a cool entrepreneurial city that I can help move forward

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Yang Li photographed in Hintonburg in front of The Ministry of Coffee.

We photograph such a wide variety of people for loveOttawa, all with different backgrounds and unique stories. Art Director, Yang Li, has a very cool story and perspective. As a new immigrant, he moved to Canada from Bejing, China when he was 18. He attended art school in New Brunswick, then landed his first job as a graphic designer in Ottawa. He quickly fell in love with the city. Yang really enjoys the friendliness, the freedoms that living here offers and he loves how Ottawa is progressing as an entrepreneurial city.

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

You moved to Canada from Beijing when you were 18 to go to school. You could have moved and lived anywhere after school – why did you choose Ottawa, and why did you stay?

“Serendipity brought me to Ottawa. Little did I know, I’d end up falling in love with the city! In the past 10 years, our city has been going through gentrifications, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, and it’s happening at a steady pace. I’m really starting to see a more progressive city and people really do care about supporting local businesses and entrepreneurs. I think this is very important, because they shape the commercial landscape and make Ottawa unique.

As a creative person, I love visiting big cities like New York City, Paris and Helsinki…but I always think to myself, “If everybody moves to the ‘cool’ cities, who will be building and adding to the coolness of our own town?”. Most importantly, in Ottawa I have met so many great friends over the years whom I see as my family.”

Are there any specific things about Ottawa that you love the most?

“I love going to art exhibits at the National Gallery of Canada or watching an old movie surrounded by Mayfair Theatre’s old world charm. The Rockcliffe Parkway is my favourite drive in the city. I also love how close I am to nature, the Rideau Canal, the Ottawa River, city wide trails and paths and Gatineau Park. I adore Lansdowne Park because I believe public spaces play a vital role in creating a sense of community and promote human interaction. We need more urban parks.”

As a creative person, what are your favourite places to spend time? Do you have any favourite restaurants, bars or cafés?
Ministry of Coffee in Hintonburg is my favourite place to have a morning coffee and kick start my day, but I also like Bridgehead as it’s conveniently located in my building. I like Dosa, Streetside Curry, Flapjack’s and Urban Cowboy food trucks for lunch. I love El Camino on Elgin when I get my taco cravings and I go to Local at Lansdowne if a game is on. The newly opened Belmont in Old Ottawa South has a cool menu for food and drinks. For special occasions, I go to Taylor’s Genuine Food and Wine Bar. They source fresh local ingredients and prepare them with heart.”

As a relatively new resident of Ottawa, are there any hidden gems that you love, that you’d share with someone new to our city or even just visiting?

“Water Plaza, located at the southeast corner of the Great Lawn at Lansdowne Park, is a nice place to hang out with friends or just to read a book. In future, it will be a reflecting pool with the soothing sounds of cascading water from the “uplift” monument. I was there while it was still under construction, so I can say that I got first dibs on those cool multi-tiered continuous benches.”

You like to get around on your long board. Do you use it to commute or is it more for leisure? Where do you love to take it?

“I do the occasional commute to work on my longboard, but I use it mostly for pleasure, a weekend or evening ride along the canal.”

Thanks Yang for sharing what you love about Ottawa! If you’d like to follow Yang Li on social media, you can find him on twitter at: @hyperdirector and on Instagram at: @hyperdirector

for the love of food and sharing it with ottawa

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Tanya Whelan photographed in front of Ottawa’s War Memorial.

Tanya Whelan is the founder of TW Events, and the host of the Ottawa Street Eats Festival, which takes place tomorrow August 1st, at the Aviation Museum.

This first year event features some of the city´s top culinary food trucks and craft breweries, bringing together food experts and lovers.

The creation of TW Events came about when Tanya, who received her professional training at Algonquin College and has always worked in the industry, was faced with some health challenges, resulting in the loss of her ability to taste food. Her passion for culinary delights sparked the idea of a festival where Ottawans could not only taste new cuisine and sip delicious craft beers, but also connect with chefs and brewmasters directly and share their enthusiasm for local.


© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

Please tell us more about your event this weekend.

