Written by David Sartor EIT, CMC, MBET (Class of 2020)
Entrepreneurship, to put it simply, is the act of building a business. Naively, I believed being an entrepreneur was essentially about creating a financially stable company from the bottom up, establishing yourself in the industry similar to the likes of some current influential minds - Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), Elon Musk (Paypal, Tesla).
I applied to the Masters in Business, Entrepreneurship, and Technology (MBET) program with the primary goal of integrating my technical background with a business skillset and pursuing a career within growth companies and eventually through my entrepreneurial efforts. I have always been independently motivated to succeed and become a well-rounded individual. The MBET program revealed to me the true scale of what it means to be an entrepreneur.
Over the year, the MBET program emphasized that entrepreneurs act as the bridge from innovation to the world. How individuals plan to construct this bridge is what makes entrepreneurship such a unique and open-ended path. The entrepreneur's role is vital because, without the catalyst of innovation, businesses can't continue to grow, and the advancement in civilization would come to a halt.
"Over the year, the MBET program emphasized that entrepreneurs act as the bridge from innovation to the world."
MBET pushed my classmates and I out of our individual comfort zones by always asking us to dig deeper than just the problem's surface. Reach out to potential customers to help clarify the market, but don't forget to keep asking yourself "Why?" and "Who is going to pay for it?". The biggest unspoken challenge throughout the program is the uncertainty of how the customers will respond to your solution. There is no one right way to solve a problem which only makes the challenge more complex. The world of entrepreneurship isn't entirely black and white, yet, MBET faculty and staff helped us navigate this scary world reassuring us through each course, assignment and project. With each new day, a new problem will always present itself, and our MBET program provided us with the tools to help us find those solutions. Ultimately, we define success in entrepreneurship by personal metrics, but one of the most significant skillsets MBET helped us realize is the drive and motivation to see success through.
In August 2020, I completed the MBET program at the University of Waterloo. After the Master's program, I believed that I was going to use my new-found knowledge and skills to help elevate the company I was with to new heights. Unfortunately, like many others, I experienced the unexpected hardships presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and was laid off by my previous employer. Facing unemployment forced me to reflect on my personal goals and the recent experiences in the MBET program. I was inspired to start my venture that embodies my personal beliefs and showcases many of my strengths, including the fact that I am deaf and hard of hearing.
My venture, Deafine, is a socially conscious athleisure brand. The goal is to establish this brand as a platform that helps raise awareness for those with disabilities and inspire the community to come together, helping redefine disability and prove that we can also achieve greatness. For every order, Deafine will give part of the proceeds to charities that help individuals with disabilities in developing countries get access to the tools and resources to help them succeed, tools that myself and many others like me have made use of around the world.
Before my entrepreneurial journey began, I thought the Operator type of entrepreneur was the category I would find most fitting. Interestingly, when embracing the new norm and conceptualizing what I have learned throughout my work and academic career, I have found myself pushing more boundaries, taking more risks, and wearing more hats than I ever expected. Now I see myself as an amalgamation of Creator, Builder, and Operator as I bring this venture to life. If it weren't for the experiences and lessons I have learned over the years and from MBET, I likely would have been reluctant to take this leap into building the brand I now call Deafine.
Be sure to check out Deafine at www.deafine.ca, where each sale helps strengthen and inspire an individual with a disability to 're-deafine' what strength and success mean to them.