October 21, 2016 - No Comments!

“Why Vancouver” Featuring Kurtis Stewart

The startup culture in Vancouver is not only thriving, it’s growing. It’s become a trend of it’s own that inspires, and encourages everyone to join in. People who move to the city see and experience this first hand, and realize that when surrounded by the energy here, there isn’t anything they can’t do. The world is your oyster in Vancouver, but how did that come to be? Why is Vancouver such a hot-bed of self employed creatives?

As part of an ongoing series, we’ll be meeting and interviewing creative entrepreneurs in Vancouver to see how and why they think this has happened, how they’ve benefited from it, and what makes them tick as an entrepreneur; we want to know, “Why Vancouver”.

Everyone, meet Kurtis. If you don't already know him, you're missing something. This guy is EVERYWHERE. Literally everywhere. With 7 jobs (no joke!) you genuinely cannot be around and about Vancouver's creative community without bumping into him.

 And of course, that's exactly how I met him: attending my first ever Freelance Friday at the beginning of the year (Thanks FF!). Here's what Kurtis has to say about being a freelancer living the Vancouver dream.


"Vancouver is where I want to be when I have time off, that’s why I’m not leaving. It is also (arguably) where other Canadians want to be (we’re looking at you Toronto). That’s our starting point, we have our existing millennials that won’t leave plus the converts from out east. Tons of talent, though not enough inspiring 9-5 positions to go around.

With Vancouver being so "young" it means there is a growing sense of exploration in entrepreneurism. We don’t want to punch a clock until we get to 55 and THEN start living the life we dreamed of. In order to get what we want today, we need to create a job that fits our lifestyle, not the other way around. Starting a business gets easier every day, with 3 hour workshops from Camp Tech and tools like Squarespace, Shopify, Mailchimp etc. You don’t need to know it all to have it all <cheeseball smile>.

When I visited New York 2014 <collective groan from my group of friends on hearing this again> everyone I met was working on a little side project. Their hustle could be a CD they’re recording, a monthly event they run, or a new book they’re writing. Everyone was working their FT job not for the sake of retirement but to fund something they’re passionate about. I feel Vancouver is starting to get a heavy dose of that.

There will always be the early adopters of entrepreneurship. People like the Ryan Holmes’ and Stewart Butterfields’ who take the leap first and reap the benefits. I would argue the conversation “I’m working on my [insert side project(s) here]” is becoming more common in Vancouver. The more people succeeding in taking that leap, the more “acceptable” entrepreneurship as career path becomes.

Long term, I hope, we have a city where everyone is working on something worth getting up for in the morning."

Stay tuned for more interviews (1 every week!) with other creative “do-ers” on the topic of “Why Vancouver”, and in the meantime check out Kurtis’s top 5 for getting sh*t done:

1. Do you have a favourite cafe or local spot to work from?
Primarily I work from home but if the mood strikes/I want some co-working company, I’ve worked out of Creative Coworkers, Groundswell, L’Atelier, and The HiVE. The latter being where we hold our Camp Tech Vancouver classes. Biggest thing that draws me to a space, I like my environment to feel lived in and comfortable. I work much better when I have people in close proximity whom I can ignore (the mind is a funny thing...).


(Vernon Jubilee Hospital, photo by Kurtis)

2. What's your favourite music to listen to whilst working?
I’m one of those House/EDM people, aka Ear Coffee. If I remember to turn something on before I dive into a project... it’s probably a 1.5 hour recording of BBC Radio 1 or a playlist from 8 Tracks. Long story short, I don’t want to have to go in and fiddle track to track, I want something I can leave on that changes quickly if I don’t like it.

3. What's your favourite thing about summer in Vancouver?
Mostly, Gore-Tex free Biking. I’m on my trusty Surly Cross-Check more than my feet so it’s nice to be able to leave the house and arrive wherever I’m going without having to wrestle off a soggy layer. That and the fact I can book more natural light photoshoots later in the day (#workaholic).


(Photo of Kurtis's beloved bike, by Kurtis - I assume 😉 )

4. What's one thing you can't live without?
One thing I can’t live without? Learning; I’ve realized that’s the main reason behind my constant job hopping. Up until I started freelancing this year I can describe all my attempts at finding the “right 9-5 job” in new companies like this;

  1. I learn how to do it

  2. I write a manual how to do it

  3. I give ample notice I’m leaving

  4. I get myself replaced

Now being a full time freelancer I’m free to learn as much as I like. I’ll take on some projects just for the sake of “figuring it out”. If I’m not spending ~20% of my day working on something new to me, I get really bored.


(Matt + Kris, shot by Kurtis this summer)

5. What's the best advice you've ever been given as freelancer/ self employed designer?
General advice, for me it revolves around money. I live pretty lean and if someone has told me the 50/30/20 rule earlier, I would have been much happier. 50% to needs, 30% to wants, 20% to savings (no more than 10% towards debt payment).

Alternatively, business advice wise, asking yourself “Does this deal need to be made?”. Coming out of Photography then Project Management School I said yes to yes to EVERY opportunity that came my way. This practice didn’t always take me closer to my goals. Now, I’m a little more conscious about what I’m saying yes to.

If you liked this post, let us know! We want YOU to be part of our community - so send me a message ([email protected]) and you can join in on one our community events, or be part of this blog series! Join the conversation!

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