Song Blog, Vol. 1: “Broken Breath”

Well, I’ve finally jumped into something new. I’m calling it the Song Blog. It’s all explained, below, and on the new Song Blog page, which you can find in the drop-down menu under the “Kevin’s Music” menu item. It’s all explained below.

Up first, a song called “Broken Breath.” You can hear it and read about it, below, or skip all this and jump directly to its page by clicking here.


– KB

Song Blog, Vol 1: “Broken Breath”
(c) 1997 – 2015 Kevin Bulmer Enterprises
Written by Kevin Bulmer (SOCAN)

I decided to start my Song Blog with “Broken Breath” because it’s a track that has come up in a unique way and has been referenced often in recent times. It’s been performed publicly at a few different events but has never been shared other than that. And in fact, at the time of this writing, I am scheduled to perform the song tomorrow at an event in support of the Southwestern Ontario Lung Association. I wanted people to be able to have the chance to hear it.


When the lights go out in our younger years
All the demons dance so free
The night can be so frightful
Leave the door open for me

In the haze, a child will seldom understand
Just as seldom will they care
They think think they cause is not important
If the consequence is there

Won’t somebody help me?
I can’t breathe
The pain that’s in my chest
Has me at it’s mercy
Please, won’t somebody make it go away?
Ain’t there nothin’ you can do?
Ain’t there nothin’ you can say?

Now suddenly you’re thinking of
Maybe sending me away
They’re gonna take me from my home
But it’ll serve me well some day

Unconvinced, you packed my suitcase
And gift box full of toys
They were only a distraction
But you didn’t have a choice

Won’t somebody help me?
I can’t breathe
The pain that’s in my chest
Has me at it’s mercy
Please, won’t somebody make it go away?
Ain’t there nothin’ you can do?
Ain’t there nothin’ you can say?

The years go by and now I sleep
For hours, unpeacefully
Awake again with broken breath
I wonder what will become of me …

Won’t somebody help me?
I can’t breathe
The pain that’s in my chest
Has me at it’s mercy
Please, won’t somebody make it go away?
Ain’t there nothin’ you can do?
Ain’t there nothin’ you can say?

About the song:

In 1997, I was heartbroken over my favourite band, Extreme, having broken apart. To that point, I’d listened mostly to their music and other bands of that time (Saigon Kick and Thunder were two other favourites of mine from that era). But as the back half of the 90’s progressed, I entered into a heavy Bruce Springsteen and Steve Earle phase. And I took great interest in their more morose, introspective material. In particular, it wasn’t the anthem-like arena party rock I liked from Springsteen. I was a “Nebraska” guy. I loved “Ghost of Tom Joad.” Those songs spooked me good. I loved them.

Naturally, I wrote some darker-sounding material at that time. I specifically remember wishing I had a song that featured a vibe similar to Springsteen’s “Shut Out the Light,” a brilliant track that tells the tell of a Vietnam veteran’s inability to re-acclimate to his life after returning home. In the chorus, he sings, “Oh Mama, mama, mama, come quick. I got the shakes and I’m gonna be sick. Put your arms around me in the cold dark night. Hey now, mama, don’t shut out the light.”

I am in no way trying to compare myself to Springsteen, of course. But “Shut Out the Light” most definitely was the original inspiration that got me writing what became “Broken Breath.”

Read more about “Broken Breath” by clicking here …

About the “Song Blog:”

Inspired by my favourite musicians, I began writing songs in the early 90’s. Since then, I’ve written hundreds of them but have only recorded, released or publicly performed a handful so far. I’ve struggled to decide what to do with the others.

I don’t write songs to try to become a hit songwriter or to impress anyone or be a “star” or anything I like that. I write them because they sometimes just seem to “show up,” almost as if they’re being channeled from somewhere else. As such, they reflect my own ideas, thoughts and opinions, and I’ve never felt that formula was one meant for any kind of mainstream consumption.

When a “channeling” happens, I just write down, hum or play what I’m feeling. Often times, that turns into a song. Other times, it won’t. It could be I get a little bit or a piece here and there, like a lyric line or a melody idea. And I’ll save those just in case, but for the most part, if a song is to become something I hold on to and treasure as a part of who I am, it usually comes to me fairly complete within 15 minutes to an hour or so, and then it’s just a matter of tinkering after that. And that tinkering sometimes goes on for years. I’ll forget about a song for a decade and then come back to it. It’s fun.

Read more about the Song Blog by clicking here …


Show Up. Look Up. Cheer Up.

I really like going to my gym. I love to be around the positive energy. Regardless of what someone’s age, gender or physical condition might be, I have always figured that if a person has made the effort to go to a gym, they have made and acted upon a decision to try and do something positive for themselves. I respect that, and I very much like being in that environment. And I’ve often found that all it takes is one other person to offer an encouraging word to make my entire day.

Still, there are times when I just don’t feel like going. And I’m keenly aware that when I put it off for more than a few days, my sense of well-being suffers noticeably. Despite that, I encounter times when I don’t feel I have the juice to go and put enough effort in to get something out.

On days when I do overcome the “blahs” to end up completing an exercise routine anyway, I feel so much better. And yet, working out my body, I’ve found, is not the only tangible benefit I can take from choosing the treadmill over the couch.


This past weekend, I found myself in the midst of a particularly busy stretch of days. I hadn’t had much sleep the night before, I was rushing from one event to get ready for another that evening, and quite frankly felt somewhat overwhelmed mentally. I certainly did not feel like pushing up any weights or running any considerable distance on a treadmill. But I ended up at the gym anyway.

Once there, I did not even end up doing much exercise. I had a serious case of the “blahs.” I jogged for a little while and tried some stretches and yoga poses (and I use the term “yoga poses” very loosely. Recklessly, even. But I’m trying to learn). Satisfied I’d at least justified the change into workout clothes, I then decided to sit in the sauna for a little while to do a mini-meditation before getting myself cleaned up and on with the rest of the day.


Now for a quick aside: I’ve always been very comfortable speaking in front of crowds, or delivering a radio broadcast or even singing and performing in front of people. But whenever it would come to very standard, idle chit-chat with passersby, I have preferred to be left alone for as long as I can remember. I’ve since changed, but I had to force myself to change. It is coming more naturally to me now, but I had to make the choice to look up instead of down and to say “hello” instead of nothing. I’ve always been somewhat puzzled by the tendency.

On this day, I admit I thought I’d be happy to be left alone for a few moments. I was still mentally tired. I didn’t feel I’d put in much of a workout. And I still had many hours of busyness ahead of me yet before the day would be out. I’d have been pleased to just sit there and sweat.

That’s when an older gentleman of Portuguese decent came into the sauna and sat down across from me. In years past, I admit, I’d have perhaps nodded a polite greeting and then continued to stare at the ground. But I’ve changed. For the better.

Instead, I looked up and asked, “How is your day going, my friend?”

His body language changed. Instantly. Visibly. His shoulders relaxed. His face smiled. His eyes brightened.

He said, “Oh, good, good! And you? You are good?”

He and I began to chat, and although his English is a little broken and my Portuguese is non-existent, we managed to have a very pleasant conversation just the same. We talked about weather. We talked about soccer (which I know little about). We talked about hockey (which he knows little about). And we talked about how much better we each feel if we make the effort to come to the gym.

We also talked about how much we each appreciate the other being willing to talk.


