food

meet paul jarvis

photos by Marnie Recker

He’s an accomplished web designer, musician, llama lover, nut enthusiast (yup, you read that right), blogger (who writes posts like “fuck being cool”) and now, the author of an excellent e-book called Eat Awesome: A regular person’s guide to plant-based, whole foods. Full disclosure: I also edited* Eat Awesome.

Paul and I first met nearly 10 years ago, and we’ve been friends and frequent collaborators ever since. I was lucky enough to have Paul design this blog and my professional website. He’s smart, talented, grounded and very funny. He also lives in Tofino, B.C., which is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and he spends several months of each year traveling with his wife and musical accomplice, Lisa. Sounds good, right?

But back to the book. Paul has the (surprisingly rare) ability to make big plans – and then make them happen. He also has a big following on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. When people started demanding recipes for the vegan dishes on his Instagram feed, Paul decided to write a book. One week later, he finished the first draft. That’s classic Paul: get an idea, dive in and do it.

Eat Awesome is ultimately a handbook for the “vegi-curious,” so it doesn’t matter whether you’re a vegan, a committed carnivore, or you land somewhere in between. No judgment. Just fresh, plant-based foods and delicious photos by Marnie Recker. I wanted to know more about Paul’s creative process and his experiences with self-publishing, so I asked him all kinds of nosy questions. Here’s what he had to say.

What inspired you to write Eat Awesome?

I had written Eat Awesome a bunch of times in emails to friends and family. They all asked the same questions about what I eat and wanted recipes for the plant-based food that I make. I didn’t want to keep writing that same email, so I thought I’d write a book.

Why were you getting so many questions about food? There are lots of other plant eaters out there…

Mostly because all I talk about is food and eating. I post a lot of food photos and I talk about food all the time on Twitter and Facebook. People often said, “can I have the recipe?” or “that looks good… how can I be vegan?” Strangers started asking the same questions that I got from my friends and family.

Were you always so obsessed with food?

I’ve always enjoyed good food, and for me, the point of traveling is pretty much to eat and try new things at restaurants. But in the last couple years I’ve been getting more and more into whole foods and clean, vegan eating and eating gluten-free. It just keeps snowballing.

Now that it’s summer, I’m getting all my produce from Vancouver Island or B.C. farmers. I just keep going further and wanting to know more and more about my food. It’s gotten to the point where I need to know where all my food is from and who, for example, picked these berries that I just bought.

When did you become vegan?

I’ve been vegetarian for eight or nine years. One day I realized, “I haven’t eaten dairy or eggs or anything like that for about a year. I guess I’m vegan.” So, I’ve probably been vegan for about three or four years.

Why publish Eat Awesome as an e-book?

I’m a nerd, so I like to do digital stuff and I know that world really well. I didn’t necessarily know anything about writing a book, but I do so much online and on the computer that it seemed like the best way to go.

I created a full e-book, though, because there’s still cachet attached to that form. I could have written all these recipes as blog posts and people might not even read them. But because I made it a PDF that you have to pay for and download, more people have been interested. And I do tons of writing. I write lots of guest posts and blog posts for other people, and I have a newsletter where I publish recipes that aren’t in the book or anywhere else online. The e-book seemed like the best way to get it into as many people’s digital hands as possible.

Why do you think books – even digital ones – have that cachet?

To be honest, I don’t have a clue. But I think it’s cool. I like that even though you can’t feel the pages and smell the paper, there’s still something about having it all in one place, formatted how the author wants it to be, and the content flows more like a story than on a blog.

What was the most difficult part of the project?

Learning how to do it. I did everything on my own, basically, like figuring out how to publish it and how to handle the e-commerce and the marketing. Writing the book probably took less than a week. But then there was the photography, getting the editing done, figuring out the marketing plan, and submitting it to all the different blogs and online review sites. All that took way more time than writing it – and I did it myself because I wanted to learn how to do it. For me, that was the most difficult part, but also the most interesting and fun.

What’s the best response to the book that you’ve received to date?

Every time I hear that somebody has thought more deeply about what they eat. That’s why I wrote it. I don’t really care if somebody is vegan or not, but obviously it’s cool if someone tells me, “I went vegan because of you.” People are seeing the connection between food and their bodies and their health and how their lives work. To me, that’s the biggest thing – hearing that people are questioning food and thinking about it.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about self-publishing?

