What drives the economy? Could it be you?

By Janice Desautels (photo by Nate Grigg)

What drives our economy? The answer is goods and services.
Where do these goods and services come from and where do they go? Are we as a populace outside this equation or are we the creators?
Many a conversation starts out with “The economy is doing this” or “it’s bad right now” or “it can’t go on like this,” etc., as if we have no control over it. Well actually we do – we are in the driver’s seat with what we purchase, what services we need or want, what is considered fair market value, and how much we are willing to spend.
It is this decision that determines the outcome, and if it comes without any responsibility on our part, then we only have ourselves to blame. Simply put, if we do not speak up or take action, someone else will.
The English language is constantly changing. Every year, thousands of words are added to the dictionary. What is the path? If one person or group comes up with a new word or a different meaning to an existing word, then they’ll tell someone and so on and so on… and poof! It sticks and becomes mainstream.
Why mention this in a financial education article? I was listening to a car commercial recently in which the language they chose to use was very troublesome to me. Bear with me because to explain I need to back up hundreds of years…
History shows that people have been indebted to one another for many reasons, none of which was ever a good position to be in, however, over time, and due to those who have forged a way before us, being indebted has become commonplace and accepted.
For example, the mortgage, which is from the Latin word meaning a “dead pledge.” The meaning of the mortgage contract refers to the term “dead.” If the borrower cannot pay the debt, then they lose the pledge or property, and if the debt is paid, then the lender loses the pledge and the property is fully owned.
Fast-forward and we find the word comfortably in our language, and we now have many other words around it like amortization, accelerated mortgage, and the PIT acronym: principle interest and taxes. All these words are used to describe purchasing property, that for the masses is a large debt.
This brings me back to the commercial and the language they chose – unassuming, but there, creeping up on us. They were talking about purchasing a car using the term “PIT.” Why would they choose to use this when this term is usually reserved for a high debt purchase?
Food for thought: which way will things go if more and more begin to talk about buying a car using PIT? We already seem to be accepting the bi-weekly payments for many, many years which were once reserved to the mortgage. Is this a sign of the future in terms of prices?
Would we be willing to accept this future if we knew the acceptance comes from us rather than being imposed on us by some unknown entity out there? This goes back to the question: who or what drives the economy? Is it us and the decisions we make?
As we begin another year, my challenge to you is to be aware of the language used. Question its source and validity. The baby boomers already do this by using their collective purchasing power which drives the types of goods and services offered, and ultimately affects pricing.
Now it’s your turn.
Janice Desautels has been working with families and individuals for the last seven years helping educate in the field of financial literacy. She is a Certified Financial Educator with over 15 years’ experience in teaching and training adults.

App-building brothers find startup success as “code pirates”

