I am in the throes of starting my own non-profit, a youth program for Surrey modelled after the White Rock Youth Ambassador Program that gave me so much back in the day.

Since announcing my intentions, two major things have happened. The first, is the overwhelming support I’ve gotten from friends and family, members of the local community and the province’s ambassador community. The second, is the blunt realization that I have no idea how to start a non-profit, let alone run one successfully.

It’s been a process full of surprises. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Via LinkedIn, I read an article from Forbes headlined: “10 Ways to Build a Business Culture Like Apple.”

It’s a list of 10 “culture building principles” derived from a 10 year study of the world’s 50 best businesses. While I’m currently reading a book that refutes the possibility of there being a set of “ways” to success (“regression to the mean” argues that being a stand-out success one year is largely based on luck), I’ve decided to take the essence of the 10 principles and shape them so they are applicable to starting up a non-profit.

1. Find your purpose. Figure out what you are really trying to achieve; the core ideals behind your work. This makes decision-making much easier when everything you say and do is geared towards achieving a specific higher purpose.

2. When you decide what you stand for, communicate those values, principles and priorities clearly, and stick to them. People follow what you do, and don’t often do what you say.

3. Figure out a plan, and follow it. Your plan should be designed so that it encompasses the organization’s goals, but also maps out how to go about achieving them.

4. “Get your team right and do it quickly:” This one is straight from the article, and is probably one of the most important principles. You need people on your team who support your vision, but who can also bring unique personal experiences and different perspectives to the table.

5. And while you don’t want a team made up of half a dozen leaders, you do want people who can make suggestions, and offer constructive criticism. You need to find the balance between encouraging creativity and maintaining a sense of control.

6. Demand excellence, and set high standards for yourself, your team and your work. W. Clement Stone said: “Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star.”

7. Learn what works best and stick with it. Change what isn’t working and grow.

8. Motivate yourself, and always aim for your goals.

9. Be brave. Sometimes it’s better to make a decision and just move forward, rather than to be stuck in one place, grappling with making the “right” decision. Mistakes are inevitable, and risks can pay off.

10. “Live your desired legacy.” This one is a basic distillation of all 10 principles: Decide what you want to create, go forth and create it.

The original article can be found here. Happy “starting.”


It’s been a while since I last blogged: school, projects and work have all gotten in the way, and it’s once again that time of year where exams take over students’ lives.

So while procrastinating from my long, long to-do list, I will update you on my busy, busy life.

For starters, classes finish Dec. 10. Boy how time flies.

On Dec. 12, I’ll be starting my three-week internship at 24 Hours newspaper. The best part is that I won’t be taking part in the typical intern duties, like grabbing coffee or answering phones. Luckily for me, I get to report and write daily, with a story published every day in the paper.

The opportunity gives me course credits at school, and, if I choose, can count towards my four-week work experience in second semester.

It’s exciting; it’s scary. I’m going from being a full-time student, to being a full-time intern and then going back to being a full-time student, and somewhere in all of that I will be feasting on turkey. No winter break for me.

In other news, I have now been a part of Kwantlen’s President’s Ambassadorial Team (PAT) for a couple of months now.

Being on the team keeps me busy (I just baked 65 cookies for a bake sale to raise money for the PAT clothing drive) and it has proven to be a great learning and networking opportunity (I met Carol James several weeks ago, and had public speaking training with Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender).

I must now cease my procrastination, but I will end with two final tidbits.

First, on Saturday I will be accompanying Dal Richards on the piano as he sings Christmas carols at a local women’s shelter.

And second, I have been promoted: I was elected the Entertainment Bureau Chief for the Kwantlen Runner a while ago, that’s nothing new. But in a recent Google search, I was alerted that I am now the Entertainment Furniture Chief…

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This weekend was my last pageant as a B.C. Ambassador: in seven days I will be passing on my crown and banner to another deserving individual.

On Friday, I travelled to Penticton with the newly crowned White Rock youth ambassadors and Miss White Rock 2010/2011, my sister, @ChloeWoodin.

My mom chaperoned us, and we met up with my other two ambassadors in the city of peaches and beaches.

The gala was lovely, and the 14 Miss Penticton candidates all did a great job. As usual, the visiting royalty had the opportunity to bring their greetings on stage.

Saturday morning we rode in the Peachfest parade, and spent the afternoon mini-golfing and go-karting before attending the royalty ball that evening.

This weekend was special not only because my sister and I both got to go to a pageant together as sparkleheads, but also because the Penticton pageant was my first out-of-town experience as Miss White Rock 2008, and my last as a B.C. Ambassador.

It has been a full two years, coming full circle. And although I will miss being an ambassador, I am looking forward to temporarily retiring from the public eye.

Final stop, Merritt on Wednesday, the beginning of the end.

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Lytton is a small town, its city centre located about an hour outside of Hope. It’s known for it’s white water rafting, the First Nations population living there and on the reserves surrounding it, and it’s temperatures; Lytton is, after all, Canada’s Hotspot.

It’s also a very cool place geographically because it is surrounded by three distinct mountain ranges, and is situated where the Fraser and Thompson rivers meet.