Everything takes a lot of time. I had the idea to write book at the beginning of the year, and I thought, “I can get this done in a week or two.” That didn’t happen at all. So, you need to have patience. Even when you send the book to iTunes or Amazon, it takes 3-4 weeks for it to show up on their systems. The delay gave me time to really think about the book promotion, to get review copies out, and to build the buzz. I built a big mailing list, too, so as soon as the book was out, I could send an email blast and generate lots of interest. I didn’t expect the whole process to take so long, but I’m glad that it did.

Have you recouped the money that you invested in creating the book?

Basically, I spent 10 bucks on the domain name and 100 bucks to get it on all the online e-publishing platforms. So, yes, I’ve definitely recouped that cost!

I also bribed the photographer by saying, “you can eat every single one of the recipes if you help me with this.”  All of my friends and neighbours were really stoked when we did the food photos. We finished the photography in about three days and we shot every single meal in the book. So there was a lot of food!

I’m lucky that I know lots of people who are really good at what they do. I could also build the website by myself, because that’s what I do, and I could build the newsletter and set up the e-commerce functions. I was lucky that I could cover everything that might cost money, other than getting it onto the publishing sites.

In your opinion, how viable is self-publishing as a revenue stream?

I didn’t publish this book to make money – and that’s why I only charge five bucks for it. I just wanted to get it into people’s hands. But, I think there’s definitely some value in original content. Unfortunately, it’s not as much as it used to be.

I didn’t look for a publisher and I didn’t write a proposal, because I knew I could do it myself. That way, I can get 100% of the revenue, and my costs to write it and produce it were low. So, I think it’s kind of viable, but unfortunately, as with anything in the arts and the creative realm, you’ve got to really work at it and you’ve got to really hustle to make money doing it.

What’s your best advice about promoting a project like EA?

Be genuine about it. I use social media as the main source of promotion for the book, and a lot of people on social media just talk at everybody. I don’t think that works and I don’t find that engaging at all. I think it’s good to have conversations with people. I probably tweet “my e-book is available” about once a week, but in that week, I’m still tweeting and talking and sharing photos on Instagram and engaging with people. When I do have something to promote, they’re more likely to pay attention, because they’re invested in our conversation.

You always describe yourself as an introvert, yet you’re very active on social media. What gives?

I’m much better at written communication. I have done public speaking, but I would never do it in the future, and playing music is about the only thing I’m going to do in front of people. But I can tweet and share a photo with thousands of people, and I can set the interaction that I want. I can reply or not reply, and I can engage or not engage, and if I don’t feel like “talking to people,” I don’t need to put anything out that day. For somebody like me, I think it’s perfect.

What advice would you give to people who have ideas or content they want to share (potentially in an e-book) but don’t know how to start?

There are so many free and relatively cheap services out there. For example, anyone can create a site with WordPress, pick from a bunch of free themes, and just start writing content. If you’re creating a book, you can write in whatever program you want, save it as a PDF, and there are a ton of shopping cart systems that are simple to set up (I use Sellfy)  – even if you don’t have any programming knowledge.

Bottom line: There are easy ways to do everything that I did, without having the technical background that I have. It’s just a matter of finding those services. It might not look 100% perfect right away, but there are so many pro WordPress themes and templates in Pages (the Mac app) that can make all your stuff look good.

Did you have any goals or targets for the project?

I had no goals. I just wanted to do it. I thought it would be cool if a couple hundred people bought the book, and now a couple thousand people have bought it. So, it’s doing better than I thought it might, but I wasn’t trying to sell a certain number of copies or recoup a certain amount of money. It was a project of love and interest for me.

Any other advice or words of wisdom?

I know lots of people who want to write a book or an e-book, but they think, “I don’t know how.” You can learn as you go. If you make mistakes, just own them and move on. People aren’t expecting perfection. They’re okay with a process, so don’t get hung up on doing it right. Just do it.
 
What’s next? Do you have more creative projects up your sleeve?

