Determined, but zen
By Mireille Piché
So far, the entrepreneurial career of Angela Urquhart Osborne is reminiscent of that of Elizabeth Gilbert, the celebrated best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love. As a yoga fan and recent communications grad (BA ’05), Angela also embarked on a writing career inspired by her voyages of self-discovery through Asia and Australia. But here’s where the similarity ends: Angela is above all an exceptional event organizer.
She was studying theatre at the University of Ottawa when a communications course caused her to switch majors.
“It was the basis for event planning, and I now know that it led me to where I am today,” she said.
During her time as an undergraduate, she enjoyed organizing social activities for the Gee-Gees dance team, of which she was a member. “Even then, I was into planning events for the team, like pub nights,” she recalls.
After graduation, she returned home to Niagara and began building a career in event planning by working with the area’s wineries and resorts.
“One thing I enjoy most about event planning is putting together all the communication material,” she explained, “and I have fun during the entire planning process.”
Dramatically Zen, a distillation of her life
After a series of unhappy incidents in her personal life, Angela decided to try to heal and renew her sense of optimism by travelling through Thailand, Australia and Bali.
She decided to describe her three-month adventure in a daily blog. When she returned, she compiled her entries into a book, entitled Dramatically Zen: A Guidebook to Living Your Best Life. This self-help book, which she describes as light-hearted, humorous and relatable, contains 33 chapters, each of which suggests a life lesson for readers, such as “Do yoga” or “Let go of fear”, illustrated by an experience that taught Angela something during her travels.
She initially self-published the book through Friesenpress, so she didn’t have an agent when Dramatically Zen was born, a common enough situation in English-language publishing.
“In order to find an agent, I had to have been published, which I had never been, and since I needed an agent in order to be published, it just didn’t make any sense to me. So I took action and decided to publish myself. I just created my own buzz around the book.”
With the promotional campaign underway, she went on honeymoon to Bali.
“As the timing would have it, while there, we did some grassroots promotions and marketing activities at one of the locations that inspired the book,” she said. “I even taught a yoga class for an employee team-building experience at one of the local hotels, took photos of the book in beautiful locations around Bali, and visited a co-work space in Ubud, the cultural capital of Bali.”
When she returned to Canada, Angela hosted book signings in Huntsville and Montreal. The book launch took place last November at Pure Kitchen, an Ottawa restaurant whose owner is also the founder of Pure Yoga – a tailor-made environment for Angela. She took advantage of the opportunity to invite some of her University of Ottawa classmates, some of whom she had not seen since her graduation 10 years earlier.
“It was the best feeling, having all these friends showing up. It was like having a mini-reunion,” said Angela.
Unique, personalized events
Today, with a dozen years’ experience in event management under her belt, Angela is the proud founder of Elev8 Events, and her company is taking off.
Angela brings her creative energy to organizing personalized weddings and corporate launch events. As an event manager, she has also helped organize the 2015 Niagara Integrated Film Festival. But she remains true to her first loves, namely yoga and a desire to showcase southern Ontario.
So it seems inevitable that she combine these interests to create a series of events, dubbed “Signatures”, that pair wine-tasting and yoga, or wine-tasting and painting, at the area’s superb wineries.
“The first time I held the wine-and-yoga event, it was wild!” she said. “I had hoped for 25 people, and 60 came!”
Her entrepreneurial flair and collaborative energy are key to her success. “Even though it might sound scary at first, I like trying something new and I am not afraid of putting it out there. Together, with my collaborators, we just make it happen!”
So it’s no coincidence that she included the number eight in the name of her company, since this number symbolizes eternity when turned on its side. After all, her projects offer infinite possibilities.
Whether during her events, or in the pages of her book, or in conversation, Angela does not need to recite the “eat, pray, love” mantra. Instead, this inspirational woman lives by her own motto: “take a risk – why not? – we only live one life.”
She exhibits the quiet strength of someone who knows how to push past her comfort zone while remaining entirely zen.
Angela Urquhart Osborne, a 2005 communications grad, founded her own event management company, Elev8 Events, in her home region of Niagara. Photo: Tino Berardi Photography