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Arts + Culture

How Jessie Li Gets It Done During PARKFORUM

Jessie Li (pictured above, far right) and Kara Chomistek get a lot done in a day. As founders of PARK, a Calgary-based organization that creates opportunities for developing fashion designers and artists to share their work and sustains a profitable business, they lead the charge in Calgary when it comes to fashion events such as their wildly popular PARKSHOW and PARKLUXE fashion shows.

This weekend PARK is holding PARKFORUM, an educational seminar focused on teaching creative entrepreneurs how to grow and sustain their business. Speakers this year include Michelle Gault of Herschel Supply, Trevor Fleming of Lululemon and the team behind Rosso Coffee Roasters. The response has been so strong that the event sold out in record time, but not to worry: a new block of tickets has been released for anyone wanting to attend.

We chatted with Jessie to find out how she gets it all done in a day, especially during crunch time!

How I get ready in the morning:
I usually start the day with checking my social media accounts and my email inbox while I get ready in the morning. PARK doesn’t have an office so most of our work is done on cloud-based apps like Trello or Google Docs, so I will usually spend the first 30 mins of my morning updating team task lists and tracking documents on these apps.

I got a Vitamix as a gift from my parents last year so I have been trying to make a habit of making myself a green smoothie for breakfast each day.

How I choose my outfit:
My typical work outfit consists mainly of turtlenecks and trousers or culottes, or a basic knit with leather leggings. I never leave my house without my Duval cross body and trainers. This season I purchased a few coats that I am in love with, so depending on whether I am feeling fun or a little bit more professional, you can find me in a green faux-fur coat or a wine-coloured wrap jacket.

How I transitioned from my 9 to 5 job to my dream job:
I started PARK while I was in university and I never thought of it as a career option. I chose a very conservative concentration and found myself moving towards a corporate career without really thinking about what I believed in.

I had always been a huge believer in arts, culture and growing community and that is why PARK was so appealing to me in university. For me, PARK was an opportunity to take everything that I wanted to change and improve about Calgary and do something about it. I think that I was surprised by the number of people who actually believed in the PARK mandate and I never thought that these PARK events and projects would be so popular and take up so much time. Eventually, PARK became a reputable brand and we started getting opportunities that I would have to turn down because of my 9 to 5 job. I was in my mid-twenties and I felt that if I didn’t take a chance on a career that I believed in I would never make the leap. So I did.

I don’t ever regret my corporate experience because it taught me a lot of skills that I wouldn’t have had if I had jumped right into PARK after graduating. I really believe that Kara’s and my professional backgrounds are the reason that our arts-based organization has made it to the ten-year mark.

How I organize a massive speaker event:
Throughout the year the PARK team stays in touch with the many creative entrepreneurs that participate in and attend our events and we are constantly getting a pulse on what makes a business successful, and always trying to understand what types of hurdles these businesses are currently facing. Because we talk to so many different businesses we notice trends and common questions and when planning our next PARKFORUM we try to address these issues. Then we make a list of the industry professionals or successful businesses that could speak to these topics and start reaching out to them.

How I unwind and find balance:
My other hobby is cooking so I try to cook and enjoy a meal with my boyfriend at least three or four times a week. The best unwind nights include a glass of wine and Netflix.

How I stay fit:
I really dislike working out and going to the gym, so I dance to stay fit. I have been going to ballet barre classes for several years and I have been a competitive Latin dancer for almost ten years. Dancing never feels like a chore or a workout and in the months where I am training to compete or perform I find that I am able to achieve the body type that I am happy with!

PARKFORUM takes place January 27 and 28, 2018 at cSPACE King Edward, Studio Theatre. Click here to register.

Interview by Ricky Zayshley; photo courtesy of Allison Seto.

Find out how Jessie’s business partner and PARK co-founder Kara Chomistek Gets It Done.