I ended up leaving both that conversation in my visit to the gym feeling exponentially better than when I had gone in, and it had nothing to do with lifting weights or spin classes. It was simply because of a genuine few moments of pleasant interaction with a person from a different culture and generation than me. In the time I was talking with that gentlemen, not a single thought about anything else occurred to me except for engaging in conversation with him. It was freeing and relaxing, and I continue to be amazed how it really does not take much to brighten not only someone else’s day, but your own in the process.

It’s worth considering. Whether you’re at a place to do a workout or to buy a bag of groceries or to sit and wait at the doctor’s office, everybody else there with you is struggling in some way too. It costs absolutely nothing to smile and have a pleasant word. Why not? More often than not, you will benefit directly from that by way of good feeling anyway.

When I go to the gym, I feel good. Many times, it’s because my muscles feel harder.

Other times, it’s because my heart feels softer.

Where’s My Newsletter?

I recently was talking with a good friend and business associate, Steve Stefanidis, the co-owner of a great business called “Liner Guys” here in Southwestern Ontario. Always one to shoot me straight, Steve surprised me that day by asking, “Hey, buddy – where’s my newsletter? Did you take me off the list? What’s up??”


Earlier this year, I set a goal for myself to complete and distribute at least one email newsletter per month. I mentioned as much to my humble base of current subscribers. And while I’m aware I’ve failed at that pursuit, I believed I was the only one who could possibly care. So, while I was diverting my energies to other things, I let the newsletter slip.

Bless his heart, it turns out Steve was paying attention. I’m lucky to know him and grateful for his support. So although I may have temporarily slipped off track in getting that newsletter out, I’m okay with it because I’ve been able to do so much else. I told Steve as much and, of course, he voiced his complete support.

The search for balance between planning and acting continues to be a challenge for me. I like to feel as though I’ve thought things through, and am following at least a little bit of a roadmap. But I sometimes allow my need to plan my attack to attack my plan. Some call it paralysis through analysis. And I have so many creative thoughts and ideas floating through my consciousness at any given time, I still struggle with the balance, and I know it.

So I’ve not stuck to the discipline of submitting a regular blog, or of putting out a monthly newsletter, though I still aspire to both of those things. But I have been doing better at acting, and getting into the game, being more involved, meeting more people and enjoying life much more. I just haven’t been taking the time to write it down and share it regularly. So far.

This blog will serve as a little bit of “catch up” so as to recognize and thank several people and organizations that have been a part of the journey this year, and to take a brief look ahead to what’s planned for 2016 and well beyond.

We call ourselves "The Three Amigos."

Always my first priority. We call ourselves “The Three Amigos.”

Since my last newsletter went out, I have fulfilled some key personal goals. Most importantly, I’ve remained rigid in making sure that quality time with my two sons is my absolute top priority, and I’m pleased to stay that has remained the case. Eddie (12), Jaden (9) and I enjoy and celebrate every single moment that we get to be together. This past spring, summer and fall have bubbled over with wonderful experiences, great time with family and friends and all sorts of shared activities that have already become wonderful memories. I know that when I reach the end of my days, I’ll not regret investing my energy into a single one of those moments.

Clearly, Eddie loves VOLBEAT. I do, too.

Clearly, Eddie loves VOLBEAT. I do, too.

Highlights of our recent times include a second Daddy/Eddie excursion where the  younger Bulmer got to go on stage yet again with one of our favourite bands, Volbeat, at a concert in Oshawa in the spring; celebrating Jaden’s birthday with the 3rd annual playing of what he calls the “J Cup” ball hockey game; time spent visiting with family at my mother’s family cottage over the summer; and all the many very simple times of just engaging and playing in our community. I recall one weekend in August in particular where we whiled away almost 3 hours at a community pool and enjoyed more laughs than just about any other time through the summer, just by being together and enjoying the day.

At Count's Kustoms in Las Vegas. It was a thrill to be there!

At Count’s Kustoms in Las Vegas. It was a thrill to be there!

I also managed to visit Las Vegas for the first time, with my sweetheart, Caroline, at the end of May. As we’ve both been so immersed in raising kids and nurturing careers and other interests, neither of us had been on a trip far enough to make air travel necessary in many, many years. For so long, it seemed like the kind of thing only “other people” did. But this past spring, we managed to do it. And in the process, we got to be a part of a live concert filming featuring  my forever-favourite band (Extreme) and visited many places, including the locations of a couple of my current favourite television shows, “Counting Cars” and “Pawn Stars.” It felt like an achievement to get there and spend a few days seeing new things with someone I care about so much.

I started writing songs because of these two guys, Gary Cherone and Nuno Bettencourt. Clearly, we had good seats at their Las Vegas show. I took this photo with my phone.

I started writing songs because of these two guys, Gary Cherone and Nuno Bettencourt. Clearly, we had good seats at their Las Vegas show. I took this photo with my phone.

In July, I moved into a new house. That was a long time in coming and a sizeable project to tackle by myself. Much of the thought behind occupying a new space of my own was to set up an area equipped for capturing creativity, whether it be musical or otherwise. I’m still getting things put together the way I like them, but all my guitars are now out and available and I’ve felt brimming with creative energy ever since I began to feel settled in the new place. The process has been a major step forward and one that I believe will contribute greatly to my desire and ability to activate and share my creative pursuits in the coming weeks and months. But for a significant amount of time, just getting there took up most of my extra energy.

When work has to happen during Amigos time, the boys just come along.

When work has to happen during Amigos time, the boys just come along.

Professionally, I’ve enjoyed my busiest year in my work as a Marketing Consultant at Bell Media Radio. I love and respect the people I work with and deeply appreciate the opportunity to get to know so many wonderful people in both private business and non-profit groups in our community. It seems that I learn something from just about everyone I encounter, and I do my best to make a positive contribution for them as well.

Another goal I had at the outset of the year was to become more involved in doing MC and performance work and, as a result, be more visible and active in the community. I have been able to do that, and have enjoyed every second of it.

In August, I returned to my family’s original hometown of Wallaceburg, Ontario, and had a wonderful time performing my music and visiting with people at WAMBO (Wallaceburg Antique Motor and Boat Outing). That day was one of the highlights of my summer, and it led to being invited back a few weeks later so that my music could be featured for a week on their local radio station. I was able to take my kids with me for that, and we shared in a terrific day, feeling the heartbeat of the place where my parents (the boys’ grandparents) grew up. It was a joy.

With Jaden in Wallaceburg by an iconic mural of the old lake boat, "Superior."

With Jaden in Wallaceburg by an iconic mural of the old lake boat, “Superior.”

In September, I hosted the first anniversary event for my good friend Mike Mulligan at his business, Moving Forward Rehabilitation and Wellness Centre, along with my friends from March of Dimes Canada. That evening was enjoyable and inspiring.

With Mike Mulligan at Moving Forward Rehabilitation and Wellness Centre

With Mike Mulligan at Moving Forward Rehabilitation and Wellness Centre

A couple of weeks after that, I served as MC at a fundraising comedy event to benefit the Rowbust Dragon Boat Racing Team, which is comprised of breast cancer survivors in my community. One of the team members is a good friend, and I was thrilled when she asked me to participate to help them raise enough money to make the trip to Australia next spring to defend their WORLD Championship title that they earned in Italy in 2014. The comedy night was a blast, sold out to the doors with approximately 400 people on hand and a great lineup of very funny comics that included Lamont Ferguson, Danny Martinello and Scott Belford. All of them were terrific.

With Connor Wilson in Tillsonburg. We had some laughs over this picture, and our hardly-noticeable difference in height.

With Connor Wilson in Tillsonburg. We had some laughs over this picture, and our hardly-noticeable difference in height.

