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Too Many Cooks? Not in this Kitchen: Why Business Cares Food Drive Has It Right

You may have heard the line, “Too many cooks in the kitchen.” It’s a phrase not usually offered as a positive observation when trying to reach a goal.  I’m reminded of it now, in the throes of  an annual collaborative effort to gather as much food as possible for people in need in my community.

This particular “kitchen” is crowded with A-type cooks. And yet it works.

The Business Cares kick-off on November 28, 2014 at London Hall at the University of Western Ontario

A whole cast of characters came out to support the Business Cares kick-off on November 28, 2014 at London Hall at the University of Western Ontario

I’m in my third year as part of the organizing committee for the Business Cares Food Drive in London, Ontario. It’s taken me until now to fully accept and embrace that this committee runs counter to most others I’ve experienced. While this three-week-plus sprint to raise food and donations for our local food bank has many different activities and agendas as part of it, the whole thing seems to steer itself in a common direction, driven by good feelings and genuine positive efforts.

I believe there is a strong lesson in it.

With Wayne Dunn (at left) and Ed Holder (right)

With Wayne Dunn (at left) and Ed Holder (right)

The brainchild of Wayne Dunn (current committee Chair and owner of County Heritage Forest Products in London) and Ed Holder (Member of Parliament, London West), Business Cares was born 15 years ago and has since seen all kinds of companies from this area come together to reach a common goal: feeding people in need. Wayne leads by setting the example, creating the timeline and then empowering people to run with the ball. To his credit, Wayne runs harder and faster than anyone else. But when someone comes along with a new idea that could help bolster the overall effort, not only does Wayne not micromanage them to fit the brand or to mold their efforts into the way he might do things, but he is likely to have encouraged and empowered that person or group within moments instead. By doing so, he gives these people a sense of ownership and pride in their end of it. And so they go, and it all rushes forward in a gush of hopeful inertia that concludes by feeding a lot of hungry people.

As a person who works in marketing, I sometimes get antsy sitting at the committee table as we continue to splinter off the main “brand” (Business Cares) to create other off-shoots that are smaller (but very important) parts of the bigger goal. Usually, you want to keep to one defining brand name and stick to it, otherwise you risk confusing people. But the many cooks in the Business Cares kitchen have their own unique ways of contributing and a lot of terrific sub-brands have been the result. Some examples are “Be a Fan, Bring a Can” (where sports fans are encouraged to bring food donations to the Budweiser Gardens arena prior to select dates for the IBL’s London Lightning basketball team and the OHL’s London Knights hockey team), Golfer’s Care” (a one-night event that gathers local golf enthusiasts for an evening of fundraising and entertainment) and what has come to be known as “Metro Weekend”  (a two-day volunteer effort of canvassing in front of several local grocery stores). Each of these activities could be their own brands and/or stand-alone efforts in their own right. But they aren’t. It could all end up being confusing. But it isn’t. It’s all part of the machinery and magic that is the larger effort called Business Cares. And it works.

At this past weekend's Metro grocery store drive. Photo courtesy Business Cares website

At this past weekend’s Metro grocery store drive. Photo courtesy Business Cares website

You’ll sometimes hear negative things about big business. You may hear some not-so-nice things about small business, too. And yet I believe that the world of business remains similar to people in general: most of them are good and decent. A select few sometimes cloud it for the rest. But when something like this rolls around, I’m reminded of just how kind-hearted and hard-working most people can be.

Businesses of all kinds get involved. Over 400 companies find a way to contribute what they can to Business Cares. Some challenge other industry competitors to raise the most food. Some rally their staff and adopt the cause as their own. And some simply display a poster and drop box for food. All of it is valuable.

Business Cares committee Chairman, Wayne Dunn, interviewed by Brian Bicknell from CTV News.

Business Cares committee Chairman, Wayne Dunn, interviewed by Brian Bicknell from CTV News.

It will all wrap up at County Heritage Forest Products on Tuesday, December 23rd. There will be last-minute cheque presentations and other eleventh-hour surprises that morning. There always are. It is, for me, one of the best parts of Christmas and a reminder that the true spirit of the season does still exist. It is genuinely heartwarming.

