Toronto, a vibrant city

Toronto is empowering youth with a special edition Startup Weekend in May 2015 #SWTOYouth

The Back Story
On a crisp Canadian morning in January 2015, two siblings sat down to a refreshing breakfast of cornetto with jam and cappuccino. As the aroma of freshly ground beans wafted through the air, the sister leaned into the mahogany table and excitedly explained her life-changing experience as a volunteer and participant during Startup Weekend the prior year.

“It was such an empowering experience to bond and network with talented people from across Toronto. With only 52 hours to share ideas, form a group, and launch a lean startup, it was as if every team member knew their purpose and was committed to delivering the minimum viable product by Sunday. We pivoted five times, used more sticky notes than I’ve ever used in my entire life, and delivered an awesome presentation to the judges. I want to give back to this community. Are you in?,” said the sister, a digital marketer in the online higher education space.

Her brother, a talented educator, eagerly nodded his head and replied: “That’s awesome! You know, my students always have a difficult time learning about high-level business concepts. This sounds like an excellent way for people to learn more about starting their own business and what it takes to be an entrepreneur while working in a team-based environment. Do you think that this group might be willing to host an event for youth?” And so began the journey of two Canadian siblings to introduce the concept of Startup Weekend to the youth of Toronto.

The Issue: Retiring Boomers & Competitive 21st Century Job Market
With over 5 million residents, Toronto is a booming, multicultural city with over 140 languages and dialects spoken. Half of Toronto’s population was born outside of Canada, with 22 percent of the population aged 15 to 24. With an alarmingly high number of boomer business owners reaching retirement age, only a few have developed successions plan for their businesses.

While the Canadian curriculum provides students with a basic theoretical framework of business, it does not provide youth with sufficient transferable skills to succeed in the 21st century job market where innovation, teamwork, flexibility and communication are valued. Many parents are looking outside the classroom to ensure their children are ready to thrive in the future where many careers do not yet exist.

The Solution: Inspiring Entrepreneurial Greatness in Youth
This May, the two siblings and their inspired organizing committee will lead Startup Weekend Toronto – Youth Edition. This event aims to empower Grade 7 to 12 students to learn transferable business skills through Startup Weekend’s proven experiential, hands-on learning model.

By providing youth with the lessons of entrepreneurship, we can set them up with a competitive advantage later on in life. This special edition will focus on raising enough sponsorship to keep event ticket costs affordable and the event venue centrally located within the city to encourage maximum accessibility for everyone.

Our local community and youth will also benefit by:

● Fostering entrepreneurial skills such as innovative thinking, effective communication, and teamwork
● Building strong community and peer connections through networking and event participation
● Developing transferable skills with a strong emphasis on experiential education
● Understanding business concepts such as ideation, lean launch, pivoting, product development, minimum viable products, presentations, customer validation, and more
● Enhancing students resumes for future educational (i.e. post-secondary applications) and professional endeavors
● Celebrating Toronto’s diverse pool of talent and future entrepreneurs

Your Awesome Contribution: Every Small Action Helps
While sipping their cappuccinos that crisp January morning, the two siblings formed Startup Weekend Toronto – Youth Edition. With a simple action, you can join us in changing the lives of Canadian youth by:

● Spreading the news about our special edition event using the hashtag: #SWTOYouth
● Connecting with us on Facebook or Twitter
● Emailing us at torontoyouth@startupweekend.org

What I Learned From Wild Wealthy Women What I Learned From Wild Wealthy Women

What I Learned From Wild Wealthy Women

Dear L Think Crew,

Mandraa TV recently held their launch event by inspiring ‘Wild Wealthy Women’ Seminar held on March 1, 2015 in Scarborough, Ontario. Founder and entrepreneur Sumu Sathi focused on inspiring female leaders in social entrepreneurship. I felt empowered by this event and I wanted to share some key messages from the keynote speakers to inspire you on your path towards leadership and entrepreneurship.

Dare To Dream
Lita Mae Button, also known as Bad Ass Button (@BadAssButton), shared her personal struggles to find her true calling in life – professional boxing. She stressed the importance of daring to dream to ensure that the best thing you do in life is succeed. You cannot match the feeling of empowering yourself. You must foster a mindset of fearlessness to ensure you keep pushing forward through any obstacles that might appear in your way. Lita’s mentioned five D’s to her success: Dedication, Drive, Determination, Desire and Discipline.

You Are What You Believe
Leyla Razheghi, Business Strategist with DivaGirlPreneur (@DivaGirlPreneur) inspired us to focus our talents so we can build our empire. People don’t buy what you do, but why you do it. What you do simply proves what you believe. To build your empire, ensure that you focus on finding your passion, living a life of excitement, finding a network of positive and passionate people who are willing to invest in you, network yourself, be persistent, take risks, trust your gut, and above all build a community to give back.

