June 3, 2024

Class of 2024: Arts student turns passion for food and city exploration into business

Joanna Pariseau’s mandate of making every project matter helped her launch Taste the City

The University of Calgary is Canada’s entrepreneurial university, and Joanna Pariseau, BA’24, embodies that motto. 

The Urban Studies major started off in Political Science before deciding her passions lay more in how a city functions and the micro activities that go into making a city greater. She also added a Commerce minor and an embedded certificate in Sustainability.

“If I’m being honest, I would’ve majored in business, but I really didn’t want to do all of the extra math,” she admits. “I found that I could get all of the skills I needed to start my business out of the 10 courses that I took.”

Joanna Pariseau, founder of Taste the City

Joanna Pariseau, founder of Taste the City

Pariseau founded Taste the City in 2023, and it was built off and around work she was doing in her courses at UCalgary. 

The idea sprouted from a project she was working on regarding revitalizing Calgary’s downtown, which connected her with the tech community in the city. 

Then, while studying sustainable tourism in Italy, she found her efforts to tour around and sample the food on offer led to her getting hopelessly lost. 

Digitally guided food experience

Upon her return to Calgary, she connected with a developer to turn food tasting into a digitally guided experience for people. 

Pariseau secured an angel investor to develop the beta product, which involved her and her developer going out and ordering food at various restaurants and devising a way to turn that into a self-guided digital tour. 

The product facilitates an easy way for customers to experience three to four restaurants in a single night. Customers book a start time on the website, and then a text message sends them to the first spot, where they receive a sample size serving from the menu. About 25 minutes later, another text sends them on to the next restaurant. The food is pre-paid and pre-gratuity, so customers can easily come and go. 

“It really helps people get into what new restaurants are out there post-COVID,” Pariseau explains. “What would normally take you four weekends to discover we can offer you in one night.”

The business reflects the work that she has done in Urban Studies and Sustainability. 

“All of our restaurants are within walking distance of each other,” she says. “A part of what we do is reconnect people to the neighbourhoods and help them explore.”

Reconnect with Calgary neighbourhoods

A recent add-on includes guidance to other places like art galleries or shops that are located within locations like Inglewood, Stephen Avenue, and 17th Avenue. 

Pariseau says the balancing act of starting a business while studying full-time led to some stressful moments. 

“October [2023] was a rough one,” she recalls. “I had a full course schedule, I launched the beta, and I was taking on part-time work to pay the bills.”

However, from the moment she came up with the idea for Taste the City, she took every opportunity presented by her classes to build it. 

She built her website in one of her classes. In another, she came up with her marketing plan. 

Beyond the classes, Pariseau credits her Haskayne instructors who connected her with mentors and helped prepare her for pitch competitions. 

'You have to be the one to step forward'

“If you want to do something, the university is behind you 100 per cent, but you have to be the one to step forward and make something happen,” she says. 

With her degree now behind her, Pariseau will focus full-time on Taste the City. They’ve recently launched in Victoria, with Winnipeg and Toronto to follow shortly after. 

You may even see her on your TV screens soon, as Taste the City could make an appearance on Dragon’s Den in 2025. 

Pariseau’s experience has led her to offer a key piece of advice to future or current students: Your degree is what you make it.

“Don’t view your projects as just a grade, but use those projects to make something happen,” she says. 

“That was my mandate when I first started my degree, and I’ve used every project to make something happen, and this business is the result of that.”

Read more inspiring stories about the accomplishments and journeys of the Class of 2024.

Graduates, as you prepare to transition away from student life, we'd like to also welcome you into the UCalgary alumni community. Learn about the programs, benefits and services available exclusively to UCalgary grads, and be sure to keep in touch. 

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