Friday, February 13, 2015

Entrepreneur Expo 2015: The Experience

Entrepreneur Expo took place on January 29th, 2015 in the IC atrium. Hundreds of students attended and spoke with representatives from small businesses about their experience with starting a company. Students also had the opportunity to ask about funding options and programs provided by the government or other organizations to help start their own ventures.  Alumni of UTSC were present to talk to students about their career path as well.

The keynote speaker, Andrew Peek, faces the audience, nervous, but combined with his excitement makes it seem more like an intense anticipation. To say he delivered a speech on entrepreneurship would be an understatement. Rather, he questioned the nature of society’s conventions, asking us to choose between following comfortable, well-known rules, or to write the rules ourselves. He emphasized that above all else, curiosity is what will motivate us to seek answers that are far more complex than what we are accustomed to. Finally, he set out to replace the ideas of ‘success’ and ‘failure’ with ‘progress’ and ‘revision’, respectively.  His perspective regarding entrepreneurship and, by extension, education and everyday life, was thoughtful and inspiring.

I’m not sure what I expected to get out of Entrepreneur Expo, but I’ll tell you what I learned. Entrepreneurship is more than starting your own business; it’s taking a chance on a theoretically plausible idea, revising that idea in the context of real life, and having a possibly illogical amount of faith that the idea will exceed your expectations. I was surprised that during the entrepreneur panel, none of the questions were about the business plan or the logistics of starting your own company. What students were concerned with is how it felt to abandon a traditional career pathway in favour of something less predictable. Typically, we prioritize being safe above being happy.

Andrei Arkhanguelski, an entrepreneur on the panel, said something truly memorable in response to this. At some point in our lives, we find that being safe is not enough. He had a stable job that he left to start his company.  Though not all of us will be entrepreneurs, there is a lesson in this: we can only stay on a path that we define as safe for so long, before we decide it is not what we want.  The only barriers that stand in front of our goals are the ones we put there ourselves.

Take chances, UTSC, because we are boundless.


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