Universal Lessons I Learned Through Entrepreneurship

Career and experiential learning 
Entrepreneurship Hub
Student experience

By Amal Abed

Étudiante ambassadrice | Student Ambassador, Carrefour de l'entrepreneuriat | Entrepreneurship Hub

Pearl beads, ruler and gold chain on a white desk top.
Credit: Amal Abed, Tota's Gems
Hi! My name is Amal and I’m a third-year biomedical science student minoring in psychology at uOttawa. Call me sentimental, but I have a document titled “Business Journal” with a list of every milestone, opportunity, and skill I have gained since launching my jewelry business, Tota’s Gems, in 2021.

I primarily use it as motivation when the going gets tough because it offers proof of growth and accomplishment. Reflecting on my last three years of entrepreneurship, here are my top three lessons learned — and they apply to any field!

1. The power of networking

You know the “exploding head” emoji? That’s exactly how I feel when I think about the power of networking in any field. I can attribute almost every opportunity I have benefitted from to a connection with someone in the entrepreneurial community.

Here’s a chain of events to exemplify the concept:

  • A family friend introduced me to Summer Company – the program that inspired my commitment to Tota’s Gems.
  • My first pop-up shop was held at the LD Shoppe thanks to my Summer Company
    mentor – Hailey Loftus, founder of Hailey Jane Jeweler. At this event, there was one other entrepreneur also popping up with her business, Milan Kids Boutique.
  • One year later, Milan Kids Boutique opened a brick-and-mortar store on Bank Street and invited me to set up what became my second pop-up shop.

[exploding head emoji]!!

2. Seizing the “right” opportunities

It goes without saying that it’s crucial to recognize opportune moments as you encounter them in all areas of life, and that not all opportunities are handed to you on a silver platter. But that doesn’t mean you should accept every opportunity you encounter. Yes, it’s important to recognize them, but even more important to gauge whether you should pursue them.

Timing is tricky because it’s not always straightforward — learning to differentiate between “it’s not time because I have my plate full” versus “it’s not time because I’m not ready” is key. When the former occurs, you should weigh the pros/cons and make the best decision based on your circumstances. When the latter occurs, you should tell your brain to step aside because  fear is cheating you out of an opportunity for growth.

3. The happy medium in work-life balance

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but there’s definitely a lesson to learn from people's experiences, so here’s mine! My number one problem when it comes to the entrepreneurial lifestyle is my brain — there’s always more I could do for my business, so IT. NEVER. STOPS.

Yes, I would love for my brain to take a chill pill, but I’ll admit, sometimes she has good ideas. So, I decided that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em — instead of trying to stop my business ideas when it’s “me time”, I’ve learned to use notes apps, notebooks, and google docs to brain dump. Then, at a later time, I’ll go through my ideas and thoughts and probably delete the ones written at 12 a.m. when I was half-asleep squinting in the dark (true story).

Ultimately, I have found that discussing ideas with fellow entrepreneurs to be the best way to make more confident decisions, so I’d like to thank the uOttawa eHub (both student entrepreneurs and staff) for being one of my support systems this year.

What’s next for you?

If you have a business idea bouncing around in your head, but you’re not quite sure where to turn to next – consider signing up for the next edition of the Startup Garage RevUp Circuit, a nine-week condensed bootcamp packed with relevant and practical startup knowledge to bring your idea to life.