Just a little more than a week ago, it was a pleasure to MC and perform my song “Broken Breath” at a concert and fundraiser benefiting the Southwestern Ontario Lung Association at the Lion’s Auditorium in Tillsonburg, Ontario. The event, organized by Sarah Pratt of SEP Productions, was headlined by the very talented Tyler Shaw, and featured a lineup of terrific artists including Daniel Hamm & Stacy Evely, the Brooks Academy of Dance, Char Kelly, Chad Price and Connor Wilson. Out of everyone, I spent the most time with Connor, as he and I instantly got along well. His set of acoustic country music was terrific (his cover song renditions were great but I liked his own songs best). I also was happy to spend a little bit of time with Chad Price, who absolutely blew me away with his performance. If you enjoy the likes of Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith, I would strongly recommend giving your ears a chance to hear Chad. He is a wonderful talent and I was proud to get to know him, and it occurred to me that I truly enjoy spending time around creative people like him.

I took this picture of Chad Price from beside the stage. What a performer he is!

I took this picture of Chad Price from beside the stage. What a performer he is!

Coming up, I’ve been asked to MC an event supporting the Brain Injury Association of London and Region this Saturday night and I am very happy to be doing that. I will also be appearing again this year at the Lung Association’s annual “Festival of Trees” Preview Night at the Covent Garden Market in downtown London, Ontario, on Wednesday, November 25th.

Beyond that, I have been working hard to set a schedule that I can stick to for sharing more songs and creativity on a regular basis. It all sounds easy when I think of it, but it takes time, desire and commitment to actually make it happen. I’ll try. My ultimate goal is to have done enough of it so that I’ve built a bit of a base of work and experience by the time my boys are older. But for now, I’ve not yet found anything nearly as rewarding as being fully present and engaged with my kids while they’re young.

Eddie took this picture on Thanksgiving weekend. No effects were put to it, but it accurately sums up how I feel when I'm with my kids.

Eddie took this picture on Thanksgiving weekend. No effects were put to it, but it accurately sums up how I feel when I’m with my kids.

That said, Eddie and Jaden are my two biggest cheerleaders. And I believe I’m just about ready to announce a commitment to trying to achieve something that has been a dream of mine my entire adult life, something I don’t want to get to the end of my days and wish I’d tried. It’s something that Eddie in particular really wants to see me do. Stay tuned for that one. I’ve been tip-toeing to the edge of the airplane on that project for months (years, even) and can see myself figuring out how to open the chute on the way down. I just haven’t had the courage to jump quite yet.

But that’s coming.

So now you’re up-to-date, thanks to Steve, though I still need to get this into the form of an actual E-Newsletter. And if you’d like to join that list, you can do so by clicking HERE.

And, hey – at least you know you won’t get spammed.

Heading “Home” for a Performance at WAMBO in Wallaceburg, ON on Saturday, August 8th

In 2007, I recorded and released my first CD, a little three-song effort titled “I Remember.” The songs were all done in honour of the place where my parents grew up, a town called Wallaceburg, Ontario. And in particular, the CD release was meant to be a bit of a campaign to support an event called “WAMBO” (Wallaceburg Antique Motor and Boat Outing) because of how much it meant to my grandfather, Murray Newkirk.

I Remember CD Cover

On Saturday, August 8th, I’ll be back in Wallaceburg to do a performance and support the event – and the town –as best I can. It will be my first appearance there since 2008. I intend to do what I can to honour and celebrate the memory of my Grandpa Newk and two other late, great Wallaceburg citizens and friends, Chip Gordon and Al Mann.


With WAMBO Chairperson, Chip Gordon at the Wallaceburg & District Museum in 2007

WAMBO, now in its 27th year, is a wonderful weekend celebration that brings its town back to its heyday of casual Sydenham River traffic, wooden boats, cool cars, music, sunshine, family time and smiles all around. It almost feels like the 1950’s version of Hill Valley in the film “Back to the Future.” Seeing the town so alive as it becomes on WAMBO weekend does almost feel like you’ve gone back in time.


With Al Mann and Delina Bogaert from Wallaceburg Museum in 2007.

I have vivid memories of visiting Grandma and Grandpa for WAMBO. I treasured seeing my grandfather like a kid in a candy store, so proud and excited at all activity. He would marvel at the scores of Chris Craft wooden boats that used to be made not far away, in Algonac, Michigan.


With my Grandpa Newk at the Wallaceburg Museum’s Glass Gallery Exhibit grand opening in 2007.

Somewhere along the line, I wrote a song about it, and then let it sit around for many years, collecting dust. Then, after a career change in early 2007, I worked up the courage to call long time WAMBO chairperson, Chip Gordon, and asked if he’d be interested in having a kind of “theme song” for the event. He immediately asked me to come visit him at the Wallaceburg and District Museum to hear the song. He also asked town historian, Al Mann, to be at that meeting, which took place on a cold, icy day in February of that year.

I met Chip and Al at the museum and played them my “WAMBO song” (which eventually became titled “Wallaceburg”). By that time, I’d written a second song referencing my family’s history in the town, a song called “I Remember.” So I played that song for them, too, and they liked it also. It was then that Chip suggested that two songs were better than one, but that three songs would be even better! So, I responded by writing a third tune for the project, a song called “Glass” which references the old glass factory that was the engine of Wallaceburg’s economy for so many years and uses it as a bit of a metaphor for the honour in simply taking care of your responsibilities and working your way through life as best you can. “Glass” remains one of my favourite lyrics I’ve ever written.

Recording "I Remember" with my pal Dave Cook at KG Records in London in June, 2007.

Recording “I Remember” with my pal Dave Cook at KG Records in London in June, 2007.

Al kindly dug into his historical archives to provide me with photos to use for the project. Chip set me up to perform on both the Friday night and the Saturday of WAMBO that year. He even asked me to come and sit as part of the WAMBO planning committee, and I proudly attended a number of those meetings for a time.

My grandpa, Chip and Al have all since passed on, but the event remains. I got to know the current Chair of WAMBO, Bill Wolsing, during that time 8 years ago. And it was Bill who has made it possible for me to come back. He is doing an enormous amount of work to preserve the event and I am entirely grateful that he’d bother to have me back.

With current WAMBO Chair, Bill Wolsing, in 2008

With current WAMBO Chair, Bill Wolsing, in 2008

Life moves along pretty quickly. Looking back, I am really glad I took on that project. I am certain it meant a lot to my grandfather, especially considering he was in the latter stages of his life. And in the process of doing something that, at the time, was important to both of us, I met and became friends with all kinds of wonderful people. I am genuinely excited about going back to visit and see as many of them as I can.

So if you’re in the Chatham/Kent area on Saturday, August 8th, please think about stopping in to WAMBO for a visit. I’ll be somewhere downtown in the early afternoon, sharing those songs from “I Remember,” as well as a few from my other two CDs and some other favourites that go along with sitting by the river on a summer day.

Performing with Dave Cook on the opening night of WAMBO in 2007

Performing with Dave Cook on the opening night of WAMBO in 2007

Also, I’ll have all 3 of my CDs (“I Remember,” “No Schedule Man” and “Solo: The Return of No Schedule Man”). I will donate every single cent of any sales at WAMBO back to the event, in honour of my Grandpa Newk, Chip Gordon and Al Mann, three wonderful souls who loved the town completely and will never be forgotten.

“Home sweet home.
I remember.
I remember.”

Hope to see you there.

The Heart Of Rock and Roll Is Still Beating. At 7T8 bpm

I love music.

