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Fair Trade Jewellery Co. Founder Ryan Taylor

15 Mar

Lunch with Mary 031

Date of lunch:
Monday, March 15, 2010

The company:
Ryan Taylor is the founder of the Fair Trade Jewellery Co. He is a goldsmith and custom jewellery designer and maker. Ryan also ensures that his gold is fair trade and prides himself on ethical and environmentally sensitive jewellery. Ryan is very active in social media and we have many mutual friends so I decided to ask him for lunch on Twitter to hear more about the work he does.

The food:
We met at Fionn MacCool’s at Bloor and Jarvis. In what I believe to be a tribute to St. Patrick’s Day, Ryan had a liquid lunch of Guinness. I had a Diet Coke and the grilled chicken sandwich with house salad. Although the food was fresh and tasty, it was pretty messy and impossible to eat gracefully. Not a great meal to have when trying to have a conversation. Total bill was $24 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
When I asked Ryan why he became a goldsmith and jeweler, he had a really interesting answer. He said he knew he wanted to work with his hands and quickly figured out that being a jeweler allowed him to create pieces of art that mean more to the people who receive them than they do to him. It’s true that bridal jewellery has so much emotion and meaning attached to it, that it would be pretty cool to know the work you do every day will be a huge part of someone’s life forever. You can’t say that with many jobs.

The lunch:
I, like most people I think, know very little about mining and making jewellery so I was really starting from scratch on this one. Ryan has recently taken on a friend of mine as an apprentice so he began by explaining to me the art of goldsmithing as a trade. In other countries and back in the day here I am sure; a trade such as goldsmithing began at a young age. Kids as young as ten are in the shop, cleaning, helping out and learning. In Canada, there is no formal apprenticeship in that way, and prospective jewelers usually don’t get started until university or college.

Ryan studied Jewellery at George Brown and as soon as he finished sought out a mentor in the business to help him get started. He met Karl Vigelius, someone he still looks up to today and considers a great friend. He now hopes to give back to his new apprentice in that same way and keep the cycle going of passing the knowledge down.

But beyond keeping the tradition of apprenticeship, Ryan also puts great importance on where he sources his gold. So much so that he produced a documentary on ethical mining in Colombia titled The Last Gold Rush. He traveled to the Chocó Rainforest in Colombia to learn about the Oro Verde, a fair trade and ethical gold and platinum mining program. It’s run by the community for the community. And the program goes beyond the mines by having educational programs and helping train the community in skills outside of mining, all by using the profits from the mine. The mine is family-owned and passed down from generation to generation. And the townspeople oversee the mine. Ryan gets his gold exclusively from this mine and then sources his diamonds from Canadian diamond mines.

I think most people have some idea that there are some very bad mining practices in the world, whether we know this from watching Blood Diamond or simply stories we have seen in the news, but it should come as no surprise that the diamond and other mining industries have an ugly side. But as Ryan and I discussed, the desire for beautiful jewellery, diamond engagement rings and more is really not going anywhere. So since there is a demand, I am glad there are people like Ryan ensuring that people and the environment are being treated fairly through every step in the process.

It was a really interesting lunch, hearing about a world that I really know nothing about and it reminded me why I started this blog in the first place.

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Strategic Innovation Practitioner, Author and Professor Alexander Manu

17 Aug

Lunch with Mary 021

Date of lunch:
Thursday, August 13, 2009

The company:
Alexander Manu’s career is so diverse and interesting that it is actually quite difficult to describe. He works with Fortune 500 companies to help them with innovation, strategic insight and understanding “desire” – it’s not needs , it’s desires that motivate. From this work, he designed a course at Rotman’s for MBA students called “Innovation, Foresight and Business Design.” It sounds like an amazing course. Alexander is working to help businesspeople to not just think in numbers but to understand what makes people tick, what their desires are and use this knowledge to design products. Alexander told me I can audit his course in September. I hope he meant it.

 

The food:
We met at the Bedford Academy on Prince Arthur and sat on the beautiful patio. Alexander actually did not eat but I, of course, did not miss the opportunity to chow down. I had the grilled portobello and goats cheese salad, which was good except I hate when I have to cut my salad before I eat it – I just wish the cooks would slice the portobello so I didn’t have to. Ok, rant over. I also had a diet Coke to drink. Alexander had a coffee and Compari soda. Total bill was $30 with tax.

