Holly Singer discusses creating a business with a purpose.Holly Singer discusses creating a business with a purpose.
Business Growth
Min Read

How Milk Jar Became a Philanthropic Company

Beyond what your business sells – what is its purpose? Figuring out what it stands for, discovering its cause, and putting it all into action is the greatest return on investment you could ask for.

My love for candles began in my early 20s; I’d always loved their beautiful smells that filled my room and their glowing ambiance. I remember I couldn’t wait to move out of my parent’s house and go to University, just so I could finally decorate my own place. The Bohemian style of decor was very popular at the time – crafted candles and earthy smells were a must-have to create a natural and cozy atmosphere. They say that your 20s are about self-discovery. You try out different paths, interests and styles, with every year of getting older also getting to know yourself deeper and closer to your authentic self. It’s our way of finding your life’s purpose – and I found mine through candle making.

In my undergrad, I studied Kinesiology. Early on in my schooling, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but chose the degree based on my interests in sports and healthcare. I come from a family of healthcare professionals, so I always assumed that I’d end up working in that field as well. My parents taught me that a meaningful job is one where you can help others, and that’s what started me on my journey.

By the end of my degree, I had gained a lot of experience in sport therapy, exercise, rehabilitation, biology, etc., but the area that I became most passionate about was adaptations and accommodations for disabled people. I only had one class in my entire four-year degree that taught me about this, but when I took the class, I jumped at the opportunity to do a practicum with the Special Olympics and volunteered to facilitate a pool therapy program for a teen with Cerebral Palsy. That semester, I built a strong bond with the teen and his mother and we decided to keep swimming after my work experience contract was complete.

I was hired to swim once a week for 6-8 months of the year, and sometimes I visited their home to do some on-land therapy and stretching. We did this for 7 years, until he turned 20. Being a part of this family’s life and witnessing their dedication to making sure their son lived a full and rich life was a life-changing experience for me. In all the beautiful moments, I also saw the really hard ones: the exhaustion from medical visits, the back-and-forth for funding support, and the struggles of raising a child with a disability in a world that does not offer equal opportunities. This really opened my eyes to how hard this world can be for people living with disabilities, and their families, and it sparked my desire to find a career where I can help this community.

Milk Jar was not my first attempt at a job with my new-found passion. My original plan was to get my master’s degree in Occupational Therapy. Unfortunately, it was a competitive program and I wasn’t accepted. I was disappointed, but I still wouldn’t have traded those evenings in and out with friends for a few extra days of studying. I’m a strong advocate for living life to its fullest, so I have no regrets – and everything happens for a reason! Enter Milk Jar.

The idea of creating Milk Jar came to me, about four years after finishing school, during a time when I was feeling quite lost. I had worked a couple jobs that I cared very much about, but none of them made me feel like I was making the impact that I knew I was capable of. I was making candles in my home as a way to experiment with soy wax when I learned that burning common paraffin wax candles released carcinogens and soot into the air that could cause respiratory issues and other health concerns.

I mentioned before I loved burning candles and had them in every room in my home. Because of my family and background in Kinesiology, choosing healthy lifestyle options has always been important to me. I could’ve just started purchasing other candles made with natural waxes, but it seemed easy enough to make myself – and more fun! I quickly learned that it wasn’t that easy, but I enjoyed the process of learning how to blend fragrances, vessels, waxes, and wicks. And my favourite piece to candle making? Developing scents that capture a memory, place or feeling.

After a year of making candles and also feeling like I wasn’t connected to the disability community that I cared so much about, I decided in April 2016 that I’d start a business selling my candles that donated a portion of its profits to organizations that were doing amazing work that. I launched Milk Jar that November and reached out to the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing and offered to donate $1 from the sale of every candle to them that following year.

I was just as terrified as I was excited to launch into entrepreneurship. I had no idea what I was doing, let alone running a business, but I was passionate about creating a company that was more than just Milk Jar. By inserting a philanthropic purpose into Milk Jar from the start, all my nerves about whether it would succeed or fail didn’t matter. It would’ve already been a success even if I donated $50. That first year we donated $2000 to CADS Calgary.

