How to find a mentor // The non bullshit edition


GAAAAAAH! If I hear one more person tell me how they have a rockstar mentor and how it took them just courage and an email to get there, I am going to jump off a cliff.

Mentorship is a topic near and dear to my heart.

I have some incredible mentors who I didn’t establish a relationship with by sending an email nor by being gifted with courage by the Wizard of Oz himself. Here’s what happened: I was at a hackathon once and I was going on and on about how I wasn’t a feminist and a woman asked me, “Do you have a vagina?” to which I replied yes cause yes… yes I do.

She then proceeded to ask me, “Do you want to be in charge of it?” A question that received another resounding yes from me.

Then you are a feminist!”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how I met Karen Schulman Dupuis — a woman I love dearly and who is also one of my mentors. However, we didn’t declare a mentor and mentee relationship there and then. That took three years and lots of opportunities getting to know each other.

So for the love of God, stop trying to perpetuate the myth that you can find a mentor via an email or over a cup of a coffee. The relationship-building aspect of it takes time, oodles of time.

Also, someone doesn’t have to be “officially” your mentor for them to give you valuable advice. Kirstine Stewart, VP Media at Twitter Inc, was once speaking at a Salesforce event and she recounted an incident where someone tried to take credit for her work, a situation many of us are all too familiar with.

She went on to share her experience on how she countered that and took back her power, a strategy that I have used countless times since then in my own life. I have had brief interactions with her and she is absolutely amazing, but I haven’t asked her to be my mentor, however this incident has changed my life.

One of the most common questions I receive regarding mentorship is: who should I look for as a mentor?

Well, in order to receive an answer to that you have to answer a couple more questions. Who do you learn from? Who has changed your life for the better? Who do you turn to when you need advice? Well, those people right there are your mentors. Maybe it is your mum, your dad, your best friend, your boss but there you have it, it is really as simple as that.

I know, I know… “butttt Ria those are not legit mentors, how do I get to have tea with the brightest and finest minds in the industry? Why won’t they reply to my email, ZOMG!”

Patience, my friend, is not a virtue for no reason. Whenever you hear people tell you how they got kick-ass mentors via an email, here’s what they are not telling you:

  1. Getting those kind of mentors took time.
  2. They probably received a hundred rejections before hearing a yes.
  3. They hustled… hard! (Although No One Gives a Sh*T about your hustle.)

Without sounding ultra cocky, I will share a tip with all of you. My work with Vinetta Project, Women Who Code and other organizations has afforded me many opportunities to have conversations with some brilliant people. Getting involved in initiatives like that opens many doors.

If you give, then you generally receive the love from the universe in buckets. So there you have it, my two cents on finding a mentor.

Shifting Business Models & Changing Mindsets, One Entrepreneur at a Time

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Last week, I picked up the phone to chat with Sheena Repath, an inspiring and creative individual and the founder and CEO of MSH District. Initially, I had thought that she would weave me a tale of her career starting with a little girl who was obsessed with fashion and making things. Instead, I met a women with a passion for helping people and a warrior goddess with a knack for making sh*t happen!

Seven years ago, Sheena was working with Walmart when her father, an accomplished entrepreneur himself, encouraged her to take a passion test. The test revealed that Sheena’s number one passion was helping people.  With her dad’s encouragement, she quit her job at the peak of the 2008 economic recession.

Sheena started attending a number of networking events and meeting entrepreneurs who were ready to start their own companies, but did not yet have the tools to do so successfully. They were trying to  forge a path for themselves, but were struggling to navigate their target markets.

Her aha moment came when she realized that she had what all these entrepreneurs were looking for; a wealth of experience. Having worked with more than a hundred entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to reality, she decided to do something to help. MSHDistrict was founded.

MSH District is a unique maker space that focuses on helping entrepreneurs by uplifting, inspiring and unleashing his or her potential. It is a place where anything goes and you are encouraged to innovate without fear of failure. It also provides access to excellent industry mentors who have been extremely successful in their own businesses.

“Building the first prototype can be challenging,” says Sheena, “a lot of people want to focus on building something iconic, but don’t know how that can be achieved. They think that retailers and e-commerce are the ways to their dreams, but you have to keep the customer in mind and think of ways to reach your target market. Only then can you create something that excites you and your customers.”

Creating a prototype is a complex process and MSH District aims to simplify that for aspiring entrepreneurs. They held their first ever hackathon at Brightlane three weeks ago that brought together creative individuals and encouraged them to build their ideas on site. Advisors, fabric suppliers, manufacturers and a design team were available on hand to assist the attendees. The result? 15 awesome products came to life and 4 attendees quit their day jobs to pursue their dream!

This initiative will culminate into a 4 month accelerator program that will bring together design and product enthusiasts to create magical new products.

