How The Bubbly Business Student Helps Seniors Wade Through Technology.

Side Hustle
September 25, 2020

Who are you and what kind of content do you create?

My name is Rebecca Aharon, and currently, I am pursuing my BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) degree at a university in Toronto. I’m 19 years old and going into my second year of the four-year program. Outside of my degree, I enjoy staying active; I’ve been playing tennis for ten years roughly, so it’s excellent as a form of physical activity. My interests also lie in writing, reading, and traveling. Unfortunately, that last one got put on hold with the state of the world right now, but it’s quite alright; hopefully, soon, we can get back to it. I am an aspiring Corporate/IP lawyer, businesswoman, and am the Founder of TechPeer. 

We are a non-profit organization that focuses on bridging the gap between seniors and technology in a curated program that we implement in retirement homes around Toronto. (Hopefully, more countries/provinces/states will come soon!) We believe in the power of technology, as well as using our voices to create change. That was also before the pandemic, and now we’ve diversified into a podcast of our own centered on a technology called CoreTech, and a self-care series. We also accent on many awareness days around the world, and make it our mission to spread positivity!

Also, our Virtual Concert premiered on July 16th, Spotify, YouTube, and Jazz.FM91 artists, we were proud to bring a concert experience right to your screens as the event became available on all our platforms. We were also extremely humbled to have been able to present this event in support of SickKids Hospital and its Foundation. It is our goal to give back in meaningful ways to our community, and we will endeavor to continue to support significant and worthy causes as an organization! Give us a follow on Instagram at @tech.peer because we have some exciting new things headed your way soon! 

At TechPeer’s inception, we always meant to relay our passion for giving back, but seeing as education is also a personal priority, we’re doing this part-time for now. Still, in the future, I’d love to invest more time into our brand and expanding this service or program that is implemented worldwide. Presently, we’re a seven-person team, myself included. I am the founder of TechPeer, and we have two writers that consistently publish posts on two separate topics on our blog. Sam Streicher is the author of our ‘Broken Norm’ segment, where he focuses on dispelling myths and getting down to the core of all the medical information that is out there today. Further, we have Sophia Sonkin, a high school student and aspiring fashion designer, who writes for our fashion blog, MUSE by TechPeer. Veronica and Clara Aharon are our Marketing Director and Editor/Project Manager, respectively. Meanwhile, for our Podcast, (CoreTech), we have two co-hosts; Gabriel Vainer, and Vlad Fedotov.

I am incredibly proud of my team and the talent that I’ve been fortunate to assemble, because their hard work, contributions, and dedication are honestly what keep us going! My philosophy is that while we may try to do things alone, you are ultimately nothing without a steady support system. In this case, it is my team, and with how close we’ve all gotten and the growth that was visible from day one, I still look back at our journey and think how amazing it is!

Our brand name, TechPeer, was challenging to settle on. At first, we needed to narrow down our mission and what we wanted people to take away from our initiative. If you break down the words, they both represent our two pillars. Power of Technology and the second part, Peer comes from us striving to aid seniors to unlock that power and for there to be no barriers or impediments to communication with the younger generation or the tools that we all use in the 21st century. We’ve become their peers through our teachings, and we believed that it is correctly connected to our inspiration for the project. Initially, name generators were used, but they yielded results that we couldn’t connect with on a personal level. When you have the personal meaning infused into the name, I believe that it only motivates you to work harder to propel the brand to success. Quite fortunately, we were able to narrow down our brand name quickly, and it took roughly a week or so. The sooner that was established, the more time it allowed us to begin our work!

Let's go down memory lane, tell us your backstory!

The entrepreneurial bug has bitten me since childhood, I think. It was a long journey until I realized that this is where I thrive and where I truly belong. It was this yearning to be in charge and do something that represents who you are and helps others in some way, shape, or form. It can stem from having a personality inclined to be in a leadership position (as it was in my case). Still, plenty is taken into consideration before starting your own business/company/brand, so for each individual, there’s a different backstory as to what led them to the present.

Around November of last year, my cousin (who was in 11th grade at the time) came to me for advice on how she could give back to the community, make a mark, and expand on her volunteering endeavors. This gave me the opening to pitch that there is a gap in the market that we could bridge; seniors and technology, and it’s a niche market, so it was our opportunity to fill it. With my limited albeit growing business expertise, we got down to planning and sketching out ideas for what was supposed to be a small-scale project, but turned into so much more. 