Fast forward to today and Milk Jar has donated over $100,000 to various non-profits including: CADS Calgary, Between Friends, and PaceKids Programs. Last year, we became an inclusive employer, hiring people in our community living with disabilities to help hand craft the products we make. This has fundamentally changed the culture in our company, we experience more joy at work and everyone is more motivated. We are learning from each other everyday. It’s a beautiful atmosphere to be around people that may appear different from us but recognize that we all want similar things in life. Never in my wildest dreams did I think a little home-grown business could raise this much money and touch as many lives as Milk Jar has in 5 years. I finally found my purpose – and it wasn’t something I waited to find me – I created it.

I’ve learned a lot over the years of starting and running this business, and if there is one thing that you take away from reading this, it’s to ask yourself what else? What else does your business do besides its obvious sale of product or service? What does your company stand for value, and contribute to that gets you out of bed on those tough days? And believe me, you will have them. How have you added purpose into your company that you can speak to, are passionate about, and that every member of your team can be proud of?

A business that cares will be your greatest return on investment. Now more than ever, people want to know that their dollars are being spent on companies that care about economic and social sustainability. When you show that your company is more than just the business of sales, you will have lifelong supporters that’ll be dedicated to helping you succeed.

There’s a lot of inequity in this world. Supporting an important cause that elevates your community can come in many forms: donating, volunteering, advocating, befriending, etc., and it feels really good to give your time, energy and/or money to initiatives that need and benefit from it.

I believe it’s our duty to take care of each other and our planet, and it is the way to lead a purposeful life. Owning your own business is a privilege. A privilege that should be used to make this world better for others, not to make ourselves better than others. If we could all experience the same opportunities, access and treatment, then what a beautiful world we would be living in.


About the Author

Holly Singer is a compassionate and inspirational 32-year-old entrepreneur and philanthropist. She grew up in Victoria BC, moved to Calgary for university, and has since built Milk Jar to what it is today in what she now calls home. Holly enjoys relaxing at home with her dog Bowie and plans to do a diving trip in Indonesia sometime in the near future.

Learn more about Holly at milkjar.ca or on Instagram at @milkjarcandleco

Dina Baxevanakis reflects on being embraced by the LBGTQ2S+ Community while being a queer small business owner.
Business Growth
Min Read
Pride Month: A Small Business Supporting Huge Self Expression


During pride month, it’s important that we acknowledge, educate, and spread awareness of the struggles—both past and present—that the LGBTQ2S+ community faces, while also celebrating the beauty and rich history that this group holds. Today, queer empowerment and “pride” coincides with our freedom of self expression, specifically through our clothing or style. Visibility is integral to the LGBTQ2S+ experience, and I am incredibly honoured that the earrings that I sell through my shop have been embraced by this community.

I draw a lot of inspiration from queer art, whether it be drag, musicians, or other visual artists/makers. The vibrancy and eccentricity of the queer experience is so beautiful, and I try to harness that light with my work. Amid the systemic struggles the LGBTQ2S+ community faces, Pride celebrations show people celebrating, connecting, and spreading happiness and awareness. These extremes—having the grit and tenacity to fight oppression and the loving openness to celebrate our differences joyfully—exist side by side, and both are necessary.


Shop Velanidi is a handmade jewelry business that specializes in creating what we lovingly refer to as “lesbian earrings.” This type of accessory— which I think of as anything wacky or Ms. Frizzle-esque—has gained popularity on social media, as more people feel comfortable expressing their authentic selves. Gone are the days where everyone is forced into one boring box in terms of style and interests.

After my grandfather passed away, I started wearing exclusively colourful clothes. I associated dark colours with mourning—and my grandfather had hated my past emo style. This change was the beginning of my obsession with eccentric fashion and Shop Velanidi is a tribute to my grandfather’s creative spirit—he would collect acorns and turn them into charms to give to me and my brother. “Velanidi” is actually Greek for “acorn.” I know my grandfather would be very proud to see the earrings I make now, and the support they’ve gained. People all around the world send me messages about how they make them feel confident, and how they’ve made friends with people that compliment them. Building a community and connecting with different people is central to my brand, and being able to create wearable art that brings people together is my ultimate goal.

