Jordan Phoenix

The Beginning

PROJECT FREE WORLD developed out of Jordan Phoenix’s work in the personal development industry after working with individuals who wanted to do something to do to give back to their communities but who couldn’t quit their jobs.

Not long before this, Jordan graduated from university and started working in his then-chosen profession as an engineer. He quickly realized that corporate life was neither meaningful nor enjoyable for him, and so he entered into entrepreneurism in 2008 as a personal/career coach and was his first effort to actualize his core values to help others.

Hosting group coaching sessions in the Big Apple, New York, Jordan started sharing ideas in the form of Idea Lauch Pad. Having “too many ideas to go around,” this venture was his earliest platform to release social good ideas, find partnerships and build teams.

Already an entrepreneur, Jordan then took his next greatest step by committing his energies to his core vision to make Project Free World a reality in spite of his many fears – an idea for which he developed in 2010.

Project Free World (PFW) was founded with the mission of providing proper Food, Rights, Education, and Environment to every person on the planet. The project had a magnitude which – at times – discouraged him;, but having the experiences of meeting other like-minded people (including SoJo’s own visionary, Kanika Gupta) at events and through seed funding organizations, Jordan discovered a growing industry of social entrepreneurship that utilized business practices through which he grew confident that the resources he would need would come to him once he started.

The Present

Now working on PFW full-time as of 2012, Jordan leverages technology to reach people with an impact even greater than his previous 1-on-1 coaching work.

After committing, Jordan experienced significant changes to life moving from employee to entrepreneur. No longer living for “the weekend” (now a thing of the past), he was now extremely busy; his work and play now blend together and he admits that sometimes, “You don’t know if you’re a workaholic or a slacker.”

Jordan is committed to sticking to his core values. He describes, “As a leader you want to create an organization that fits who you are as a person, as much as the organization feeds off of you and your core values and you want to build a culture around this as well. You understand the organization is an extension of who you are.”

More on Jordan’s Venture: Project Free World

Jordan’s vision is to create a collaborative platform to see critical areas requiring global attention and to help people search for like-minded people, projects and organizations with interests and values similar to their own.

The idea is inspired by the devastating statistic that 50% of all children do not have their most basic needs met, such as food and shelter. The fact that there are still more people living in poverty than there were 20 years ago is so widely inconsistent with the billions of dollars are exchanged annually from rich to poor countries; and the multitude (over 1.5 million!) non-for profit organizations already working towards alleviating poverty. Jordan says, “We need to rethink.”

PFW recognises that resources for social good are infinite and that our fears and our societal divisions. The problem is that organizations aren’t speaking directly to the people they’re trying to help, that they’re concerned about statistics; and that there is an overall lack of collaboration.

The PFW platform will also aide organizations which otherwise have trouble scaling by connecting resources – people, funding, and awareness – together to amplify social enterprises which serve the common good such as reusing proven concepts in new markets, regions, and so forth.

Simply put, Jordan describes it as “social media for social good.”

Based in NYC, Jordan is charismatic and not short on passion. On the daily, he endeavours to spread awareness of his project, grow his team, and build his online platform set to launch in 2013.

Patricia Hansell + Paul Panchyshyn

Inspired by the passion and generosity of her colleagues, Patricia Hansell wanted to provide them with opportunities to learn more and continue giving.

The Trigger
The earthquake in Haiti. Patricia and her colleagues really wanted to help, so they engaged the Community Investment team at WestJet to see if they could set up Haiti relief donation boxes and they agreed. On top of that, WestJet began collecting donations on flights from the Caribbean.

Emotions experienced when making the decision to go full-time in a new venture
Committing to this venture changed Patricia’s life. While she’s been studying and working in the development field for some time, putting her ideas into action and engaging others challenged her to clarify her views on development approaches. She was nervous about implementing their venture, always wondering if they were doing the right thing, or the best thing. But at the same time, she was excited to see the organization developing and everything falling in to place. Sharing their ideas and learning that others shared their passion was very liberating.

Also, Patricia’s constantly learning from her new venture. She learned how to create a strategic plan and produced one for Connections. She’s learning about social media, websites, marketing and communication. She’s more knowledgeable about building partnerships and leveraging resources.

The way she spends her time changed dramatically. She had to carve a niche in her schedule to accommodate all that has to be done. Despite other demands, she finds herself working on their venture first and sometimes even sacrificing sleep for it (she likes sleep)! It has really grounded her, and led her to think about what is important and how she wants to spend her time.

First person to share your idea with
Paul Panchyshyn. Patricia was brainstorming with fellow Westjetters about ways they could support Haitians following the earthquake in 2010. Some were keen on volunteering, but financial assistance was needed at the time so they focused on fundraising. Paul contacted Patricia to get involved. Following the fundraisers they continued to chat and throw around ideas. Connections was conceived after many emails and brainstorming sessions over coffee and muffins.