So many. I wish I had more time in the day. I’m working on an iPhone app about being vegan and eating awesome food. I’m also doing a website that interviews vegans, but doesn’t touch on anything related to food or animal rights. Plus, a couple more cool things that I can’t share yet.

Thanks, Paul!

*I love editing big, meaty (no pun intended) projects like Eat Awesome. Send me an email  if you want to chat.

posted 29 Aug 12 in: business, food, interviews. This post currently has 2 responses.

a spring feast

all photos by Jamie Mann

On an unseasonably warm night in late May, about 35 people gathered at Vancouver’s Zientte to eat, drink and laugh together. It was a diverse group, but we all had one thing in common: We love Zoe Pawlak and her work.

I barely knew Zoe when we first chatted about art and business. In the meantime, she’s become a treasured friend. What also became clear on that lovely spring night, at her annual collectors dinner, is that everyone who is lucky enough to spend time with Zoe feels the same way. Even better? Having her work hanging on your wall.

As we tasted each delicious course prepared by Chaperone Catering (owned by Zoe’s husband, Seamus, and his business partner, Brendan Ladner), Zoe thanked everyone, individually, in front of the group. She described which of her pieces each person or couple had collected, and how they came to own the work. She also explained how the purchases had directly affected her family’s well-being. It was classy and heartfelt — and surprisingly emotional for many people in the room.

Talent blended with business savvy will take you a long way in this world. If, like Zoe, you also have a sincere, open heart, plus a good dash of humility and humour, literally anything is possible.

Want to attend next year’s collectors feast? Buy Zoe’s paintings!

 

 

posted 16 Jul 12 in: art, business, design, food, inspiration. This post currently has no responses.

links to love

After dinner at Delancey

Some notable links as we head into the weekend:

1.

I was thrilled to see Delancey get some love in last week’s New York Times. A longtime Orangette reader, I licked my chops in anticipation as Molly Wizenberg and Brandon Pettit built their 40-seat Seattle pizzeria. The slice of Fennel Salami I devoured there last summer did not disappoint. It’s time for a return visit.

2.

There’s a new online magazine on the block. Kinfolk has a dreamy, DIY feel with a Brooklyn-meets-Portland-by-the-lake aesthetic. Extra credit for the mini films scattered throughout the pages.

Here’s a snippet of the magazine’s manifesto:

Kinfolk is a growing community of artists with a shared interest in small gatherings. We recognize that there is something about a table shared by friends, not just a wedding or once-a-year holiday extravaganza, that anchors our relationships and energizes us. We have come together to create Kinfolk as our collaborative way of advocating the natural approach to entertaining that we love.

I wish them all the best.

3.

Have you seen this sweet-yet-sad video of a Mariachi trio serenading a Beluga whale ? You must. After all, it’s Friday afternoon.

posted 5 Aug 11 in: art, business, design, food, inspiration, media, music. This post currently has no responses.

café culture

I’ve written before about my love for Monocle magazine. My only complaint? It’s seriously dense. There’s so much good stuff jammed into every issue that it’s tough to finish one in under a month. All the more reason to get a quick hit from the Monocle website.

For example, check out this video tour of four outstanding indie cafés, including one decidedly homespun coffee shop in my own city of Vancouver.

The video is as visually sumptuous as you’d expect from a Monocle briefing, but I’m pleased that the reporters transcend the cool factor to explore how the cafés reflect their respective neighbourhoods. Each proprietor takes a unique approach to serving those addictive beans and the four standouts (in Melbourne, Miami, Amsterdam and again, Vancouver) target very different customers. Clearly, thin-slice segmenting works.

Whatever you create, think about your ultimate customers / clients / buyers / fans / tribe members — the people who immediately “get” what you’re doing.

Make them happy first.

 

posted 12 Jul 11 in: business, food, inspiration, media, music. This post currently has no responses.

escape to italy

photos by Lissa Cowan

It’s 3 pm on a Tuesday afternoon. Heavy rain (or worse, snow) is flying sideways past the window, whipped into a frenzy by late-winter winds. Someone dented your bumper in the parking lot. A series of inhuman deadlines loom large. Lunch was tuna salad on pasty freezer bread, washed down with a mug of anemic coffee from the communal office pot.

Who wants to chuck it all and go to Tuscany?

