Stan Grey, Owner, Build & Evolve | #Chronicle150 #32

Last updated on April 4th, 2021 at 02:28 pm

When I ran this year’s Tales from the 2.9, one of the more unexpected responses was from Ann Asher, who proposed writing a piece on a local entrepreneur to profile! There’re so many people living in this country of ours, and Stan Grey is but an example of everything Canada has to offer!

Please enjoy today’s piece and we’ll see you tomorrow for the next instalment of #Chronicle150!

Until then,

The second logo for Casey Palmer, Canadian Dad

Game-Changer: How The Internet is shaping the 21st Century Entrepreneur

Raise your hand if you had ever wanted to start your own business? Was starting this year one of your New Years resolutions? There are literally thousands of businesses that get registered in Canada every year, and according to a June 2016 Key Small Business Statistics report, of the 11.6 million Canadians currently employed as of 2015 approximately 70.5% (8.2 million Canadians) work for companies with less than 500 employees. Needless to say, small/medium enterprises (SMEs) continue to make up a significant portion of employment for many in this country. And when you factor in the variety of businesses operating exclusively online, the impact of SMEs grows considerably.

As Stan Grey would put it, the Internet has become a game-changer in its breakdown of multiple barriers-to-entry in virtually (pun intended) every industry – which, unfortunately in the past, deterred many people from exploring a career in entrepreneurship.

As a sci-fi loving, Apple product enthusiast, Stan Grey took the time to examine some of these new resources for today’s entrepreneur, and coupled his futuristic thinking with his passion for graphic design and technology to create Build & Evolve; an online business that he runs from his “corner office” literally next to his living room couch. Providing services such as web and logo designs, social media marketing, and SEO expertise, Build & Evolve works closely with SMEs to establish and/or improve their professional appeal to their consumer base, and the rest of the world.

Sitting in my living room, armed with my MacBook and voice recorder app ready on my iPhone, I wait less than five seconds for Stan Grey to answer FaceTime on his end. We see each other without any audio-visual interference or delays that would remind us that he’s all the way in Scarborough and I’m a 90-minute bus ride in Brampton conducting this interview. What does come to mind, however, is how far the Internet has come in changing the way we interact with one another in the last 25 years.

So tell us, what inspired you to start Build & Evolve?

SG: I’ve always had the mentality of running my own business, and Build & Evolve was an idea that I had come up with a year or so ago after I noticed a former classmate using his personal cell phone for his small IT consulting business, [and] didn’t have any business cards. From the outside world, the whole thing did not look professional. When he wanted my take on all of it, I was like, “Yeah, I can help you with that”. So I did some graphic designing for him, [I] did his business cards, and I just did a website for him. He was good at IT; he just didn’t know anything about making his business look professional.

In comparison to things like “Wix” and other do-it-yourself-style of online businesses where the customer can build their own platforms, how is Build & Evolve different?

SG: A lot of people don’t have the patience, the time [or] the know-how [to do it themselves] because that’s not what they do. Like, they’re into baking and [they want to] make money but they don’t know anything about how to set up their services to look good, how to create invoicing… so [that’s where] I would come in.

Stephanie Konu, Artist, Lilly Bo Chic | Black Fridays #1

Last updated on February 27th, 2021 at 05:44 pm

I’ll admit it—my cranial cup doesn’t quite runneth over with Black Canadian history. I didn’t have a whole lot of Black folk around me as a kid, with many of the opportunities my parents afforded me not exactly aligning with the archetype of how the world saw Black people at the time.

Or even how many of us saw ourselves.

I think it took me longer than most to grasp the full impact of my Blackness on my life, but now that I’m older and a little more woke, it’s time to examine it all a little more closely—and that’s why I’m starting Black Fridays.

The discussion doesn’t have to stop in Black History Month—there’s no end to the issues Black Canadians face and what we need to overcome as a community. In the hopes that I can do my part to point us in the right direction, each week we’ll take a look at an aspect of Black Canadian culture, starting with a piece by one of my youngest brother’s best friends—artist Stephanie Konu of Mississauga, ON!

Enjoy her words below, and I’ll see you tomorrow for the next #Chronicle150 instalment!

