Written by AJ Tibando
A few weeks ago, I gave my first real speech. I've spoken on panels at conferences while I was at Queen's Park, and done a few since I've joined SoJo, but this was the first time I was alone on the stage in front of the microphone. I spoke at the 9th Annual Women and Leadership Conference and the topic of my speech was 'A Young Entrepreneur's Perspective: Finding Your Passion'. Under normal circumstances, I would not have signed up to speak at this - I'm not a big fan of the spotlight and get a bit nervous speaking to crowds. But Kanika had agreed to speak at the event months earlier (well before her accident) and it was too good of an opportunity to pass up, so I agreed to stand in.
While it wasn't something I would have nominated myself to do under normal circumstances, I'm really glad I was forced into it. Speaking is a fact of life, especially for an entrepreneur. Being able to communicate your ideas, your perspective and your initiative confidently and clearly are absolutely essential to success in any field. While I've done many pitches and presentations in the past, being forced to stand alone on stage and deliver a speech was really the final act before I could truly say that I was a confident and experienced public speaker.
Because I was so nervous about speaking, I decided to keep the speech simple and just tell my story. My experiences in life and the workforce have been diverse and winding, so I figured I would use that as the narrative, and relate ideas about finding your passion along the way. Since I was already so far outside of my comfort zone by doing the speech in the first place, I decided not to push myself too much farther by trying to come up with a more elaborate speech and just keep it simple.
The speech went really well. It was about 15 minutes long, and since I was the last speaker on the last day of the conference, there were only about 30 people (out of 60) left in the crowd. But that was fine by me. They were great, really supportive, and I couldn't have asked for a better audience for my first speech.
Written by William Moo, Intern, Grade 11
Westview Centennial Secondary School
It all began when my co-op teacher—Ms. Martins—came down to the graphic arts room to tell me about a potential placement downtown. Since then, I’ve had the great experience of combing through articles, messing around with different software, and attending not-so-serious group meetings. The team was open to new ideas, friendly, and thankfully nice to me during my time.
I’ve learned a lot of things I didn’t know when I first came here in February. The definition of social innovation and what SoJo does to help spread the message about it are clearer. I replaced Rebecca Mangra, my predecessor, and fulfilled most of her daily duties. I wasn’t a Rebecca 2.0, but I discussed my skills I had to offer when I did my interview with Zainab. In the end, I got the gig.
Now, coming to an end of my time with SoJo, I have contributed to posting articles on the website, a book review released on June 15th, as well as two blog posts: this one and the previous. My only regret was not getting to know Kanika, the mastermind behind the organization, better, hoping she rebounds from her unfortunate setback.
The DMZ was a fun place. I got a thorough tour of the place by Zainab and thought it was a great place to work in; there were bean bags to crash on when you needed relaxation; you could draw on the windows; and it was close to the Eaton Centre. It’s not like one of those gray, bland office spaces you see in TV and movies. In fact, it was the opposite. After telling my class this, I was the envy of my friends (heh heh heh).
My future is currently uncertain. I have been thinking of joining a local arts magazine called the Broken Pencil and Zainab will be the first person to reference me, should I need it. However, I’ll never forget the team at SoJo (as long as they don’t forget about me).
I don’t know to end this blog post. But I think I’ll leave with a message of optimism. Although Kanika has been sidelined, I witnessed SoJo’s transition stages. It wasn’t all about the big boss anymore. SoJo was becoming more of a team effort; AJ taking over, organizing meetings and tracking down what everyone has done; Zainab mustering up the courage to speak to cameras at conferences. There were a lot of other efforts as well by the other members who I have to acknowledge. My best wishes to SoJo, Kanika, and everyone else. I hope the organization grows into the vision everyone hopes for.
“The hour of departure has arrived and we go our ways; I to die, and you to live. Which is better? Only God knows.” – Socrates, philosopher.
Written by Myra Khan
When I first came across SoJo in February 2013, I went to the home page and read the question: "Where are you in your journey?" As someone who had recently decided to change my aspiring career path (any other law school dropouts out there?), this reminded me of the many questions that had been consuming my mind – what inspires me the most? What kind of career do I want? Will that change 10 years from now? What have my past experiences taught me about my strengths and weaknesses, my likes and my dislikes? How do I factor in the economy and future job projections to these questions? Why is everyone so hard on 20-somethings like me?!?