Initial Doubts
Patricia’s biggest doubt was whether the venture would take-off (pardon the pun). There was a lot of talk and over analysis – they had a hard time making decisions.

First Action
By the time they acted, friends and colleagues had already started showing interest. They started by choosing a country to focus on – Jamaica. From there they started researching and contacting various organizations. They heard back from one fairly quickly, and were really excited as Paul had previous experience with them. Unfortunately they stopped responding to the duo, and they were back to the drawing board. However, when they found Jamaican Self-Help, it felt right and there was a shared sense of enthusiasm.

First major milestone
Their first milestone was travelling to Jamaica in March 2012, to meet Marisa, the executive director of Jamaican Self-Help, and to visit their partners in Kingston. Although they corresponded with Marisa several times, and were fairly confident they shared the same goals and objectives, they weren’t exactly sure what to expect or what they would do if things didn’t go as planned. Thankfully the organization was very happy with what they saw, and everything fell into place. During the trip, they decided they would return to Jamaica with a group of volunteers in November 2012. Upon returning, they proceeded to flush out the details, and officially started promoting the trip on May 29, 2012 – two years after the idea was first conceived.

Greatest Challenge
There have definitely been many challenges, says Patricia, but the biggest one is scope creep. The more they think and talk, the more they want to do. They have probably changed their mission and vision half a dozen times trying to tweak it, and considered various directions for the venture. One cause for this was financial sustainability. To date, they have personally covered the costs involved with start-up and that has led them to think of ways to financially sustain the venture. They were offered a donation to cover start-up costs, which was very helpful.

After much deliberation, they’re sticking to their plan and trying to keep the scope small for the time being. As they focus on why they came to be, they hope to refine their mission following their trip in November.

Connections is a grass-roots organization of like-minded individuals dedicated to improving the livelihoods of people in countries where we travel. Connections recognizes that as tourists, we have the unique opportunity and responsibility to ensure that tourism is mutually beneficial. By sharing the gift of education, we hope to improve the lives of the most vulnerable in countries that rely heavily on tourism, while at the same time, providing opportunities for volunteers to learn about the social and economic conditions in developing nations.

Our vision is to connect individuals seeking a humanitarian experience with a network of charitable organizations supporting literacy and education while also encouraging purposeful travel/tourism that supports local communities and economies.

Liam Kaufman

The Beginning

Written by Sheva Zohouri

Prior to creating, Liam Kaufman was working the Technologies for the Aging Gracefully Lab (TAGlab) at the University of Toronto (U of T). He was doing research and working on an iOS application to provide an easier way for those with motor and visual impairments to read.

The Trigger
The idea was simmering in the back of his mind while he was completing his Computer Science degree. In many of his classes, Liam noted students weren’t putting up their hands, and they certainly weren’t saying “I’m confused”. Meanwhile, everyone brought their smartphone/laptop or tablet to class and he wondered if there was a technical solution. The idea really started taking shape when Liam took the plunge and created a prototype in November 2011.

After creating the prototype of, Liam received great feedback that spurred him on to refine the prototype and test it in three first-year U of T classes. Once he tested it in those classes he got excited about the impact this could have on learning and knew he had to work on full-time.

Emotions experienced when making the decision to go full-time in a new venture
Once he committed to, he felt a huge relief that he’d be able to work on something he was really passionate about. Since Liam didn’t own a home or have children, and his wife would still be in school, the risk of starting seemed much more manageable.

First person to share your idea with
Most likely his wife! After telling her, he pitched the idea to one of his U of T professors and he was eager to try it in one of his classes.

Initial Doubts
His biggest doubt was whether he could get more users. Without people using your product, it’s pretty hard to build a sustainable business. Fortunately, had a successful launch that generated a ton of interest and sign-ups from educators.

First Action
The first thing he did in November 2011 was transition from a prototype to a beta product. This involved considerable software development and working with a designer to make it look great.

First major milestone was launched on Wednesday May 2nd, 2012. That day, was mentioned on several popular websites including TechCrunch. The following week, it was featured in the Toronto Star, over two dozen education blogs, and a radio station in Calgary.

Greatest Challenge
The biggest challenge was balancing all the different activities necessary to launching a startup. When he was meeting with the media, he was giving up software development time. When he was developing software and fixing bugs, he wasn’t meeting with educators. He found that finding the right balance and prioritizing was difficult.

