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An Exciting and Worthwhile Afternoon with Illuminate!

Hi, my name is Peter and I am currently a Grade 8 student at Upper Canada College. Today, I had the pleasure of attending an online regional conference hosted by Illuminate x MidtownTO. I’d like to share some key highlights from my experience, which was excellent.

The conference opened with an inspiring introduction by Alina, the founder of the program. She shared her educational and work experiences with us, outlining her path through IB schools, University and Deloitte and the many successes and challenges she encountered along the way. It was incredibly helpful to hear her story. I learned that no one’s educational and career journeys are perfect or easy, however, if you demonstrate grit and determination, you can overcome any personal obstacles and find true success. Case in point, Alina now owns “Illuminate”, her very own highly successful company which hosted today’s regional conference.

Our first Keynote Speaker was Salim Nara, and this was one of my highlights from the day. Salim was engaging and thorough. He introduced us to Fintech, discussed the history and future of business and finance, the role of CryptoCurrencies, AI/VR and the Fourth Technological Revolution - all of which I found fascinating. I learned that every single year, more than one hundred billion dollars are invested in Fintech. Some inspiring takeaways included, “Dream big, reach high and let failure fuel, not defeat, you", “Always choose projects you’re passionate about because they will always yield the most success” and “Work hard and make no excuses”. Salim’s presentation was followed by a fun and energetic Kahoot session which tested our new knowledge as we all raced to secure the best scores.

After a restful lunch break, we were treated to another Keynote Speech by Razor Suleman. Razor quickly identified with many in the audience when he told us about his first business as a young boy where he passionately collected and sold collector sports cards (hockey and baseball). To stress the point that every entrepreneur makes mistakes and hindsight is always 20/20, Razor shared how a Wayne Gretzky card he sold 30 years ago sold for over one million dollars just last year! Razor is a natural presenter and kept us fully engaged as he described his various business ventures over the years including a clothing company he couldn’t accelerate because of his lack of passion and a start-up that Razor ultimately sold for one hundred and thirteen million dollars! Razor also provided us with some very sound business advice that I will definitely remember and apply in my future business life: Never over-dilute your company when you first start in order to secure financing. If you need funds, try to focus on Angel Investors. Let your passions drive your business choices because if you are working on projects you're interested in and passionate about, you will not only enjoy the journey, you will also have a much higher chance of a very successful outcome.

When we finally received our group case at the end of the day, I was excited because this was my very first time participating in a business pitch competition. The day’s presentations inspired us all to focus, work hard and deliver our best pitches. I was fortunate to be in a group with friends and we all worked really well together, brainstormed our ideas, divided the work equally, and supported each other’s efforts. We all did our best, had a lot of fun in the process, and although we didn’t secure a covered top-three spot, I learned so much. The learning and experience I gained at the conference will help me do better when I come back for my next Illuminate event, which hopefully will be very soon.

I’d like to thank Alina, Illuminate, and the organizers of this conference, as well as my Team Lead Omid for inviting me to participate in this great event.

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