I’ll rather play beyond the walls

It was cold outside. The winds were howling, the ground was covered with icy snow, and the sky was dark.

The lights were bright. They shone from slanted rectangles, they stood stark against the black barred ceiling. The inside contrasted with the scene beyond the glass windows; one could see in here. Under the sterile lighting one could read, write, type, and glem information from the world wide web. She was inside, but despite the contrast with the outside, she felt cold.

Here she was subjected to reading feverishly, typing faster than the tick of the clock, and developing expertise through an unviewable connection to the outside world. The concrete Turkey offered warmth and the tools of learning that the 21th century had to offer. But she still felt cold; she was trapped.

She had entered the Turkey with the intention to learn, to solve problems, but the concrete had acted more as a nuisance than structural barriers. She looked out the steel-encased window and at the snow, with her wool coat draped over her and her red mittens on her hands she would be warm.


Recently I’ve been having a lot of thoughts about the value of education, especially the value of business education within the classroom. There is a notion that classroom education, university degrees, equates to smarts or competency but I feel knowledge cannot be measured by the GPA or the title on the certificate alone. Sitting alone at Robarts at 1AM while working on an international “group” paper alone somehow inspired this little sketch about my feelings about the confines of the traditional classroom education. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to take classes that challenge students to complete practical projects and I believe more of this needs to be implemented.

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Happy Chinese New Year from Nestle !


My aunt told me a few days ago that she felt a line needed to be drawn at my proposal to make guacamole for Sunday’s Chinese New Year dinner. Orange-flavoured KitKats however, will be on the dessert menu, thanks to the festive Chinese New Year packaging Nestle has come up with.

With a matte gold sheep (Year of the Goat/Sheep) embossing a red background and well wishes printed in white, I think this marketing campaign is extremely nifty. For starters, the orange-flavoured (or milk-flavoured) KitKats  were not developed for the Lunar New Year. But Nestle is positioning these products, that are already within their portfolio, as a Lunar New Year treat. And this simple change in packaging has captured the hearts and the wallets of consumers, my mother revealed she only purchased the chocolate for me because the packaging would let me celebrate Chinese New Year and share my culture with my friends and roommates.

I am also extremely impressed with the execution of these KitKats as Chinese New Year treats; it is exceedingly smart. A printed paper sleeve was used instead of printing the festive graphics directly on foil, allowing for product continuity post-Lunar New Year. These sleeves can simply be removed for products to stay on store shelves, eliminating the practice of the post-holiday margin lowering markdowns. (As much as I love the markdowns of February 15th, Valentine’s Day manufacturers could learn a thing or two from the Lunar New Year KitKats.)

More and more companies in Canada are actively targeting the ethnic market but many are still reluctant to do so due to the risks and costs associated with segment marketing. I think these Lunar New Year KitKats are an excellent example of how companies are becoming more and more creative at lowering the barriers to ethnic marketing.  I am excited to see (and maybe be part of a team!) what is next in store for ethnic marketing, as Andrew Pelletier of Walmart Canada once revealed, “This is truly the future of retail [marketing] in Canada.”.



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The Challenge to Notice Things

A few weeks ago, at the end of a business design class that featured active listening exercises, our instructor challenged us to notice things. We live our lives within routines and it is so easy to overlook changes or anything outside of the expectant.

I live about a 10 minute walk from the Athletic Centre and I always take the same route to and from the AC. In the span of a typical week it is quite possible for me to walk through this same stretch of Spadina 12 times. Despite the regular visits it had taken me about a year and a half to notice that the street played host to a Shoeless Joe’s on the west side. And I only noticed the restaurant’s existence after I was handed a flyer with the address listed.

The challenge popped into mind this morning as I was leaving the AC to head home after my workout. Instead of pressing the play button on my phone and hurrying through the slush I decided to relax into the familiar surroundings and see if I could spot anything new or beyond the normal daily scope. I didn’t know if this thread of difference would be a cute squirrel out to play or even just a pair of interesting pants a fellow pedestrian could be wearing. I was just on a mission to notice something I haven’t taken note of in my previous walks along this stretch of Spadina.

I must say I feel sufficiently rewarded for my efforts. On February 14, 2015, I spied with my eyes a Nestlé Tollhouse Cafe on Spadina.

