Spotlight on Rivers to Ridges

We got to sit down with Erin Nicolardi of Rivers to Ridges, to hear the inspiring story of how Erin and her business partner, Emily Payne, created a space for young people to learn on the land. They are doing important and humbling work and we are grateful to get to share a little bit about the incredible contributions they are making to the Yukon.

Tell me about Rivers to Ridges

Rivers to Ridges is a social enterprise focused on empowering a diverse range of northerners to develop meaningful connections to the land. Right now, we are focused on programs for children and youth (3 – 18-year olds), and we’re moving into many age ranges as we grow. All our work centers around supporting young people in connecting to the land with our core values as empathy, awareness and community.

We’ve also expanded the scope of our work to include developing curriculum and educator training opportunities for people who work with young people. So, we’re continuing to grow as we uncover the needs of the communities we are serving.

Can you tell me a bit about the work you do to support people who work with youth?

We design outdoor and land-based education for youth workers, recreation programmers, and teachers and then train them on how to apply it to their classes. We also support existing programs by providing things like staff training or creating customized programs. For instance, we work with organizations like Yukon College to redevelop courses they are offering to bring in more of a land-based approach for folks that are in, for example, early childhood education.

What sort of land-based curriculum are you offering and how are you getting it into schools?

We developed a resource all about Yukon salmon that’s connected to the new BC curriculum. We’ve been working on the Salmon in the Schools Curriculum for three years – piloting it, visiting schools to see what works/ what doesn’t, getting input from educators, reviewing it with Elders and indigenous consultants, and we’ve finally just launched it. We recently trained a bunch of educators from across the Yukon with the resource and will provide the support they need to run it in their classrooms and communities.

We’re also designing a curriculum to revitalise the Caribou in the Schools program, which highlights the importance of  the Southern Lakes Caribou. The aim is to support  teachers to engage their students in understanding and respecting Southern Lakes Caribou through experiential education on the land.

Recently, we have been contracted to develop educational curriculum and resources for BC Parks. With the help of our larger team, we are redesigning a province-wide program for children and writing educational booklets that are in all curriculum connected for distribution across BC.

Encouraging and supporting educators to localize the content by bringing in local Elders and Knowledge Holders is one of the main reasons why we’ve started exploring curriculum design. Once there’s a resource available, educators can tailor the program to meet the specific cultural needs of each community.

How did Rivers to Ridges come about?

In 2014, I had been invited to come see what the Yukon was like by a friend who I did an outdoor experiential teaching program with at Queen’s University. I got a contract working with her partner, who is a teacher at the Wood Street School – an outdoor experiential high school program for Yukon kids. My first trip with the school was a hike. I had never hiked before, I had brand new hiking boots – which was awful –  and all the wrong gear. On the trip, there was a chaperone who looked like they really knew what they were doing, which was super intimidating for me. It turned out to be Emily, and she took care of me for the whole trip. She made it so I could sleep warmly, and helped coach me through blisters and pain and leaving my family – which was emotional for me at the time.

A few months later, Emily got stuck on another Wood Street trip and needed support, so I went to rescue her. We ended up getting snowed in in Watson Lake which gave us an opportunity to talk about our backgrounds and what we wanted to do with our lives.

We discovered that we both wanted to create more outdoor learning options for young children in Yukon communities that weren’t focussed on hardcore physical pursuits, but more on empathy, awareness and community. We wanted to develop outdoor programming that encouraged and supported soft skills like self awareness, connection to the land, supporting identity, leadership and curiosity. It is also important to us that we honour the Indigenous heritage of the land – being that we’re both settlers here – by forming meaningful partnerships and relationships with First Nations. So, when we realized these values were in common, we knew we were going to work together. In 2015, the City of Whitehorse hired us as contractors to test out a Saturday program. We ran that program from September to June with a group of kids – which was a huge undertaking given that we were both also employed full time – but we wanted to see if it would work.  Those Saturday programs grew into family programs, camp programs (which we’re in our 5th year of now) and being invited to different communities to share our resources with people who are working with young people and want to do more outside.

It sounds like there is a lot of passion driving what you and Emily do. Can you talk a bit about the passion behind your work?

