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Alumni Engagement

News, Profiles and Events

Killer concept: Grads serve up hair-raising thrills at horror-themed escape rooms

October 27, 2020

The thought of starting a business in the middle of a pandemic would send chills down anyone’s spine. But that doesn’t mean the timing can’t be eerily, utterly right.

That’s certainly how it feels for Lisa Bernstein and Chris McMillan, two Red River College grads who opened the horror-themed Killer Noob Escapes at the start of October.

Not surprisingly, Killer Noob is a perfect match for the spookiest month of the year. After their shared love of all things scary led to some business-idea brainstorming, Bernstein and McMillan served up a fresh spin on the escape-industry standard.

“We’ve always loved escape rooms,” says Bernstein, who graduated from RRC’s Creative Communications program in 2010. “Three years ago, we went to a horror-themed escape room in Las Vegas and we could not stop talking about it. We loved the aesthetics, we loved how it looked. It was like walking on to a movie set.

“But we also talked about what we would do differently, partially because we found the puzzles to be lacklustre. So that started the ball rolling of planning what types of rooms we were going to do, what our theme was — and in January 2018 we bit the bullet and created the business, and slowly started chipping away at props and puzzles.”

While Killer Noob’s room names (“The Funhouse,” “Buried Alive,” “The Chamber,” and soon “The Upstairs”) might make the squeamish nervous, the goal isn’t jump scares or dumping guests into a haunted house. Rather, the set-ups require visitors to make skillful escapes, solving all manner of puzzles to get out of stressful situations.

As long as group sizes are limited, escape rooms can provide a safe form of COVID-era entertainment — so business at Killer Noob has been steady, with over 100 bookings in the first month. Read More →

Blazing a trail for self-care: Nursing grad eases quarantine stress with new guide for local hikers

October 13, 2020

If Jaime Manness tells you to take a hike, heed the advice. After all, she wrote the book on the subject.

After graduating from Red River College with a Bachelor of Nursing degree in 2009, Manness began her career as an emergency nurse at Health Sciences Centre. While a challenging and rewarding environment for a nurse, Emergency is also intensely stressful, particularly for a recent graduate.

Manness took to the trails to de-stress. The hikes evoked fond memories of family camping trips as a youngster, complete with hot dogs roasting over the campfire.

“I was chasing that restful, tired feeling at night,” she says. “I wanted a kind of mental and physical exhaustion to a point where I would get a good night’s sleep.”

“The more I hiked, the more peaceful I felt. I started to fall in love with the idea of what I might see next.”

Manness started volunteering for Trails Manitoba in 2015, giving recommendations — and just as important, reassurance — to weekend hikers.

“I realized that what was common to me was not comfortable to others. People wanted to know a little bit more about what they might find.”

If that was the seed of an idea for a book, Manness give much credit to her then-boyfriend and now fiancé, Ed, with bringing it to fruition.

Cover of Hike Manitoba guide“He’d remind me every month or so — ‘You should write that book.’ Then it was every two weeks, then every 10 days,” she recounts with a laugh. “It’s like he had a calendar set to remind me to write the book.”

The result was Hike Manitoba, a compilation of 51 hikes, all within the province. Launched June 30 — just in time for the Canada Day long weekend — the volume is lightweight and coil-bound, designed with a hiker’s needs in mind, Manness says. It includes trail tips and etiquette, evocative photos, hand-drawn maps, and lovely watercolour cover art.

Demand for the book has far exceeded her expectations, Manness says.

“We sold our first 100 copies within a couple of days. We’ve now sold more than 2,200 copies.” Read More →

Competitive drive pushes Graphic Design grad to shake up financial industry

October 1, 2020

Talking to Martin Bshouty, it’s clear that a typical day job will never be his cup of tea.

“My wife asked me the other day, ‘What would you do if you had to work a nine-to-five job?’ I can’t even imagine it, I would call that retirement,” Bshouty chuckles.

That ability to self-motivate has led Bshouty — a 2014 graduate of Red River College’s Graphic Design program — to a tech entrepreneur career that’s already seen dazzling highs in just half a decade.

His latest role is with the creative team at Neo Financial, a new fintech startup headquartered in Calgary that has set out to revolutionize the financial industry. Neo presents Canadians with an online banking experience, one that boasts a simple interface, no-fee banking and instant rewards.

“We want to simplify money and life for every Canadian,” Bshouty explains. “We’re building this financial platform from the ground using modern technology to create a fully digital experience right from your phone. No visiting branches or waiting on hold over the phone — you get full control over your finances right from the Neo app. The hope is to revolutionize the way banking is done in Canada.”

Founded by Skip The Dishes co-founders Andrew Chau and Jeff Adamson, Neo has created a Prairie dream team uniquely qualified to disrupt the Canadian banking industry — 100 employees that include tech creatives and former Olympians. Bshouty fits the billing, as he made a serious splash in 2016 as a co-founder of Geofilter Studio, the world’s largest Snapchat filter producer.

Starting as an idea between Bshouty and collaborator Chris Schmidt in Winnipeg, Geofilter has since created over 100,000 filters that have accumulated over five billion views, attracting business from major corporations like McDonalds and Coca-Cola.

