Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Mo Waja, a professional speaker and instructor, award-winning university debater, writer, marketer, the founder of presentIMPACT, and the author of presentIMPACT: The Speaker’s Guide.
1. Describe what you do in less than 140 characters. Go.
I help professionals build their voice, optimize body language, connect with clients, and present their ideas more effectively.
2. What was the inspiration for your career route?
I come from a competition-based background. Most of my university career was spent competing in (and winning) public speaking and debate competitions. Spending time with such high-caliber speakers, and then entering lectures and conferences where speakers with years of corporate experience struggled to articulate their ideas effectively, led me to believe that there is still a significant gap in the transition from industry professional to professional speaker.
I began exploring my theory through founding the PictureWords Presentation Training Program – housed at the Ted Rogers School of Management. The demand was immediate and nearly overwhelming. This was the proof-of-concept that would lead to the inception of presentIMPACT soon after graduation.
3. What is the most memorable milestone in your career so far?
Definitely the publication of my book, presentIMPACT: The Speaker’s Guide. I had been working on the Guide since graduation, for nearly two years. With one complete rewrite, two different editors, and innumerable revisions, I can’t begin to describe the sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and, honestly, relief to see it go live on Amazon.
4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
In 5, married to my lady, with presentIMPACT built to a sustainable and growing business.
In 10, a family, having both grown the offerings of presentIMPACT and expanded my entrepreneurial ambitions across multiple businesses.
In 20, who knows – I love entrepreneurship and am always looking for the next challenge. I really can’t see myself retiring.
5. Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Don’t get caught up in the highlights reel. It’s easy to feel like you’re falling behind when your metric is everyone else’s Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or even LinkedIn feed. You won’t always see their struggles – and they won’t always see yours. Success isn’t viral, it’s incremental. Know your competition; follow them, learn from them, but don’t let their perceived successes dictate your decision making. If you have a product or service you believe in, then let that be your guide. Everything else is just noise.
6. Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is it (or they) important to you?
Most anything done by the United Way is something I can get behind. I’ve had the opportunity to work with them a few times over the years, and I have always been thoroughly impressed by the people and the depth of caring and dedication they show.
7. What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
The decision to leave my full-time job and start presentIMPACT. Stability is easy, it’s comfortable, and if that is your goal then it’s successful – but stability can also breed inertia. If you’re truly passionate about making your idea happen, sometimes you have to start by disrupting yourself before you can begin disrupting an industry.
For myself, I was lucky in that I had developed a network of interested contacts that fed me energy organically through requests for seminars. This helped me overcome my inertia. Beyond that, it really came down to as simple (or complicated) an exercise as taking a long, hard look at where I thought my career was taking me both personally and professionally and asking myself if I would be impressed by that future version of myself.
At the end of the day, beyond what anyone else thinks, I feel that that is what truly matters. Will you be impressed by your future self? If the answer is no, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate and make a change.
8. What does the word notable mean to you?
Building something that lasts. Being remembered after you’re gone.
1. Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
Something to Talk About, Bay & Gerrard. Get the Slim Steak. Best steak sandwich in Toronto, hands down.
2. What’s the most visited website on your Internet browser? The most played song on your phone?
Website: LinkedIn, with Hootsuite being a close runner-up. Curse of being a digital marketing consultant on the side.
Song: Carry On, Coeur De Pirate
3. Who’s one person you think everyone should be following on social media?
momondays (no, nothing to do with me) is something I’ve recently gotten into. Their Facebook and YouTube handles are @MoMondays and momondaysVideo, respectively.
The concept behind it is a celebration of storytelling. One Monday per month, a few diverse speakers are brought together to share a story. For a speaker like myself, this is exciting because it’s an opportunity to break the mold of instructional speaking and focus on the art of storytelling, which is at the core of any great speech. For anyone who loves hearing a good story, I would highly recommend checking out one of their chapters. Personally, I’ll be speaking at momondays Niagara, one of the newest chapters, on the last Monday of this August 2016.
4. What’s your favourite country to visit and why? And what’s the next one you plan on travelling to?
South Africa, without a doubt. My entire family hails from SA, and the vast majority still live there. The Waja clan is always a great time.
Cuba. It’s a trip that I’ve promised to some of my closest friends for many years, but have never been in a position to execute on. Fingers crossed for November 2016!
5. What gives you the greatest FOMO?
Sleep. Late to bed, early to rise has been my philosophy for some time now.
6. What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
I like to think of myself as a bonafide karaoke rockstar.
7. What’s something you wish you didn’t spend so much money on? What’s something you wish you spent more on?
Spending less? Uber for sure. Uber has created this wonderful safety net where you can push leaving just a little longer because if you miss the TTC, Uber is there. It’s a trap I should fall into less.
Spending more? In a word, travel. Throughout university, my focus was on school, competition, and student societies. Professionally, I transitioned into presentIMPACT so quickly that the priority never fell the way of travel.
8. And finally, what does success look like to you? Work, play, or otherwise…
Freedom; to Speak, to build, to travel, to play, to break down the routine barriers that hold us back in our day-to-day lives.