At This Point: works in a web-browser on a smartphone, tablet or laptop and in a lecture or class. Students can click “confused” when they’re lost or “understood” when they get it. In real-time, the professor can see what percentage of students understand. Their goal is to work with educators and further refine, and add features that make it even more useful in lectures and classes. Liam hopes that will become a useful tool to engage students and help teachers respond faster to students’ confusion.

Building Team Morale in Tech Industry (Teambuilding)

Written by Millie Samanski

Liam Kaufman of has found that the spirit of the technology industry – which by virtue of its competitive, therefore seemingly ceaseless, nature – places high demands on entrepreneurs looking to enter the field including constant and regular updates, patches, revision, and expansion.

While to many entrepreneurs, this environment in demanding highly detail-oriented (and seemingly sleepless) and innovation may leave anyone feeling stressed just thinking about it, these demands have had a positive effect on morale for the team.

Developing his product and absorbing user feedback, which often highlights flaws or opportunities for fine-tuning, means his team is constantly making many little changes to improve the product. Liam explains that these frequent updates are very rewarding for teammate developers who see their contributions implemented in real-time for users who then benefit from a consistent user-experience, even if changes are more “back-end” and unnoticeable to the average user.

Constant revisions are also helpful because errors are found immediately and smoothed out before they become a real headache and stressor for everyone on the team.

UnderstoodIt is an application to help students communicate their real-time needs to educators in the classroom with the goals of making classrooms more interactive and giving students an opportunity to voice their confusion anonymously. For more information, visit

Susheela Ramachandran

Prior to creating Being Love, Susheela was the Project Coordinator of the ClimateSpark Social Venture Challenge, an initiative run by the Toronto Atmospheric Fund through the Centre for Social Innovation and Toronto Community Foundation.

The three part challenge sought ten social venture ideas that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Toronto and provided them with mentorship and the opportunity to access a funding pool of up to $750,000 in investment and grants.

The Trigger
She was having a rough week in early March and decided she needed some ‘self-care’. Settling her bill at a salon, she noticed a line of cosmetics that were completely natural. She chatted with the entrepreneur of the line and left with a free trial.

Susheela loved her products and decided to help promote the line as she knew the demographic and market who would purchase it. Before she knew it, she was proposing to work on it together. She was a bit shocked at what came out of her own mouth. She was not a trained consultant and busy wrapping up her ClimateSpark position.

Mulling it over, she realized she could totally do it. She had a ton of experience as a Social Entrepreneur herself and supporting other Social Entrepreneurs. Her mind was made up, she started her consulting company, Being Love.

Emotions experienced when making the decision to go full-time in a new venture
Susheela’s always been one to follow her passion and do whatever feels right. This idea felt right so she went for it. She attributes her past successes to following her passions and listening to her gut.

First person to share your idea with
Though written words don’t quite capture it, it was Joshua Bensimon, the CEO of Positive Sum.

Initial Doubts
How she was going to make it all work. She confesses to having no idea what she was doing.

First Action
Susheela found supporters and began promoting her work. She found many clients and mentors to support her through her learning process. She launched her business formally mid-March, 2012.

First major milestone
She achieved her first milestone on March 30th, 2012 when she landed her first client and achieved her first deliverable.

Greatest Challenge
Her biggest challenge was accepting the uncertainty and chaos in her life. She started a business with almost no capital, no plan and no idea how to get clients. Susheela knew she needed to move out of her parent’s home while juggling various responsibilities and emotionally challenging situations.

She overcame this with the support and guidance of friends and mentors. Having strong conviction and commitment in her business and using all her self-awareness and philosophical know-how to pull through. As well as taking care of herself and doing things that gave her joy and love. Being very patient and compassionate with herself was extremely important.

Over time she’s become more accepting of every situation, taking everything with patience and in stride. She understands the impermanence of everything and has faith that everything is going to work out. She allows herself to experience all the emotions and then from a place of peace and grounded-ness she decides how to move forward.

Being Love provides business and event strategy services to social ventures, non-profits, charities and for-profit businesses with an environmental/social aspect.

The vision is to bring humanity to its fullness through making it a healthier and happier place.
Goals are to infuse the principles and practices of love, as form of strength and power to create meaningful and positive social impact.

For more information go to

Lindsey Goodchild

The Beginning

Written by Sheva Zohouri

Prior to creating Greengage Mobile (“Greengage”), Lindsey Goodchild was completing her post graduate degree in sustainability at Ryerson University. Her thesis and CSR consulting work put her on the path to define a ‘sustainability plan’ and standard guidelines for organizations determined to go green and measure their progress.

Hitting the same cultural and logistical walls over and over, Lindsey identified the need for a simple sustainability tool. Greengage Mobile was born out of her determination to help organizations and their employees realize their sustainability goals.

