Another Successful Year at YEC ’13

By: Antonio LaRosa

“Resilience, commitment and girt; products of our mind” says Stéfan Danis, who (Chief Talent Officer & CEO at Mandrake) help cast the sails for the Young Entrepreneurs Challenge (YEC ’13) alongside (34 years and running) mayor of Mississauga, Hazel McCallion. When addressing the students in IB 120 on Saturday January 19th, McCallion said, “We are the talent and the future of not only the city of Mississauga, or the province of Ontario, but the country of Canada”. The mayor also gave a nod to UTM students, praising our collection of success over the past 46 years. More importantly, she asked each student to ask themselves, “What can I do?” to make a difference in this country.

Not to be out-done, Stéfan Danis followed up with his own personal battle through the 2008 recession, revival to success and what it means to be an entrepreneur in the next big technology wave. Never have I sat through two such emotionally engaging speeches delivered by both McCallion and Danis, of which the crowd agreed with a thunderous applause at the end. If we, as a student base, were to walk out of that room with any future sense of endowment it was in the words of Danis who finished with “make a mark on the world, don’t let the world mark you.”

It is interesting to note that while these speeches took place, the DEM Society asked attendees to tweet about their experience, going so far as to give away prizes. Which brings me to the core of YEC; social media. No bigger topic was discussed across every field of study from new media, business strategy and marketing than the effect that social media and mobile devices will have on our lives as students of this technology balloon. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn (just a few examples) are becoming avenues for more than just social interaction, but ways to communicate ideas, find partners and promote ideas with other entrepreneurs.

Corey Reid (Director of R&D and Talent at Fresh Books) reinforced this saying, “The journey to success is better with others.” Reid explained the difficulties in trying to conceptualize, manage and bring to market a product all while on your own. Other speakers like Todd Finch (Senior Advisor at MaRS Discovery District) spoke of the importance mobile devices and connectivity will have during our working lives. The beauty behind these products are that they have not been created yet.

“We’re old guys” Finch retorted, “the youth bring new, creative and fresh ideas that we won’t think of.” Personally, my favourite speech of the day was delivered by Dev Basu (Chief Internet Marketing strategist at Powered by Search and University of Toronto Alum). Basu, 25, grew a seven figure business in under three years. Much like Corey Reid, Basu talked about the importance of growing a team and having smart individuals around you to help grow your ideas.

The most important thing that students took away from YEC’13 was to overcome adversity. Right behind social media was the recurrent theme of truculence, and to accept failure as a “negative-positive” as Finch notes. We can grow from our failures, we are meant to think big and have grand ideas, and it’s okay if it doesn’t make complete sense. The answers are learned along the way, through failure. More importantly, we need to learn to open, share our ideas, and not be shy in communicating our thoughts.

One of the most important things I took away (and hopefully other students did) has to do with our desire as individuals. Even though many of the attendees represented multiple backgrounds from finance, communications, arts and even science, each speaker made it clear that educational background plays a small role in their selection process. Employers want to see heart, desire and motivation to move their business forward into the future. Corey Reid laughed when acknowledging himself as an English major working in a technology field. You learn to overcome obstacles. It is only through innovation, passion and forward thinking that we as an educated student society can leave our post-secondary education and leave a real mark in the world as entrepreneurs in any field of study.

On a side note, YEC’13 had a larger turnout then in its previous year and is poised to return next year with some more encouraging, uplifting and powerful words for the next wave of students.

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