Humans of Danforth East

 

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A doodle in my notebook.  I was trying to envision a project I wanted to create.

 

Inspired by the Humans of New York, I’ve decided to bring together my love of photography, storytelling, and community to create a fun new writing project – Humans of Danforth East.

For the project, I’m interviewing local business owners in our neighbourhood – a here’s the face and story behind the business.  I want to share how they got started, what they love, and why they’re a great person we need to meet.   I think it would be cool to walk down our streets and know each business owner by name.

I’ve been volunteering with a local community group over the last year.  I write posts for their blog about upcoming events in the neighbourhood.  I find that I’m often writing about businesses (hence the idea of a business focus for my project).  Instead, this is a more personal extension of the promotion we’re already doing.  And for me,  there’s something about entrepreneurs and their stories that I love.

I pitched my idea and got the go-ahead.  I was super excited and nervous.

I’m not a journalist.  I’ve never interviewed someone before.  How do I even do this?  Do I take notes? Maybe I should use an audio recording app on my phone? It was all new to me.

I crafted a few questions based on two goals I had.  1) to hear the story behind the business and 2) to connect with the business owner on a personal level.  I wanted to have a few questions in mind but to let the conversation go in interesting ways.

I reached out to a friend whose background is in qualitative research.

She gave me helpful tips and suggestions.  Did my questions link back to my initial goals? Were there any gaps?  This was fun.  I was feeling challenged.

Finally the day came and I felt a bit nervous.  I wandered over to see Kari at The Pop Stand.  As soon as I walked in, she asked if I’d like a popsicle.  I knew I was going to be just fine.

I came home afterwards excited and my head full of stories.  I immediately sat down at my computer and started writing down those that stood out to me.  Since it was approaching 11:30 p.m. and we have two toddlers who get up around 5 a.m., I continued the next morning.

Before working with the audio file, my friend shared some tips for how to code and watch for threads and themes.  Man I love this. Once I started listening, I was immediately thankful that I had recorded it.  I would have missed so many great stories and important details.  I could also capture her own words, which was important to me. I wanted the writing to sound like her.

It was fun seeing pieces emerge and to think about how to pull it all together.  And it didn’t take too long to go through the 74 minutes of audio.  Kari and I got along well 🙂

Once I had a draft, I sent it to her before publishing. I just thought, if it were me, I would want to see what someone else wrote before it went out to 1,400+ people (the number of subscribers with DECA Diaries).  I wanted to make sure it was accurate and that it represented who she was.

If you’d like to see what I wrote, you can read it here: Kari and The Pop Stand.

Since posting, the feedback from the community has been very positive.  I’ve had people reach out to say thank you, to offer an idea, or to share a little bit about their own home businesses in the neighbourhood.   I’ve also had store owners contact me to express an interest in the project.  I’m actually meeting with my second business owner tonight!  So I’ll have a new story to publish this week.

I’m learning lots already and that’s after one interview.  There are things I’d like to do differently and questions I’ve tweaked after doing some research. I like how the project lets me play and try new things.  It will most definitely evolve and it’s exciting to think what it might look like in a few months time.

It’s fun getting to know people and I hope this little project brings our community even closer together.

If you would like to follow the Humans of Danforth East series, watch for the posts on DECA Diaries.


 

September 2017

Update: Since writing this first blog post, I have met with more local business owners.  You can find their stories here:

Chris from Firefly Creative Writing

Erin & Yvonne from Origin Wellness

Colleen from The Nooks

Paola from SugarMoon Salon

Marisa and Josh from the Hollandaise Diner