I often ask my family if they ever envisioned me being the owner of my own art-based small business, to which they respond “…actually, yes.” I think they mean that they always foresaw me doing something creative in my career, but even I can’t say I envisioned my career being selling silly little food earrings online, especially not when the pandemic hit.


Graduating from university with a Bachelor of Design would have been daunting enough as it was, never mind the fact that I would have had to find my way in an industry that still hasn’t fully addressed its own outdated and exclusionary practices. Graduating in the middle of a pandemic was downright scary. I thought, “who cares about pretty pictures when people are getting sick and businesses are closing down?” I had no direction or plan, no matter how many lists and mind maps I made in my journal. That’s when I started to play with polymer clay as a way to pass the time and release some creative energy. Thankfully I discovered whilst navigating lockdown that, despite my anxieties, the arts had become more important than ever to everyone’s mental wellbeing and for connecting with others. So I focused all of my energy into Shop Velanidi (mainly anxious energy, but it was an effective distraction nonetheless). And the rest is history!


The biggest piece of advice I can give anyone wanting to start a small business is to have patience and confidence. Soon after starting Shop Velanidi, I created an Instagram and TikTok page for the shop, and began posting, sharing, and experimenting. I had no idea how to make video content, and even now I hate taking product photos (despite both being essential when building a social media platform). It took a lot of trial and error, but I eventually defined my brand identity: primary colours, fruits, vibrant product photos, and earrings that any art teacher would wear. It was a slow process, but when I posted a video making my orange bag earrings on TikTok, it eventually went viral. However, even with this idea (which I always thought was pretty cool and unique) it took a while to gain any substantial attention.

There will be many frustrating obstacles, like battling the algorithm, the learning curve that comes with making content, and the ever-present imposter syndrome. You need to believe in yourself and your work, and eventually others will join the hype you’ve created for yourself. On top of making appealing content, it needs to be consistent! To this day I’m trying to avoid burnout, and developing my own schedule that includes breaks and self care. It is a long and uncertain journey, but I cannot express how rewarding it is. I have met so many incredible people through Velanidi, online and in person. There are customers that have growing collections of Velanidi pieces, and people that wear the earrings daily. I now have my earrings available in physical shops, have sold at local markets, and have had the pleasure of meeting my amazing supporters in real life.

Almost all of my knowledge of business and general art making has come from the Internet. I’ve watched countless YouTube tutorials, read blogs about clay, and asked other makers for advice. I believe in “community over competition,” and I think most business owners in my area believe the same. However, I do encourage you to support the maker that you’re asking for advice, whether it be buying their work, or interacting on social media. Barging into someone's DMs demanding advice without even a “hello” can feel as if you’re taking advantage of the artist (even if this is not your intention). Community means we should all help each other, but that does not mean that anyone “owes” you the knowledge and skills they’ve cultivated over many years.

I’m often asked how I managed the transition from making art for fun to making art as a main source of income, and if it has ruined the fun of it. Admittedly, I do get very stressed about the business, whether it be about shipping, customer service, or making enough product. It’s no longer something I do to unwind, and differentiating between work and relaxation time is difficult. However, I don’t MIND being stressed about the shop, because I love it so much. This is my absolute dream, but even a dream isn’t smooth sailing all the time!


As someone who identifies as part of the queer community, and whose customer base is mainly made up of it, the importance of this month is not lost upon me. It is important to me that people feel safe and welcomed when they stumble upon my shop, and I try to make it clear that it is an inclusive space, regardless of race, sexuality, identity, or ability.

Being able to dress and present yourself as openly queer is not safe or accessible for everyone, and should not be taken for granted. People of colour, especially Black trans women, face violence every day for dressing as their true selves; their contributions to queer history should not go unnoticed. Just because today it seems acceptable for some people to dress openly queer (or against the binary) and not face any repercussions, does not mean true liberation and freedom has been reached. I feel extremely privileged to be able to express myself as eccentrically as I do, and I am humbled that I can help provide resources for others to do the same.

For the month of June, I have created special pride produce bag earrings, with fruits corresponding to the colours of the rainbow. A portion of the proceeds from these earrings will be donated to Friends of Ruby, a local Toronto organization that provides free resources to LGBTQ2S+ youth.

