On Our Radar: Founder of Ten Thousand Coffees Dave Wilkin

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Started from a humble beginning, Dave Wilkin’s story from small town to global entrepreneur brings to life the power and true meaning of entrepreneurship. Growing up watching and being influenced by his community-oriented parents, this 27-year-old entrepreneur didn’t know what entrepreneurship was until getting into his early 2os. However, hundreds of thousands of community services and coffee chats have helped him turn a movement into a successful business called Ten Thousand Coffees – the first youth movement of its kind in the world, created by young people for young people.

We had the pleasure sitting down with Wilkin in his office in downtown Toronto. The conversation was casual yet aspiring, just like hundreds of coffee chats happened via Ten Thousands Coffees.

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Novella: How did you come up with the concept of providing face-to-face opportunities for people to meet with experts in the field?

Dave Wilkin: The Ten Thousand Coffee movement was created after working with the government and hundreds of companies for almost ten years. All these young people have new skills, great experience and lots of ideas, but lack of the opportunity to create their own opportunities. So after working with all these companies and organizations, what we saw and were told was that, first of all, they need their entire organizations to become experts of the next generation, that includes product innovation, hiring employees, engagement and so on. If we don’t become experts at youth, those companies won’t exit in the next 10 years.

Novella: So it’s not just about helping the young people. It’s a two-way exchange. 

DW: Exactly. It was just simple coffee conversation that hasn’t happened for decades that actually could change the perspective of highly intelligent, highly educated global leaders. So after ten years of working with companies, government and schools, we kind of thought of how can we create a movement around that would really shape of what’s next with youth. If an individual spends ten thousand hours doing something, you become an expert at it.

Novella: Oh wow, that’s so interesting. I guess anyone can be an expert at something if you fully dedicate yourself to it. That’s pretty encouraging.

DW: It’s a lot of hours, but ten thousands hours is more or less the time you spend on to be an expert at something. Coffee is about an hour and it was just a neutral thing that would change a perspective of a leader and of course this young person. So we went back to these leaders and we said what would happen if ten thousand of today’s leaders meet with ten thousand tomorrow’s leaders over then thousand coffees? And all of the leaders were like: “I would do this in a heartbeat. ”

Novella: Can we please take you back to the very beginning when you just started to have this idea? How did you knock on those leaders’ doors and get them to agree with you and believe in this concept?

DW: Ten thousands Coffees wasn’t just created on a business plan. It was created in partnerships with people we worked with over 10 years. The biggest thing people don’t realize is that you don’t get tractions overnight. Every little community services, activates, coffee conversations I had…all those have compounded and added. And as I’m giving back to the communities and all of sudden you have this Ah-ha moment. We had to understand if we want to change how the next generations get opportunities and help everybody around the world in different professions tap into youth, we had to move from Blockbusters to Netflix. And that’s when Ten thousands Coffees was created.

(He smiled and continued…)

A lot of young people have hopes, dreams and aspirations, but lack confidence. It’s unfortunate because you have all this potential but don’t believe that you will get a callback. So they don’t try, they just give up. At Ten Thousand Coffees, we see one out of three requests get accepted and that’s about 33%. If you do cold outreach, it’s less than 5%. So we almost like 10 times better than any other way to build your network.

Novella: Because you create  trust-worthy platforms with good filter, measurement and all sorts. But why coffees though? Why not skypes? Google hangouts?

DW: Because we’re in a world that is so digital, humans need each other. And what we realize is that something you cannot do online. There is no conversations that beat a face to face.

Novella: That’s why we’re meeting you today, instead of sending you the interview questions. 

DW: Yeah, it’s our DNA. It’s human being. A lot of people over look that. Body language is 80% of what you say, tone is 15% and what you actually say is 5%.

Novella: Ten Thousand Coffees wasn’t created out of a business plan, but did you always know that you wanted to become an entrepreneur? 

DW: I didn’t know what entrepreneur was until I was like 20. But my parents started an community run non-profit in my small town. So I remember they were always at the town hall trying to get someone to fix something. They did it because it was something they cared about. From the classic entrepreneur lens, I wouldn’t be an entrepreneur, but I’ve been taught if there is a problem that needs to be fixed, that’s your job. Being an entrepreneur is just like being obsessed with a really big problem. That’s what entrepreneurship is. So I told anyone who wants to start a business: “Don’t be an entrepreneur, start being obsessed with a big problem that can actually change people’s lives.” That’s why I created Ten Thousand Coffees. I grew up in a town that has 1500 people. My parents made maple syrup. I’m just lucky that I’m very good with coffee conversations and I’ve had tons of that to get to where I am now. Ten Thousand Coffees was created so that we democratize opportunities so not just people hiring people they know or people meeting people they know.

