Double Business Feature — S’Wich Cafe & BLVD Bistro: Both Celebrate North Shore News Readers Choice Awards!

Reader's Choice Winners

I discovered BLVD Bistro one morning last summer when my BFF and Big Sis, Mona had spent the night and we were craving brunch. I did a Google search and they were one of the first to pop up for North Vancouver.

They provided great customer service and yummy noms. And I found out the Chef and Owner of BLVD also is the man behind the business next door, S’wich Cafe.

I went to work straight away taking photos of our brunch, the decor and featured them on my Instagram page along with local hot sauce, Jumpin’ Johnny’s. And more recently I was able to visit S’Wich Cafe with my Foodie Cohort, Mama Izumi and ordered an El Cubano, Up Your Alley and their Vegan Chilli.

Winner of North Shore News Reader's Choice Awards - BLVD Bistro Brunch
Winner of North Shore News Readers Choice Awards – BLVD Bistro Favourite Weekend Brunch & Favourite Breakfast Restaurant

I had the privilege of interviewing Chef Erik Juarez and thoroughly enjoyed our Q & A session:

M: When did you open S’wich Cafe and Blvd Bistro?

C: S’wich Cafe was opened August 1, 2011 (OMG) and BLVD BISTRO opened April 20, 2016.

M: Did you plan from the beginning to open two businesses side by side?

C: I didn’t plan on it at all! I thought I was going to live simply. Sling coffees, a few sandwiches and not do anything more in the hospitality business ever again.

BLVD Bistro's Standard Issue Benedict
BLVD Bistro’s Standard Issue Benedict

M: Where are you from? If you moved to Vancouver, why did you move here?

C: I was born and raised in North Vancouver. It is my home and always will be. I’ve moved around a bunch in my youth, Mexico, Spain, Kelowna, and the Salmon Arm.

M: What was your inspiration for your businesses?

C: Truthfully, I never meant to open a business. I was a dedicated Chef that fell into the same trap as so many others before me.

Find a decent job and work your ass off for some owners that would probably replace you tomorrow if you dropped dead. That’s what happened. I was working 16 hour days with no days off in sight for people I feel, couldn’t care less about me.

I was stressed, sick, fat and unhappy. At that time my grandmother passed away and I inherited 33 thousand dollars from a life insurance policy. The shop you know as S’wich Cafe was originally a neighbourhood coffee shop that wasn’t doing so hot.

One day the owner asked me jokingly if I wanted to buy a cafe. I said, “Yes, I DO!” So with that inheritance and some help from my Mom I bought that business (paid too much) but now I have something that is mine. A little tiny piece of a hospitality business and a chance to do it differently.

M: Did you always know that you wanted to be a chef?

C: I did not know but I was about 16 when I found out. I worked at EARLS like a lot of North Vancouver men and women have. I worked my way through the ranks, learned to communicate, learned to flirt.

Most importantly, I learned that I had a deep love for cooking, the push, the lifestyle and the art. However, somewhere in my limited experience I knew there was more art and skill to uncover.

Chef Erik Juarez
Chef Erik Juarez & his dry cured Spanish Chorizo

M: Did you always know that you wanted to be a restaurant owner?

C: I think every aspiring Chef dreams of opening his or her own place. But Ownership was never really a specific goal I had in mind.

My career has just organically led me to these places. Basically, life presents doors and pathways and I hope that by now — I have the life experience and instinct to walk through the right doors and tread down the correct paths. Trust me when I say, I haven’t always.

M: Where did you study the art of culinary?

C: I had been working for a few years in fine dining kitchens by my early 20’s. I had some amazing mentors and some horrible ones.

I remember the day I told one of my chefs that I was going to go to culinary school. He said, “Erik, you can go to school, spend 10 thousand dollars on a fancy diploma and you can hang it on the bathroom wall. The only thing it will be good for is to wipe your ass when you run out of toilet paper.”

I will never forget that. He was kinda right. I staged and worked in every kitchen I could. Every place in town with the word “Le” before the name I worked there.

I read culinary text books like novels and tried the recipes that interested me. I found my resources and my style and have evolved it over 20 years of learning. I still use my online subscription to “ Cook’s Illustrated” daily and have been collecting those magazines for 20 years.

M: What would your advice to future chefs with dreams of owning their own restaurant be?