I encourage you to seek out queer small businesses this month—and always— to show your support for the message of Pride!



Dina Baxevanakis is the owner and maker of Shop Velanidi, a Toronto-based handmade jewelry business. She is inspired by anything colourful, quirky, and cute, which is reflected in her playful earrings. When she is not creating tiny clay foods, she is listening to emo nostalgia music, watching pro wrestling, or snuggling with her bunny/studio assistant, Rocky.

Learn more about Dina and Shop Velanidi at https://msha.ke/shopvelanidi/ and @shopvelanidi.

Founder of Lam Beverages, Christy, speaks on the anxiety of starting a small business - and the success of giving it your all.
Business Growth
Min Read
Trust and Believe in the Daily Grind of Entrepreneurship

As I’m sure any fellow small business owner knows, coffee is something we consume when we’re tired, overwhelmed, underwhelmed and frankly, bored. Coffee is a comfort consumable, and if we were able to have an IV of it to get through the late night work sessions, we’d probably take it.

I’m not an advocate for hustle culture, but it’s certainly something ingrained in me as a child of immigrant parents. Hustle culture can be mentally exhausting, and often, you end up beating yourself up over not achieving someone else's definition of “success.” Immigrants, like my parents, didn’t have any choice but to hustle. However, as a millennial growing up in Canada, my choices looked very different.

Starting a coffee brand definitely wasn’t what I had in mind when I was growing up. Coming from an immigrant family who escaped war and terror in Vietnam, all you would hear at home is “go to university! be a doctor! be a lawyer!” I was conditioned to think that those types of careers were the only way to become successful and ensure a happy and stable future.

I don’t blame my parents at all for thinking this way. They never had a chance to go to elementary school, let alone university. They wanted to guide me in the direction of their idea of stability — a future that wouldn’t require the struggles they had to go through coming to Canada, not knowing any English or having “desirable” skills.

So, I did what I was told and went to college for AutoCad Drafting and Design and completed an 18-month diploma program. I furthered my education by attending a 2-year Interior Design program and spent an entire semester practicing drawing straight lines because we were advised we needed to know how to draw blueprints without a ruler. Then there was that class about the history of colour. Needless to say, I was uninspired and unmotivated. I knew it was time to pursue a career I was passionate about, so I started a business focusing on the one item I spent most of my days purchasing — coffee!

While most of my friends and cousins continued their education in either college or university, I spent seven months sourcing LAM Beverages’ coffee and packaging, and planning the e-commerce site, freight, and launch of the brand. I kept my head down and didn’t tell anyone about my idea. Not because I thought someone would steal my idea (every second there’s someone somewhere in the world probably thinking of your business idea), but because I didn’t want anyone to sway me from launching my business. I didn’t want to hear any negativity. I wasn’t doing what was considered normal in anyone's eyes. I knew I just needed to launch and roll with the punches.

On September 21st, 2020, I launched LAM Beverages. A few hours went by and there were no sales. I was getting worried. Did I plan incorrectly? Did I hype up my audience enough before launching? Is this why my parents told me to go to med school? I closed my laptop and decided to focus on other things. By the end of the day, I received my first 10 sales. I was overjoyed!

It still wasn’t the right time to tell my parents yet. I knew that if I told them about LAM Beverages, they’d ask me if I’d be confident surviving off a paycheque from the business — and I wasn’t even thinking about taking a paycheque for the first year. I needed to reinvest every penny I made back into the business, so the answer would have been, “no, I cannot survive solely off of the business at the moment.” I kept my full-time job instead and put in full-time hours for LAM Beverages as well.

After the first month flew by, I began to feel comfortable telling friends and family about LAM Beverages. I was honestly scared to let anyone know about my business until I had valid social proof. Most importantly, I didn’t want to disappoint or embarrass my parents. I didn’t want them to know that I had spent the past seven months planning a business that might’ve turned out to be a failure.