Other than the love of my kids, family and friends, there remain few things that can supercharge my soul as much as a live musical experience that reaches me in some kind of deep, personal way. And boy, did I get charged up at a charity event a little over a week ago, thanks to a band called 7T8.

If you look at the music page of my website, you’ll see that I’ve dabbled in recording and releasing a few of my own musical creations (which represent a fraction of what I’ve actually written over the years). And you might also see that it’s mostly acoustic, bordering on folk music in some cases. And that’s fine.

But I have always been a rock and roller at heart. It’s just that, to record and perform as a rock outfit, you need more people, more gear, more money, more space, more time … more everything. And so to share the few creations I have, I’ve chosen songs that I can just show up and play with my acoustic guitar and nothing more.

The point is that I’ve been through the process of recording, releasing and performing some of my own music. I know from experience that it’s not easy. Far from it. And I can only imagine how much of a challenge it would be to try and record a rock band, especially on a tight budget, and have it come out sounding good.

Last week, I met a band that’s done it. And I’m really impressed.

On March 20th, I volunteered my time to March of Dimes Canada to serve as Master of Ceremonies for their “Rock For Dimes” event here in London, Ontario. It’s essentially a “Battle of the Bands,” with terrific corporate and community support.

At “Rock for Dimes,” each band gets the opportunity to perform for a half hour. They’re judged on their musicianship, audience response, originality and overall level of quality. Most of the bands churn out classic (and some current) rock cover songs and do a fine job of it.

2015-03-20 19.50.17

With Mary Lynne Stewart from March of Dimes Canada

Before I tell the story of what happened at “Rock for Dimes,” perhaps I’l share a bit about my own musical background first. That might help make it clear why I feel I reacted so strongly to this particular experience.

I’ve been a member of a rock cover band before. Back in the late 90’s, some friends in a group they called the “River Band” approached me about joining their group as rhythm guitarist, backup vocalist and … songwriter. They had spent years playing the local clubs around Sarnia and through Lambton County (in Ontario Canada) as the “Whiskey River Band,” but when the local AM country station flipped it’s signal to an FM rock format, they dropped the “Whiskey” from their name and went for more of a pop-rock feel, and anticipated they’d want some original rock music to play. So they approached me, and asked me to write them some songs. And I did, and to this day I know I wrote some really good ones (maybe you’ll get to hear them one day).

The River Band got paid pretty well and worked steadily, thanks to the constant efforts of the band’s leader, my pal Sean Robbins (Sean was a master at getting the band booked). I jumped in with both feet, learned 40 or 50 songs within a couple of weeks and went to work as their rhythm guitarist and had a great time. But I knew all along that the payoff was to start performing and recording original music. Otherwise, I felt, what’s the point?

Coming in to the summer of 1999, we rehearsed a song I’d written that, at the time, we called “Rock the Boat” (I’ve since renamed it “Sunken Soldier”). We performed it on live TV as part of a charitable telethon in London, and got terrific feedback from it. You see, to be on TV, we had to perform original music, as we didn’t have the rights to play any one of the dozens of cover songs we’d always play in clubs and bars. So we played our own song and instantly heard from people that liked it.

A couple of weeks later, we were set to be one of the headlining bands at the annual Canada Day festivities in Centennial Park in Sarnia (some video of that show still exists, with me playing and singing lead on Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ‘69”). Our plan for that night was to perform “Rock the Boat” as part of our set to show the thousands of people who were there that night that we did, in fact, have our own music in the works. But what happened instead is that we were a little short on time and were asked to cut a song or two from our set. Despite my protests, my bandmates chose to cut “Rock the Boat,” and though we went and played that gig and had a great time of it, I knew then and there I would leave the band, because they’d had the chance to put their own work out front and didn’t.

I was not there to sing “Mustang Sally” and “Crocodile Rock.” I tolerated the cover songs so we could get to original songs. But the other guys felt the opposite (which, by the way, I completely understand. They were good at what they did and got paid pretty well to do it. I just wasn’t there for the same reasons, so I left shortly afterward).

During that time, I was always told that “You can’t go into a bar and get away with playing original music.” I always thought that was a load of bull spoken by people too scared to try. It takes guts to get up on stage at any level. But it takes real fortitude to share and stand behind your own creations. I knew I could do it, and I did, the next spring, with a band I called “Freight Train.” But that’s another story.

Writing original music, especially good original music, is harder than it looks. And to get a band to work up a good arrangement of a song is, in my opinion, even more difficult. And even after that, you’ve no guarantee the audience will like it. So it’s a lot easier to just play popular songs, where all that work is done for you.

And so, with all that in mind, let’s jump back to present time and the business at hand. I was truly intrigued when I was reading the band bios in the program at this year’s “Rock for Dimes” event. I saw that one of the bands was going to try something new. Here’s a bit about each band from that night:

There was a group called the RJ Conspiracy. I knew them from last year. They’re a group of guys who work as accountants during the week and come together to gig now and then and they do a great job with their classic rock tastes. Their take on “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” stood out to me. Their singer, Rick Jankura, later told me it was Peter Frampton’s version of the song. I really liked it.

RJ Conspiracy (photo from RJ Conspiracy Facebook Page)

RJ Conspiracy (photo from RJ Conspiracy Facebook Page)

Another group that had returned from the year before was a band that calls themselves the Attic Apostles. They’re a great group of guys who put a lot of energy and enthusiasm into their performance. I was happy to recognize John Raposo, their lead singer, and to get the chance to chat with him a bit. Anyone who gets up on stage and sings has my respect, and John has mine. And I was especially pleased when they took on a really tough song from one of my favourite bands, the Trews, with a wailing rock track called “Hold Me In Your Arms.” I also liked their choice of other cover songs.

The Attic Apostles (photo from their Facebook page)

The Attic Apostles (photo from their Facebook page)

A band called Oui B Jamon was back for another go. They’d actually won the event a couple years before and they are indeed a neat outfit. Though their keyboardist was the lead singer and seemed to be the focal point, it’s the guitarist, Norm Emblem, who stands out to me for his slick style and smooth sound. He was the only one to play a slide all night, and he looks and sounds cool and laid back when he plays. I enjoy watching him cruise through tunes like Skynyrd’s “Call Me the Breeze” or Thorogood’s “Move It On Over.”

Oui B Jamon logo

Oui B Jamon logo

One of the two new bands for this year was a group of police officers who had named their act Duty Calls. I chatted with a couple of them. Great guys. And they did a terrific job on stage with a cool mix of covers. As with Attic Apostles, Duty Calls had me smiling when they finished their set with a Trews song called “Fleeting Trust” (a great track).

Duty Calls (photo from the band's  Facebook page)

Duty Calls (photo from the band’s Facebook page)

Each of those bands were fun to watch and they all did a great job. It’s just that, for me, it was all stuff I’d heard before, in one way or another.

So I was very much intrigued when I read the bio of the other new band for this year, a group from Cambridge that called themselves 7T8. I liked the name straight away. But what I liked even more was reading that, though they’d started as a cover band, they quickly began to gel with each other and write their own music, and had not only begun to play some of it live, but they had also recorded and just released an EP of their own music as well.

That had my full attention.



As the band was setting up for their set, one of the members approached me, shook my hand and said, “Hi! I’m Shane. I’m the singer for the next band, 7T8. I just wanted to thank you for being the MC. You’re doing a great job. Is there anything you’d like to know about our band?”

Nobody else had asked me that, though I’d have welcomed it.

I asked Shane (who I instantly liked), “I read about you guys. Are you going to play a whole set of your own music?”