 

The lunch lesson:
The biggest lesson of the lunch was just being able to see the world for a few moments from Alexander’s perspective. I can try to explain what I mean by describing one of his favorite innovations, the iPhone. The product is not the iPhone – you are the product. Because your experience with the iPhone is totally dependent on how you choose to use it. Without you, it’s just an object. But add the app store and you’re able to customize it any way you like – it’s a music player, a camera, a GPS, restaurant finder, a level, a gaming console, a translator and more. So when the iPhone came to market, it let the users make it into what it was, instead of it telling you what it was. According to Alexander, it’s not really a phone – that word almost takes away from its possibilities. Just a slight twist to how you perceive the products around you, but an important one.

 

The lunch:
This was a fascinating lunch and I hope that I am able to accurately capture what we spoke about.

The first question I asked Alexander was to help me to understand what he does for a living. He studied Industrial Design but his work is so much more. He started to tell me about his work with lottery corporations. This client really excited Alexander because, he explains, unlike some other companies, the lottery corporations understand “desire”. They aren’t selling tickets, they are selling hope, which is a lot more fun. I have been known after buying a lottery ticket to walk down the street and imagine what I will do with the money – a house, a cottage, a vacation, taking all my friends and family on an amazing trip, a car, sharing my good fortune, and just thinking about it makes me happy. And this is what Alexander likes about working with them – it’s so much more than tickets.

Alexander talked about the companies that we are going to see emerging in upcoming years. The models of these companies will be different from anything we see now and the way they are marketed and promoted is going to change. There will be a shift in the value proposition – currently defined as: A business or marketing statement that summarizes why a consumer should buy a product or use a service. This statement should convince a potential consumer that one particular product or service will add more value or better solve a problem than other similar offerings – Investopedia.com. As Alexander said about the iPhone, the company is identifying the desire and the customer is creating the value proposition. And this shifts advertising and marketing into a different role.

Alexander also spoke about some of the work he gets to do. He has had a busy summer, heading to the Maritimes to provide insight to entrepreneurs and soon to be heading off to Finland to speak with business people there. He is also an author of several business books focused on imagination and innovation and has a new one coming out shortly. His perspective is really unique and he is working hard to help others to understand how to create and innovate in ways that will garner success.

I really could have spoken with Alexander for hours. At one point he asked me if I was recording our conversation in order to help me to write my blog later. As a practice, I don’t record my lunches. I like them to be casual conversations that I can then capture afterwards. I will usually jot down a bunch of notes right after the lunch to ensure that I get the good stuff down while it’s still top of mind but I don’t want the process to be too formal.

With Alexander, I really wish I had recorded our lunch because I am sure I haven’t captured nearly enough of what I learned in this post. But that is why I hope the offer is still on the table to take his class at Rotman’s this fall – I’ll be sure to take great notes!

Globe and Mail Communities Editor Mathew Ingram

22 Apr

Lunch with Mary 016

Date of lunch:
Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The company:
Mathew Ingram is the communities editor at The Globe and Mail. Likely a lot of people reading this blog know who Mathew Ingram is because they found their way here from his Twitter, as Mathew is far more popular on Twitter than I am. Mathew has been at the Globe and Mail since the early-nineties, starting off as a business writer then moving into covering technology, blogged for the Globe and Mail and eventually moved into his current role where he engages and connects with Globe’s readers online and also covers the state of media in the online age.

 

The food:
We ate at Thai Princess, a great Thai (obviously) place at King and Spadina. I made a reservation and when we got there it was empty so I thought maybe I had been overly cautious – but about 10 minutes later, the place was packed. And for good reason, the food was delish! I had my go-to Thai meal, Green Curry Chicken and Mathew had the grilled combo lunch special. We both drank water. Total bill was $23 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
Mathew said the easiest way to get others to understand the importance of Twitter, and I believe social media in general, is replace the word Twitter (or Facebook or the next thing) with “talking to people”. I’m against Twitter – changed to – I’m against talking to people. Not everyone needs to embrace these new technologies but it’s important that before they take a stand, they truly understand what they’re against. These are tools for engaging and interacting with each other – they’re not replacing in person contact, it’s a different forum, but a valuable one. Can’t we all just get along J