In East Asian culture, unfortunately, it’s very common to compare your children to another child’s success. We don’t talk about this enough because it’s taboo, but it’s a terrible and incredibly uncomfortable experience. I didn’t want to be that child who didn’t go to university AND had a side gig that flopped who my parents' friends would use to compare their child to. I wanted to make my immigrant parents proud. I wanted them to know that everything they’ve done to come to Canada and provide for their family had worked — that we are now living the Canadian dream: happy, safe, healthy, pursuing our dreams (whatever that may be), and trudging steadily toward our goals.

Fast forward a year later, my parents are happily involved; they occasionally accompany me to my trade shows and assist me with unpacking my inventory, packing my orders, and helping me with anything I need. I love being able to discuss my business with my parents every week and get their opinion on new product samples. I love being able to share this entrepreneurial journey with them.

I realized this fear that I had about being a disappointment to my parents was solely my own reflection of myself. I thought I wasn’t confident that I would do well in their eyes. This was a self-defense mechanism I had created in my own head. It wasn’t because the business wasn’t doing well, it was because it wasn’t doing well enough in my own eyes.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and your family and friends don’t expect it to be. Trust in the process and believe in yourself. That is all that matters.


About the Author

Learn more about Christy at www.lambevy.com or on Instagram at @LamBeverages

Sarah Huguet speaks on creating an online presence with short form videos for your business
Business Growth
Min Read
How To Use Short Form Video For Your Business

In the last few years, video content has exploded on social media, most notably short-form videos, thanks to TikTok, Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, and Pinterest Ideas pins. It's left business owners wondering how to get their skin in the game if they want to create that style of content for their business.

So, where do you begin?

My name is Sarah Huguet, and I'm the owner of Social and Stuff, a social media management and consulting agency based in Vancouver, Canada. We help brands and businesses build their community through organic content and custom strategies.

Let's dive into short-form video and how you can utilize it for your brand or business.

1. What is considered short-form video?

Short-form video is anything from 2 seconds to 3 minutes that’s typically filmed vertically; either face-to-camera talking, doing a voice-over, or played to trending music or lip-syncing funny audio.

  • Instagram Reels → up to 60 seconds
  • TikTok → up to 3 minutes
  • YouTube shorts → up to 60 seconds
  • Pinterest idea pins →  ​​up to 60 seconds in length, while you can add up to 20 frames to each Idea series.

Keep in mind that people's attention span is about 7-8 seconds these days. So even though these platforms allow up to a certain amount, the shorter is oftentimes the better when it comes to Reels, TikTok and YouTube shorts.

2. Why is short-form video so popular?

Short-form video has become incredibly popular because it gives people a peek behind the curtain, and it leaves perfectionism at the door. This trend doesn’t appear to be going away, as it has become the norm these days for social media content. In fact, all social platforms have come out to say that video is king and that they are prioritizing supporting it on their platforms.

Today, more than ever, users are craving real authentic connections and less filtered ‘everything is perfect’ content.

3. Where can you post short-form videos?

All the social media companies are joining the short-form video trend and are offering a way for creators to create and post them on their platforms.

On Instagram, it's called Reels. Instagram is a photo and video sharing platform with over 1.3 billion monthly users, and 90% of them follow at least one business. Instagram has turned into the ideal digital office + website to showcase your brand or business and build your community. Users between the ages 18 - 34 make up the most significant share, so if this is your demographic, you’ll want to build a presence on the app.

On TikTok, they are called TikTok's, and it is strictly a video-sharing platform with 1 billion monthly users. You can create short-form vertical video content which is shown to your followers, or it can land on the "for you page" (fyp). What determines if it goes on the fyp? The algorithm serves it up to users based on their previous interactions on the app. You can also go LIVE once you have 1000 followers. The largest age group is 10-19 years, making up a quarter of its users, and 70% is from the ages of 20-49. Plus, 46% of TikTok users engage with content without any distraction, about 10% more than other social platforms.

On Pinterest, they are called Idea Pins. Pinterest is a visual search engine platform where users discover recipes, products, how-tos and much more. It is like a more visually appealing Google. Pinterest has 444 million monthly active users and women make up more than 60% of its global audience. 80% of weekly pinners have discovered a new brand or business; they come to Pinterest to plan, shop and purchase.

