food & finance

photos by Chiot’s Run

Even farmers and foodmakers are realizing that today’s market demands new revenue models. A recent Globe & Mail story titled, “Cash-strapped artisans turn to foodies for financing,” explored how savvy food producers are revamping their fee structures.

The highlights:

– Faced with an expired lease, artisanal cheese maker Ruth Klahsen is offering subscriptions to her Monforte Dairy. Cheese fans give $500 upfront to help her build a new dairy. She pays them back in five annual cheese deliveries worth $150 each.

In the last year, she’s sold 810 subscriptions and raised a total of $364,000 (some subscriptions were worth more than $500, some less) toward her $500,000 target.

– Ontario farmers Vicki Emlaw and Tim Noxon are battling the winter cash-flow crunch by selling Vicki’s Veggie Bucks. These are coupons that customers can trade for vegetables during the harvest season. They also offer a 10-to-15% discount for every $100 purchased.

Hungry buyers can use their bucks at the couple’s own farmstand or at the farmers’ markets they attend — eliminating the need to deliver boxes during the busy summer season and guaranteeing them a predictable income.

– Quebec microbrewery Boquébière creates beers infused with local maple syrup and honey. The company has started paying some of its suppliers in beer, rather than cold, inedible cash.

– Southern Ontario’s Creemore 100 Mile Store was launched with a funding party. Owners Jacquie Durnford and Sandra Lackie invited women they thought would be interested in a grocery store that sold locally produced food and shared their business plan at the soirée. That night, 17 women gave $1,000 each, which the owners have promised to repay (with annual interest) in five years.

The pair evenutally raised $47,000 and opened the store just one month after the party.

These examples are brilliant because they represent more than just creative financing; they’re also giving customers an invitation to participate in the business and a good story to share (i.e. “You have a chèvre subscription? They’re paying you in honey ale?”).

There are so many ways to earn money — and no rules that you have to follow tired revenue models. Think through your best attributes. If you’re offering something amazing and the demand is real, people will want to help. Get your customers or clients involved (and even invested) in your success.

$150 in cheese? Yes, please.

posted 22 Apr 10 in: food, media, retail. This post currently has 2 responses.

meet sarah mccoll

photos courtesy Pink of Perfection

When the Internet feels bloated with inane semi-celebrities and nasty newspaper commenters, I gravitate to Sarah McColl – the sweet, gracious and whip-smart voice behind the popular blog, Pink of Perfection.

Described as “a guide to the simple pleasures of a creative life for the budget-minded bon vivant,” Pink of Perfection (or POP to its equally well-mannered readers) is a charming mix of recipes, inspiration, DIY projects, entertaining tips and thrifty finds. Sarah and her boyfriend (now husband), Sebastian, launched the blog back in 2006 as a forum to share the ups and downs of living a crafty, creative life.

The original POP featured video interviews and how-tos, but both Sarah and Sebastian were soon too busy with thriving careers to continue shooting and editing those time-consuming segments. Today, Sarah nurtures the blog for a loyal fan base and works as a freelance writer and editor in Brooklyn. She’s written for high-profile magazines including Bon Appetit and currently blogs for the Shine network on

While it took some time to figure out what she wanted to reveal on POP, Sarah says the blog is now a comfortable online home and a source of creative motivation: “It’s as much a place of inspiration for me as it is for readers.” That down-to-earth approach comes through in a voice that’s warm, encouraging and unabashedly feminine – just like Sarah herself.

1. What fuels your work?

It’s like that old saying, “I only write when I’m inspired, but I get inspired every day at 9 a.m.” Habit is what makes me sit down every day, but inspiration is something totally different. I’ve been coming off a period where I felt like was phoning in my posts for Pink of Perfection, but I took a week off, relaxed, read some magazines, and that made all the difference. It’s important to let yourself go through those fallow periods.

It’s good to have habits that increase your chance of productivity, but when it comes to what actually fuels my writing, there are so many things: other blogs, great books, great art, podcasts, the seasons. I love being as open as possible to beauty. I’m really a sucker for beauty – in the biggest sense possible.

2. How do you organize your life so you still have the time, energy and focus to be creative?

You have to figure out what works for you and when you’re at your sharpest. I like to get up and just start the day. I like to get right into it. That doesn’t always mean that I get dressed, but it’s very ritualized, because I know that I can really focus in the morning. After lunch, it’s like my brain goes into a whole different space. But the morning is also the time when work is the most fun for me. So then it becomes an encouraging habit. And if your habits support your enjoyment of what you do, it’s much easier to get up the next day and do it again. You have to learn how to set yourself up to succeed.