C: RUN! RUN away fast!!! Hahaha. Joking…

I have a ton of advice. Firstly, be equal to your concept and your staff. Put in the work and do what it takes to make it mesh. There a lot of very long difficult days ahead but I promise once you’re on the other side of it… It’s worth it.

Be there for your staff, know them and care about them.

S'Wich Cafe
S’Wich Cafe’s lovely Tina helped me order from the many yummy sandwich options

Back up your weaknesses, If cooking dope food is your thing but numbers aren’t, make sure you budget and be able to afford someone that has your bottom line in mind at all times.

DM me or Follow me for more advice. Hahahahaha…

Chef Erik Juarez’s IG

M: Do you have a philosophy in life or favourite quote(s) that you would like to share with everyone?

C: I also have a bunch of them.

‘How you do one thing is how you do everything’

‘Perfection is the little things done well. Everyone else sees the big things’

My new FAVOURITE:

BE THE BEST. WORK HARD- WORK FAST-WORK CLEANLY. EVERY INGREDIENT WE USE HAS TO BE THE BEST WE CAN AFFORD.

SEASONS HAVE TO RULE THE KITCHEN. ONLY ALLOW MINIMAL MANIPULATION OF INGREDIENTS WHEN NECESSARY. ELEVATE FLAVOURS THRU UNDERSTANDING.

COOK AS IF YOU ARE EATING. WASTE IS POOR WORKMANSHIP. EXTRACTION OF FLAVOUR IS OUR ROLE IN LIFE AS COOKS.

BALANCE OF MENU IS OUR OBLIGATION TO OUR GUESTS. HEALTH IS CRUCIAL IN MENU PLANNING.

SEASONING IS A TRUE SKILL. SO TASTE, TASTE AND TASTE AGAIN. OUR GOAL IS TO BE THE BEST. SO WE MUST ACT THE BEST.

Winner of North Shore News Reader's Choice Awards - S'Wich Cafe Favourite Caterer
Winner of North Shore News Reader’s Choice Awards – S’Wich Cafe Favourite Caterer

MILESTONES

The meaning of milestones has changed for me. I used to think it was winning awards and competitions. But I couldn’t be more wrong.

Milestones for me are when employees leave you to pursue their own life goals, when great things happen to the team, and when people tell you they love a component or multiple components of your business.

One of my greatest achievements is finding a way to pay a living wage to my staff and provide meaningful benefits to my whole team. Not having to hire and retrain constantly because people feel appreciated and included. It’s built into our company’s culture of genuineness and inclusivity.

Accolades are nice, Reader’s Choice Awards, Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, recognition from our peers. It all feels amazing but I’d have to say, surviving a pandemic, coming out stronger and better has been our greatest achievement to date. I will never forget the strength it took our team to weather the storm.

I am grateful to my staff that stayed with me and came back. We have never been better and that is my greatest achievement to date.

To learn more about BLVD Bistro please visit their website and follow their Instagram as well as S’Wich Cafe’s (right next door) website and IG Page.

Local Business Feature: Interview with Adam Swanson of QRZones

Adam Sanderson of QR Zones

I met Adam Swanson, Founder of QRZones via Instagram as it has now become the norm — networking business contacts and meeting new friends online. After exchanging several messages with Adam, I interviewed him on Zoom and was delighted with how much we had in common.

He was born and raised in North Vancouver, BC. Adam recently graduated from Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops with a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science.

Last summer during the chaos of the pandemic and one of the BLM (Black Lives Matter) marches that he participated in, he was inspired to spread POSITIVITY, to uplift people and build a platform to give back to the community. This is when QRZones was born …

QR Zones Unique Advertising
QRZones Unique Advertising Opportunities

Adam is not motivated by money. He enjoys teaching others and sharing his knowledge of computers. He loved leading a workshop for kindergarten to grade 7 children and developing a curriculum of computer science and coding.

He wants to propel people to open their minds and drive home his message that technology doesn’t have to be hard to learn. Adam uses easy to understand language to make people more comfortable with computers and how they can help us — to show us, laymen that it is a matter of ‘learnability’.

Adam is full of exciting new ideas and opportunities for Small Businesses to grow by saving money and the environment with QR Codes. I have met a kindred spirit who demonstrates my Love of Local! During our meeting we discussed working together to promote and market Local Businesses. Our shared love of building community, spreading positivity, and bringing people up can ONLY grow stronger.

