From: Patrick Marano

We had just returned from an all-inclusive trip to the Riviera Maya, Mexico when Co-Vid reared it’s ugly head. I had been back at my hotel job for less than a week when businesses starting shutting down. With the borders closed, I quickly found myself at home on government assistance. At first it was a nice break from the long hours spent at the hotel, but being a productive person, I found myself in need of a project.

Enter YouTube. I had been wanting to start a YouTube channel for years. Too scared to do it and too busy to allow myself the time to work on it, I always pushed it aside. Until I found myself at home, with no more excuses. I researched, watched tutorials, took seminars and learned the best practices in launching a YouTube channel. Finally, I posted my very first video! What a feeling of excitement and relief to have put out into the world a project I had wanted to do for so long.

My self help videos were fun to do sure, but something else was brewing. I started meeting people in the Coaching business and found that I was perfectly suited to this! Before now, I didn’t know what a Life Coach was. I assumed it was someone who thought they had life figured out, they had all the answers and they would bestow them onto their clients. WRONG! A Life Coach I discovered is simply an objective listener who asks a lot of the right questions to provoke thought and them motivate action. I realized, I do this anyway in my daily life, and I signed up to be certified as a Life Coach.

Now when I look back, I see that YouTube was a vessel to get me to Coaching. All these years hung up with the thought of how scary YouTube was going to be, when it wasn’t even my final goal anyway! I guess what I’m saying is, don’t be afraid of going after the things you think you want. Don’t blow things up in your mind because there’s a possibility the thing you think you want is only a rung on the ladder to the thing you’re really meant for!

From: Leila Lavaee

Here is the link to the story I recently published on Linkedin:

This past weekend, I took a long, hard look at the plans I’d laid out for myself and my business in 2020. I gave myself permission to sit down and sentimentally re-read my post from January, and I was really struck by these words:

“My business has grown and evolved in ways I’m proud of since launching it just over one year ago today, and I’m looking forward to what 2020 has in store.”

Oh, boy. Who could have anticipated what 2020 had in store — not just for small business owners, not just for the travel insurance industry — but the entire world? None of us could have predicted a global pandemic that would change life as we know it in so many ways

If you had told me then that flights would be temporarily grounded, countries would close their borders to tourists, and travel plans cancelled worldwide, I would never have believed you. But, here we are…

How COVID-19 impacted me — both personally and professionally

It probably won’t come as a surprise that my small travel business took a huge financial hit. Still, I’m trying my best to focus on the positive. Entrepreneurs are known for throwing themselves into their work 24/7… so what do we do when we suddenly have a whole lot of extra time on our hands?

In my case, I started prioritizing things like self-care, exercise, online learning, and mastering those parts of my business that had previously eluded me — I’m looking at you, Automated Systems! — to help me run my business more smoothly. (After all, in my past life as an Engineer, I was responsible for building solutions that transformed the old ways of doing things. I saw the lockdown as a great time to do this for my own business.)

The most encouraging (and exciting!) part of all this was how quickly I was able to pivot with the goal of keeping the spirit of travel alive. I’m still doing what I love (educating and inspiring travel lovers) while building my brand and letting people know “I’m here” when they’re ready to start travelling again.

When you can’t just hop on a plane…

It may not be virtual reality, but my new Virtual Travel Series might just be the next best way to appease our inner travel bug. See, after a few days of sitting with what I understood would be the indefinite ‘new normal,” it hit me: We may not be able to physically hop on a plane right now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all be “armchair travellers” — satisfying our cultural curiosities by taking in stunning visuals, learning little-known facts, and gathering tips from local travel experts.

So on March 18th (literally the first week of lockdown), I ran the very first episode of my Virtual Travel Series, giving those who joined the chance to experience the wonders of Peru from the comfort of their couch. The series was an instant success, and since then, people from all over the world have joined me as I explore awesome spots like Morocco, South Africa, Antarctica, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Spain, and Italy. We’ve gone on virtual safaris and wine tasting tours. We’ve heard from sommeliers and travel photographers. And most recently, we visited Colombia and learned about Colombian coffee.

Learn a little, laugh a lot

For me, it’s important that these sessions are both exciting and educational. So I’m always sure to let my passion for travel shine through while sharing gems of information from the 50+ countries I’ve visited over the years. But to provide even more depth, I’m also partnering with travel experts that have operated in these regions of the world for decades.

And because I want to empower and support other entrepreneurs, I’m collaborating with small business owners to highlight relevant services they provide in different episodes. I’ve been joined by a Fashion Travel Designer who spoke about must-have pieces to take with you to Egypt, and a Photographer / Graphic Designer who shared tips on how to take the best possible photo with your smartphone.

The best part? You don’t have to book 10 days off work to enjoy this type of “trip” — you only need to commit 1-1.5 hours of your time, max. And, if you missed the boat, recordings are available for FREE.

