Friday, September 28, 2012

Sweet Talk

As a startup enthusiast, I could not pass up the chance to attend Wednesday's networking, panel discussion, and BBQ hosted by several influential entrepreneurial organizations. The evening was presented by the Canadian Innovation Exchange (CIX), Ernst & Young, Microsoft Bizspark, FounderFuel, and Startup Drinks Montreal (event details here). Below is a photo from the crowded room at Notman House during the panel discussion.

In related news, Google has announced five Canadian cities that are winners of their eTown Award (see the Techvibes article here). Since the nearby town of Dorval is one of the award winners, Google will be close by next month to present the award and meet with local businesses.

And as anyone who knows me well knows, I am a huge candy lover, which often conflicts with my attempts to be as healthy as possible. Yet, the new all-natural candy maker Unreal Brands is a company I have my eyes on. As reported by the Boston Herald, entrepreneur Michael Bronner, the brains behind the operation, was inspired to create healthier candies when he discovered that candy companies use unhealthy ingredients because they are easier and cheaper to produce (source). I hope these candies arrive in Montreal soon! In the meantime, you can watch the star-studded promotional video for Unreal below.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


With all the events I've been going to lately, it was a perfect time to discover Inc.'s "Best Way to Introduce Yourself," which provides great tips, such as brevity and focus. Last night, I attended Women in Technology - Networking Evening and Program Launch: Tech Talk, hosted by YES Montreal. There were two speakers at the event: Sandy Sidhu, a founder of Montreal Girl Geeks, and Tara "Miss Rogue" Hunt, who was featured in last year's "25 Women-Run Startups to Watch" by Fast Company. Needless to say, there were some great female minds in the room!

During the Women in Technology (WIT) event, there was a major focus on startups. It was no surprise, then, to read the following in today's news: "Canada is increasingly becoming a country of small entrepreneurs, says a new report from CIBC pointing to a sharp rise in the number of Canadians starting their own businesses" (source). In keeping with the female-laden theme, I should note that the article also mentions that "female-led startups tend to stay in business longer on average."

Another study reported that Canadians are a "satisfied bunch" (article here). It didn't surprise me to learn that Canadians are generally very happy with their lives - the biggest shocker was that Quebec was the second most satisfied province!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

In Any Event

I'm so happy that my return to Montreal life has been just as busy as it was in NYC. The thought of sitting at home all day in front of the computer applying for jobs is just soul-crushing to me. Instead, I have been spending these past few days out and about, just the way I like it.

Today I attended the QS World Grad School Tour in Montreal. I was curious to see how it would compare to the QS World MBA tours I have been to, especially the recent one in NYC. The attendees seemed younger at the QS World Grad School Tour and QS Commercial Director Peter MacDonald explained to me that this tour attracts a more diversified crowd. As the schools at this fair were promoting everything from Master's degrees to Ph.D.s to graduate diplomas, I can obviously see why. I'm happy I went to the event, if only to meet another member of the QS team and satisfy my curiosity.

I was excited to learn this week that my friends at Frank & Oak were featured in the Montreal Gazette (article here). The company has all the right elements for continuing to grow their excellent e-commerce men's retail solution, including a great business idea, strong leadership, and a dynamic team. I wish them continued success!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Empire State of Mind

There is one major perk of being out of school now and traveling on a train without internet: the opportunity to read for pleasure. While in school, this is a foreign concept. In an MBA program, there are too many cases to read, too many assignments to write, and too many group meetings to attend that there is just not enough time in the day to enjoy a good book. Fortunately, I am now at a stage where I can appease my love of reading.

During my NYC trip, I fittingly enjoyed two books about chefs from the New York culinary scene. My “epicuriosity” led me to Heat and Blood, Bones & Butter. Interestingly, the books brought to mind two cases I had read in my Small Business Management course: “Make Green Delicious: Sustainability at Jamie Kennedy Kitchens” and “Tutti Matti,” both about small restaurants.

My trip taught me a lot about the business environment and opportunities in New York. I was also heartened by my experience seeing friends from my distant past. Though our life updates have been splashed across Facebook news feeds and we have kept up with each other through digital messages, my heart was warmed by the experience of meeting up in person after years of distance. Additionally, I was comforted by the time spent with friends (new and old), family, and business contacts who openly welcomed me back into the city and encouraged me to stay. It was hard not hear "Empire State of Mind" mentally playing in background music throughout my time there.