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

I’ve always really admired Molly Wizenberg from Orangette. I assume she had full-time job when she first started the blog, but after a while she landed a column at Bon Appetit, which is every blogger’s dream. It’s a very legitimate, old-school outlet. Then her book came out, and she seems very entrenched in her community with the restaurant she now runs with her husband. I’m sure if I spent a day in her life I’d think, “whoa, this is too much!” but from the outside it seems like a lovely mix of national-level publications, a personal blog, and a restaurant where she gets to do something practical and hands-on (the opposite of cerebral writing) and she gets to interact with the local community, too. She seems to have it figured out.

When it comes to someone who’s at the level of Nigella Lawson, for example, who has TV shows and books and fame, I worry that you’d actually get away from the nuts and bolts of what made you start in the first place. So if there’s somewhere in the middle where you can live and make enough money and not be a superstar, that’s definitely the goal.

4. How many revenue streams do you have in your work?

Two. Freelance writing and advertising income. Pink of Perfection is part of the Martha’s Circle ad network.  Monthly revenues are determined both by page views and how much ad space the Martha Stewart team sells.

Sometimes I have a crisis of conscience about advertising, but I always come around to the fact that people are getting to enjoy content that they like – for free – so it’s okay to find a way to make it sustainable for me.

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

Freelance writing, editing and blogging.

6. Do you have a passive income stream?

Technically speaking, the blog ads. But I don’t think of the POP advertising as passive, because I do feel like I have to – and I want to – create new content in order to get the page views that pay the ad dollars.

7. What tools or moneymaking opportunities are available to creative pros that you think most people don’t leverage?

I always thought about selling stuff on Etsy, but I don’t think I’m a tremendous crafter who has the level of skill or artistry necessary to sell things that other people would spend money on. I love crafting more in the sense that it’s fun to do things with your hands and it’s meditative.

I also love Three Potato Four, which is a husband-and-wife team who run an online shop filled with a beautifully curated collection of great objects that you’d want in your home: ceramics, art, furniture, etc. I think so many people have that fantasy of having a shop of their own. But I’d only ever do that online.

This is random, too, but I’ve found that selling books on can be surprisingly lucrative. Every bibliophile has stacks of cookbooks they don’t use or duplicate copies of a book, and I’ve sold stuff on there, plus vintage dresses and other items on eBay. I don’t know if it’s a good tip, but it’s something I do sometimes!

8. What have you done that has brought the most opportunities and attention to you?

When I started the blog, it was really important to me to convey the idea the nothing is so hard. Our culture is obsessed with experts and people who are super-specialized. Throughout my whole life, I’ve felt frustrated that people want you to specialize. They want you to be really amazing at one thing. But for anyone who’s interested in a lot of things – like cooking and crafting and figuring out how to create a life for yourself – that feeling that “you have to be excellent at something or why bother” can be discouraging.

I try to use a voice on the blog that says “You can do stuff. It’s just dinner. Or it’s just knitting.” It is just that and you can do it, but it’s also so much more, because it can really transform how you feel about your daily life. I don’t know if that’s brought me the most attention, but it’s really important to me.

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

As much as I hate to say it, buying a smartphone has made my life so much easier. I was afraid that having a phone that was clever would make me feel over-connected. But it actually makes me feel less panicky about whatever I’m missing.

Another important investment for me was changing blog platforms. I started Pink of Perfection on MovableType, and in early 2009, I moved it to WordPress and I hired these really great designers to redesign my blog. It made the blog look much more professional. The original design we had in 2006 was really forward, but by 2009 it needed to be spruced up.

I think sometimes people forget to make sure the look of their blog works with the content. If you have great, smart, intelligent, wonderful content, I think sometimes people might not get to that because we love things that are aesthetically pleasing and design-y and that can make as much of an impression as your actual content.

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

You can do creative work, and your creative work can be important and it can be invaluable to other people and it can maybe even succeed in making the world slightly better. But you can’t continue to do that work if you can’t pay your bills, if you can’t keep a roof over your head, and you can’t keep eating. So, I definitely think there’s a line that you can cross, but you have to be able to take care of your basic needs so you can keep doing the work that is good. It’s hard though, because it’s a constant negotiation to figure out how to do what you love and stay pure and honest with it, and at the same time, get paid for it.