Ready to take your next big trip… from the comfort of your couch? We’ll be sipping on coffee and heading to Colombia next. Register for FREE right here. Or browse past episodes.

Bon voyage,


P.S. Have a travel lover in your life? My travel series is a truly unique and thoughtful gift that can be enjoyed from a (social) distance. ;) Or, try organizing a weekly watch party with all your travel buddies!

From: Kerolos Saleib

This website is needed more than ever. We are in a time that we understand each other and connect with one another even more. However, we realize that small local businesses need us. It is crucial to know out there what we have access too locally, especially as LGBTQ2+ business and ally businesses. Times are changing and they are changing for the best. We may seem out of touch physically, but we are realizing that we are more in touch emotionally and mentally more than ever before. The Pink Basket helps us continue to connect with those businesses that love us and cherish us. Let’s continue to support them and show them love. At ACDR (AIDS committee of Durham Region) we are working hard still to stay connected to the community. We feel the struggle and we are sharing with your emotions, but we are not giving up and we are making the necessary changes. This website helps with acknowledging and keeping up with those changes and our local LGBTQ2+ businesses. Show your PRIDE.

From: Stacey Gonder

The House of Sass & Magic & Flash Design Co. were mandated to close & cease production due to COVID-19 during the 3rd week of March.

At that time there was much debate about non medical grade masks for use outside of the world of health care and front line personnel. I chose to do something productive with my time once I navigated how to proceed through the business relief programs so that we, as a business can survive this new reality & get back up & running as soon as it’s encouraged.

I decided to start making mask covers to donate to people within my circle that I knew worked in health care and/or anyone working in essential services or that were in long term care residences in smaller communities. It is very important to myself and the team that the communities and organizations that aren’t at the top of the government supply chain get assistance and product that they can use to keep them safe. Slowly, I became more confident in posting on social media to let people know what I was doing. The response was overwhelming. I had no idea how many individuals were in need outside of my immediate circle both personally and professionally. The masks are 100% cotton & have a pocket for medical grade masks or a homemade filter alternative. The original intention was to help the individuals an/or organizations prolong the life of the medical grade PPE that they had at the time.

I have been moved to tears on more than one occasion since making the original post. The gratitude & support that individuals have expressed is overwhelming. The first hand stories from individuals people from all sectors were compelling. They made the reality of our new reality truly hit home. Having created and donated close to 800 masks on my own since the first week of April, I proud to have helped organizations like Second Harvest Canada, The Scott Mission, The Friends Ontario, Country Estates Retirement Residence and numerous health professionals at various hospitals in the GTA. We are currently creating scrub caps & non-medical grade masks for the First Nations residents on Parry Island.

Given that the pandemic has affected the population in many different ways, it seemed unsavoury and predatory to request payment for something that was needed by so many people to keep them out of harms way. I arrived at the decision to do a “pay what you can model for non front line individuals. Anyone in essential services and/or front line positions are absolutely free!

On behalf of the team at Flash Design Company and The House of Sass & Magic I would like to take a moment to thank everyone that has reached out to either express their thanks and/or to pick up a mask. You are all appreciated. Each one of you has left a memory with me personally. Thank you.

I am still making masks and am happy to provide for anyone that needs/wants them. Stay well and take good care of yourself & others. 💖💖

Stacey Gonder

From: Kate McMurray

We’re proud of our community for stepping up during this challenging time. We’ve been donating food & funds to organizations like Eastview Neighbourhood Community Centre & @secondharvestca working with heart & creativity to feed those in need. THANK YOU! #livingbettertogether

From: Oren Epstein

Hungry to help the community, BIO RAW, Canada’s only Certified Organic meal delivery service has established the BIO RAW FRONTLINE WORKERS FUND to provide thousands of free fresh, nutritious meals to healthcare workers across Ontario. Frontline workers are risking their lives to keep our loved ones safe, and now more than ever need to keep their immunity strong. Carefully crafted by nutritionists, BIO RAW meals are packed with plant-based proteins (8-18 grams per serving), fibre and phytonutrients, including immunity-boosting greens, and antioxidant-rich ingredients. They’re the perfect choice for healthcare workers at a time when many are reaching for comfort foods and experiencing increased levels of stress in the healthcare industry.

This local small business has received an overwhelming response from local hospitals, clinics, and other community service organizations that are in need of meals. In a request that was received from a downtown Toronto hospital, a resident doctor shared that she and her colleagues are doing an abundance of 24-hour call shifts with limited food options in the hospital and no food options after hours. She shared that they don’t have time to order outside food during the day and that a healthy meal would be greatly appreciated during these busy times.