The lunch:
We had some great conversations over the course of lunch. One of my favourite parts was talking about Hunter S. Thompson, Mathew began reading his stuff in high school and I read pretty much all of his work during university. Mathew said what he really liked about Thompson was how powerful a writer he was… and I agree. There is something about his stuff that you can’t explain. It got me thinking of Hunter’s career as a journalist and I thought it was really interesting that Mathew was so into his writing as he was working to become a journalist himself. It made me wonder what other historic journalists are looked to by the reporters that I read every day.

We talked a lot about community engagement on Globe and Mail’s site. As a long time commenter on the articles, I was interested to hear Mathew’s plans. He hopes to create a meritocracy (I newly love this word and what it stands for). He wants to develop some sort of system that rewards good commenters in order to encourage good comments by all and also make the conversation more valuable.

Mathew pointed to the Guardian in the UK and the New York Times as publications that are doing very interesting stuff online. He told me about the Guardian giving their best online commenters their own blog on the site. I know if I could get my own blog on a newspaper’s site, I would comment a lot and well AND not use my awesome pseudonym. The New York Times, which I am obviously a fan of if you look at my Top 5 Dream Lunch List, now includes external links on their homepage – directing people away from the site sounds almost unheard of but it is a very interesting experiment.

Working in the media space and as a news junkie, I found this lunch extremely interesting as the way we receive (and engage with) news is changing day by day and Mathew is on the front line and offered up some great insight.

Going back to Hunter S. Thompson for a minute, Mathew also mentioned Christie Blatchford as another journalist who is a powerful writer. I agree and enjoy her writing. Mathew mentioned that Christie isn’t really down with blogging and Twitter so Mathew’s goal for his new role at The Globe and Mail is to get Christie Blatchord on Twitter! A noble goal indeed – good luck, if anyone can do it, you can!

Social Media Superstar Meghan Warby

19 Feb

Lunch with Mary 010

Date of lunch:
Monday, February 16th, 2009 (aka Family Day)

The company:
Meghan Warby and I work at the same company but very rarely ever actually work together. At work and also outside of work, Meghan is known as a social media genius (my words, not hers, but it’s true) and knows all the ins and outs of blogging and web 2.0. She even mentioned our lunch in her blog – I’m famous, my 17 year old dream is coming true! I thought a conversation with Meghan would help me to make my blog better and maybe even get some more people to read it. 

The food:
We ate at Sneaky Dee’s – I know, I know, all class. But neither Meghan nor I are ashamed to admit that yummy, cheap food is hard to turn down. I had the Eggs Benedict and Meghan had Black Bean Soup with nacho chips and a side of guacamole. We both drank water. Both of us have eaten these meals before and they tasted delicious as always – and we left VERY full. Total bill was $17 with tax.

The lunch lesson: 
My lunch lesson from Meghan is the creation of this section for every post!

The lunch:
I knew this lunch would be different than the others in that what I hope to learn from Meghan is not going to happen in just one lunch. I hope to continue to get tips from her about blogging and social media in general.

So a couple of Meghan’s suggestions that I will now do moving forward is adding tags to my posts to help with searching and also adding the “Lunch Lesson” section (as seen above) to each post where I will list the best/most significant/my favorite thing I learned.

Also Meghan gave me the links to some of her favorite blogs and I have been checking them out. I have even added some links to the bottom right side of my page so others can check them out too. As this is a learning process, I hope to continue to check out these sites and others, and make my blog the best it can be!

As Meghan continues to give me tips and advice, I will update this page with the changes. Meghan is my blog captain! I hope she doesn’t mind.

Oh and of course, being that it was a statutory holiday here in Ontario, we also took this opportunity and gabbed a lot about other stuff – girly gossipy stuff, which was sort of beyond the scope of this blog – but was definitely fun. And Meghan, being the awesome girl that she is, stuck a can of PC Spicy Black Bean soup in my mailbox at work on Tuesday, saying I shouldn’t have paid for lunch. Hilarious – what a gem!