Five Lessons Learned in my First Year as a Young Canadian Entrepreneur

Posted by Qasim Mohammad

Being a young entrepreneur in Canada is no walk in the park.

The reasons are obvious: school can get in the way of business, the risks associated with a lack of experience are difficult to manage, and there's never enough money to play with. In spite of all this, at the age of 20, I took the opportunity to build a small business. I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole to Wonderland.

Despite the foreseeable heartaches and unforeseeable successes, I made a commitment to follow through with my vision. A year later, I finally arrived at the destination. Getting there wasn't easy, but I've come up with a list of items that helped me survive the seemingly impossible journey.

1. Question your motives.

Before deciding to take a plunge into the world of entrepreneurship, ask yourself why you're doing it in the first place. Is it because you're driven by the business idea you've come up with? Is it because you think you'd make a terrible employee? Or is it because you think it’s the only road to riches?

Determining your primary motive is important, as it'll end up being your "go-to" source of inspiration during tough times. For me, the thought of somehow creating value in people's lives was reason enough to jump down the rabbit hole.

2. Have a mentor.

You don't know what you don't know. That's where mentors come in. Choose a seasoned professional to advise you on your entrepreneurial journey.

I was lucky enough to find a university professor, who was also a successful Toronto-based entrepreneur, to act as my guide. Having access to her past experiences and candid advice was critical to helping me follow through with my vision.

3. You learn from difficult experiences.

Taking on and overcoming big challenges empowers you to overcome your fears, and achieve things you don’t think you’re capable of.

My first attempt at launching the business failed, badly. But I didn’t let it stop me from trying again several months later. What I learned from my past mistakes helped me prepare for my second attempt.

4. Know where to go for help.

We’re fortunate as Canadians to have access to organizations committed to helping young entrepreneurs get started (i.e. MaRS Discovery District, Canadian Youth Business Foundation, Startup Canada, Onatrio Network of Entrepreneurs, etc.)

From free reports outlining how to write a solid business plan, to engaging online videos discussing the financing lifecycle, the resources provided by these organizations addressed nearly all of my informational needs.

5. Be persistent.

As a young entrepreneur, the list of reasons to give up is sometimes much longer than the list to stay on course. But alas, persistence is the secret trait of all successful people. When you're thinking about calling it quits, go back to your primary motives. Whenever I was down and out, I thought about my customers and the value I was adding to their business operations.

There's something to be said about the entrepreneurial spirit among youth in Canada today. As we make a continued effort to manage our competing priorities, let’s appreciate how lucky we are to have the chance to do what we love so early on in our careers.

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Qasim Mohammad

Qasim Mohammad

Qasim is a technology professional, start-up junkie, and digital media enthusiast. He is a recipient of the National Millennium Excellence Award, as well as Schulich School of Business’ 2013 Nicol Award. He currently works as an Account Manager within the Media, Sports, and Entertainment practice at Pivotal Labs. As an Account Manager, Qasim helps startups and Fortune 500 companies understand... more



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