Lissa Cowan, a writer, consultant and all-around literary talent, recently did just that. She and her partner, Sanjay, sold their Vancouver home and are traveling and working overseas for at least four months, and possibly more.

We’ve all seen a similar storyline unfold in movies like this and this and in this wildly popular book. But what strikes me about Lissa’s adventures is that she’s a full-fledged adult with a complicated life and real responsibilities. This isn’t a post-college backpacking trip. She’s not looking for love or trying to “find herself” in an olive grove. Instead, it took bravery and careful planning to (temporarily) leave everyday life in search of peace, creativity, mental space – and some very delicious food.

Today, Lissa’s sharing the details from her rented cottage in the Italian countryside. How did she make it happen? That’s what I wanted to know, and I’m sure you do, too.

1. Describe what you do for a living.

Professionally, I am a copywriter, editor, social media storyteller, communications strategist, translator and media relations specialist. My company is called Go Small or Go Home and our clients are mostly non-profits looking to make a positive social and/or environmental impact. The name for my business comes from my philosophy that working in small, unsuspecting ways with social media tools can be more cost-effective and have the greatest impact.

Creatively, I do all the above, and I’m also a writer of fiction and creative non-fiction. I have a literary agent in the UK and have been working with her on a novel project, which is finally nearing completion.

2. What are you most excited about right now, creatively speaking?

I’m excited that I’m on the last leg of this novel journey and that after this I’ll be able to follow up on other ideas I have for stories, other novels and a blog. Being able to see my work take shape in the way that I envisioned – after an incredible amount of hard work – is definitely a thrill.

3. How are you spending your days?

The trip to Tuscany, Italy just fell into place for me. I was planning to go to Bali and Vietnam, and then I was told it wasn’t the best season to be there. I started looking for somewhere to stay in Italy and found the perfect place right away. I’d been here six years ago and managed to write a non-fiction book proposal and see many places as well. I remember it being very peaceful, stunningly beautiful and easy for me to get into the ‘creative zone’ I needed to write.

Typically I wake up, do yoga, meditate, have breakfast and then start writing. I usually write for about five hours and then focus on client work in the late afternoon and evening. Though I also have about two or three days a week where I write all day, stopping partway through the day to go for a walk in the hills.

4. How were you able to leave “regular” life for so long?

It took a good three or four months to prepare to leave for four months, and a couple years before that to consider how it might be possible. My partner, who is also a writer, and I shared a home, had a cat, family responsibilities, a number of clients, and so on. Then there were lots of details to consider. For example, I needed a new, more lightweight computer with better capabilities. Because I work freelance and much of what I do is solitary, I figured that as long as I had an Internet connection, I could pretty much go anywhere. I have had some difficulties with Wi-Fi, though. For instance, last month I was on Santorini Island in Greece and had to leave a bit earlier than planned because the connection wasn’t good.

5. What were the most challenging pre-trip preparations?

I’d say the most difficult part was simply making the decision to leave. Once the decision was made, it was just a matter of making it happen. It’s not over the top to say that our lives have been turned upside-down. We were homeowners for seven years and it was hard to give that up. Yet we decided that living in a beautiful home in an expensive city was not as important to us as writing and following our dreams. The way I look at it, things come into our lives and they go out. When we have these things, we need to give thanks and accept the joy they bring to us, yet not have them rule our lives.

6. What has been most rewarding (so far) about your trip?

Definitely having the time to be more creative with my work and the time to write without worrying about all my deadlines. I still have deadlines and interruptions and I enjoy my professional work very much, but at least I’m in a place and a situation now where I can play more. To me, writing is all about having fun, exploring, and keeping that window of possibility open.

7. Any standout moments to date?

Arriving at this cottage in the Tuscan hills is definitely up there. It was pouring rain, the birds were singing. The house overlooks a valley of olive groves and dense forest. On the other side of the road, behind the cottage, I could see the medieval village on the hill. The whole setting was truly enchanting.

Generally speaking, buying local is a big thing for me. Almost everything I’m eating is produced here: the prosciutto, the cheese, honey, bread, wine, olive oil. It’s been a joy to talk to farmers at the Saturday market about their passion for what they do. And, of course a joy to eat!