–case p.

When you think of Black History Month, what are some of the stories and images that come to mind?

I think that Black History Month is the time to celebrate achievements and reflect on how far Black people have come in this society. Having said that, I often reflect upon the story of my parents who both came to Canada in the late 1970s in pursuit of education. My father came from Nigeria, while my mother came from Jamaica and they met each other while on scholarship at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. I will always have the image of the street corner near HUB Mall that my mother pointed out to me as the location of the first time she was introduced to my father. I’m very much a romantic, so I think that there is a profound magic in first meetings.

As two young black people living in Western Canada, my parents faced many struggles including assimilation to a new culture (as well as to each other’s cultures) and eventually raising a family when my older brother was born. Of course, there were many things that helped them along including family and strong bonds with other black people in their networks; but the most important ingredient to their success was a relentless pursuit of education. Without the pursuit and attainment of education, I know that my parents would never have met, and I wouldn’t be here today.

The Black Experience we’re largely exposed to in the media is that of our southern neighbours and the struggles they’ve faced. What’s your experience been as a Black person in Canada, and what have you learned from it?

As a Black person in Canada, I have had both negative and positive experiences. Shortly after I was born, my family settled in a town called Port Credit in Mississauga. Although there were other minorities in our neighbourhood; mysteriously there was a time when my brother and I were the only Black children attending our elementary school. During grades one and two at that school, I recall numerous times where I was singled out by teachers and labelled a “troublemaker”. Interestingly enough, when my parents took me out of that particular school, and I attended a larger and more racially diverse school down the road, my reputation was downgraded and I was simply labelled as an “energetic and creative” student by my teachers.

I try to maintain a high level of positivity in my life, so reflecting on all of the bad things people have ever said or done to me is definitely not something that I habitually do. Having said that, I feel that the faith and spiritualism I grew up with plays a big part in how I interact with people and I use that as a measuring stick to judge myself. I have learned from my experiences thus far that I must not immediately assume that bad things happen only due to racism. I must be rational and try to look at the situation in another way, otherwise, I cannot conduct my life in any meaningful way by allowing that fear to take over.

In sharing your voice with the world, what impression do you hope to leave on the world with everything you do?

As an artist, I would hope that the impression people have of my personality is a fun-loving and intelligent person who strives to make the world a better place for those around her.

We all benefit from good mentors who guide us along the way to make sure we reach our potential in life. Who was your mentor to teach you from a cultural standpoint, and what’s the greatest lesson you learned from them?

My father has always been a very important mentor to me from a cultural standpoint. When he was very young his father died suddenly. As was Nigerian custom then, my father’s mother had to remarry soon after, and he was sent to live with his aunt. In his life, it was the strength of the women around him that enabled him to move past the obstacle of being a young orphaned African boy.

Growing up and into my adulthood, my father has always told me that being a woman is not a hindrance to my success in life. His mentorship has always been one that encouraged me to try everything at least once, and not to allow anyone to tell me that I cannot or should not achieve something that I desire. Thanks to him, I have knowledge of the many strong African women who have come before me in my family, and I know that the strength is also within me.

If you could say just one thing to the rest of the 2.9%, what would it be?

I would love to say that anything is possible and that you should always follow your dreams.

About Stephanie Konu

I am a professional artist from Mississauga, Ontario, who has too many hobbies and interests to commit to any single title. I design and sell garments, I paint acrylic and mixed media on canvas that I build, and I dabble in music production and songwriting in addition to writing short fiction. After surviving a cancerous mass on my Thyroid gland in 2012, I decided that life is simply too short and that in order to accomplish everything I have ever wanted or dreamed of doing, I would have to start right away. My blog can be found at My Twitter handles are @anieksteph for my personal tweets and @lillybochic for my creative company.

Gail Vaz-Oxlade, Financial Expert, Debt-Free Forever | #Chronicle150 #30

Last updated on November 17th, 2020 at 11:32 am

I first crossed paths with Gail in 2016’s Tales from the 2.9 when a mutual friend connected us for her radio show on Newstalk 1010! I remember being nervous as heck—Sarah and I are huge fans (watching syndicated ‘Til Debt Do Us Part episodes numerous times), so every time she’s willing to work with me? I’m 100% honoured.