“Street Eats is about celebrating our local talent from craft beers to homemade pulled pork. Come and hear their stories as we interview each vendor and dance around the outdoor patio!  We are trying to do something different than the regular food festivals and we are really thinking about your experience and the vendors´ experience. For our guests we have set up games, tents, lots of seating, free parking for the first 200 cars, going green with compost stations and partnering with Escape Bike tours, providing live music by the Lionyls, a rock/soul band from 2-7pm and a DJ from Dsound to open and close the night. We are joined by five local craft breweries (Kichesippi, Mill Street, Beaus, Big Rig, Whitewater), seven food trucks (Angry Dragonz, Bytown Bayou, Original Souvlaki, Rico Peru and more), one Caribbean grill (Island Grill restaurant), two dessert booths (Deep fried chocolate and Ice Cream), and one gourmet coffee bar (BrewBar).”

What do you love the most about Ottawa?

“I love the culture, the rising passion for quality food, the huge festivals like Bluesfest and Jazzfest. I love how we preserve the beauty and greenery in this city. There are so many gorgeous places to sit and watch the sunset, lie in a park or beach, or take a windy road drive.”

When you’re not planning your own events, where do you love to eat and/or have a drink?

“I love to eat out so much, even with my new metal mouth (as I call it!) Some of my favourites are Murray Street, Melos and Fraser Cafe.”

Are there any hidden gems you’d love to share with someone new to Ottawa?

Melos is one for sure. It looks like a normal diner but you have to go inside for dinner. It’s delicious and extremely creative. They also have the best burger, I think. It’s like a grilled cheese/burger. We need to get rid of the burger bun and use sandwich bread. This leads me to my other favourite gem off the beaten path, Art Is In bakery. They have the most delicious sandwiches and soups, all homemade!”

Don´t miss out on this unique event, which will run from noon to 8 pm!

For more information about Tanya Whelan and her event marketing company: and/or follow her on twitter at: @tweventsottawa

a helping hand – the loveRailbender initiative

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Alex Néron and Marta Jarzabek photographed in 2014 in their studio.

One of the prevailing themes that Anita and I are always hearing mentioned, when we meet and photograph people for loveOttawa, is kindness. We’re also very proud that many people love the generous and independent nature of businesses in Ottawa. Small business is definitely at the heart of our city.

If you’ve met the newlyweds, Alex Néron and Marta Jarzabek, who own and run Railbender Studio, you would know that they are kind, humble and very community minded individuals. Like many small business owners they are faced with the usual challenges of paying rent, expenses and moving their business forward. Right now, however, Alex and Marta have been presented a very challenging curve ball, in the shape of Alex being diagnosed with colon cancer.

© dwayne brown studio –  Alex and Marta photographed in 2014 in their studio.

Alex has started his sessions with chemotherapy this week, with Marta by his side, and they are doing this with great courage and a positive heart. They are also looking into some integrative naturopathic therapies offered by the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre. Along with the positive support of family and friends, they are doing absolutely everything in their power to face this overwhelming health challenge.

Last weekend I attended Alex and Marta’s small and beautiful wedding reception and I was touched by how loved they are by their family, friends and community. I was also reminded that a few days later they would need to face the challenge of fighting Alex’s cancer. When Anita and I talked about this, we knew that in addition to this, they would also be faced with the financial pinch of extra expenses. In light of this, we wanted to help raise some reserve funds and have created a simple way for others to lend a hand.

After looking into the logistics, we shared the idea with Alex and Marta. They were initially overwhelmed and appreciative yet reluctant, because they’re a proud young couple who take full responsibilities for their lives. After a few days of chemotherapy and all the emotions of the week, they called us late last night to humbly say yes to any help we could offer.

Something that life has taught Anita and I, is that a little love goes a long, long way. It is so important to pull together when things get tough. We have created a simple initiative called loveRailbender. It consists of an e-transfer that will allow funds to go directly into Alex and Marta’s hands. If you wish to help in any way, please do so using Internet banking by directing the to the following e-mail address:

All e-mails, e-transfers and best wishes will be forwarded to Alex and Marta. Thank you in advance for your support and generosity.

showing off ottawa, one canal run at a time

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Westin Ottawa staff participating in the runWESTIN program.

The very best part of our loveOttawa project is meeting great people who love the city. We also love learning about local businesses (big and small), who have unique approaches to taking care of their customers, and in The Westin Ottawa’s case, their guests. The hotel has a really cool program called runWESTIN. The concierge staff offer accompanied morning and afternoon runs along the Rideau Canal for their guests throughout the week. We love this, because in addition to The Westin caring for their guest’s health, they’re also proudly showing off Ottawa!