I’ve also met some wonderful people since I’ve been here. In Florence I stayed in a 15th-century villa where the owner had weekly potluck dinners for her guests. I met a photographer, academics, an artist, writers… It was interesting to talk to them about how they managed to live creatively. A woman who was an art historian said to me, “Do whatever brings you joy.”

Thanks, Lissa!

posted 7 Mar 11 in: art, books, business, food, inspiration. This post currently has 10 responses.

thinking outside the kitchen

photo by Fred R. Conrad / New York Times

I loved Frank Bruni‘s recent New York Times story about ballsy chefs burning the rulebook to create unique dining experiences.

The highlights:

John Fraser leased a soon-to-be-demolished space in SoHo for a “temporary restaurant installation” called What Happens When. The lean bar is a mobile cart, chairs were bought on eBay for less than $10, and customers will set their own tables to keep staff costs down. Fraser is also funding the nine-month project with contributions from the microfinancing site, Kickstarter.

– Chicago super-chef Grant Achatz is leveraging the power of precise numbers to launch Next, where diners puchase advance tickets for a specific hour and a set menu.

– Manhattan chef Will Goldfarb has experimented with Picknick Smoked, a BBQ trailer in the financial district, and a two-day stint whipping up desserts in a borrowed SoHo bar space. It’s safe to say he’ll continue pushing the boundaries.

And the list goes on…

John Fraser / photo by Daniel Barry

I celebrated my last birthday at an underground supper club, and it was a delicious, memorable night that ended with a fraction of the typical restaurant bill.  The chef also provided advance wine pairing suggestions to enhance what could have been a jumbled BYOB collection.

Clearly, novelty and word-of-mouth buzz have the power to attract even the most jaded diners — especially if you’ve got the kitchen chops to back up your bravery. Pared-down dining makes sense, too, when people are still keeping a tight grip on their wallets.  When restaurants eschew convention to focus on making incredible food, we all reap the benefits.

Cheers to creativity that goes beyond the kitchen.

posted 5 Jan 11 in: business, food, media, retail. This post currently has 2 responses.

meet molly watson

photos courtesy Molly Watson

I live on the West Coast and love seafood, so you’d think I’d be intimately familiar with mussels. Right? Wrong. For years, those delicious little devils scared the shells out of me. I feared the de-bearding and most of all, serving my guests an unexpected side of toxic encephalopathy (look it up – actually, on second thought, please don’t).

That all changed when I discovered Molly Watson and her lovely blog, The Dinner Files. Molly makes simple, seasonal foods that are easy to replicate. Even the most basic recipes, like a cherry smoothie or chickpea salad, get a unique twist in Molly’s deft hands. She’s also got a subversive sense of humor that gives her writing a delightfully cranky edge.

After earning a PhD in Modern European History, the reality of teaching French history failed to live up to her ideal vision, so Molly channeled her love of all things culinary into a career in food writing. She landed her first gig with Epicurious – in the early days when friends repeatedly asked “epi-what?” – and interned for Citysearch San Francisco. When the economy turned sluggish and 9/11 blindsided the nation, Molly decided to don her apron full time. She completed a professional cooking program and joined Sunset magazine as the staff food writer from 2005 to 2008.

Today, Molly is an independent writer. Her words have been published in The New York Times, Edible San Francisco, the San Francisco Chronicle, and she contributed an essay, “Scrambled Eggs” to the best-selling anthology, The Bigger the Better the Tighter the Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image, and Other Hazards of Being Female. She also writes a guide to local foods for About.com, works as a recipe developer and teaches food writing through Mediabistro.

Oh, and the mussels? Thanks to Molly, they’re now a (perfectly safe) staple dish in my kitchen.

1. What fuels your work?

Some of my work is fuelled by the fact that I like to get a check on a regular basis. But, I try to make sure that everything I do is informed either by my interest in food or my drive to write. That’s how I make sure that I don’t get too far afield.

Overall, what really fuels my work is craft. I love the craft of writing, I love the craft of cooking, I love the craft of quilting – which is one of my hobbies – and I used to be a historian, and I love the craft of history. That’s the connective thread between all of my work.

