Kayla Zawiski first moved to Kitchener Waterloo two years ago, she felt right at home.
“I had the opportunity to live and work in different places … it never fully felt like I belonged somewhere until I came to KW,” Zawiski, 27, said.
As a result, Zawiski felt it was right to show her love for KW through her website, The Local Advocate. This online initiative aims to engage with the people of the Region while highlighting local businesses through blog posts and photos.
“It really started as a passion project for myself,” Zawiski, who started the initiative back in September 2017, said.
Zawiski, who is currently a graduate student at the University of Waterloo in the masters of digital experience innovation program, is also currently a business consultant with prior experience in social media management.
But now, Zawiski said she had the opportunity to give back.
And that Zawiski did, by sharing her thoughts on what the Region had to offer for a young professional, like herself, online. Whether its highlighting a Galentine’s Clay Workshop on her community calendar, or writing a blog post on the recently opened Swine & Vine, Zawiski wants to make sure that residents and visitors to KW are not only being informed about these opportunities, but are also actively engaging in them.
“That’s what the most important thing is. Getting out. Not talking over DMs, instead of just liking an Instagram post, going out to get a coffee, or talking to the owner,” Zawiski said.
According to Zawiski, what differentiates KW from the other cities that she’s lived in, including her hometown Toronto, is the ability to be more independent as a millennial professional.
“What I noticed about young professionals that move here … It’s all about them not feeling at home in the cities they we were born in. And we’re all a little bit quirky,” Zawiski said. “We’ve all kind of grown up and been not part of a certain crew and kind of been friends with everyone but never felt like we were completely included into one specific group.
“Coming here, you really have an opportunity to kind of create your own game room and instead of just having to follow along and play the pieces that someone has dealt to you, you are the creator of your own life,” Zawiski said. “In other cities, especially Toronto, in order to succeed and grow a lot of the times you are confined by what people tell you to do and what’s available. So the opportunities for entrepreneurship can be incredible.”
Zawiski admits that there has been some “flack” for the fact that she covers a limited amount of opportunities that KW has to offer, but also believes that the solution to this issue is collaborating.
“Obviously Kitchener Waterloo is an inclusive community for everybody. There are things and resources available for different demographics,” Zawiski said. “For me, what I wanted to do, I know that I’m not able to please everyone. [For instance] I’m not a live-music person. So that’s why there’s not a live-music part on the site. But if you’re into live-music then I encourage everyone in this town to share it … this is my personal amalgamation of what I like.”
Some notable organizations and KW figures that Zawiski has recently collaborated with are RFB Developments and Jenna van Klaveren, founder of Cult KW.
Having seen the sudden increase in online followers and feedback, Zawiski knows that this platform she created has the potential to be something more for the Region.
“It kind of started with me, but it’s so much bigger than [that],” Zawiski said. “It started out as a way to express my love but now it has so many capabilities and I want everyone to know that it is now no longer about [that].”
So what’s next for the Local Advocate?
“The point is for the Local Advocate to grow enough so that anyone who has a positive or critical feedback or experience, that they have an outlet to share it,” Zawiski said. “My goal is to build the brand and spread the word, and just continue to spread the love of KW, but hopefully to get people encouraged and motivated to even just write a food article or come out to an event.”
The next meetup that the Local Advocate is organizing will take place Feb. 9 at Swine & Vine. More information can be found at thelocaladvocate.ca.
This article has been changed from its original form on Feb. 14, 2018.