I think these are questions many recent grads and many 20-somethings can relate to, and the good thing about all the buzz around 20-something millennials is that there are a ton of resources available to help motivate you to face these daunting questions. But what I have found most motivating is working at SoJo.
While I had chosen a co-op program for my undergraduate degree (shout out to University Waterloo!) and had been fortunate enough to experience a wide variety of work environments, I had never worked for a start-up. The SoJo Team is dedicated to the organization's mission and everytime a goal is met, the bar is raised a little bit higher. I look around at the other starts-ups located at the DMZ and can feel the same energy. In this type of setting, things move fast, each person has a lot of responsibility, and creative thinking is constantly needed.
After unsuccessfully job hunting for a couple of months after an unexpected change in career plans, I felt too demotivated and demoralized to try and answer those tough questions we all have to face. But working in SoJo's start-up environment with people who are passionate about what they do and who dare others to dream big has pulled me out of that funk. There is nothing more motivating than being around people who have a vision, work hard and love what they do! So my suggestion to anybody out there who may be in that funk I was in a couple of months ago – try and seek out a start up that you can work or volunteer with. While I still have a lot of questions left to answer, I am actually excited to face those questions.
Written by William Moo, Intern, Grade 11
Westview Centennial Secondary School
In my days at the DMZ and at SoJo, I noticed quite a few similarities between the writer and the entrepreneur. As an aspiring author, it’s only my duty to report them to you fellow readers.
Pitches – Like entrepreneurs, writers have to properly represent themselves and the idea they have in their heads. They have to appeal to a large group of people; reach out to those who can either help or hinder their plans. This also applies to writers, as they must try to persuade people to buy into their idea or be left in the dust.
Struggles – An artist must struggle for his art. And so too, does the entrepreneur. Their vision faces many roadblocks along the way, with many giving up or failing. The competent ones, however, sticks with it and finds a solution to overcome their obstacles with the help of others. At the end of the day, the entrepreneur can feel happy about his/her organization. It’s the same as the budding writer. He/she will struggle early in their career, living on the edge of poverty or at their parents’ place. Many of them won’t exactly make it to the New York Times Bestseller List. But with the advice and criticisms of others, they gradually fix themselves on an idea, edit and develop it, and the results will hopefully be an entertaining book.
Perseverance – One thing motivating both writers and entrepreneurs is perseverance. The entrepreneur can choose to endure; fight through competition; battle for grants and finance; all for the goal of attaining their ideal vision. A good writer will use those rejection slips, harsh criticisms, and dirty insults to ignite the desire to prove them wrong and never give up on the idea of a story.
The DMZ has many upcoming, young entrepreneurs, determined to show the world their ideas, their visions, their messages. Fueled by cups of Starbucks coffee, this young core wants to prove themselves to the social innovative community. And as a growing writer, I couldn’t help but watch what they do and how they interact with each other.
Writing may be a lonely job, but many authors communicate with each other just fine. They have ideas. And in the end, I guess we could call writers the cousins of entrepreneurs.
Written by AJ Tibando
It's been two weeks since I got back from my vacation. Vacations are the best for many reasons - a chance to relax, unwind from daily stress, get away from work and emails and responsibilities and focus on yourself. They also give you a chance to step back from the busyness of your day to day activities, gain perspective on the big picture and re-centre. Since this wasn't just a vacation, but was also my honeymoon, I was adamant that I was going to unplug 100% and with all of the stress leading up to the wedding and the changing circumstances at SoJo with Kanika being away, I was more than ready to get re-centered.
We went to Europe for just over two weeks - Paris, Milan and Scotland - and it was wonderful. Being in different countries, eating different food and listening to different languages helped me to unwind and shed a layer of stress that had been building up over the months. It definitely helped me to step out of my bubble and gain perspective on work, SoJo and what we're trying to do, as well as some perspective on life. There's nothing like vacationing in countries where the essence of life is to eat, drink and live well to remind you about what's really important.
The other great thing about being away, is coming back and seeing how much got done without you. Zainab and Jesse and the whole SoJo team managed to 'wow' me with how much they accomplished in the two weeks I was away and it was great motivation for me to dive back in on my return. Yesterday, Zainab left for vacation - she will be gone for two weeks - and Jesse and I are determined to 'wow' her when she gets back.
