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

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.


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!