Photo: Desire2Learn’s Greg Boyd welcomes a crowd of cheese lovers to the Communitech Hub. (Communitech Photo: Yannish Jutton)

The Communitech Hub kitchen was packed with 70 people intently staring at small plates filled with cheese, grapes and crusty bread.

At the front of the room, master cheese maker Shep Ysselstein of Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese was leading the group through a personalized tasting of his small-batch, hand-crafted cheese.

This wasn’t a traditional Communitech event. This gathering was for snackers, not hackers.

Instead, the after-hours networking reception last Thursday, the brainchild of Desire2Learn’s Greg Boyd, brought together foodies from Communitech, Desire2Learn and Google. Attendees nibbled on three different types of cheese from Gunn’s Hill, fresh breads from Golden Hearth Bakery and washed it all down with two types of beer provided by Block Three Brewing Company.

Why was there a cheese tasting at Communitech? To answer that question you have to follow the story back to Boyd, a member of Desire2Learn’s Strategic Accounts team for the past three years.

He’s also worked part-time at Mickey McGuire’s Cheese stall at the Kitchener Market for two years.

“I’ve always been passionate about food,” Boyd said. “The energy and vibe at the market is fantastic. I suggested that I’d be able to help grow the business.”

Boyd has taken his skills in sales and applied them to help food-industry entrepreneurs succeed.

“What takes place over a six-month sales process at work takes four to five minutes at the stall. But I’m applying the same principles. It’s about more than buying cheese at the market. It’s about an experience that people want to take home to their family and friends.”

Boyd sparked a friendship with Ysselstein because he wanted to learn more about the product that was consistently popular at his stall. Since then, Boyd has visited the Woodstock, Ontario farm, helped make cheese and most recently supported Ysselstein in his quest to win the 2014 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award.

He asked his colleagues and friends to help Ysselstein win. After that, the obvious next step was to get the cheese into the bellies of Gunn’s Hill’s new Tannery-based supporters.

Boyd invited Ysselstein, along with Kitchener-based bakery Golden Hearth and St. Jacobs-based Block Three Brewery, to host a low-key tasting event.

“People got engaged, he won and people wanted to learn more and see how he was growing his business,” Boyd said.

Boyd has noticed that his colleagues aren’t interested in just consuming, but want to get involved and help local entrepreneurs. The event became a fusion of local entrepreneurs across industries.

The fit was perfect, because he’s noticed that people in the tech industry aren’t just about consuming, but also want to get involved and help. Where other people might just go and buy cheese, those comfortable with an entrepreneurial life take it to that next step and help sell cheese and grow a business.

“Everyone has a side hobby and passions of some kind,” he said. “How can you translate that into a business and keep passion? We want to help.”

Boyd notices that his enthusiasm for sharing better food and supporting local business is helping to connect people back to their food and community spirit. He’s also seen his side passion impact his day-to-day life at Desire2Learn.

“It’s helped me understand what I get excited and passionate about. I bring that into more social activities in the company, like the event we just ran. People are interested in food.”


Maybe cheese isn’t your passion. That’s OK; there’s a lot more going on to keep you excited this week. I see and hear that… the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery has launched a 6 Word Story Contest. They want to know your story about the gallery – but you only have six words to tell it. You can submit entries online or in person. The contest runs until Aug. 17… This Thursday, July 31, Castle Kilbride is inviting you to enjoy the Summer Concert Series. Starting at 7 p.m., Rescue Junction will serenade you on the lawns of the historical site. Admission is by donation, and it looks like it will be a beautiful night for a drive out to Baden… and finally, the Sports Bike Car Show will roar into Waterloo Town Square this Sunday, Aug. 3, starting at 10 a.m. The event mixes sports cars, motor bikes, food and drink vendors and a family fun zone…. To celebrate the Civic Holiday long weekend, Open Streets Uptown Waterloo is hosting a special play day in collaboration with the show, and will close down King Street between William Street and Bridgeport Road from 1 to 5 p.m.

Have suggestions about events I should be checking out? Drop me a line or tweet me @write_girl.