The Trigger
Experience and serendipity. Lindsey was brainstorming ways of keeping companies’ sustainability goals going.

As Lindsey was noting a lack of tools and resources to support corporate sustainability, opportunity was knocking. Ryerson University hosted a competition for a mobile app that helps overcome sustainability challenges for business. Her winning proposal cemented her vision and plan for Greengage Mobile.

Emotions experienced when making the decision to go full-time in a new venture
Disbelief and euphoria. Greengage became Lindsey’s life; she was overwhelmed but excited.

The ‘tech world’ was foreign to her and she jumped right into the deep end – learning through osmosis and networking like crazy.

First person to share your idea with
Her father and brother. Aware of the roadblocks she faced in her consulting work, they were a tremendous support throughout the competition process. Soon after the success of her proposal, she shared her idea with friends and the public.

Initial Doubts
At first, Lindsey was new to the technology she wanted to create and the ‘tech world’. It wasn’t all “cherry pie”. She was doubtful and uncertain after her first developers left her high and dry to go camping – literally.

Business and Entrepreneurship were also new, but her passion, supporters and grants helped her forge ahead.

First Action
Lindsey applied for space at the Digital Media Zone through Ryerson University. She did a ton of research into employee engagement and the technology. She also created a technical outline to shop developers. Most of this happened while she was consulting full time.

First major milestone
Winning the Competition in June 2010 and quitting her job to develop GreenGage full time.

Greatest Challenge
Finding the right technical partner – Lindsey was working in partnership with MARS where she met her Chief Technical Officer (CFO) and eventual business partner. She nicknamed this process “Co-founder Dating”. Lindsey’s partner shares her passion for sustainability and moxie.

The Greengage Platform is revolutionizing how corporations engage with employees.
Greengage is dedicated to helping organizations connect with their employees in a meaningful way. They help align Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts with employees’ actions.
Improve your CSR by using tools that are already in the pockets of your employees.

For more information go to

Tech Dating – Finding The Right Technical Partner

Written by Millie Samanski

Lindsey Goodchild of Greengage Mobile has described finding the right technical partner as one of her biggest challenges as an entrepreneur. Playfully described as “tech-dating,” her efforts in selecting a partner were anything but easy.

The initial validation of her idea after winning first-place in the first annual BlackBerry Green App Challenge made Lindsey more confident and motivated her to dedicate herself full-time to her project, Greengage Mobile.

The project required program development and computer engineering skills outside her technical capabilities, but she wasn’t going to let that stop her. Aided by seed-fund winnings of the Challenge, Lindsey hired a team of developers to complete the technical components so she could focus on the front-end. Lindsey felt well-equipped moving forward – that was until they ran off with her money.

“They said they went camping but they never came back,” she describes, laughing now. Back then, it was no laughing matter. The developers took with them half of the contest-winnings she’d given them as a deposit and left her high and dry.

In recovery of that disaster, Lindsey moved forward independently. She became a client of MaRS through which she’d connected with a great advisor who helped to connect her with a tech company – an honest one.

In light of this assistance, Lindsey realized that she needed a technical partner – and not an employee – to manage the technical aspects. Acknowledging her personal strengths and limitations, she knew she needed a partner who could provide guidance and leadership to the technical areas of her venture as it grew which would allow Lindsey to focus her energies on the sustainability component of Greengage.

Perhaps it was serendipity, but it was through this tech company that she met Dessy Daskalov, a developer who shared Lindsey’s “start-up bug.”

After developing a strong working relationship and personal friendship, the two decided to partner together. Dessy joined Greengage full time as its Chief Technology Officer in January 2012 – a moment described by Lindsey as being the best thing to happen to her in her entrepreneurship journey to date.

Lindsey Goodchild is the co-founder of Greengage Mobile, a web-based management platform that engages employees in sustainability goals in real-time and rewards them for participation. To learn more, visit

Cristian Contreras

The Beginning

Written by Sheva Zohouri

Prior to committing himself full-time to Next Parliament, Cristian Contreras spent a year working in business development for Idea Couture and on various other entrepreneurial projects that occupied the rest of his time. Before Troll Democracy and Next Parliament there was Shoapbox, a site dedicated improving the conversation between consumers and their favorite brands. Before Shoapbox there was Innovators Union, an organization designed to help entrepreneurs with similar needs use their numbers to get better pricing for the services they need.

The Trigger
Cristian was dining with a few friends last year, just before the federal election and discussing why people in their age group (20-35) were the least likely to vote. A few ideas were thrown around. Some thought the problem might be lack of information, that people don’t feel they know enough to make an intelligent decision. Others suggested that the problem is people don’t care enough to inform themselves and that information is out there.

