Thursday, February 26, 2015

A song, a life and a book of dreams

This ain’t a song for the broken-hearted / No silent prayer for the faith-departed/ I ain’t gonna be just a face in the crowd / You’re gonna hear my voice / When I shout it out loud.

It’s my life. 

This is the song that I have been singing since 1998, when I knew that I would have to be independent. That I would need to travel my own road. That I would need to be an entrepreneur.

At that time, I was at the beginning of my corporate career, having just graduated from the University of Regina School of Journalism program with a degree and a major in English, and a degree in Journalism and Communications.  As I sat there on the stage at convocation, I began to think about goals. What would I strive for when all I could think about up to that time was my degree?  What grand vision would take me off my chair and into my life?

As I walked across the stage to accept my degree, I set a goal to make $50,000 a year in five years time.  I had to be practical.  I could not afford the grand vision of writing a book someday, or becoming a great journalist, covering wars in the Middle East. I had children to raise, a mortgage to pay and dance lessons, dentists and tuition to pay for.

I started working for the local newspaper on the weekends covering community events, fires and things that go bump in the night.  From Monday to Friday, I worked as a communications officer at a federal crown corporation, working for the one woman who I regarded highly as a good human being. I worked there for six years, and learned about how to write and publish award winning annual reports and corporate plans, how to develop and market a vision, craft strategies and communicate them in such a way that people would engage.  I became aware of the power of one - the idea that if a company could inspire loyalty, anything would be possible.

Blue skies, nothing but blue skies.

I was asked to share a vision at a corporate ‘blue sky’ session, which I did, wearing black leather pants and Bon Jovi’s “It’s my Life” blasting, while the words flashed on the screen.

"Each person is the CEO of his or her own life. 
CEO means Creative, Optimistic, Energetic.
Don’t hold me back: Never say no to an idea. Ask how it can grow.
The power to lead comes from vision.  Yours. Mine. Ours. Vision is two ways. 
Vision is not necessarily for the sighted, or the promoted. 
Vision keeps you going when everything else tells your to stop.
Inspirare. Breathe in and live. Oxygen deprivation does strange things to the human body. 
Heart rates go haywire, brain function decreases, blood thickens, and intestines shut down."

I found my way ahead that day, and they didn’t fire me, but I never thought they would. I was not afraid. I was excited about the possibility of discovering this place that I could see so clearly.

The Power of One. 

Being so close to the planning process and the vision that created it, I realized that if people could see what I saw, they would find purpose in their work, and the company and community would benefit.  And so I made it my personal vision to bring the vision to the people who do the work.  I remember my boss sitting down with me asking me what I wanted for my career. I told her, I would like a job like yours (she was the Vice President of Communications) but I want to be good at it, so it will take a while.

Leaving that job was like leaving home.  In fact, I cried when I resigned.  But I knew if I wanted to continue growing and learning, I had to take a chance, joining the credit union system as the manager of corporate planning.  When I interviewed for that position, I asked them if there were any changes on the horizon that would be particularly important to know about. They both said, "no, business as usual.”

The Belly of the Great Whale. 

That wasn’t exactly true. In fact, quite the opposite. (I am writing this smiling).  The credit union system across the country has been undergoing changes in order to be competitive and there were significant strategies afoot to facilitate the transformation of the system.  One of those strategies was to implement a joint venture that would provide operational support to multiple entities, and thereby allow the economies of scale necessary to fund expansions.  In layperson’s terms, this means to reduce overhead costs by streamlining services and processes.

I was part of the joint venture, responsible for leading the business planning function of multiple entities.  It was exhausting and overwhelming most days, as we struggled to make the changes we needed to reduce costs so that we could basically keep our jobs.  I worked long hours, and became exhausted. In 2006, I knew that the current state was not sustainable, and so I made changes. I created my own strategy to change what ever was necessary to find balance.  In that year, I gave myself permission to say no and time to reflect on my part in helping to create this crazy existence.  I changed whatever didn’t feel good, from the food that I was eating to the people that I was spending time with, to my tendency to say yes all the time.

Deciding that enough was enough, and that it was time for a change, I took a job as a director of business planning and risk management for a provincial crown corporation where I worked for three years, where I learned the true measure of leadership, the importance of good intentions and purposeful visions, and the importance of living in one’s own values in all the parts of life.

It’s my life.

On my date of emancipation, I decided that life was too short to spend time in other people’s visions and plans - that it was time to starting living my own vision and making my own plans. I started my first company, Lynear Thinking Strategy & Communications Ltd. to offer my 20 years of strategic planning and communications expertise to the private sector.

I learned that the language of the corporate world was nothing like the language of my new world, that in this new world, visions and intentions are not words in a plan, but lived.  I learned in this world that good companies are those that are led by leaders who are able to inspire with integrity and honesty, that doing good things is the true measure of worthiness.

In working with entrepreneurs, I discovered a gap in their ability to share their stories in such a way that others would be inspired to seek them out.  And so I went back to my roots - to my love of journalism and writing - to create a magazine that would bring the stories of these great entrepreneurs to light, so that others could read them and know them as well as by inspired by them.

SKY: a book of dreams. 

