All posts by mariask88

Building a City Where Everyone Has a Home

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They say beginnings are always tough; I like to say fortune favours the bold and courageous. Both apply to Kara Eusebio who moved to Canada at the end of 2016. Today, Kara is the Senior Manager of Strategic Partnerships at Invest Ottawa and a 2019 Forty Under 40 recipient. But at first, “it was a hard adjustment and it was more difficult than expected to make friends, get involved in the community, and of course, find a job.” She faced many rejections before landing in a temporary data entry resource development position at Cornerstone Housing for Women which provides emergency shelter and safe, supporting housing for women in Canada’s capital city.

Working at Cornerstone helped Kara understand the organization and its mission well and meet new people and volunteers. However, it also uncovered some gaps, including the fact that the demographics of the main donors and volunteers (retirees) weren’t aligned with the women living at Cornerstone (where the average age is 30). “I wanted to volunteer with other young professionals,” said Kara.

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What happened next?

Well, I asked myself how to involve more young professionals at Cornerstone and I pitched the idea of setting up a Young Professionals Advisory Board (YPAB) to the leadership team. I thought it would be a great place to learn about how non-profit boards function, how to make an impact on a board, and create a credible training ground as well as a place for young professionals to volunteer together.

How did you get young professionals interested in joining YPAB?

I reached out  to current volunteers and young professionals I knew and asked them to join. I also purposefully reached out to people who were representative of the demographics or life experiences the women at Cornerstone had had because I wanted to make sure that the YPAB was representative, diverse, and inclusive.

YPAB members represent different educational and professional backgrounds but it is essentially a coalition of the willing, young professionals looking for a way to make a difference and bring attention to the housing crisis and people experiencing homelessness in our community.

It wasn’t too difficult to get people involved actually. Many young professionals were already looking for like-minded folks and were questioning how to make a difference in our city, so this really resonated with them. In addition, while many people think of homelessness as a political issue, there are YPAB members from all three major political parties.

When was the first meeting of the Board and what does the Board focus on?

Our first meeting was in September 2017.

YPAB consists of community focused young professionals who are interested in supporting Cornerstone’s fundraising efforts, want to spread community awareness about homelessness, want to volunteer with other professionals and learn how to advocate for a cause they believe in. To my knowledge, there is nothing quite like the YPAB in Ottawa.

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How many Board members are there today?

We started with 9 members in 2017 and now have over 21 members. We’re continually looking for young professionals who want to make an impact.

What are YPAB’s successes to date?

To date, the YPAB has raised more than $6,000 in support of Cornerstone’s services.

In mid-2019, our volunteer coordinator reported that Cornerstone has experienced a significant shift in volunteer demographics: 75% of volunteer applicants are now between the ages of 24 and 35. We see this as a huge testament to the impact that YPAB has had on increasing awareness of  Cornerstone and its mission.

Organizing the first event felt a bit like hounding people and we were so worried it wouldn’t be full and now tickets for our events sell out a week in advance.  People really are looking for a way to give back to the community which is great because homelessness is on the rise here in Ottawa and people are not sure how to take practical action. That’s what the YPAB is here to help with.

What is the relationship between Cornerstone’s corporate board and YPAB?  

The corporate board is very supportive and its members often come to YPAB events. They support our governance training and knowledge sharing. Some of the members are former public sector and private sector leaders which makes for a great opportunity for YPAB to network and learn from their experience.

I stepped down as Chair of the YPAB in June 2019 and am now serve as the liaison between YPAB and the corporate board.

What does YPAB mean to you and what is your vision for the Board?

The YPAB isn’t mine, it is ours, it is everybody’s.  And after two years as Chair, I decided to step back and give other members the space to be leaders and to really thrive in their own way.

In 10-15 years, I hope to see that young people in Ottawa know what the YPAB is, see it as a great opportunity to get involved in their community. I don’t want it to look the same as it does now.  I want young people to continually step up, challenge the status quo, make it better and strive to serve those who are experiencing homelessness.

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How can one join YPAB?

YPAB has a rolling application process on Cornerstone’s website and once you submit an application, you will hear back within a couple of weeks.

There are three committees one can get involved in, including: events and fundraising, marketing and communications, and community engagement and advocacy. It is possible to serve on one or more committees before joining the board itself if you want to give it a try and see if it’s a fit for you and your skills.

Do you see yourself as a leader?

I see myself as a leader because I was able to develop my vision, articulate it, bring people along and have a positive impact. However, I also think that it is just as important to empower others and help them discover their own talents and skills.

A leader should establish that vision and have that passion, but they can’t just lead by themselves. When I asked the people to join YPAB, many said they’d join but didn’t know how they could contribute. So I suggested roles for people based on their skills and interests (to chair the events committee, for example). A leader identifies a talent in another person when he/she isn’t even aware of it him/herself. Sometimes people think that leadership is pushing a huge rock up a hill by yourself, but it is about identifying passions and channeling other people’s skills.

What leadership challenges have you encountered?

I think it is especially hard for women and people of colour to see themselves as leaders in the traditional sense. It is sometimes hard for me to identify someone who looks like me who’s currently serving in a position of leadership or power. Sometimes women of colour feel pushed to do things extremely well because there is more pressure on them to represent the entire community, which is impossible.

What advice would you give to someone who is on a path towards leadership or has an idea they want to put forward?

Remember that championing your own vision no matter what can lead to dictatorship which is not leadership. Leadership is inspiring people and setting a pace, cultivating others’ unique leadership styles.

Sometimes you will fall in love with your ideas so much that you will actually be in danger of killing them. That is when you need to pause and consider what types of leadership, skillset and talents are right to apply at this point of the growth process.

What has recently resonated with you?

“First, Break All the Rules” by Marcus Buckingham.

I read this book in graduate school and I’ve been re-reading it lately.

What are the book’s key messages and takeaways?

There are so many gems in this book. I think the main thing that I’ve been thinking about lately is that sometimes, people are not going to do things the way you want them to and you shouldn’t try to make them.  If you try to force them, they will stop trying, they will resent you and you will never discover that other perspectives might be just as valuable as yours. Ask yourself, “is this a wrong direction or is this just not the way I would do it?”

 

AIM for Fitness

 

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On a sunny Monday in early fall, my balcony bore witness to a pleasant lunch conversation between the Founder of AIM (Activities in Motion) Fitness, Meg Stickl, and one very curious sports enthusiast and Zumba instructor (yours truly) about entrepreneurship, health, wellness and fitness at any age. If you are or know someone – perhaps a relative or a friend – who thinks they might be too old or weak for exercise and physical activity or that it is simply too late for them, this interview will inspire you and motivate you to AIM for Fitness.

Meg studied psychology and gerontology at the University of Ottawa. She is a certified personal trainer and seniors’ fitness instructor. She founded AIM Fitness in 2013 when she was the recreation manager at a retirement residence leading social and physical activities and events for all the seniors and doing fitness part-time.

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What spurred the idea of going fully your own entrepreneurial way?

I was looking for a change and looked into marketing and sales in the same industry. I applied for a few different jobs, but none felt right. A friend of mine encouraged me because the seniors’ market was growing, and it made sense to branch out and do full time what I was doing part-time: senior fitness.