BIO RAW has always been committed to being of service, and today this mission is more important than ever. BIO RAW is living its mission to transform lives, the planet, and the food industry one meal at a time. So far the fund has enabled BIO RAW to deliver meals to frontline workers at Mount Sinai Hospital, Sunnybrook Health Sciences, Toronto General Hospital, Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital, and Trillium Hospital, just to name a few.

“Hospitals and medical professionals are the heart and soul of communities across our country, and these professionals are facing unprecedented challenges.Though we know that our support doesn’t solve all of the difficulty that they are facing, we are hoping that our meals will help fuel medical workers to get through these exceptional times,” says Oren Epstein, the 27-year old owner of BIO RAW.


With planted roots and a long-standing commitment to the Toronto community, BIO RAW is enabling customers to pay it forward by encouraging locals to help those in need within their own community. Customers will now find a QR code on the inside of every BIO RAW meal that they can scan and donate to the BIO RAW FRONTLINE WORKERS FUND using their phone. BIO RAW has also turned social media to help raise funds in support of local charities and community organizations in and effort to give back during these challenging times brought on by COVID-19. Through the BIO RAW SUPPORTS initiative, BIO RAW has partnered with charity and community organizations to fundraise to help those most vulnerable by sharing a customized code with their supporters online – $10 is donated by BIO RAW each time the code is used at checkout on Participants include Mount Sinai Hospital, Feed It Forward, Pride Toronto, and the Toronto Vegetarian Food Bank. There is also an option for customers to make an added donation in any dollar amount to support any of the charity and organization partners further, and to donate to the BIO RAW FRONTLINE WORKERS FUND for delivery of meals to frontline workers.


BIO RAW’s commitment to the community extends to its team of 30+ staff and is taking extra steps to ensure that their team is receiving the assistance that they need. With an understanding of the importance of social distancing, BIO RAW is supporting its staff by providing private transportation to and from its kitchen facility in North York, as well as, creating work-from-home solutions for non-essential team members in order to keep serving the community to its fullest. “Our goal is to keep our staff employed and safe. We have taken extra steps to support social distancing by providing all production staff with private transportation to and from our kitchen facility,” says Oren Epstein. “I choose to use my business as a force of good – it’s about doing all that we can to support the health, safety, and well-being of our staff and community.”

BIO RAW is offering FREE Contactless Delivery with expanded service within the Greater Toronto Area in an effort to further help flatten the curve. “BIO RAW meals are more accessible than ever through FREE contactless home delivery and at over 100 retailers across Ontario,” says Oren Epstein. “We have increased our sanitation measures and are following all recommended protocols in order to continue safely serving our community to the best of our ability.”

BIO RAW is a Toronto-based, certified organic meal service company. All meals are carefully crafted by in-house nutritionists and are nut-free, gluten-free, nutrient-dense, and better for the environment. BIO RAW prepares its menu offerings fresh to order and serves the Greater Toronto Area with direct delivery options available through its website. BIO RAW is also proudly available over 100 retail partners including Whole Foods, Sobeys, Fortinos, Nature’s Emporium, Loblaws, Organic Garage, Ambrosia, and online through Fresh City Farms, Fruit Suite, PC Express, Cornershop, Instacart, and InABuggy.

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From: Antoine Elhashem

As a media company, we serve both our readers and businesses wanting to connect with our LGBTQ2S+ communities.

COVID-19 was a big challenge in figuring out how to continue providing content for our community, while helping businesses who are struggling themselves, and also of course planning how to continue being in operation with the challenges posed by the physical distancing and lock-down, as well as the lack of business and marketing spending. Luckily we worked fast and our team bonded together to come up with plans and solutions.

One of the productions we provide for the community is our popular talk show ON the COUCH. The show normally films live and in front of an audience. So that was our biggest challenge. We can’t film the show, which means we can’t provide our broadcaster ROGERStv’s Ontario stations with any new content, but we did not want to lose viewers, or harm the brand at the height of the popularity which we have been experiencing in the last few years.

So sitting at home, working less, we figured we do the show virtually. We gave it a cute name “I Will Survive – a quick chat ON the virtual COUCH”. We would film guests using video conference services, and use social media to circulate the show. After a couple of tries figuring out the programs, equipment, lighting, and such, we settled into a fantastic routine of filming two or three interviews/shows per week, and actually the love and support has made this virtual version even more popular. So it seems now that we can use our time to get bigger and better at our game. When we get back to the studio, we would have attracted more viewers and receive lots more love for the work we do.

It got me thinking… any business can do something similar. Perhaps interview suppliers to talk about challenges? Or interview your loyal customers to talk about how they’re spending their time? This could be great material to post on your social media pages, or on your website.

Be safe. Thank you for reading, and glad to share some of our experiences, and to share this new additional website to our regular media which we developed with some great partners to help businesses and our LGBTQ2S+ community connect during these times.

Antoine Elhashem
President INspired Media Inc.
Host ON the COUCH