Network Like A Pro
Manjula Selvarajah (@manjaselva), engineer turned journalist, has truly demonstrated professional success in her multi-faceted career. During her interactive workshop, she shared her keys to success – effective networking. To help change our perspective on networking, she encouraged us to expand our posse beyond our current community and company. At networking events, focus on what you can do for other people with no expectations in return. Have one specific career goal per event, but also have fun and become a connector. Start small, make meaningful connections by thinking about what you can offer the other person, create a system to help keep track of and connect with key contacts, and invest in doing a little networking every week. Finally, focus on giving and sharing what you know without fear.

Seek Knowledge To Succeed
Ruby Latif (@rubylatif), also known as Toronto Mayor John Tory’s secret weapon, empowered us with tools and resources to help us become better leaders and entrepreneurs. As a business and political consultant, she is passionate about grassroots community engagement and creating connects with diverse communities in Toronto. Her key tips included: reaching out to Enterprise Toronto, Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE Business), Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), MaRS, and Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ) to learn more about starting your own business.

Savour Your Food
We had the opportunity to sample some delicious food and savour our drinks in our workshop. The food and drinks were provided by:

*Chanile Vines from Vinesplay treated us to tips on how to savour our wine,
*Esther Williams from The Frosted Cake Boutique, and
*Chef Ramanaa from Shiraz Gourmet showed us how to add some Tuscan-flavour to our Italian food with fresh ingredients and an eye to detail.

Want to learn more?
Follow us on any of our channels – YouTube ChannelFacebookTwitter, or Google+.

What I Learned at PodCamp Toronto 2015

What I Learned At PodCamp Toronto 2015

Dear Readers:

Founded 9 years ago as BarCamp, the original concept behind PodCamp Toronto was to have anyone sign up and talk about any topic on a designated day. This simple concept has evolved into an annual two-day unconference on digital media, podcasting, videos, and marketing at Ryerson University known as #PCTO15 in the Twitter-verse. I had the privilege to attend this year’s event in February 2015 and I wanted to share some key findings from my experience.

Your Strategy Is Your Success
Many times, entrepreneurs think that they can post whatever they like on social media and the customers will come. This is the wrong approach! Focus instead on developing a marketing strategy by following these steps: research our audience, find insights with conversations and testing your product, develop an idea on how your product / service can add value to your customers’ lives, then execute your idea with objectives and tactics. Finally measure everything, adjust as needed. Rinse and repeat.

Know Your Audience
It doesn’t matter what medium you use, you must understand your audience – who they are, what they want, where they are. If you’re on social media, this involves conducting research through social listening (think about tools such as SocialMention or HootSuite), face-to-face conversations with your potential or current customers (think about customer validation), and surveys. Ask yourself: What are my future and current customers asking? Why are they going to this particular social media site? What are they looking for? Focus on delivering value and addressing this need when you find out the answer.

Corporate View Of Social Media
Many companies are uncomfortable with the fast-paced and unmoderated nature of social media. Anyone can say anything about a company and this may have negative consequences for a brand and its market share. Case in point is McDonald’s attempt to engage customers in conversation with two hashtags #mcdstories and #meetthefarmers. Instead, the public reached out with negative stories about food preparation and working conditions for employees on Twitter.

Content Marketing Is Alive
Social media and content marketing go hand in hand. To engage your users, you must produce quality, relevant, and interesting content that will add value to their lives. Don’t be boring vanilla, be a spicy jalapeno! Ask: Will this content make a difference in the lives of my users or customers? If not, then you may want to rethink your angle.

The Rare Breed of PodCamps and Unconferences
The concept of free unconferences that allow a community to share ideas on any topic is a dying breed. There are very few PodCamps or unconference models left in Canada or Toronto. If you can, show your support for PodCamp Toronto by tweeting using the hashtag #PCTO15 or #PodCampTO, talking about this event with your network, and attending next year’s event. You can bookmark their official website or just follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Keywords

Keywords and Keyword Density For Your SEO Strategy

Dear Readers:

If you’re in the digital spaces, chances are that you’ve already heard about search engine optimization (SEO) and keywords. Keywords are a crucial to a successful SEO strategy, but you might be wondering – What are they exactly? How do choose the right ones in the right volume? How do you best integrate this into your SEO strategy? Well, roll up your sleeves and let’s get started.

What are keywords?
Keywords or keyword phrases are keywords or set of keywords (usually 3 to 5 words long) that you type into search engines to get more information. For example, you can type in “blog” into Google as a keyword or “how to make money on my blog” as a keyword phrase.

How do you choose the right keywords?
Selecting the right keywords for your digital marketing strategy can help (or not) drive traffic to your web domains. When you are writing or producing content for your web assets, think about the main topics that your article is covering. If you’re talking about the PanAm Games 2015, you might include keywords such as: sports, panam games, amateur athletes.

You can get help in choosing your keywords by using tools such as Google AdWords Key Planner, which is free and helps you group keywords together and see how they rank. You will need to register with Google to access this account. Or you can use alternative keyword tool planners such as KeyWordTool.io or Bing Ads Intelligence (a Microsoft product).

How do you integrate keywords into your SEO strategy?
When you are writing new content or articles, think about your topic. Do you research on the top keywords that might be of interest to users. You want to aim for a higher keyword density so it will be more relevant to the search string on a page. The rule of thumb is to have 5 to 10 keywords per article to ensure that you are maintaining authenticity in your content, and pulling out the most relevant topics.