They say beginning is the toughest. What was your business premiere like for you?

I have never thought about owning a business and I knew no business owners. A friend, a business owner and consultant in high tech industry helped me put a plan together for 9 months. In January 2013 I was working 2 jobs, including growing a company so I could transition into full-time entrepreneurship by September. I remember my vacation that summer at my cousin’s cottage answering calls from potential clients hoping to have enough of them to be able to give notice. I wanted to feel comfortable with the switching of sources of income.

Why did you choose to specialize in gerontology?

 I always enjoyed spending time with seniors when I was young. When I was in 6th grade, I volunteered at a senior’s residence helping with bingo, bean bags, and crafts and I felt at home there. People appreciated my listening skills and how patient I was. In both high school and university, I did placements at seniors’ residences and realized this kind of work came very naturally to me. Moreover, I always considered myself an old soul. I find it easy to talk to seniors, I feel at ease with them. After these experiences, one door let to the next. While I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do I always believed that whatever I am meant to do will open up for me.

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What are the main services AIM Fitness provides? Who is your clientele?

It is fitness for seniors and the main aspect is one-on-one personal training. I work with two different types or age groups of clients: People in their 50s and 60s who are very independent, live alone, like to travel, golf, and volunteer, and are social but are noticing that their fitness and energy levels are going down. Their goal is to to improve and maintain their active lifestyle. I also work with seniors in their 80s or 90s. Oftentimes, their children reach out to us because they googled us and found us online or through friends. They worry about their aging parents’ health: they notice their memory is worsening, or that they have had a lot of falls. They feel helpless because they see their parents’ health decline and they don’t know how to support them.

I also have a variety of speaking engagements at community centres and retirement residences on topics such as fall prevention or living a more fulfilled life after 65. The vision is to be holistic, look at lifestyle, sleep, eating, nutrition, stress level, motivation, and purpose in after retirement. I like to speak about the importance of movement and fitting in simple exercises daily.

How does one find out about AIM Fitness? What is your marketing strategy?

I advertise actively by giving value and providing free content. I publish one article on LinkedIn every week, for example ‘Helping an isolated senior parent live a more active lifestyle,’ ‘Top 5 fears seniors have that they won’t tell their families,’ or ‘Simple exercises to do with your senior parent to help them feel more confident.’ I also published a free e-book which has generated many leads.

Do you often get new clients?

The majority of my clients have been with me since I started. These are so-called lifer clients; they want to keep exercising and maintain an active lifestyle. There are also those clients who work with us for 6 months before a specific hiking trip, for example.

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Do you see yourself as a leader? What does leadership mean to you?

Yes. I lead and work with a team and have always valued teamwork; from the start, my website has said “We” will come to you and serve you. The first trainer joined me after a year and a half when I was feeling burnt out. Once she joined AIM Fitness, I started perceiving myself as a leader.

Leadership is not about having all the answers, but about facilitating discussions and helping people rise to become leaders themselves.

What makes a good and effective leader?

A good leader is someone who practices what they preach. Having my own fitness routine is really important; I love fitness and it trickles down into what I do. Being a good leader also means giving people the opportunity that they normally wouldn’t have. I’ll give you an example. The MS (Multiple Sclerosis) society asked me to lead warmup stretches and I asked my team if they could do it for me because I was unable to make it. I encouraged them to do it and gave them an opportunity to use their skills and be leaders in the community. They walked out of this experience feeling more confident. This was exciting for me. A leader empowers others and lets them thrive and grow through the process.

What piece of advice would you give someone who would like to launch their own venture or business but feels afraid or stuck?

Find something you are really passionate about because it is going to give you the drive necessary to get you through the inevitable hard times. See if what you offer can solve a problem because people like to buy a solution to a problem. At AIM Fitness, I am selling a peace of mind to seniors and their families, I am offering health and vitality, ability to travel, and more independence.

You will learn as you go and make a lot of mistakes, so it is important you give yourself permission to fail. Be passionate but take it one day at a time because it can be overwhelming. You can’t fake passion; if you are genuine, people will sense it and it is what is going to make you successful: Care about what you do, align your values with your work, and go for it!

What have you read or heard recently that truly resonated with you?

The book ‘The Big Leap’ by Gay Hendricks. It is all about how we sometimes self-sabotage ourselves when we are doing well. The premise of the book is that we all strive for a certain level of happiness or success; in other words, we say we deserve to be this happy or successful but when the higher we go the more we bring ourselves down because subconsciously we don’t believe we deserve that happiness or success.

Know that you deserve to be happy and successful in all areas of your life and if a difficulty comes up, be open to exploring if it is happening by chance or if you created this to divert your attention.

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Dine out, help out

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Have you seen this logo recently when dining out at your favourite restaurant? Do you recall ordering a meal that had the image of two plates and a fork next to it on the menu? If you answered yes to either of these two questions, you may have already supported this wonderful and unique initiative. You may now put a marble in your good deeds jar.

I must admit I am not sure if I’ve ever bought a meal that was marked with the Mealshare logo but since interviewing Derek Juno, Mealshare’s Executive Vice President at the end of July, I have spotted it several times on the doors of various food establishments across Ottawa.  I hope that after reading the following lines you will, too.

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In 2013, Jeremy Bryant and Andrew Hall, two cousins from Alberta, came together and co-founded Mealshare whose mission is to “turn dining out into helping out,” later joined in this endeavour by their mutual friend, Derek. While travelling in Mexico together, Jeremy and Andrew saw a level of poverty that didn’t exist in their community. Having landed in corporate jobs after university, they realized they were helping rich people get richer and didn’t feel fulfilled in their work. Recognizing the absence of a national food programme and learning that one in five Canadian youth live in poverty, the three friends have been working on growing this amazing social enterprise since July 19th, 2013.

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What is Mealshare?

When you spot our logo next to a meal on a menu and order that meal, you are automatically purchasing a meal through a local or international charity. Mealshare is thus a local and international charity partnership, and half of the meals we provide go local, the other half international and customers don’t pay anything extra for their food. It’s that simple. Buy a meal, give a meal.

Who are the participating charities and restaurants in Ottawa?

There are currently three local charity partners in Ottawa – Boys and Girl Club of Ottawa, Operation Come Home, and Parkdale Food Centre. Our one international charity partner is Save the Children Canada. Ottawa restaurants include Pure Kitchen, Clocktower, Heart and Crown, Art is in Bakery, Craft Beer Market, Beckta, Coconut Lagoon, Whalesbone, Pressed Café and dozens more!

Where else does Mealshare operate?

We presently operate in several other cities across North America, including Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Austin, San Antonio, and Los Angeles. Our goal is to expand across the US and the grand vision is to cover all of North America and make it ubiquitous across the continent in the restaurant industry. One new American city is added annually and in 2020 the number of cities added will double every two years.

It is quite remarkable that you had no capital expenditure at the beginning.  

Indeed. The only expense was our time. We worked as volunteers for the first year and a half. Then came an honorarium followed by a small salary and now we have 17 hired part-time and full-time employees.