6 Ways QR Codes Can Help Grow Any Business
6 Ways QR Codes Can Help Grow Any Business

This is the core of Adam’s mission, “lifting others up because when we do, we lift ourselves with them.”

To learn more how Adam Swanson and his team at QRZones can expand your business, visit their website and follow their Instagram.

Fit Life Coaching: Where Do I Start? — Resident Nutrition Expert Kristin Ames

Kristin Ames - Nutrition Expert

Ahh, January, the month where we all decide to adopt a healthier lifestyle.  Maybe lose some weight?  Start a new fitness regime? Get better sleep? Meditate?

It can be overwhelming trying to decide where to focus our efforts.  We know we want to feel better, but there are so many different options out there it can quickly lead to analysis paralysis and we end up doing nothing because we don’t know where to start.

On the other hand, it is possible to take on too much at once.  Starting a fitness program, cooking all your meals at home and trying to get 2 more hours of sleep every night, when you previously weren’t doing any of these things consistently, probably isn’t the recipe for success that you’re hoping for.

Extreme or time-consuming changes to your daily routine may be overwhelming when piled on top of all your regular responsibilities and commitments, to the point that you’ll likely end up abandoning your new healthy habits before you have time to reap the benefits.

Kristin Ames of Fit Life Coaching
Kristin Ames of Fit Life Coaching surfing

So what are we to do? I recommend choosing one new habit or behavior that feels manageable right out of the gate.  On a scale of 1-10 where 1 is ‘never gonna happen’ and 10 is ‘I can do this all day long’ it should be at least an 8, otherwise you need to scale back. 

When we are successful at improving our habits and behaviors, we get motivated to make more changes.  I know if feels like radical change will be the most effective, but it rarely is.  Small, manageable changes will lead to lasting results. 

You’re also more likely to keep doing something you enjoy, rather than grinding through something you hate; even the most disciplined person in the world will crack eventually if they don’t enjoy what they’re doing. 

Let’s say you decide you’d like to get in better shape; going to the gym 5 days a week for an hour will surely get you results – right? Well maybe, but it will also probably get you injured and discouraged if you don’t really like going to the gym. 

What if instead you signed up for a fun weekly exercise class, or tennis lesson, or set up a standing date to meet a friend for a walk?  Seems like it wouldn’t be nearly as effective to get you to your goal as the gym option, but guess what? If you stop going to the gym after 2 weeks, you’re never going to reach your goal. 

But maybe, after doing the exercise class for a month, you find another one to add to your week, and then you meet some like-minded people in the class and decide to get together on the weekend to go for a hike…you see where I’m going with this.

Kristin Ames - Nutrition Coach
Kristin Ames selecting fresh fruit in Keremeos, BC

The same principle goes for your nutrition – if your eating habits need an overhaul, think about what small changes you could make easily.  Do you eat out too much?  Set a limit as to how many meals a week you’re going to eat out. 

Don’t eat enough vegetables?  Set a goal of trying 1 new vegetable a week or eating a certain number servings a day.  Don’t buy 10 new vegetables at the grocery store with the expectation that you’re suddenly going to be eating them all day every day, chances are at weeks end you’ll be staring at a fridge full of rotten produce.

If you’re still tempted to bite off more than you can chew, try to narrow down your priorities – what single behavior change or new habit would have the biggest overall impact on your health and lifestyle? 

If you’re struggling with injury or pain, working on your mobility would be a great place to start – if you’re not in pain, you’ll sleep better, feel more like exercising, and probably not be cranky all the time.  

Kristin Ames of Fit Life Coaching
Kristin Ames of Fit Life Coaching lifting weights

If you’re always low energy and tired, then improving your sleep would be beneficial – you’ll be less tired (obviously), keep your hunger in check, and have more energy to exercise more.  Lots of benefits from one doable change.  

So pick something you can start working on tomorrow, and make sure you’ll nail it. Define what you’re going to do, how often you’re going to do it, and how you’ll measure your success.

Once you reach this goal, then, and only then, will it be time to add another.  Maybe it’s something you can master in 2 weeks, or maybe 2 months, it doesn’t matter.  I’ve said it before, but it really bears repeating: small, incremental changes are so much more effective and sustainable over the long term than big radical ones.

They may not be as exciting (for sure no one else wants to hear about your goal to eat 6 servings of vegetables a day for the next 4 weeks) but who cares? What is exciting is that you’ve set yourself up to reach your goals and still enjoy life while getting there.