Cristian and his friend Farhan Sultan felt differently. They suggested a lack of meaning associated with the process, that people lost faith in the integrity of the system. They felt this apathy could be alleviated if Canadians had a platform from which they could express themselves and where opinions would be aggregated in the process. The next day, Cristian and Farhan started working on a rough prototype of this solution. Within a week, they had a fully functioning version of the site.

They continued working on the project nights and weekends for a few months until the fall of 2011; when the discontent characterized by the Occupy Movement inspired Cristian to quit his job to work on the project full time.

Emotions experienced when making the decision to go full-time in a new venture
The moments leading up to Cristian’s decision to jump into Next Parliament with both feet were far more nerve-racking than what followed. Once he committed himself full-time to his cause he knew he made the right the decision. Six months later, that feeling endures. They are finally ready to launch a public beta version of the site, and throughout these months he’s learned a great deal.

First person to share your idea with
Technically, the group of friends they dined with was their first focus group. The idea came as an argument to the question of how they could solve the diminishing democratic participation found today in western societies. Farhan and Cristian decided then and there this was something they wanted to pursue and started working on it the next day.

Initial Doubts
Their greatest challenge from the start was the underlying existential struggle that keeps most Social Entrepreneurs up at night. The question, of whether they can reconcile their mission to make a positive impact in society with a revenue model that allows them to scale without diluting the benefit.

First Action
Their starting point was to start building. Planning and execution were parallel processes. The resulting first version of the site was crude but effective. Users could open an account and vote on issues previously proposed by them. Surprisingly, not only were friends playing with it but outside visitors too – some of whom worked in government.

First major milestone
After changing their name from Troll Democracy to Next Parliament and redesigning the website, they launched their private beta version of the site on February 2012. They tested it with about 75 users, primarily friends and family. This version of the product allowed users to propose, vote and comment on issues. But more importantly, it allowed Next Parliament to test their assumptions about whether people would in fact be interested in expressing their thoughts and participating much more actively in the political process if given the opportunity.

Greatest Challenge
Their biggest challenge was to build a product that translates engagement into a meaningful social impact. The response to their private beta version of Next Parliament was very enthusiastic but it also emphasized the importance of ensuring that outside stakeholders such as legislators and the media are engaged as well. Since then, they spent a few weeks building in features that enable users to collaborate more effectively, that allow ideas to be refined through a series of consecutive amendments and that allow politicians to let users know they are listening.

Next Parliament is an initiative created to extend democracy beyond Election Day. Their goal is to build a platform that constitutes a modern vehicle for democratic engagement. They believe they can harness the collective intelligence of educated and politically inclined but otherwise disaggregated individuals, and move beyond the mere voicing of discontent to creative and practical solutions to the policy questions facing society every day.

For more information go to

Danah Abdulla + Karim Sultan + Rawan Hadid

The Beginning

Written by Sheva Zohouri

Inspired by the limited voices, creative outlets and representations of the Arabic diaspora, Danah Abdulla, Karim Sultan and Rawan Hadid conceived Kalimat magazine. An open outlet for political, social and cultural expression within the region and its Diaspora, it provides alternative to negative representations of Arabs in the media. It’s also a place for people to gather, share ideas, research, learn, teach, expand their horizons and challenge the status quo.

The Trigger
Karim met Danah through a mutual contact and later contributor while she was discussing the first issue of Kalimat in the city. Rawan joined soon after she found Kalimat online – it took off from there.

For Danah, it was her observations. Kalimat launched in November 2010, a month before the events took place in Tunisia and spiraled in the Arab world, so it was good timing. Karim describes it as waking up from a long, disturbed sleep.  He met a number of diverse creative people all highly accomplished in their respective fields and with the Arab uprisings, it was time to act.  Rawan had her Eureka moment on one of those day-long Internet prowls that takes you from one random place to the next. Feeling somewhat disillusioned with criticizing problems academically and going round and round in intellectual circles, Kalimat just made sense.

Emotions experienced when making the decision to go full-time in a new venture
Danah realized that if she committed herself to Kalimat, it wouldn’t bring the steady income she was used to. She felt scared, but confident about her idea and that it was something she needed to do.  Meanwhile, Karim felt that his own creative projects all streamlined into Kalimat. His abilities were given a purpose that was not clearly defined before. And while apprehensive, Rawan is confident about the long-term success of this project and knows it has found its niche and will continue to grow organically.

First person to share your idea with
Danah shared it with with her cousin and a few friends she met while in Jordan, but the idea was initially a newspaper. Karim shared it with his culturally-minded Arab friends at first. He found that almost every conversation he had ended up about Kalimat.

