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Arts + Culture

How Kara Chomistek Gets It Done During PARKFORUM

You probably know Kara Chomistek. As the co-founder of PARK, a Calgary-based organization that creates opportunities for developing fashion designers and artists to share their work and sustain a profitable business, and one of the city’s most in-demand stylists and creative directors, she’s helped shape the look and success of Calgary’s fashion scene.

This weekend PARK is hosting PARKFORUM, and 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.

Needless to say, she’s busy. But that doesn’t cramp her style one bit. We chatted with Kara to find out how she gets it done.

How I get ready in the morning:
I’ve set up a morning routine with the help of my hyper-organized boyfriend! Having a supportive significant other has been a game changer for my morning routine. Every night we go over our morning schedule and review what needs to be prepped, packed and organized for the next day. I have a very basic morning beauty routine right now — I’m really into no make-up and hydrated skin. I usually am spoiled with a homemade breakfast or smoothie on my way out the door and leave the house at the latest by 8:15 am. If I feel like I need to wear makeup I usually do it in the car (as a passenger). I’m downtown ready to start my day at 9 am.

How I choose my outfit:
My outfit is dependent on which company and what hat I’m wearing that day. If I meeting with sponsors and stakeholders I usually choose something that is fashionable but still professional (ex: wool blazer, turtleneck, patent pointed toe pumps, leather culottes). If I am working on set at a photoshoot I normally gravitate to comfortable “blacks” — Kit & Ace trousers, cashmere sweater or turtleneck and a leather jacket. Because my days are jammed packed, I usually bring several outfits and shoes with me in the car for meetings, dance class, and special events.

How I transitioned from my 9 to 5 job to my dream job:
PARK started while I was in university for engineering. It was my extracurricular hobby project that turned into a non-profit organization in 2008. After I graduated I worked as a bio-mechanical engineer designing equipment for orthopaedic surgery during the day and working on PARK during evenings, weekends and vacation time. PARK couldn’t afford a stylist for our campaigns so I started to dabble in pulling and styling the looks myself.

I was asked to do a styling competition for Chinook Centre that led to a number of shopping centre and retail clients. By 2012, I was using all my vacation time for styling opportunities and had to make a choice between engineering or PARK and my styling contracts. I chose to leave engineering and haven’t looked back since. Jessie Li and I began working on PARK full time which has become an umbrella corp. that houses events, entrepreneur education, an agency and an online and brick-and-mortar store.

How I organize a massive speaker event:
Though the strength of an amazing team! We have several members of PARK Agency and the PARK Foundation helping to bring this event together. PARK Foundation has several departments that each focus on a different area of the business. They’ve been recruiting speakers and researching

How I find the right speakers for PARKFORUM:
We work on recruiting speakers right after we complete a PARKFORUM weekend. It’s really about asking the community what they want to learn and who they want to hear from. We also collect data from emails and our shows from creative entrepreneurs who have overlap in questions or reach out for resources and support. We use this data to seek out the right kind of speakers that our audience can relate to. I’m pretty excited about our first forum in 2018 — we sought out speakers that specifically related to topics of growing and scaling your business which is something a lot of young creative companies are struggling with.

How I unwind and find balance:
I unwind pretty rarely… I love my job and everything we are doing at PARK so it never really feels like work. I find balance by setting timelines and boundaries or going places without wifi or access to cell service. Balance has been a difficult thing to achieve but I am lucky to have surrounded myself with friends and family that understand the type of work I do and why it’s important. I’ve also made a conscious choice to stay in Alberta to be close to family. That proximity helps keep our relationship strong. I am the oldest of four kids in a big Polish family.

How I stay fit:
Dance. Jessie and I are always dancing! We met dancing salsa and have been dancing with the Salsarica company for over 10 years together. We are also very into ballet barre classes. Our favourites are currently with Kailyn at Ballet Barre Works and Jenny at Barre Belle in Mission. Fitness is a constant struggle as an entrepreneur but I’m learning that if you don’t have a strong foundation (sleep, healthy diet and exercise) our career path becomes a lot more difficult!

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

Interview by Ricky Zayshley

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