Steeped in history, the Exchange District is the Place to Be in Winnipeg.

Located just north of Portage and Main, the 20-block Exchange District National Historic Site encompasses over 130 historical buildings that display an innovative and functional approach to architecture. Massive cut-stone terracotta and brick warehouses, elegant skyscrapers and covered alleyways recall the period when Winnipeg was a large commercial centre, and the “Gateway to the West”.

In 1905, Winnipeg was the fastest growing city of its size in North America. As the city flourished, the Exchange became home to dozens of financial institutions, warehouses and manufacturing empires.

After experiencing a boom period between the 1880s and 1920s, World War I and the Great Depression left the district to age virtually intact. Over a century later, against a backdrop that never changes, The Exchange is in the midst of a renaissance; where locals have converged to curate one of the most dynamic and unique cultural experiences. Today, The Exchange is a vibrant community known for its specialty boutiques, antique shops, restaurants and pulsing culture.

With over 500 businesses, nothing here is more exciting than the burgeoning creative scene which includes film, art, culinary arts, design, digital innovation and more. What was built on the tradition of industrious creativity, the Exchange has become home to world-class businesses that have attracted the attention of the globe. With exquisite cuisine, the finest taste in design and innovative digital technology; nothing here is pre-fabricated, as no two businesses are the same.

While the Exchange is quickly becoming a culinary destination with recent additions including Deer + Almond, Cibo Waterfront Café and King and Bannatyne the Sandwich Shop on the Corner; even the boutiques, shops and galleries pride themselves on sharing ideas and style that are hand-picked and selected with a specific artistry.
Once known as Newspaper Row, McDermot Avenue West of Main Street used to be an iconic spot where Winnipeggers gathered to learn the news of the sinking of the Titanic, and onset of the Great War. Today, McDermot is littered with over 10 boutique shops like Tiny Feast, Paperdoll Clothing and world-renowned Hilary Druxman Jewellery. Without a doubt, creativity was born and bred here.
Even though a pulse is beating year round behind the historic walls, it is truly the summer season when everyone comes to play. Festivals, concerts, walking tours and so much more enliven the streets and bring people out of the woodwork to celebrate.

Every year, Old Market Square transforms into The Exchange hub. The Cube Stage in Old Market Square plays hosts to world renowned festivals including the TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival, Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival and Manitoba Electronic Music Exhibition.

These festivals and events attract visitors from all over the City, but they are also a great meeting point for residents, of which the Exchange has about 800. With recent and ongoing developments, it is estimated the Exchange will be home to over 1,600 residents by 2017.

The Exchange truly is the place to be. As the renaissance continues, the BIZ invites you to explore and enjoy all it has to offer. We are an all-season district, with events, creativity and connection happening year round. For more information on the district, its businesses and events, visit http://www.exchangedistrict.org.

Stephanie Scherbain is Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Exchange District Biz.

VanJohan for Men gives men the total package

When Rich Johannes decided to make the decision to start a business selling men’s luxury underwear, he found it was all about finding the right fit, both for his product and with his supplier.

Wanting to keep his business entirely based in Canada, Rich found a supplier in Ontario to start out his business. However, after a few months without satisfaction, Rich decided to cut ties and found a local supplier instead. He says things are running much smoother now, and the proximity to the factory means that he can see first-hand how his product is doing without having to fly to Ontario.

“I was really fed up with the communication I was having with my manufacturer out there, and because I was so fed up it made me dig that much harder to actually find one here in Winnipeg. I was introduced to a lady with a manufacturing factory, and she’s been super-awesome. She helped get me in touch with my fabric suppliers and my waistband supplier, which has really helped everything towards making the actual product come out. She’s also helped me find a pattern designer to help me modify my pattern so that I can make it my very own and potentially patent it here in North America.”

The Man behind VanJohan

Rich Johannes is a graduate of kinesiology, and is currently pursuing a business degree at the University of Winnipeg. He has been applying his kinesiology knowledge as a personal trainer at the Downtown YMCA only a few blocks away from campus.

The Idea

The idea for the business came up in Rich’s first business class at the University of Winnipeg, when a professor asked students why they were in the class. Many of the ideas being heard were small scale “cookie cutter” businesses. Rich saw that the men’s clothing industry was not well catered to, and that a hole in the market where there to be filled.
“There’s a lot of brands out there for women, and not a lot of brands specifically targeted towards men,” said Rich. “So I thought ‘you know what? I’m going to start my own underwear company’. I noticed there was a big gap here in the North American market in terms of different types of luxury underwear.”