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What have been some of your greatest setbacks and difficulties to date?

At the beginning it was very hard to recruit restaurants. Mealshare is a philanthropy program that provides marketing and promotional benefits to restaurants. So, in a sense, there is no other program like it, and we have to do a lot of explaining about what the service is. A lot of education is needed, but restaurant owners are hard to pin down. Therefore, there were no best practices we could follow and there was a lot of pivoting before we identified what works best for us.

What have been the biggest accomplishments and milestones?

Hitting 10 000 meals felt amazing but the greatest milestone to date was in 2016 when we hit 1 000 000 meals. It took us three years to get there and now we proudly provide one million meals every year, hoping for two million in 2020. We realize we really are turning people’s lives around.

It is worth mentioning a recent trip to health sites across rural Ethiopia with Save the Children Canada. The main issue there is child death due to malnutrition. We met a mother who, through Mealshare, received support for her children, brought their weight back up, and also learned about correct nutrition practices. Having seen how these meals are literally saving lives and moms crying and thanking us for what we are doing for them was an exceptionally touching and rewarding experience.

Last but not least, Andrew and Jeremy recently received the Meritorious Service Decoration (civil division) from the Governor-General of Canada, Julie Payette. The award has been given out since 1984 and it recognizes citizens “for exceptional deeds that bring honour to our country.” The decorations form part of the program that includes the Order of Canada, the highest service award bestowed upon Canadians.

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Do you view yourself as a leader?

I consider myself a leader, both within Mealshare and in personal life. I want to influence people to be better and make our world better. As for Jeremy and Andrew, they are great leaders because they consistently act with candor, honesty, and trust, they are amazing role models, and people rally behind them and want to learn from and support them.

What piece of advice would you give to someone thinking about launching a social enterprise but hesitating?

Don’t dive; rather, slowly walk into the water. Don’t put all your $ into it either. Also, don’t give up. Failure is success that never gave up. People are so afraid of failing on a large scale and they let it deter them. When Mealshare first started, we didn’t ‘sell the farm’. Instead, we carved out time to gradually work our way in the right direction. The key is to figure out as quickly as possible what is and isn’t working and make necessary pivots. And remember that no first iteration is going to be perfect. The right ‘fit’ will come – it is not a matter of if, but of when.

What have you seen, heard, or read recently that made an impact on you?

Ryan Ellis – Lessons from my 20s. It is a great free resource, there is a PowerPoint presentation with hyperlinks, and it is applicable to everything in life.

 

 

Be Smart About Money

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It is never too early to start learning about the value of money. In fact, it is downright essential. These are the beliefs on which Tecla Kalinda founded her business, ZalaSmart, ‘zala’ meaning ‘be’ in one of her heritage languages, Lingala. Senior Analyst at the Bank of Canada by day and a business owner, micro leader, and entrepreneur by night, Tecla took some time out of her busy schedule to speak with me about the importance of financial literacy, ZalaSmart’s achievements to date, and the meaning of leadership.

How did the idea of ZalaSmart come to be?

The idea was born in 2015, formed more concretely in 2016, and ZalaSmart officially launched in 2018. It was my day job in the statistics division at the Bank of Canada that inspired me. One of my responsibilities was to report on household credit and I realized how extremely indebted Canadians are. I saw household credit trending upwards and at the rate it was going I knew it was going to hit $2 trillion, which in did in 2017. I started thinking how different would these statistics look if financial literacy was taught at an early age. I did a bit of research and because I found no in-depth curriculum on the subject in Canada, ZalaSmart was born.

What is the premise of ZalaSmart?

The goal is to provide fun and interactive programming on themes that include budgeting, currencies, investing, saving and much more whereby kids can learn an essential life skill.

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How often do the courses run?

They are demand-dependent. Parents can register their children (5-17) online (indicating which part of town they are in) and once a quota for a course is reached, I open a session in a given area. I also team up with local community centres, summer camps, and the Ottawa Public Library to run sessions. Fees vary per age group and depend on what is taught. We have been operational for about a year now and had 11 sessions, with the summer months having been the busiest – we taught every single weekend. Private lessons are also an option.

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What have been some of the greatest achievements of ZalaSmart to date?

I am particularly proud of the event we hosted with CBC’s Dragon’s Den, Bruce Croxon whose children participated in our program at the beautiful Chateau Montebello. He has a strong following ,promoted ZalaSmart on his social media platforms and gave us great reviews.

We were also invited to the White House for an event hosted by the Women’s Entrepreneurship Council during Barack Obama’s presidency which was a life-changing experience. Being surrounded by other entrepreneurs who are thriving is something that continues to inspire ZalaSmart.

We have recently hosted workshops throughout the Ottawa Public Library network and in November at the Glebe Community Centre we organized a session in collaboration with Ottawa’s Global Shapers.

What have been some of the obstacles you have faced?

After launching ZalaSmart, I suddenly found myself working two full-time jobs or in other words, working one full-time job and coming home to a baby. In a very short span of time I turned a passion for teaching financially literacy to kids into an entrepreneurial venture and became a business owner wearing ten different hats.  That said, it has been such a rewarding journey. Most people have been very receptive and understand how important financial literacy is and that kids need to learn it. Generally, our programs are an an easy sell but there are always skeptics who believe money is the root of all evil and that kids should play instead.

If someone thinking of starting their own business but doubting themselves asked you for advice, what would you tell them?

How badly do you want this realized? Give me a % that represents that desire. If it is over 70%, start with all your heart. The more fear you have the more reason to start. You regret what you don’t do more than what you do. It is important to share your gift and talent and if you identified this gap you don’t need to be a master to fill it (for example: you don’t need to know how to build an app yourself if your idea consists of building an app – you can hire someone who does) and make a difference in fulfilling this gap.

Don’t rob the world of your ideas and remember that success is the result of a series of failures. Hopefully you always learn from failures. In fact, I trust the person who tells me they failed a few times before becoming successful more than someone who tells me they are just simply successful.

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Who is a leader?

Someone who takes initiative to make a positive change no matter how small it is, like cleaning a park and getting others to join you. Leadership consists of actions that inspire and motivate others to make a difference themselves; these actions amplify and result in a pay-it-forward scenario.

Do you see yourself as a leader?

I have been called a leader many times and now I’ve started to believe people when they tell me.

What is something that has inspired you recently?

This idea of being receptive and open-minded to what others have to say and share. I recently lost a family member and a colleague reminded me that the best way to honour someone who has passed onis to live your best life because that is all that person would want you to do. It energized me and motivated me to go out with friends, show up at a social events, laugh again and suddenly it felt OK to be happy. One little sentence from a colleague really changed a lot and gave me that positive push!

Hlavne sa netreba báť

ENGLISH VERSION COMING SOON!

Pred zhruba mesiacom som robila rozhovor s Marekom Frťalom, spoluzakladeľom
Workout Teamu Žilina a Econtra Workout Company. Vtedy som ešte netušila, že má
Marek plány vstúpiť aj do verejného života nášho rodného mesta. Informácia o jeho
kandidatúre za mestského poslanca v Žiline ma preto veľmi milo prekvapila. V rozhovore sa dočítate, aké boli Marekove začiatky, čo je zdrojom jeho motivácie, ale aj o emóciách, ktoré pociťuje mladý človek, ktorý chce meniť a zlepšovať svoje okolie.

