And the big attraction is a pitch contest where the winner walks away with $5,000 for their business. Five contestants have already been shortlisted and will pitch infront of judges and a live audience who will also be able to vote for their favourite pitch. We talked to one of the organizers of the conference Jacquie St. Kitts Myers about how Branded TO came about.
How did BrandedTO start, where did the idea come from?
Morris Beckford and Kofi Hope developed the idea from a conversation around what young entrepreneurs need to support their businesses in the GTA. I remember being asked to be a part of the team as an entrepreneur and community member. The first discussion, as a group, was focussed on what we would do. It was great! We were all excited about being able to offer young entrepreneurs something that would be different than a regular a regular workshop and/or conference. We wanted them to gain something tangible and that has driven us and guided our actions from day one.
What is the intention behind the event, what is it intended to accomplish?
We wanted participants to get more out of the conference than papers telling them what to do. We wanted them to get a “hands on” template. Something that they could apply to their businesses right away. The intention is to give entrepreneurs something that would support bringing their businesses to the next level. Everyone gets something different from Branded- the knowledge gained from consultations is definitely a highlight but the networking and the general atmosphere of being in a room with so many likeminded individuals is inspiring. Entrepreneurs should feel inspired and empowered to make the next steps towards success.
Who is the ideal candidate to sign up for this event?
The ideal candidate should be a youth aged 18 -29 yrs. with a business. At the very least, they have attempted a business and may need support to keep moving forward. We target black and newcomer youth with limited access to resources to support them in achieving success.
When you look at the people who participate in the event, what is the main benefit you think they get from it?
I think that people benefit on many levels, especially around networking and getting to talk to industry professionals about what they are doing. They have the opportunity to meet, network and learn from so many people who reflect who they are, where they’re coming from and where they could potentially be. We have always received positive feedback about the event and I believe it is because people get so much more than just paper. They get an experience like no other. They leave feeling revived about their businesses and the potential that they hold.
This event is a pretty big undertaking, what is the most difficult part about it?
I would say that the most difficult part is solidifying a venue. We always want to ensure that the space is accessible to our participants. We also want the space to feel like we put effort into selecting a space to host our event.
What's the most rewarding part of it?
The day of the event has always been the most rewarding part, for me. There is always a great vibe. You look around and see people connecting and feel the energy in the space and it feels great! We know that everyone in the room is getting something from the event.
What has the community response been like to the event over the years?
Since year one, Branded has always created a buzz. People talk about it and look out for it. This year, I would say that the response has been so powerful. The caliber of individuals who are reaching out to us to be a part is inspiring. People want to be a part of Branded and that’s how we know we’re doing something great!
Where would you like to see BrandedTO in the future?
I see Branded reaching beyond the Toronto area. I hope that we would be able to duplicate the success that we have achieved over the years on a larger scale.