This weekend was the Lytton Ambassador Pageant, so I spent three and a half days amidst excitement, culture and almost unbearable heat.

I drove up with the White Rock girls and coordinator on the Thursday.

As usual, we were running just a little behind schedule, so we missed the bus that was supposed to take the 25+ visiting communities onto the reserve for a Healing Gathering.

Our only option was to head up there ourselves.

After about an hour of off-roading through pouring rain, we made it to the Powow in time to watch the candidates give their speeches and to make our visiting royalty greetings.

We left shortly after due to the less than desirable weather, and on our way back to town, saw a black bear cub galloping across the road.

We met up with the sparklehead crew later on for a barbecue and pool party, even though it was still raining.

Again, we didn’t stay too long. Instead, we went exploring.

The Lytton Friendship Ambassador for 2009 took us on a tour to the West Side, a residential and ranch part of Lytton on the other side of the Fraser river.

We took a two-car reaction ferry across: a reaction ferry is propelled by the currents in the river, and also runs along several cables attached to each shoreline.

There used to be about 30 reaction ferries in B.C.; the Lytton ferry is one of five still in operation.

Besides ranches and houses, the West Side is home to the spiritual Stein Valley.

Hikers and adventurers can spend months hiking the entire valley with its many trails, but we decided to walk about 15 minutes deep to the Asking Rock.

This massive boulder was once decorated with First Nations paintings from over a hundred years ago. Today, you can still see the remnants of the art. It is a First Nations’ custom to bring a gift of tobacco to the rock as an offering to the ancestors who were once there.

After hiking back up, we returned to our hotel which was creepy and filthy to say the least, (it is apparently haunted, and is definitely inhabited by black widow spiders…)

Friday was my favourite day of the trip. After a delicious breakfast, we went to a resort just outside of town called Kumsheen, known for it’s white water rafting.

We spent a couple of hours in purple wet suits paddling the mighty Thompson river through rapids with six foot high waves.

To give you an idea of the size of the Thompson, it is the third largest commercially run river in the world, with a volume that day of about 48,000 CFS (cubic feet per second).

Perhaps the coolest part of our rafting trip was getting to hop out of the raft and swim down the river.

Like when I went last year, we swam in a calm section, in between rapids.

But this year we were allowed to swim through six foot high rapids!

This clearly would not have been possible without our life jackets, and I did swallow quite a bit of water, but it was totally worth it.

That evening was the talent and fashion show portion of the weekend.

Saturday we visited Hell’s Gates, located on the cliffs on the other side of the Fraser.

We took a short but rocky tram ride across and spent a couple of hours taking pictures, learning about the area’s history and browsing the fudge and ice cream parlour.

Finally, we attended the pageant itself, which lasted about five and a half hours.

The B.C. Ambassador team is very close to the 2009 Lytton royalty as both programs are run by the same coordinator.

The three of us were honoured on stage with hand-carved paddles, each with engravings unique to us: mine has a hummingbird backed by mountains, symbolizing inner and outer beauty.

We were also given beaded roses, four each to represent four of the world’s ethnicities: red for the East, black for the West, yellow for the South and White for the North. The bouquets were awarded to us for our work in bringing communities and people of all types together.

Sunday morning was spent with a nice sleep-in, followed by breakfast and the car ride home.

The Lytton pageant was a lot of fun, and I am simply ecstatic about my paddle.

Next stop, a weekend at home for the first time in weeks: the Miss White Rock Pageant and Spirit of the Sea Festival is five days away!

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When the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, it means that pageant season has finally arrived.

This weekend I travelled to Vancouver Island to take part in the Lake Cowichan Lady of the Lake pageant with my fellow B.C. Ambassadors.

We caught an afternoon ferry on Friday so we would have time to get ready for the gala that evening. The dress was formal as usual, and the ball was held in the Lake Cowichan community hall. The dinner was catered, and the hall was beautifully decorated.

Because it was an island pageant and most of the ambassador programs are in the Interior, only royalty from Nanaimo, Lower Nicola Indian Band, Ladysmith and Lytton got to enjoy the candidates’ fashion show, speeches and evening gown walk.

The retiring royalty said their goodbyes, the visiting royalty gave their speeches and program coordinators took countless photographs.

After the 5 hour event, we went back to the Nanaimo house we were staying at to get some sleep.

Saturday morning was the parade, and the three of us rode in style: a red covertible Mercedes thank you very much.

My girls and I unfortunately suffered some sunburns. Ever heard of a farmer’s tan? Well we each had a much dreaded sash-tan…

Lunch was next, and then the Lady of the Lake crowning. We then toodled around the town for a bit, checking out the Lake Days’ festivities and snapping photos.

After an off-duty barbecue and a relaxing night of pageantry talk, we took a morning ferry back to the mainland.

Luckily, I live about 40 minutes from the mainland ferry terminal. My two ambassadors had a bit of a longer drive home: Miranda lives in Vernon and Anna in Williams Lake, both in B.C.’s Interior.

The Cranbrook and Castlegar pageants are next in line, but my next trip will be to Osoyoos on June 30.

Pictures and info on the British Columbia Ambassador Program can be found at www.bcambassador.com.

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