 

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Spolu s priateľmi ste urobili zo Žiliny mesto workoutových ihrísk. Čo ťa priviedlo na
cestu pomoci mladým ľuďom zmysluplne a aktívne tráviť voľný čas?

Ešte na strednej škole som sa zúčastnil víkendového školenia Komprax zameraného na
projekty financované z európskych fondov. Jedna zo školiteliek mi svojim prístupom úplne pretočila myslenie. Vďaka nej som sa vážne zamyslel nad tým, čo môžem a dokážem urobiť pre ľudí vo svojom okolí. A keďže som v tom období chodil do posilňovne, uvedomil som si, že v Žiline chýba priestor na cvičenie v prírode, pod holým nebom tak, aby to mohli bezplatne využiť najmä mladí ľudia, ktorých tak chceme motivovať k zdravšiemu životnému štýlu. Som akčný typ, preto som hneď hľadal spôsob, ako to urobiť. Samozrejme, zo svojho okolia som počúval, nech to nechám tak, že sa to nedá, bude to drahé a bude k tomu treba projektovú dokumentáciu a rôzne povolenia. Nenechal som sa však odradiť a spolu s ďalšími priateľmi zo školy sme sa do toho pustili.

Aj vďaka profesorom sa nám podarilo postaviť náš prvý Workout Park v našom školskom areáli (Stavebá priemyslovka v Žiline). Po tomto, našom prvom úspechu, nás oslovili z KOMPRAXu, či tento koncept nerozšírime do celého mesta. Vedeniu mesta a poslancom sa to zapáčilo a pustili sme sa do spolupráce. Ponúkli nám pozemok, my sme zohnali prostriedky a do jedného roka sa nám podarilo v Žiline postaviť prvý verejný Workout Park v Bôrickom parku.

Hovorí sa, že začiatky sú vždy ťažké. Čo bolo najťažšie na tých vašich?

Street Workout je cvičenie, ktoré prišlo do Európy z Ameriky. Na ulici alebo na pláži tak mohli v začiatkoch cvičiť aj ľudia, ktorí nemali peniaze na fitko. Postupne sa z toho stal celosvetový trend. Aj pre Žilinčanov to bolo niečo nové a zaujímavé. Pred vybudovaním ihriska na Bôriku sme založili facebookovú stránku Workout Team Žilina, spustili sme projekt s názvom „Cesta mládeže k zdravému životnému štýlu“ a začali sme organizovať tréningy pre verejnosť. Najmä u mladých Žilinčanov to zaznamenalo veľký úspech a aj vďaka ich podpore, v rôznych grantových súťažiach, sme mohli takýchto projektov postupne realizovať viac. Týmto chcem všetkých, ktorí nás podporovali, veľmi pekne poďakovať. Bez Vás by sa nám to nepodarilo. Nie vždy to bolo jednoduché a narazili sme aj na množstvo prekážok. Všetko je však o vytrvalosti a presvedčení, že robíš správnu vec a pomáhaš ľuďom. Samozrejme, na tejto ceste sme urobili aj pár chýb a dnes by sme to možno robili inak a lepšie. Človek sa však učí najmä na svojich chybách a ako sa hovorí: „Kto nič neurobí, ten nič nepokazí.“ To sa nás však netýka, nás práca baví (smiech).

V tejto oblasti ste dosiahli aj mnohé úspechy, dokonca na celoslovenskej úrovni. Čo
sa Vám podarilo?
Zorganizovali sme 2 ročníky Majstrovstiev Slovenska v Street Workoute a na viacerých
podujatiach doma aj v zahraničí sme prezentovali nielen seba a svoju prácu, ale aj Žilinu
a Slovensko. Médiá nás začali pozývať do rôznych relácií, napríklad do telerána. Nič ma
však nepoteší viac, ako keď idem okolo našich ihrísk a vidím tam kopec ľudí, ktorým sme svojou prácou a odhodlaním vytvorili podmienky pre zdravší a tým aj lepší a kvalitnejší život v našom meste. Keď sme začínali bol v Žiline len jeden provizórny a nie veľmi funkčný drevený Workout Park v lesoparku. Dnes je Žilina mesto s najväčším počtom workout parkov na Slovensku. Je ich tu viac ako 10.

Pre žilinský workout si spravil nepochybne veľa. Dnes sa venuješ ďalším projektom.
Prezradíš nám, o čo ide?

Momentálne pracujem na viacerých projektoch, ktoré ma nesmierne bavia a cítim, že ma
posúvajú vpred. Jeden z pilotných projektov, na ktorom pracujeme so super ľudmi, je
aplikácia, ktorej snahou je posunúť komunikáciu medzi ľuďmi na úplne inú úroveň. Viac Vám dnes neprezradím, ale keď to pôjde podľa našich predstáv, bude to „bomba“. Ďalší projekt je relácia s názvom „1deň ako“, v ktorej zábavnou formou predstavujeme rôzne
slovenské povolania, ktoré si môj dobrý priateľ a kolega skúša na vlastnej koži. Je to pre
mňa skvelá príležitosť vidieť ako fungujú rôzne podniky a mám možnosť spoznať veľa
šikovných ľudí. A je toho, samozrejme, oveľa viac.

marco frtala

Prednedávnom si predstavil svoju kandidatúru na mestského poslanca v Žiline. Čo ťa k tomu viedlo?
Na projektoch, ktoré sa nám s priateľmi podarilo v Žiline zrealizovať, som videl, že rozvíjať a zlepšovať náš verejný priestor má zmysel. Pochopil som, že keď sa chce, všetko sa dá. Ak ale chcete niečo naozaj zmeniť k lepšiemu, nestačí sa len pozerať a čakať, že sa to spraví samo. Aby sme tu my všetci mohli žiť v lepšom prostredí kvalitnejší život, treba sa aktívne zapojiť a niečo pre to urobiť. Žilina je jedno z najvačších miest na Slovensku. Mojou ambíciou je pritiahnuť do verejného života viac mladých ľudí, ktorí v čoraz väčšej miere prinášajú množstvo nápadov a riešení. Žilina musí byť fresh a trendy mesto pre náš život.

Považuješ sa za vodcu, za lídra?
To si nedovolím posúdiť, na to sa musíte spýtať môjho okolia (úsmev). Som človek, ktorý sa nebojí ísť naplno za svojím cieľom, robiť to, čo ho baví a byť v tom dobrý. Život ma baví a snažím sa ho žiť naplno. Pre množstvo aktivít mám síce menej voľného času, ale zároveň vidím, že vďaka našej práci dnes môže množstvo iných ľudí tráviť svoj voľný čas
zmysluplnejšie. Aj to ma motivuje pracovať stále viac a zlepšovať tak seba, ako aj svoje
okolie.

