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

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.

What I Learned As A Contestant In Toastmasters Public Speaking and Evaluation Contest

What I Learned As A Contestant In Toastmasters Public Speaking and Evaluation Contest

Dear Readers,

Recently, I decided to enter a speaking and evaluation contest at my District 60 Toastmasters club. I was curious to learn more about the world of public speaking and how it would feel to be in friendly competition with my fellow club members. I am proud to announce that I placed first in the Evaluation portion and second in the Speech portion of the contest for my area. To help others, I’ve decided to post some of my insights and key learnings from my experience.

Give Your Best Possible Evaluation
The speaker in the contest has spent a long time preparing their speech and may be nervous during the delivery. It is important to give your best possible evaluation by thoughtfully preparing your statements, understanding the criteria for evaluation, and being respectful during delivery. During this contest, the evaluators were being judged in four areas: analytical quality (clear, focused), recommendations (positive, specific, helpful), technique (sympathetic, sensitive, motivational), and summation (concise, encouraging).

Focus On Your Opinion
The evaluation of another speakers performance should reflect your own personal reaction and opinion. When evaluating, I like to focus on how effective that person’s delivery and content was, how they made me feel during the speech, and where I thought they might be able to improve during future speeches.

Use The Sandwich Technique
When evaluating a speaker, I always strive to find a middle ground between commenting on effective areas of the speech and suggestions for improvement. I want to encourage the speaker to continue their journey in improving their public speaking skills and this requires balance in feedback. The ‘sandwich technique’ allows you to provide feedback on an effective area of the speech, then focus on an area of improvement, followed by another positive statement.

Provide Specific Suggestions
When focusing on the areas of improvement, I have found it helpful to provide specific examples of where the speech can be tweaked, along with recommendations on how this can be done. For example, if a speaker was talking about drinking water but was monotone in delivery and used no hand gestures, you may be able to recommend a few hand gestures to compliment a strong delivery of the phrase or the emphasize a point.

Want To Attend A Toastmasters Contest?
Check out the upcoming Division H International Speech and Evaluation Contest on Wednesday, April 1, 2015 at 7 pm. Registration is FREE, but seats are limited. Register by clicking here.

Want To Share Your Comments?
Leave your comments below on any of our channels – YouTube ChannelFacebookTwitter, or Google+.

Small spaces

Living in small spaces – terminology, concept, and functionality

Dear L Think Crew:

Are you fascinated by the concept of small homes? Well, I sure am. I’ve been reading about this topic for a few months and thought I would share some great facts about this trend that is taking urban centers by storm.

The terminology of ‘small’
There are so many different terms currently used to describe small spaces such as micro-pads, small apartments, tiny condos, Lego-style apartment, micro-apartments, micro-suite, pico-dwelling, and more. My favorite term to describe small living spaces is micro-pads because it reminds me of a stackable set of blocks that have padding on them. Oh, what fun!

The art of living small
With the 2008 economic downturn, many people lost their jobs or suffered wage freezes or cuts. This got people thinking about living in smaller spaces, lower rent, proximity to necessities, and only purchasing what you truly need. In addition, the increasing costs of an urban dwelling driven by market demand for a finite number of living spaces has forced many urbanities to think about their needs – location, size, or cost.  Many have also started touting the positive environmental impact of smaller spaces – reducing your carbon footprint, more sustainable by using only the necessary heating and cooling supplements.

How small is small?
Most Canadian condo developers have started to follow this trend that has already taken Hong Kong and New York by storm. New York’s self-professed smallest apartment is only 78 square feet for only $800 per month in rent. Canadians enjoy the concept of more space so Montreal’s smallest available new condo is a spacious 286 square feet for only $108,000, while Toronto has a cavernous micro-suite of 289 square feet.

What do you do with all that space?
Well, if you’re sold on the concept to small. Ikea and a myriad of other retail stores can help you decorate your tiny pad. Interior designers have taken up the challenge by combining form and function with multi-purpose, multi-functional furniture pieces. The best tips are think like a minimalist, adapt items for dual purpose use, and be flexible.

Would you choose location, size or cost?
We would love to hear your thoughts! Leave your comments below or on any of our channels – YouTube ChannelFacebookTwitter, or Google+.