A group of local high school students found themselves surrounded by some of the biggest, young names in the entrepreneurial world this week.
Collingwood Collegiate Institute and Jean Vanier Catholic High School students attended the Haste and Hustle Generation Now conference in Toronto on Feb. 27. The conference brings together thousands of entrepreneurs for keynote speakers that represent some of the biggest names in the entrepreneurial world. This year’s top name was Gary Vaynerchuck, an entrepreneur and bestselling author, the founder of VaynerMedia, and a man worth $700 million.
“All the entrepreneurs were really nice,” said CCI grade nine student Joao Faria. “They made business sound easy, but also proved it takes a lot of work… It motivated me that this could be a route that I could take in life.”
He was also interested in all the talk of cryptocurrency and the entrepreneur’s predictions for the future of the world’s money.
“They are investing in future currencies, because they believe current currencies will die out,” he said.
Cryptocurrencies are created by tech start ups for various online exchanges, they can be traded for dollars, goods or services, and the cryptocurrency market is growing extremely fast.
Grade 11 students Liam Cromwell and Noah Glover also attended with their marketing class, and had two different takeaways from the event.
“I was really interested in cryptocurrency,” said Glover, adding he’s considering an investment in to Celcius, founded by tech innovator Alex Mashinsky of VoiP fame.
Glover said his strongest subject is science and right now his goal is to become a veterinarian and open his own practice.
The highlight for Cromwell was the networking opportunities at this large-scale event.
“I had the chance to speak to people who had been doing this for a while, and who had already experienced highs and lows,” he said. “We’re learning the basics here (in class). It’s cool to see the stuff we learn here… they apply it on a larger level.”
Grade nine student James MacCulloch was encouraged by the presenters, and said it made him excited about business class.
“It inspires you to be like them, you feel almost a step ahead,” said MacCulloch. He plans on exploring affiliate marketing on Instagram right away. His interest is in the clothing industry. He’s also got his own stock account and plans to invest in companies like Uber, Facebook and Apple.
Andrew Thomson, also a grade nine student, said the conference was generally very uplifting.
“It gives you more of a positive outlook,” he said. “Like you’ll get your shot and you have a chance.”
The boys were inspired by the KSwiss story as told by brand president Barney Waters, and also by the story of Eli Brown, a promising tennis player who lost it all due to drug and alcohol addiction. He now owns one of the most successful clothing brands in Canada called Shine the Light On, and he uses his brand to help raise awareness and support for those struggling with addiction.
“Half of people fail because of fear,” said MacCulloch. “You have to make something different, and then it has to be your number one intention.”
The students were able to attend the conference thanks to the involvement of Kelsey Cole of AdBank - a tech startup in Collingwood and Martin Rydlo, director of marketing and business development for the town of Collingwood.
AdBank is a large sponsor for the Haste and Hustle conference, and Cole was able to use her clout to access a pay-it-forward program.
“About 30 entrepreneurs attending the event purchased 30 extra tickets – at $100 each – to be donated to youth attending the conference,” said Cole, a CCI alumni, and co-founder of AdBank.
Rydlo helped coordinate other sponsors including Greenland Engineering who sponsored the bus for the students and Freshii, who donated snacks and smoothies for the trip.
“AdBank’s mission in terms of community investment is to make an impact on the community… to help create the next generation of entrepreneurs and tech minds,” said Cole. “We never forget where we came from. There is an exceptional level of support and love in the community for youth. And we want to be part of that.”
Cole, who has had a global career said Collingwood played an important role in teaching her about entrepreneurship early in life. She worked for many independent business owners and learned values and passion from them. She hopes to be able to pay that forward in her career with opportunities like the field trip to Hustle and Haste Generation Now.
“I hope (the students) know they can literally be anyone or anything they want to be,” she said.
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