Kristin Ames is a certified Nutrition Coach, Personal Trainer and Health Coach living in North Vancouver.  Her company, Fit Life Coaching, helps people achieve their best body and health with personalized nutrition and fitness programs. If you would like to learn more about the programs she offers, contact her on her website or Instagram.

Local Business Feature: North Vancouver’s Luxury Automotive Body Shop Coache Collision — In Business for Over 45 Years

Coache Collision Luxury Automotive Repair Shop

I came to know the wonderful family behind Coache Collision in 2011 when I was the Assistant Branch Manager at Hertz Car Rental.  Because Hertz was ICBC’s (Insurance Corporation of British Columbia) preferred rental company, most of our business was with the body shops in North Vancouver.  Out of the many shops that made reservations for their customers, they were one of my favourites.

The luxury automotive body shop specializes in Volkswagen and Audi vehicles with special certifications from both German brands. They have loyal customers that are three generations long just as the Tietze family business.

Coache Collsion was opened in 1975 by Norbert Sr. and Greti Tietze, a hard-working couple, that emigrated from Germany with a suitcase, $50, and a dream to better provide for their family by pursuing the opportunities that Canada offered.

Their longevity can be attributed to Opa and Omi Tietze’s work ethics. They didn’t cut any corners. They repaired their customer’s vehicles right from the beginning, provided German quality craftsmanship and excellent customer service. Omi worked in the office running the administrative, and front end of the shop. Opa had a Type-A personality, was a perfectionist and brought the vehicles back beautifully to pre-damaged condition. Before they opened Coache, he fixed anything with different parts that he could get his hands on.

2018 A5 BEFORE Coache Collision's repair
2018 A5 BEFORE Coache Collision’s repair

Growing up, Opa’s son, Norbert Tietze Jr, spent a lot of time at Coache and took over the shop around 2012 – 2013 with his wife, Chantal. They originally met in Williams Lake, BC when she worked as a waitress in a Chinese Restaurant and Norbert came in for lunch. Opa had a cabin there and he spent a lot of summers in his youth fishing and hunting.

Norbert continued Opa’s tradion of German quality and perfection during his 30 to 35 years in the industry and passed these along to one of his three sons, Taylor. The grandson of Opa Tietze is an estimator. He tells me with pride that, “We’ve had many family members working [here]: my grandparents, my mom and dad, my uncle… one of my brothers has been with us, and now I’m the last of the third generation left.”

2018 A5 AFTER Coache Collision's repair
2018 A5 AFTER Coache Collision’s repair

Just like his Papa before him, Taylor grew up in the body shop. One of the technicians held him as a baby shortly after he was born. He started working in 2006 as a detailer during the summers and in January 2013, he began his full-time career as an estimator. Most of what Taylor learned about estimating was on the job but he also attended courses at the Automotive Training Centre in Surrey, BC.

Sadly, on October 1st, 2019 there was a change of ownership. Norbert and Chantal Tietze sold their family business to the Raydar Collision Group, another family owned business. Opa’s grandson explains that, “My parents wouldn’t have handed over the shop to just anyone, they wanted to make sure all of Coache’s employees were taken care of after they were gone.” All of the staff remains the same as well as the name of the business, only the owners have changed.

Taylor elaborates that, Bill Davidson from the Raydar Group has shown an unmatched passion for the industry, as well … he values his employees. I’ve personally been to one of his other shops, and it’s clear that he takes every step to ensure that not only the business is successful, but the employees are successful within it. I can only see us becoming a more tight-knit team under his leadership.”

To learn more about the luxury automotive repair shop, Coache or book an appointment, visit their website and follow their Instagram. They are located at: 1172 W 3 St, North Vancouver, BC.

Mayumi & Mama Izumi’s Foodie Adventures — White Spot Restaurants

Mama Izumi

If you have lived in our beautiful city for any amount of time, you will come to learn about Vancouver’s local favourite and long-time provider of our dine-out food staples, White Spot restaurants. I was born and raised in Vancouver, BC and ever since I was a little girl, I have loved and nommed on their yummy. comfort food.

I started with their Pirate Paks, progressed to the Legendary Burger, OMG … Triple-O heaven … and as their menu evolved so did my foodie palette. I have recently revisited my longtime beloved dish, Chicken, Broccoli & Cheese, a hint of curry served with Basmati rice.

