This Toronto Entrepreneur Knows the Code to the City’s Cool Places

There are two things that our city never lacks: fascinating people and interesting experiences. In this series, Star asks the locals you know (and should know) about their Toronto.

A little over a decade ago, Heather Payne showed up in Toronto, via her native Brampton, school at Western, and a stint in China, eager to find out more about this cool new thing called coding.

“It was very difficult for me to learn to code on my own. It was basically impossible. So I realized that the best way to learn would be to do it with other people. And I thought other women would be particularly cool,” says Payne.

She and three other women started Ladies Learning Code in 2011, hosting regular workshops. has been renamed Canada Apprenticeship Code and is a national nonprofit that Payne stepped away from as a board member in 2019.

In 2012, he launched HackerYou to offer coding and website building classes. now it’s called Juno College of Technology and is celebrating its 10th anniversary with Payne as founder and CEO.

Juno moved to online learning in 2020. “My husband and I were working from Juno during the pandemic. It was like the most expensive office space in the world, at 6,000 square feet per person,” she says of the school’s location on Queen Street West. To better utilize the space, which had just been renovated, Payne opened last fall Corala coworking space focused on inclusion.

Juno and Coral will increasingly share the space, as Payne hopes to return to in-person instruction soon. “We will definitely keep things online because we love that it also makes things more accessible.”

Living in Parkdale, Payne admits that much of her life with her husband and three children, including a newborn, revolves around Queen Street West. These are some of her favorite places there and beyond.

Queen and Spadina has so many great options for lunch. When you work from Juno/Coral, where do you go?

little it’s right across the street from the office. I usually get The 420 Bowl which has tuna and salmon. I get it in salad instead of rice. Or I order the Creamy and Spicy Salmon Bowl, it’s delicious. They are very nice there and now they know me.

Any other good finds in that area?

There is a great plant store that I love that is fairly new to Queen called Chive Plant Shop. I went there when we were lifting Coral from the ground and they helped us while we covered it with plants. looks amazing. I love plant stores; I love plants. I also have many plants in my house. There is another store closer to my house called Dynasty Plant Shop that’s really good.

Where do you hang out closest to home?

We often get shawarma from Ali Baba near our house. The guy who owns it and I have been in a relationship for many years, so every time I go in I ask him about his sister, she just had a baby, and he asks me how my kids are. I feel like you don’t get enough of that these days.

When we go to the park with the children, we often go to perfect coffee on Sorauren avenue, we have a coffee and they have a banana bread or a cookie. My husband and children are Jewish, so we like that they sell challah on Fridays.

Any place for children that you recommend?

It is very difficult to find swimming lessons for children. It’s almost impossible. I finally found a place for them in Mississauga called Aqua-Tots swimming school. They have a very good online reservation system; you can even book a makeup class online. It’s about a 15 minute drive and there is parking.

We spend a lot of time in the parks. We go to High Park all the time – there are two playgrounds that we love. One on the east side of the park looks like a castle and there is a new all metal green park on the northwest corner that has a lot of really tall things for kids to climb on. Almost too high, but I’m sure someone looked into that.

In winter we usually go cabbages indoor playground at the east end, on Carlaw Avenue. Especially before the pandemic, it would be packed there, with kids running everywhere. You often meet people you know when you go there.

If you can get away from the kids, what are your date night destinations?

My husband and I are huge fans of the Phish gang. He’s seen over 250 Phish concerts, or something like that. There’s a local cover band called the aligators. Every time they play Toronto, which is a couple of times a year, we try to go to these shows. Many of our friends also go. They will play in places like the Velvet Underground.

Any place with strong memories for you in the city?

I have seen many shows in the great hall. There were these great nights called “Loving in the Name Of” that were held there and they were a lot of fun. It was a bunch of different bands coming together to play covers.

We are known for throwing some really fun parties for my husband for his birthday. We’re trying to recreate one that I did for him on his 40th birthday, where we found a venue and brought in his favorite DJ, Marcos Farina. At this point, as we get older, we try to create these kinds of experiences designed just for us.


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