Job Title: Co-owner and Operator, MEAT and The Next Act
Why She’s Top 40: She’s adding to Old Strathcona’s growing culinary scene, not only with her ventures, but by taking an active role in pushing decision-makers to take action for small businesses.
If you could change one thing about Edmonton, what would it be? “People here are eager and excited and have great concepts, so I would want to see it be a bit easier for the small businesses and entrepreneurs to move forward. I want us to be at a point where it is not so much of a fight or a struggle to make awesome things happen here in the city.”
When Saylish Haas first watched the Make Something Edmonton launch video, she broke out in tears. The video was inspirational in tone and filled with images of everyday Edmontonians bringing their ideas to life.
From the beginning, Haas – the co-owner and operator of The Next Act and its sister restaurant, MEAT – has learned that pioneering a small business in Edmonton isn’t always easy. After all, as co-owner of The Act food truck back in 2011, she had been heavily involved when food-truck owners were battling the City of Edmonton to get rid of outdated bylaws that nearly stunted the abundant scene we have today.
And, in 2013, Haas and her partners found themselves fighting the city’s restrictive bylaws once again – this time, for the ability to open the Texas barbecue-inspired restaurant, MEAT.
The bylaw – one that would not permit transforming a retail space into a restaurant without a parking stall for every four seats – was absurd, according to Haas, because it would destroy the diversity of small businesses in Old Strathcona as parking became less available.
The Make Something Edmonton campaign hit her at just the right moment.
“What I found resonated most was how the Make Something Edmonton campaign was so prominently like, ‘Try it. Do something new. Be creative. Go out on a limb.’ It is very powerful,” says Haas. “It makes you take pride in our city and get so excited about it. And yet we were fighting this battle against the City that even council recognized as absurd.”
Haas saw a way to use Make Something Edmonton to her benefit, creating a campaign on the city’s very own site to gain support for the new venture. She became vocal on social media and rallied Edmontonians to the cause, while working with the Old Strathcona Business Association and the City’s sustainable development department to ensure that the new bylaws reflected the needs of small businesses in the area.
“I am pretty passionate,” says Haas, laughing. “So, if I do feel a certain way about something, I am not going to let my argument go.”