While the initial idea occurred two years ago, Rich has been approaching the idea in earnest over the last eight months, with the attainable goal of launching in early November. Rich has been busy making the final adjustments to his product and brand as launch day approaches, and has a vision for VanJohan going forward.

“I want VanJohan for Men to be a reputable brand across Canada and North America, and potentially Europe and around the world. It’s a lofty goal, but I think it’s attainable. I think that I have a bit of an advantage, as the visual boosting element of my product sets me apart from the other brands.”

The Design

What separates VanJohan for Men from other luxury underwear products in North America is its design, using a pocket to lift the male ‘package’ and bring it forward.
“I had seen a design similar to this with a brand in Australia,” said Rich. “I liked it, and decided to do something similar, but changed some angles for the pocket, as well as removed one of the seams to make it more comfortable.”

“Part of what makes VanJohan what it is is the design, with that visual boosting that can only increase your confidence.”
Rich also notes that the emphasis is on design, saying it doesn’t matter how good it looks if it isn’t comfortable to wear and it falls apart easy. The type and quality of fabric is very important to him, and is how he was lead to choose two different types of materials for fabric: a cotton-bamboo blend, and modal. Both of which are very soft while still being durable. Rich has also invested substantial time looking into the waistband, noting it wouldn’t make sense to have the waistband lower in quality than the fabric itself.

While quality is very important to Rich, so is affordability not only for him, but for potential clients as well. Scrolling through the internet for ‘men’s luxury underwear’, you can find some pairs going for over 50 dollars. Rich thinks that’s exorbitant, and is aiming in the range of half that price at 25 dollars.

VanJohan for men will be available in three different types: brief, trunk and boxer brief, with the brief being the shortest and the boxer brief being the longest.

“Those are the three types I’m going to be starting off with. I’m not going to be touching simple, loose boxers. I’m staying away from that completely. I think it’s a dying trend, and I’m not into it.”

Are You a VanJohan Man?

While Rich believes that the target demographic for VanJohan for Men will be men aged 18 to 30, he doesn’t want to limit himself to just that age range. Anybody can be a ‘VanJohan Man’, and you will never know it unless they choose to let you know.

“I have a couple of mottos I intend to use, including ‘how confident are you’ and let the confidence run through you’.”
Rich notes that even without anybody else seeing them, the VanJohan for Men underwear will give the wearer and added sense of sexiness and confidence as they go about their day.
“Imagine you’re at a meeting with a client, or making a presentation, or even just riding on the bus. Having that added confidence can make all the difference between success and failure, and it can be as simple as the underwear you’re wearing.”

Rich stresses that anybody deserves the right to feel bold and sexy, including men, and they don’t have to do anything too risqué to accomplish that feat.

E-Commerce

Rich plans to begin sales of the brand by using e-commerce through his soon to launch website, VanJohan.ca. Rich insists it is a matter of when, not if, he will make the transition to a brick and mortar store. It likely wouldn’t be on his own to start, but just having the option of people stopping by and physically seeing his product should help in Rich’s eyes.

“I just believe that from marketing and advertising perspectives, if people can have something tangible to hold onto in their hands, I think that can really help the volume of sales.”

“I can be really creative with this business, and I think that it’s going to be some that I can very much enjoy doing. I think that’s what work should be. I didn’t want to be stuck in a job where I absolutely hated it and I worked for somebody and that’s it. With this, either I make it or I don’t but at the same time it’s in my own hands.”

Getting Social

VanJohan.ca is set to launch in November, and you can follow everything on the company’s Facebook account at facebook.com/VanJohanforMen as well as their Twitter handle @TheVanJohanMan. Questions can be emailed to vanjohanformen@gmail.com.

How to Network by Accident

Long gone are the days that networking was defined by an oh-so-clever (i.e. glaringly obvious) title such as “networking gala”, “wine and cheese”, “meet and greet”… the creative list goes on. Yes, the days in which business students and eager young graduates assumed the act of networking was accompanied by an on-and-off switch. During this time, we had to prepare ourselves to have (often inorganic and at times slightly awkward) conversations with people we didn’t know. We had to make sure we had our clutch or purse equipped with business cards, regardless of whether or not we actually had a title – or a job. This was how it was done, right? This was how you met people in the hopes of creating opportunity?