“We’re going to do a mix,” Shane said. “We’ll play some of our own songs and some other songs people will know.”

I remember my heart jumping a little bit. Shane had confirmed for me that we were going to hear something new that night. A little voice popped into my head that pleaded, “Please don’t suck. Please don’t suck. Please don’t suck.”

Let me tell you. They didn’t suck.

Impressed, I thanked Shane and wished him good luck and got out of the way as the band finished their quick set up.

A few minutes later, they nodded that they were ready, so I went back up on stage to introduce them. As I came to the end of my introduction, they sensed the timing and started playing what was, essentially, an intro to their own first song. It was the kind of sensing of momentum that most others never seem to take advantage of, and it’s always baffled me why more bands (and performers in general) don’t pick up on that sort of stuff. But the guys in 7T8 were tuned in.

As they tore in the opening chords of their first song, the hair went up on the back of my neck. I didn’t know what the song was. I’d never heard it before. But I knew I liked it, and that I was going to want to hear it again. The air in the room changed instantly. For me, it was one of those soul-grabbing, stupid-smiling, spin-you-around-the-room kind of moments that happens all too rarely.

7T8 on stage at Rock for Dimes London 2015

7T8 on stage at Rock for Dimes London 2015

At a time like that, it’s a lot of fun to observe people’s reactions. The crowd seemed momentarily disoriented at this band that was suddenly thundering new sounds at them with swagger and style, whereas they probably knew every other song that had been played earlier in the night, with those bands maybe not having the throttle pinned all the way to the floor the way 7T8 did. And yet, they weren’t upset. The band sounded too good for that. It was a strange mix of excitement and confusion that lasted about two minutes.

After that, 7T8 had the room. They owned it.

After grabbing the crowd by the collar with their opener, a rip-snorter of a song from their EP called “Outta My Head,” they instantly transitioned into a rollicking version of the song “Paralyzer” by Finger Eleven. Later came their EP title track, “Rebirth,” “My Hero” from the Foo Fighters and then another of their own songs. By the time they reached the end of their set, 7T8 had made it clear the competition was over for that night. They had the crowd in the palm of their hand, and finished their performance with a hair-raising rendition of the Billy Idol song “Rebel Yell.” I’ve always been lukewarm to “Rebel Yell,” but if 7T8 had made a recording of their version of the song available for sale that night, I’d have bought it without even thinking about it.

After they were done, the crowd yelled for an encore, and I don’t think they were being in any way disrespectful to the other bands. They just genuinely wanted to hear more from 7T8. I did too.

7T8’s set that night reminded me of how I’d felt so long ago, that you could play your own songs for an unfamiliar crowd, if your songs were strong enough and if you were confident about it.

With the guys from 7T8.

With the guys from 7T8.

I was buzzing from the experience. I was so glad I was there to see that performance. And perhaps I am overstating it, but I can only share what my sincere reaction to it was, and I felt like I’d been a part of something very rare and a whole lot of fun.  It’s the kind of emotional response only music can generate for me, and it can’t be manufactured. It just happens.

As soon as I got home that night, around midnight, I chose buying and listening to 7T8’s EP over going to sleep, and I am still happy with the choice. They somehow got that right, too. It’s a fine first effort, and sounds great at maximum volume in my car. If you’re interested, you can download it HERE.

I love music, and want to thank March of Dimes for having me as their MC again to help remind me why. I also want to tip my cap to all the bands that were there that night, not just 7T8. They were all great and worked hard and played well and supported a great cause.

I think I’ll go pick up my guitar.

Poll: How Much Does the Weather Affect Your Spending Habits?

Here in Ontario, Canada, over the last many weeks, we’ve been getting a pretty steady dose of “Extreme Cold” weather alerts, colder-than-average temperatures, and snow.

Lots of snow.

snow-storm-596351_1280The situation is the same in many parts of the Northeast United States, where cities like Boston have, reportedly, had enough of the white stuff to last few winters.

People are quick to crank and moan about the weather. And many business people I’ve encountered find weather an quick excuse for when things slow down. My question this month is, Does the weather really affect what you do and how you spend your money?

Please let me know what you think by casting a vote in this poll and/or leaving a comment in the space below, or on my Twitter or Facebook. Thanks!


Using Facebook To Market Your Small Business? Be Careful

In my day job, I work as a marketing consultant and sales executive for a group of popular radio stations in Ontario, Canada. Understandably, I am asked about other various forms of media a lot, and I’m happy to offer my perspective, as I have experience in buying and implementing most of them. I also believe that each communication tool has its own strengths and weaknesses, and that a healthy mix as part of a strategic plan is probably best.

But when I am asked about Facebook for marketing small businesses, two words immediately come to mine: Be careful.

I recently asked, in an online poll on my website ( and through comments received from Twitter (and, yes, Facebook) how people currently felt about Facebook. I asked because I wanted to get a feel for why, if at all, people still used that particular social media tool, because I feel its important to know, as marketers, why people are (or are not) engaged with any particular media. Marketers want to go where the people are. Or at least, where they think they are (but I’ll get to that).

The average response I got back more-or-less matched own personal feelings about Facebook: that I keep it more as an extended “address book” for far-flung family and friends than anything else.

However, there were a few people who responded to my question by cutting right to the heart of the matter, including this response on Twitter (read the bottom post first, then the top):

02-21-15 - d74g0n Twitter post

Now, this may be of no consequence to you if you’re on Facebook simply to know that you can reach out distant family members without having to keep track of phone numbers and email address (although, you may not be seeing all the content you wish to see, but we’ll get to that later). But if you’re running a small business and are being tempted by the seemingly inexpensive allure of growing your following on Facebook, sit up and pay attention.

And be careful.

If you’re thinking of paying for a Facebook ad to grow your business page’s following, please watch this video from Veritasium first:

Here’s a bit about my own marketing experience on Facebook:

From 2007 through 2011, I was part of an event management company called CPT Entertainment Inc. We ran a variety of consumer-based trade show-type events, and used Facebook as part of many of our marketing campaigns, along with radio, outdoor signage, TV and some print. Back then we felt we got decent value for our Facebook advertising. One example would be the time we arranged to have one of Dale Earnhardt Jr’s NASCAR race cars on display at one of our events. We used Facebook to put an ad out that targeted people who “liked” Dale Earnhardt Jr (or NASCAR in general) and lived within a certain geographical radius of our event. We felt we got good response to the ads. We could tell from the analytics and the comments we received, as well as through the attendance at the event itself.

But, as indicated in the Veritasium video (above), things have changed since then.

Forward to present day: I have a Facebook page for my own business, Kevin Bulmer Enterprises. Whenever I post something there, Facebook only serves it to between 5 and 10% of the people who actually “like” the page. I know this because it gives me those analytics with each post. And it always –ALWAYS – asks me if I want to “boost” the post to have seen more often.

Facebook says 235 people “Like” this page. A modest amount, sure, but note how immediate is the offer to is promote (i.e., “buy” more exposure) the page. I’d be more likely to consider that if my updates were first delivered to the people who already agreed to see them …


In other words, it wants me to pay to have my post seen by people who’ve already “Liked” the page.


I tried it. Once. It was money wasted.

If 235 people 'Like' this page,

If 235 people ‘Like’ this page, why are these posts reaching only 17 and 40 people, respectively?

In fairness, I do believe it’s up to me to re-engage people. But still, I can’t help thinking that if someone had “liked” my page (and thereby given consent to see my updates), they should at least occasionally see that I’ve offered some new content, without me having to pay for it, shouldn’t they?