Thanks, Sarah!

posted 15 Apr 10 in: design, food, interviews. This post currently has 3 responses.

break it down: jamie oliver

all photos courtesy Jamie Oliver

I just watched Jamie’s 2010 TEDPrize talk. Whatever your take on Mr. Oliver and his cooking, the man is plying his fame to tackle a critical problem. Even better, he’s proposing a simple, grassroots plan to stem the greasy tide of fast food and rampant obesity. Cheers to that.

Creative outsider, he’s not. But back in the late ’90s, Jamie was just a cocky Essexer working in London’s River Café. The charming, scruffy-haired lad who could talk almost as fast as he could chop intrigued BBC crews filming a documentary on the trendy dining spot. The TV segment aired and Jamie’s phone started ringing. Next came his own television series, The Naked Chef, and a growing audience dominated by women with a sudden interest in Pasta Puttanesca.

From that first series, Jamie built his name into a global brand expressed through television, best-selling cookbooks, an eponymous magazine, cookware and kitchen products, restaurants, and now a U.K. multi-level marketing program (think Tupperware). I realize that few creatives want to ply their wares in the style of sex toy and candle parties, but we can still rip a page from Jamie’s playbook. Let’s break it down:

The position

Jamie can cook and simultaneously charm the camera. That’s his thing. Flustered in the kitchen? Grab a stool and crack open a beer. He’ll show you how to grill up some fish with one eye on the football match. Simple. Easy.

The math

Choice and content

From a position of choice and expert status, Jamie had the leverage he needed to address issues close to his heart: The Fifteen restaurants built to train under-privileged young chefs, unhealthy school lunches and now, the bloated business of Big Food.

In 2004, sharing and creating content outpaced straight communication (i.e. email) as the top online activity. It was a huge cultural shift and technological shift. Jamie built his career by translating two basic talents into compelling content. That content built an audience, which in turn, enabled him to create more content, grow his profile, and leverage that profile to build his earnings, attract new opportunities and ultimately, control his own fate. That’s how the cheeky chef from Clavering has found himself onstage at TED. And isn’t independence — mixed with straight-up passion –– really the Holy Grail?

When creative skill is expressed through the right content (appropriate medium, format, distribution, tone), it builds an audience for the core work. We can’t all talk cricket and chop onions without severing a finger or two. But, every creative pro can develop engaging content. Take the best of who you are and what you do, match it with a fitting medium and create content that leads you to choice.

posted 9 Mar 10 in: business, food, media. This post currently has no responses.


The City of Light has been good to Pierre Lamielle. The Calgary author, artist and chef has won “Best Food Book Illustrations in the World” at the Gourmand Awards for his cookbook, Kitchen Scraps. Now that the prize is in the bag, Pierre can begin the serious (and well deserved) task of tasting his way across Paris.

illustration by Pierre Lamielle

posted 16 Feb 10 in: art, business, food. This post currently has no responses.

meet pierre lamielle

photos & illustrations courtesy Pierre Lamielle

Talk about a Renaissance man. Pierre Lamielle is a Calgary-based author, illustrator, cooking instructor, graphic designer, blogger, and chef. His fabulously quirky illustrated cookbook, Kitchen Scraps, was published in October and will represent Canada in the Best Cookbook Illustration category at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards on Feb. 11th.

Pierre graduated from the Capilano University graphic design and illustration program and worked for three years as a graphic designer at the Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers before accepting a design and illustration position at the Calgary Herald. When the Herald’s critically acclaimed SWERVE magazine was born, Pierre and editor Shelley Youngblut dreamed up a column that combined Pierre’s lively illustrations with original recipes for gems such as the “stud muffin,” “Adam’s apple ribs” and “hot under the collard greens.”

A couple years later, Pierre left the Herald nest to attend the famed French Culinary Institute in New York City, while continuing to write and illustrate his popular SWERVE column. When he returned to Calgary, he successfully pitched Kitchen Scraps to Vancouver’s Whitecap Books (after several rejections that claimed the book was “too wacky and weird”) and launched his new, multi-faceted, freelance food-and-art career.

I chatted with Pierre just before he jetted off to Paris for the Gourmand Awards ceremony – and an envy-inducing itinerary of exploring, tasting, shopping and “getting jazzed up” for his next book. While he’s certainly hoping to bring home top honours in Paris, Pierre says he’s “totally fine” losing to Chocolate: A Love Story by Max Brenner. “The other two… I don’t know.”