On YouTube, short-form videos are called YouTube shorts. YouTube has more than 2 billion monthly users. I go there anytime I need an answer or learn how to do something. YouTube is the number 2 ranked social platform behind Facebook and is a fantastic free tool to showcase your brand or business.

4. What type of videos can you create

Face-to-camera → it’s exactly how it sounds. You pick up your phone, hit record and talk. This type of video is perfect for educational content, speaking your mind, or sharing a motivational, powerful message.

Video clips + photos to trending music → you can piece this together to the beat of the music.

Lip-sync/Audio trend → these are popular on Reels and TikTok. They’re typically filmed face-to-camera lip-syncing lyrics or looking at the camera with text bubbles explaining why you are using that sound.

Bird's eye view → this is very popular in the crafting, artist world. Set your camera up on a tripod and film from a bird’s-eye view and paired it to music or a voice-over explaining the process.

GIFs and Memes → these can be created in 1080 x 1920 mode, add text and pair to music.

Filming outward → this style is perfect for any brand or business that doesn't feel comfortable showing their face. Simply record when you’re out for a walk, doing an activity or anything else you think your audience would be interested in.

Daily vlogs → Exactly as the name implies, you film little clips throughout the day and piece them together against a voice-over. You can shoot, “a day in the life” or capture moments, such as shipping your product from purchase to ship.

Tutorial → This is an opportunity to do a digital walkthrough of your software or one that you use in your business. People love to get quick wins and actionable steps through social media.

5. Should you be creating and posting videos for your business?

Ideally — yes. However, if it is not in the cards, then just being on social media in any form is a must these days. It is the first place consumers go when deciding to buy something, booking a service or visiting your establishment.

Short-form video content is giving brands and businesses huge visibility and reach that is very hard to achieve with static content. Gone are the days of a pretty grid on Instagram with the perfect filter. Now that video is here, it’s highly recommended as a strategy to implement for your business.

If you’re unsure of where to start, considering looking to retaining the services of content creators. They make this style of content for a living, and you can hire them to create content specifically for your brand. You can also hire an agency to fully take over your business’ content creation; and if you are able to build your staff, consider bringing on someone in-house to be your content creator so that you have a steady stream of content.

6. Why are trends important and how do you find them?

If you hop on a trend at the right time, and it goes viral, that could have a huge impact on your business. I always advise brands and companies to have a mix of content types as it’s not pragmatic to rely solely on trends to grow. That said, leveraging a trend to increase your visibility should be part of your content strategy for 2022. Trends come in many ways; it could be a song blowing up, a lip-sync skit that is having a moment, or a viral dance.

It is easy to fall into the scroll hole when finding these trends. And it is tricky, because you don't want to be too late on a trend. A great tip is to find accounts on each platform that post about the trends. Yes, there are creators out there who, on the daily, post things like "trend alerts,” let them do your heavy lifting and monitoring.

The biggest thing is just starting. Yes, your first video; you might not knock it out of the park, but we all get better the more tries we take. It might feel awkward, but it gets easier the more you do it. Plus, you never know who is watching.

We have to remember we are at a time when sharing about your business has never been so accessible. We have the opportunity to create mini commercials right from our phones and publish them out in the world for free. When a user can tell that you are passionate about your business and having fun — it is infectious.


About the Author

Sarah Huguet is the CEO of Social and Stuff, a social media agency specializing in helping businesses create content that sells for YOU. After owning an e-commerce store, she pivoted into social media marketing in 2018, realizing how much she loved creating content and building an online presence. Social and Stuff has worked with over 50 businesses, and Sarah has helped over 200 students learn about Instagram + TikTok through digital courses.

Learn more about Sarah at Social and Stuff or on Instagram at @socialandstuff


  1. 35 Instagram stats that matter to marketers in 2002, https://blog.hootsuite.com/instagram-statistics/
  2. Distribution of TikTok users in the United States as of September 2021, by age group, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1095186/tiktok-us-users-age/
  3. Time Well Spent: Users on TikTok stay longer, engage often & feel happier, https://www.tiktok.com/business/en/blog/time-well-spent
  4. Your audience is here, https://business.pinterest.com/audience

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