At the heart of it, it’s being present with kids, and connecting with them on the land. It’s extremely motivating to be with young people when they’re having these big moments or pushing through with a skill that’s been difficult for them to develop. It is also very affirming when they come back as youth leaders to share what they’ve learned with the younger kids. To see that the work is meaningful for the young people that we serve and to know we have been able to form meaningful relationships with several First Nations feels good. Elders want to come back and work with our programs and that means, to me, that what we are offering is valuable and serving needs that are important to the community, so that is really motivating too.

Those are some external things that inform our passions that we are seeing over time. When we were just starting out, it was really driven by a deep-seated feeling that children deserve to spend time meaningfully on the land. That doesn’t always happen in an age where technology has grown so much, and feeling like we can contribute something to support a balanced life for kids has always felt important.

So, how has NorthLight helped along the way?

When Emily and I were first testing out Rivers to Ridges programs and trying to figure out how to make it our full-time job, we became members of Cospace so we could devote 2 to 3 days a week working on it. From there we met tons of people who were excited about our project and who connected us to small contracts, mentors and new ideas. A fellow Cospace member, Patti Balsillie, told us about the Arctic Inspiration Prize, which we then applied to and were successful in receiving $100,000 towards the Nest Forest School. And that prize launched not just the preschool, but a whole bunch of connections that continue to this day. It also provided us with seed money to float us through some contracts that may not have otherwise been easy for us to take on as a small, two person part-time team.  We met Dennis Zimmerman through Cospace and have been working with him on the Salmon Curriculum for years.  Yeah, from there everything has grown.

Through connections made at Cospace, we met the people who would guide us through all the market research we needed to do, mentors in the community, and the people who would eventually help us incorporate. We were fortunate to be a part of one of the first (co)lab cohorts in 2017 (previous version of Launchspace), where we got the mentorship support and resources to take our ideas to the next level.

Now we have office space in the new NorthLight building, which has been huge to have a place to leave our things, be united on what we’re doing, and to welcome a new staff member Rosalind! So much has happened since starting as a little part time experiment at the old Cospace.

I bet you know about a ton of interesting books; can you recommend any?

Balanced and Barefooted” by Angela J. Hanscom is about supporting unstructured free play for young people and why that is different than adult initiated play and how important it is for kids to spend time on uneven surfaces, not dangerous but not completely safe environments.

Emily suggests “The Overstory” by Richard Powers, which she describes as interwoven stories that also merge into connection with trees in a poetic way. It sounds really beautiful.

Two of our favourite books to read with the children, are “The Other Way to Listen” and “Everyone Needs a Rock” by Bird Baylor. They are incredibly powerful books – really beautiful and deep, or just lovely depending on what level you’re reading them at.

Embers” by Richard Wagamese is a book that Rosalind carries around with her. It is little meditations that this man captured in his writing over a lifetime of morning meditation and they are very beautiful.

Summer camp registration for ages 5 to 13

We have an incredibly talented  team of returning staff who are super keen to share their joy with children through camp.

All Summer  programs currently run out of the Grey Mountain Primary School forest and back to the Hidden Lakes. The details are online and registration opens on Friday, February 28th at 9:00 AM.

The camps are grouped into age ranges and the groups also intermingle with each other. Often, the older kids will join the younger groups to take on leadership roles. For the older children there’s more skill-based learning and the younger children are focused on exploratory play and sensory awareness. We are outside everyday all day. And with the support of Yukon Energy, we continue to bring in Elders and Knowledge Holders that support sharing their cultural knowledge.

In order to break down financial barriers for people who want to attend the camp but have limited access, we have the Strong Roots Bursary Fund which is funded partially by our revenues and partially by community donations. We invite families to apply for our 2020 Bursary. Last year we were proud to welcome 6 participants who were supported by our bursary! We are looking forward to our biggest and most exciting camp season out in the forest yet!


10 Ways a Pre Accelerator Will Put Your Business on the Right Path

You have an idea for a startup and you want to know if it is going to set you on the path to successful entrepreneurship. You believe in the idea and you know there’s work to be done to prove its validity. But you want to be sure the work you are doing is right.

A Bootcamp program is designed to take your idea to the next level by guiding you through the next steps, so you can execute them with confidence. It’s the next move for many startups for a reason, well 10. . .