Aké sú podľa Teba znaky dobrého lídra?
Základom každého dobrého líderšipu je networking a nadobúdanie nových kontakov. Líder musí byť pozitívnym vzorom pre svoje okolie. Mal by to byť človek, ktorý nehovorí, ako má niečo byť, ale aktívnou prácou ukazuje, ako to môže vyzerať. Líder motivuje ľudí k lepším výkonom.
Ako podľa Teba vyzerá úspech?
Nemyslím si, že na to existuje nejaká univerzálna poučka. Treba proste pracovať a úspech sa dostaví, alebo niekedy aj nedostaví 😀 Asi každý si úspech predstavujeme inak. Keď som sa pýtal ľudí, ktorých si vážim a sú mi vzorom, čo mám robiť, aby som bol úspešný a aby sa mi darilo, povedali mi len: „pracuj na sebe, neboj sa robiť chyby, len tak si nájdeš svoju cestu. Hlavne sa netreba báť!“

hlavne sa nebat

Čo Ťa motivuje?
Vyrastal som bez otca, moja mama je skvelá učiteľka a je mi veľkým vzorom. Ukázala mi,
že aj keď sa v živote stanú tragické veci, treba sa postaviť, nabrať vnútornú silu a ísť ďalej.
Možno aj vďaka tomu ma robí šťastným keď vidím, že sa niekomu darí. Ľudia by si nemali tak nezávidieť a mali by vedieť dopriať jeden druhému viac. To ma naučil život a snažím sa tak správať a vnímať pocity druhých pri všetkom, čo robím.
Pri práci potrebuješ ticho, alebo počúvaš hudbu?
Jednoznačne potrebujem hudbu. Hudba ma inšpiruje a je to reč, ktorej každý rozumie.
Hlavne hip hop, kde sa veci hovoria na rovinu a u samotných interpretov vnímam ich veľký progres, ktorý ma motivuje k tomu, aby som na sebe pracoval ešte viac.
Aké je Tvoje životné motto?
Toto je život a nič viac už nebude. Hlavne sa netreba báť.

No Bubbles Without H20

Despite weather warnings, traffic collapse, and a massive snowstorm, Katie Boothby, the Founder of Soap2Hope, made it safe and sound to the Microleaders Headquarters (my humble living room). Over a steaming cup of tea, Katie and I chatted about leadership, fundraising ideas, and most importantly about the reasons she now spends her free time making soaps.

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Katie’s non-profit, Soap2Hope, was born out of a 4th year university capstone project. The original business plan had had at its core a capital of 100,000 pretend dollars and involved a large operation of shipping soaps and materials from overseas with proceeds invested in hygiene and sanitation in Mozambique. Fast forward a few years later, Katie was travelling in Zambia and visited a village called Mukuni where she saw the devastating state of local water infrastructure.

Upon her return to Canada, Katie committed to bringing the vision of her university project to life. She learned how to make soap and on Canada’s 150th birthday together with Prince Charles, who was in Ottawa on a royal visit (he liked Scarborough Fair Soap with goat’s milk, rosemary, and thyme, by the way), she officially launched Soap2Hppe, a not-for-profit contributing 100% of its sales to water projects in the Mukuni Chiefdom in Zambia.

What has been Soap2Hope’s biggest milestone to date?

Excluding the launch with Prince Charles, it was a small Christmas fundraiser ‘Bubbles and Bubbly’ this past December, and we were able to raise just over $800.

What is the most challenging about running this type of non-profit?

What isn’t challenging? The first challenge was to learn how to make soap from scratch; then, there was the process of creating and launching a website; and now, the biggest challenge is getting the word out and increasing exposure of our brand and our story.

What is the soap made of?

There are different ingredients in different soaps, including goat’s milk, Shea butter, aloe, and additives like dried powdered mango, which grows abundantly in the Mukuni village. In fact, all of the soaps are themed after Zambian history and culture.

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How do the proceeds from soap sales make their way to Zambia?

We have partnered with a charity in Zambia called Butterfly Tree. They work closely with the locals to bring these projects to light. I picked this particular organization because of their close relationships with the locals and their ability to utilize and train local talent to build and maintain these projects. Once we have raised all the funds for a bore hole near a village school, we will work with The Butterfly Tree to get the job done.

Will you be visiting Zambia again soon?

I trust the work that The Butterfly Tree and their engineers do on the ground. That being said, I would very much like Soap2Hope to be involved in implementation of an education project around hygiene and sanitation in some of the schools. This is an ambition for either Fall 2018 or early spring 2019. Once we have a curriculum developed we’ll go back to Zambia.

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What does leadership mean to you?

Good leaders are charismatic, approachable, and compelling public speakers. However, really good leaders possess skills that aren’t usually the first to come to mind. The best people I have ever worked for are the people who trusted me and listened to me. It is by valuing other peoples’ work and opinions that leaders give others the autonomy to grow and become better leaders themselves. Leaders lead, but great leaders are passionate about what they do, fostering the growth of other leaders.

Do you see yourself as a leader?

Yes, I do. I have been able to rally a team of supporters and form a community cheering on my vision. I am excited about the cause and I feel that others are, too. I sense that my passion is infecting people and makes them want to follow me and be part of the movement.

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What advice would you give someone who is afraid of failure?

I would tell them that those fears aren’t unique; after all, Soap2Hope started with one Instagram follower and two customers and I was terrified. However, if you are in love with your idea, you will make it work. You will learn as you go; I recommend you jump first and fix later. At the end of the day, you have to just take the plunge because the biggest mistake you can make is not to try at all.

What is your favourite life lesson or inspirational quote?

David Allen: “You can do anything, you just can’t do everything.”

If you set out to solve all the problems in the world, you will end up solving nothing.

My vision for Soap2Hope is to have women in Zambia making soap from local resources but I realize this isn’t going to happen overnight. Thus, my mission for 2018 is to be focused. Focus gets things done and gets them done well.

 

 

 

Make the World Wonderful

 

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“Age was just a number to me – the clarity of my vision and change I wanted to create made me feel that I was ready to start up,”

  • Meghana Dabbara, Make the World Wonderful

Many of us want to make a difference in the world, have a positive impact on others, or help change someone’s life for the better. Meghana Dabbara, Saumya Katuri, Khyathi Chodagiri, and Pranita Garimella of Make the World Wonderful, India have created an opportunity for themselves to do all of the above every single day. About a week and a half ago, despite initial technical challenges and mean time difference, Meghana, Saumya, and I connected over Skype and had an inspiring conversation about the myth of age as a barrier to reaching one’s goals, the power of microleadership, and the daily grind of pursuing one’s dreams.

At 17 years old in 2015, Meghana turned her vision of a world where people live in harmony into reality and founded Make the World Wonderful, an NGO the backbone of which is a belief that a harmonious world is a result of how we raise our children and what values we instil in them. The four girls initiated a Child Adoption Program (CAP) with an aim to raise a generation of children with the empowering culture of harmony. Currently, the team is running a scalable pilot centre in Hyderabad, with 50 underprivileged children from rural areas. Raising each child with utmost respect, they have been creating the harmony they wish to see in the world within these children first. They may have begun small but they aim to set up 2,500 centers by 2023.

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“While they have made international ripples, what is most important  are the lives they are directly trying to impact.”

