Supporting people behind businesses through IncubateNorth mental health funding


“I was working long hours, I was burning out,” shared Shakiba Kazemi, owner and head chocolatier of Shaks chocolate, which combines Persian-inspired flavours with Yukon ingredients. After Christmas, Shakiba was trying to get back into work mode, but found that she was burning out again quickly. “I realized I wasn’t at my best, so I had to take a step back to assess.” 

Since then, Shakiba has accessed YukonU I&E’s IncubateNorth mental health fund for activities that boost her well-being.  

Businesses participating in IncubateNorth are eligible for up to $1,000 in mental health funding, which can be used according to the unique needs of each business owner. Our team at I&E believes in supporting the people behind the businesses, which is why we make mental health supports available to all participants, and we're flexible on what that means. It goes beyond therapy, to include gym memberships—and in Shakiba’s case—rock climbing! 

Stepping back from the grind seemed scary at first, but Shakiba soon found that she could work longer and better when she had time for herself. In the last few weeks, she has noticed a substantial difference—and she’s seeing wins: “people are learning more about Shaks chocolate; people are picking up on my product and my story. I’m growing a trust with my customers—they know that I strive for excellence.” 

Shakiba incorporates ingredients like fresh-ground cardamom, raspberry, turmeric and pistachio, into her chocolates: “I’m also introducing people to my culture with Persian flavours at the forefront.” 

The IncubateNorth business advisors have provided coaching, specifically around B2B (business-to-business) focus and identifying retailers that align with brand and pricing. Shakiba is collaborating with more locations to sell her chocolates in Whitehorse, and is also hiring someone to assist with some production. 

Reflecting on the role of mental health and wellness, Shakiba shared that “the whole idea of the ‘work-life balance’ is outdated. They’re not separate modes. You need to find a cohesive way of living.” For Shakiba, rock climbing, running, exploring nature, and downtime flows into her work.  

Mental health is a struggle for all of us. Entrepreneurship can be stressful as much as it is rewarding. When you are your own boss, no one will tell you when to stop for the day! Step by step, we’re finding ways to support each other to live balanced and thriving lives. 

Our team is grateful to Shakiba for sharing her story, because we know it is a common one in our fast-paced world. 

Photo: Shakiba Kazemi, owner and head chocolatier at Shaks chocolate, snaps a pic after a run.