Here are the top 10 things you will get from a good pre-accelerator, or bootcamp, program:

1) Clarify that your idea can be a successful business

A bootcamp is a crash course in identifying if your idea can become a tangible business. The program identifies and tests the elements of your startup that will work and helps you refine the components that require some attention.

2) Connect to a supportive community and knowledgeable network

Joining a bootcamp program early in your journey will connect you to a cohort of people who can empathize with your experience, supportive facilitators who are invested in your business, and a network of experienced and skilled mentors with wisdom to pass on to you. Having social and emotional support in place at this juncture can make all the difference in how likely you are to see your idea through.

3) Lay the foundation that success is built on 

A Bootcamp clears your mind of the mental barriers keeping you from tackling the nitty gritty of a solid foundation to build on.  This is the space where things get done. Your elevator pitch, customer discovery, defining your sales cycle, customer acquisition, you’ll roll up your sleeves and get it done so that when your business or market require you to be agile and flexible, you can be -without breaking.  

4) Achieve more clarity than you thought was possible

As the saying goes “You don’t know what you don’t know”.  Bootcamp programs provide you with the environment to identify, test, and reiterate. You action the concepts you are learning in real time, allowing you to discover the nuances of your target market, the specifics of your sales funnel, and where you need to pivot. Ultimately, you gain a depth of understanding only experience can provide.

5) Grow your network

A bootcamp offers immediate access to mentors, investors and advisors. It gives you a head-start and teaches you how to expand your network as you grow and your business needs change..

6) Optimize your approach to work

Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. A bootcamp program will help to develop and hone your skills, identify undiscovered strengths, and support you in finding efficient ways to manage the challenging elements of your business. You will graduate from a bootcamp understanding the critical skills that will influence your success and where to seek outside support.

7) Manage Risks

Identifying the potential risks and vulnerabilities of your business is imperative to having a reliable contingency plan. Bootcamp programs prepare you to pivot, reassess, and carry on, mitigating damage to your business.

8) Set long-term objectives

One foot in front of the other can be a great survival tactic but a long-term plan is essential to keeping you on track and motivated.  This can be easier said than done, so having access to experienced mentors and facilitators can be a total game-changer. They have the experience and knowledge to predict what is going to set you on the path to success and what may hinder your growth or sustainability.

9) Stay motivated

Having a supportive community is essential to your mental health. But did you know it also keeps you motivated? Not only are you exposed to a steady supply of empathy, but you also get to see first hand the successes and fallbacks of your cohort. You get to learn from them and share the insights and lessons you’re picking up along the way. You’re teaching as much as you are learning, and that makes for a special experience.

10) Continued support post-program

The goal of an accelerator is to see you and your company succeed and that doesn’t happen in 12-short weeks. After you graduate from the program, you continue to have access to support with check-ins, invitations to programs and resources that are a fit with your business, and introductions to funders and investors. In short, by joining a pre-accelerator, you become a part of a broader community that is invested in seeing you thrive.


If you are interested in learning more about what a Bootcamp can do for you, book a free consultation to speak with one of our facilitators!


Spotlight on DiscoVelo

Hi Scott, can you tell me about DiscoVelo?

DiscoVelo is a software company founded in 2019 on the belief that mental and emotional wellness are tightly connected to physical activity. Exercise is obviously key to physical well-being, but the brain science research says that many common mental health challenges, like those related to anxiety and depression, are also most effectively addressed by increasing our heart rate. So, we’re developing software that will connect to standard fitness equipment to activate the powerful benefits of combining physical and mental activity. Our software will engage the user through an interactive digital interface with content that is powered by the pedalling of the stationary bike. Think ‘serious’ games that you ‘play’ by exercising. We are incorporating emerging brain science, principles of self-regulation, and the power of interactive digital media to help users unlock the potential of their brains and to improve physical and mental wellness along the way.

What is your vision for SpinReg?

Our product will initially be developed for student use in classrooms, connected to stationary bikes. This may seem like an odd combination, but we have a partnership with an organization called Run for Life. Through their program Sparks Fly, they have been placing stationary bikes in classrooms since 2012. The program has been incredibly successful in providing a classroom management tool for teachers and in helping students to regulate their energy and focus their attention through moving their bodies. In response to teachers’ requests, our initial product development goal is to amplify the value of those bikes and to encourage more students to use them by fitting them with fun and creative interactive digital media.