  • Binjal Shah, Journalist at YourStory 

Meghana, when did you decide harmony is what the world needs the most?

When I was about ten years old, my mom used to tell me bedtime stories about her childhood and how her village neighbours always used to help one another. I grew up believing these stories but when I actually went outside and interacted with people around me and saw how they treated others, I realized my mom’s stories did not reflect the reality. So I set out to bring more harmony into the world and turn it into one huge family.

This is truly admirable but how does a teenager go about doing that in a meaningful way?

In Grade 8, while looking to turn this abstract concept of harmony in the world into something tangible, I found the right support group of likeminded people in iB Group, who provided me with training, mentoring, and the like. When I decided to start an NGO, they realized that I would need a strong core support team, and they helped me find Khyathi, Saumya, and Pranita. Together, the four of us are the Core Team of Make The World Wonderful, and we are working dedicatedly towards our aligned vision of harmony.

Why did you decide to start the Child Adoption Program?

Child Adoption Program (CAP) was one of the first programs we initiated because we wanted to begin at the root level. Any change we bring has to start at the grassroots of society, that is, with the children. Our aim is to raise a generation of children with this culture of harmony who would represent the values necessary to bring our vision of a harmonious world to life. We can now proudly say that we are raising agents of harmony and socially responsible citizens.

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How do you ensure legitimacy, especially when it comes to the school curriculum children in CAP follow? Is scalability that you aim to reach a challenging goal? 


There are around 700 districts in India. Presently, we have our pilot center in Southern India with the one centre in Hyderabad, but its impact is resulting in more and more people coming forward and reaching out. Our plan is straightforward – there are around 700 districts in India. Some districts in India are huge and will need at least 4-5 centres. When you do the math, scaling to up to 2800 centres doesn’t seem so unrealistic all of a sudden. Moreover, many NGOs and other charitable organizations are requesting us to provide them our knowhow in terms of setting the curriculum and finding trainers for the children. We make sure we follow the Open Indian curriculum but essentially we are designing our own and the model is perfectly replicable. And in the future, we may collaborate with the locally connected people and help them set up this centre in their area.

You are not even 20 years old and it is so admirable what you have already accomplished. Do you have the capacity for your own studies? And what about funding?  

We are still in school, pursuing business administration studies through an online college course so that we can fully focus on our passion.

As for the funds, the majority of them come from the donations from a network of like-minded people that the iB Hubs has connected us to. Additionally, our campaign Make the World Wonderful kicked off in 2015 is raising awareness about our initiative around India and the world. Its aim has been to reach out to people across the globe, to involve them to support the initiative. By 2017 we have reached 107 000+ supporters across the world, successfully surpassing our target numbers.

We’ve also been able to reach out to the international community – we are proud to have represented India in the Asia-Pacific Future Leaders Conference in November 2016. In July 2017, Meghana represented the initiative at the Global Changemakers Conference in Switzerland and in August Saumya spoke to the Youth Assembly of 1500 delegates at the United Nations.

The bottom line is that our cause truly inspires people and brings everyone together. We have also implemented our 100% transparency policy, to build trust between the public and NGOs. It has gone a long way with everyone who supports us because they know we diligently follow the principles of good governance. We disclose all of the organization’s finances, policies, and programs, including the CAP curriculum, on our website.

 Audience for our talk at a National College_ML

What is the most difficult for you in what you do?

We’d say, in the initial stages, it was getting the children to collaborate with each other. Because of the diversity of backgrounds the children come from, getting them to work together is not easy, especially when we try to develop harmony among them. In the organization, we refuse to apply any harsh methods to the way we raise them such as shouting, scolding, or even raising our voice. CAP at Make the World Wonderful is always about affection, respect, and trust.

The beginnings, the initial stages have been tough. However, we realized it is important to start small, to cultivate a sense of values in the children. But once the culture of harmony set in, it has been amazing to see the progress of the children. They’ve become a big family. We’ve seen the children grow from a position where they needed our help to a position where they now empower others around them. It is truly wonderful.

What does harmony mean to you?

Harmony is a state of the world where people live happily together like one big family, helping and supporting each other, empathizing with one another, and cooperating together. We are also working on creating metrics to quantify harmony, based on certain core qualities such as Gratitude, Sharing, Optimism, and so on.

What kind of leaders do you see yourselves as?

We believe that everyone in a society has a role as a leader. Whether you are a mother, brother, aunt, grandfather, or friend – you can be a leader in your context. And leadership is not any one quality or skill – it’s a combination of many things. In our work with children, we are bringing out the leader in each child and we are empowering him/her to reach his/her full potential. We believe that we are the kind of leaders who create more leaders, who bring out the best in people around them and who develop people around us into leaders.

 

 

Albahaca Footwear: About boots and doing good in the world

“I have been so fortunate in life – growing up healthy with a good education in a loving, stable home in Canada. I have always felt that it is important that I give back to the world as much as I can. It frustrates me how little people appreciate the good fortune that growing up in a developed country provides.”

Genevieve McNicol, Ottawa/Vancouver

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Genevieve is 26 years old and works as a nurse in British Columbia. She splits her time between working as an emergency nurse in downtown Vancouver and working in various health clinics in remote northern aboriginal communities.

While devoting one’s life to the care of others is definitely a reason enough to call someone a microleader or even a leader, the conversation Gen and I had one early Sunday morning revolved primarily around her entrepreneurial initiative, Albahaca Footwear. She is the founder of this not-for-profit Guatemalan footwear company. The organization custom orders and imports handmade boots from Guatemala. The boots are sold, primarily online, in Canada and the US. The proceeds from boot sales are then donated back to a carefully chosen selection of charities in Guatemala.

How and when did the idea for Albahaca Footwear come about?

When I was 18 I took a trip to Guatemala to travel and volunteer. I fell in love with the country and its people and have returned four times since. While there I started visiting a small town, called Pastores, which specialized in leather boot making.

As a Canadian accustomed to long cold winters I’ve always loved boots. However, I’ve often been frustrated with the unaffordability and/or unattractiveness of most good quality boots. Those that are affordable tended to fall apart within a couple months. I realized on further visits to this Guatemalan town that it did not have enough customers to adequately support its boot shops. Tourism in the region has diminished in the last few years making the situation more dire.

Who better to fill the void than the multiplicity of Canadian customers who are forced to endure excruciatingly long winters? I mulled on the subject for a couple years – feeling ill-equipped to tackle this initiative myself. As a nurse I have limited business experience – this was obviously not my area of expertise – and with a full time nursing job, not something I needed to add to my workload. In the meantime, I purchased boots there for myself, my common-law partner, family, and friends.

Continued positive feedback eventually spurred me into action – these boots were clearly well loved. Discussing with my partner one day, I bemoaned how I disliked talking about a plan and never following through. I have never wanted to be the person who always talks about doing something “someday” but never fulfills it. My partner – being extremely supportive as always – said “ok, well then let’s do it. What do we need to do first?” So, just like that, in November 2016 we launched Albahaca Footwear Inc.

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What were the next steps in bringing this unique idea to life?

