While the global pandemic seems like a perfect storm, it can become a lightning rod illuminating new opportunities, and silver linings, for anyone open to exploring them. Here’s one woman’s right-sizing story.
By Barb Wild
About 18 months ago–long before the global pandemic caused many to consider leaving crowded cities and suburbs–I sold my North Burnaby condo after 20 years. My daughters launched and living alone was, well, lonely. It was time to move on to my next chapter: with eight years of wine training, the Okanagan was an obvious relocation choice.
As an interim step, though, I decided to move in with my mother, who was finding life a little more isolating and hard to navigate as she approached 80. It was an opportunity to assess her situation, and her North Surrey condo had lots of space. Like many modern enterprises, my wine-consulting business can be established anywhere that I, my cellphone and laptop can park. The arrangement is economical, and allowed me to take work trips to France, Spain and Hungary around conducting tastings, events and consulting gigs.
A home office has provided advantages for most of my working life, including the flexibility to raise two kids on my own. When my home wasn’t my office, my vehicle was. As a food marketing consultant, I visited customers and clients all over B.C., with lots of calls and emails filling the gaps. When I first transitioned into wine, it was to a brick-and-mortar retail location and an obligation to punch a clock. The self-motivated work-at-home culture I loved was supplanted by a highly social environment, overlapping into happy hours, weekend barbecues and staff parties that fed my extroverted nature.
Previously, when I’d craved colleagues and a social outlet, I had joined the B.C. chapter of a Canadian non-profit, the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE), which provides resources, training and mentorship to help women succeed in a rapidly changing world. I was happy to be a mentor and share my marketing experience then, much like I do now with wine.
Mom and I hatched a plan: in the spring of 2020 she would make a long-dreamed-of move to more-social group retirement living in White Rock. I planned an Okanagan move, to be a winery educator. We would both right-size our lives and relocate. Our well-constructed plans had us saying good bye on March 29th 2020… That didn’t happen.
The new normal has us embracing the potential of every inch of my mom’s condo. The garden is our new social gathering hub where neighbours come for a safely distanced happy hour and family occasionally stops by with treats. We’ve registered for home grocery delivery, tested several meal services and completed virtual medical appointments.
Somehow, in the middle of it, I started a new business. With everyone embracing the work-at-home ethos and the potential for online learning, the technology was ready and the opportunity was now. From my modest home-office digs, I started hosting Good Wine Gal online gatherings to share wine, cheese, spirits and stories. Soon I partnered with other educators, and by the summer we had already delivered more than 20 online sessions.
As B.C. wineries gradually reopened, my Okanagan dreams didn’t die. While I’m not yet chilling at Gyro Beach or leading a Chardonnay tasting in a vineyard, I’m pivoting with broader cultural changes. If given a career “do over,” I would still work for myself. I’m inspired, and I’m inspiring others. I don’t think I ever felt that much excitement working for someone else.