Written by Zainab
I had written about getting user feedback
a few posts back, and wrote that we were conducting a survey to get your thoughts on how you SoJo.*
One of the things we're most interested is in learning who you, the user, are. Where are you at in your stage of the journey? Which social media channels do you use? What causes interest you? Speaking of causes, here's what those of you who have responded have said so far about what social and environmental challenges interest you most.
To be honest though, we have very few responses so far. Jesse and I were discussing this, when AJ was still away, and were pondering what we could do to increase response rates. As Jesse put it frankly, we have to make it easier for people to respond; clicking an external link is, in fact, an extra step. So in the meantime, we have put the survey on our site too, as you can see below:
The cool thing about it being on our site is that:
a) the forms will stay confidential with us; and
b) if you're logged in
with a profile when you do it (you can see at the top that I am!), I can follow up with you on a comment or with a suggestion for a place to start.
Don't feel like filling out a survey? Then do the following instead:
What would we like feedback on? Here's some of what we're looking to find out:
What's in it for you?
- Where you're at in your journey
- The causes you're interested in
- The social media channels you use
- How did you find SoJo
- How you'd rate our design, our information, and our organization on the site
- What you look at when you're on SoJo
The more you tell us, the better we can serve you. We'd love to follow up your feedback with further questions, to make sure we're helping you take your ideas into action. So email or message us ... or better yet, take the survey - and make SoJo work for you.*I use SoJo here as a verb, similar to how one would Google something.
Written by Zainab
Business cards are great to hand out and receive - but only if they are a) informative and b) acted upon.
I've gone to a few events where I've given out my card and where I have received cards. It's common for many people to give a card during or after their introduction, since it often helps people visually see a name and it's an easy way to hand out contact information. Mind you, these are general business cards, which we mostly use by adding our own email addresses in that space you see there. Most cards are naturally informative because of the way they're usually structured.
Therefore, it's the follow-up that is left. When I give out a business card, I am usually hoping the recipient will follow up with a visit to our website or blog, check us out on twitter or Facebook, or ideally write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
(my email address). If I get a business card, I will do my best to follow up, hoping that they'll respond too.
However, I can understand it's sometimes a bit difficult to follow up. After all, what should
one write? After many attempts at this process, my latest go at this has been about building more personal relationships. I've sent the people I met at the OCE Discovery conference an email personally saying it was great to meet them, a link to our website, and a note offering how SoJo or I could help. I avoid including a description about SoJo because it makes the email even longer and they can explore the site on their own since I've most likely told them about it in person.
What has this yielded so far? Approximately 4 out of 9 people responded back to my email, which I truly appreciate. Not everyone will respond back though and understandably, it may feel discouraging. However, that's the worst that can happen: you won't get a response. At best, that email could be the catalyst for a great business relationship or partnership - which is exactly what I'm going to aim to foster with those who wrote back.
Written by Zainab
I've been struggling to write blog posts - or really anything - for over a week now.
If you're not familiar with the term, writer's block refers to the state of being stuck and unable to write. Wikipedia's article gives a grim opening to this:Writer's block is a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity. It can be trivial, a temporary difficulty in dealing with the task at hand. At the other extreme, some "blocked" writers have been unable to work for years on end, and some have even abandoned their careers.
For a writer, this state feels similar to paralysis, in that the inability to write feels like one can't move, express, or be.
Like many others, I've had writer's block before and usually, it feels a lot more trivial. This time, I've tried a number of tactics that were not proving as effective:
- writing on paper. Sometimes you need to get away from a screen and just write without filters like spell-check.
- writing in a different location. Certain moments throughout the the conference I was at earlier this week made me go "aha, that would make a good blog post!". And though I made notes in between kiosk visitors, I still couldn't bring myself to write more than a few bullets.
- taking a break. I worked at home yesterday, thinking an extra hour of sleep and three hours saved on commuting would help me feel more energized. Not a single word was written, aside from my emails.
I saw a tweet this morning that finally
had me put these thoughts down in print:
And sometimes, that's exactly what you need to do, even when you have nothing to write: write anyway.
I'm sure other writers can relate to me when I say that for me, my writing is part of who I am, that the pen is my sword, and my written words are my voice.