Or so we thought.

Although the end goal of creating opportunity is still the same, I have learned some very interesting things about the wonderful world of networking, and how it has changed. I’ll even let you keeners in on a secret that can save you some questioning, and even an awkward convo or two in the future. Here it is: the on-and-off switch doesn’t exist. Even scarier: the only mode that really exists is ON. You are always networking in some capacity.

While your conversations will eventually become less awkward and more organic, and that 30-second-elevator-pitch (about yourself, your company, your product, your service) will soon easily roll off your tongue, here are a couple things to keep in mind when you just may find yourself…are you ready for it…networking by accident!

How to network by accident
1. It’s a small world. No, really, it is!
This is a cliché, but a true one. Tons of connections are made and business transactions done in situations that occur by chance. The next time you meet your sister-in-law’s cousin’s friend’s sister, and they ask you about yourself, come prepared with something eloquent, short and sweet to summarize who you are. There is no need to brag about your accomplishments (personal or professional) but there is also no need to downplay them either. Be proud of who you are and what you do and find a short and respectful way of explaining it. Examples that evoke emotion in people allow them to relate. For example, perhaps you are a website designer who just helped a non-profit add an online donations section to their site, thereby doubling their monthly donation quota. That’s pretty cool!
Even cooler, although your new friend may have just asked about you to be polite, there is also a chance she may have a contact in need of a similar service. By confidently and briefly explaining what you do, there is more of a chance of making a connection with someone who shares a similar interest, or who is in need of a similar service. And by doing so, you just made a potential business connection on a Saturday afternoon over a glass of wine with a few new friends – in about 60 seconds.

Now, you can just go about your afternoon and hand her a card at the end of the visit to pass along to her contact. Doesn’t get much easier than that, does it?

2. There is great power in being genuine (and just plain nice).
Most people can very quickly sense the quality of being genuine. Sometimes we tend to overthink things and forget what an impact we can have by simply being authentic and kind. Rather than thinking about networking as a sales exercise or sales pitch, take a moment to stop trying to impress (and cram as much information into 60 seconds as possible), but rather give open and honest answers about yourself, your career and your accomplishments. Women, in particular, have a tendency to downplay their successes. There is a genuine way to talk about yourself and those things you have achieved, without coming across as bragging. So go ahead and explain your accomplishments. But remember: no matter whom you meet or how you meet them, when they ask you a question, use the opportunity to give genuine answers. And when you ask them questions, make sure to listen to their answers, and not just wait for your turn to speak. This is how good relationships – both personal and professional – are built.

And as always, if there is mutual opportunity or even potential opportunity, be sure to leave your card or contact information. Chances are that person will remember you as being a genuine and pleasant person with whom they have already built a trusting relationship. And they will likely remember you in the future if they meet someone who could benefit from your expertise.

And there you have it… you networked and didn’t even know it!

Working out for work: How exercise improves work performance

When many of us think of exercise, the physical benefits such as increased strength and stamina come to mind. What we may be overlooking is the way exercise can benefit your mind, and thus improve your performance and productivity at work.

A study by Leeds Metropolitan University, which examined the influence of exercise on office workers, found employees reported better mood and work performance. Workers manage their time more effectively, being more productive, having smoother interactions with their colleagues and going home feeling more satisfied at the end of the day on the days that they exercised.
Exercise increases blood flow to all areas of the body, including the brain, which can help you feel more alert and aware. Working out also gives you an energy boost, helping you feel more awake at work – especially if you exercise in the morning or during the workday. Studies show that a workout gives your brain an immediate boost, improving your ability to focus over the two to three hours following.
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What is normal, and is it a good thing?

I was on a flight from LA to Chicago this past week, my first with Virgin Airlines. I could tell early on things were a little different. To begin, while I was walking toward a restaurant in the concourse, out of nowhere a red suited employee stopped me to – of all things – see if I needed help. The nerve! Then once on board, I was introduced to the safety demonstration through a MTV-style music video that would put Madonna to shame. I think it was the first time in 10 years I have paid attention. This was not normal.
Continue reading What is normal, and is it a good thing?