By Stacy Cardigan Smith

“#InnovateOrDie” reads the motto on the walls at Bold Innovation Group – and it’s a message the IT company takes to heart.
“We took an old motto and we renewed it for our generation,” explains Yvan Boisjoli, one of Bold’s four founding partners. Since Bold launched in March 2012, this mentality has helped the Ile-des-Chenes-based company quickly become one of the leading third-party suppliers of apps for e-commerce behemoth Shopify.
Founded by brothers Yvan and Eric Boisjoli, Stefan Maynard, and Jason Myers, Bold has already put 15 Shopify apps on the market and plans to launch another two per month. In a short time, Bold has served almost 15,000 clients, including Microsoft, Time Life and Cirque du Soleil.
The Boisjoli brothers, both graduates of the Computer Analyst/Programmer (now the Business Information Technology) program at Red River College (RRC), are self-described “code pirates” – meaning they build the apps – while Maynard is a “design ninja” and Myers heads up marketing. Their fun official job titles go hand-in-hand with the company’s “Work hard, play hard” mentality; their office includes a foosball table and arcade games, and once every six months they have Hack Days, “where you drop everything that you’re doing and you just build something… that’s not just your everyday work,” Yvan explains.
The “work hard” part is demonstrated by the company’s quick growth and success. Starting with just the four co-founders in 2012, Bold now has a staff of over 40. And they’re receiving accolades, winning the Young Enterprise category honoured by the St. Boniface Chamber of Commerce, along with a national award from the nation’s Francophone economic and employability network.
The bold idea
The idea to develop third-party apps for Shopify was conceived by Myers who at the time was running a few e-commerce websites and saw opportunities in the Shopify marketplace.
The foursome decided to start with the Product Upsell app, which allows e-commerce retailers to quickly and easily upsell or clear out inventory at the checkout based on items the customer has in their cart. For example, if you were buying a camera online, at checkout you’d be asked if you want to purchase batteries. To date, it’s the company’s most downloaded app.
One of the apps they plan to launch in the coming weeks is the Marketplace App, which turns your online store into a third-party retailer, kind of like Amazon.
The brothers believe part of Bold’s success lies in having four founders working together, which helped set them apart in the Shopify marketplace.
“There were (other) developers that were building apps that didn’t have anybody wanting to support the apps. So customers weren’t giving them positive feedback because they weren’t getting the support they deserved, whereas we had a guy dedicated to supporting our customers,” Eric says.
Developing innovative apps for Shopify is just one of the ways Bold’s team members ensure they’re on the cutting edge of technology. A full 20 per cent of the company’s resources are dedicated to developing products that aren’t related to their core business.
“That’s part of our whole innovation mentality,” Eric says. “We’re happy doing stuff for Shopify and we’re going to continue putting most of our efforts on that, but we also want to grow in other ways. We have Picticipate and a whole Bold Labs department dedicated to new projects and new ideas,” he says.
Picticipate photo-sharing software had a “very soft launch” a few months ago. The team is currently rejigging it and expects to re-launch in mid-December.
As successful as Bold is, all four founders have plenty of experience with startups that haven’t done so well. They’ve learned to make each failure a learning experience.
“We know that 90 per cent of startups don’t make it, so if you keep trying and launch enough of them, one is bound to be part of that 10 per cent,” Eric says. “You just shrug it off, you keep trying, and luckily we hit it off with Bold – and now we keep on trying new ideas so hopefully one of those takes off as well.”
Yvan and Eric both credit their education at RRC for preparing them for their career in the technology startup world. “I was able to actually practice coding (so) I was able to concentrate a lot more in class because I was actually doing it, instead of listening to somebody talk about it,” says Yvan.
“I liked how the course was actually driven by industry in Winnipeg,” Eric says. “So people in Winnipeg actually say ‘This is important for a programmer in Winnipeg to know,’ and we were given courses based on that.”
For more information about the Business Information Technology program at Red River College, visit rrc.mb.ca.

It isn’t just luck – it’s about preparing for the opportunities to come your way

By UM Today

Although he speaks five languages, Mouhamadou Digne visited Career Services at the University of Manitoba for help with communicating to potential employers. Digne, who grew up in the French-speaking city of Senegal, West Africa, is becoming a mechanical engineer because of the technical skills needed in his home country and other developing countries around the world.
“Africa needs people to build things – bridges, roads, expansions. I want to do something rewarding,” he says. “(And) I am the only boy in my family. Back home, if you are the oldest boy or the only one, you have to do something technical.”
Digne came to the university at the age of 18 and will graduate in May 2015. He remembers clearly when career consultant Lynda Peto came to his engineering class to present on Career Services. He visited the website and watched webinars on how to write a resume and prepare for an interview. These resources helped him secure co-op placements.
But it was in his third year, after successfully completing his co-op placements, when he had six interviews within two weeks but no job offers, that Digne decided to make an appointment to see Peto personally.
“People were calling me for interviews, so I have something; I have a story,” says Digne. “I speak multiple languages. It should be easy to communicate, but I took this for granted. I’m telling a story but not shaping it in a way that makes it easy for the other person to digest. This is what I learned to do at Career Services.”
Peto taught Digne about the SAR method, which helps structure responses to a Behavioural Interview: talk about your situation, activity and result. This method helps organize skills and experiences so that there’s a beginning, middle and end that employers can follow.
Peto says:“It’s all about having stories in your back pocket to demonstrate your skills and experience. Mouhamadou has so many interesting experiences and skills; it’s just a matter of picking the right stories that can be shared in a logical and meaningful manner to an employer.”
Getting experience while being a university student is something Digne values and encourages others to do. He joined the student group Society of Automotive Engineers to meet other students and obtain key skills and experiences to increase his marketability.
He also worked part-time at Safeway’s deli, which led to his co-op placement as a machinist at Granny’s Poultry Processing Plant in the town of Blumenort, MB. Granny’s Poultry was impressed with his first-hand knowledge of their meat products. There, he used his skills like AutoCAD and in turn, this work experience helped him gain confidence and helped him secure his next co-op placement at Alberta’s Suncor Company.
His experience at Suncor, in the oil sands, led to a full-time contract with Shell Canada in Edmonton that will start in summer 2015. Digne adds the person at Shell who interviewed him is originally from Manitoba, and grew up on a farm near Granny’s Poultry, so she could relate to his previous work experience.
Hard work, planned happenstance – or destiny? Digne says, “If the wind is going to catch you, you’ve got to put yourself in the right position, then wait for it to take you.”
Peto adds that often students view their situations as luck, but that luck has more to do with being prepared for opportunities. She says, “Digne got involved, asked for help when he needed it, and developed the important skills and experiences that employers value. He was ready for the opportunities.”
Peto encourages students to put themselves out there to get different experiences. “Do volunteer work, part-time jobs, co-op placements, or join a student group – all of these experiences will open more doors,” she says. “Your career development can really start as soon as you start university. Take advantage of the opportunities.”
She and other consultants at Career Services offer free career planning and job search guidance. Services are accessible through online resources, workshops, or one-on-one appointments.
During January’s Career Month, students can get involved by enrolling in interactive workshops, such as ones that focus on developing a resume or prepping for an interview. There is also a new session for international students on navigating cultural differences in the Canadian workforce.