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After our interview with Wilkin, we told him that we needed to take some pictures of him in the office, and he insisted to invite his whole team to have a group picture together. “I wouldn’t be able to this on my own, ” he says.

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If you’re a recent grads, young professional or someone at a career turning point, don’t hesitate to set up your profile and send a coffee chat request to the experts you’d like to meet with. You never know, that coffee chat could be your life changer.

Photos by: Sasha Xiao

5 Music Festival Essentials for Men & Women

Very soon, the city will be booming with amazing music with some of the hottest music festivals in town including Field Trip, WayHome, NXNE, VELD and if you’re venturing outside of Toronto, then Osheaga never disappoints as well. With a weekend full of stellar performances, drinking and fashion, we’ve rounded up our top 5 fashion essentials for both ladies and gents, which will guarantee comfort all while looking as if you are a part of the band.

Stylish Hat

Because a hat can be the ultimate accessory to ‘make’ the outfit and more importantly it’ll protect your head from the long sunny days.

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For her: This classic braided straw sunhat – The Fedora Holly Hat – from Lilliput Hats is a staple piece for any outdoor event, especially for these occasions where we want to look casual yet stylish.  For him: If you want to rep Toronto at whichever music festival you’re attending this summer, you can’t go wrong with the Capsule X New Era Toronto Snapback.

Where to buy: Lilliput Hats-462 College St & Capsule-#104 Yorkville Ave.

Sunglasses

You can definitely make a fashion statement by rocking the perfect pair of sunnies.

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For her: These pair of Raspberry sunglasses from Cutler & Gross are handmade in Italian acetate with a hand-polished finish, and are fitted with 100% UV400 absorbing lenses. For him: To stand out of the crowd of un-aesthetically pleasing shades, opt for something more classic such as Bailey Nelson Strauss aviators. At $145.00 their well made, affordable and you won’t have a broken heart if you lose them while having too much fun.

Where to buy: Cutler & Gross-758 Queen St. West & Bailey Nelson-387 Queen St. West.

Flowy Dress/Shorts

When you’re going to a music festival this summer, comfort is going to play a big factor in what you wear.

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For her: The ‘Niort Dress’ by Wilfred from Aritzia is a minimalist and delicate design. This simple piece will definitely add an elegant vibe to your festival look.  For him: You can’t go wrong with these Nike Tech Fleece shorts. The stretch waist & extra front bonded slit pocket will ensure your comfort all weekend plus the pockets will allow you to carry your essentials with you at all times. The all over dot print strikes the perfect balance between subtlety and standing out.

Where to buy: Aritzia-280 Queen St. West & Livestock-116 Spadina.

Purse/Bag

The biggest essential to any music festival is having a bag with you, one that can carry all of your essentials including a battery pack for your smart phone, water, towel, etc.

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For her: The Amaya Striped Crossbody Bag by Vincent Pradier from Anthropologie is handmade out of woven raffia straw. The adjustable strap tailors to your comfort so you’re only worry will be about enjoying the music! For him: The Cote et Ciel Meuse was designed for ultimate comfort, as the bag was designed to fold around your body. There is more than enough space with pockets and slits, so you won’t have to make several trips back to your campsite.

Where to buy: Anthropologie-78 Yorkville Avenue & Zane 753 Queen St. West.

Footwear

The most important thing to have with you at a music festival is a comfortable pair of shoes. A pair that you can wear comfortably all day long  walking from stage to stage and getting ‘jiggy’ with it once the music starts.

Shoes

For her: Hunter Original Short Gloss Rain Boots in Dark Ruby from Get Outside Shoes. Hunter boots are not only a timeless piece but also the perfect pair of shoes to fight the rain and muddy grounds. For him: The Ransom Field Lite Classic is a stylish answer to a comfortable pair of sneakers but still sleek enough that people at the festival will be asking you where you bought them. The upper part of the shoe is made from a breathable ventilated mesh, which is perfect for a hot summer’s day at the festivals.

Where to buy: Get Outside Shoes-437 Queen St. West & Stussy-1000 Queen St. West.

Which essential will you be bringing to your music festival this year? Tweet us @novellamagazine! 

On Our Radar: Needs&Wants Fashion Designer Sean Brown

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Photo found in The GQ Eye: The Style Blog

Toronto’s own fashion designer, Sean Brown, is making his mark in the men’s fashion industry. Brown’s NEEDS&WANTS clothing and brand story are the perfect remedy to overcome the geographical disadvantages (of not being from New York, London, and Paris), while letting the other larger  fashion destinations know that there is serious talent coming from the city of Toronto.

