Archive for July, 2010

six items or less

Here’s a fun New York Times story as we head into the weekend.

Think you could wear just six different items of clothing for an entire month (not including underwear, shoes, accessories, swimsuits or workout gear)? There’s a growing movement of creatives, de-clutterers and anti-consumptionists doing just that.

What’s amazing is that most people don’t even notice when their friends, co-workers and even spouses take part in the experiment. They’re completely oblivious to the fact that someone is wearing the same dress or pair of pants — day after day after day. Makes you think differently about that bulging closet…

Be sure to watch the video, too.

Happy Friday!

posted 30 Jul 10 in: fashion, media. This post currently has 2 responses.

Roasting in PDX

The dog days of summer are here and I just returned from another quick trip to Portland, Oregon. I know I seem to write more about Bridgetown than my own home of Vancouver, BC, but there’s just so much creative, cool stuff going on in this city by the Willamette River. This time, one of the great surprise finds was Coava Roastery and Brew Bar on SE Grand Avenue.

We stumbled into Coava — Turkish for “green coffee” — after trolling the nearby vintage and antique stores. I’d finished an iced coffee just an hour earlier to fight the scorching heat, but the 10,000-square-foot space (yes, ten thousand) was so bright, open and downright pretty that we had to stop in. Why so big? Coava shares its counter and roasting area with the cavernous showroom for Bamboo Revolution – a collective of designers, product developers and bamboo craftsmen. It’s a brilliant cross-pollination of two very different businesses.

Coava was hatched in 2009, when Matt Higgins bought a coffee roaster from an East Coast church group café. He started by roasting small batches in his backyard to share with family and friends, and later sold the beans to local coffee bars. In early 2010, Matt’s best friend Keith Gehrke (a seasoned barista and roaster who worked in Seattle and the San Francisco area) joined the operation. The duo opened the Coava brew bar a couple months later.

Coava‘s focus on single origin coffees and educating customers on optimum brewing techniques will satisfy any coffee geek, but I have to confess that I was still gaping at the airy space while sipping the best espresso I’ve ever tasted — decaf, no less.

Coffee brewers have often shared real estate with other ventures, but I thought this combination was especially inspired. The Coava bar, walls and shelving are all constructed from bamboo and provide a fixed portfolio of sorts for Bamboo Revolution. They demonstrate what’s possible with this sutainable material. At the same time, shoppers seeking new flooring will quickly fall for Coava’s perfect pour-over brews and lattes.

Everyone wins — and gets fully caffeinated in the process.

posted 28 Jul 10 in: business, design, food, retail. This post currently has no responses.

a passive plan

photos by Jamie Beck

In every Inspired Outsiders interview, I always ask, “do you have a passive income stream?”

The answers have been as varied as the definitions of “passive.”

To me, it’s something you make once and then leverage to earn a profit multiple times over. It doesn’t require hands-on hourly work (other than sales and distribution channel upkeep and any applicable customer service tasks) and can literally sell itself while you sleep.

At this point, you’re probably either intrigued or repelled. The phrase “while you sleep” smacks of bad pyramid schemes, late-night TV gadgets and desperation. But passive income streams are powerful — and they don’t have to be cheesy.

Remember Jamie Beck and her lovely photo blog From Me to You?

Jamie and web designer Kevin Burg have just released a new blog theme called Southern Afternoon, based on the imagery of a hand-collected scrapbook. It sells for $49 to anyone who wants a nostalgic look for their blog or online journal.

Kevin gave From Me to You such a distinctive look that Jamie was constantly fielding design questions and flat-out requests to use her theme. The pair spent three months dreaming up a new, customizable template and now they’ve got a passive product that reflects Jamie’s charming visual style and extends her brand as an artist — without a hint of hucksterism.

Nicely done, Jamie & Kevin.


posted 13 Jul 10 in: art, business, interviews, retail. This post currently has no responses.

smart sampling

At the end of a Gulf Island vacation, my friends and I dropped in on the Salt Spring Island Cheese Company. If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, you’ve probably seen their pretty, petite chèvre rounds topped with basil leaves, flowers, white truffle, pepper, chili and lemon.

If not, well, I hope I had you at “white truffle.” The company also makes goat feta, sheep’s milk hard cheese and four surface ripened goat cheeses, including the addictive Blue Juliette.

Salt Spring started making handmade goat and sheep cheeses in 1994 and began selling them in 1996. They believe that “a better kind of food business is one that reflects both good community and good food, as the two frequently go together.” Agreed.

Visit the farm and you can watch white-coated cheesemakers through the viewing windows, take a self-guided tour, and get cozy with the goats, chickens and resident Border Collies (who will quickly convince you to play pine-cone-and-tennis-ball fetch).

The best part of the farm shop, though, is tasting. Every cheese flavor is set out next to a bowl of crackers with knives ready for spreading. Visitors chomp their way through the buffet and inevitably, purchase at least $40 worth of the homemade stuff.

It’s a small cost for the farm with a bigger on-the-spot payoff. Almost no one leaves without a white bag overflowing with fromage — and a stronger sense of loyalty to the homegrown company, which made me think about the power of sampling.

Luckily, this simple technique is not limited to food artisans and culinary businesses. I always sample music on MySpace before I commit to a purchase. Most people wouldn’t think about buying clothes or jewelry without trying them on first. And a first-chapter download is now a common marketing technique for authors and publishers.

But the sampling doesn’t have to stop there. Get creative. Let people try, test and taste your work and you’ll quickly get them hooked on what you do best.

posted 6 Jul 10 in: business, food, retail. This post currently has 2 responses.