“We saw it as an opportunity, that people can go to a local coffee shop for a quality cup of coffee, or get a streamlined experience at Tim Hortons. We figured we’d be the Tim Hortons of designing geofilters, but with the quality of local coffee,” Bshouty says with a laugh. “So we started an online design agency for designing geofilters for people around the world.”

“We had no idea if it was going to work or not, but then it started to catch on and we would say, ‘Woah, we’ve got as many orders today as we’ve had in the last month.’ And then, ‘Woah, we’re getting over 10,000 orders a week now.’ It pretty quickly became, at the time, one of the fastest growing companies in Canada.” Read More →

Machine Shop alum inspires new grads to keep learning

July 30, 2020

Don Fletcher gives alumni address at February convocation ceremony

Twice a year, Red River College students flock to the Winnipeg Centennial Concert Hall with a gaggle of family members in tow. They don distinct caps and gowns, transforming into a sea of black with flashes of red (tassels – not feathers). They wear their regalia with pride: this is the moment where students become graduates; they’ve earned their wings and now it’s time to fly.

This June, Red River College had to adapt in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, hosting a virtual convocation in place of our traditional in-person celebration. But back in February – what seems like a lifetime ago – we were able to salute our grads at the Concert Hall in style.

Don Fletcher, an RRC Machine Shop Apprentice grad of 1982, welcomed our Winter 2020 grads to the RRC alumni community with a memorable speech.

Read More →

Innovation doesn’t go on summer vacation

July 15, 2020

Big things are happening this summer at Red River College. Like you, we’ve had to adjust to significant changes over the last several months and introduce a few changes of our own – but we’ve been inspired by the creative ways the RRC community has tackled challenge after challenge due to COVID-19. While this situation is far from over, we know our students, staff, and alumni will continue to rise and remain strong.

Now is the perfect time for professional development

Summer is a great time to update your skills, learn something new, or turn that side project into your main passion. Throughout the pandemic, RRC has remained open for business – and that hasn’t changed! Check out RRC’s catalogue of online part-time and full-time courses and programs to kick-start your summer education.

Learn to launch your side business in 12 weeks

Red River College has partnered with The Maker’s Collective to offer Manitoba Side Hustles 101, a 12-week online course that equips aspiring and emerging Manitoba side business entrepreneurs with the skills, tools, mindsets and community support needed to move from idea to a successful business launch.

The course runs Thursdays starting July 23 and includes expert-led training sessions, including guest speakers who have walked the walk. Learns the ins and outs of generating a new stream of income, especially during this time of uncertainty.

There are only 100 seats and alumni can use the promo code RRCALUM to receive a special 10% discount. Register here.

Read More →

Winning the ‘Job Lottery’

July 10, 2020


To an outsider, it would appear opportunities have presented themselves to Wilfred McPherson too often to be called coincidences.

And McPherson — a Red River College grad who’s returned as an instructor following a lengthy career in the trades — is more than happy to share the credit for his success.

“Some people call it being at the right place at the right time,” says McPherson, when asked about his career path’s natural and organic progression.

“It’s like an invisible hand that guides things along… [that of] Kichi Manitou, the Great Spirit.”

Read More →

Thanks for entering our Ten Thousand Coffees contest

June 22, 2020

Ten Thousand Coffees is RRC’s free online networking and mentorship platform that connects Red River College students and alumni through virtual coffee chats. More than 1,500 current students and alumni members have signed up, and more than 5,600 connections have been made so far in 2020!

Learn more about how Ten Thousand Coffees works >

*Contest Now Closed*

Thank you to everyone who joined Ten Thousand Coffees and entered this contest! If you didn’t win, don’t worry – you can still join RRC’s hub on Ten Thousand Coffees to start working your network today. Also stay on the lookout for future opportunities to win great prizes.

Congratulations to our winners, Matthew Paquette and Celina Glesmann!

Have you made a great connection through Ten Thousand Coffees? Send us an email to share your story!

Rising to the challenge

April 30, 2020

We’re settling into the “new normal” at RRC, knowing full well that the only certain thing right now is uncertainty. As we continue to adapt to constant change, we’ve seen our alumni community overcome incredible challenges – you are what Manitoba is made of and you make us all #RRCproud.

You continue to inspire us with the work you are doing to adapt your businesses, provide new services, and volunteer your expertise to help those in need.

Here are some ‘good news’ stories from our alumni community:

  • The Prairie Collective is hosting a virtual day of wellness, Prairie Bloom, this weekend. The Prairie Collective is the evolution of Prairie Yogi Inc and Prairie Love Festival, launched by RRC alum Rachelle Taylor. Their seasonal wellness festivals and events across Manitoba have been bringing world-class yoga and wellness experiences to Central Canada since 2014. The Collective is selling Bloom Boxes supporting local businesses to elevate the at-home experience, and to make the virtual festival as accessible as possible, scholarships are available to those in need of financial support.
  • UpHouse, co-owned by RRC grad Kiirsten May, is once again stepping up to help the community, this time by transforming itself into a children’s book publisher to support families and celebrate frontline workers in the wake of COVID-19. “Frontline Friends” is a collection of kid-friendly, educational colouring sheets, featuring line drawings of real, local frontline workers. The printables are free to download.
  • Sourdough is making a giant comeback as more people are taking up baking as a hobby while spending more time at home. At the forefront of this trend is RRC grad Lisa Sylvestre, who was featured in the Winnipeg Free Press earlier this month. Sylvestre’s passion for baking sourdough predates the pandemic – it began years ago when she was gifted a 150-year-old sourdough starter lovingly named Cornelius (originally from the Basque region of Spain). You can read the full story here.

