Photo courtesy of Dominic Willsher

New threads, tech gadgets, even an apartment!  Whatever you’re looking for, the Bunz Trading Zone likely has it.

In 2013, Emily Bitze started a secret Bunz Facebook group that encouraged people to share and trade their unwanted items for things they wanted and needed.  Since then Bunz has become a massive success as a city-wide platform spawning a community of thousands of users, with exciting plans to expand in the near future.

I had a chance to meet Emily for the first time earlier this year on a shoot for the web series “In the 6ix” presented by Marriott Traveler.  I don’t know what I was expecting but I was certainly delighted to meet a sweet, savvy, HILARIOUS CEO, with an impressive musical background.  I knew I had to usher in a new season with Emily’s help as our March #Truboss.

BT:  Becoming a Bunz Trading Zone member on Facebook is kind of a badge of honor for a Toronto resident! What started out as a small trading community has become this cool club that Toronto millennials are a part of and if they’re not, most of them have definitely heard about it. You – Mother Bun, are the reason behind the entire community. What do you think about this whole Bunz craze?

EB:  I think it’s pretty incredible. When I started Bunz I had no idea it would grow to be so big. I knew that there were a lot of people tired and frustrated with their situation. The people around me were also bound by income, had difficulty finding affordable places to live, felt lonely and lacked a sense of belonging and community amongst other things. I think Bunz was something we didn’t know we even needed. Many people go to Bunz for different reasons, some need it to get things, to declutter, some people love to get a good deal, some enjoy the social dialogue and community spirit, the helping, the jokes, the stories, etc. It has become a very valuable resource to many and the people in the community should be proud of what they have built, sustained and perpetuated. I am really happy that we have alternatives to get what we need and The Bunz app exists to help facilitate the lifestyle.

BT:  Was Bunz a business venture from the start?

EB:  Bunz was not a business idea to start but I suppose it is my first. Before this I was focused on touring, writing music and playing shows. That became kind of a business because, we were booking tours, applying for grants and visas, but it was mostly something I loved to do. Bunz was away for me to get by while doing these things. But the more it grew, the more I realized we needed our own home. If two years ago you told me I would be a full time Bunz, I would have flipped.

BT: What’s next for Bunz and the Bunz fam?

EB:  On February 6th we launched the first stage of what we call “ The City Network”. We knew Bunz was much more than just swapping items for items. We were able to watch and learn a lot from the community and how it has evolved over the past 3 years, we saw the evolution of bartering things for things into a community that spawns every use case for urban living. People were going to the Bunz community to get things they needed whether it was a job, a home, a friend, something to do, somewhere to belong, etc. Cities can be lonely and expensive and there are so many people willing to help connect and we want to give them the platform to do so. Sometimes it is the people we are less connected to that offer us the most opportunities. Our vision is to create a world with more neighbours and less strangers where it’s easy to get what you need. So our focus has been figuring out how to organize the needs of our community into the bunz app in the most efficient and creative way.

BT:  The Bunz Trading Zone and app are obviously helpful tools for many people. If I were to spend a day with you, which websites or apps would I find in your browser and phone that make your life a little easier?

EB:  Besides Bunz!? To be honest, I am not much of an app person. I have Instagram and probably use that the most. Prior to Bunz, I used Craigslist for things I needed. I have always been a fan of second hand economy.

Bunz Founder & CEO, Emily Bitze at the Bunz headquarters in Toronto

Bunz Founder & CEO, Emily Bitze

BT:  Not only do you run a successful business but you were also a musician in two bands. How do you balance work, passion projects, and life?

EB:  Oh man, this has been tough. I have never thought of myself as a business lady. I have always wanted to write and play music since I was a kid. The past year has been a really tough adjustment, especially because I didn’t forsee all the Bunz stuff happening and I was hurled into a world that I was very unfamilar with. A year ago I was in 2 bands and had tours planned. Those bands no longer exist. It was a heartbreaking decision and there were more circumstances in my life that led to this happening but I am currently writing and recording stuff and do it whenever I have any spare time. I just moved out of my shoe box apartment into a bigger place, so I have set up a small recording space to get this done. My goal is to have an album finished by the end of the year. I don’t care if it’s good, I just want it done. I had been doing some recording with Josh Korody at Candle in the fall and hope to continue some of that too. I absolutely need this in my life. I am not super talented but I sure love to do it. I played in a cover band for Death to T.O. this past October. We covered the band Girlschool, which is this awesome early 80’s all girl rock ‘n roll band. It had been a total dream for me to cover them and it ruled.

BT:  I trust that you know kickass tunes when you hear them. What is your go to song to get you fired up in the morning?

EB:  Asking me to pick a song is literally the hardest thing. I am more of an album person. I love the oldies. I love bands. Here is a list of some of the best albums ever that I generally have on constant rotation:

Sly and The Family Stone – A Whole New Thing
Barbara Lynn – Here Is Barbara Lynn
Cate Le Bon – Mug Museum
Chrissy Zebby Tembo & Ngozi Family – My Ancestors
The Nerves – One Way Ticket
Anything by the Bee Gees

BT:  Who is your favourite #Truboss and why?

EB:  My favorite Truboss would have to be any of my female peers who are doing their own thing, whether in business or in music. There are so many who work so hard just here in Toronto. Can’t I pick them all? I respect and admire them all tremendously. From playing in punk bands/owning shops/making art to running a denim lines, you know who you are. Shout out to Simone Schmidt for not only being an incredible musician, a total boss, and cool as a cucumber, but for all the work she does for people, our communities and spreading awareness about shit people should know, care about and get involved in. She is a truboss, 5 gold stars.

BT:  If you can offer aspiring entrepreneurs one piece of advice what would that advice be?

EB:  Always trust your instinct. Don’t let the naysayers get you down. Grow a thicker skin, don’t get discouraged by your failures and disappointments because they will always happen. Hold on to the positive things, you need your confidence. Stick to your guns, be firm but don’t let your ego get in the way. Avoid knee jerk reactions, be kind to people, learn from your mistakes, acknowledge and take responsibility when you’ve fucked up. Be a good listener. Challenge what intimidates you.


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