My foodie cohort and I decided for our third installment of Mayumi & Mama Izumi’s Foodie Adventures that we would go to our preferred location at Pemberton Plaza in North Vancouver. We love it here because it’s comfy, cozy, and especially because of the wonderful team of servers they have on board: Morgan, Shauna, Grace, Katiee, and Gemma to name a few.

White Spot Restaurants
Mayumi & Mama Izumi’s Foodie Adventures at White Spot Restaurants – Fish & Chips and BC Salmon Burger

Smiling faces, warm, sincere attention to their customers & their needs, and they exhibit a real joy while they work to serve us. These are some of the reasons Mama and I love the girls at this particular White Spot.

We also love to support and promote local businesses. And we hold the restaurant that was founded by Nat Bailey dear to our hearts. He started the first drive-in restaurant and the accompanying car-hop tray.on 70th and Granville in 1928 — the first of its kind in Canada.

To learn more about White Spot visit their website and follow them on their Instagram. Pemberton Plaza, Mama & my favourite location is at #107 – 1226 Marine Dr, in North Vancouver.

Babes Promoting Babes Interview Series – Cindy Stibbard of StudySpot Vancouver

Cindy Stibbard

MY MISSION:  To motivate and inspire Boss Babes in the making. To uplift, encourage, and promote entrepreneurs, both male & female and to share aspirations, goals and dreams with them, and you, my subscribers.

To provide and build a warm, loving, and supportive community of CREATORS. Creators of a business, art, or a NEW YOU … 

I “met” Cindy Stibbard via Instagram. We started following each other and became a part of each other’s online communities. I have met a few other Local Business Owners this way last year. And especially now during the pandemic, building community and networking has shifted to mostly online interactions.

M: What’s your story?  Where were you born, where were you raised?  What was your childhood, growing up years like?

I was born in Toronto, Ontario but I grew up in Tsawwssen, British Columbia with my parents, two brothers, one sister and a house full of cats and a dog!

I held numerous part-time jobs as a teenager delivering newspapers for the Delta Optimist, working the drive-thru at McDonald’s, a clerk at Phamasave Drugs, a server at a local Chinese Restaurant and a dancer on the BC Lions Pride Dance Team until the Grey Cup in 1994.

In 1993 I graduated with Honours from South Delta Senior Secondary School. I then attended Simon Fraser University while I worked part-time at Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver during the day, and served at Earls Tin Palace in West Van at night.

M: What did you want to do when you grew up? 

C: Growing up I always wanted to be a TV news anchor. I thought that it would be a fun job and I used to set up mock newsrooms with my siblings. We would pretend we were reporting on the day’s events.

M: What did you study in university? 

C: I really wanted to go to Carlton University or Ryerson because they were known for their broadcasting programs; however, my family’s finances didn’t allow it.

I started out pursuing a Bachelor of Applied Science in Communications at SFU. When I realized that it wasn’t the direction I wanted to go in, I changed my majors to Psychology and Education and followed the path to become a teacher.

Steps for the Successful Completion of Homework
StudySpot Vancouver – Steps for the Successful Completion of Homework

After completing a B.A. in Psychology, I went into the PDP (Profession Development Program) for teachers and completed my B.Ed with specializations in Learning Disabilities and Primary French Language.

M: When did you move to Vancouver?  Why did you move to Vancouver?

C: My family was transferred here about 36 years ago, when I was 8 years old, from Toronto. My dad was in the construction industry and development was thriving in BC, so we settled in Tsawwassen about 40 minutes outside of Vancouver.

 M: When did you start your business?  What was your inspiration?

C: Actually, getting divorced was my inspiration for starting both of my businesses. StudySpot Vancouver came first in 2019 – an Executive Function & Academic Coaching business – spawned out of my decades of experience in the field of Education.

I knew I was going to have to go back to work, after being at home for 11 years raising my kids. I wanted to develop something that would allow me the flexibility to continue to raise my kids, become self sufficient, and at the same time support students in an environment that didn’t confine me to the four walls of a classroom.

Cindy Stibbard with her family
Cindy Stibbard with her children, Photographer – Sarah Jane

While I was going through my divorce, I was faced with many people around me going through a similar experience and I wanted to be able to help them. That’s when I discovered the CDC Intensive Divorce Coaching Training program and dove right in.