When I think about it in reverse, I looked to the pages that I’ve personally “Liked,” and realized that there are a number of them that almost never show up in my Facebook News Feed, even though I want to see their updates (to try to combat this, I leave my News Feed set to “Most Recent” and scroll all the way through, as opposed to “Top Stories”).


Still, even though I consider myself informed and I knew I was not having a good experience with my “Kevin Bulmer Enterprise” page, I decided to take it one step further and try a little experiment, figuring that maybe if I started something from scratch, my experience would be different.

Here’s what I did:

I created a Facebook page for a musical rock and roll project I’d been working on for a while, called “Mutineer” (I’ll write more about it another time). I posted it as a rock band page, put up some content and then set about creating an ad campaign. I designed an ad for the page, set a budget of $10 to be spread over a week and set the ad to target only people who ‘Liked’ the bands Extreme or Volbeat, were 18 years of age and up and lived in either Canada, Great Britain, Australia or Denmark.

Here’s a screen capture of the Facebook page for the yet-to-exist band I call “Mutineer.” Note the “Boost Post” option that accompanies every update. Sidenote: I just now realized how the song lyric that was posted here (which is a real lyric) is very appropriate to this article.

I thought that a pretty specific set of criteria.

And so I found it very interesting that the first page ‘Like’ I got was from a “person” named Denis Johnson. Denis has no posts on his timeline, yet he has 39,955 Facebook page likes (including 2,766 Music “likes”).

I’ll say that again: this “person” has over 39,000 Facebook page Likes.

Do you know any actual human being that actually “likes” over 39,000 pages on Facebook?! Neither do I.

Here’s a sample of some of the other “people” who liked this page shortly afterward:

– Choudry Khalid Mahmood Anjum (Page likes: 10,139)
– Sandra Berdan (Page likes: 8,712)
– Jango Gurug Gurug (Page likes: 5,961)
– Saif AL Hakeem (Page likes: 5,290)
– Saddi Mir (Page likes: 5,615)
– Tahir Rasool (Page likes: 6,748)

If you want to check these for yourself, go to and click on the images of those who like the Mutineer Facebook page, on the widget on the right-hand side of the page

Do you think I’m likely to run into any of these people at an upcoming Extreme or Volbeat concert? I highly doubt it.

By contrast, I looked at my own personal Facebook profile and saw that I had 96 different page “Likes” (and, as noted earlier, I don’t even see all the updates from those pages). I can’t even imagine how much work it would be to get my volume of “Likes” up to, say, 5,000!

It wasn’t long before I realized I was only experiencing exactly what the Veritasium video (above) warns about, and so I cancelled the rest of my ad campaign. I’d wasted enough money.

Now, I’m not suggesting that Facebook does not have value to businesses. What I am saying is that, if you’re going to us Facebook as a marketing tool, be careful. Accept that there are no real short cuts with Facebook any more than there are with radio, television or any other medium.

Quality wins. The cream rises. Quick fixes are a fallacy.

I’ll be the first to admit I use Facebook poorly. I’ve thought many times about deleting my page, but have decided to keep it going simply because, every now and then, someone new finds me there. But as for growing my business, I still find that the best technique is to get out in the community and get to know people.

Are you determined to grow your following on Facebook? Then roll up your sleeves. Engage people and other organizations. Add value for them. Create and share good content. Interact. You can build a monster following on Facebook, but you better do it organically.

In other words, I’m sorry, but you have to actually work at it.

Or, try and grow the quick way at your own peril.

Friends & Mentors, Vol. 5: Rob Hogendoorn of Forest City Community Church

I’ve been fortunate to get to know a great many interesting and inspiring people. I’m grateful to have learned a lot from each of them.

One of those people is Rob Hogendoorn.


Rob Hogendoorn

The Senior Pastor at Forest City Community Church in London, Ontario, Rob is one of my favourite people to be around. He is, to me, the epitome of both a friend and a mentor, and he is always generous with his time.

In my conversation with Rob, he shared some great perspective that I feel will be extremely valuable to any goal-oriented person, such as the need to have a clear vision to begin but also remaining open to new detours and opportunities, the importance of finding and empowering the right people, and why it’s necessary to be both persistent and patient.

Another key takeaway from my chat with Rob had to do with the idea of “overnight success,” and what it truly takes to achieve the kinds of results worthy of being labelled as such. Rob also reinforced for me the reality that sometimes things don’t go the way you expect them to, and not only is that still okay, but it can actually prove to be even better and more memorable than if things had gone according to plan all along.

Here is my conversation with Rob Hogendoorn.

KB: How did you find your way to London (from Vancouver)?

Rob: It was a combination of things. One is that my wife grew up here, so we had some connection to London. And we lived here for a little bit after we got married.

When you get out into British Columbia, you get so taken by the majesty and the beauty of the place, and the softer climate and all of that. And that’s why people rarely move back. And we had that for five years. We were like, “This place is just amazing – it’s just so beautiful.” But somehow we had just kept a soft spot in our hearts for London.

And then a situation turned up where I was able to find a bit of funding for me to basically pay my salary the first couple of years while I was trying to start a new church here, but it was kind of limited to the London region, this funding. And because the desire was so imbedded in my heart to start a certain kind of church, because that was all taking shape in my mind while we were living in Vancouver, and then the opportunity came and a little bit of that financial means – I had four young kids under the age of 8 and I thought I at least need to feed them and clothe them while I’m trying to do this thing – we took the opportunity.

So it was that convergence of those two things. But the sense of what it (the church) would be like, the kind of way it would function, that started to take root in my mind in 1989, 1990, 1991 – somewhere around in there.

KB: Can you tell me more about the things that were stirring inside you, both in terms of having the sense of needing to move on and in terms of the idea for what became Forest City Community Church? What was going through your heart and mind?

Rob: I’d say two things on it. One is the vision for how it would look increasingly took shape by the fact that I grew up in a church-going family and gave my life to Christ at a pretty early age. And then when I was a pastor of a church, it was kind of a traditional church and it was a church that was really great for people who were born and raised in it, and never really strayed. But increasingly I started really resonating with the need for 85-90% of Canadians for whom that’s not their story.

Probably 85-90% of Canadians, they might have some perspectives on faith and God but they certainly don’t have a very strong integrated personal experience of God and they certainly don’t have a meaningful way in which that’s lived out in a church community.

And so increasingly I thought, “How could we develop a church that would make sense and engage the 85% of Canadians?” And that’s where the kind of model and method and style and approach and philosophy of Forest City Community Church came increasingly clear in my head and in my heart, and what it would look like and what it would feel like and how it would function.

And then it became a matter of saying, “Okay, what things are going to have to happen for that to happen?” And, “What things am I going to have to try to put in place to see that take shape?”

A lot of it had to do with finding some of the key personalities and leaders who could give rise to some of these dimensions of what this church actually is now, because I couldn’t do it all. So I had to find and build a sub-team of people who resonated with that vision but they could take a different piece of it and push that piece of it out.

So that’s really what I ended up doing in the first five years, was really honing that team of people and supporting them and working with them and then together, all these different aspects of the church’s ministry just started to take shape.


KB: What was the response, if any, from the traditional church community when you first got started? What was that like in the early days?

Rob: You know, it was pretty simple I think, because nobody knew about us. We were nobody. We were just a group of kids, really. I mean I was 30 or 31 years old and all of my other leaders were in their 20’s and we were just a little rag-tag collection of some people doing this little thing. So I don’t think anybody noticed.

KB: And at this stage, you were at Saunders (Secondary School)?

