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Illuminate x Midtown - My experience

Hi everyone! My name is Svasti Sutaria and I am a Grade 10 student at Northern Secondary School. Today, I had the pleasure to attend Illuminate x MidtownTO’s regional conference. Here are my thoughts highlighting what I learned. I was asked to participate by my friend, and I am so glad I took the opportunity. Everyone was super kind and welcoming, and although it was my first conference, I barely felt any nerves at all. All in all, it was a highly engaging and interesting conference.

The first speaker was Salim Naran, CEO of SAVVY. He began by talking about the concept of FinTech, and spoke about the various industrial revolutions. After that, he talked about the Canadian banking system, and how the industry is opposed to introducing FinTech into their system. He explained how important the introduction of FinTech into the industry is, as it would revolutionize the ways that Canadians bank. At the moment, Canadian banks are innovating at a very slow pace, and integrating FinTech could change that for the better. Through his presentation, Sal used Mentimeter to keep the audience engaged, making a more personal atmosphere. One of the main takeaways that I found with his presentation was that in order to succeed, companies must improve customer service.

The second keynote speaker was Razor Suleman, who taught us 3 major lessons. He taught us to find a niche, find a passion, and to keep the majority of the equity. He used 3 different stories to enforce each of these lessons. The one lesson that stuck with me the most was finding a passion. Razor started his businesses out of fun, and personal love. He didn’t begin with the goal of making money. He showed us that if we start something solely for the money and nothing else, once the money is gone, we have no more motivation to continue.

The case competition was an interesting experience, to say the least. Our team was the only team made up of all girls, all from different backgrounds and parts of the city. I had never met anyone on my team before the day of, except for one. We clicked almost immediately. We worked extremely well together, and ended up becoming one of the top 3 finalists, which we didn’t anticipate. We had started the prep time trying to think of a solution related to finance, but switched 30 minutes through to something we’re all passionate about, education.

Student loans are a huge problem in this country. So many students end up in debt because the cost of post-secondary is too much for them to afford. We noticed that a huge number of scholarships and bursaries were going unused each year, just because nobody knew they existed. Millions and millions of dollars worth of scholarships and bursaries going down the drain each year, that could have been used by someone who needed it. So we came up with a solution.

FinanceFriend is a platform that sorts through a database of all available scholarships and bursaries and presents the ones that are available to your particular situation. All the customer needs to do is input their income and personal information and the program does all the work for them. It would be partnered with high schools and banks nationwide, to ensure that all bases are covered, so to speak.

I was incredibly surprised that our team made the top 3, considering once again that we hadn’t met prior to the conference, but our solution was something that made the customer’s life easier, which was all that was needed.

My biggest takeaway is that in order to succeed at a business, you have to have the passion and the drive to take it all the way. Like Alina said, if there’s something we're doing something and there is nothing else we'd rather be doing, that's our passion. And I can’t wait to find mine.

Thank you so much to Illuminate x Midtown TO and the Illuminate Universe for an amazingly Illuminating (haha) experience. It’ll be one that I won’t forget.

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