A Heart of Gold: Calgary’s Relentless Entrepreneurial Spirit ft. the Recess Shop

As you may know, Homes and Lifestyles is a show written, filmed and created by Calgarians, about Calgarians, for Calgarians! We like Calgary – have you heard?

All jokes aside, we have some mad love for this big little city of ours. It’s full of dreamers, doers and ambitious humans who hustle hard and together make up the vibrant pulse that Calgary is known and loved for. With this energy on a constant high, it makes people passionate, encouraging authenticity and a deliberate mandate to be true to yourself.

Being a part of this incredible community is what makes our big (little) town somewhere that you can not only dream, but also become a part of something bigger than yourself. Our metropolis has been handed a few very large lemons, but time and time again Calgary has managed to turn them into some very delicious lemonade.

One particular person that is a true example of this is Kyle Chow, founder of Recess Shop and Plant, both located in the heart of Calgary’s historic neighbourhood of Inglewood. Kyle is one of the many entrepreneurs and small business owners in Calgary who is genuinely so excited to share their dreams and passion with the rest of the world and this energy is radiated through every vein that runs through both of his businesses. Even if plants or stationary aren’t your thing, they certainly will be after talking to Kyle for a mere 5 minutes tops.

We had the exciting opportunity to sit down for a quick chat with Kyle and we were blown away at the tenacious spirit that drives him to be a small business owner in Calgary day in and day out. Saying that his passion is inspiring is by far an understatement. Take a read below to find out a bit about Kyle’s story, what inspired him to open a stationery shop and some tips for aspiring entrepreneurs in Calgary.

What inspired you to become an entrepreneur in the first place?

I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, It started with an Iced Tea Wagon that my friend and I set up at our local community college when we were 8 or 9. I’ve always been excited about creating things on my own, and initiating projects I had imagined. I wanted to be an entrepreneur to be in charge of all the decisions and details when running a business. Watching my dad running his own successful company gave me an idea of what it entailed, while revealing that I liked the idea of having the creative control to execute, unhindered by other decision makers.

Was there a specific “aha” moment?

There wasn’t a definitive “aha” moment- more like several over time as you move beyond what you think is sensible or even possible. You find new ways to do things or you come up with a new idea and that can just blow the doors of creativity wide open. It has taken consistent effort on a regular basis to fully realize my ideas, and even then, it’s never done. In all honesty, growth and opening my businesses came out of necessity. Each stage built on what I had created before it.

What motivates you when you wake up in the morning?

I am motivated each morning to constantly evolve my businesses. I strive to make my shops feel new and fresh each time a customer comes through the doors. You may visit every couple of weeks or every few months, but each time you will find new products, new ideas, and a fun, approachable, exciting environment.

Where did the inspiration to open a stationery shop come from?

My inspiration to open a stationery shop stemmed from my early childhood love of pens and paper. I never wanted toys as a kid, I just wanted my desk and all the supplies to fill it. I would sit for hours organizing my books and pencils, practicing my printing and handwriting. My love of tactility grew and grew, before I opened the shops I was a practicing graphic designer for a number of years, so utilizing stationery and collecting notebooks and pens was second nature for me.

What is the concept behind Recess Shop? 

The idea to open Recess came when I could only get my inspiration and products mostly outside of Calgary. I wanted to create a place where you could find, discover and enjoy the really unique, beautiful, and functional things that I’d only seen while visiting other cities. It’s such a joy to find small ways of contributing to the evolving culture here in Calgary, and being part of a small business community that helps make Calgary a great place to visit, and an even better place to live.

What is the premise behind Recess? Shop

We spend so much time in the digital realm, and I really think there is just so much value in slowing down, and literally putting a pen to paper. I know for me it helps me map out ideas and think more creatively, and I think there are a lot of people out there who feel the same. There is something so simple about it, so accessible. You don’t need anything fancy to get a good idea going: just a simple pen and paper will do the trick.

What has been your largest struggle since starting your own business?

Demands on your time as an entrepreneur are challenging. For a long time, my wife and I (and some wonderful friends and family members) WERE the business, and there were times when you burned out because it takes so much time and energy just making it work. As the business has grown and expanded, roles have shifted and that comes with different demands, including setting up processes to explain to others the things that have been buzzing around in my own head for years. To make explicit the things that you just do without thinking is a real challenge, so you need a great team to help you translate it and put it into action. We’re fortunate to have a talented and dedicated crew that does just that. If I’m being totally honest, my biggest struggle is living up to my own expectations. It’s always a work in progress.

What advice do you have for any aspiring entrepreneurs? Where do you recommend that you start?

My advice is to start with your interests, the things that you spend your time reading about, follow on social media, where you put your energy in your free time. Then from there get excited and gather information. Inform yourself about what others are doing: as inspiration, as a jumping off point for your own ideas, as a way to find out what is and isn’t being done already. Find gaps in the market, and find your own take- the things that will set you apart.

If you have not had the opportunity to check out this beautiful stationary shop, we highly recommend it. However, prepare yourself for some serious stationary envy!

Missed catching the Recess Shop being featured on Homes and Lifestyles? Check it out here!