Rob: At that stage we were at Ashley Oaks Public School. After about 5 years, we grew out of that. And then we went to Saunders, and we were there for 7 years.

KB: So the church at this point is more of an intellectual and spiritual entity as opposed to any kind of bricks and mortar?

Rob: Absolutely. And I didn’t feel tension with other churches in the city at all because, first of all, we weren’t trying to reach their people. We were trying to reach people that were not going to church. And most of them were just really quite thrilled about that because many of them would like to have been more effective at that too. But for most of the years, you’re just kind of on your own at it and you don’t even think anybody’s noticing.

KB: What point was it when you realized that this had gained enough traction that you thought, “Wow, we’ve created a going concern here that is going to be somewhat of a long-term, established commitment.” When did that first occur to you?

Rob: It’s a good question. I think that, on one level, I know that for the first 10 years easily, we wondered all the time whether this was going to work.

KB: Ten years?

Rob: (Laughs) Oh yeah. Easily.

KB: I think it’s important to hear that. So many people – and I’ve been guilty of this as well – they think that everything comes right away, or should. And that’s not reality. Every overnight success is born of a lot of time with your sleeves rolled up.

Rob: Yeah, absolutely. It was probably 10 years before I sort of thought, “Wow, I guess this might actually work.” And then the other thing is, I would say this: I still sort of think of it in my heart as this fledgling little community trying to reach into the lives of people who are not super-connected to God. So I still think of us in a very primitive state actually. I don’t think of us as this going concern. I think of us as, “Wow, we’ve got a pretty good start.”

KB: Do you think that’s what allows your curiosity to continue to flourish?

Rob: Yes, I think so. You’re probably right.

KB: So Rob, when you talk about that 85-90% of people who don’t regularly go to church, what it is about Forest City Community Church that does seem to connect with them?

Rob: I guess I would say that there are a number of things but one of them would rise to the top for me. It’s two of our core values are Biblical truth and cultural relevance. Without a strong, truly transformative, authoritative message, you don’t have anything for people. But at the same time, if you’re not engaging people in a truly culturally relevant way and in a way that addresses life today, and communicates in the way that life is lived today and the realities people have today, if you’re not bringing those two to bear on each other, you’re also missing the boat. So that’s what we work really hard to do.

KB: I’m interested in what it’s like for you, where you are the leader here in a number of different senses, in finding the balance in being able to be confident wearing that day after day, but also knowing that you’re an individual that is probably looking for guidance as well.

Rob: A couple of things come to my mind. One is that I think it’s important to not try to do this alone. There’s no doubt that I have a central, visible, pivotal leadership role in this church and this faith community. But I think that if you try to do that in isolation, it’s dangerous because I’m fallible just like everybody else is fallible. So I can get off track. I can make mistakes just like anybody else can. And I’ve made my share. So that’s where you’ve got to be careful.

It’s important for me to have people around me who I am also learning from, bouncing ideas off of, who are either bringing good ideas or confirming ideas I have. So we have a small elder board, a little team. We’ve got some senior staff people and then I also stay networked with pastors of other larger churches in North America that also are communities and not just try to do this in isolation. So that’s the one side.

But the other side of it is that I believe that when you have a calling from God, when you know you have been called to do something, you have to also believe that He’s going to give you what you need to do it. And if you really have sensed and believe that you have that calling, you work very hard to stay close to Him and you experience how He repeatedly, and I’ve seen this for 21 years, how He continues to come through and confirm that call with wisdom at the right time, with resources at the right time with people at the right time. So in that way, you have to keep a healthy sense of humility about your dependence on other people and God while also recognizing the importance of the role you have.

Forest City Community Church on Bostwick Road in London, ON

Forest City Community Church on Bostwick Road in London, ON

KB: As we’re having this conversation, we’re sitting inside the church. When did this building even become the seed of a thought, and then where did it go from there?

Rob: We started the church with just a dozen people and, literally, in a living room. And then the church started growing in that little Elementary School in White Oaks (a neighbourhood in London, Ontario). And it continued to grow and then we went into Saunders (Secondary School) and like I said, we spent 7 years there. So we were in rented facilities for 12 years before we built anything with physical bricks.

In the Saunders era, as the church was growing and we were reaching people, maybe 3, 4, 5 years in, we started realizing, “Okay, the rental facilities, as useful as this has been, is starting to become limiting to the vision.” And like we mentioned before, when you know what your vision is, it makes it a little easier to say ‘yay’ to that, ‘nay’ to that. When we realized that our vision was starting to get limited by rental facilities, then the option became maybe, “Is it time for us to build a facility that can continue to facilitate the vision and the mission of this church?”  So those thoughts and conversations started happening in that era, which would have been about 10, 11 years ago.

And then we started thinking about, “well what would that kind of facility look like?” And so we got some architects and interestingly, our first architects were people who were not church architects at all. They’d never been involved in a church. Because that’s the other thing: you typically will get a church architect, and we decided, no, we don’t want a church architect because they’re going to be thinking about building a church building and we wanted to find an architect that’s going to think a bit outside the box with us on what the facility could look like that could facilitate the vision of the church.

So we did that and then took them to some other places to kind of give them ideas of what buildings could look like. And then we just started the process here of just starting to put numbers down on paper, putting a bit of a design together.

We sort of thought, “Right now we have this amount of people, and if the growth continues, in 10 years from now we’re going to have ‘this’ amount of people, well then we have to find a way to build something that ultimately could be facilitating THAT many people when we don’t have THAT many people to pay for it right now.” So how do we do that?

So we developed a master plan of the facility, just sort of dreaming crazy of what this facility could grow into over the years. But then we broke it down into components and we built the first component. And then 3 years later we build the next component and then 3 years later we built the next component and then a couple years later we built the next component and we just kept adding components as the church continued to grow and as we continue to expand some of our generosity base of people who could actually be part of these expansions. So in a nutshell, that’s sort of how it came to be.

KB: What was it like, the first service here?

Rob: Oh, it was amazing! Actually the first service we had was outside. This was all parking lot, for the first service, where we’re sitting now. And we had our Grand Opening morning – this is a bit of a side point to what you’re asking – and we had announced it at Saunders, that everything was lined up, next week was our opening on Bostwick Road. And that week, the final inspectors came and the Fire Inspector came and there were a couple of things he did not like, that didn’t meet his standards. I don’t blame him, but he just said – and this on a Friday afternoon – he said, “You cannot open this building on Sunday.” And we were like, “Are you kidding me? We’ve got hundreds and hundreds of people that are going to be showing up, because that’s what we said last week (he chuckles)!”

So we had to make a decision. What we did is set up a stage outside in the parking lot, right there (points outside) and we had a little outdoor service, and there were hundreds of people standing here for the very first service. And it was magical, because it was a great moment.

Our Creative Arts Director, who is still on the staff, I remember him getting up and he said something about, “You know, this is just a great reminder to all of us that that’s not the church. This is the church. The church is the people here. The church is not that thing.”

And I think we’ve tried to never forget that.

Poll: Does Facebook Still Matter To You?

Facebook questionI’ve been learning and exploring the opportunities behind various kinds of social media, particularly as it relates to businesses, artists and the like. The one I’m least sure of these days is … Facebook. So I’m curious about your thoughts on how, if at all, Facebook still fits into your life. Please vote and/or comment below, or on my Twitter or (ahem) Facebook page, and I’ll share the results soon.


Thanks for your feedback!