The long-term vision of DiscoVelo is expanding the platform to all kinds of fitness equipment across a range of user groups and settings. And since it isn’t just children who are struggling to fulfill their potential, we plan to reach beyond classrooms into corporate wellness programs. The World Health Organization quantified in 2018 a trillion dollars globally in lost productivity because of stress and anxiety in the workplace. Another report identified that for every dollar employers put into corporate wellness programs, they can get back on average $1.62 in productivity. So, employers and researchers are really starting to see the value in corporate wellness initiatives and mental health supports in the workplace. What we are developing is a great fit for those initiatives. We truly believe that the premise has the potential to scale beyond the classroom, with potential in physical rehabilitation, trauma recovery, and therapeutic applications.

Tell me about the passion that drives you and your partners to build this company?

My business partners and I share values around healthy living, having fun and making an impact – we really want to move the needle on something meaningful to all of us. So, the passion for us is in making an impact and seeing change in areas where we recognise there are problems. Developing something that will make it easier for people to take good care of themselves is important to us, and underpins our purpose. Providing a tool that will encourage a healthy mindset is something that is tangible for me. I have experienced workplace anxiety and through that, was fortunate enough to learn what a powerful tool exercise can be in managing stress, and in understanding the significance of the brain/body connection.

With DiscoVelo, we want to put all that research and good science to work to help people. We see teachers struggling in the classrooms, children getting less and less physical activity and the physical, mental, and emotional fallout from that. We see people battling stressful workplaces, and we believe we have something here that can make a difference. So, yeah, making an impact on that front is something we are really passionate about.

 So, how did DiscoVelo come about?

John Carson, a friend and now business partner, is also a fantastic massage therapist – which is how we met. During our sessions, he would tell me about the work he was doing with the Sparks Fly program and how successful it was at giving students a tool for managing their energy. They have placed more than 6,000 stationary bikes in classrooms across Canada, and continue to grow, with more than 100 bikes here in Yukon as well. Though teachers are very happy with the difference the bikes are making in their classrooms, many of them have indicated that some students who could really benefit from the bikes need something to compel them to use them – some kind of activity with a beginning, a middle, and an end that would draw them in and keep them there. John was hesitant to introduce another screen into children’s lives, but over time, with so many teachers asking for something like this, it became clear that developing a way to engage those reluctant students was going to increase the value of having the bikes in the classroom.

Just as he was arriving at this conclusion, I was looking for a different way to apply myself professionally. I had just left a consulting office and got a Yukonstruct hotdesk membership – I knew that the people who were making their ideas happen were concentrated at Yukonstruct. I had several friends who were Cospace members from way back, and I knew that amazing things were happening there. I was ready for a new challenge in my life and was focused on contributing to something that would have an impact. I didn’t know what that was going to be; however, I had a feeling that this was the place where I was going to find it – and that’s exactly what happened.

Through a series of meetings and discussions I had with people in the space, and after bringing John into the dialogue, we both realised, ”Hey, I think there might be something here!” The time was right, and the support networks were in place, so we had a glass of wine and decided to kick it off. It’s safe to say that we definitely would not be doing this right now if it weren’t for Yukonstruct.

Awesome! So, beyond existing as a place for people to meet and collaborate, how has Yukonstruct empowered you to take those initial ideas and conversations to the next level?

Cospace was instrumental to our origin story by introducing us to the community that we needed to be connected to. By the nature of the space, some of the connections were intentional and some were just serendipitous. But the seed for DiscoVelo was planted and germinated in Cospace.

Then we moved over to Launchspace with the inaugural Launchspace Startup Bootcamp pre-accelerator program where we spent 12 weeks validating our ideas and putting all the pieces in place to get our idea on solid footing.  We had an idea and immediately started asking ourselves, “so what do we do with this?” Even before the Bootcamp, the Launchspace staff were helping us put our vision together. They gave us a sense of what we needed to do to actually advance this idea: build a business around it, develop a product, find the fit with your customers, structure the company, get financing, take a product to market, and scale it up to the point where it’s going to create the value investors are going to want to see. All those concepts were very new to us, but we were able to start putting that scaffolding around our idea.