For more information about Career Services at the U of M, visit umanitoba.ca/student/careerservices.

Brandon U instructor teaches to preserve Dakota culture

By Glen Kirby

For Kevin Tacan, language and culture are inextricably bound. “Our elders pray about wichoichaghe shakowin, which means seven generations,” he says. “It is our responsibility to pass on our culture as true as we can, without altering.”
Brandon University (BU) is an important partner in Tacan’s efforts to keep the Dakota language and culture flourishing. He is an alumnus, a sessional languages instructor in BU’s native studies department, and is in the midst of completing a master’s degree in rural development.
“Next year, I will be doing my thesis on the use of Dakota and my goal is to become a full-time professor,” says Tacan, who grew up on the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation west of Brandon. “Language is the cornerstone of a culture. Without it, we would cease to be a tribal group. Hidden within the language are counselling systems, kinship, history and ceremony. I believe I have a responsibility to help students realize that.”
At an early age, Tacan learned the importance of culture and participation in ceremony from his grandfather and other family members. “I was told that when I leave this world all I will take with me is my being Dakota.”
He first enrolled at BU in 1995 but would not earn his undergraduate degree for another 17 years, instead pursuing what would become a life-changing opportunity. Tacan was asked to apply for the position of Elder in a pilot program started by BU, Assiniboine Community College and the Brandon School Division.
“I was hesitant,” recalls Tacan, who at the time was only 30 years old, “but I did. As you know, it’s difficult to say no to your elders.” He was hired, and in 1998 became a full-time employee when the Brandon School Division assumed responsibility for the elders program.
“While working as an elder and counsellor, I realized that many challenges faced by the Aboriginal students could be traced back to a common point – our missing traditional language. It was then I decided to return to university with the goal of becoming a Dakota language teacher.”
Tacan received a lot of support from BU professors who knew him from the 1990s, and others he had met while working as an elder, encouraging him to return to university. Tacan says Elder Doris Pratt, a long-time Dakota language instructor at BU and residential school survivor who dedicated her life to preserving her language and culture, was especially inspirational.
While continuing to work full-time for the school division, Tacan took night and summer courses, graduating with a B.A. with Honours in 2012. A year later, he was hired to replace the retiring Pratt as Dakota language instructor at BU. Despite his personal successes, Tacan realizes preserving his traditional language is a group effort.
“Saving the language, and the Dakota culture, is not something that I can do, or 10 people can do,” offers Tacan, named Aboriginal Educator of the Month for January by the Education and Advanced Learning Department (Government of Manitoba). “It takes many people from many different ages and experiences understanding how the language and culture interact, working together and using the language in their own work, teaching the language, and educating others.”
In addition to Dakota, Brandon University offers instruction in Ojibway and Michif. For more information, please contact Darrell Racine, Chair of Native Studies, at racine@brandonu.ca.