– KB

Friends & Mentors, Vol. 4: Kyla Woodcock of Forest City Sport & Social Club

I’ve been fortunate to get to know a great many interesting and inspiring people. I’m grateful to have learned a lot from each of them.

One of those people is Kyla Woodcock.

Kyla Woodcock, Founder of FCSSC

Kyla Woodcock, Founder of FCSSC

Kyla is the founder of the Forest City Sport & Social Club, a co-ed, recreational sports league designed to bring people together for fun, to meet new friends, and to stay fit while giving back to  the community. Built upon Kyla’s vision and values, the club has been an amazing hit, and has since expanded to Windsor (Rose City Sport & Social Club).

From the moment I met her, I’ve admired Kyla. When I talk with Kyla, I find myself both wanting to learn from her and to try and find a thought to challenge her. I am always interested in what she will say or do next. And I am never disappointed.

Kyla’s story fascinates me. In telling parts of it, she relates some powerful perspective that any entrepreneur should find valuable.  As I listened to her talk about her journey, I caught myself on numerous occasions thinking, “People need to hear/see this.” And now they can.

Here is my conversation with Kyla Woodcock:

KB: Where were you professionally before you even started to get the seeds of the idea for FCSSC?

Kyla: My background is in business and human resources. I worked for a large corporation in the technology industry until the bubble burst in the early 90’s.

It found it relatively easy to find a really great HR job really early in my career and I immediately started traveling with that company, and other companies within the industry, because everything was going so fast in tech at the time.

I moved all over the country with those tech companies doing HR stuff and then, the classic story, I became completely exhausted of that life after about 7 or 8 years, being early in my own professional story and moving around incessantly. I was never close to family and I missed every birthday party and I wasn’t married and I didn’t have any kids and I was pushing 30 years old and thinking, “I’m not doing this anymore. I’m tired.”

When the tech industry experienced a significant downturn I had to severance a whole bunch of people out of work. In HR, that was my job I wrote myself a package too. I just said, “I’ve had enough.”

KB: What was going through your mind and heart at that time?

Kyla: I was exhausted. I saw the opportunity. I knew the company had to decrease the payroll and I knew that we didn’t need another HR person to do the recruiting, performance manage and compensation strategy because we just lost the 500 people for whom that HR person was responsible.

The Forest City Sport & Social Club (FCSSC) exists to improve the quality of life for adults in London through fun, friends, fitness and connection to our community.

The Forest City Sport & Social Club (FCSSC) exists to improve the quality of life for adults in London through fun, friends, fitness and connection to our community.

KB: When, along that timeline, did what has turned into FCSSC start to germinate as an idea, let alone a business plan?

Kyla: There was a period in the early days of my career in HR that I actually got to settle at the head office of one of the companies I worked for and that was in Ottawa. And so I started to invest a bit into a local lifestyle.

It was just pure, off the clock play time. It was what I really needed and I found when I joined the sport and social club. And I became friends with Nicki, the woman who started the club in Ottawa. Her story was not dissimilar to mine. She started her cub having leaving the tech industry. She was a couple of years ahead of me. We’re still friends to this day.

KB: So was it that time that the thought came to you, “Maybe I can do something like this in another market?”

Kyla: It wasn’t until after I took time off. I left the corporate job that I was in, and then I traveled for over a year. I just didn’t work at all. I sold my house and everything in it. I literally put clothes in a backpack and started traveling. I traveled through the South Pacific mostly.

FCSSC donated over $7,000 and made countless equipment donations to various local charities in 2014 alone.

FCSSC donated over $7,000, along with countless equipment donations, to various local charities in 2014 alone.

KB: You did that by yourself?

Kyla: By myself. And I met fabulous people along the way. Totally fabulous people.

And then I came home because my grandfather passed away. I had intentions of going back overseas. I wasn’t sure I was done traveling; I still wanted to see more; I didn’t really want to get another job and I was fortunate because I still had a little bit left in the bank. The plan was always to spend it until it was gone and I still had countries on the list and so I was going to go back. But I didn’t.

I got home and I reconnected with my family during that stay at home and realized there was too much I was missing out on.

KB: What did you learn about yourself that that time?

Kyla: Oh. What didn’t I learn about myself? I took a lot of my identity from who I was in the corporate world and what people recognized me as being good at. I was chasing that next great big title and I was needing to be at the boardroom table and part of every corporate decision because that made me valuable and important. And then when I stepped away from all of that, I realized that’s not how I needed to be important.

Being important for me is being there for my husband and kids, parents and my siblings. That’s being important. Being there for my friends and being somebody that people can rely on. Being in the big chair at the boardroom table … I don’t care about that anymore.

KB: And at that time, at that point in your life, you’re doing what you just think that you’re supposed to be doing.

Kyla: Yeah! Everybody always said, get a great job and get out there and work and it’s all about realizing your earning power and putting your degree to work. You spent thousands of dollars at university: do something with that. You know?.

KB: So you end up doing everything that you’re “supposed” to do and you wind up exhausted and empty.

Kyla: Something like that.

With Kyla at a recent FCSSC event.

With Kyla at a recent FCSSC event.

KB: I’d like to talk a little bit about FCSSC.

Kyla: Sure!

KB: Fast forward then to how that came together and why?

I still had ambitions to finish schooling. I had an undergrad degree but I’d always wanted my Masters in business and I decided that I was going to make time for that. So I went to Ivey and did my MBA (Masters in Business Administration) there and when I graduated, I didn’t want to do what I’d always done. It didn’t make sense to me that that was a good use of the investment in my education. I wanted to do something else.

I come from a long line of entrepreneurs. My dad is an incredibly successful entrepreneur. So is my mom. My stepdad is a successful entrepreneur too. I wanted to try. And that’s where the club came from. The club was my entrepreneurial attempt that was perfectly fitted to the lifestyle that I wanted for myself.

I wanted connection to my community and I wanted more fun factor in my life. I wanted the chance to meet really great people every single day and I wanted to be in a business that naturally had the opportunity to do good. The club ticked all of those boxes, so it was an absolute no-brainer.

KB: You’ve just had your 5th anniversary, which is fantastic. Congratulations.

Kyla: Thank you.

KB: Where are you hoping to go from here?

Kyla: Wherever the membership of the club wants us to go. If they want a new sport, then we’re going to work on getting them a new sport. If they want a huge party or event once a year, then let’s get a huge party event once a year. If they want 50 partners in the network of the Forest City Sport & Social Club then we’ll work on 50 partners in the network. The club is a member-based organization and what we set our sights on as the organizers of the club is directly related to what the members are telling us they want the club to be and do. So I don’t dictate that. We plug in and respond.


KB: And it sounds like you’re trying to manage that organically, as opposed to go back to what you experienced in the tech world, where it got too far out ahead of itself and fell in. So the growth, doing it at the right speed, is important.

Kyla: Yes. Absolutely true. We’ve had lots of ideas for different things that we haven’t actually done. And we don’t flip the switch on those ideas because it’s maybe not what the membership is looking for from us at that point in time.

KB: That’s a valuable lesson that I wish I could go back and teach my 20 and 30-something year-old self.

Kyla: Yeah.

KB: Just because you have a card in your hand doesn’t mean now’s the time to play it.

Kyla: That’s right. And for us, that’s absolutely true.

At the same time, we have the ability, for example, to expand the concept to other markets. There are lots of cities near and far from here that don’t have a sport & social club. And the joy of creating it for me, making those connections and bringing rays of sunshine to the people in those communities when they come and play with us once a week, when we take them off the clock and we give them that carefree play time, I take a lot of pride in that and I think it’s super cool that that’s my work.


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