Each program is designed to meet the needs of its current cohort, so while everyone walks away with the same knowledge, they are delivered in a manner that best suits the unique requirements of the participants. Using a combination of theory, practice, and guest speakers, the program imparts fundamental knowledge to building a successful business. Each participant will be equipped with a thorough understanding of topics such as:

  • Customer Discovery
  • Sales Fundamentals
  • Marketing
  • How to Develop your Team and Talent
  • Attracting and Securing Capital and Financing

Though there is much substantive ground covered in the program, what Yukonstruct is most proud of is the holistic approach they take in ushering these budding entrepreneurs into careers with a healthy, balanced mindset. By connecting the founders with professional coaches and mentors, the participants get the benefit of the acquired wisdom from experienced entrepreneurs and the emotional support required to handle the ups and downs inherent to starting your own business. Access to professional and life coaches and experienced mentors is one of the pillars of the Bootcamp. 

Yukonstruct’s in-house facilitator of the Startup Bootcamp, William Lechuga, shares his excitement about this approach, “I think something really special about the Bootcamp this fall is that we are offering coaching for this cohort, and that is a tremendous perk, but more importantly it speaks to our values to humanize businesses and to care for the person behind the business. I think Yukoners, and Canadians overall, will be happy to hear our program has embedded coaching to ensure the people who are changing the landscape of our communities with their businesses are being set up for professional and personal success.”

The Bootcamp started as a combination of in-person and online classes but has temporarily moved to an exclusively online program. This is the third Bootcamp to run since the program was introduced one year ago. A total of 16 companies have now graduated and the current cohort is slated to graduate this winter. With all the inspiring success stories already piling up, demand for the Bootcamp continues to grow. The success of this program can be seen in the growth in alumni businesses like Grandma Treesaw’s Yukon Bannock, Cold Acre Food Systems, YukonGrow, DiscoVelo, Two Mile Asset Management, and YZED projects.

The next iteration of the Startup Bootcamp will begin in March 2021. With a focus on STEM companies, you can expect to see a lot of buzz around the ideas being explored in that cohort. Registration will open late November 2020. 

Startup Canada’s 2020 Canadian Export Challenge

Startup Canada’s 2020 Canadian Export Challenge (CXC) is fast approaching, with regional pitch competitions running from September 14th to 21st.
Despite pivoting to a fully digital event series due to COVID-19, our team has been working hard to make #CXC2020 the best Canadian Export Challenge yet. With an exciting program agenda including presentations by leading experts in global entrepreneurship, the virtual growth lounge and our star-studded panels, there is something for everyone at this year’s CXC. Want to know more about the Canadian Export Challenge’s expert guests and further resources to help you on your journey to becoming a global entrepreneur? Look no further!

Welcoming new members to the Yukonstruct board

On July 22, many Yukonstruct members joined the board for the organization’s annual general meeting. The AGM was a success, and we’d like to take a moment to thank and acknowledge our outgoing board members, and welcome a few new members!

 

The Yukonstruct team would like to give special thanks to outgoing President, Glenn Piwowar (though he promises not to be a stranger! You’ll see him in Makespace and at Repair Café). Glenn has served the organization for many years as a board member, and has been an integral part of the Yukonstruct community since it first began. We’re so grateful for the guidance, time and passion Glenn has dedicated to the organization.

 

We’d also like to thank and acknowledge outgoing board members Chris O’Brien, who previously has served as both President and Secretary for the organization, and Maxim Naylor. Both Chris and Maxim brought strong guidance, humor and dedication to the startup community to our board, and we are so grateful for their contributions.

Members voted on four open seats, and 7 candidates put forward their names. We are SO excited to welcome three new board members: Antoinette GreenOliph, Erin Holm, Vernon Asp, and re-elected member Barrett Horne. 

 

You can read the full bios of all board members here. Antoinette brings many years of experience as a restaurateur and is well known for her love and support of the Whitehorse community. Vernon is an incredible artist, educator and mentor to many. He is currently involved with the Makespace community, and works out of one of the studio spaces. Erin has been a proud Makespace member since the day she moved to the Yukon, and currently produces her Den Designs in the woodshop. Each of these new members bring a strong depth of experience as entrepreneurs and community leaders, and we are honoured and thrilled to have them on our board.

 

Please join us in giving Antoinette, Vernon and Erin warm welcomes! And of course, huge thanks to the members continuing to serve: Stephanie Hawkins, Selene Vakharia, Barrett Horne, Antonio Zedda, Bob Shap, and Kathie Szpajcher. Yukonstruct’s new executive:

  • President: Stephanie Hawkins
  • Vice President: Selene Vakharia
  • Treasurer: Kathie Szpajcher
  • Secretary: Barrett Horne

 

Grandma Treesaw’s Yukon Bannock is getting prepared for the U.S. North West market!

2020 YUKONSTRUCT BOOTCAMP KICKOFF – Photo by Alistair Maitland Photography

Teresa Ward, owner of Grandma Treesaw’s Yukon Bannock and recent graduate of Yukonstruct Startup Bootcamp, has been invited by the Trade Commissioner Service’s British Columbia-Yukon office and Seattle office to participate in a pilot project.

Teresa is the only participant from the Yukon, along with 5 other indigenous-owned companies from British Columbia.