It feels good to write... even if it is a struggle to do so at the moment.
For the beginning of this week, I was at the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Discovery Conference, “Canada's leading innovation-to-commercialization conference, showcasing leading-edge technologies, best practices and research in Ontario”. I’ll be writing a series of posts on things to keep in mind when going to a conference or event as an exhibitor. This is the second post in the series.Written by Zainab
The Ontario Centres of Excellence Discovery Conference, like many conferences, is a great place to be if you are looking for exposure to a variety of stakeholders. When we got the chance to have a kiosk at Discovery for absolutely no cost through the Digital Media Zone, I jumped at the chance knowing that it could introduce us to many of the people that we had to meet in order to help move us along. OCE’s Discovery is exceptional in their information and guides to participants and exhibitors alike, and one of the first pages in the Young Entrepreneurs’ Guidebook included this piece on the audience expected to be there:
This is a very diverse group of people then to be speaking to, especially given that this isn’t a case of a clear majority with a few exceptions.
You may have your pitch but how do you make sure it works for everybody? Some possibilities to go with.
- Start by asking about them and why they're at the event. Something they say could really trigger an opening for you to talk about your initiative/organization or even about yourself if you happen to share something in common. I somehow met many Ryerson alumni and a variety of people working in education at this conference.
- Adjust your pitch to each person. Make it meaningful for them, instead of giving the same talk to everyone. It's a different conversation with everyone.
- Or find a quick line that has the potential to lure anyone in. I remembered this article on SoJo on using conversational hooks for easy elevator pitches and found my hook today at one point. It was a lot easier to say "SoJo is about helping people take their ideas into action." Once you see a look of interest, it's much easier to go from there.
- I assure you, you will find your exhibitor voice. Each pitch gets easier, since you same the same things throughout the day and find what works most effectively and efficiently to say.
- Let people experience what you do for themselves. In our case, it's a website and so I show people the homepage on an iPad (everything looks more impressive on it) and ask them to select where they are in their journey. They then click their way through and it's a more engaging and interactive discussion.
The key thing to keep in mind is to find what works for you and what you do. Adding your personality to it makes the participant's visit to your booth/kiosk that much more effective since it becomes a meeting between two people, not an infomercial at an audience of one.
For the beginning of this week, I was at the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Discovery Conference, “Canada's leading innovation-to-commercialization conference, showcasing leading-edge technologies, best practices and research in Ontario”. I’ll be writing a series of posts on things to keep in mind when going to a conference or event as an exhibitor. This is the first post.Written by Zainab
Like many big events, the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Discovery Conference had a camera crew milling through the day, taking pictures and speaking to people on camera about the conference. This material is often used for promotional purposes for both the organization and for future events like this one.
At one point during the afternoon, the SoJo kiosk was approached to speak to the camera crew about what our thoughts on the conference. I looked at Marc and asked him if he’d like to take it, and he suggested I go ahead.
Now I’ll admit, I’m a bit camera shy... so I was actually trying to avoid it by suggesting someone else do it. Yet I knew this was also the perfect way to push myself just a little outside my comfort zone so I swallowed my dread about it and agreed to do it.
This crew consisted of a cameraman and an interviewer. The interviewer would ask questions and as she directed, I would answer her questions while looking at her. At the end, I had to give a tagline to end the conversation; in this case, I had to say. “I [insert action]
Though it can be nerve-wracking, here are some tips to help if you too are a camera-phobe:
- Keep your answers short. They don't expect you to fill time; rather, they usually are looking for snippets from different people to put together.
- Be honest if you need time to think about an answer. They'll understand that you may have not thought of those questions beforehand.
- Look at where they are asking you to, and mentally block out other people except for that person. It helps to stay in the moment and see it as a conversation just between you and the interviewer/reporter.
- Need that tagline on the fly? Use your company’s or simply state what you aim for with your work. I used something similar to the following for mine: “I help people put their ideas into action in Ontario”.
- Do not worry about looking picture perfect. You have to remember that they wouldn’t have asked if they didn’t think you’d look and be great on camera.
- Be patient with the process, and remember that they’ll be patient with you too. It took me about three or four takes to get my tagline right for the camera, but I did it!
And saying I did it was the best part of it all. :)