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

smiles, kindness, and all around grooviness

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Sarah and Jessica, photographed in Hintonburg’s Bread By Us.

Anyone who’s stopped in Bread By Us, knows what we mean when we say “it’s Ottawa’s kindest bakery!”. This small, independent Hintonburg bakery exudes humility, friendliness and hard work – not to mention the comforting smell of freshly baked bread! It was lovely for us to have the opportunity to photograph Sarah and Jessica, the owners of Bread By Us. Sarah and Jess are excellent examples of social entrepreneurs, who deeply care about putting out a delicious and honest product, while embracing a slow-food philosophy and also helping the local community. When we asked them about their business, they quoted a recently departed staff member who so eloquently described their bakery. “In this day and age it seems being kind and open-minded is an act of rebellion, which is why Bread By Us will remain in my memory as a safe, inclusive space, where smiles, hard work, and all around grooviness stand strong in the face of adversity and opposition.”

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project


What do each of you love about Ottawa the most?

Sarah: “Ottawa has been my home for several years now. In that time, I have come to appreciate it as a place I can easily learn and navigate. It has all of the amenities of a large city, but conjures the feelings and comfort of a smaller town. It is relatively easy to find and connect with communities. I enjoy the proximity to nature, and the beauty that surrounds Ottawa, especially in the summer when everything and everyone seems to come to life.”

Jess: “Ottawa is, and will forever be home, which is why I cannot properly describe it without emotional bias. It would feel shallow for me to describe my love for Ottawa only in terms of its buildings and waterways, or its festivals and restaurants, although all of those things have their charm. Ottawa conjures up positive feelings of comfort and family. I most love the radical, out-spoken, and open-hearted people that make up this city’s social fabric. I have made my most meaningful human connections in this city.”

What is it about the Hintonburg community that you love?

We cannot say enough how much we ABSOLUTELY LOVE Hintonburg. It was a huge blessing that we found a suitable space for our bakery in this hood. We could go on and on about the abundance of amazing independent businesses that truly are gems, but it really comes down to the people who live here. We see anywhere from 100-200 people come through the store on any given day, and we truly believe this neighbourhood has some of the most loving, open, and creative people in the city. It is dense with artists and community activists, and just generally plugged-in people. We are hard-pressed to think of another place we have come to know where people are as interesting and caring as they are in Hintonburg.”

Have you seen a positive change in Ottawa over the past few years and has it been helpful for your business?

We were fairly in tuned with our intuition that Ottawans were ready for more high-quality, artisan bread. Compared to other major cities, we knew there was room for more bread bakeries in Ottawa, and based on our conversations with people, we knew people’s knowledge and awareness of the importance of “real bread” was growing. The slow-food and artisan bread movement has finally hit our city in the last few years thanks to some pioneer bakeries in the city, and we felt the timing was right for us.”

Are there any cafes, restaurants and/or bars that you love to spend time at when you’re not busy with Bread-By-Us?

Heck yes!! It is hard to narrow it down, but here goes:

We have a ritual on most Mondays (when we are closed at the bakery) to start off the morning slowly with our second-favourite coffee in the city (after ours of course), at the Wild Oat Bakery. Their coffee is seriously spot-on, and their breakfast is a delight.

Our favourite spot for lunch is The Pantry inside the Glebe community centre. Caroline is one of the finest and most creative veggie chefs around.

Take-out is almost always Fairmont Confectionary, which turns out amazing Thai/Laotian dishes. We eat from Fairmont guilt-free at least weekly. When it’s not Fairmont, it is Tennessee Willems for superb pizza and company. The staff there are so kind, and their food is killer. We are thoroughly enjoying their in-house lemonade cocktail right now.

For a special night out it’s The Manx Pub for their delicious pub food, and veggie friendly options. The vibe is always cozy and groovy.

For the most special of evenings, it’s got to be Murray Street Kitchen, which in our minds, is the most ambitious, creative, and consistent restaurant in the city.”

Thanks so much Sarah and Jess for such a great shoot and your thoughtful insights on Ottawa! For more information about Bread By Us, you can take a peek at or better yet, drop in to say hi to the girls, and try one of their delicious sandwiches!