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Where are the winners of last year's Venture Challenge today?

“We have found success in the impact that we believe our organization will have on a local, national or even international stage.”, says Bee Buddies co-founder Muhammad-Mustafa Rashid.

Exactly a year ago, grades 11 and 12 students Muhammad-Mustafa Rashid, Sofia Chang and Charles Van, were nervously preparing to pitch their senior connectivity platform idea to a panel of expert judges during the 2017 Venture Challenge. During the 2017-2018 school year at Richmond High they teamed up to create Bee Buddies, a web-based platform that connects seniors who seek new connections but may lack the opportunities or circle of friends to maintain regular in person social interactions.

And succeed they did! The team not only placed first at the 2017 Venture Challenge competition but was also invited to engage in a dialogue around Canadian innovation and present their venture idea to the Right Honorable David Johnston, then Governor General of Canada, at SFU Venture Labs in July 2017. Now, while completing their high school (Muhammad & Charles) and first year at UBC (Sofia) studies, the team continues to work on developing Bee Buddies (beebuddieshive.com).

What is the most important lesson you learned when you were 20?

MEET ONE OF OUR MOST INNOVATIVE ALUMNI

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"There will never be a perfect time when you have the exact resources that you need, so you must learn to work with what you have". These are the words of a 20-year-old entrepreneur!

Georgiy immigrated to Canada when he was 5. His parents had divorced, and he and his brother were raised by a single father. In Grade 12, Georgiy was working over 30 hours a week in the back of a restaurant to support his family and save up for school. Today, Georgiy is a part-time comp-Sci and mathematics student at SFU. He is also the founder and entrepreneur behind Nero, a smart-jewelry line that you can use to call for help with the tap of a button. Be sure to check out Nero’s website (ournero.com) and their crowd-funding campaign this Summer!

We talked to Georgiy about his experience with YELL and his journey as an entrepreneur:

1) HOW HAS YELL IMPACTED THE LAST 2 YEARS OF YOUR LIFE?

Two years ago, I was preparing for the Venture Challenge. With the help of a wonderful mentor, Jason Harmer, we placed 1st in the competition. Since then, a lot has happened! We continued working on our venture idea and learned so much along the way. The skills I have developed and the people I met as a result of YELL have given me the resources I need to take on many challenges in life, from speaking in front of large audiences to taking spontaneous last-minute risks. YELL has contributed a lot to my personal growth by providing many opportunities for which I am very thankful. I am really eager to see what the future holds!

2) WHAT IS THE NUMBER 1 QUALITY YOU HAD TO LEARN OR DEVELOP FURTHER TO SUPPORT YOU IN BUILDING YOUR BUSINESS?

Resilience. Growing up I had a slightly complicated childhood which forced me to grow up very quickly. Being patient and resilient taught me a lot about the importance of trusting yourself, believing in the future and sticking to whatever it is that you value. After completing YELL and starting to build my business, my resilience was tested multiple times. Building a business isn't easy, it's a wild rollercoaster ride with exhilarating highs and lows. Being able to identify the highs and the lows as temporary is very important in keeping your mind focused on the end goal. Experiencing many failures helped develop my resilience, and I believe that it is precisely why I am still an entrepreneur.

3) WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU FEEL UNFOCUSED AND OVERWHELMED?

When feeling overwhelmed I disconnect completely from the online world for some time, usually for 6-12 hours. This means no data, WiFi, checking email, news, texts, nothing. I use this time to go to the gym to workout, do a hike, or go for a walk. This allows me to get the blood flowing, reconnect with myself, relax, and focus on the present. Stress is worrying about the future, so I need to ground myself in the present. Once I do that, I tend to have a much clearer mind and vision of where I need to go and what I need to do.

4) WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU LEARNED FROM YOUR PARENTS? 

My father used to run multiple successful businesses out in Ukraine. He taught me two very important lessons. First, dress for success. Books are judged by their covers, no matter how much we would like to deny it. People are more comfortable communicating with someone they can relate to in some way, and appearance is the very first step in making that connection. The second lesson is that showing up is 90% of the job done. You never know what can happen if you just show up, and at the very least you will learn something new that you can carry on forward with you.

Building a Community of Creatives

"There is a community lacking for creatives in Vancouver" -Sam Park

Sam Park is a 19 year old and a rising digital marketer & entrepreneur in Vancouver, B.C. He is also one of our YELL alumni from West Vancouver (Rockridge Secondary)!

Pursing his passion for digital marketing, he decided to drop out of Western University to start his own digital shop Instinct Media. Having the opportunity to work with talented brands and individuals, Sam realized that there was a community missing in the creative space. That's why he decided to co-create Creative in Residence, a series of events focusing on opening up the conversation between creatives from a diverse set of industries. Creative in Residence is currently partnered with Microsoft and just had their first pilot event on May 30th. Here's a quick recap video.

With the first event being a huge success, we had some burning questions for Sam.

What does success of future events look like to you?

Sam says that success is when attendees feel like they've gotten value out of the conversations. This could include things like discovering another creative approach, making improvements to their own work/business, or just walk out feeling inspired by the keynotes. 

What is the biggest challenge so far? 

Sam says that the biggest challenge he faces is explaining to people what type of event this is. Rather than establishing your typical networking event, Sam wants to build a community where creatives can collaborate and feel like they are part of a supportive community. 

Next steps for Creative in Residence?

Sam says the next steps would be to bring the Creative in Residence community to other thriving cities (i.e. Toronto).