Winnipegger shares her voice on the world stage in Germany

By Danelle Hueging

One of the best decisions I made last year was participating in the JCI World Congress in Leipzig, Germany.
I was one of over 4,500 participants from 106 nations gathered in one place for a week of training, exchanges and international networking with Jaycees who all strive for positive impact in their community.
I stepped off the train from Berlin and into a conference like no other. Leipzig boasts a beautifully modern convention centre with grand halls that take your breath away – this is where the opening ceremonies took place.
Thousands of delegates grouped by nation waved their country’s flags and sang their anthems. Live music, dancing and pyrotechnics followed, filling the grand halls with jubilance and getting everyone energized for a week of learning, networking and celebration. It was day one, and already I was blown away!
And so kicked off my first JCI World Congress.
Every day of the week had its own theme: Invest, Impact, Collaborate, Connect and Motivate. All daily activities, like workshops with world-class keynote speakers and group discussions led by industry experts, revolved around these daily themes.
Mixed with these activities were the debate competition, training sessions, the World Effective Speaking Championship (where JCI Winnipeg’s Natasha Fisher represented the Americas), group excursions, trade shows and the General Assembly of all National Presidents.
There were so many activities to take in, but there were two I couldn’t miss: the World Effective Speaking Championship and the General Assembly.
Natasha Fisher brought JCI Winnipeg to the world stage in the effective speaking championship. Her path began in Winnipeg in 2013, where she competed locally, regionally and nationally to earn the top spot as Canada’s Effective Speaking Champion. Her next stop took her to the JCI Conference of the Americas in Medellín, Colombia in April 2014. Once again taking the top seed, Fisher earned her place on the world stage and would compete, as representative of the Americas, in Leipzig at the JCI World Congress. Finishing as one of the top four speakers in the world is quite the accomplishment for our own Winnipegger!
I also wanted to make sure to catch an important announcement regarding who was to host World Congress in 2016. The local JCI chapter in Quebec City, called Jeune chambre de commerce de Quebec, had submitted a bid to host, and it was awarded during General Assembly. I met up with all the Canadian delegates present at World Congress to celebrate this great news that represents over $12 million in economic activity for the Quebec City region as host.
Other highlights of the conference included workshops aimed at developing Jaycees who would return to their local chapters as certified JCI trainers; discussions revolving around sustainability and environmental impact; and the different projects other JCI chapters led in regard to these important issues. We also discussed Nothing but Nets, a campaign aimed at providing nets to fight against malaria in impoverished areas of the world.
The fun didn’t stop as in the evenings we were treated to nightly parties hosted by different chapters that showcased the many different cultures coming together under one roof.
There were plenty of opportunities to connect with other young professionals from all walks of life, including candidates for the Ten Outstanding Young Persons (TOYP) recognitions like Darren Lomman from Australia, who applied his education and experience in biomedical engineering to a passion for helping people with disabilities. The success of his first invention, a hand-controlled motorcycle for paraplegics, quickly ignited the formation of DreamFit, a non-profit providing innovative equipment solutions for making dreams possible for people with disabilities.
Ruth Riley from the United States, a professional women’s basketball player in the WNBA, is a leader and visionary on and off the court. Riley joined the UN Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign to create awareness, advocate for government support, and inspire other athletes to join the fight against malaria. She also co-founded an NGO called Inspire Transformation. The organization’s programs support local leaders in underprivileged areas while establishing community-based initiatives using sports, music, counselling, or other activities to create positive change.
Inspiration and motivation comes easily after witnessing what these individuals could accomplish, often with fewer resources than what is available to us in Canada.
World Congress wrapped up with an impressive gala that united the 4,500-plus delegates into yet another beautiful grand hall. We kicked off the 100 Years of Impact celebration that marks JCI’s 100th anniversary in 2015, and the Jaycees sure do know how to throw a good party! Here’s to the next 100 years of empowering young people to create positive change!
You too can get involved. Join us at a JCI Winnipeg’s Month End Mixer to share your vision of a better community, engage JCI members toward betterment, and discover the avenues of potential and impact that exist within JCI Winnipeg to empower young people to create positive change. Visit jciwinnipeg.blogspot.ca for more information.