So, you've got an awesome concept for a business — now what?
While that initial spark can help get you started, understanding how others grew their businesses can give you the motivation and advice you need to persevere and succeed.
That's why Desjardins recently hosted a roundtable discussion at The DMZ. Together the largest financial cooperative group in North America and the Toronto startup incubator got together with entrepreneurs from their Launchpad for Entrepreneurs program.
Launchpad is a free, on-demand and self-paced learning platform designed to help entrepreneurs thrive in the early stages of their journey. The program’s full of expert-curated content on in-demand business topics in both English and French.
It's basically a crash course in becoming your own boss.
Narcity attended this event at the DMZ, moderated by entrepreneur Vivian Kaye along with Desjardins CEO Guy Cormier. The six young entrepreneurs — many of them are in university — shared the good and the not-so-good parts of their journeys. Here's what they had to say.
Quotes have been condensed and edited for clarity.
Time Management Is Key
The roundtable included multi-tasking students who agreed that being able to manage their time was essential to the success of their business — and their own well-being.
Kiana Karimi-Shahri, founder of NoTreble (a platform she hopes will make learning music more accessible) shared that being as organized as possible is key. She believes that clearly defining your priorities ensures you can focus on them.
Of course, dedicating so much energy to your business can be difficult when it's not supporting you financially yet. When you commit to your business priorities though, you'll get the most out of your time.
Find A Mentor
Oresta Masnyi, the creator of ConcreteConnect, which focuses on the issue of material scarcity, believes that mentorship is crucial for emerging entrepreneurs.
Finding a mentor may be easy for university students, but new grads might not have the same opportunities or like-minded peers around them.
Not only does Launchpad help you learn from industry experts, it connects you to fellow entrepreneurs — who are just as passionate (and willing to learn from others) as you are.
The Desjardins website also has some advice on how to start your search for a perfectly paired mentor.
Be A Little Risky
Many of the participants were international students and because of this, they agreed that risk felt familiar to them. While leaning into the unknown is challenging, it's also necessary (and exhilarating!) for personal and professional growth.
Luke Lamaj, the founder of Dochere (an all-in-one video-call platform for doctors and patients) explained that as a young entrepreneur, you have to prove you've got what it takes to lead a successful company — and that might mean taking some risks.
Lamaj said, "In the early stages, investors bet on you — they don't bet necessarily on the idea."
So show up as your authentic self, but also show you're willing to take risks for what you believe in.
Be Aware Without Being Fearful
We all know that fear can hold you back from any endeavour. In a time when your financial future may feel uncertain — hello inflation — it makes sense to feel a little wary.
Karimi-Shahri suggests "not making decisions from a place of fear or being afraid of the future. There are definitely things in the future that you can't foresee."
A healthy business strategy combines economic awareness and a positive attitude.
Embrace All The Feedback
Business partners Jai Mansukhani and Pashan Sidhwa spent months hardcoding their "ed tech" application, Ace It, which offers an array of tools to help students study. As soon as the app was ready, they released it — and took notes.
Not only did their peers love the launch, Sidhwa shared that the feedback helped the creators to continue improving the app.
However, when it’s not all good news, embracing negative feedback can help you learn from your mistakes and be just as important to your journey as a compliment.
Partner With People Who Are Excited To Work With You
Don't sell yourself short by working with people who don't see your true potential. While some companies carry a stigma against youth, many feel positive about embracing and supporting the next generation of business leaders.
The roundtable participants agreed that if CEOs want to work with young people, they will because young minds bring a new business perspective — youth are savvy about trends and the importance of social impact. What’s more; CEOs will be excited about it.
"I'm amazed by today’s young people," Cormier said at the roundtable discussion, noting how the industry is changing. "When you decide to launch your company, there's more [of a] social aspect." Now more than ever, creating and staying dedicated to company values is super important — and young people are at the forefront of more ethical businesses.
Remember The Cause Is More Important Than The Profit
Cormier provided some honest advice to success: hone in on what your business will accomplish for society — more than its profit — because a healthy community is needed for long-term business success.
Budding entrepreneurs probably know that identifying a gap in the market is a great way to grow a business, but focusing on social impact will energise you during tough times.
For example, Masnyi's business was derived from her love of community and nature. The company focuses on sustainability while also addressing the social injustice of material scarcity.
A business with a strong cause makes the work you do feel even better.
During the engaging talk, Cormier revealed that paying attention to what other business leaders have done can be a source of inspiration for folks just starting out.
In the words of Vivian Kaye, a business and empowerment expert: "You don't have to reinvent the wheel. Just make it shinier, sexier, Blacker, whatever the case may be. Just make it your own."
The participants felt particularly passionate about financial institutions like Desjardins which encourage entrepreneurship from a young age.
Ali Zee, architectural and interior designer and cofounder of aêtava, stated that it's a wild ride to start your own business. But the best way to balance it all?
Zee says, "Hashtag power through it."
Launchpad might be just the fuel you need to get started.