With so much of the support network being concentrated at NorthLight, it made things happen really quickly for us. The physical space, the proximity to the people with the ideas and skills, and the connections outward; to the funders, mentors, discipline experts, and all the people we needed to connect with to start moving forward are either here or they are connected to the community. So, here, you are one degree separated from who you need – you never have to ask more than twice to end up in front of the person who can connect you with the information, advice, or support that you need.

And to bring it full circle, my first exposure to Yukonstruct was through the Makespace woodshop. I had a membership there because I was doing some woodworking, and my kids went to a couple of the Maker Camps during spring break and that was all really positive. So, I knew that they were on to something when I heard the vision to bring Cospace and Yukonstruct together in this building. I thought, “OK it’s going to be really cool“, and sure enough, it is.

We are so happy for you and your business partners. Thank you for sitting down with me, it’s been really interesting to hear your story. Before you go, I am sure you’ve had to do a lot of reading and podcast listening throughout your journey to building DiscoVelo, do you have any podcast or book recommendations?

I do!

HBR Ideacast is a podcast from the Harvard Business Review that is great, and The Harvard Business Review print Journal and web content is also excellent.

Startup by Gimlet Media is a great podcast by Alex Bloomberg – he used to be with This American Life. It’s an entertaining listen about his journey starting up a podcasting company.  Very meta!

As for books, What the CEO Wants You To Know by Ram Charan, and Start With Why by Simon Sinek are both classics and excellent.

Photo Credit: Stephen Anderson Lindsay


ROLF & MARG HOUGEN Entrepreneur Speaker Series: Wayfarer Oyster House

Join us, every other month, as local entrepreneurs share their hard-won start up successes and laugh out loud blunders. A useful conversation while enjoying a drink and appetizer at NorthLight Innovation. Powered by Marg & Rolf Hougen.

Last evening, our bi-monthly event featured the story of The Wayfarer Oyster House with Andrew Seymour and Eddie Rideout. Staying true to your vision was a recurring theme of the talk, other pearls of wisdom from the talk include:

On cofounders – “odd numbers are helpful.”

On your team – “Recruit an all star team and treat them well.”

On money – “Play within your means.”

If you would like to hear their story, you can watch it here:

Thanks so much to Wayfarer Oyster House for sharing your story, to everyone in the audience who came out, and to everyone who joined us through our live-feed.Our bi-monthly Entrepreneur Speaker Series is powered by Rolf and Marg Hougen.

A celebration of entrepreneurship with the first graduates of Launchspace Startup Bootcamp!

Launchspace’s recent Demo Night was a true celebration of local entrepreneurship! To conclude the 12 week Startup Bootcamp, 8 of the 10 graduating companies got the full experience of delivering a pitch to a room filled with funders and supporters. Local investors, Panache Ventures, Minister of Economic Development, Ranj Pillai, representatives from Yukon Government and CanNor, and many other guests came out to celebrate the startups which made the evening even more special.

The Bootcamp validated the businesses of the cohort over the past 12 weeks by providing them with hands on sessions covering theory and startup fundamentals. The companies walked away knowing how to successfully undertake key startup skills and knowledge, including how to execute a successful customer discovery, an investor-ready pitch deck, a tested elevator pitch, and relationships with mentors that will continue to provide support along their journey to launch.

Scott Keesey, co-founder of SpinReg, and a recent graduate from the Startup Bootcamp discusses his experience with the Bootcamp: ”We came to Launchspace with some progress and structure around our startup idea, but the program really helped us to identify our blind spots and gave us the tools to keep building with. We learned key aspects of structuring a high growth startup, we gained insights into financing, legal, marketing and sales considerations, and most importantly we’ve used what we’ve learned to validate our idea – allowing us to launch into product development confidently!  Our network has expanded considerably, with amazing new connections in all important directions – fellow cohort members, mentors, partners, and funders. The Launchspace program at Yukonstruct should be the first stop on your new business’ journey to new success in Yukon.”

Following the pitches, the companies enjoyed time to connect with funders, the local entrepreneurial community, and the growing ecosystem who came out to support and encourage these burgeoning local startups. Post pitch smiles and relief from having accomplished the most daunting task of the program, made for a truly engaging evening, highlighted by delicious catering by Mary Elle, and drinks from Yukon Brewing.