It opened up many new doors of opportunity and empowerment for me as I walked the path of entrepreneurship as a newly single mother. Nothing has been more life altering and powerful to me than pursuing my career aspirations during what has been the most difficult transition of my life.

M: What do you love the most about being a Boss Babe?

C: I absolutely LOVE connecting with women who empower other women. There is nothing like the support of women when we truly embrace each other, our strengths, and our bonds.

Through this journey the last 2 1/2 years, I have grown substantially as a person and have made connections all over the world with people who have changed my perspective of myself and who have given me the courage to believe that I can do anything in this life of mine.

StudySpot Vancouver
StudySpot Vancouver – Photographer Sarah Jane

M: What would your advice be for Boss Babes in the making?  If they are contemplating leaving a secure 9-5 job with benefits – what would you say to them? Should they take the leap?

C: START UGLY. I was always the type of person who needed to have all my ducks in a row before beginning anything. Everything had to be in place, I needed to have loose ends, tied and processes followed and systems set up. But what I have discovered in my entrepreneurial journey is that none of that really matters at the beginning.

If you have a dream, or a passion that you are afraid to start, know this – it doesn’t matter how you start, as long as you START! And it’s HARD work, really hard work. It’s many hours of unpaid determination day in and day out, but if you’re in it for the right reasons, if you truly love what you are doing with your soul…  If you are confident with your WHY and your vision is rooted in passion and the genuine desire to make a difference in the lives of others, then success will follow. Start ugly, as long as you start!

M: Any last words? What’s your favourite positive/motivational quote or book?

C: My favorite quote of all time comes from an unknown source but it is one that has resonated deeply with me for quite some time… I have it framed over my bed and I read it every day:

“It’s impossible,” said pride.

“It’s risky,” said experience.

“It’s pointless,” said reason.

“Give it a try,” whispered the heart.

Cindy Stibbard, BA, BEd, CDC, CHCC, ABA of StudySpot Vancouver is a Certified Divorce, Career, & Transition Coach. If you would like to learn more, you can follow her on Instagram.

Mayumi & Mama Izumi’s Foodie Adventures — Fets Whisky Kitchen

Fets Whisky Kitchen

Welcome to my new series, Mayumi & Mama Izumi’s Foodie Adventures! Today marks my first installment and I’m very excited to write about Fets Whiskey Kitchen. It was my second and Mama’s first time at the yummy eatery and bar.

Located in East Vancouver’s Little Italy on ‘the Drive’, Fets is nestled beside Havana and across the street from Grandview Park.

Mama and I ordered their Country Fried Steak and the Cooper’s Breakfast. Fets’ Country Fried Steak is crispy on the outside and the organic meat is moist and tender on the inside — the best I’ve had. It is accompanied by Maker’s Mark Bourbon white gravy, rosemary biscuit & bread, sunny side up egg, hashbrowns (with sauteed onions), and a dash of greens (with pickled onions). Delish!

Fets' Country Fried Steak and Cooper's Breakfast
Fets’ Country Fried Steak and Cooper’s Breakfast

The Cooper’s Breakfast is so tasty that my mouth is watering reliving my memories of it. It is comprised of braised local pork, black beans, sunny egg, and cornbread. All the flavours in both dishes enhance rather than compete with each other. It is gourmet comfort food and my gourmand compliments go to the chef.

Not only am I a foodie, but also a coffee connoisseur. Fets did not disappoint. They serve Western Canadian, Canterbury coffee that is filled with multi levels of roasted flavour notes.

Canterbury coffee at Fets Whisky Kitchen
Canterbury coffee at Fets Whisky Kitchen

A definite must if you haven’t already had the pleasure to nom at this wonderful Commercial Drive restaurant. Besides the yummy eats, the customer service is also top notch and they have a heated patio. Need I say more?

If you would like to learn more about Fets Whisky Kitchen follow them on their Instagram.

Mystery Guest Services – NEW to Fashion INVESTIGATOR INC

Mayumi Izumi

I am very excited to announce that Fashion INVESTIGATOR INC has NEW SERVICES to offer you – Mystery Guest services. For those of you, visiting mayumiizumi.com for the first time, this is in addition to the host of other services we provide such as Digital Marketing, Content Creation, Social Media Management, and Public Relations. With the global pandemic not going anywhere, anytime soon, supporting Local Businesses is of utmost importance.

But that also means that Local Business Owners need to ensure their employees’ customer service is up to par. Because if it isn’t — customers will go to another restaurant, clothing or grocery store down the street.