When asked about the selection process and the purpose of MSH District, Repath replied, “My biggest thing personally is to encourage people to go after all of their ideas. The solution to all of world problems is to teach people how to explore their ideas. If bunch of ideas stick together, that builds a better world. We are not talking about earth shattering ideas, we are talking about the amalgamation of great ideas that will create a better society.”

– Ria Riaz
This post was originally written for SheEO

Fruits to Consume when you are trying to Quit Sugar

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By far, the most common thing I hear with regards to quitting sugar is, “So you quit sugar, but you must be eating lots of fruits! right?”

Yes, I am eating fruits now but I am careful about which fruits I consume because some fruits have a really high sugar content and I try to keep my natural sugar consumption under 20 grams a day. The reason being that the more sweet stuff I consume, the more I tend to want sugar. It is a vicious cycle and if you are new to quitting sugar, I would suggest that you keep that natural sugar intake low as well.

Fruits you can consume:
1.Raspberries and Blackberries
These berries are high in fiber and low in sugar plus they are extremely flavourful.
2. Avocado
Packed with nutrients, avocados can help to lower blood pressure and control your cholesterol levels.
3. Grapefruits
I am not a fan but they pack a nutritional punch.
4. Papaya
High in Vitamic C and rich in antioxidants, papayas also contain a lot of fiber, which can help to slow the release of sugar into the blood and assist with digestion.
5. Strawberries
6. Cantaloupe
7. Guava

1. Dried fruits and juices 
Only fruits are low in sugar, not juices and desserts that they are used in. Reason being that one glass of orange juice has at least 3 oranges in it, which is 51g (3*17g in individual orange) of sugar!
2. Canned fruit
3. Bananas
4. Cherries
5. Pomegranates
6. Mangos 
7. Grapes 
8. Figs 

Hope this helps!

Passion to Paycheque – Lessons from Side Hustle Week 2015


IMG_3253I checked out one of the events for Side Hustle Week today. Organized by Secrets of a Side Hustler founder, Chivon John, it brought all the side hustlers together here in Toronto. I was pretty bummed to have missed the week’s events but was super happy to have made it to Artscape Young Place today! It is a beautiful community space located on 180 Shaw Street and all of you should check it out.


So what is a side hustle?
It means different things to different people. For me it is my passion, something I do outside of my job. To be honest, my day job is the same as my side hustle and I feel blessed every single day.
We learnt a ton during today’s workshop, which was titled Passion to Paycheque, but I am going to share a few key learnings here. Led by LC Johnson and Shereen Ashman, the top learning is already shared in the quote above, which I created with Notegraphy (cause there is an app for that! :p I couldn’t stop myself haha)

The workshop was mainly about pitching yourself, be it to media, investors or a potential client. The following 5 steps are key pointers for that.

  1. Why should they care
    You need to nail your why down. As LC Johnson put it, “There is a reason why your work needs to exist in the world” but you need to be able to articulate why!
  2. Make your pitch as visual and tangible as you can
    Video pitches to media were suggested.
  3. Establish your credibility
    You need to know what you are talking about. LC recommended starting a blog or having a portfolio of some sort.
  4. Embrace what makes you unique
    You are you, so just be you.
  5. Leave them wanting more
    Your pitch doesn’t need to have EVERY TINY DETAIL about you and your business in it.

    LC also mentioned an activity she calls “In a nutshell” which basically helps you clarify your “why”.
    I help ___________________ do _________________ because ______________.
    Fill in the blanks to figure out your “why”!

    Here is mine:
    I work with startups to create communities online and offline because for any business to succeed you need a tribe, a community that gives a damn.

    Do you have a side hustle? Share it with us!



How I Quit Sugar – Reactions

First of all, I wanted to say a huge thank you to each and every one of you who read and shared my “How I Quit Sugar” blog post! It was the most read and shared post on here. Due to all the sharing and community love, CBC Radio found it and I spoke about quitting sugar. Let me just say that I am the last person I thought will ever speak about quitting sugar… ever!

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While I am super grateful for that, a big learning opportunity for me was coupled together with the fact that so many of you were reaching out to me to tell me how inspired you were and that many of you have been trying to quit sugar. A friend of mine even started something called #SoberSeptember and is trying to stay alcohol free for a month!

I was also told that I should work in conjunction with the Canadian Diabetic Association, which I would love to.
There were some common questions and statements that I received in response to my post and I am listing and addressing them down below.

  1. How much sugar did you use to consume?
    Almost a can of condensed milk a day. That is a whopping 54 grams of sugar a day but that was not all, I was also consuming chocolates and donuts and cakes (yes, all in one day). The recommended sugar consumption, according to the American Heart Association, is:

    • Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons).
    • Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons).

