Meet Liya, a student attending the University of Calgary out to change the face of how we thinking about a weekend camping experience. She is one of the co-founders of Eco-LOGic and no stranger to pitching her company on stage. She recently was selected as one of the finalists for the RBC Fast Pitch Competition hosted at the Haskayne school of business at the University of Calgary. Top entrepreneurs from the University pitched their businesses for cash and prizes.
We caught up with Liya and asked her a couple of questions about her experience so far…
Q: Can you tell us a bit about the program you are enrolled in at university? Why did you choose it, and what do you hope to do after graduating?
I am enrolled in the Accounting program. I picked the program because it allows for great opportunities to work in different sectors. After graduating I hope to get some work experience and work on attaining hopefully my MBA.
“I used to think that entrepreneurship was only for some people… is once I took this entrepreneurship class I realized that it is in fact for everyone.”
Q: What has your entrepreneurship course(s) taught you?
The entrepreneurship class taught me that in today’s workforce it is not sufficient to “just” do the expected workload but one is expected to be inventive and think out of the box to help contribute to the organization’s overall work performance and environment. Companies are looking for fresh outlooks and people that dare to bring different ideas to the plate.
Q: Tell us about your entrepreneurial venture. What was the problem you were trying to solve?
Our entrepreneurial venture, Eco-LOGic, creates a firewood alternative that is environmentally friendly. Using recycled paper and incorporating scents we hope to make the camping experience more sustainable by substituting firewood, entertaining homeowners owning fire places with its scents and more variety to campers purchasing their firewood directly from the campsites.
Q: What was the spark that inspired the idea for this project? What steps did you have to take (or are taking) to make it a reality?
The spark behind this venture was our passion for the environment and the outdoors. To make this a reality we took the precautionary steps to interview as many people as possible to ensure that our venture appeals to our customer segment. We also took the step to interview businesses, campsites and small businesses located near the campsites to acquire partnership and to see if people were generally on board with our idea.
Q: Did you enjoy the pitch experience? What was the best part/highlight of the experience? (either in preparation, or on the day of the competition)
Yes, the pitch experience was exciting. Although we didn’t win, we made it into the final rounds and it was a great feeling knowing that people were interested in our business idea.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge for you/your team as an entrepreneur?
The biggest challenge was not having guidance in the beginning. Coming up with an idea for the business was tough. Compared to the other courses this was more of a practical-based course applying resources. The course challenged personal initiative and creativity highly. There was no “perfect” example/formula of what makes a successful venture and we were expected to piece it all together by using the business model canvas as a tool.
Q: What advice would you give to youth who are interested in entrepreneurship?
Don’t just take things as they are don’t be satisfied with what is given to you. If there is something that has always bothered you, or you discovered a problem to which you think you have the solution to take notes. Collect the ideas that you have and while you go about your daily activities always keep an open eye and observe things, you may find something. That way you fuel your creativity and before you know it coming up with inventive solutions for things will become your forte. That’s the advise we were given on our first class of entrepreneurship.
Q: Tell us a bit more about your background (education, past ventures and experiences). What are some of your interests?
I am originally from Toronto and I moved from there three years ago. Most of my family members are in sciences, so it was unusual for me to go off the path to choose business as my major. However I am very glad I did so because I always liked the endless opportunities there are in the business world. In fact my family, specifically from my dad’s side had a long tradition of passing down their textile, traditional clothing and souvenir merchandising business. My aunt (my dad’s older sister) carries on the family business and I remember going on weekends as a little kid to help out there when my family and I used to live in Ethiopia. My interest besides school include; watching movies, arts and crafts, and spending time with my family.
Q: Have you always been interested in entrepreneurship? If not, when did you first become interested, and how did you get involved in the field?
I used to think that entrepreneurship was only for some people. It is only fit for those people that have great ideas that will make millions. It is once I took this entrepreneurship class I realized that it is in fact for everyone. Ideas don’t always have to be something out of the ordinary; they can be recycled out of existing ideas were a twist has been added or they can simply be an extension/improvement on an existing business. Once people learn the basics of how to start a business the rest is really easy and everyone, if they put their mind to can be an entrepreneur in any field.
Q: What do you think our world would be like if we did not teach entrepreneurial spirit to young people in school?
Entrepreneurial spirit is very important for everyday life. It is not just about business ideas. Entrepreneurial skills are helpful for day-to-day uses, making people more of a critical and analytical thinker. In the entrepreneurship class that I took we learned that people who hire for jobs in general ranging from business to sciences are looking for people that can think outside of the box and can easily solve problems. Teaching kids about analytical, critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills by doing math problems or sitting in science class is not enough and it is important to challenge kids to think outside of the box with no manual instructions because life doesn’t come with one.
Q: If you could travel back in time and tell yourself anything about your experiences, what would it be?
I would tell myself to always question things and not be afraid to ask questions no matter how dumb they sound.