Halifax restaurant enVie hopes to spark healthy revolution through grant contest

Owners of vegan restaurant would spend $10,000 on new kitchen and more.

Hoping to expand their business, the owners of enVie – A Vegan Kitchen have entered a small business grant contest to win $10,000.

Diandra Phipps and her husband, Cory Urquhart, launched enVie in 2013. Initially a to-go food service, enVie has grown into a restaurant and offers cooking classes, juice cleanses, nutritional consulting and catering.

Located on Charles Street in Halifax’s north end, Phipps says there isn’t enough room at their space to accommodate their many services.

“Our kitchen is quite small. We’re just being forced into a bigger space,” said Phipps.  “It’s not a bad thing. It’s a great thing.”

In order to expand their business, enVie entered in the ADP small business grant contest. The winners will be awarded a $10,000 cash prize and a year of waived payroll fees.

The contest runs Nov. 1 – April 30. People are encouraged to vote for the small business they would like to see win the contest. The winners will be selected from a panel of judges. In total, six small businesses will win the prize.

“It gets the community involved, so it’s really nice to see the community supporting us in something like this,” said Phipps.

With more than 1,400 votes cast for enVie, Phipps said there has been incredible support from the community.

“People believe in what we do,” she said. “They see the value of it and they want to help.”

For Diandra Phipps, co-owner enVie, the main objective of her business is to “create health in our community and inspire people to eat and live better.” (Photo by Jessica Hirtle)
For Diandra Phipps, co-owner of enVie, the main objective of her business is to “create health in our community and inspire people to eat and live better.” (Photo by Jessica Hirtle)

If enVie wins the contest, Phipps said the money would go towards the startup costs of a new kitchen at a second location, kitchen equipment and educational workshops for the community.

“We would be so excited. It would mean a lot,” said Phipps. “It would definitely show that not only our community but the people that are judging this see the value in what we are doing.”

Phipps says she believes that winning the contest would also benefit the people of Halifax.

“There’s so much that our community needs to learn about healthy eating,” she said. “We really want to be a part of that healthy revolution.”

If enVie does not win the contest, Phipps said they would apply for other grants or start their own campaign to raise funds.

“The restaurant is just the start for us. There’s a lot more to come,” said Phipps. “I think that we really have an opportunity to impact a lot of people.”

Imperfect glass perfect for terrarium business

Mynott and Kovalik make handmade glass terrariums at their home studio in north-end Halifax. They’re expanding their online business, Minimalistos, to include a new line featuring recycled and imperfect glass.

Jelsi Mynott and Vlad Kovalik are on the hunt for old storm windows. If they’re warped with air bubbles, all the better.

Mynott and Kovalik make handmade glass terrariums at their home studio in north-end Halifax. They’re expanding their online business, Minimalistos, to include a new Heritage Line featuring recycled and imperfect glass.

“These oddities are pretty common in older glass out of wooden framed windows,” said Mynott. Although, for their current orders they avoid scratches and bubbles as much as possible, this line will incorporate them.

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Kovalik and Mynott travel around Nova Scotia collecting window glass wherever it’s available. They like storm windows and old windows with wood frames.

“We have over 100 windows sitting in our basement right now,” said Kovalik. “There’s always window glass everywhere in our house,” said Mynott.

By using recycled glass only from Nova Scotia, Kovalik and Mynott hope to reduce their impact on the environment while keeping with a minimal design aesthetic.

“I think it’s neat that we’re sending parts of Nova Scotia around the world. These windows have seen so much weather and history,” Mynott said holding up individual pieces of triangle shaped glass.

Mynott and Kovalik, both 26, started Minimalistos in 2013. They turned a large second bedroom into a home studio and put a table in the middle of the room where they measure and cut glass.

“It’s all done in our home studio. Everything is done by hand from finding glass, to grinding the edges of the glass down, to soldering the pieces together to form a shape,” said Kovalik.

More than 20 terrariums of different shapes and sizes are on display in the couple’s house. Kovalik picks up one of the square-shaped designs with freshly soldered edges and a missing panel of glass.

“It takes hours of work getting it out of the frame, especially the ones with wooden frames. The learning curve can be pretty sharp especially when you risk breaking a vital pieces of glass,” said Mynott.

Their work day begins with a cup of coffee together. When they’re ready, they remove the glass from its frame and cut it into long strips. Then they cut the glass into shapes and use solder and a soldering iron to attach the pieces together.

They say they spend up to 50 hours a week creating their geometric glass sculptures. They have even begun working on weekends to keep up with product orders.

“A partnership makes all the work a little easier because sometimes I just don’t feel like working and he’s there telling me to get going,” said Mynott.

Currently, Minimalisto terrariums are sold worldwide through an online website where prices range from $55 for smaller shapes to $160 for larger, more complex shapes.

Several shops in Halifax, including Makenew, The Flower Shop and Common Values Emporium also carry the couple’s handmade sculptures. Mynott and Kovalik say they’ve sold more than 500 individual terrariums so far.

They will do custom designs for customers, and Mynott said they’re currently designing an exclusive line for Crown Flora Studio in Ontario.

They’re also experimenting with copper-coloured terrariums as part of their new designs.

“We never thought we would ever actually have a business, that was a bit unexpected but I think having the time to make things creatively as a career is amazing,” said Mynott.

Neither Mynott nor Kovalik have formal training in creative design. Mynott studied philosophy and Kovalik’s background is in medical research.

“We’ve always been DIYers. If there’s something we really want that’s way out of reach because we couldn’t possibly afford it then we’ll try and build it. That’s always been a big part of our relationship,” said Mynott.

Boxes of bubble-wrapped terrariums sit in the corner of the studio ready to be shipped.

Mynott said having a good relationship with their customers is what makes them work harder to make their deadlines.

“Halifax is a very supportive environment and very connected community which pushes you to do even better work,” she said.