It is often difficult to step outside of personal bubbles but the insights gained, once one is in the green, are invaluable. I now challenge you to also notice things out of your ordinary. And if anyone’s discoveries include speciality flavoured Oreos in the GTA, please send me a text.



(I’ll take an ice cream sandwich, please)


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Is Lululemon Changing Its Marketing Strategy?

In strategy courses we are often asked the following question: What are some companies that changed the industry?

The top three companies that come to mind are Southwest Airlines, Apple, and Lululemon.

With two of the same Lulu sweaters (but in different colours!) hanging in my closet, it is unsurprising that I am writing my Business Design paper on the apparel company. Examining the company’s strategy reminded me of deviances I’ve noticed in the past few months. I am left wondering if Lululemon is changing it market strategy and overall strategy.

The 2014 Lululemon Annual Report reveals that the company believes a key component of their competitive advantage arises from their community-based grassroots marketing approach. Unlike their competitors, Lululemon does not employ the traditional advertising approach of print media, television commercials, and celebrity endorsements.  I was unsurprised to read this. In conversations with Educators they proudly told stories of the company’s practice in gifting gear and discounts to ambassadors (local athletes, yoga teachers, and fitness instructors), as opposed to spending large sums on celebrity/pro athlete sponsorship/endorsements.

But Lulu’s Instagram posts showcase the brand’s  strategy is changing.  Two weeks ago it posted a photo to cheer on their elite ambassador Walter Wood, a professional freestyle skier. Andrew Ference, captain of the Edmonton Oilers, was featured in an Instagram video just before Christmas. And in July, Jamie Anderson (an American professional snowboarder) starred into a mini-campaign where she was given the keys to the Instagram account to let followers experience her Lulu life.

I am willing to bet Lululemon traded more than just gear and discounts to get these professional athletes to endorse the brand and star in these social media shots. With the employment of elite ambassadors I feel that it is without doubt that Lululemon’s strategy is changing but if the terminology is an indicator of anything, fear not, they have not forgotten where their grassroots lie.

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Hello. Bonjour. Guten Abend. Buongiorno. 你好.

When I was younger, much younger, my relatives would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I would always answer that I wanted to be a writer. I didn’t know if being an writer meant writing the next great Canadian novel, journalistic articles or even the jiggles in TV commercials.  Either way, my relatives laughed at my answer and told me to stop being silly.

As the years went by, the aspirations to be a writer dissolved. Instead, I set out on a path anchored by the subjects that are considered by society to be the leading opportunities for employment. In the last few years I have written countless papers and reports examining subjects from the rise in consumerism in China in the post-Mao era to the cultural aspects of a multinational company’s region specific ad to the similarities of two of the largest forest fire catastrophic failures of all time. But it wasn’t until a business writing course and a business design course that I realized I have the desire to share the crazy in my mind and that writing is my preferred medium to enhance creativity.

I am now rebranding a blog I started many years that I had frequented at irregular intervals. I am now on a mission to create, share, and discover. Join me on this journey to become a writer and spark conversation.

Joanna Chan


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Analysis: Toronto Maple Leafs, an Organization with a High Head Coach Turnover Rate

The Toronto Maple Leafs fired head coach, Randy Carlyle on Monday night. Half of this hockey-centric city applauded the decision with enthusiasm and the other half questioned the decision. As someone who has only watched one Leafs game in the past year I am not qualified to comment on Carlyle’s coaching but I would like to comment on the situation from an organizational standpoint.

A Toronto Star article reports that the Maple Leafs GM, Dave Nonis, fired the club’s head coach of under 3 years with a message to the players to return consistency to their performance. The article also paints the image that the players liked Carlyle, with Phil Kessel going as far as stating that the team’s recent performance was not the fault of his former coach but rather a fault of the team as a whole. In this instance the head coach was not fired after a losing streak but because management decided change in personnel can create a differential push.

I used to be an avid Leafs fan, as a young girl I would watch the games on our old stocky JVC television with my older brother. I am from the era where the Leafs still made the Playoffs and I am aged enough to remember the likes of Pat Quinn, Paul Maurice, and Ron Wilson. Since 2006 the Toronto Maple Leafs have been coached by 4 different men; in the span of 8 years the club has fired and hired 4 different coaches. In these 8 years of rapid personnel change this club has made the playoffs once (with Carlyle). It appears that upper management is quick to make changes when the team is underperforming. On paper this sounds exceedingly attentive but can it be that such a high turnover of the coaching staff is hurting the team?