Initial Doubts
Danah thought she would receive a lot of criticism working in the space of Arab affairs, and she was worried it wouldn’t connect with people.  One of Karim’s biggest doubts was generating support from the various Arab communities and groups, starting in Toronto. He never encountered anything like Kalimat before so he thought some people might just not understand it or judge it unfairly. Rawan’s worry was that people wouldn’t get it, but they got so much positive feedback, that those doubts have dissipated now they’re just looking ahead.

First Action
According to Danah, it was hitting the publish button on the website, the follow button on twitter, creating the newsletter and waiting for feedback.  Unsure at first how he could contribute, Karim decided to jump in headfirst and learn along the way.  Rawan was blindly emailing and wanting to get involved before developing the business plan and grant proposals, finding advertisers and making it real.

First major milestone
November 2010. When Kalimat was “soft launched” online and drew attention to the gap it could potentially fill.

Greatest Challenge:
The waiting game – we were waiting to see what would come out of it. It was the slow build-up of followers and subscribers. They realized through time that the followers and subscribers they attracted were strong and felt equally as passionate about the project.

Launched in 2010, Kalimat is a social, cultural and political quarterly committed to providing an outlet for open expression within the Arab region and its Diaspora. At the same time, it is a visual communication tool that serves to educate both those who read it and those who contribute to it.

The purpose is to be an open outlet for expression and to increase participation within the cultural/creative scene. It’s a platform for the creative Arabic community to engage in thought and action around ideas, people and business, moving the world forward.

The name “Kalimat,” which means “words” is inspired from the Majida el-Roumi song of the same name, originally a poem by the Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani.

For more information visit

The Post Launch Update

Written by Sheva Zohouri

In discussing post-launch challenges and breakthroughs, Danah, Rawan and Karim of Kalimat shared what it takes to build your network, create buzz and learn as you go.

Following the fourth online publication of Kalimat, the team decided it’s time to go to print. “Collectively,” said Danah, “we’re able to share this giant milestone, the first print issue.”

The trio acknowledged Kalimat’s exposure in the U.S. as another post-launch milestone.There was a mutual sense that networking was easier abroad. Doing grad school in Baltimore, Danah noted advantages of networking away from home. “Sometimes,” she said, “it’s challenging to penetrate the smaller communities in your city because they’re so tight knit.”

Karim reported that the challenge of penetrating Toronto, Canada, made them try even harder; adding that “with the internet, it’s not so hard to build internationally.”

“There are many layers to Kalimat,” said Rawan. Initial feedback indicated that it needed to be more coherent. “It takes time,” she added. “Our material has evolved to be simple, clear and to the point and it’s great when people get it.”

In recalling some highlights, Danah recalled working on the Egyptian Design issue, when she was approached to collaborate with the Alchemy Design Studio, run by Karim Mekhtigian whose designs are inspired by Cairene landscapes.

After introducing himself at a design conference in Toronto, Karim was surprised when someone yelled out “Oh my God it’s you!” and later discovered that ‘someone’ was a blogger he followed and really respected.

Rawan had her moment when they were contacted by the Design Days festival organizer to be their media partners for the first design conference in the Middle East. She felt like people were really beginning to watch. To which Danah responded, “It makes us more conscious of the work we produce.”

In commenting on how Kalimat has changed her, Rawan said the learning curve has been steep but she’s been doing it as she goes. “The magazine business is hard,” she added. “Trial by fire – you just do it and it happens.”

Karim is fulfilled encouraging people to embrace their culture in their design.

As for Danah, it’s all about teaching yourself and talking to people. “My art was always separate from my political life,” she said,”but now I get to merge the two.” She added that it took a while to get there, but it’s what she wanted to do.

Vivek Sarma + Jason Maehara

In response to the limited online resources, Vivek Sarma and Jason Maehara are building kipConnect, a web-based mentoring platform. The platform is a product of their combined aspirations and experience.
The site offers career and educational advice to high school and university aged students making decisions about university, course selections, job searches and career paths.

The Trigger
It wasn’t a specific event that caused them to commit to kipConnect. They’re committed to kipConnect to offer constant mentorship and guidance to youth in an open communication based environment. Having been in those shoes not long ago, they offer advice that wasn’t available to them at that stage of their lives.

Emotions experienced when making the decision to go full-time in a new venture
Change – The shift in their schedules and time constraints. They’re developing kipConnect as a part-time venture, outside of regular jobs. They adjusted priorities to juggle their jobs while building kipConnect. The launch of the website was a mix of excitement and apprehension for its envisioned success.

First person to share your idea with
A friend, Yen Tran, who also helped create the color designs and logo.

Initial Doubts
Their biggest doubt was whether they could provide a service that would be in demand, since mentorship and guidance are popular services offered ‘in person’. They found that the appetite for quick and accessible advice is strong, and they strive to provide a supplementary service to more traditional forms of mentoring.

