Building Tree offers green building solutions
Paula Kiss is an inspirational woman with an inspirational business. Kiss is the owner of The Building Tree, located in Nelson, B.C.
Building Tree is a green building centre with three main functions: To source and supply better construction and finishing products for builders and renovators; facilitate the growth of local, independent green businesses by hosting them in an inspiring shared office space; and promote and host local green businesses in the storefront and office, encouraging more sustainable growth.
Besides being a business owner, Kiss gives back to her community. She is co-founder of the local branch of the Cascadia Green Building Council and Transition Nelson. She also has current membership in or recently served with the West Kootenay Eco-Society, City of Nelson Advisory Planning Commission, Rotary Daybreak, City of Nelson Community Heritage Commission, Nelson Business Association, Social Planning Action Network, Grizzlies Rugby and the Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership.
What do you like most about your job?
I like being part of a cultural shift around energy, materials and our built environment. Of course it's all painfully slow and my contribution might not be measurable, but my job is part of my coping mechanism. I try to do something to nudge that shift along just a bit.
What is your number one passion outside work?
I’m not sure I draw a great distinction between work and the rest of my life. It's all about creating healthy, beautiful places and a more caring society and better relationships with people. That’s what I try to do at work and that’s what I try to do with the rest of my life too.
What was your first job and what was one thing you learned from it?
I was way too young to do this, but I agreed to look after a seniors' home while the main caretaker was on vacation. I learned that mechanical rooms are full of equipment that seem always ready to break or alarm—and these dark, noisy rooms are the unglamorous and fragile life support for our buildings. This job was part of the reason I became interested in passive systems and buildings that still work when the power goes out.
What’s something that people might be surprised to learn about you?
I grew up in a multi-generational, multicultural family and then spent many years working overseas. I sort of see Canadian culture as if I’m a foreigner and so I have some odd ideas about how things should or could be. I always ask why we do things the way we do. I think some people like that and some think I’m nuts for always questioning.
Why did you choose to get into this business?
Starting a business was a way to pursue my own values and to work towards building a culture that I feel more comfortable with. Of course I didn’t think about leases and business numbers and taxes and permits and licenses and marketing and accounts and mountains of files. Nothing’s perfect. I’ve met some amazing people with values that I really appreciate through this business, so that’s the great tradeoff.
What advice would you give to someone going into business?
Find a business owner with a similar type of business. Have an informational interview, take them for lunch or something. Ask them what their lives are like and what they do now and what they did for their first years in business. It’s a long road. Figure out if it's for you before you really strike out on your own. And if you’re going into business with someone else, interview someone who’s done that too.