If you are following my Instagram page, you know that I am always giving positive feedback on customer service. Being a Local Promoter I want to recommend the business to my friends and followers, encourage the restaurant server or retail associate that they’re doing a great job and to keep doing what they’re doing. Business Owners benefit by knowing they have trained their staff properly, their business gets a shout-out, and also featured on my social media platform.

Why is it so important to me that businesses provide good customer service? I have been in the customer service industry for over 20 years and in that time I learned a thing or two about what GOOD customer service is.

When I am out in my community as a customer, I expect to receive a certain level of service. Number 1 – greet your customers and ask them how they’re doing! It will form their first impression of your business and brand.

You would think it’s common sense to do so but many a time, I have walked into establishments where I have been completely ignored. The middle of part of the interaction is vital but MOST IMPORTANT is to thank your customers! That is the last impression you make on your potential loyal customer.

Mystery Guest Photo
Customers deserve and need to be treated well. If not they will take their business elsewhere.

There are businesses out there that don’t thank their customers. The cashier or associate says, “Have a nice day”! Have a nice day doesn’t cut it, honey!

You MUST thank your customers. They are contributing to your bottom line. If there is no customer there is no money.

There are other companies that offer Mystery Shoppers — the difference is EXPERIENCE. There are 12 steps to interacting with customers. I will ensure that we provide a full report showing step by step where the server or associate went above and beyond or didn’t meet expectations and detailed suggestions on what areas they can improve on.

If you are an independent Business Owner and do not have a comprehensive training program developed, I will also provide customer service training to your team.

If you have any questions or would like to use our services go to our contact us page.

Babes Promoting Babes – Kasia of Isabelle’s Bridal

Isabelle's Bridal - Martin Thornburg wedding dress

MY MISSION: To motivate and inspire Boss Babes in the making. To uplift, encourage, and promote male & female entrepreneurs and to share aspirations, goals and dreams with them, and you, my subscribers.

To provide and build a warm, loving, and supportive community of CREATORS. Creators of art, a business, or a NEW YOU …

In the mid 2000’s while I was studying Fashion Merchandising at VCC (Vancouver Community College), I was working part time as a receptionist at Beverly Ball Hair Design on West Esplanade in North Vancouver. It is unfortunately no longer, but when I was working there, and for as long as I can remember, I have admired the stunning dresses on display in the store front windows at Isabelle’s Bridal.

I recently featured their window displays on my Instagram and sought to find out more about the people behind Isabelle’s. The local bridal store is a perfect fit for my Babes Promoting Babes Interview Series. I am very honoured to introduce you to Kasia Bulva, one of the owners of the North Van iconic store.

M: What’s your story?  Where were you born, where were you raised?  What was your childhood, growing up years like? 

K: I was born in Poland and lived there until I was 9 years old. I grew up in a city called Sanok with my twin sister Basia (who also happens to be my business partner). Growing up in Poland was great but it was during Communism when life was quite difficult at times. My parents decided to immigrate our family to Canada to give us an opportunity for a better life. 

Isabelle's Bridal - Wedding Palette
Isabelle’s Bridal – Wedding Palette

M: What did you want to do when you grew up?  

K: I was hoping to get into advertising. I’ve always had a passion for coming up with creative ways to sell and market products. As I grew older, I developed a passion for the art of selling and excellence in customer service.

M: Did you go to college or university? If so, what did you study?

K: I went to college and studied business development. 

M: When did you move to Vancouver?  Why did you move to Vancouver?

K: I moved to Vancouver in 1999. I was living in Toronto at the time and came to visit BC and I was hooked! It wasn’t long after that trip that I made the decision to move here. 

M: When did you start your business?  What was your inspiration?

K: My business was started in 2005 under different ownership. Funny thing is, I actually came in as a bride looking to purchase a veil. The previous owners and I had an instant connection. I felt like they had been my friends for years. After going home I quickly realized I wanted to spend more time with them so I became their first employee! I became the store manager and learned many valuable aspects of the wedding industry over the 10 years spent with them.

Isabelle's Bridal - Sweet flower girl dresses
Isabelle’s Bridal – Sweet flower girl dresses by Ooh La La Boutique

After the fantastic 10 years the previous owners decided to change pace and close the store down which forced me to look for other employment options. Upon my search it quickly became evident that my passion was bridal and that I wanted to continue working in the industry. I then had this “it” moment! I literally sprung out of bed at 3am and said out loud to myself “I’m going to buy the store!” And I have now owned the store for 7 years. 

