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My Wonderful Experience with Illuminate!

Hi everyone! My name is Omid and I am a Grade 8 student at Upper Canada College. Today, I had the pleasure to attend Illuminate x MidtownTO’s regional conference. Here are my thoughts highlighting what I learned about Fintech and other valuable information which I got from this amazing conference.

One of the key topics which we talked about at this conference was Fintech (and its impact in the finance sector). However, we first heard from Alina about her experience in University, Deloitte and IB Business schools. I personally found this to be very interesting and eye-opening. Especially the part with Alina getting accepted into an IB Business school even when her math score was low (she said it was a secret so I can’t share :). I found her method of doing stuff differently and breaking the norms to be truly inspiring and I will aim to use the same mindset going onwards. After this, we heard from Salim Naran about Fintech. Salim is the founder of Savvyy and it turned out he had actually gotten fired twice before following his passion and founding Savvyy. I was really impressed by Sal’s wealth of knowledge about Financial technology and was stunned by how important Fintech was to our banking system (over 100 billion dollars are invested in it annually). I also enjoyed his opinions on working hard and dreaming big because when you shoot for the moon the worst thing that can happen is you land among the stars!

After that, we heard from Razor Suleman, a successful businessman who sold his start-up for 113 million dollars! He talked about his three companies and how he started each one, I was particularly interested in his first company which was selling sports cards. He said how he would buy and trade hockey and baseball cards. He would match supply and demand while capitalizing on the price difference between the Canadian and U.S. markets (prices were lower in Canada). Razor Suleman emphasized that you should always try to keep costs low when you're first starting your company. He also said that you should keep your money, revenue and company all to yourself in the early days. He cautioned us from diluting our business because it won’t be our company anymore and there will be a board of directors that can fire us (DILUTION IS NOT THE SOLUTION). One cool fact he said about sports cards was that a Wayne Gretzky card which he sold many of 30 years ago sold for 1 MILLION DOLLARS last year. He told us this so we know that mistakes are always ok and that we all make mistakes in business (especially when we're first starting off). The second company he started was when he was in university, he would go door to door and sell university clothing. Over the years, his small part-time hobby actually grew a lot and when he graduated he scaled it up and started selling it commercially. However, he didn’t really have a passion for the bigger and more commercial form of the business so it didn’t really expand. This is why he said to make sure you have PASSION for what you're doing because otherwise, it will not be successful. In the end, Razor encouraged us to pursue our dream and to appreciate how lucky we are to have a ‘good start’ by going to good schools. This is because he started from rock bottom and was a refugee from Tanzania.

One last story I want to share from Razor’s talk was a story about him really wanting a blue BMX bike. However, since his family wasn’t able to buy it they said he couldn’t have it. However, one day he saw a promotion in the Toronto Star which stated that if he could sell a certain number of newspapers, they would give a blue BMX bike. He saw that and instantly signed up and worked hard for the bike. After a while, he succeeded and got his bike! Later on, he implemented the same style in his second company and saw sales increase by 5x since employees were more eager to work hard.

Overall, I want to thank Illuminate and Alina for organizing such a wonderful conference and the guest speakers who provided us with their amazing experience. I also want to thank Kalen, Ryan and Alex for being supportive Regional leads and I look forward to attending more of Illuminate’s conferences as a high school counsellor.

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