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!

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.

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 :).


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!