Quite serendipitously, SKY Magazine found me.  One of my clients called me to tell me he had seen SKY for sale on Kijiji, which was quite curious, because I never shared my vision with him.  I contacted the publisher, and did some research about the magazine in the market place, and found that I could think of nothing else, but the possibility of what I could create under the SKY.  And so, I invested my retirement savings and bought my book of dreams, SKY Magazine.

SKY is my story and the stories of people like me who chose to walk their own path as leaders.  Watch for the next issue of SKY Magazine to read about the great entrepreneurs who inspire me every day of my life.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Glen Campbell - I'm Not Gonna Miss You

Glenn Campbell’s song, “I am not gonna miss you” to his family, as he drifts away into Alzheimer’s Disease.  #Oscars2015 #GlennCampbell #AlszheimersDisease

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Max Mara | Spring Summer 2015 Full Fashion Show | Exclusive

Ralph Lauren | Spring Summer 2015 Full Fashion Show | Exclusive

Calvin Klein | Spring Summer 2015 Full Fashion Show | Exclusive

Vera Wang | Spring Summer 2015 Full Fashion Show | Exclusive

Diane Von Furstenberg | Spring Summer 2015 Full Fashion Show | Exclusive

Michael Kors | Spring Summer 2015 Full Fashion Show | Exclusive

Alexander Wang | Spring Summer 2015 Full Fashion Show | Exclusive

Monday, February 16, 2015

How to create a label in the fashion industry - when you’re not married to a rock star. 

March 18, 2015

Vancouver Fashion Week

Vancouver designer, Sara Armstrong, is holding an Indiegogo campaign to fund her FW 2015 collection show at Vancouver Fashion Week on Wednesday, March 18th, 2015, as well as a trunk show/pop-up shop at Vancouver’s premiere pop-up production venue @thisopenspace to follow on Thursday, March 19th, 2015.

Now at 43% of her goal, please consider contributing and being part of bringing a Canadian label to life. Contributions of all sizes are welcome.

Being seen on the runway is an important part of the making of a label.  It is the place to be seen by international media as well as buyers.  For emerging designers like Armstrong, the hope is to attract both media and buyers.  The runway collection must be an experience that tells the story of the designer’s vision.  Building an experience requires funding and fundraising.

On Wednesday March 18, 2015, it will all come together in what is to be a resounding and impactful Fall/Winter 2015 season for the Sara Armstrong design team, but they need your help as an investor.  

For the first time, Sara Armstrong is offering her signature designs as perks for contributions. Sara is calling upon her community to help spread the word, support, and propel her brand forward for the FW 2015 season, and beyond.

Contributions may be made, and shareable link may be found at

The Business of Fashion and Label Making 

Sara Armstrong is a Saskatchewan born designer who comes from a middle class home where entrepreneurship was a way of life.  Yes, she is my daughter, and she has the support of our family.  But creating a label in the fashion industry is not about family. It is about manifesting from within, and building a sustainable business model that attracts media, buyers and investors. 

What I learned from my daughter about how to create a label in the fashion industry - when you're not married to a rock star. 

Phase 1: Being Irrepressible.  

  • At three years of age, she refuses to attend play school unless she has a pair of purple suede desert boots.  
  • At four years of age, she convinces me to buy the dress I cannot afford because it’s the prettiest in the store.
  • At five years of age she insists on specific ballet attire of soft pinks and matching leg warmers.  
  • At six years of age, she makes her first artistic statement, refusing to read in school, and instead insists on drawing her assignments.
  • At 16, her paintings appear in a public gallery where she sells her first paintings.

Phase 2: Educate Oneself.  

  • At 21 she graduates from University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Intermedia. She leaves the prairies to become a fashion designer in Vancouver.
  • At 22, she graduates from Blanche Macdonald in Vancouver, where she was honoured with an award for innovation. Her design was chosen to represent the Blanche Macdonald year-end runway show. 

Phase 3:  Risk a Vision. 

  • Her first label, “Head the Free” make its debut in her home city of Regina, on the runway of Saskatchewan Fashion Week.
  • “A specialist in outward thinking, Sara Armstrong, Vancouver based installation artist and designer works within a sustainable focus. Supporting a holistic approach in design, medium, and reason.”  
  • At 24, she returns to Saskatchewan Fashion Week with her self titled minimalist collection.  She decides after the show to challenge her vision and ability in order to grow her label.
  • Sara Armstrong, sets her sights on taking her vision to the runway of Vancouver Fashion Week, to be seen with designers from all over the world. 
  • At 25, Sara Armstrong creates presents her self-labelled Fall Winter 2014  on the runway of Vancouver Fashion Week, a show that integrates a minimalist approach to design, video, and music.
  • At 26, her Spring Summer 2015 collection appears on the runway at Vancouver Fashion Week, where she becomes known as an internationally-acclaimed, interdisciplinary artist who practices in both fashion and industrial design.  Her catwalk is featured online at  Vogue UKGlamour UK and Elle Italia.

Phase 4: Grow, when Shrinking is not Possible.

Crowd funding models are being used to help raise money for entrepreneurs in the fashion industry.  Creating a runway-ready collection requires financial resources.  But like most talented entrepreneurs working to build a name and a brand that will capture the attention of buyers, the media and the public,  financial resources are required. 

Contributions may be made, and shareable link may be found at