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Photo found on Needs&Wants website

Sean Brown’s humble beginnings started when he worked at the menswear retail store front Nomad, which eventually led him to create The Art of Reuse, an online and pop up store, which focused on selling vintage and thrifted goods. By then, Brown was already known and respected in Toronto but what took his name & brand to an international level is when he took his first shot at fashion design by creating his brand NEEDS&WANTS. NEEDS&WANTS offers a unique take on luxury sportswear. The brand’s core ethos focuses on essentials designed with understated taste and international sensibility. By taking the philosophy of only releasing a select few items, and not an entire collection, NEEDS&WANTS  became a hit outside the Toronto market including cities such as New York, before his home city of Toronto finally took notice. By designing an asymmetrical varsity jacket that felt like it belonged in menswear rather than feeling like it just belonged in the six. The jacket was a fresh take on the varsity offering a jacket that either featured one leather or suede sleeve or a varsity that features two distinct colours on the sleeves. The jackets hit the sweet spot right in between sportswear and high end luxury and, soon enough, Sean Brown & NEEDS&WANTS were on the radar by the menswear community regardless of location.

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Photo found on Needs&Wants website

Today Brown is known for more than his unique take on varsity jackets. He continues to introduce innovative designs in menswear that garner international appeal. In the past two years, the brand began to introduce other cut & sew pieces to their arsenal by introducing their unique fish tail flannel shirts, as well as fleece wraps, that sold out as fast as a highly anticipated sneaker release. Most items on the NEEDS&WANTS online store continues to sell out quickly every time it’s restocked. Culturally, Sean and his NEEDS&WANTS team keeps relevant by releasing mixtapes and a bi-annual print magazine.

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Photo found on Needs&Wants website

While Brown and his NEEDS&WANTS team were presented with opportunities to offer their line at Holt Renfrew or show their collections at Toronto Fashion Week, Brown simply declined wanting to prove his worth on the global scale before settling back home. Even with all the international recognition, Brown still maintains his Canadian roots by keeping the manufacturing and production in Canada and has plans on potentially setting up a NEEDS&WANTS retail storefront in the city that raised him.

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Photo found on Needs&Wants website

On Our Radar: Chill Ice House – The Coolest Bar in Toronto

Gresham Bayley has contributed to the building of roughly 20 ice lounges around the world, but this is the first one he has owned himself and it is about time. Toronto’s coolest venue, Chill Ice House, is recognized as a top tourist attraction and is located on 82 Bathurst Street, off from King West.

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The freezer sits around -4 degrees at all times, which I’m sure everyone is thinking, “Why go to an ice bar, when we live in Canada and suffer long winters already?” Well, I thought the same until I stepped inside the venue. “While ice lounges are understandably extremely popular in hot climates, having a venue in Toronto has great benefits”, Gresham explains. “After all, Canadians do know a thing or two about ice and snow, so this becomes a truly Canadian experience for people around the globe. Chill wants locals and visitors to come and see what we can do”.

Before you enter the cave, you select a blue or red pair of gloves and parka. The vibe is great and, in the freezer, everything is literally made out of ice. From the walls, to the seating, decor and bar area, all of it is made out of intricately detailed ice sculptures. The room has cool lighting and a unique ambiance. A cool fact is that the owner does leave carvings on site when requested and also works in-house with the company Ice Culture, where he adds all the finishing touches.

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Each couple of months, the Ice House has a theme and right now they are in collaboration with HBO’s Game of Thrones. They have an ice sculpture in full size, of the Iron Throne, an HBO advertising poster carved by hand of “All Men Must Die”. The drink menu is all in the Game of Thrones theme including, Wilding, which is 1oz Glenfiddich, Muddled Wild berries and Lemonade, and can be served in an ice glass, Beyond the Wall, which is 1oz Glenfiddich 12 yr, Lemon Juice & frothed egg whites, and The Viper & the Mountain – 3/4 oz Glenfiddich 12 yr, 3/4 oz Cherry Brandy, 3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth & Orange Juice. The cabin area, which is a separate warm-room, off from the ice bar, has banners from each of the kingdoms, comfortable couches, draped faux blankets and flat-screen TVs playing each episode.

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The Ice House has been open since July 2014, but the family company Ice Cultures is where Gresham has contributed most of his life. The company has been around for over 21 years, and is still going strong. Chill Ice House is the first one anyone in the family has owned them self. Gresham has more than 15 years of experience in the ice business, with events hosted from the Super bowl, Oscars and has contributed to a new experience of VIP parties across the world.