We know this is just a small sampling of what our alumni community is up to – we will continue to share these good news stories with you!

If you have some good news to share, DM us on social media, email us, or update your contact information to let us know.

Read More →

Stronger together, while staying apart

April 22, 2020

RRC’s alumni community continues to raise the bar with ingenious solutions to our new living and working conditions. From forging new paths of contactless food delivery to finding innovative alternatives to physical events, what you’re doing is working (albeit a little differently).

We know that this pandemic has not been easy on small business owners in Winnipeg. We are inspired by the work you are doing to adapt your businesses to provide new services, while also volunteering your expertise to help those in need. You make us all #RRCproud.

Here are some ‘good news’ stories from our alumni community:

  • Graphic design alum Ashley Nicole Kosowan, along with sister Jenna Rae Hutchinson, the masterminds behind popular Winnipeg bakery Jenna Rae Cakes (JRC), announced the launch of their first cookbook this week. While the book launch comes at a strange and uncertain time in the world, one thing the JRC team knows for sure is the happiness baking can bring to a household. When you pre-order the cookbook, JRC will send you a bundle of three of their favourite recipes to tide you over until its publication date on October 6.
  • Creative Communications grad Tyler Walsh gave the Prime Minister’s speech about COVID-19 for children a Lego makeover. His stop-motion Lego video (now available in both English and French) has gone viral, resonating with thousands of people around the world. Read the full story here.
  • Fort Rouge Glass, owned by RRC grad Brendan Berntt, is manufacturing protective shields to protect frontline workers so that they can continue to provide essential services while staying safe.
  • The crew at Build Films (co-owned by RRC grads Christopher Paetkau and Trevor Gill) continues to help the community, this time by working with to share heartfelt messages from Canadians to frontline workers.  You can post your messages to Twitter and Instagram with the tag #thankourheroes for your comments to automatically appear on the Thank Our Heroes site.
  • Earlier this month, RRC grad Laneil Smith, manager of Marion Street Eatery, and her team donated 50 bagged lunches to Morberg House in St. Boniface. Those lunches were distributed to shelter residents.
  • RRC grad Raymond Ngarboui is delivering free meals to people in need in the Central Park neighbourhood. With help from other volunteers, Ngarboui’s Food 4 All program is helping to feed a community in need, sometimes serving more than 200 meals a day. You can read the awesome Winnipeg Free Press feature on Raymond here.

We know this is just a small sampling of what our alumni community is up to – we will continue to share these good news stories with you!

If you have some good news to share, DM us on social media, email us, or update your contact information to let us know.

Read More →

Helping our community

April 2, 2020

These past few weeks have challenged us in unimaginable ways. Many of us are currently facing unprecedented changes to how and where we work, and some of us have had to make some big adjustments.

But, now more than ever, we are seeing our Red River College community come together to help one another get through this stressful time. Our alumni community is tapping into the RRC spirit of innovation, flexibility, and problem-solving, and we are proud of the creative and kind solutions so many of you have implemented to help out.

Here are a few examples of our alumni going above and beyond:

  • Amie Seier, owner of The Community Gym, is providing fitness classes free of charge via Facebook and Instagram Live (though you can choose to donate $10 to keep the business thriving). On top of providing multiple online classes a day, The Community Gym has also rented out ‘equipment packages’ and spin bikes to those who don’t have a home gym.
  • Kiirsten May of UpHouse Inc., has launched a new book with her UpHouse co-owner Alex Varricchio, The Proximity Paradox.
    • Kiirsten and Alex have been going live on Instagram daily to talk through key findings in each chapter of their book, and provide tips and inspiration to help communicators, marketers, and creators get through this uncertain time.
  • Christopher Paetkau and Trevor Gill of Build Films have been supporting community members working on the front lines and those who deserve some extra help by asking their Instagram community to nominate deserving folks. Each day, they are awarding one nominee with a gift card to a local business.
  • Pita Pit North Main (co-owned by RRC grad Thomas Douglas) is supporting front line workers by delivering donated meals to paramedics and community members working in hospitals, grocery stores, fire halls, and other essential services.
  • Taylor Cole of King Cole Catering is delivering free food to front line and emergency department staff at St. Boniface Hospital and several paramedic stations.
  • Jessie Thiessen, mastermind behind Small Jane Kids, has put together some at-home activities for parents with young children, including an “Around the House Scavenger Hunt Game” free of charge.

We know this is just a small sampling of what our alumni community is up to – we will continue to share these good news stories with you!

If you have some good news to share, DM us on social media, email us, or update your contact information to let us know.

Read More →