We ordered our first 25 pairs of boots coordinating though friends on the ground in Guatemala. We filed for incorporation, opened a bank account and an Etsy page – https://www.etsy.com/people/albahacafootwear – everything rolled from there. Since then we have ordered an additional 70 pairs. We stock three styles of leather ankle boots for men and women. We have sold approximately 30 pairs. We are hoping to expand to selling in brick-and-mortar stores starting Fall 2017.

Our Albahaca team consists of myself, my partner Sean, and multiple wonderful best friends (Ellen, Preveena, Allison, Dan) who have stepped up to help us. In Guatemala we have our boot maker and his small team and a shipping coordinator.

Where is the non-profit or charitable component of Albahaca Footwear?

Albahaca Footwear isn’t my full time job and it is not something I felt comfortable making a profit from. To make the most out of the project we decided to donate the profits from sales back to charities in Guatemala.

There is a lot of need in the country and endless quality organisations needing financial support. As such we opted to rotate charities every few months. In March we made our first donation – sending $600 Canadian to Jardin de Amor, a children’s education charity.

The goals of our project are:

  1. Provide quality employment for Guatemalan boot makers
  2. Provide ethical, handmade, durable boots to Canadians
  3. Support a variety of Guatemalan charities focused on health and education

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I am sure anyone reading this is wondering what has inspired the company name ‘Albahaca.’ Please, enlighten us.

The company is named after my cat, Basil. “Basil” in Spanish is “albahaca”. It’s a bit silly, but we were running through name ideas and this one just stuck.

What is unique about the Albahaca boots?

This style of boot in Guatemala is known as ‘typico’ meaning typical – referring in part to its use of indigenous embroidery on the sides of the boots. Most of this embroidery is recycled from old traditional shirts and skirts. Each pair of embroidered typico boot is one of a kind. We also sell similar plain brown and plain black boots (without embroidery) for those that prefer a less colorful style.

What does doing business with Guatemalan boot makers look like? What is the process?

The small town of Pastores is lined with little boot shops. The boot makers are very skilled at their work and custom build most pairs based on measurement of a client’s foot and ankle. The boot maker we decided to work with is one that I have been purchasing boots from for many years. I am experienced with his work and know that it will always be top quality. Despite their skill and professionalism coordinating a business multiple countries away is challenging.

In the long term, I am hoping that we can expand to make use of other boot shops in the town as well. We don’t wish to create a monopoly within the town and want to make sure as many artisans benefit as possible from this initiative. .

Through our Etsy page and some in-person sales we have been getting a steady trickle of orders since our founding. We are hoping to expand to brick-and-mortar sales locations in the coming months. Either way – tying back to the idea of microleadership – the more boots we sell, the more good we can do, and the greater the ripple effect. 

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Do you have any competition in the market? 

There are two American companies that sell similar Guatemalan boots online. Both companies sell the same product for twice the price we do (250-280 USD). Furthermore, neither company have such a significant charitable component. As far as I am aware, there are no other not-for-profit footwear companies at all. We are also one of the only companies that sell such high quality, handmade boots in this price range (100 USD). We opted to work in a tighter budget in order to ensure our boots were affordable to the average Canadian. It is challenging – but we think it’s worth it.

What does leadership mean to you?

 Leadership to me means helping encourage others to not accept the status quo and supporting them to take on initiatives to make things better. I believe that it is not just the boisterous chatty classmates you have at school who eventually turn into great leaders. You can be a leader just by doing your good things and by inspiring people. Leadership is more about helping lift everyone else up rather than telling them what to do. It’s about encouraging others.

Historically I have always been a quiet leader. When I was a teenager I was quite shy and the concept of a quiet leader – leading by example and by taking on projects – helped me break out of my shell. Since then I have grown comfortable leading in a variety of styles and roles but the concept of a quiet leader remains close to my heart. I think quiet leaders and microleaders have a lot in common. Both leaders take on tasks to improve the world, working with what they have – be it a smaller project or quieter voice.

What is the best aspect of having launched AlbahacaFootwear?

 Two words: altruistic capitalism. I love combining society’s natural consumer tendencies and their love for beautiful things. It is so hard for charities to get people to donate money – at Albahaca Footwear we get to bypass this hurdle.

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What would you say to someone who has an idea for a project or an organization but is afraid of failure, humiliation, insecurity, uncertainty, instability, or lack of followers?

The simple answer is “go for it anyways!” I am however a realist – not all projects ‘succeed’. I think it is important to go into a project knowing that it is an option – but that it is also ok. When starting a project it can be helpful to assess what ‘failure’ might look like and plan for how to mitigate likelihood of it and the impact of it.

What is your favourite life lesson/quote that you have heard or read?

“We are all hunters. Hunting for something to make us all ok”. We are all just looking for our place in this world. We either add good or bad to this world; everyone adds a bit of both. As someone who struggles with depression, working to add good to the world helps me cope.

 

 

 

Life begins with water

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“Water is the driving force of all nature,” said Leonardo da Vinci. Five centuries later, Nhat Vuong, Founder of Water Inception, understood and interpreted this simple yet powerful thought in his own way.

From a family of the first refugees to Switzerland at the end of the Vietnamese War, Nhat was born in a refugee camp in Kuala Lumpur. He studied in Lausanne and Tokyo, and eventually got into the web and marketing industry, combining both to start his first social company. It was a crowd-funding platform for Japanese charities in 2012 when tsunami hit the island.

Upon his return to Switzerland he had worked as a web-marketing consultant for two more years until he discovered a machine invented by a Spanish retired engineer that has the potential to solve the world water crisis. This incredible machine can produce up to 10 000 liters of potable water by condensing the humidity from the air. In addition, they can even work in the desert and are powered entirely by solar energies. This prompted him to look into the world water crisis and the discoveries he made about the seriousness of the situation, made him decided to change career and do something about this water crisis.

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What is the mission and vision of Water Inception?

Water Inception aims to provide this technology to countries, where water scarcity is an imminent problem. We are going to work with local NPOs and find ways to bring this technology within their projects. One of our own project is to open water shops and hire local women who normally spend their days fetching water and empower them through their job. I strongly believe this will help eventually end the poverty cycle in these regions. We are also exploring combining our water generators with other companies working on sustainable technologies.

Water Inception is still in its ‘inception’ stages; what is the next planned step?

We are currently working on the logistic to bring a machine in Switzerland and we aim to organize a massive event to demonstrate its impact in front of the UN. We want to invite local personalities and show how it works before launching a crowdfunding campaign to finance an installation in a refugee camp or a school in an emerging country. The priority at the moment is to make this technology known and famous worldwide to welcome inquiries for collaboration from international organizations and governments.

Are you presently working or partnering with any such entities?

We collaborate with the Spanish company and recently we’ve been having discussions with a non-profit organization in India which is interested in including this technology in one of their projects.

I would like to start contacting schools in Switzerland to teach our students about the dismal water situation and see if there is any way to establish partnerships between Africa and schools here so kids can fundraise together, help each other, and learn from each other. I am also looking into creating links between emerging countries and Switzerland/Europe.

What have been the main challenges to date?