Monday, September 17, 2012

In a New York Minute

I've been in New York City (NYC) since Thursday night and it's hard to believe what a whirlwind experience this has been. After taking a relaxing 12-hour train from Montreal to NYC with no wireless internet, I've settled into a fast-paced Big Apple life. While here, I've had the chance to see friends, family, and business connections, as well as new and exciting people.

For the most part, my trip was planned around Saturday's MBA Candidate Workshop for the QS TopMBA Connect launch, where I was a speaker. In addition to helping prospective MBA students navigate their processes, I had the opportunity to meet the other speakers, more QS employees, and representatives from various MBA programs around the world who were working at the MBA fair in the afternoon. While at the fair, I managed the Admit Advantage booth with company founders Eric Allen and Kofi Kankam (who was a fellow speaker). Below is a photo of the potential MBA students who were eager to register for Admit Advantage's free consulting session.

As my trip winds down, I am sad to have to leave this buzzing city soon. Fortunately, I have agreed to keep in touch with the new people I've met, and of course, modern technology makes everything easier. We shall see what the future holds!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My Cup of Tea

There has been a lot of exciting startup news for Canadians recently. Mashable released an article entitled "5 Reasons to Found a Startup in Canada," which lists talent, investor interest, immigration, a launchpad to the world, and government support as the core reasons for entrepreneurs to consider the world's second largest country. Furthermore, the Canadian Youth Business Foundation has expanded its applicant eligibility to individuals aged 18 to 39, from the previous 18 to 34 (see the article here). Additionally, Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has finally released the details for an innovative startup visa that should attract high-tech entrepreneurs. The Globe and Mail article can be found at this link.

Due to my own interests in the startup community and social media, I attended last night's MEEX 8. Guest speaker Youri Hollier provided insight and feedback based on his current role as Social Media Manager for DAVIDsTEA. I appreciated Youri's candor and new ideas.

As my fellow HEC Montreal MBA graduates and I embark on our job hunts, I thought I would share the following article from Fox Business:  "Graduated, but Still on the Job Hunt? How to Stay Fresh." Although my classmates and I have only just completed our studies, it never hurts to review expert advice about positivity during the job search.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Women in Leadership

Most of the news here in Quebec seems to be focused on the recent election and all the activity that has surrounded it. Although I do not agree with the political views of Pauline Marois, the new premier elect, I feel it is noteworthy to mention that she also obtained her MBA from HEC Montreal. You can find the Montreal Gazette's profile of the new Quebec leader here.

Though Marois and I, both female professionals, obtained our MBAs from HEC Montreal, our alma mater is not generally known for its women attendees. Rather, McGill University, my other alma mater, was noted in the Toronto Star for having "more women students than any other MBA program in the country" (see the article here). The Star underlines the importance of having women in leadership positions and that an MBA can help us to get there.

Now that the majority of my MBA graduates and I are in the midst of our job hunts, it is apt to share the following article from the Globe and Mail:  "Tweet, blog and network your way to a new job." The article outlines excellent tips for this vital career process. Good luck to my fellow graduates as you embark on your exciting job searches!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Celebrate Good Times

There have been a lot of celebratory MBA activities which will continue until today. On Thursday, we had a barbecue at school with the new cohort, where we danced and partied the night away. We also attended our prom on Sunday night. It was nice to see everybody so dressed up, signing each other's yearbooks, and once again dancing until dawn. Today will be the pièce de résistance:  our graduation ceremony. For anyone who is interested in watching it, the event will be live streamed and can be downloaded later (see this link).

After completing my MBA studies, it was time for me to navigate the Quebec loans and bursaries program (Aide financière aux études). Friday was the only day to pay back my loan with zero interest, so I was making phone calls all morning trying to figure out how to deal with it quickly. Through several phone calls, I learned that I would have to rush to my local BMO branch to deliver a cheque with the specific loan amount (the Aide financière aux études website combines the total for loans and bursaries). The cheque would then go through the internal BMO mail system and be accepted right away with no interest. Although the interest rate would remain quite low, I wanted to pay back my loan with no interest, taking advantage of that one day privilege. 

I also wanted to mention that one of my fellow classmates pointed out that I was eligible for a 15 percent reimbursement of my loan because I completed my degree on time. Information about this Loan Remission Program can be found here. I simply had to fill out the application and I will get it signed at the HEC Montreal registrar's office (and request a transcript) as soon as possible.

With school and my finances sorted, I was able to enjoy a day of wine tasting in Bromont yesterday (see photos below). The weather was perfect, the destination was picturesque, and the wines were delicious. I could not have asked for a better way to spend Labor Day and one of my first post-MBA days.