The Accountant, the Artist and Work-life Balance

The following interview was written by Janelle Lafantaisie, Social Media Coordinator for the Commerce Students’ Association. Photo by Hey Kiddo Photography.

While going through university, a lot of ideas and different versions of game plans come into a students’ mind. What will I do next? Where will I work? Should I start my own business? Where do my passions and hobbies fit in with my degree? The list goes on and on. Another crucial question that comes into play is the concept of “work-life balance”. How will I fit my career in with the rest of my life?

I had the opportunity to sit down with Dan Kostenchuk and Kal Barteski to discuss how these questions have fit into their lives as they pursue careers, entrepreneurship, passions and raising their family. Kal is a successful Winnipeg artist known mostly for her #kbscript and Polar Bear paintings. Dan, her husband, is a CPA who graduated from the Asper School of Business in 2004. Together they’ve used balance and understanding to achieve their goals and raise their family without compromise.

Thanks for meeting with me today. To start off, in approximately 140 characters or less, tell me a bit about yourselves and what you do for a living.

KB: I’m an artist! *punch emoji* *hands up emoji*
DK: I’m a tax partner with BDO in Winnipeg. I do tax planning and compliance for business owners and families.

Let’s go back to the beginning, what were your first jobs and what valuable lessons did you take away from it?

KB: I’ve always been an artist. When I was 8 years old I started selling little pictures of dogs and I thought ‘This is awesome and this is all I want to do!’. I started selling pieces through the WHL when I was 12 years old. My dad is a chartered accountant and worked with business development for the Western Hockey League. I designed the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s logo… but to this day have never even been to a game!
DK: I worked for a family owned furniture store from the age of 14-18. I started as the shop cleaner, then delivery, set up and then sales. It was a good opportunity to see how a family business operated from a third party perspective.

Dan, what steps did you take to become a CPA — or back then CA?

DK: Well, I graduated from the Asper School of Business in 2004, then articled at PriceWaterhouseCoopers for three years. From there I worked towards the designation and had the opportunity to work in different jobs and industries – it was really cool. *Laughs* I actually proposed to Kal two days before writing the UFE (Uniform Evaluation)! I’m currently a tax partner at BDO and my official title is Tax Service Line Leader.

Kal, when did #kbscript become your full-time life?

KB: Well, #kbscript came first. I’ve always had beautiful handwriting, but it really launched because one day after lunch at Stellas, I wrote a few words in my script very quickly on a napkin. I took a picture of it and put it on my blog and really didn’t think anything of it. Then a while later, my friend from Vancouver contacted me asking about when I had started taking off with script — and I told her that I hadn’t! It turns out this little blog post photo had been posted and re-posted millions of times thanks to Pinterest. From there, I decided that if people liked the script this much, it wouldn’t go away. So here I am. A lot of people think I’m a script artist with a  polar bear problem, but it’s actually the opposite! I started by painting wildlife and have always painted animals.

Was accounting and art respectively each what you always wanted to do? 10 years ago, did you think this is where you would be today as family and professionals?

DK: I literally think I was an accountant all my life. I love problem solving and numbers, I’ve always found it interesting. I actually got a financial calculator for my eighth birthday!
KB: *Laughs* I’ve known accountants all my life and you are definitely one. You’re perfect in that sense!
DK + KB: We live life day by and we don’t think too far ahead. We never anticipated that this is where we would be, but we’re definitely not surprised.

What are the most important lessons you have learned throughout your careers, and what would you change about your experiences had you known this earlier?

KB: “Go for it”. I won the Women Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Winnipeg in 2005 and from there I just leverage everything I get. From the press and interviews and other opportunities, just take it. Find out how to make all these things great.
DK: I feel like if you’re nice and like working with people, you’ll be successful. The Winnipeg business community is so small that you have be nice and cultivate those relationships.
KB: You have to keep the work-life balance legit.
DK: Make your own work-life balance, be efficient throughout your work. It’s harder when you’re young but management will respect you for it.

Kal, what are the most challenging and most rewarding parts of being an entrepreneur?

KB: I like being my own boss. I like that I can pick my projects and don’t have to be stuck with something I don’t like doing. I like life-ing, not working.

If you did not take the career paths that you did, what else would you have done instead?

KB: Zookeeper. I don’t think I could have had any other job.
DK: I am where I want to be. I love business and I love math.

Although both of your careers are extremely different, what similarities do you share in either your jobs or how you are as professionals?

DK: Well, I’m a partner, so I’m part owner in the business and with that I get to deal with 10-12 different businesses every day.
KB: I live with free tax advice! It’s so great! And I’m a pretty good life coach.

What’s next for you? Where do you see yourself in 10-15 years?

KB: I’m striving to paint with a purpose. I’m going to Churchill in a couple of months to help curate the first International Mural Fest on the edge of the Hudson’s Bay. We’re bringing in artists from all over the world and within the community to make the walls of some run-down buildings look better. It’s a very exciting project.
DK: Other than that, we see ourselves right here. Doing what we love.

I appreciate Kal and Dan so much for sitting down to talk about their journey. They’re both wonderful Winnipeg role models and businesspeople. I hope this article encourages you to pursue your dreams and all your goals!

You can check out Kal’s work at @kalbarteski on Instagram and/or the hashtags #kbscript #kbpolarbears.