2. How do you organize the business side of your career so it doesn’t intrude on your creativity or productivity?

I try to sequester it. I try to set aside a time each week where I deal with those tasks. Now, I don’t always follow through with that plan. I’ve been quite busy this year, so I usually deal with the administrative stuff at night when I’m not as fresh. I also tend it to do it when I have a movie or a podcast on, because I find it’s so boring that being slightly distracted is helpful. I try to turn it into a reward.

3. Is there another artist or creative pro whose business model you admire?

I can’t think of anyone specifically, but there is a type of person. I admire people who manage to turn their creative endeavors into their day jobs. So much of that is luck, but I really admire the people who keep their creative work in the forefront, even when they’re doing other kinds of work. To me, that’s really the goal: to make sure that my creative work comes first.

4. How many revenue streams do you have?

Four: writing for publications, editing, teaching food writing and recipe development. But, my short answer is: too many. I’m doing too many different things right now and I’m stretched a little thin.

5. What is your bread-and-butter income source?

Editing.

6. Do you have a passive income stream?

It’s something that’s definitely on the horizon for me. I have a lot of ideas and I just need the time to follow through on them.

7. What tools or money-making opportunities do you think creative pros fail to leverage?

I think some people are ashamed to admit how they make money, or they think they’re supposed to earn it purely through their creative work, or they think all the creative people they know or have heard of make their money that way, and it’s just so rarely the case.

It’s important to get a sense how other people make it work – just to get ideas and to feel better about how difficult it is, because it’s really hard. It’s really, really hard to make a living in a creative field, and everyone comes to their own conclusions about how to do it.

8. What has brought the most opportunities and attention to your work?

Going to professional conferences. I find that meeting people in person makes a big difference in terms of the opportunities that will come to you.

Writers, in particular, tend to be such reclusive creatures. Part of what we like about writing is being by ourselves. And I would say that’s one of the fine lines of difference between journalists and writers. Journalists tend to enjoy being out in the world. I think writers really don’t. I know I don’t, not really. I’m a perfectly socialized individual, but I thrive when I have a lot of time to myself.

I think a mistake writers often make is thinking they can do everything over the computer or over the phone. Sometimes it’s good to get out and meet people. Certainly all the opportunities I’ve had in my career have come from people that I’ve actually met in person.

9. What is the best investment you’ve made in your career?

Spending the money to attend food writing conferences.

Is there anything that didn’t live up to your expectations?

Sometimes I question my time in culinary school. On one hand, I feel like I didn’t get that much out of it, because of how culinary school is set up and what I wanted to learn. But, I had a big break when I got a staff job at Sunset magazine. I don’t think I would have gotten that job if I hadn’t gone to cooking school. Even though I had already developed recipes for the magazine as a freelancer, I think having that stamp on my resume made a big difference.

10. Where do you stand on the “selling out?” debate?

To me, it’s about staying true to what you want to do. As long as you feel good about what you’re doing, you’re not really selling out and other people can throw all the rocks they want from their glass houses. I don’t judge people on that kind of thing. I figure everyone has different goals. I don’t know what someone’s goals are – they’re going to be totally different from mine. And even mine change over time.

At the beginning of this year, I made a professional New Years resolution that any work I would take needed to be fulfilling or lucrative. It had to be at least one of those two things. It has made a real difference in the kind of work that I do. I found myself taking work that at one point I might have considered “selling out,” but taking that work has freed up time I used to spend chasing marginally paying magazine articles and allows me to work on more creative projects.

Is there anything else you’ve learned and would like to share?

My biggest lesson is that no one is going to invite you to the party. You have to just show up. You can’t sit around your house waiting for someone to call you up and ask if you’d like to write this book or get this job. Maybe that will happen eventually, and it does happen to some people, but for the most part, you have to go out into the world and show up and do it.

Today, people worry that there are so many food bloggers and all these people who want to do food writing, and I say, “yeah, and most of them aren’t very good and most of them aren’t going to follow through.” I don’t mean that in a nasty way or that most people aren’t any good. I mean there are a lot of people who say they want to be writers or painters or artists, but they don’t do it. They don’t show up. It’s important to realize that it’s unusual to show up and actually do the work. Persistence really is at least half the battle.

Thanks Molly!

posted 7 Nov 10 in: books, business, food, inspiration, interviews, media. This post currently has no 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.