Each company continues to actively pursue their business.

John Glynn Morris, of Yukon Article Co, shared: “I wanted to become a social entrepreneur and build a business.  However, going into business was a totally foreign idea for me.  Where does one even start?  Thanks to Launchspace, I was able to work with a cohort of fellow business start-up founders all within a framework to help show me the road map.  Here are the buckets with questions that need consideration, ranging from sales, to marketing, to my ‘why do I want to do this’?  Both William and Erin were professional, knowledgeable and responsive Launchspace guides.  I highly recommend the program to any Yukoner looking to jump-in, but unclear where to start and how to proceed.  At the end, I feel well equipped to launch (and had fun along the way!)”

If you have an idea that you want to explore in more depth, or are interested in learning more about our Launchspace Startup Bootcamp, feel free to reach out to Launchspace Coordinator, Erin Scott at: [email protected] or check out our webpage here.

Applications for the next cohort will go live January 20th, 2020.


Launchspace Startup Bootcamp Celebration was . . . A great night!

Our Launchspace Kick-Off Celebration brought out the best of our community as we celebrated our first year in NorthLight and introduced the entrepreneurs who will be taking part in our first ever Launchspace Startup Bootcamp! The overwhelming enthusiasm brought in from the community made for a warm and welcoming evening, and the entrepreneurs’ passion added an element of excitement that mirrors the energy fueling Yukonstruct.

Catering by The Wandering Bison and cocktails shaken by Yukon Brewing created a perfect backdrop to an evening that saw many connections and shared passions permeate the party.

M.P. Larry Bagnell opened the event with a speech that was both warm and encouraging, and Minister of Economic Development, Hon. Ranj Pallai, followed up by expressing support and admiration to the entrepreneurs who are taking the leap into entrepreneurialism and diversifying our economy.

The participants in the Startup Bootcamp are a group of passionate entrepreneurs who are working to make positive change in the clean tech, software, hardware, tourism, and non-profit industries. We are delighted to join them on this part of their journey and can’t wait to see them grow!

Without further ado, here are the entrepreneurs bravely going where their passion is taking them: – Eirik Sharp

Mapping software to mitigate animal disturbances. Primarily targeted towards the  heli-skiing industry.  ​ services will help minimize the impact of helicopter operations on wildlife and reduce the cost of mitigations.

Pelly River Wilderness Lodge – Taylor Bradley

Taylor is transforming cabins and a lodge on the Pelly River into a tourist attraction.

Smart Solar Ventilation – Shane Wolffe

Black mould is a persistent issue within the North, Shane has created a prototype  that can be integrated into commercial and residential buildings to utilize solar energy as a cooling and heating system to provide proper ventilation within the units.

YZED Projects – Wendy Morrison

YZED projects is helping​ to grow organizational effectiveness and capacity within Yukon’s non-profit sector by creating a system that will streamline the processes between NGO, government, and stakeholders.

Joel Brennan Inc. – Joel Brennan

Joel has designed a prototype of a standup paddle that emulates the feel of using a paddle in the water, allowing for dryland training in all seasons.

SpinReg Technologies – Scott Keesey, Melissa Crosker, John Carson

​SpinReg Technologies is focused on the development of software designed to  accompany stationary bicycles. The software will promote self-regulation, creativity, learning  and healing for a wide end-user cross-section.

Northern Winds Innovation – Conrad Kirkwood

Conrad has created a prototype that allows travellers for easier sleeping  accommodations specifically targeted to travellers on planes.

Yukon Belt Company – John Glynn Morris

Using raw Yukon materials to make leather belts.

Duteau Bioresource Contracting – Michel Duteau

​DBC is developing a new and innovative service (pyrolysis) and product (biochar) for the Yukon farming community, and beyond.

ColdAcre Food Systems – Carl Burgess, Tarek Bos- Jabar

Developing systems that will help create sustainable food growth in the North.


The Launchspace Startup Bootcamp’s official start was Tuesday, September 3 and will finish up with a Demo Day in November.

If you are interested in taking part in our spring cohort, watch out for our next intake in Feb. 2020.

All photos by Mark Rutledge.