    It grosses me out to even think about it now. I did feel a huge emptiness in my days that all the sugary treats used to fill in. I used to pick up a slice of lemon loaf from Starbucks each morning together with my green tea (ha ha so healthy *major eye roll*).
    The point is, I was a major sugar fiend and if I can kick the habit so can you.

  2. When did your cravings stop? 
    The first two weeks were hell. I was cranky and a major pain in the butt. I wanted to punch something… anything. It was only around the third week that I felt sane again.
  3. Good on you, but I can’t quit it. 
    Yes, yes you can.
  4. Did you quit natural sugar too?
    Yes, initially. I am now beginning to eat fruits again but only those that are low in sugar.
  5. Have you slipped and cheated through your #100sugarfreedays?
    Yes, once. I ate two mini cupcakes to celebrate an important occasion and once on my wedding day I had a nibble on a traditional sweetmeat.
  6. Are you doing this to lose weight or to stay healthy?
    It is a bit of both. I wanted to be in charge of my own body and was developing an increasingly negative body image but I am also conscientious of the fact that Type 2 diabetes runs in my family. While I am aware that it isn’t just caused by consumption of sugar, I am sure it is not helping any.
    I also found out that South Asian women are 10 times more likely to develop diabetes as compared to their North American counterparts. YIKES!
  7. Why have you not substituted sugar consumption with something else?
    Because that is not how it works! If you are merely substituting it with something else you are just as likely to get addicted to the substitute. That being said, if you are having a really hard time, I would recommend fruits such as blueberries that are low in sugar.
  8. What do you do about hidden sugars in packaged food?
    You can avoid that by cooking at home, looking at the ingredients on the packaging or by doing some good old internet research. The fact of the matter is that there is sugar everywhere and it is hard to avoid it completely but you can make healthier decisions by doing your research and being aware of what you put in your body.

My next blog post will be about fruits that you can consume when you are trying to quit sugar. Let me know if there is anything else you would like me to chat about, in the comments section, and I will do my best to address it.


How I Quit Sugar

For those of you who know me personally, you know that I love loved sugar. Yup that’s right, about two months ago, I quit the white stuff. I am still eating fruits from time to time but no refined sugar whatsoever. Two days ago at an event, I had 2 mini cupcakes because well it was a major event and afterwards I felt like I was drunk. In short, it was awful.
I am really proud to say that now I don’t even crave sugary treats and would rather opt for vegetables or water.

How did this come to be you ask? Well my friends you are in luck because I am about to share some helpful tips to quit sugar for good (I hope). These tips will not be things like, “oh consume f***ing stevia” because YUCKS!

I quit Sugar

  1. It is all about the Why
    Yes, the why is so very important. I have tried to quit sugar several times before this but every single time I tried to do so, the main reason used to be the fact that I wanted to lose weight and fit in a dress. I would quit sugar for a few weeks, then go back to it as soon as I fit in a dress and the event where I had to wear it was over.
    This time, however, things were different.
    I quit because I wanted to live healthier. I have recently found out that almost all of my grandparents had diabetes and that it skips a generation. That in itself was enough for me to want to be healthier.
    So let your why be a healthier lifestyle. It is fine to have weight loss as one of your goals, tweak it a little and make it “MUST LOSE WEIGHT TO BE HEALTHIER!” and see wonders happen.
  2. Reward yourself
    Yes, I said it. You have to reward yourself but not with sugary stuff! Instead choose a different reward system. In my case, I am an avid book reader, so all the money I used to spend on candy, chocolates, drinks and other stuff now goes towards buying books.
    How I derived the magical number to spend on books? Mostly it is an estimate but I know that I used to consume chocolate bars, condensed milk and sweet treats from Starbucks every single day so the number comes up to roughly 60 dollars a week.
    I usually get my books from used book stores so $60 is enough for at least 3-5 books a week and it helps me nourish my mind!
    Also, I don’t buy 3-5 books a week so I am actually saving some money.
  3. Don’t go to places that serve sugary treats (at least for the first few weeks)
    Admittedly the first few weeks of quitting sugar are really rough. I had the shakes and could not sleep well, which to be honest scared me a little because I felt overly reliant on sugar.
    I found it incredibly hard to resist the urge to pick up snacks if I was looking at them, so I stopped going to places that served sugary treats, which included cafes and restaurants. C was also doing most of our grocery shopping so I did not have to worry about facing chocolates and other cakey goodness in person. (Thank you so much C!)
    When I did go for grocery shopping, we called the sugary aisle “The Aisle of Doom” and avoided it all together.
  4. Don’t talk about quitting sugar when you are trying to attempt it
    Quitting sugar is like being in fight club, we don’t talk about fight club. In the past, every time I had tried to quit sugar, I would tell everyone about it and everyone would praise me. As a result, I would get so much satisfaction from the fact that I was getting praised that I would not actually end up doing it.
    This time though, I only talked about it after a few weeks of trying to decrease my sugar intake and since I was already on the path, it was much easier to keep going on it.
  5. Do it with friends
    I am not refuting point number 4. What I am saying is that tell one friend about it and have them help you. C has known for a while that I have wanted to quit sugar and as a result has been cutting it out of my morning tea for a year or so now. I didn’t even know this!
    At first I thought C just really sucked at making tea :p but then when I found out, I was actually really happy because now when I actually did quit it, at least my tea in the morning tastes normal! And that my friends is a blessing!
  6. Don’t overthink it
    There is tons of stuff out there talking about how sugar is bad for you and causes a ton of diseases. I found that reading all that made me depressed and made me crave sugar more. So I would suggest not to overthink it.

