Written by: Kayla Pearcey
When you dig deeper into where you chose to live, what is keeping you there? Is it the lifestyle, the energy, the community? Is it your family, your friends, your job? Were you born there? Did you move for love? Did you relocate for an opportunity you couldn’t pass up? Whatever your story is, you are there for a reason.
Calgary, our stomping grounds, is a city like no other and is a pretty bad ass place to be. Our known resiliency, courage and entrepreneurial spirit stems from our city’s core. Where collaboration is valued over competition and charitable giving is the norm, you could say Calgarians really care about one another. Because here, it’s about forming connections and building relationships beyond just simple small talk.
The value for community our city has is why November 4th marks #LoveYYC day – a special day in our city to hit the streets and share what we love so much about living, working and playing here. To celebrate this day, we asked our own Founder & Lady Boss Mandy Balak to share some insight into why Calgary is home for her.
1. What’s your favourite thing about Calgary?
The sunshine. I know there’s snow on the ground right now but we’re incredibly fortunate to have the sunshine on us most of the year despite how cold it is. I’m from Vancouver and everyone was depressed for 10 months of the year due to the gloomy dark rain.
2. If you were to use one word to describe Calgary, what would it be? Why?
Ambitious. This city continually amazes me with it’s resilience and ambition ( whoops, two words ). We have been through some very dark times whether that’s the flood or our economy and every other person I meet is forging ahead and trying something new instead of just accepting the hand they were dealt.
3. How would you say Calgary compares to other cities in terms of lifestyle?
We’re very fit. I moved here 9 years ago and at the time there wasn’t anywhere to sweat but the big box gyms – now there is at least two awesome boutique studios in every neighbourhood and enough green juice for everyone. That says a lot about our city and our values for health and well being — I love that.
4. Why did you choose to start both your businesses, It’s Date Night and The Ace Class, here in Calgary?
When I first started out, I didn’t know I was starting a business – I knew I was solving a personal problem and to be honest that problem was that I thought Calgary sucked, there was nothing to do here. It’s Date Night was created with the intention of putting date ideas in one place to make relationships better and since it was conceptualized in 2012, it’s evolved into so much more than that, including ACE. Needless to say, I was wrong about this place and I get up everyday hoping to contribute to its growth and success helping Calgarians improve their relationships with each other and our city. Calgary has offered me an opportunity that wouldn’t have existed in bigger cities like Vancouver or Toronto because of the people here. The community is so open, accepting and collaborative that I felt what I was creating could have a meaningful impact here.
5. From your experience, what are some of the obstacles entrepreneurs face in Calgary?
Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy anywhere and from what I know, Calgary actually has one of the most supportive networks in the country for entrepreneurs whether that’s in co-working spaces ( did you know there are 33? ), The Calgary Chamber or Startup Calgary – you just have to look for your tribe. However, the economy has been a serious struggle to navigate and continues to be a challenge as the community we serve is struggling harder to earn a living. Recruiting and holding on to good talent is a challenge when you have little budget to do so. Being a small business, learning how to listen to your customers and partners and to pivot quickly is key.
6. How has Calgary’s community helped you overcome such obstacles and how has it influenced who you are today?
The community has been there for me relentlessly – cheering me on from the sidelines or giving me a hand up when I’ve failed ( and I’ve done that a few times… RIP Branded Magazine ). Calgarians who take risks are the ones who are shaping this city and make this place great — I’m grateful to be an entrepreneur here because I get to meet these people and we have each other’s backs. I think the obstacles I have faced led me to greater things and while it was hard to see that at the time, I realize failure has a way of realigning you to serve a greater purpose and make a bigger impact.
7. What advice would you give someone looking to start a business in Calgary?
Find a mentor and a sponsor to support you. The mentor will be there for you as a sounding board and give you advice or challenge you to think differently. A sponsor will be at the table fighting for you when you’re not around. Take the time to talk to people about your idea before diving into it and ensure you have your processes and systems in place before your scaling goals then reiterate as necessary.
8. If you were to choose one unique Calgarian experience to live over and over, what would it be?
I’d stay lost in the mountains dressed in flannel drinking whiskey with my fiancé.
So get up off your couch and celebrate our city on Saturday with incredible deals, community events and more. See a list to pinpoint exactly what’s going on here.
Share why you love Calgary using #LoveYYC.
Rachel is a native Calgarian deeply in love with our beautiful city. Always on the hunt for the best tacos, donuts, and lattes this city has to offer, Rachel is a foodie with an affection for the fit life. Her love of food holds hands with her love for all things fitness; spin, lifting, boxing, hot yoga, snowboarding, hiking – try and keep up.