I had previously only held one job, and that was working as a cashier at a grocery store when I was 16/17 years old. However, we genuinely underestimate what experience and skills these jobs can give us - customer service, patience, punctuality, and more. Frankly, I’ve yet to obtain a 9-5 job, but I’ve gone out of my way to achieving the experience that would help me land one in the future. From the ninth grade, I used my four years of high school to channel my energy and love of the law into interning at law firms all across the city.

From a tender age of 15, I’ve been exposed to a multitude of professionals, law avenues, and office environments. This was invaluable, and what surprised me that this inspired me and pushed me to be a go-getter, and try to make my own opportunities. When people see my resume now, the first question that rises to their lips is how I've gotten the chance to intern for prestigious law firms that specialize in Corporate, Real Estate, and Personal Injury, respectively. It doesn’t matter to them that professionally, I haven’t come close to working in the business sphere, but that I’ve already managed to network across the city, and achieve something that most senior business students or incoming law students have done. 

TechPeer was born partially because I’m so close to my grandparents, but frequently noticed the disconnect when it comes to technology. While we rapidly get the hang of it, it can be somewhat uncomfortable for them to figure their way around it. With our program, we start small and build up that foundation. Also, we tailor the content so that they’re learning useful tools such as video conferencing, because that’s one of the things that are important to them. Additionally, giving back to the community is a way of showing that you’re doing your part and how you can care about others. We can be caught up in life that we rarely stop and think of what we can do for someone else. Being able to help the seniors that we’ve already helped is what motivates me. The drive to see them succeed is secure, and you have this warm feeling of something bigger than yourself.  

A quote I’ve always cherished is “[i]’ve never dreamed about success. I worked for it,” said beauty icon and American businesswoman, Estee Lauder. It’s one thing to fantasize about your projects and come up with a vague plan in our heads, but another to realize it and see the fruits of your labor.  From an early age, I’ve always been a fan of study content creators on YouTube, and they’ve inspired me to reach a certain level of productivity as well as going after their goals. My first few that I’ve watched and still see to this day are Ruby Granger, Unjaded Jade, and Holly Gabrielle. All amazing women and role models to look up to as examples of success in the industry and their work ethic is unparalleled.   

How do you brainstorm ideas for your content and your advice in getting the creative juice flowing?

The creative brainstorming doesn’t come easily, but oddly enough, many ideas come to me in the night as I’m getting ready to sleep. I’ve learned to keep a notepad by my bedside to jot anything down or use the Voice Memo app on my iPhone to record a few points. Mind Maps can be vital for seeing the bigger picture, but I recommend expanding on those ideas while you’re writing them down, so you don’t forget how they all connect. Nevertheless, I am also a person who’ll seek advice from others. For example, when we were forced to diversify to keep our brand alive as part of the transition into COVID-19 restrictions, I’ve arranged many meetings with my team as well as adults whose business advice I trust and are close to me.

One of those people is my father, who works at Dell Technologies, and has been instrumental in helping me position the company as it is now. It can seem strange to come to our parents to help with our own ventures, but they are honestly our biggest cheerleaders, and never have steered us wrong. LinkedIn is another excellent tool to connect with people in business who’ve influenced you and ask their advice or see what they’ve been doing. Professors and teachers are an overlooked resource as well. 

Frequently, you have the thought of trying everything, but that becomes a mess in the end. It’s a real process. Frankly, we’re still discovering new tools and hoping to publish original content, but it wasn’t always this way. We’ve narrowed down what works and cut what hasn’t. You’ve got to gauge it and make those executive decisions. 

The mental block has been an issue more times than I care to admit, but candidly, it’s natural! Don’t feel unmotivated if it strikes you, because it doesn’t happen! Because you’re continually evolving or being creative to keep adding value to your business, you never know if stepping away for a few moments could give you a few bursts of new inspiration, and that you’re avoiding repeating yourself as a brand or company. Sometimes, the task gets put off to another day, where I can feel more encouraged or seek advice from your team/friends/parents. Getting different perspectives and chatting with someone who may not be experiencing a mental block will fuel or stimulate you to think and bounce ideas off of one another.  

What are the tools and platforms you use to help with your brand?