Gail’s #Chronicle150 submission is like a love letter to Canada, reflecting on much of the good our country has to offer. We’re not perfect and we shouldn’t soon forget that, but we need to live with the hope that those full of hate are in the minority… that we can have 150 years ahead filled with improvement and settle for nothing less!

Please enjoy Gail’s post below, and we’ll see you tomorrow for another day in the #Chronicle150!

Until then,

–case p.

For years I’ve been the girl that people turn to when they have money questions. But I’m much more than Canada’s money honey. I’m a Mom. A gardener. A painter. An opinionated believer in fairness. I swear like a trucker, love to cook, and am a half-decent writer. I’ve been a wife, but I’m done with that now. I’ve also been a daughter and a sister. Through it all I’ve learned that wherever I am now, that’s not where I’m going to be tomorrow. So I make the best of the great days. And when a holy storm blows up, I hang on by my fingernails because tomorrow will be better.

I am Jamaican-Canadian. Jamaican because that’s where I was born and where all my sauciness simmered. Canadian because this is where I’ve grown into the woman I am. Canada has given me opportunities I would never have had in J A. And I’m grateful for a country where anyone can make of themselves as much as they want to be. I love Canada’s heart.

#Chronicle150—150 Truly Canadian Stories for its 150th Birthday—#30, Gail Vaz-Oxlade, Financial Expert, Debt-Free Forever—Gail Out on the Town

Robert Iveniuk, Writer | #Chronicle150 #29

Last updated on November 8th, 2020 at 12:10 am

I admittedly had a far more grandiose introduction in mind for the second phase to #Chronicle150, but there’s an àpropos saying about the best-laid plans of mice and men that comes to mind instead.

Tales from the 2.9 was quite the ordeal and an ambitious way to start #Chronicle150, but with my annual Black History Month celebration at a close, I’m redirecting my energies into celebrating this sesquicentennial in style—I only get one shot at it, after all! I’ll share my thoughts soon enough, but I’ll let my good friend Rob start us off for now.

Rob’s one of the most intelligent and passionate writers I know—his #Chronicle150 submission has a lot to pick apart, from our murky history to our internationally-renown niceness, and a bevvy of ways in which we can grow. I think you’ll take a lot from his words, and hopefully, they inspire you to look at your own Canadian experience and what you’ve gleaned from it!

I hope you enjoy it, and I’ll see you tomorrow with the 30th #Chronicle150 post!

Until then,

–case p.

Who are you and what are you all about?

My name is Robert William Iveniuk, and I am an author, columnist, and scriptwriter who lives and works in Toronto. I enjoy flights of fancy and media studies, and I have worked in and out of the not-for-profit sector for years. Whether or not I am good at any of those things is up for debate, really.

#Chronicle150—150 Truly Canadian Stories for its 150th Birthday—#29, Robert Iveniuk, Writer—Robert Iveniuk Speaking

What makes you so Canadian?

I could type “I was born here, mate” and then walk away, but then I wouldn’t be a good writer if I did that.

Let’s go into terminology first, because that definition of “Canadian” has become increasingly vague over the years – and for the better, really.

When I think of such concepts as The Canadian, I think back to what I’d always been told growing up that Canada embraces being a Mosaic over a Melting Pot, that people are Swedish-Canadian, Bengali-Canadian, Ghanaian-Canadian, or First Nations, rather than simply “Being Canadian.” It’s that idea of having distinct values that you grew up with, maintaining a unique cultural or ethnic identity while being part of a larger whole. Being Canadian, in that respect, is not about Where You Came From so much as it is about What You Came From. It’s asking that question of how the hardships you and your family endured and whatever privileges you benefitted from over the generations affected your worldview and what you expect out of life and other people. It is also your reference point for your ideas of success and being a better person to yourself and those around you.

