Greg Clayton Interview with SSI Exchange

I’ve always been drawn to the farm life – tractors, tools, raising a family in a small community with local organic produce, always building & creating. It’s a tough way to make a living though – I guess that is how I ended up finishing university with many years of finance education and working commercial finance in the real-estate industry based in Calgary.

In 2014, following spine surgery, the birth of my first son Bodhi Xavier, and connecting with my partner Jaya Genevieve, I found the courage to make the leap.

I invested for the long-term in the Salt Spring community through two property purchases. Island Savings took a gamble and partnered/locked-me-in with a mortgage to purchase the court-ordered sale of a near vacant historic building in Ganges: The former United Church turned legion is now the Salt Spring Island Wellness Centre, located on Hereford Ave.

Second was the purchase of a former horse farm now known as Aloha ‘Aina (‘I-NA’) Farms. Here we are creating sustainable living by bringing together community through friendships and events, as well as growing our own food organically. We take back a bit of dependence from the urban system and maintain our independence and freedom in health.

I’ve always enjoyed being an active community member and look forward to becoming an integral part of this community. I’m currently on the Board of Directors for the Chamber of Commerce as well as chair the Conscious Wellness Sub-Committee. I’m sure this list will continue to grow as I plant myself in the community, equivalent to the 150 trees we are in the midst of planting at the farm.

What brought you to Salt Spring Island?

My path has been full of adventure and travel, from backpacking south Asia and Australia, setting up a remote office in Maui, to the bustle of downtown meetings in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto with lenders and investor clients. I learned the fundamentals of business through my eight plus entrepreneurial ventures and projects, and an MBA and Commerce Degree. I maintain my office and work as an independent Broker focusing on institutional first mortgage debt. Understanding the complex world of finance is both valuable and terrifying as we see the immense control that these lending institutions have in shaping development and society.

It was my time going back and forth to Maui and spine surgery that shook my core and opened my eyes to experience something else. On Maui, I was at home and grounded with a collection of people living simpler, and with less fear. They come from all walks of life, but share the same abundance. Embodying a living “Aloha” – a word that Hawaiians have long used as a greeting in opening and closing of communication. Aloha is love, peace, compassion and mercy. The community of Salt Spring is, in my opinion, the closest you can find in Canada to North Shore of Maui.

What one thing about Salt Spring would you tell someone who has never visited the island?

We are not a secluded island with a handful of free-spirited hippies – there are way more of us than that! As well, my house is as close to the Victoria airport as Victoria is. I’d also say;”If you haven’t been to a SSI ‘farm’ party, you will never understand how awesome and unusual it is, Hiking in the dark of February through the forest to a barn or farm house that is filled with people aged from 2 years up to 70 –dancing to DJ’s and live music, spinning fire, chilling, sharing, laughing, crying and playing until the sun comes up. Salt Spring shares more, dances more, and attracts the freest. There are a couple locals, but the rest of us are like everyone else – transplants. You can count the publically traded companies on one hand, as nearly everyone is a passionate small business owner. This amazing selection of small businesses provides essentially everything you need day-to-day. We also can’t forget the abundance of nature – we are epically beautiful and full of wildlife.

If you had a magic Salt Spring wand, what island thing would you change?

One, I’d eliminate the scarcity mentality. I’d wave the wand and everyone would see that we have more than we ever need and that we are always taken care of. The wand would also show us that coming together and sharing is more important the protecting what we have built. We would see abundance in everything we experienced. I’d also change that fact that there are beautiful historic buildings sitting in Vesuvius and Fulford that are going to be demolished because of onerous big city rules.

Which well known person, living or dead, do you think would be a good addition to the island?

Bob Marley – jammin’ in Centennial Park, spreading the love. I can’t even imagine what he would attract.

Is there a special project, business or initiative you are working on that islanders should know about?

The Salt Spring Island Wellness Centre, located between Café Talia and the Dry Cleaner on Hereford. We currently have a premier members-only fitness studio and a Yoga Studio. Stay tuned as there is much more to come, including a community acupuncture clinic opening in April 2015.

I never thought coming to Salt Spring that this is what would consume much of my time, but of all the possible businesses to ‘inherit’ through bankruptcy proceedings, a fitness center is among the most inspiring. The previously vacant 3000 square feet has been carefully planned and renovated. A challenging, but rewarding task, we have turned the corner and by the spring of 2015 the Wellness Centre will be 100% occupied.

While it is still unfolding, my vision is to have the Centre as a hub of Wellness for everyone on Salt Spring Island. This is the destination of so many to pursue their own wellness. I want the Wellness Centre to be that portal by which clients enter and pass through to the long list of other island wide wellness based business, events and practitioners. My website is being built with this in mind and includes a community directory of all health and wellness practitioners. But the Wellness Centre and its offerings are focused on those who live here. Our gym does not offer drop-ins except with a member and our yoga and studio schedule is for the island to call home, both as teachers and students.

Is there a really good interview question we should have asked you?

What has surprised you the most about Salt Spring Island?

How would you have answered your question?

I thought the pace would be slower here, but in the summer the pace is actually more intense than the city. It surprised me how hard everyone works to balance work, family and all else – myself included.