Social media was - and continues to be - our best friend, for a long time, and the connections we made were based purely on word of mouth as well. Also, there were numerous cold calls involved, and thankfully, we were able to gain three retirement home partners within the first two months. I pride myself on having achieved that kind of growth so quickly, and it involved many meetings to get us there. Instagram and most recently, Facebook and YouTube have been incredible tools. I would also recommend checking out Canva for design purposes, and getting better acquainted with Google Calendar or some other calendar app that works for you! Don’t rule out good old-fashioned sticky notes for jotting down quick ideas or to-do lists that will keep you on track! Follow us at @tech.peer on Instagram and TechPeer on both Facebook and YouTube! 

For video and audio editing, we turn to iMovie. However, we’re continually practicing with new software, and our editor has been such a blessing because, personally, my video editing skills are lacking! However, I’ve been keenly learning to help out with the workload, and I’d like to say that it’s going well so far! 

What were your fears starting out? How did you handle it? 

Naturally, it is scary starting your own business and putting it up online, because of the variety of opinions people may have and voice. However, to date, we’ve only been given positive feedback about our initiative, and our community of followers has been incredibly supportive, which we’re so grateful for! In regards to creating the content itself, when you witness other content creators’ platforms/accounts, and their perfected feeds, it can be intimidating. Still, I think we’ve come a long way from that and honed in on what we believe is the perfect medium for our audience to see. It’s definitely a process, I can assure you, but once you’re at that point, it’s much more comfortable, and you start increasingly trusting your judgment. 

If you’re a fellow founder reading this, it’s crucial to trust yourself. You have your vision, and it is alright to deviate at times, but your judgment and gut feeling can be so helpful! Learn to work with it, and you’ll be fine! Don’t hesitate to connect with others such as myself who have been through it. You’ll be building your network at the same time, which is a bonus! I am personally totally open to helping others build up their brand, and giving advice for anyone starting out! (DM @tech.peer or my account, @rebecca_aharon)

How did you build your brand to where it is now, take us through your process.

In the beginning, we were mostly operating by taking meetings with retirement homes across the city. Our online presence didn’t come through until approximately March of this year. We didn’t have much funding for the company, and any opportunities I pursue as a founder are done by investing my capital. Nonetheless, we’re hoping to explore other avenues where we could be achieving a revenue, so stay tuned for that! 

I believe that no matter how ideal and successful the company/brand looks on the surface, it’s essential to evaluate the setbacks that aided in its growth.  While this isn’t common knowledge, I had initially started with two other co-founders. Both were family members, and eventually, they both chose to step away to concentrate on other opportunities and their academics. I’ve never wanted to put myself in a position where I am holding back another individual, and especially family. Ultimately, yes, losing two people that were vital to the team and made up that dynamic where we would bounce ideas off each other was a setback. For the following two months, TechPeer had one employee, and that was me.

Juggling an organization that was still new and unheard of and reeling from the loss of my partners was difficult. But, I cannot complain because it worked out well in the end; with the recent success of the organization, both of them came back and now work in the roles of our Marketing Director and Project Manager/Editor, respectively. Dedication is everything to me, so while they didn’t wish to continue on the path, I repeatedly told myself that I was still invested, and it wasn’t worth giving up. It’s not in my nature, and I wasn’t going to start now. 

Further, I’ve had many people coming up to me and regarding me as an inexperienced founder. I’ve worked tirelessly to pave the way for myself professionally, and the organization, but it is still hard to accept when people view you as this eighteen-year-old that they believe has no idea what she is doing. However, this only drives you to prove to others that you are capable of making your passions a success story. As a first-year business student, I don’t believe it is a weakness admitting that I didn’t know everything about managing a non-profit, but we live and learn. You can’t be expected to know everything, but while others saw it as a sign that they shouldn’t collaborate with us, we’re in a different position now. I also look forward to learning as much as I can in my upcoming courses and establishing myself as a businesswoman. 

Another setback could be the pandemic. COVID-19 has been both a blessing and a curse candidly. When it was apparent that isolation measures were going to be put in place, we pulled out of all our program schedules, not wanting to risk the health and safety of our volunteers. Retirement homes simultaneously had measures in place for ensuring the safety of their elderly, seeing as they are at a higher risk of being impacted by the virus. However, without the pandemic, we probably never would have diversified into content that is being widely accepted and anticipated by our followers and audience. It gave us a moment to think outside the box and how we can help virtually.

Our Virtual Concert is us contributing to the community and our seniors because we gave them an early preview. We wanted to show our appreciation and heard that they enjoyed everyone’s efforts! We are expanding our possibilities and revaluating because COVID-19 had us pushing the boundaries of our comfort zone, but I’d say that everything worked out for the best. We are mindful of staying true to our core purpose, and overall, as soon as it’s safe to do so, we’d like to pick up where we left off and continue with our program with previous as well as new partners!