Good luck!

1. What fuels your work?

Organized chaos is pretty helpful – especially when you’re trying to be creative. But everything around you needs to be organized in a way that doesn’t make you crazy. That means going to the library, looking in different sections that you’re not used to and exploring things that you’re not familiar with. Researching – that’s the chaos side of things. The organized side means that you need to have a system that you can feel comfortable in and make slightly repetitive. It’s important to create habits, but also when you’re in the creative process, it’s good to go elsewhere to find new ideas.

2. What are some of your habits?

I find that dangling carrots is effective. For example, I’ll tell myself that I can’t have a cup of tea until something is finished. And when I’m doing illustrations, I use a specific pencil, I use a specific pen, and I have a set way of doing things. Writing is a little bit more free form, but I try to keep a consistent format.

3. How do you organize your life so you still have time, energy and focus to practice your craft?

I don’t keep it all that well organized. My mom’s in Vancouver, and she has an accountant that helps me with my taxes. I give her a shoebox, she takes a look at it, then gives it to her accountant. I’m sure it’s riddled with mistakes, and I miss lots of things and I don’t write off everything I should.

Day-to-day life can get bogged down, but luckily I’m not very important, so I don’t get very many emails. I keep a low profile. I don’t have anyone I need to talk to on a regular basis. But it does get interesting, because I juggle a few small jobs. I do the column, I teach cooking classes and I try to work on my new book. I also live with my girlfriend and we have her two small kids with us every other week, so it’s hard to keep things consistent. It’s a day-to-day juggle.

4. How many revenue streams do you have?

I teach cooking classes and write the column for SWERVE. And then to supplement, I do illustrations for clients. I don’t solicit, because I find that you just don’t get anywhere. It’s a real struggle to approach art directors. So, I wait for them to come to me, and basically, I’ll say yes to anything that’s about food. Then I do some small catering jobs on the side. Oh, and there’s also the book. It’s an income stream, but I would say it’s the most work I’ve ever done for the least financial payoff.

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

It’s a combination of the cooking classes and the column. I teach at The Cookbook Co. Cooks in Calgary, which has two demo kitchens, a wine shop, and a book and food emporium. I teach both public and private classes. So, it’s either group of accountants from an oil and gas company who come down and cook themselves a five-course meal – and I just make sure it tastes good. Or it’s the public class, where couples or singles or little groups of people come in and mingle and make a five-course meal.

6. Do you have a passive income stream?

No. I wasn’t organized enough to think of anything that I really wanted to merchandise for the last book, Kitchen Scraps. I didn’t want to do illustrated prints, and I didn’t want to do mugs or anything like that. For the next one I’ll probably be more organized and now that I’ve got the process of a book down, I might be able to figure something out.

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

The book and maintaining a blog along with it. I think those two, hand-in-hand, have helped each other out. But that being said, I’m kind of sick and tired of doing a blog, because there’s no revenue stream, and it’s an awful lot of work. You either have to have some really good bread and butter work and be passionate about the blog, or be marketing a product and use the blog as a small marketing tool.

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

Education. That’s pretty safe to say. Going to graphic design and illustration school was huge and got me on that career path. But then going to cooking school was phenomenal, too, because as much as I loved cooking and I’d always cooked, there’s something about the structure of a learning environment that catapults you way beyond anything that you can self-teach. There are aspects of being self-taught that are phenomenal and invaluable, but it’s also invaluable to get the foundation for learning.

What has had the least financial or professional payoff?

It’s hard to say. I’ve done this blog for about a year and I don’t really know the cash value of it. I suppose I’ve expanded the book’s reach, but I also don’t think it has really catapulted the cookbook anywhere.

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

I think you could quite easily sell out. I certainly wouldn’t want to do anything for fast food. Basically, wherever your personal ethics lie, if you feel strongly about something and you go against that grain, that’s selling out.

10. Is there anything else you’ve learned and want to share?

When you work at home, it’s really easy to wear pajamas. Your other pants will quickly become outdated. In fact, I just bought five pairs of pants the other day, because I realized that I had no pants – just one pair of jeans.

Thanks, Pierre!

posted 9 Feb 10 in: art, business, design, food, interviews, media. This post currently has 2 responses.

Page 2 of 212