Haven Mavens Client Creative Retreat – Ottawa Edition

On Wednesday, the stars aligned, the kids were cared for and the Mavens escaped to the city for a productive creative retreat… with a surprise treat!

Our star client – Central Counties Tourism -- was in town to plan the summer road trip magazine (which drops in the Globe and Mail on Saturday, July ​7​) and we wanted to treat them to the best in Ottawa. Over the past four years, we’ve held these meetings in York Durham Headwaters but this year, the meeting date landed right in the middle of the Ottawa Tulip Festival – aka the perfect opportunity to see Canada’s capital at its bloomin’ best! Hat tip to Ottawa Tourism for its key role in supporting the festival!

Red Tulips at Tulipfest Ottawa

​This is the Maple Leaf tulip, created in honour of Canada 150. In 2017, the Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa planted over 200,000 of these. ​ This photo is courtesy of Elnaz who ran around Ottawa exclaiming "Look! Tulips!"

Working together to tell great stories

One of the reasons Jen and Erika started Haven Mavens was to help tourism destinations and Regional Tourism Organizations (RTOs) tell compelling stories about their regions. Our 52 Weeks of Content package is designed to produce the creative content our client needs for the entire year. And one of the best parts is the creative retreat! That’s when we all get together – in person is key – and dream up ideas. At this stage, nothing is off the table! We talk, we laugh, we eat… and we make an actionable plan. 

We believe our collaborative creative approach is the key ingredient that sets us apart from other creative agencies.
Maven Jen, Sue and Elnaz

​After some delicious ​ Sushi 88​ on Somerset (Ottawa's Chinatown) we took a lovely sunset walk through ​downtown ​​past Parliament Hill, and ended up here near the lockstation. The sunset was so pretty, we just had to take a moment to sit and bask in its golden glow. (We sent this selfie to Erika, who couldn't make it to say "WE WISH YOU WERE HERE". 

Creative work first…

The day started early at ​ My Byward Office​, a shared workspace that we booked through ​breather.com, right in the heart of Ottawa’s Byward Market. The space was bright and airy with high ceilings, exposed brick and a skylight for lots of natural light. The seven of us wasted zero time getting settled. We had fresh water and snacks to fuel our creativity as we worked together to bring our summer magazine vision to life.

Kind Parking Meter Byward Market

​That orange parking metre is not a parking metre. It is a "Kindness Metre". Donations to the metre are given to local missions who feed our homeless population, and as they are still functional metres, you can see how long since the last persons' donation expires. The Mavens think they need to improve their signage on these. We envision​ hearts!

Office ceiling and brick

​Nothing like a sky light to ​let in that oh-so-essential natural light. Good job, My Byward Office.

Breather office space Ottawa

​The Mavens and our beloved clients hard at work.

One thing about the snacks – we believe that good food is essential to good work. You just can’t create when your stomach is grumbling (unless you’re in that magical zone where you don’t even notice). We brought a bowl of fresh apples and bananas, as well as fresh-baked carrot muffins from Grahame’s Bakery in Kemptville and assorted candy. The result? We all felt comfortable and cared for… and ready to work!

desk with papers at meeting

​Coffee - check! Water - check! Notebooks - check! ​Snacks - check! We're ready to work!

The morning went quickly. We set the agenda and quickly got to work. The meeting had to end promptly at 12:30 because Jen and Erika planned a surprise at 1:00 pm sharp!

It was incredible to take part in such a productive and inspiring creative process. The time flew by as we molded our rough notes and vision into a workable outline. The atmosphere was open and inviting – we all provided suggestions and ideas, which were considered with equal weight. By the end of the meeting, we had a practical action plan and were looking forward to bringing the summer magazine to life.

Also – we were hungry.

…Fun food experience second!

We packed up quickly and went out into the beautiful blue sky day, eager to find out what was to come next.

The surprise? A 10-stop food tour by C’est Bon Cooking!

Our guide Sarya took us through the Byward Market’s courtyard, weaving fascinating facts about the Tulip Festival throughout. The experience was sublime. Walking outside, joking together, soaking up the good spring sunshine. 

Culinary Tour Brochure
Tulip cookies Tulipfest
Artist at Tulipfest Ottawa

Saskatoon's ​Monique Martin is this year's Tulip Festival  artist in residence in the Byward Market and one of our stops on the C'est Bon food tour. You can catch her work and meet her ​on the second floor at ​55 Byward Market Square​. 

Byward Market Courtyard

​No trip to the market is complete without a stop at a patio. You can't go wrong with one of the many options in the courtyards. ​When the day was done, the neighbour Mavens chose to return to Social​, one of the stops on our tour, for some fancy ​mojitos. 

Tourism is our passion – what better way to celebrate that, then by engaging in an unforgettable experience together?

As we sampled local mustard and maple sugar, we built a strong team through shared experience. As we devoured the best tacos in town, we found out who likes it hot…and who does not! Our group of seven displayed the utmost in diplomacy while choosing four cupcakes to sample. Want to know more about our day? Check out our Instagram for photos – including an adorable dachshund in a sun hat (squee!!!), luscious chocolate treats at the Andaz Hotel and cooling heirloom beet salad at Social!

​Corazón De Maíz

​Corazón De Maíz might have been our favourite stop!

Taco at ​Corazón De Maíz

​Seriously! Look at this beauty! ​​​Corazón De Maíz ​had no problems whipping-up a veggie alternative for​ Maven Kina. Incidentally, she will be returning with her husband who ​grew up in South Carolina and ​laments that there is no authentic Mexican food in Ottawa.

Skull at Mexican Restaurant ​Corazón De Maíz

​All the art found at the​ ​​​Corazón De Maíz ​was made by the people who work here. Also - it's worth noting that this is the 3rd​​ ​​​​Corazón De Maíz pic that made the cut for the blog. ​Can you tell we love it?

Cupcake Byward Market

​Cupcake Lounge is always a great place to stop while you're out and about in Ottawa. You can catch them in the Byward Market, or in Westboro, and if it's around the holidays they have kiosks set-up in the malls too!  

Maven Kina smelling tea

​The Tea Store in the Byward Market has a huge selection of teas. Kina is catching a wiff of "Chakra" a perfect blend for this yogini!

Rooftop view at Andaz

​Oh my! The Copper Room on the roof of the Andaz Hotel boasts a one-of-kind view of downtown Ottawa and the Byward Market. We definitely need to return here for some photos when the sun isn't at its peak. 

At the heart of everything: Tourism

The hands-on tourism experience was a key element of our creative retreat. The day transcended the idea of a traditional working meeting; we shed the roles of “client” and “service provider”. We worked together and we played together. We explored the Byward Market​ with all five senses and emerged all the richer.

When the tour ended, it felt a touch bittersweet. The train to Toronto left at 5:00pm. Our sweet clients packed into the mavenmobile and headed for the train station after heartfelt hugs and promises to do this again soon.

Late in the afternoon, the Mavens gathered for a cocktail and chat and discussed the day’s highlights on a friendly patio.

That’s what the Mavens call a great day.

Maven Jen and Maven Stacey

​Maven Stacey, always wearing her photographer hat, says we shouldn't post this pic because we're far too blown out - I say, it's too cute not to. I love this lady (that's me, Jen​... tasked with doing captions on this post). 

Now that you’ve joined us on a tour of the Byward Market, follow our beloved Kina from Ottawa all the way to Panama – kids in tow!

When a vacation isn’t exactly a vacation…