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.

meet jamie beck

photos by Jamie Beck

Easy: Getting lost in the dreamy, evocative photographs of From Me To You.

Ridiculously difficult: Choosing just a few images to include in this post.

I have no idea what series of online snakes and ladders first delivered me to Jamie’s gorgeous photo blog; I’m just glad I ended up there at all. Not that the Texas-born, NYC-based photographer is suffering for digital traffic. The girl has a perceptive eye for everything from portraits to urban landscapes to make-you-weep still life shots — and people everywhere are quickly taking notice.

Jamie lives on New York’s Upper West Side and contributes to several online art and lifestyle publications, including Working Class, This Recording, Westside Independent, Apartment Therapy and more. She also shoots editorial and commercial work for a variety of clients and is working to expand her published portfolio (hint: hire her while you still can).

Food is a key theme in both Jamie’s life and photography. Her Friday “Dinner & A Movie” series serves up film-and-food pairings, such as Amélie with mussels or Viva Las Vegas with homestyle pot roast and creamy mashed potatoes. She also posts the recipes and photographs the entire process, so readers can simply drool at the delicious pics or re-create the feast at home.

Despite her busy schedule, Jamie was kind enough to share more about her work, her plans and her growing business. Read on and visit From Me to You to glimpse the world through Jamie’s prolific lens. Just be sure you have a good hour to spare — you, too, are likely to get lost in her extensive visual archives.

1. What fuels your work?

My imagination. It is a blessing and a curse. I can look at things or scenarios or even times of life and make believe what I want to see, which is what I capture in the end. I create through my work the world I see in my head.

2. How do you organize the business side of your life so you still have the time, energy and focus to practice your craft?

That is really really tough. At a certain point I had to just decide that my main purpose is to create and that creating will take priority. I try not to beat myself up when I can’t get everything finished on time or corresponded or there’s a missed opportunity, because I am only one person who can only do one thing at a time. So I just decide what is most important at that moment and do it.


3. Is there another artist or creative pro whose business model you admire?

I haven’t met anyone yet who has it all figured out and balanced. So I’ll just say that I admire French people’s approach to life.

4. How many revenue streams do you have?

I could have a few but right now I’m just focusing on creating work, getting shoots and putting my name out there. If I wanted to have a steady stream of income I could sell prints / postcards online, stock photography, in addition to being hired for shoots. But like I said, I’m only one person and I choose to spend my time creating and sharing my work in hopes to be hired to shoot commercial / editorial content.

5. What is your bread-and-butter income source?

Being hired to photograph whatever it is people want photographed.

6. Do you have a passive income stream?

Not yet, however, because there have been so many inquiries about the design of my blog, I am developing a blog design with the web designer who created my blog that people can buy and start their own blogs with! So once that is up for sale, if it is successful, then the answer is YES!

7. What tools or opportunities do you think most creative pros fail to leverage?

I’m not 100% sure how to answer that question right now. I feel at the moment artists (much thanks to everything going digital) are being taken advantage of and devalued by others, as so much has become available through the Internet, and cheaper but better digital cameras are available to consumers. I think it’s really tough being a creative person and making money at your talent. I’d like for someone to answer that question for me!

8. What has brought the most opportunities and attention to your work?

Hands down it has been my blog. It’s been such a great outlet to share projects I’m working on, what I’m doing for clients, and just as a place for this archive of images I have. Through blogging my work, I’ve gown so much as an artist and made wonderful connections which have led to work.

9. What is the best investment you’ve made in your career?
My knowledge of basic black and white photography. How film works, what it’s made of, how to process it and print it. It’s like how a chef first learns the basics, such as sharpening knifes. This is my foundation.

What has been the biggest waste of time and / or money?

Saying yes to many of those free shoots that promise “great exposure and opportunity.” Some are really worth it but most are not. Go with your gut.

10. Where do you stand on the “selling out?” debate? Do you believe it’s possible to sell out?

Yes, people can sell out. For me, at the end of the day I just do what my gut says and make sure it’s something I’m proud of and will always be proud of, I mean… it is my name attached to it.

Thanks, Jamie!

posted 20 Jun 10 in: art, business, food, inspiration, interviews. This post currently has 12 responses.

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