Wayne says that “Taking care of business means taking care of people.” Ironically, it’s people that have to take care of any business. And in this case, the businesses come together to help more people. And when those people are empowered and truly believe in what they’re doing, they work, put their egos aside, and are well-equipped to successfully arrive at a mutual, positive goal. Business Cares is proof of this, and I give Wayne Dunn and everyone who participates loads of credit for it.

In my experience, it usually doesn’t work to have “too many cooks.” But this is a crowded, happy kitchen that thrives because it’s driven by genuine good feelings and honest efforts.

You’re welcome to join us.

Please bring more food.

Business CaresFor more information about Business Cares and to learn how to donate or participate, please visit www.businesscares.ca or connect on Facebook or Twitter.

Stories From a Short Track, Vol. 1: “Dipstick Down”

Here’s a True Story  …

In my days as Sales and Marketing Director at Delaware Speedway (a half-mile stock car racing track near London, Ontario, Canada), we were always looking for ways to expand our fan base and broaden our demographic.

And we wanted to appeal to kids. Future customers.

At one point, we came upon the notion that, perhaps, the track would benefit from the presence of a “mascot;” you know, like the San Diego Chicken, to whom the kids would relate. Armed with the knowledge that Charlotte Motor Speedway had such a mascot, named “Lugnut,” we decided to embark upon our own characterized adventure. After some deliberation, we settled upon the name “Dipstick,” for three main reasons:

  1. A dipstick was part of any vehicle’s engine. It’s how you checked the oil!
  1. “Dipstick” was what Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane often called Deputy Enos in the TV Show, “The Dukes of Hazzard”
  1. We wanted to poke a little bit of fun at ourselves

After agreeing on the name, I can well remember the discussions of character design: should he have a “T”-shaped head, or a “loop?”

We began examining the dipsticks of any nearby vehicle we could find and, in time, decided that a “T”-shaped head would make for a better character.

Yeah.

We also embarked upon the task of finding a company that could actually design and construct the costume for us (We eventually found a business based out of Edmonton, Alberta. The name escapes me, but they were the ones that made the costume).

In the preliminary drawings, Dipstick actually looked pretty cool, and somewhat agile.

In reality, he was shipped to us in a giant crate. And the costume inside ended up being one big, rigid, giant, heavy box that afforded the person inside almost no mobility, limited visibility and nothing for reach but the equivalent of little T-Rex arms.

In short, a lot of money later, Dipstick was a disaster.

Whoops.

Undaunted, we decided to unveil our new creation to the “world” (or, about 1500 people) at the race track’s annual appearance a London Knights Ontario Hockey League game (note: this was back in the day when the Knights played in a rinky-dink arena and few people followed them with much passion. Nowadays, the Knights pack around 9,000 people into almost every home game. This event pre-dated that trend).

Between periods, our new mascot was to take to the ice to wave to the fans and thereby represent the race track proudly and convert all in attendance at that hockey game into instant stock car racing fans. The plan was foolproof!

When the time came, the players left for their dressing rooms and the zamboni set about its duty, flooding one clean patch of ice down the middle of the rink to begin the task of cleaning the playing surface.

Dipstick stepped out in front of the fans and took a few tentative steps on the frozen stage. Gaining confidence with each step, he shuffled further into the center of the rink, only to come across the freshly flooded center spot where the Zamboni had just recently been.

“Whoosh!”

As soon as Dipstick hit that flooded patch of ice, his feet went out from under him.

The box-like behemoth of a mascot landed with a resounding thud, and it quickly became apparent that the dimensions of the costume were going to make it a challenge for the person inside to get up and resume entertaining the crowd.

As if that were the only problem.

Dipstick Down! Me & Stephen Richmond (in the blue and white race suit) try to help our fallen mascot. Photo by Janice Richmond.

Dipstick Down! Me & Stephen Richmond (in the blue and white race suit) try to help our fallen mascot. Photo by Janice Richmond.