I hope this helps you in quitting whatever you are trying to quit. I would love to hear your tips and tricks on how you have quit something. Let me know!

Image from Fit Girl Secrets (It has some tips on quitting sugar too!)

Casa Loma and Other Weekend Things

So this weekend was incredibly amazing! C’s friends were in from out of town and we went to visit Casa Loma! Like finally! It was really awesome and totally lives up to the hype… wait there is no hype! Why is there no hype? The place is bloody amazing! There is a tunnel underground and you can walk from one end to the other.

We basically walked from the castle to the red building across that you see in the picture below.

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Won’t lie, the tunnel isn’t the best experience when you have asthma but it was worth it. Cause where the tunnel ended, a garage and stables began! I mean seriously, the man had way too many cars. Here are some of my favourites! (Apparently, he was the first one in Canada to have a motorized car and he crashed it on the day he got it because he didn’t know how to brake! waittt whaaat?!)

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Then we went on to see some other treasures in this humongous place that someone once called home albeit briefly. Henry Pallett only got to reside there for 15 years.

The place is basically secret passage galore and weird art. Pallett also loved animal skin rugs (someone call PETA) but then again that was the norm back then. Ewww.

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Saw this clock thingy (pictured above and had to take a photo).

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Also Lady Pellatt was awesome!

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More glorious views from the tower! Used to be slums and now it offers such a great view of the Toronto skyline.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 9.54.40 PMUs ❤ ( Hubberz and I!)

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Yesterday I went to watch Inside Out with my sister but that’s a post for tomorrow because I want to do a proper review on that but I give it 4 thumbs up, you know with my hands and feet! Love you sista! #sisters4eva

I didn’t do any work this weekend and that is just fine

It happens every once in a while. I lose all will and motivation to do anything but that’s not what happened this weekend. I intentionally decided to not do anything.

No school, no work, no getting stressed out about oh so many things that needed to get done.
Instead, I read and spent a wonderful day in the city, out and about, with the hubz! 🙂 Couldn’t be happier! Totally ready to kick butt at work tomorrow now!

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Picture Taken at Kensington Market in Toronto

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First weekend read was A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did not Buy by Sarah Lazarovic! She is a Canadian illustrator and designer who also happens to have written a wonderful book. It is a light read and perfect for a lazy summer weekend. This is also something I would highly recommend all of you shopaholics out there to read. I picked up some shopping tips and actually applied them when I went shopping. All I can say is, quality over quantity folks.

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My second weekend read was a graphic novel. I haven’t updated this site in a while but I did mention a year ago that I am enrolled in a Masters program at University of Toronto. It is a really diverse program, which is why I have been able to take some really interesting classes in the last two years (Oh did I mention that I graduate in 2 weeks?!)
Anyways, I am currently taking a class on Graphic Novels and Comic Books in the Library and have actively started seeking out and reading comic books. Which led me to The Big Skinny.

Ok that’s a big fat lie! That’s only part of the equation. I also have started a weight loss journey… No, I don’t have an eating disorder and I am not obese. I am just trying to be healthier and eat better for the sake of older me. (hey 50 year old me! if you are reading this… you are welcome! ;))
So as I was saying, the comic book class and the quest for a healthier me led me to Carol Lay‘s work in the form of The Big Skinny. It is a bibliography cum self help guide to help folks eat healthier! I especially love the calorie count table at the end of the book! Thank you Carol.

The book does not tell you to count calories obsessively but just being aware of what you put inside your body is really freaking important!

It was written in 2008 so some of the research is not super up to date. For instance, she recommends using Stevia and Edamame… Two things I will never put in my body ever again. Overall though, it is a really fun, fast and useful read.

Oh and I guess finally cleaning my desk counts as a little bit of work! :p

photo (10)I hope all of you had a wonderful weekend as well! Catch you soon!