Want to learn more about digital marketing?
We would love to hear your thoughts! Leave your comments on any of our channels – YouTube ChannelFacebookTwitter, or Google+.

Sumu Sathi, Mandraa TV

Startupreneur Story Series – Sumu Sathi, Mandraa TV

Dear L Think Crew:

Starting your own business can be both incredibly scary and extremely rewarding! In this new series, we feature entrepreneurs who have bravely decided to venture into startup territory and leave a mark.

In today’s blog post, we are excited to feature Sumu Sathi, President, Producer, and Host of Mandraa TV. You can connect with Ms. Sathi on Facebook or Twitter. Below are her responses to our interview questions.

What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
My social work background and passion for media inspired me to become an entrepreneur. I am a strong believer in Social Entrepreneurship, so marrying both my careers was something close to my heart. If I can be an entrepreneur by telling inspiring stories through media then why not?

What is the hardest element of running your own business? What strategies and techniques do you use to be successful?
Social Entrepreneurship seems to be new to many in the South Asian community; therefore, not many of my friends who own businesses understand my concept and path. I would say the hardest element is doing business the non-traditional way. The only strategy and technique I am using is asking my client how I can help them. I am sticking to what I believe in, which is helping others by doing what I love. I have also defined what success means to me, which are creating difference in my client’s life and inspiring the people that are supporting Mandraa, so according to my definition I am highly successful!

What is Mandraa TV? What is the focus of your organization?
Mandraa is the new authority in online visual media that connects visionaries in the world of style, the arts, entertainment, lifestyle and more. Our platform focused on showcasing talent, promoting the arts, sharing stories and inspiring others to reach their own goals. Mandraa’s goal is to stimulate your senses and fire your imagination with extraordinary stories of entrepreneurs, community leaders and everyday risk-takers who have achieved their goals and who will inspire you to follow your dreams. Let our imagination unfold yours!

How do you network /connect with other entrepreneurs and business owners?
I connect with entrepreneurs through building relationships. If you talk to any individual or company that we feature on Mandraa, you will hear the relationship they have with Mandraa. Just like there are behind the scenes work for every media productions, there are behind the scenes stories with every entrepreneur I connect with. I don’t attend all the networking events out there because networking has to be effective. I pick the ones that has interesting speakers or the event that has attracting a wide variety of guests instead of one specific industry. Social media has opened doors to many networking possibilities which I admire a lot. I connect with many entrepreneurs through social media daily. It saves time and they can also see that you support them by liking their page or sharing their work.

Do you have any recommendations for those thinking of starting their own business?
Yes! There are two kinds of businesses in my opinion – those that depend on money and those that depend on people. I belong to the second kind and I can speak to the second kind.

*Start building your network – every day connect with one person through social media that you think is doing a great job or that you would like to partner with in the future. Support them.

*If you are feeling uncomfortable about a business decision or if it doesn’t feel right – DON’T DO IT!

*Companies are run by people – value people and make sure you are doing the right thing by selling the right product to them. Ask someone how you can help them instead of asking what they can do for you.

*Identify a problem – Provide a service that the community needs or is lacking as this makes you a unique brand and in high demand.

*Don’t stress – If my business gives me stress which is affecting my physical and emotional health, then I will step back and think about my next move. We start businesses to pursue our passion, be our own boss and make a difference. If it is stressful then what is the point of starting that business? Do things that make you happy!

Interested in entrepreneurship or startups?
Share your stories on any of our channels – YouTube ChannelFacebookTwitter, or Google+.

Valentine's Day in the Digital Space

Valentine’s Day in the Digital Marketing Space

Dear L Think Crew:

Are you ready for the most lovely (or heart-wrenching) day of the year? Well, no matter how you look at it, Valentine’s Day marks a significant moment to celebrate (or anti-celebrate) love. Retailers and digital marketers love this time of year because of increased spending on luxury items, YouTube anniversary celebrations, and revised strategies to reach customers.

Mobile devices are leading Valentine’s Day purchases
With the prevalence of mobile devices, a new survey has shown that one-third are now purchasing their Valentine’s Day gifts for their loved ones on smartphones or tablets. The age group leading this trend is 18 to 34 year olds that are looking for last-minute, on-demand gifts up to one week before the big day.

YouTube turns 10 on February 14
The video platform services started as a simple space to upload and share videos, was then purchased by Google, and now enjoys 1 billion unique monthly users and a 14% home Internet traffic dominance in late 2014. It just so-happened that YouTube registered its domain name 10 years ago on Valentine’s Day. Share your love for YouTube this year.

Be where your customers are
As a business owner, this trend means that you need to focus on placing your business where your customers are. Create unique and compelling digital experiences with well-placed social media accounts, e-commerce sites or company websites, and optimize for mobile. In addition, be sure to spend the time to understand how your customers find you and optimize that experience.

How will you be celebrating Valentine’s Day this year?
Share your stories on any of our channels – YouTube ChannelFacebookTwitter, or Google+.