Lack of prior experience in the water sector makes this whole initiaive a challenge. I am learning about a sector that’s completely new to me and striving to understand the best channels to promote this technology,, who the influencers are, and what the characteristics of this niche market are but that makes the whole project an exciting journey.

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What keeps you motivated and persistent?

What keeps me going is my own vision of a fully autonomous comfortable modern house that is easy to live in, that provides my own water, food, electricity, and where I can experience the sense of liberty, freedom, and happiness. I am committed to proving to myself that this is achievable and then I of course want to help others provide the same for themselves.  

Ultimately, the world I want to build is a world where we are autonomous. Thus, we don’t need to care about having a salary to pay the bills. We work enough to live and spend more time on doing what we are passionate about. I think Water Inception can be a step towards creating this world.

What does leadership mean to you?

Inspiring other people to achieve a goal.

A leader is someone with a meta vision of the world that is so inspiring that people follow him/her. A great leader is also someone who knows who he/she needs to be surrounded by in order to attain the goals he/she has set out for him/herself.

Do you see yourself as a leader?

I don’t think I am a natural leader. That being said, when a vision is strong enough, anyone can become a leader.

I often thought that leadership was strongly linked to charisma until Elon Musk came along.  He isn’t especially eloquent  as Jobs but if you really listen to what he has to say about his goals, you realize he is a huge dreamer. He made me realize leadership isn’t just about charisma , but about a vision and ability to bring the right people together.

I do, however, think of myself as water inceptioner. I love the movie Inception; I like the idea of planting a seed about water – Water Inception – in the mind of people.

What would you say to someone who has an idea for a project or an organization but is afraid of failure?

They say that the opposite of success is failure. I disagree. The opposite of success is not trying. Nevertheless, if you are already in a job, my advice is to stay there as long as you can and need to but do as much as you can on building your idea while working full time. Take the leap once you’ve tested the market a little bit and don’t quit until your first prove of success.

 

FUEL: Forward Understanding of Every Life Lesson

 

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They say experience is the hardest teacher; it gives you the test before teaching you a lesson. There are over 7 billion people in the world, which translates into at least 7 billion stories. Every story is an experience – uplifting, heartbreaking, enlightening, or terrifying – and that means it has potential to become a life lesson.

Deepak Ramola’s ProjectFUEL – Forward Understanding of Every Life Lesson – collects stories and life lessons from people of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life around the world. In 2012, Deepak (25) graduated with a Gold Medal – highest GPA % – in Journalism from the University of Mumbai and has been devoted to ProjectFUEL full-time since 2014.

Shortly after meeting him at the third annual international Youth to Youth Summit in Dubai, UAE in April 2017 and barely a day before he set out on a month-long tour across India to spread the message of ProjectFUEL, Deepak told shared his story with me.

How and when did the idea for Project Fuel come about?

It started out as a personal project. My mom grew up in the 1960s and was pulled out of school to help the household financially. Nevertheless, the fact that she had never gone to school just didn’t match the capacities and resourcefulness she has been demonstrating on a daily basis. I often wondered how she had learned it all. She would tell me she was simply paying close attention to everything that life was teaching her. I realized that life is our teacher every day and that it would be fascinating to hear what others have been learning on their journeys. As a budding teenager, I started asking people about their life lessons and at seventeen I decided to found ProjectFUEL.

What is unique about ProjectFUEL?

Using fundamental human wisdom as a tool to learn more and grow more in life. There are seven billion people so the world contains at least seven billion lessons. What untapped potential!

Where and how do you look for life lessons?

It really doesn’t matter where you start, because everyone who is breathing and living right now is part of the process. Interviewing anyone will inevitably contribute to the larger pool of information.

Over the years, my process has become more structured as more communities come into forefront to share their stories and lessons. For instance, recently I have chosen distinctive communities, including daughters of sex workers, army officers, college students, etc. to learn from.

What does a life lesson look like?

A life lesson is a simple piece of advice that stems from one’s own understanding of their reality and experience. It looks like a quotation; it is meant to be real and personal but doesn’t have to sound philosophical, present an earth-shattering revelation or be spiritually uplifting. It can be a useful fact like “don’t keep liquid near the things you love” or “don’t put a glass of water next to your laptop or a drawing you are making.”

 

Where did the already shared life lessons come from?

Truly from all parts of the world. Most of them are from India but I have gotten life lessons from other countries as well. I have received life lessons on the Internet; after all, we live in a digital age so people can come across my TedTalk or the website and that’s how they choose to reach out and share their lessons. We also have volunteers in different parts of the world who document life lessons and send them to us.

 

In what format and with whom do you share the life lessons?

I work with people of all age groups, from age 4 to 96.

I share these life lessons with people from all walks of life generally in the format of interactive workshops, talks, social events and meet-ups, which are essentially designed as curriculums. For more information, you can follow our blog posts on the website and social media: http://projectfuel.in/blog/2016/05/15/12-life-lessons-from-a-man-who-has-seen-12000-deaths/

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What does a sample workshop look like? 

Every workshop has a theme, for example communication in business world, staying human amongst all the statistics, or social integration. A workshop theme can be as simple as romance, team building, leadership, forgiveness, or having fun. One workshop usually consists of around 10-15 life lessons presented as activities. Once the activity is complete, I ask the participants what lesson they have been learning throughout and then comes the big reveal: whose life it is based on.

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership happens when one shines so bright that his/her light becomes someone else’s spotlight. Also, a leader must be able to turn ideas into action no matter what the obstacles, failures, and difficulties.

Do you see yourself as a leader and/or an entrepreneur?

I see myself as a curious soul. Most days I am an educator and innovator, some days I am a lyricist or interviewer/conversationalist, and other days I am an interviewee.

I do believe I have certain qualities of a leader. I feel responsible for the work I do and undoubtedly that’s how a leader should feel. I enjoy experimenting and growing, which I think makes me an entrepreneur, too.

What is the best aspect of having founded ProjectFuel?

I love to teach, I love to talk, I love to travel and ProjectFUEL allows me to do all of this. The greatest perk is that it allows me to meet some amazing people and solve my own problems. Sometimes, these life lessons provide solutions before you even have the problem. Someone’s life lesson is often a solution to what I need.

I see ProjectFUEL as the beginning of a culture in which people respect each other’s and document their own wisdom.

What would you say to someone who has an idea for a project or an organization but is afraid of failure, humiliation, insecurity, uncertainty, instability, or lack of followers?

I said it at Y2Y as well: Your talent is your responsibility. If you know you can start something and you aren’t starting it because of the fear of outcomes or failure, you are lying to your responsibility. If you have a talent and you aren’t using it, you are living the responsibility but not fulfilling it. Start small. Come with one instrument and build your orchestra later.

What is your favourite life lesson/quote that has come out of ProjectFuel?

This is always one of the toughest questions I have to answer. I read new life lessons every ten minutes but this is the one I share with people the most: OWN YOUR STORY! BE PROUD OF WHAT YOUR STORY IS INSTEAD OF DENYING WHERE YOU COME FROM, HOW OLD YOU ARE, WHAT YOU KNOW, WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE , etc. EMBRACE IT, OWN UP TO IT!