M: What do you love the most about being a Boss Babe?

K: I love having the freedom of choosing how I spend my time and the ability to make my own business decisions.

M: What would your advice be for Boss Babes in the making?  If they are contemplating leaving a secure 9-5 job with benefits – what would you say to them? Should they take the leap?

K: I would advise future Boss Babes to look within themselves and if what they are planning to do is really their passion. Running a business takes a lot of hard work and dedication. The 9 to 5 workday will not exist anymore and often you will take your work home with you in paper and emotional form.

Having said that, it is also very rewarding and exciting. Your business is your baby so you will need to make sure you do whatever it takes to make it run smoothly. Number one advice – get a very good bookkeeper!

M: Any last words? What’s our favourite positive/motivational quote or book?

K Remember to keep it fun. Stay innovative and motivated. There will be great days and there will be not so great days. Always remind yourself that this a journey of your passion, enjoy the ride! My favorite quote is, “if you love your job, you’ll never work another day in your life”.

If you would like to see more of Isabelle’s Bridal’s beautiful wedding dresses follow their Instagram and visit their website to book an in-store or virtual appointment.

Babes Promoting Babes – Francisco of Tequila Cocina Restaurant

MY MISSION:  To motivate and inspire Boss Babes in the making. To uplift, encourage, and promote male & female entrepreneurs and to share aspirations, goals and dreams with them and you, my subscribers.

To provide and build a warm, loving, and supportive community of CREATORS. Creators of art, a business, or a NEW YOU … 

I first met Francisco Sonora, Owner of Tequila Cocina Restaurant at the Lonsdale Ave Magazine launch party as I did our first Male Boss Babe, Eamonn Duignan, when we were introduced by the magazine founder.

Francisco is affable, friendly and very easy to talk to. He is in the perfect industry …

M;  What’s your story?  Where were you born, where were you raised?  What was your childhood, growing up years like? 

F:  I was born and raised in Mexico City and have an older brother. I grew up in an ordinary family, playing soccer in the streets and drinking water from the hose in the summer. Nintendo was also something I enjoyed playing back then.

I helped our family in a small restaurant, doing everything from washing dishes to cooking, and serving customers.

My mom who raised my brother and myself with a strong work ethic and morals, set a good example for us.

Tequila Cocina’s yummy nachos

M:  What did you want to do when you grew up?  

F: Having my own restaurant was always one of my dreams because cooking is one of my biggest passions.

Also, I wanted to have my own family and I feel blessed now to have baby Ana, she’s my sunshine!!

M:  Did you go to college or university?  If so, what did you study?

F:  No I didn’t.

M:  When did you move to Vancouver?  Why did you move to Vancouver?

F:  I moved to Vancouver when I was about 20 years old and worked in construction for years (which I still do).

First, I visited on vacation and loved it and all the opportunities that are here. I’m lucky to get to live in this city.

Tequila Cocina’s live entertainment on Friday Nights – Mariachi Los Dorados

M:  When did you start your business?  What was your inspiration?

F:  We first opened on May 31st, 2019 but it took us about one year to build and renovate the place.

We are going to have our first anniversary in a couple weeks. It falls on a Sunday and we will be preparing a lot of specials for our customers.

M:  What do you love the most about being a Boss Babe?

F:  Well, I’m just the face of the restaurant but there’s a team of many people involved who I appreciate and have to thank.

We have become a family at Tequila Cocina — from my business partner, Mami Matsumura, to kitchen and front staff and of course, my wife and baby who are my motivation to keep me going everyday.

M:  What would your advice be for Boss Babes in the making?  If they are contemplating leaving a secure 9-5 job with benefits – what would you say to them? Should they take the leap?

F:  I’d say just go for it, everything is going to make sense down the road.

Vancouver is an open ocean full of fish and we are the fisherman. Martin Luther king once said,  “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

M:  Any last words? What’s our favourite positive/motivational quote or book?

F:  There’s a quote that I like and it goes something like,

“The key to success is start before you are ready. Don’t look for happiness, create it …”

You can follow Tequila Cocina on their Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tequilacocina/ and have a look at their menu — their first anniversary is just around the corner: https://www.tequilacocina.org/