Faisal is successful because he is clear about where he is going, strategically looks for opportunities to enable him to get there and recognizes the importance of meaningful relationships
3rd year full time business student living independently off campus
Monthly living expenses of $ 2k-$3k
Monthly earnings of $ 5k-$6k
Working 30 hours part time per week in developing his own business
No expected debt upon graduationas all his tuition and related expenses are covered by his scholarship
Faisal grew up in South East Asia in an upper middle class family – his mother is professor and his father works in government. Faisal had the benefit of a strong education and clarity around the various types of jobs and opportunities that exist. Faisal’s brother had studied in the west and then returned home and started an energy aggregation business with Faisal’s uncle.
Seeing the benefits of entrepreneurship first hand inspired Faisal and he became interested in moving from doing a job to starting his own business. Given his interests, Faisal thought studying business in the west would be the best pathway for him. He began to dream of going abroad but was very aware of the cost barriers as an international student. Although his parents had a comfortable life, the high fees associated with tuition and living abroad (York University’s tuition for international students is over $25,000 annually) combined with the exchange rate made it impossible for Faisal’s parents to fund his education.
Faisal understood cost was a barrier to his dreams and so he knew he would have to problem solve to find solutions. Faisal had one of the highest grade point averages in his class and was involved in extracurricular and sports activities such as debating, writing and tennis. He was also fairly active in his community, volunteering at local hospitals for two hours daily for almost 2 years. Given this, Faisal hoped he would be able to secure some form of scholarship.
Midway through his high school years, Faisal asked his parents to sit down and talk about finances and his education. He continued to dream of going away, knew that any help his parents could provide would be beneficial and so started a discussion about the collective effort. Although culturally, it was common for parents to pay for their children’s education, Faisal did not expect this from his parents. He maturely wanted to talk about possible avenues, ask their advice and discuss how they could work together.
Given his grades and community involvement, Faisal strategy foccused on applying for scholarships. Faisal made a list of universities that granted funds and applied to 10 US, 3 Canadian and 2 UK schools as well as completing their separate scholarship/funding applications. He also sent in funding applications to his local government and non-government educational support organizations.
This took 1-2 hours daily over six months working with fellow students, teachers, high school admission counselors and other experts. Faisal attended workshops, visited university admission offices, went to presentations and sought out one on one counseling support. The work paid off and Faisal received a York University scholarship covering both his tuition and living expenses. He was delighted at both the support and the opportunity to come to Canada.
Faisal came to Canada 3 years ago to study business full time. In addition to his studies, Faisal has spent approximately 30 hours a week to build his own business. Given insights from his brother and uncle on the energy aggregation market, and the deregulated nature of the US market, Faisal thought it would make sense to focus on becoming an energy broker in the US. Although he has an idea of how things can work, he is still starting from scratch.
That means that he has been researching organizations, cold calling potential clients, working to build relationships, invested time in going to the US to work on attracting clients and money in online marketing. After 2 years of unpaid business development, his work has paid off and he has secured several top S & P companies as clients. This has enabled him to hire several employees who are experts in the energy business to support and run the business out of the US as well as an office in downtown New York, while he maintains an oversight role.
Speaking of his approach to business development, Faisal discusses how he has worked at perfecting the process of connections. He looks to understand what others are interested in or need, makes himself available to support or enable others, and is always prepared and professional. He knows that this effort pays out in the long run. He also knows he is quite skillful as none of his business colleagues know that he is a 20 year old university student. However, he understands where to seek help and is hiring better and more experienced employees to aid in developing his business.
On a day-to-day basis, Faisal has a yearly and semester budget, invests time and effort trying to find economical options that enable him to stay within his budget and is mindful of both his expenses and goals.
Faisal’s goals are to stay in Canada, wait and see if the energy deregulation concept develops here while growing his business in the US. He knows that this will be costly as he is building a life from scratch and so is very strategic with his time and financial investments.
From a systems perspective, Faisal’s story makes me think about how we might create opportunities for all Canadians to invest in themselves and in building viable businesses for a long term sustainable economy.