With Dipstick flat on his back, in front of the crowd during intermission of a hockey game at the old London Ice House, I walked over to him, along with young Stephen Richmond, a Delaware Speedway Junior Racing League competitor at the time. When we arrived at our fallen mascot, we both figured that we’d be able to take his hand and lift him back to his feet.

But that didn’t work.

We tried to raise him off the ice.

Nothing.

We tried again.

He didn’t budge.

It was then that I realized, with our newly minted mascot lying flat-out on our local hockey team’s playing surface, that we had a bigger problem on our hands.

Dipstick had frozen to the ice.

The “flood” left by the zamboni mixed with the fabric of Dipstick’s costume and, by the time he’d fallen, the water had frozen, taking Dipstick’s upper body with it.

He was stuck.

True story.

I can well remember it. People in the stands were howling. Tyler Anderson, who was inside the costume, was flat on his back and staring straight up at the ceiling. He commented that all he could see were, “bright lights.”

We eventually got him up and off the ice surface, and the game continued. I can’t recall who won.

But I can tell you this:

Next time you come up with the “next great idea,” take a few extra days and think it through. Once you’ve examined every angle, you may find it’ll work out fine.

Then again, you may end up with your Dipstick stuck to the ice.

Recording Journal Vol. 34: “Another Good Week”

Things seem to be moving along quickly. It’s been two weeks since I stepped aside from my role as weeknight host at BX93 radio and I’ve had no trouble at all filling the time. In fact, the challenge is to not let the cup “runneth over” yet again.

When you’re having fun, it’s hard to know when to say when.

It is Friday night and I suppose I should be full of vim and vigour and looking for excitement. Instead, I’m stifling yawns between sentences. I find that I get more than my fill of challenge and excitement through the week. I’m tired. I will be quite content to finish off this entry and then retire to my couch to watch the final period of our London Knights (OHL hockey) against Windsor’s Spitfires (after two periods, the bad guys are ahead 1-0). After that, a late winter’s nap sounds quite nice. I’m sure the world can spin around without me if I decide to retire early.

KG (Kevin Gorman) and I have made some good progress on the “No Schedule Man” CD since I last wrote. We’ve now captured the lead vocals for all tracks, having recorded several takes for what figures to be the lead track, “Hope Over Hurt,” earlier this week. We then continued on into recording our first round of harmony vocals and have added some layering to “Awake (But Not Alive),” “No Schedule Man” and “Bagley Avenue.” Already those songs are starting to “pop” more. It’s amazing what a little harmony will do if it’s done well and in the right places. It’s one of the things I think people will notice when they hear the record, and that’ll be largely because of KG’s ear for harmony and talent for helping me put my ideas into something that actually sounds good.

A fun part of working out the backing vocals is deciding who should sing them. Interestingly, KG and seem to naturally agree without ever having discussed it. There are some songs where it seems obvious that his voice would be the natural fit, and some where we both agree that I should do it. Then there are others that require three or four-part harmony. Those could all be done by the same voice or be a mix of voices. It all depends on the sound you’re looking for.

And then there is the stuff that KG and I cannot do without help. We both agree that we need and want a female voice for certain parts in songs like “Hope Over Hurt,” “Kevin’s Prayer,” “Awake (But Not Alive)” and maybe even “Orlando.” Luckily, we’ve got several good options in terms of talented people to bring in to help out.

I’ve been in touch with one talented young lady I hope to have sing on the CD in two particular spots. I’ve been hearing her voice on those songs in my mind for months and it would be neat if she can do it. I’ll let you know later on whether it happens and, if so, if it works out or not.

When I’ve not been at the studio, KG has been working hard at editing, mixing and re-recording parts of his (piano, percussion, etc). It’s an enormous amount of work and he’s doing such a great job. It will be a wonderful celebration for us both once the CD is actually finished. I cannot begin to express how truly grateful I am for the chance to collaborate with Kev. It is a privilege.

Away from the studio, a lot of the critical “behind the scenes” work is on-going. CD artwork is being worked out. Duplication company quotes are coming in. Promotional calls are going out (and coming back in). Websites are being developed (Reverb Nation profile) and re-worked (www.kevinbulmer.com). Merchandise is being designed. New logos, images and texts are being created for promotional use. And of course, the CD release event plans are moving forward.

