At the age of 13, eighth-grader and aspiring designer Maddison Tory was thrown a curveball that changed her life—she was told she needed heart surgery.
While Maddison was at Alberta Children’s Hospital, she felt deeply for the scared children and families around her and the uncertainty they faced. She also noticed how being in the hospital took away kids’ childhoods. “I saw that all their toys were being replaced with things like needles,” says Maddison. “All I really wanted to do was go and give each one of them a big hug.”
This was the lightbulb moment that inspired her to take action. Maddison decided to combine her dream of becoming a designer with her passion for helping others. She launched her own social enterprise—an organization that employs a business model to tackle today’s most pressing societal issues, combining profit with purpose. Through Maddi’s Mission, Maddison began sewing colourful fleece scarves with hands on the ends of them that wrap the wearer in a warm hug. With each scarf sold, a second is given to a child who is recovering in the hospital. The proceeds from each scarf then go toward creating fun experiences for these children, such as movie nights, art classes or princess tea parties, giving them a chance to laugh, play and be kids.
But Maddison soon ran into some roadblocks. She wanted to donate all of the profits, but that wasn’t sustainable. Neither were her production methods. So, she joined the WE Are Social Entrepreneurs program, made possible by RBC, designed to help young Canadians take their ideas for social change to the next level.
WE Are Social Entrepreneurs is fueled by RBC Future Launch, RBC’s 10-year, $500 million commitment to help Canadian youth prepare for the jobs of tomorrow. By partnering with youth-serving organizations like WE, as well as government and businesses, RBC Future Launch seeks to foster change. The goal is to provide opportunities for youth skills development, networking, work experience and increased access to mental well-being supports and services—all to prepare young people for success in the ever-changing workforce.
As part of the program, Maddison was soon attending a WE Are Social Entrepreneurs Youth Leadership Conference, where she heard inspirational speeches from WE speakers and experts on social change and entrepreneurship. She also received mentorship from industry professionals and youth change-makers, and participated in interactive modules to further develop her skills and kick-start Maddi’s Mission.
“The WE Are Social Entrepreneurs program really took my idea from a small little thing and helped me build it into an actual business that I’ve been able to pitch,” says Maddison. “I started off not really knowing anything about business, how to manage my money and time, or how to actually present my idea to different audiences. This program helped me learn how to do all of that!”
WE and RBC believe that young people can change the world: all they need are the resources and tools. That’s why they are committed to helping young entrepreneurs like Maddison build businesses that give back to their communities. Any young person can apply to the WE Are Social Entrepreneurs program—and Maddison has some advice to share, one young entrepreneur to another:
“There’s no idea that’s too small. It doesn’t matter what your idea is: if you are truly passionate and you find mentors that can help guide you, you can take this small idea and turn it into a real business that gives back to others.”
To find out more about the program and how to attend a WE Are Social Entrepreneurs Youth Leadership Conference, go to WE.org/WASE