ROLF & MARG HOUGEN Entrepreneur Speakers Series: Rolf Hougen

You’ve heard his name in every Speaker Series episode to date, so we are honoured that in May we got to host the legendary Yukon entrepreneur himself – Rolf Hougen. He started the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous, helped save the White Pass Railway, co-founded the Cancom satellite TV network, and those are just a few of his accomplishments!

Every 1st Thursday of the month, join us as local entrepreneurs share their hard-won start up successes & laugh out loud blunders. A useful conversation while enjoying a drink and appetizer at NorthLight Innovation. Powered by Marg & Rolf Hougen.

Watch the full interview at:
or subscribe to the podcast at:

Music by FREDJI



Outpost 31 Goes to Cannes

The founders of Outpost 31 were recently selected to attend the Cannes Film Festival through a program called Not Short on Talent. The program, a Telefilm initiative, recognized the Yukon company for its short film The Changeling. I sat down with Neil Macdonald, filmmaker and co-founder of Outpost 31, to discuss the experience.

So, how did the opportunity come about to go to Cannes?

We made this short film as part of the Dead North Film Festival – a film festival out of Yellowknife. Unbeknownst to us, Danny Lennon, who curates a Telefilm program called Not Short on Talent, was watching all the films at the festival. He’s been taking one of the Dead North films to the Cannes Film Festival every year and selected The Changeling to take this year! It was the first time the film screened anywhere.

Wow, so cool. How did it feel when you found out you were selected to go?

It was pretty crazy! We didn’t know about the opportunity until we got to the festival. They kind of just let people know that one of this year’s films would be selected to go to Cannes. So, on the final evening of the festival, after the awards ceremony, they announced the selection. We were definitely shocked that we were the ones that were chosen because, you know, it’s the world’s biggest film festival! But I need to be clear – we didn’t screen in the festival, we just attended. But even just being affiliated in some small way is really cool. Getting to go was the best part.

Totally, what were some of the cool things you got to do at the festival?

Well, it was great to take advantage of everything that Telefilm had to offer: the photo op, a couple parties, some one-on-one sessions with festival programmers. The one-on-one sessions were really cool – to get to sit there with the programmers of Sundance, Toronto International Film Festival, and different festivals, and to meet the other Talent to Watch cohort. There are 15 short films that are representing Canada and to meet some of those other people and filmmakers and realize there are some connections and you’ve worked with some of them before is cool.
We also wanted to take advantage of the market aspect of the festival. It is a huge market and, like, probably a bigger market then it is a film festival. There’s like 10,000 accredited people attending the festival and there are all these concurrent mini film festivals that are associated, but not part of the festival. It’s just this huge, huge film event.
A producer we had previously made a film with, Shayne Putzlocher, was there this year and he’s always been a bit of a mentor to me, so he helped us do some prep work and set up some meetings for us. We also have a couple other projects we’re working on, so it was nice to meet the people we’re working with from outside of the country and outside of the territory, face-to-face, at this crazy festival.
So, a lot of just relationship-building and networking. And seeing movies and going to workshops and master classes and stuff like that.

Did you notice any trends in filmmaking, or media, or just film culture in general?

I think the biggest one is the growth of XR (extended reality). It’s still a burgeoning part of the medium and people are still figuring out how to use it to tell stories and what the best audience experience is for those specific types of forms. But VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality), 360 videos, and those kinds of things are now being branded as XR, and there was a whole section dedicated to it this year. It was beneficial to explore the medium and see where it’s headed. It’s certainly an interesting way to tell stories. A big thing that was being talked about was cinematic VR because I think a lot of people associate VR with video games and a lot of the experiences to date have been more akin to video games. And I’m really interested in exploring the hybrid of how you take those kinds of longform participatory immersive storytelling experiences and blend them with the cinematic experience. So, it’s cool to see that trend and I think people are starting to figure it out. There are a lot of unknowns about it at this point, but it’s really exciting and definitely a developing part of the business which is cool.
For the future? The landscape is shifting and we’re at a really interesting time. There was a lot of talk at Cannes this year about Netflix and what constitutes a film versus TV. There were these big heavyweights in the industry weighing in about this whole thing. I think this year is the first year in Canada there are more OTT (over-the-top media service) subscriptions *. So, we’re at that tipping point where TV as a medium is going to change in a big way, or maybe die. And that’s going to be a big shift in the business and then just storytelling in general.

