Nichola Lytle teaches students in the Selkirk College Digital Arts Program to set no boundaries on creativity.
An instructor on Nelson’s Tenth Street Campus for the last decade, Lytle is the owner of a successful design company and currently leading a tech start-up geared towards bringing a range of full experiences to young families. ThingsMyKidsDo.com is a web application designed to connect parents with community activities through aggregation and customization that ensures smiling faces all around.
“I am a pretty busy parent and I’m constantly missing out on activities for the kids,” says the mom of eight and ten-year-old sons. “There are so many amazing activities going on in our community, but I’ve always found it hard to keep track of them. I wished that somebody could just notify me what’s happening. Knowing that they were missing out, my sons suggested I build an app for it, so I did.”
An instructor in the Selkirk College Digital Arts Program, Nichola Lytle is showing students what it takes to succeed in an industry focused on creativity. Her latest project—ThingsMyKidsDo.com—was inspired by her active family life and took her deep into the recent New Ventures BC competition.
Working with a team of students and recent graduates at post-secondary institutions across the province, Lytle has taken her idea from concept to reality. Excitement and traction for ThingsMyKidsDo.com continues to build with her website recently being included in the New Ventures BC competition that awards tech start-ups with support and funding.
Lytle and her team have simplified access to activities for kids. Parents share their kid’s interests, vendors share their activities/events, playlists are created, calendars are put in place and the fun never stops.
“There is a strong component of building community,” she says. “When you build a stronger connection between families, activities and the local organizations that provide them, everyone wins.”
Taking Risks and Finding Rewards
Lytle is originally from Toronto and attended Queen’s University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Honours Degree with a focus on painting and illustration. Shortly after graduation she moved west, drawn to Nelson by the vibrant creative culture and access to world-class mountain recreation.
Like many who carve out a life in the West Kootenay, when Lytle arrived in 1999 she had to figure out a way to pay the bills. She started designing posters for local businesses and then branched off into the world of graphic design in a time when the melding of artistry and technology was still in its infancy. With no formal post-secondary training using computers as a canvas, Lytle self-taught her way through and found success.
When not teaching at Selkirk College, Nichola Lytle designs and illustrates for clients all across Canada through the company she started 20 years ago. Work from Pink Dog Designs can be found in places like the BC Children's Hospital in Vancouver where Lytle produced beautiful murals in several rooms.
“You need to walk into a visual problem believing that you will find the answer,” Lytle says of her academic-based approach to taking on challenges. “It takes creativity and experimentation to get to the final result, but fundamentally the process relies on practicing courage. To get results, you have to keep stepping out of your comfort zone.”
In 2000, Lytle started Pink Dog Designs and over the past 20 years her graphic design and illustration skills have helped more than 500 businesses and organizations. Her wonderfully brilliant and playful design style can be found in children’s books, murals at the BC Children’s Hospital, vehicle wraps, logos, websites and print advertisements.
Showing the Way for Learners
Lytle arrived to the classrooms of Nelson’s Tenth Street Campus in 2010 when she took a temporary job as an instructor in the Digital Arts Program. Since that time, she has mentored students by helping them develop both the skills and the ability to take their talents into the workforce.
Maintaining the tricky balance of teaching, running a successful company and parenting is not easy. Like her instructor colleagues in all Selkirk College programs, Lytle packs current real-world experience into the classrooms and lab spaces every semester.
“I’m driven by my own curiosity and a passion for learning,” says the 47-year-old. “There is so much to learn by taking new risks and trying something new. You don’t know what is around that next corner until you take the next step. This is something that I talk a lot about with my students. When you broaden the scope of experience, it becomes like second nature to try something new and learn new skills. It’s part of all industries today, constant learning and adapting.”
Like instructors in all Selkirk College programs, Nichola Lytle brings a wealth of real-world experince to the learning environments where she mentors students on how to find success in the creative community. (photo by Sam Van Schie)
Proof of Lytle’s confidence in the next generation is found with the ThingsMyKidsDo.com web application project. To get to this point, she has partnered with a team of post-secondary students at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business and Selkirk College. Students and fresh graduates have helped with backend development, market research and strategic marketing.
“Students have such great ideas and they are willing to take risks,” she says. “They also have the most up to date skillset when it comes to technology and trends, it’s a valuable resource.”
ThingsMyKidsDo.com made it to third round of the New Ventures BC competition that started with 280 submitted proposals. Though her final pitch amongst 25 start-ups did not get her through to the final round, she was stoked that her team made it that far.
“It was an awesome learning opportunity to practice pitching in front of CEOs who have been there themselves,” says Lytle. “I still have a lot to learn though, like don’t tell them you’re in the middle of a camping trip. In the Kootenays, that means you’ve been working hard and earned your play time! ThingsMyKidsDo.com will hopefully make it easier for other parents to balance how their families work and play, to find meaningful learning opportunities for their kids, and enjoy new experiences—wherever they are, wherever they want to go.”