Speaking for myself, my family’s history is pretty Canadian. My father is descended from Ukrainian refugees who fled Eastern Europe during the Bolshevik Revolution, and my mother is an expat who left Britain to see the world. Hearing about my father’s life growing up in the poorer parts of Winnipeg and my mother’s experiences when she first came here played a huge part in my growth as a person. This made it easy for me to understand the friends I’d made who were New Canadians or still had family abroad. It was also what inspired my decision to work in the not-for-profit sector, especially in immigration, and part of the reason why I am a storyteller.

That ability to connect and empathise with other people, no matter how different they are, is very Canadian to me. It’s something that I see in my family, friends, and the people around me, and it’s something that I see in myself.

Ardean Peters | Tales from the 2.9, Vol. 2 #28

Last updated on April 20th, 2021 at 12:20 am

This year’s been a challenging one for Tales from the 2.9.

The Tale of 2017’s Tales from the 2.9

Last year was bad timing—putting 29 daily posts out right after becoming a Dad for the second time is no simple feat, and we somehow pulled it off. I was eager to build on that success and keep it going well past February, but life as a quartet caught up with me, and my time and energy soon found themselves committed… elsewhere.

So I stood this year determined to learn from my mistakes, and I thought I had it all figured out. I started looking for contributors weeks earlier, hoping to line everything up at the beginning of February and make time for other things. I tried to build awareness for the project, putting out a press release and landing interviews in several major Toronto media outlets with both luck and a noteworthy story. Everything felt perfect for an amazing Tales from the 2.9… until we reached the end and I suddenly found myself without enough contributors.

Fortunately, I had unpublished work like Ardean Peters’ piece below, but I’m surprised at how things worked out. I definitely get it—some were too busy to write; it is Black History Month, after all. Some too overwhelmed by the questions’ gravity in a polarised world. And I’m sure some started writing, but life had other plans for their time, and they never got to finish.

Whatever the reasons, I’m glad we saw 28 unique stories in 2017. It taught me a valuable lesson, too: don’t expect miracles when you spread a message only one month in the year!

But Enough of Me—Let’s Get to Ardean!

But these are words befitting a wrap-up post; this is not my soapbox right now—the eyes are squarely focused on Ardean. Her story mirrors that of many Black children born here in that we don’t really recognise our Blackness until we’re older. We know we’re different at first, but don’t often understand what that means in the larger world until we have the life experience to get it.

I do hope you’ve enjoyed this year’s Tales from the 2.9, and we’ll wrap this up tonight with one. More. Post!

See you then,

The second logo for Casey Palmer, Canadian Dad

Many Black Canadians come from families who sacrificed plenty to give them the lives they have today. What do you know of your family history, and how has it shaped your current self?

Both my mom and dad are from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent and emigrated to Canada in 1968 and 1971, respectively. I think what I remember most is, while my parents had a strong connection to their home and instilled in us those traditions, they also always encouraged us as ‘Canadian kids’, making sure that we knew that we were Canadian and this was our home. To that end, I see myself as Canadian first, sewn and stitched together with a rich and diverse history and culture, which informs who I am today.

The Black Experience we’re largely exposed to in the media is that of our southern neighbours and the struggles they’ve faced. What’s your experience been as a Black person in Canada, and what have you learned from it?

Tales from the 2.9—The Black Canadians Sharing their Stories in a Digital Age—Vol. 2 #28, Ardean Peters, Photographer, Photography by Ardean—Ardean Standing
Credit || Michel Eberhard

Interesting question, because it wasn’t until I was an older child, I saw myself as ‘black’. As a child growing up, I just thought of myself as ‘Canadian’, and my skin colour was an afterthought. I grew up in the most diverse community in North York at the time, Jane and Finch. On top of that, the school I was in really encouraged the belief that we were ALL Canadians and equal. I was so lucky to experience such a diversity of people and culture, which has shaped how I treat and connect with people as an adult.

On the flip side, as I’ve gotten older, had more experiences, worked in many different environments and experienced more of the city, its people and neighbourhoods, I’ve realised that I am a minority, which I honestly didn’t see as a young person. Because of this, and the realisation of how strong an impact media has on shaping people’s opinions that have limited access and contact with black people (and people of other ethnic backgrounds), I realise the importance there is in promoting positive and normalising images of Black Diaspora people.

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