KELOWNA – Raghwa Gopal, the CEO of Accelerate Okanagan, talks about his keys to success and meeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his recent Cabinet retreat in the Okanagan.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently toured Accelerate Okanagan, how was his understanding of what you do?
The Prime Minister is very impressive and totally gets what we are trying to achieve. To first hand see and hear about his drive to make sure all Canadians succeed of all backgrounds is very wowing. He himself is well versed in technology as he spoke about the advancements around technology in agriculture, medical care and the growth of start-ups.
Do you feel this Trudeau Government supports the Tech industry?
Through the hard work of our local MP Stephen Fuhr, we have had the opportunity to have Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, Small Business Bardish Chagger, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, BC Caucus Chair Randeep Sarai and Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains all visit us separately, and they all get it. They all know what the growth of small tech companies means to economy and the importance of supporting them in what we do at Accelerate Okanagan. We are incubating the future of Canada and it is great to have leaders at the helm of our country who share this passion.
What legacy do you want to leave for the world?
Over the years I’ve had an opportunity to mentor young entrepreneurs. I’ve provided advice, training and invested in start-ups. I would like to think I’ve helped these individuals and companies expand and grow their opportunities. To be honest, I think I’ve gotten as much out as they have. Giving back for me is rewarding. The contribution others and myself have made with the community and economy has been immense.I am strong believer in giving back and leading by example. I believe by helping others achieve their goals as well as encouraging others to give back my legacy will be set.
How do you define success?
That is an interesting question. Success means many things to many people. My life’s successes are attributed to grit, determination and a few people who helped me along the way. I think success is being able to build something from nothing or very little and provide benefit to the community around you.Furthermore, I think success is determined by one’s ability to support others in their success. There so feeling more satisfying then watching a company I assisted grow and prosper.
What lead to you being successful?
I believe my drive for success began when I was a boy in Fiji around the age of 11. Back then, not everyone had the opportunity to attend school. Most families farmed and couldn’t afford it. My mom worked very hard to keep three kids in school. Education was the path to out of poverty and ultimately to success. In grade five I was told I couldn’t attend school any longer. Rather then accepting that reality, I asked a local shopkeeper for a job. At first he said no. I didn’t give up. I was very persistent. Eventually he accepted. My entrepreneurial spirit all the sudden kicked in. I was finding way to make the business more efficient through new processes, and the business started to grow. So much so, this generous man offered to pay my entire education. That was my first success. I began to understand the outcome of success. That changed my life.
How can we give others those same opportunities?
As I mentioned, I do a lot of mentoring to young entrepreneurs. I encourage everyone to do the same.It is simple. Give back where you can and more often. Giving back doesn’t have to be monetary. Volunteer your time; be a mentor, take time to give back to those that helped you succeed and future generations that were at one point in your position.
What are you most passionate about? Why?
I don’t think I can pick one thing. I am passionate about many things. I’ve been involved with the
Okanagan College Foundation, the Women’s Enterprise Society, B.C.’s First Nations, Rotary, United Way, East Meets West Orphans’ Foundation, the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission, the YM-YWCA, Project Literacy and Byrne Creek Secondary School.
If I really had to pick one, I would say education and development of our youth. At Byrne Creek Secondary, I was able to work with innovative youth who were new to Canada. The coding camp I launched was extremely successful. For the kids, Canada is a land of opportunity where they can learn, grow and prosper. To be a part of their learning and excitement is very rewarding. As my mother thought, education is the path out of poverty and to success. The youth are our future and they need to be prepared and provided the tools they need to be successful. My passion is to build something that will help our youth grow, prosper, and achieve their dreams.
How would you describe your personal mission statement?
Help others do extraordinary things.
What would you like to pass on to future generations?
Don’t be intimidated by success and what it takes to get there. Be passionate about you do, work hard for what you have and encourage and support others. If may quote an African proverb, “ If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
What makes you hopeful and happy?
I recently launch a coding camp for kids at Byrne Creek Secondary School. When I came to say hi, the kids were so thankful for the opportunity. I was thrilled to see they were engaged. They wanted to learn and have fun and they supported one another to achieve greater success.
What are your goals for the next three to five years for this?
I would like to see this program Province wide. British Columbia’s youth come from around the world. This camp is an opportunity to bring young minds together, learn, share ideas, and eventually develop solutions that will grow our Province.
What do the youth need most for future success?
I am strong believer in early education of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. As I alluded to earlier, the youth are our future. We need to look after them. Teach them the value of grit and determination. Society needs to provide them the skills and knowledge they need to achieve their dreams.
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