First Action
The first thing they did was reach out to friends to form a team. The two friends they started with have since moved on to other ventures; however, they helped generate a website storyboard, an initial web layout and a brand design.

First major milestone
The idea launched in June 2011 and the first milestone was the creation of a website storyboard. The storyboard was the basis for their future website design.

Greatest Challenge
The greatest challenge in the early days was finding individuals who could schedule time to work on kipConnect despite their reasonable job and life commitments. They learned early that finding committed teammates with the capacity to fit in ‘kipConnect time’ was critical.

kipConnect is a website that provides informational content, opinionated articles and online mentorship to students and young professionals looking to make career and educational decisions.

The name kipConnect brings together two valuable themes:
1. “kip” stands for ‘knowledge is power.’ The kipConnect team believes that everyone should have access to as much information and shared knowledge as possible when making important life decisions.
2. “connect” denotes that the website works to connect information seeking users with knowledge and informed mentors.

kipConnect users have access to the following benefits:
• Read opinion editorials, written and published by our mentors on various education and career related topics;
• Ask questions and have them answered in a timely fashion via the message board; and
• Connect with a mentor to gain valuable one-on-one mentorship through the private messaging function.
Users can access the website for as little or as much information as they want, free of charge and with no commitment.

For full details go to

Lilia Zaharieva

The Beginning

Lily was part way through an undergraduate degree in English and philosophy with the plan of becoming a lawyer, with the salary and prestige that can accompany the designation in mind. In May 2010, she decided to shift her entire focus to helping youth overcome challenges associated with mental health. Inspired by her personal experiences of living with a parent with mental illness, she decided to create the very support that she was lacking growing up. Her ability to relate to the youth she serves is her best asset and driving force in life.

The trigger to act on your idea:
I have long battled with a chronic and life-shortening illness that affected my energy on a daily basis. I was very sick, but avoiding the hospital stay I knew my body needed. Why? Because I didn’t want to fall behind in school. Why? So that I could get some shiny A’s and get into a shiny law school. All this just for appearances… I heard this now infamous quote from Steve Jobs:

“Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

So I did the best thing I have ever done. I dropped out and admitted myself to the hospital for treatment. In those two weeks of contemplative bed rest, I decided to wake up and start taking some risks. InsideOUT was born when I looked at myself from the inside, and committed to taking authentic action.

Everything becomes crystal clear in the face of illness.

View Lilia’s video below, where she describes her story and the decisions she made when deciding to start insideOut.

First person to learn about your idea:
One of the first people who encouraged me was my then-boyfriend. He is a commerce student, and one of the most practical and grounded people I know. When he gave me the thumbs up, I thought, “Maybe this isn’t so crazy after all!” I’ll never forget some words he gave me during that vulnerable beginning. He said, “keep your head in the clouds, keep dreaming, keep imagining what could be.” I have found those words to be an excellent guiding force and they have proven themselves in unforeseen ways. The dreams that I had for my project once seemed ludicrous, but are now coming true at a constantly accelerating rate. No matter what happens, I have vowed to keep my head in the clouds.

Biggest doubt before you started:
My biggest doubt was in my abilities and preparedness. I knew nothing of finance, fundraising or facilitation. NOTHING. I had come from studying Aristotle into a world entirely unknown to me. Doubt is not a bad thing in itself. Even as my skills grow it remains with me. I just know now when to listen to it and when to ignore and embrace my youthful audacity!

Starting Point – the first action you took:
I started by finding great supporters. Interestingly enough, many of them came to me! A local designer offered his branding services. I am forever grateful for his contribution; it was a huge tipping point. I am a very image-oriented thinker, so to have a logo gave my vision some structure. This helped me more than any formal business plan could have at the time.

First major milestone:
July 2011 – presented first keynote at an international conference for youth. This was the first time I realized the power of my own voice to enable others.

First major challenge:
The initial challenge was my own self-confidence, but luckily this was buffered by the unwavering support of my friends and community.

Stay tuned for updates to Lilia’s story…

InsideOUT is an education and support initiative for youth who have a parent with a mental illness. This very high-risk group is neglected by the nuclear focus of the mental health world, although they are at the highest risk for developing mental illness themselves. InsideOUT creates a space for youth to be themselves and develop the coping skills are protective factors that build resilience.
The participating youth between the ages of 13-18 will engage in an innovative 12-week program to mitigate risk factors and enable youth to reach their potential.

Understanding Social Entrepreneurship insideOUT

I recently caught up with Lilia Zaharieva for her post launch scoop. This interview was atypical. My mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was seven, so I was particularly drawn to her research findings, experiences, and insights.