Because of the setbacks as mentioned earlier, it was some time until I got the right team behind me, and that’s when we poured everything we had into increasing our brand awareness through our online following. At the moment, we’re close to 500 followers, but the first 100 were difficult. But people follow your accounts because you’re producing authentic content and being transparent about your brand. We’re a smoother running operation now, and our Virtual Concert in support of SickKids Hospital and Foundation is what - in my opinion - put us on the map. It was a huge success, and we got the right amount of views on YouTube and Instagram! 

For someone who wants to get into content creation, what is your advice?

I would recommend going into one’s venture entirely prepared.

You should fine-tune your business plan, your goals, as well as have a good team standing behind you going forward. Handpick people that you can trust, and who are close to being as invested in this organization or company as you are. 

In the beginning, it may feel as though you are failing, but if you stick to your vision, I believe that you can achieve it. Consistency and 110% of your effort are integral in all stages but particularly in those few months from when you start. Remember that it gets better and that you should devote some time to yourself. We speak about it in our SelfCare segment every Saturday, (popular or cliche advice, I know, but honestly, we underestimate it). Still, I’ve been guilty of letting the organization take over every aspect of my life. It is okay to take a break or breather if you will, not to burn out.

When we started TechPeer, I was still adjusting to my first semester of business school, and it coincided with my first university exams, which was stressful. At one point, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to handle both responsibilities, but I can also be a bit stubborn when it comes to my ambitions, so I stuck it out. It is the best decision I could have made for myself because TechPeer has potential, and I am enthusiastic about building it or expanding it to what I envision. It’s about finding that balance and being conscious of your priorities. I am taking a summer course currently, and with our recent events such as the Virtual Concert, I can still say that it is time-consuming and tough to manage dedicating time deserved to each.

However, I love this work, it’s incredibly rewarding, and it’s important to remember that. Wake up with the mindset that you’ve tapped into your passion. And you are doing everything in your power to achieve your goals. Be adjustable, flexible, and continuously keep innovating! It’s a mantra that I repeat daily, and I can stand by it months later. If you’re building your empire, be determined, and find that thing that makes you want to get out of bed and work! It will be long hours in the early stages, but the hard work will eventually pay off!

How did you finally commit to X platform rather than your regular day job?

Honestly, this is a project that I hope to keep being involved in for many more years to come and see it reach new heights! However, I do not plan on dropping out of university, but lead it while obtaining my degrees. The goal is to get TechPeer to be more well-known and keep partnering with brands that can get our message across and that we have a mutual interest with! 

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

The best milestone would be getting people together for the Virtual Concert and partnering with a Hospital that is as prestigious as SickKids! It was unbelievable that we achieved this feat, and that many people reposted us! A personal one for myself as a founder would be when I have the chance to be interviewed for an Apple Podcast - The Search Bar. We have our podcast, but this was a professional accomplishment and first-time experience that I was over the moon about! It was nice to see that TechPeer is getting much traction, and our name/vision is out there! Milestones like this fuel us to keep producing content that is resonating with our audience and bring a broader range of services to them despite the pandemic. 

What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

As a business student, I am mostly in charge of the marketing aspect. However, I’m always pushing myself to learn more from professionals in the field. We do various online content such as ads in the form of online posters and design the content ourselves so that it is authentic and on-brand. In the future, I hope to employ someone with more experience to take it over and offer more suggestions on how to grow our business, but we’ll have to wait and see! 

We have our followers reposting our content all the time, and we’re fortunate to have such a loyal fan base! Moreover, we had someone who does the voiceover for a TV Network repost our Virtual Concert Announcement on LinkedIn. That was surreal! Ultimately, we’d love to collaborate with other content creators and bring more awareness, so feel free to DM us if you have any ideas or would like to work together! 

How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships? 

We have reached out to multiple brands, and we may have something in the works! We’d only work with someone who we believe has a mission that we could morally and professionally promote and would never agree for the financial incentive! You have to evaluate deals on a case to case basis, but if you’re ever unsure, do some research and get advice from either your team/friends/family/professionals! Be cordial, professional, and confident in your negotiations and know what you want out of it before approaching a brand. Wasting anyone’s time is not a good idea, so have some kind of plan in place!

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