Lisa hiking with son Ewan on back

Collaborator Profile: Lisa Hemingway

Last but definitely not least, the Backyard Creative profile series ends with a feature on our owner, Lisa Hemingway.

I’m so excited to be writing about Backyard Creative owner Lisa Hemingway! I know I speak for our whole team when I say we all totally adore her. Lisa has a special, curious energy about her, and a natural ability to genuinely connect with people. She’s super thoughtful and takes the time to nurture a unique working relationship and friendship with each of us. 

Aside from her reputation as a stellar designer, Lisa’s passion for doing good work through design is what drew many of us to her. Her lovely personality and unique approach to owning a creative business are definitely what keep us here! 

Exploring her way toward sustainable design 

Lisa’s path toward design began in childhood. Growing up in Salmon Arm, she spent a lot of time in her jack-of-all-trades dad’s workshop making things, and playing outside with her three sisters. The workshop and nature were the perfect playgrounds for her creativity.

Her grandparents also took her and her siblings to Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc powwows from an early age. She was inspired by Indigenous culture and the overarching concept of “mother earth”.

Lisa’s grades were highest in physics and math when she graduated from high school, so she was encouraged to study mechanical engineering. She wasn’t excited about it. Instead, she fantasized about working at IKEA and building things.

After a couple of years exploring her skills with a fine arts Diploma at Okanagan University College in Kelowna, she decided to apply for industrial design at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. She was accepted into the Communications Design program instead—and she’s so glad that happened!

Lisa at her 2004 grad presentation at Emily Carr University showing her design project: Rewind (concept for a store that sells reused, repurpose and up-cycled things)

The foundation for Backyard Creative 

Lisa learned the skills and mindset to become a sustainable entrepreneur by working as a designer at several formative companies. 

Her first job out of school was at Nature’s Path Foods (job highlight: editing cereal textures to act as a cut-out graphic element on the company website she designed as their Junior Designer!) She was also a book designer for Douglas & McIntyre, a leading Canadian independent book publisher (job highlight: designing David Suzuki’s autobiography). 

“Backyard Creative” was imagined while she was working as an in-house designer at Science World, one of Lisa’s favourite jobs (highlight: designing an exhibition all about chocolate, in partnership with Purdy’s). She became a corporate green team leader there, to help create a more energy-efficient workplace and engage her teammates in her efforts. Once she started learning about printing and waste, she became a bit obsessed with finding ways to reduce waste and create solutions. 

Science World billboard bag designed by Lisa to repurpose movie banners and sewn locally by Boris Brothers in 2007 were sold in the gift shop for many years afterwards.
Science World billboard bags designed by Lisa to repurpose movie banners and sewn locally by Boris Brothers in 2007 were sold in the gift shop for many years afterwards.

The transition to sustainable design leadership

Lisa committed to becoming a sustainable designer 100 per cent and launched Backyard Creative in 2006. The name reflected Lisa’s desire to design for local changemakers doing good work in Vancouver, her “backyard” at the time. 

Shortly after launching, she was lured away from the business by a design job at a sustainability consulting firm. The job allowed her to step into a role beyond her experience at the time, and develop her leadership skills. She also met some pivotal people there (including me!) 

That job ended in 2009, and Backyard Creative was truly open for business, again. Lisa set up Backyard Creative to not only serve changemaker clients, but to also be a place for creatives to do good work at a sustainable, enjoyable pace. She’s a recovering workaholic, so finding a healthy work/life balance is priority (her self-care time is blocked in her calendar!) 

Lifelong learning is also important to Lisa. She’s both a student, always seeking insights to become better at work and life, and a teacher. She shares her knowledge freely with our team, and inspires us to keep learning and growing personally and professionally. 

View of Lisa’s actual ‘backyard’ from her office window, summer 2020

Loving the island life 

Family, nature and affordability drew Lisa and her husband Mike to Nanaimo, after 12 years in Vancouver. They made the move in 2013. Lisa’s twin sister was already living there and about to have her first child. Lisa’s mom and 96 year-old grandma now also live nearby.

Their family’s move to the island meant they could afford to buy a heritage house, which was their long-time dream. After seven years, the renovations continue! 

Lisa and her family in Nanaimo

Staying connected in uncertain times 

Each Backyard Creative collaborator chose a guiding word for the year at the beginning of 2020. Lisa’s was “connect”. With the COVID-19 pandemic this year, her desire to connect became more important. Refocusing on her vision and goals as a business owner kept her motivated through this uncertain time.

Lisa’s more passionate than ever about the power of design to influence behaviours and shed light on the good in the world. Through her design work, she wants to support a transition into a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly future. 

Do you share Backyard Creative owner Lisa’s vision? Get in touch today and let’s do great work together!