Second Annual SociaLIGHT Conference Attracts 1000 Entrepreneurs

Entering the hall bright and early on the morning of Saturday November 17th at SociaLIGHT‘s 2nd annual conference, I immediately noticed the vibrant energy among 1000 entrepreneurs and delegates eager to network and hear the full line-up of speakers ahead. Socia”LIGHT” is an acronym that stands for: Leader Impacting Global Humanity Today and was created for entrepreneurs, community leaders, and dreamers. The conference was created to bring together young professionals and leaders and to inspire, connect, and empower this outstanding group. 

Theresa Laurico, founder and co-owner of SociaLIGHT, explained, to delegates, how she started this initiative when she asked herself one day “Is what I’m doing with my life worth my life?” and was inspired to start something she was passionate about when she wasn’t able to answer ‘yes.’ The day was filled with speakers from a variety of sectors and backgrounds, each giving their own perspective on how to achieve success as an entrepreneur. 

There was indeed a theme, among many of the speakers, of encouraging entrepreneurship for positive change in our world, not only for personal and professional development, but to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. 

The day’s line-up included best-selling author Agapi Stassinopoulos, who told the delegates that “the #1 killer of the human spirit is not fear, but doubt.” Suzanne Shawbonquit, an entrepreneur based out of Atikameksheng First Nation, shed light to the need for innovative solutions in Canadian Aboriginal communities. She noted that while $9 billion goes towards 633 First Nations on Canadian reserves each year, only 4% of this total goes towards economic development. Tonya Surman, CEO of the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), stressed that it is up to us to build the new economy, and that we don’t just need entrepreneurs, but we need “world-changing” entrepreneurs. Similarly, Assaf Weisz, co-founder and partner of Venture Deli, estimates that 5,000 human year hours have been spent on creating over 1 million Apps since 2007, of which 70% are games. Not that games are the enemy, but there are brilliant entrepreneurs who want to create something, and there are social problems that this energy must be directed towards in order to make the best use of human capacity and resources. While the potential exists, the energy needs to be directed through the right channels. 

While many delegates felt encouraged by the speakers, some described to me their frustration over the lack of availability of funding for social enterprises. Funding is the greatest hurdle for start-up companies, and a panel of various speakers was invited to discuss funding options for entrepreneurs. They discussed how there are millions of dollars available for funding start-up companies, and some of the panel members argued that there is more funding available today than ever before. 

One such source is crowdfunding, where individuals pool their resources together, often on an online platform, to support individuals or organizations. Many start-up companies are turning to this avenue as a source of funding. Last year there was $1.5 billion in crowdfunding available globally, and it is expected to increase to $2.5 billion next year. Teri Kirk, founder and CEO of The Funding Portal, shared how the portal pools together over 4000 governmental funds for businesses on one website, and should be used as a resource for start-up companies seeking capital. Since social enterprises may need to compromise their rate or level of financial payback in order to achieve a social impact, funding is often even more difficult to come by. Hearing founders of social enterprises that are growing, such as Jon Gauthier from Good Foot Delivery, a courier service that provides employment opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities, or Kanika Gupta from SoJo, which builds e-Learning tools to support bringing social change ideas into action, proves that it is possible. These social entrepreneurs, however, expressed that funding was their greatest challenge to overcome

Even among the individuals who expressed their concern with the uncertain funding options ahead for social entrepreneurs, was a strong belief that the day’s objective of inspiring, connecting, and empowering, was undeniably achieved.

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