This is a pilot project with room for only 6 indigenous-owned small companies that are in food, beverages or consumer goods, with enough ability to produce and motivation to actively get prepared for the U.S. North West market.

This pilot-program will support the participants with a range of export services in order to establish goals and objectives for Washington State market entry, organize meetings with retailers, develop appropriate marketing material and set up an e-commerce avenue for Canadian companies to sustain follow-up sales in Washington State and Oregon.

Teresa is of the Crow Clan, born and raised with Tlingit traditions. She produces and distributes bannock mix throughout many Yukon retailers.

Teresa graduated from Yukonstruct Startup Bootcamp last spring and continues to be supported by the Yukonstruct team since then. Yukonstruct Startup Bootcamp is an intensive 3-month program for early-stage entrepreneurs to develop and validate their business idea. The next cohort will start in September, Yukon startups and entrepreneurs have until August 21st to apply. This program is funded by the Government of Yukon – department of Economic Development and the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.

Meet the Team: Josephine

Meet the Makers is a series of interviews to help you get to know the people who are building our community. Josephine is our new Events Coordinator.

 Why did you join Yukonstruct?

My desire to join Yukonstruct was as a result of Yukonstructs’ vision to empower Yukoners to bring their ideas to life in a creative and innovative way. Giving back and community development is a significant part of my personal values and career. I was excited that an organization values the community as much as I do. It was an opportunity for me to contribute to an exciting, fast-moving organization.

What do you like most about Yukonstruct (Cospace /Makespace / Launchspace) being up and running?

I love the fact that creativity innovation and ideas all meet at one place. Yukonstruct to me, is like the thumb you can’t make a knot without it. We don’t just provide you a space to work but also provide support for your business development when you need one!

Why should people become Yukonstruct members?

Even if you are not creative, being in the company of creative minds makes you one. You will not know how creative you are until you walk into our makespace. You will be amazed at the ideas that will run through your mind.

What do you like to make?

I love to bake bread and pie. I am not a pro yet but something good enough to make you ask for more. 

What do you want to build at Yukonstruct?

I want to make a matching shirt for my husband and son.

What inspires you?

Learning new things. The more makers I meet, the more I want to build something and the more confident I get looking at the resources (both human and equipment) available.

What do you like the most in the space? Why?

The entire community that comes with the space. It’s a great feeling knowing that when I need support in making/building something and I get stuck as a beginner,  there will always be someone to give me a hand.

Checking In On Firebean Coffee Roasters

Local entrepreneurs and business owners are having a unique experience during this unprecedented time of COVID 19. Many of them have responded in fascinating and inspiring ways; applying the grit, creativity and courage inherent in starting your own business. We believe there is great value in seeing this through their lens.

In our Checking In On series, we will share their experiences of running a business under circumstances they likely never imagined, hopefully provide some inspiration, and an opportunity to feel connected to some of the people who make this community special.

Our first entrepreneur is Mike Russo of Firebean Coffee Roasters:

How are you adapting your business to the new way of doing things?

Online, online, online.

We have had to shift how we connect with our customer base.  Although some of our wholesale partners are intact, tourism and gift shop traffic has been significantly impacted. That being said, our local customer and their needs/wants haven’t gone anywhere, so we’ve adjusted how we get our product to them.

We’ve gone online in a bigger way than ever and reduced barriers to safely getting Firebean with discount codes and free contact-less delivery. We’ve been spending a lot of time learning how to deliver a comfortable online purchase experience, the universe of SEO and its impact on website and online behaviour. Facebook ads too!

Conversion rates, web copy, abandoned carts – all of it – is a work in progress. In a funny way, COVID has rattled up our model for the better. . . we have always wanted to up our online game a bit and this has pushed us to do so rapidly.

What, if anything, will you keep from your new approach once the social distancing measures have been lifted?

The e-commerce component of our business is here for good. Whether we like it or not, our customer base is shopping online. We will continue to develop how we connect and serve our customer with an online model, post COVID 19.

The free, contact-less delivery has also been pretty smooth. People peek out from behind doors, pop-up over fences, and show up in windows with a wave. That can be kind of exciting during this “distancing”.

Also, I have 3 kids at home under 7 so a 1 hour solo delivery session is a dream sometimes lol! (editor’s note: that does sound dreamy, let me know if you need an assistant).

I will continue to learn about e-commerce and offering delivery, if the market says they want it, of course.

What new observations have you gleaned about your business, customers, or community as a result of this situation?

One observation is you can see how sensitive our connection to one another is – how much our connections matter! When one takes a hit, it trickles down and hurts everyone, when one succeeds; it helps others.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Whitehorse, and its people, are awesome! Super supportive of local businesses, especially in times like these. There seems to be a stronger sense of community than ever before. People are donating, liking and sharing posts, propping people up, making lists of services being offered, having contests, offering discounts etc…  People popping out of the wood-work to lend a hand and inspiring me to personally do the same! In fact, as a way to give back, we are offering 10% of sales on select sizes to the food bank!

How can Yukoners continue to support you?

Offering feedback on what they want, what they like, what they don’t. Liking posts, sharing posts, purchasing coffee. Buying anything local!

Thanks so much, Mike! We really appreciate how quickly you were able to pivot and problem solve during a stressful time, and not just because we still get to drink your coffee, but because it is really inspiring to see.

If you are a member of NorthLight, checkout our Cospace and Makespace Facebook groups for a little treat :).