I drafted a quick graph of the tenures of the head coaches of the Toronto Maple Leafs and another one that displays the term lengths of coaches that have been playing well in (in my mind) recent years (Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit, & LA). The term lengths in months are a little inaccurate – rounded to the best of my post-nap abilities.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 7.04.30 PM Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 7.04.37 PM

These graphs illustrate that these teams that I perceive have done well have retained their coaches for a number of years despite some less than impressive results (Bylsma & Quenneville both had seasons where their teams lost in the first round of playoffs). From an outside perspective it seems these coaches were given the opportunity of time to build their teams with the concepts of sustainability and long term optimal success in mind.

Just another quick rundown of the tenure of Toronto Maple Leaf Coaches by the year (approximate – quick Google-ing):

Pat Quinn – 7

Paul Maurice – 2

Ron Wilson – 3.67

Randy Carlyle – 2.83

Average Tenure of NHL Coaches – 2.4 Years

Average Tenure of NFL Coaches – 3.6 Years

Average Tenure of Fortune 500 CEO – 4.6 Years

Although the terms of Toronto Maple Leaf coaches since the Pat Quinn era is on average above that of the average tenure of NHL coaches it is below that of its professional sports counterparts and much lower than those of Fortune 500 CEOs.

I am not criticizing the firing of Randy Carlyle but I do feel the Toronto Maple Leafs Organization is one that is overly susceptible to making organizational changes for the sake of change.I also feel the upper management within the Toronto Maple Leafs Organization make these changes to satisfy the expectations game – the firing of a coach creates a short term added-value for its fans. I am even going to go as far as say that I feel TML might be catering too much to entertainment value. Change can be good or it can be bad but I believe that anytime an organization undergoes a management change the leading figure should be given the time to undergo change management, redevelop the team, and redevelop the game plan to reach objectives. A team cannot be turned around and redeveloped within a day.

A few more numbers to round off, from the business world, CEOs that guided organizations to top delivery :

Number of Years A G Lafley was the CEO of P&G – 11

Number of Years Jack Welsh was CEO of GE – 20

Number of Years Bernard Arnault was CEO of LVMH – 26

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Baked Apple Cider Donuts

Post-Christmas may not be the best time for your waistline to create more delicious treats but these Baked Apple Cider Donuts are delightful bundles of low-fat joy. True story: I feel no guilt even after eating 2-3 of these in one sitting.

A while back my roommates bought a few too many liters of apple cider for a team event. When life gives you lemons you make lemonade and when your roommates buy a few too many liters of apple cider you make Baked Apple Cider Donuts. These donuts were by far the best ones I’ve ever made, these were gobbled up with minutes by the roommates who had just returned from a trip down to Cornell. A few days later I made another batch upon heavy requests.

Screen Shot 2014-12-24 at 9.26.06 PM

I based my recipe on one from theFauxMartha – using what I had in my cupboards and improvising a bit along the way.

Baked Apple Cider Donuts

Makes 7 donuts

  • 1/3C + 2 tbsp apple cider
  • 1C all-purpose flour
  • 1/4C sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • coconut oil spray


  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/4C apple cider
  • 1/3 C sugar, toss it into the magic bullet to make it superfine
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 400F

2. Place the apple cider and butter into a small bowl and heat until butter is melted – if you add the melted butter to the apple cider the butter will solidify before it can be incorporated. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl whisk the sugar, maple syrup, and egg. Add in the apple cider and butter mixture and mix until well blended.  Incorporate the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, sea salt until just combined.

4. Spray the donut pan with the coconut oil spray and ladle the batter until each donut mold is 2/3 full.

5. Bake for 20-25 minutes (theFauxMartha only needed 7 minutes for her donuts but my oven needed 20-25 minutes). Let cool for 2-3 minutes before attempting to remove donuts from pan.

6. Once again, place the apple cider and butter into a small bowl and heat until the butter is melted. In a separate wide and shallow bowl, combine the super-fine sugar and cinnamon. Dip each donut into the apple cide and butter mixture before dipping it into the cinnamon sugar. Set aside until all donuts are dipped and serve warm!


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