Lilia had her mind blown at the three-day Child and Youth Mental Health Matters Conference – the first conference of its kind. “People attended from all over the world,” she said. “It’s an emerging field that’s starting to come out of the shadows and gain attention.”

Hearing from leaders in the field inspired her program’s new direction and best practices. “I was really drawn to the Australian ‘summer camp’ model which was implemented with great success,” she said. This led to her exploration of Adventure Therapy and an exciting new partnership. “Bonding together for three days amidst nature while hiking and kayaking accelerates connections and trust building,” she said.

Lilia’s hard work and reputation in the community earned her recognition and support from the BC Government’s Ministry of Children and Families.

Lilia was also approached by the BC Nurses Union to lead break-out sessions at their Annual Practice Conference. This was her first opportunity to facilitate adult workshops, an age group she’s looking to work with more in the future.

The sessions reaffirmed that parental mental illness is a common issue. “Participants shared their personal stories about being little parents growing up, but they also talked about how resilient they’d become,” said Lilia. “It was really uplifting,” she added.

Lilia’s observed a recurring stigma tied to mental illness in her work. Since the launch of this initiative and speaking publically about her own experience at TEDx, she’s no longer quiet.

Drew Zimmerman

The Beginning

Written by Sheva Zohouri

After years of support from family, friends and the community while studying at the University of Victoria, Drew was inspired to give back. A close friend, Bear Johal was running Top Guns Charity in Victoria when he approached him and two other friends, Taylor Love and Cam MacQueen to take Top Guns Charity to the next level. Together, they planned a cross-Canada roadtrip to expand the charity to other university campuses and raise money for breast cancer.

The trigger to act on your idea:
Once the idea was conceived we all realized the importance of what we may be able to do. This realization drove us take our idea and turn it into a tangible and attainable goal. It was the energy the four of us received from each other that drove us to see that it was possible and worthwhile, as well of the multiple cups of coffee I suppose.

First person to learn about your idea:
The idea really came together during conversations between the four of us. From there we started speaking with our close friends. Their support and enthusiasm really allowed us to run with our idea.

Biggest doubt before you started:
Our biggest upcoming project with Top Guns Charity was our 3 month road-trip across Canada. There were doubts in several aspects of this trip ranging from our ability to not only get all the way across Canada physically, but to successfully instill our charity model with other university students across Canada.

Starting Point – the first action:
To build it into a feasible business plan that would allow our idea to not only grow but provide credibility and durability to our idea. This plan was an accumulation of brainstorming sessions (both on our own and with supporters), meetings with businesses, researching financial feasibility, and hours and hours of work trying to put it together into a cohesive plan that stayed true to our initial idea.

First major milestone:
Our first milestone was when we hosted our Think Pink Kick-Off Party at Felicita’s in Victoria. This event was the first event we held and marked the start of our tour to Cross-Canada Roadtrip.

First Major Challenge:
Surprisingly our first month went better than we had hoped. We slowly moved up the learning curve on each of the areas that would define our success. For example, which sales techniques worked best, which venues allowed us to raise the most money, which student groups were most supportive, and which businesses were most likely to help us with our cause. So it wasn’t so much a problem as much as it was a being able to be flexible enough to adapt and shift to what we were learning everyday.

“Top Guns Charity (TGC) is a student-run charity that organizes and facilitates fundraising events on university campuses. This Fall, the team will be traveled across Canada raising awareness for breast cancer and hosting events to raise $135,000 in funding for local Victoria hospitals. This money will be used to purchase two pieces of medical equipment unavailable in Victoria and crucial for early diagnosis and treatment: a Tissue Processor for the Royal Jubilee Hospital and a Film Digitizer for the Victoria General Hospital.

TGC is taking advantage of a market opportunity by providing a way for university students to contribute to a worthy cause while doing what they do best: partying! Let’s be honest – regardless of good intentions, students do not often find money in their limited budgets for philanthropy. One thing they undoubtedly DO find funds for however, is having a good time. So why not combine the two? Exactly! TGC has flipped the traditional charity model on its head, creating a winning situation for everyone involved.

The ultimate vision of Top Guns is to bridge the gap between University students and the local community, by establishing effective and fulfilling student charities across Canada. Just as the founders from UVic are now funding a tangible benefit in Victoria, future TGC divisions at other universities across the country will also fund a worthy cause in their communities. During an undergraduate degree, most university students are fortunate to receive endless support from both their families and their communities. Upon graduation, we’ve found that these bright young minds have a desire to return this support, but have little opportunity to do so. The expansion of Top Guns Charity is precisely that – an opportunity to give back – and this is the driving force behind our mission.”