This summer, the Ice House is doing an Around the World theme that will be based around the Pan Am games, with Toronto hosting them this summer. Chill will be showcasing ice sculptures of iconic statues from around the world like Brazil, the Colosseum, the Eiffel Tower, CN Tower and a variety more. This is going to be a featured event with great music, drinks and cool vibe for those hot summer nights.

On Our Radar: Sam Mizrahi

When I say, “Toronto’s construction boom” you say, “Sucks!” Who doesn’t hate it? The torn-up streets, the blocked-off sidewalks, all the shiny new towers cropping up in every corner of the city — the whole ordeal, which according to the government is all a part of advancing Toronto, is becoming increasingly uncool with its residents. And the early morning noise of construction and the terrible traffic aren’t even the worst part of it. For many of us, the ultimate downside of this advancement is to watch so much of our city’s history being swallowed by the “bigger, better, more” mentality.

Surprise, there is one person who gets it and that’s Sam Mizrahi. He’s one of the most important developers in the city, who is responsible for bringing forth the likes of 181 Davenport, 133 Hazelton and now The One, the famous/infamous residential retail project at Yonge and Bloor. He gets it. And at the same time, he’s got his two cents to say about all the drama surrounding the wealth of development that’s going on in Toronto. We sat down with the entrepreneur and real estate visionary to listen to his side of the story, which offers some shocks, some reason and a lot more heart than most people might assume. Because if anyone’s contributing to the look and feel of this city, it’s him — he whose ultimate goal is to place a shiny, new label on Toronto for the rest of the world to see and admire. A label that reads “World Class.”

Read our interview with Mizrahi and find out why he’s On Our Radar.

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 On why he builds in the first place:

SM: I want each development we create to really serve the community we’re building in. One of the value systems that’s very important to me when working on each development is how it will benefit the surrounding community. We want the value to go beyond the building to serve the real needs of the people in that neighbourhood. For us, that’s how we measure our success. So all of the developments we’ve done to date not only enhance the landscape from an architectural standpoint, but they also add lots of value to the communities.

On the developer’s struggle of preserving Toronto’s history:

SM: I’m an old soul, and I’m one that champions old world architecture. If you look at our projects, they’re all in that DNA. And I agree that it’s vital that we respect and maintain the city’s history, but just because something’s old doesn’t make it historical or heritage. I believe there are times for that, but I don’t think it pertains to this corner [of Yonge and Bloor]. It’s one of the most important corners in Canada, it’s the most important corner in Toronto, and we need to use that space to create something, an iconic piece of architecture that will put Toronto on the map internationally as we mature as a city every decade. And it requires something of this stature, of what I’m proposing here, in order to do that. So I agree with a lot of the comments, and I think they’re correct in a lot of ways — like that we need to look at how we can incorporate the city’s heritage and history into new developments. But you know this corner doesn’t partake to that. Even the owners didn’t feel that there was any historical merit to it. So it’s something I think is important, but doesn’t pertain to this corner of the city.

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On preserving the history of Stollery’s at One Bloor West:

SM: That was inspired over a year ago, before anybody even thought about the heritage or history of the building, and it was something that was very paramount to me and to the family. They had it for over 100 years, and I wanted to have something that contributed a memory of the family, a monument that was meaningful to them. Back in October, when I purchased it, I made a promise that no matter what happens, we’re going to create a monument to the history and legacy of Stollery’s. We’ll be incorporating limestone pieces into some of the arches and stuff like that, and we’ll be working with the stakeholders and the family to really emphasize that history for centuries to come.

On what his plans are for One Bloor West:

SM: We want this to be an iconic building that’ll bring Toronto onto the international stage, not only in terms of architecture, but also in terms of high street retail. It’ll have that “wow” factor similar to what you experience in New York, Chicago, London, San Francisco, bringing together international retailers and the community in an area that this city hasn’t seen before. Bloor St. is high street retail, but it needs this kind of space, this square-footage, this format, to provide a true Fifth Avenue type of experience.

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On loving Toronto:

SM: What makes me love this city is that we’re a mosaic of cultures. We’re literally like the UN. We have a real international culture in Toronto. I love that. I love the fact that we get along so well together in the city. I think we’re so blessed and very fortunate that we have one of the best cities in the world to be living in. At the same time we have the best healthcare system, education system, social system, and that’s coupled with some of the best lifestyle requirements. I’m really proud of the fact that we live in an incredibly safe, clean, well-organized city with a mix of different cultures. We’re truly an international city, and very few cities can say that the way Toronto can. We have arts, we have theatre, we have music, we have all the factors that makes a city an international one and an incredible place to live. I’m very proud to be living here and to be a part of the community and the fabric of helping shape it.

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