I imagine you have some great stories from your trip, can you tell me about the most interesting or surprising thing that happened at Cannes?

Well, there’s this whole lottery system to get tickets at Cannes. Your badges can get you into certain screenings, but for the main gala screenings it’s a lottery. So, the three of us were all trying to get into one film together, so we could walk the red carpet and see the premier of some big movie. And, like, literally within the last eight hours we managed to all get tickets to one screening on our last night! So, by pure luck, we got to walk the red carpet and go see a movie that we actually would have really liked to see. It was a genre South Korean drama movie – kind of cop thriller/serial killer movie. So, that was really cool. We got the black suits and bowties, walked the red carpet and got to see a movie in the Grande Palais. That was the last thing we did at Cannes, then we walked home and got up at five in the morning and went to the airport.

That’s amazing, what a perfect way to cap off your first trip to Cannes. Was there an experience or meeting that you anticipate will influence your work as a filmmaker, or as a media company?

We had a few meetings with people we haven’t met before and spent some time with people we have already made movies with and will hopefully work with again. Certainly, spending time with a producer like Shayne Putzlocher, who I consider to be a mentor, and doing it out of place like that – he was generous to let us see a little bit of what he’s doing, business-wise. We’re constantly talking about doing more projects in the Yukon and hopefully doing some of our projects with him, so it’s good to strengthen those relationships and cool to do it in a place where there’s lots of business going on and meeting new people through him.

Right, yeah, I imagine just sharing the experience of being in a filmmaker in Cannes would strengthen those relationships. Is there anything else you’d like to share

Yes. There’s this amazing festival in Canada call Fantasia, it’s one of the bigger genre festivals in the world, and they have a market component and we just found out yesterday that The Changeling has also been selected to a program they have called Shorts to Features. So, we’re going to go to the festival in Montreal in July and show The Changeling and pitch our feature length version of the short, so that’s really cool!

*OTT (over the top media) from Wikipedia – is a term used to refer to content providers that distribute streaming media as a standalone product directly to viewers over the Internet, bypassing telecommunications, multichannel television, and broadcast television platforms that traditionally act as a controller or distributor of such content.

Home Hardware Woodshop Orientations

The possibilities in our Makespace are unlimited!

Thanks to our partnership with Whitehorse Home Hardware Building Centre, our community has access to the first shared woodshop in the Yukon! The Whitehorse Home Hardware Building Centre Woodshop is a vital space that sees a lot of use, so partners like Home Hardware truly help our programs, projects, and community members get real value from training and equipment, as well as a place to build, learn and share knowledge.

Our monthly Woodshop Orientations set up new members with the basic safety info they need to make the Whitehorse Home Hardware Building Centre Woodshop the place where their ambitions become reality.

Check out our Makespace and book your New Member Orientation to get started.

Meet Our New Board

Our 2019 AGM was a huge success! With nearly 40 Society members joining us to vote in the new board and celebrate the success of the past year, we set the stage for the exciting vision that will drive this organization forward. Much thanks to all who attended, and to everyone who put their name forward.

Yukonstruct Society is thrilled to welcome our new board. Made up of familiar faces and brand-new ones, we couldn’t be happier to see these wonderful people join the organization. Each board member brings their unique set of skills and knowledge to the team and we are grateful to them for sharing their expertise and energy with our community. Without further ado, please join us in welcoming the 2019 – 2020 Board of Directors of Yukonstruct:

Barrett Horne
Robert Sharp
Chris OBrien
Glenn Piwowar
Kathie Szpajcher
Maxim Naylor
Selene Vakharia
Stephanie Hawkins
Antonio Zedda

And with immense gratitude we say goodbye to two very important board members.

John Glynn-Morris has been an integral part of our community from the earliest days. Yukonstruct members have benefitted from his dedication to building a thriving space and community. Thank you, John, for all the work and positive energy you’ve infused into this organization, we wouldn’t be the same without you!

Patti Balsillie offered her invaluable expertise and dedication. Her involvement in Yukonstruct ensured we were running a top tier organization. Her positive attitude, great sense of humor, and professional contributions will continue to shape the organization for years to come.

Thank you both for your years of service.