Niyama Project’s goal is to help local charities and businesses

WATERLOO — A local couple is taking it upon themselves to help small businesses find a stronger voice.

The Niyama Project is a website started by Lindsay Coulter and Taylor Jackson, which they hope will change the way people shop in and around Waterloo Region.

Niyama is a Sanskrit word which, roughly translated, means the act of doing good. It has been the inspiration behind the project.

The idea is simple. Small businesses get the couple’s marketing services, like blogging or video, in exchange for products. The products are sold online with a large portion of the proceeds going to a local charity.

Coulter and Jackson want to help promote buying locally. It is something the couple feels is key in developing a strong sense of community.

Coulter said she hopes the public will be able to see more than just the story of a business but of charity as well.

“It’s about keeping things local,” she said. “Keeping things community based but, at the same time, telling the love story of their business.”

Local pride isn’t a new concept for Coulter, who was recently crowned Miss Oktoberfest 2012.

Actively involved with organizations such as Sustainable Waterloo Region and TEDxWaterloo, Coulter is committed to giving her time to great causes. In the past she has also volunteered with the Waterloo Region Food Bank, Operation Christmas Child and the City of Kitchener’s Adapted Aquatics Program for children and adults with special needs. She also owns and operates Pura Vida Yoga.

After photographing bands like Dashboard Confessional, Jimmy Eat World and Arcade Fire, and even selling photos to American Idol for use in advertisements, Jackson made the transition to wedding photography and is currently based in Waterloo.

Both Coulter and Jackson struggled to market their businesses due to a lack of funds.

“I don’t have a $100,000 marketing budget,” said Coulter. “But a lot of time people would come and ask me for a donation. It got me thinking, making donations was something I could easily do to market myself.”

The couple also felt there wasn’t enough storytelling in the marketing world.

Their project combines the opportunity for businesses to get their name out there with giving back to their community.

“People don’t really tell the story of business anymore,” said Coulter. “Like the feeling you get when you go to a restaurant or the local farm that gets you your apples every year, it’s lacking the personal side.”

The couple chose Nutrition for Learningas the first local charity to promote. Their goal is to raise $20,000 for the organization.

“Giving kids nutrition to get ready in the morning and have a productive day in school is important,” said Coulter. “Those kids are going to be more productive and there’s potentially less poverty and their children will not be in the same situation.”

Nutrition for Learning is a community organization that helps students to learn by ensuring that they are nourished throughout the day at school, says Brian Banks, community development officer.

“We have great success in what we do — we have proven that,” he said. “But there is always a need that continues to grow every year.”

Banks said only 15 per cent of the organization’s overall funding is supplied by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services and the rest comes from fundraising, corporate sponsors and individual donors.

When the couple contacted the organization and shared the project’s website, Banks was immediately intrigued.

“The project is an interesting concept,” he said. “Our organization believes in buying local whenever possible and as a fundraiser we appreciate the sustainability. I think it’s a great idea.”

Having already met Coulter through work with other organizations, Banks had the utmost confidence in her skills as an organizer and a leader.

“Lindsay is always just a ray of sunshine with a bubbly attitude,” said Banks. “She’s a smart woman and I have a lot of respect for her.”

Rebecca Lofsnes owns Gloss Boutique and Salon in downtown Kitchener, one of the project’s first retail partners.

After their first meeting during the annual Gloss Top Model contest, Lofsnes said she knew Coulter was someone special.

“Not only is she beautiful but she’s a really good person, she’s always thinking about other people,” she said. “I was on-board right away. It sounded really great and I know if Lindsay’s behind it, it’s going to be for a good cause.”

Gloss will be offering salon services for the project — part of the proceeds from customers’ haircuts will go to Niyama.

“Not only are we able to give back to an organization like Nutrition for Learning, we’re possibly meeting new people that want to make a change,” said Lofsnes. “Helping people in need is very near and dear to our hearts.”

For more information on the Niyama Project, visit

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