After chipping away at this very steadily a time or two a week for the last nine months, it is suddenly all feeling very real. And it’s a hoot.

I’d love to have you come along for the ride. Please feel welcome to visit my new, still-under-construction profile at Reverb Nation (www.reverbnation.com/kevinbulmer).

Meantime, KG and I will keep chipping away. We’re up to number 3 on the Reverb Nation Folk chart for this area, and all the way up to 1,188th in the world (all together now: “We’re 1,188th! We’re 1,188th!). Imagine what could happen when we actually have some new music to share and start playing real live shows again?

We’ll be featured on the Local Spotlight on CKXS FM (99.1) Radio in Wallaceburg the week of April 26, culminated by a live in-studio interview and performance on the 30th. We expect to have a new single or two out for that time, which would also be a great chance to launch our “Street Team,” which will happen soon.

And of course, we’ve got a CD release show to plan. Experience tells me that’ll be here sooner than I think.

Anyway, the Knights just tied the game (now 1-1 in the third). Best go grab some couch and see if the lads can make it 100 points on the season for the sixth time in seven years. Quite remarkable, really.

You never know what you can achieve once you set your mind to it.

Be well,

Kevin

Recording Journal, Vol. 33: “Movin’ Right Along”

Presently I am listening to Will Kimbrough’s “Another Train.” It is such a great melody, it makes me feel like running around the block and howling at the moon.

But I digress.

I am pleased to report that KG and I are once again ripping it up. We pushed through three recording sessions this week, our first since prior to Christmas. Kev is doing well and his studio is up and running and that = renewed momentum for us.

This week, KG made me sing the song “Orlando” until I was ready to puke. Monday? Orlando. Tuesday? Orlando. Friday? Orlando. Good thing I like the song, otherwise I’d never want to go to that city again.

In fairness, Kev is just trying to get the best out of me. That’s a tough job, because there’s not much to “get.” But I am doing my best. I figure that’s all I can do, and then next time I’ll do better. I suppose time will tell.

In between multiple vocal takes of “Orlando,” I also sang six or seven takes of “No Schedule Man” on Tuesday night. I fear KG is going to ask me to sing it again this coming Tuesday, but if he does I’ll know it’s because he’s trying to get the best out of me

Or possibly he’s trying to torture me.

We also got the guitar recorded for the song “Hope Over Hurt” this week. I’m relieved to be able to say that as I had been stressing a little bit over the potential for me to kack that song. But if Kev thinks it’s good enough, then I’m satisfied. So we’ll move on to singing it next.

Meantime, there are all sorts of “behind the scenes” things going on. This week I met with the venue owner of the place where we’ll probably do our CD release. I also got “No Schedule Man” registered on CD Baby with a tentative release date of June 15th. That was done so I could get the bar code to put on the CD artwork, which I delivered to my great good pal Jeff from CPT Entertainment so that he can help me with that end of it.

Work has also been done on creating some “No Schedule Man,” “Kevin Bulmer Enterprises” and “Hope Over Hurt” merchandise and I look forward to sharing news of that with you soon.

A very special thanks goes to all those who have already voiced their support. I am grateful beyond words. It truly feels as though you are willing this train up the hill so that KG and I may take our ideas of hope and togetherness to the streets and try to make whatever positive difference we can. Thank you so very much.

In other important news, I enjoyed watching Canada’s men’s hockey team win the Olympic gold medal the other day with my mates Ken Alward and Grandpa Big Dog, along with my two boys. Both my kids are excited about hockey and I’m doing little to discourage them. Playing out on the driveway is great fun and brings back wonderful memories.

In fact, just last night I took my three-year-old pal to his first-ever hockey game, an OHL tilt won by our London Knights, 5-2 over Kitchener. Great times. Lucky dad.

As for music, we started this project last June. We are poised to finally share it this coming June. To say that I am proud would be a ridiculous understatement.

You’ll be hearing from us.

Be good,

– Kevin

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