“When you’re building from the heart, there is no failure”.

– Theresa Laurico



I attended the first ever Socialight Conference back in the fall of 2011, and it was the first event I attended in Toronto after returning to the city from Vancouver.  I only attended the Saturday, but it was an action-packed day with a stellar line up of speakers including Tony Hsieh, Bruce Poon Tip, Tonya Surman, and Robin Sharma.

For the 2013 Socialight Conference that took place this past weekend, I was honoured to be an affiliate of the event and have the opportunity to invite The Potentialists community to attend.  The year’s theme was “conversations”, and I believe the conference accomplished its objectives.

The Saturday started with an aboriginal song and dance that asked us to open up our hearts and minds.  We were then welcomed to the event by the founder of Socialight, Theresa Laurico.  She gave a touching opening speech in which she shared her journey of starting her career in the media industry to eventually waking up one day and wondering if “what she was doing was worth the only life she has?”


Theresa is a gem. 


She sold her condo to finance the first ever Socialight conference, and is truly the perfect spokesperson and leader for social innovation and entrepreneurship in Toronto, and Canada.  She closed her speech beautifully by reminding us that we all are like cells in a human body; some of us are skin cells, others are liver cells, and others are lung cells.  But the key is that we’re all part of the same whole body, no cell is any better or more significant than another one, and that is why we must work together and support one another to create good in this world.  With this analogy, Theresa sparked the start of the conference and left us inspired for the rest of the day.

Highlights from the rest of the Saturday included presentations from corporate sponsors like UPS, Teriano Lesancha who returned to her Maasai village after her degree at Ryerson and is helping improve conditions for women and children, John Coyne of Unilever on our collective responsibility to better the world, Natalie Sisson of Suitcase Entrepreneur on how to create freedom in business and adventure in life, a phenomenal funding panel for aspiring entrepreneurs, and Darrell Kopke of InstituteB, who was on the initial team of six people for Lululemon, on how he helped them grow exponentially as a company and how to take full responsibility for your life.

Saturday concluded with a call to action by Taylor Conroy from Change Heroes, which has the mission of helping build schools in developing countries using an innovative fundraising platform.


The first year I attended the conference, I only attended the first day, Saturday.  After this year’s first day, I had a similar sentiment at the end of the day as when I attended the first time. 


Some of the things I felt were missing this year was a big closing keynote speaker (I heard Robin Sharma the first year, who was phenomenal), the theme of the conference was “conversations” but there were no facilitated activities or ways to actually help people start conversations to connect, there was an over-representation of corporate involvement in the day which might not have been as relevant to the majority of the audience who were smaller entrepreneurs, and I wonder if the conference was too broad in its focus and range of speakers and if they had spread themselves too thin.

The first year I attended the conference, as well as this year, I only attended the first day.  However, this year, I had a chance to attend the second day on the Sunday, and that is what made the conference really valuable for me this time around.  The first day tends to focus on inspiring the delegates and providing a general overview of different facets of social entrepreneurship, as it should given the diversity of interests and backgrounds in the audience of over 1000 delegates.


The second day was awesome because there were only 120 people in the room, we had a chance to form meaningful connections, and we got to learn tangible skills and tools directly from the speakers. 


For instance, Jayson Gaignard of Mastermind Talks shared how to recover from hitting rock bottom, spoke about the importance of surrounding yourself with people who want to see you succeed, and morning rituals he uses to take care of his health and be productive.  Mike Brcic (Dean of Social Innovation at The Centre for Social Innovation) taught us how to use the Lean Start Up Canvass to build a business.  AcceleratorU showed us how to fail fast and cheap, and validate our ideas quickly so that we can create a product that we’re passionate about, and it meets what the market needs.  Natalie Sisson of Suitcase Entrepreneur spoke on Personal Branding and revealed specific things she does that help her succeed on social media and in her online business.  And finally, Darrell Kopke from InstituteB in Vancouver delivered some fresh west coast perspective on how to build the soul of your brand (i.e. your corporate culture), how to identify your values, and how to create the types of conversations you want to occur between you and your team, your team and your customers, and by word of mouth via your customers.

These were just some of the amazing moments on Day 2, not to mention a powerful listening activity, and great conversations with others in the room at coffee breaks.

Overall, Socialight lives up to its intention of helping and fostering leaders impacting global humanity today to create a triple bottom line impact: people, planet, and profit.  I showed up this year hoping to connect with others at the conference, and I left energized to do what I’m passionate about, continue to improve, and give back to the world.

This conference embodies why social entrepreneurs do what they do, and why I think they’re awesome.  If you’re in Vancouver in February 2014, look out for the first ever Socialight conference there, and maybe I’ll see you there!


Keep doing great things,