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Aaliyan Khan, a seventeen-year-old student attending Brampton Centennial Secondary School is not your run of the mill grade 12 student, as he achieved the feat of starting up his own company known as the 'The Positivity Project'.
The Positivity Project is a non-profit business that sends out cards to a recipient of your choice, but with a twist. In a valiant effort to spread positivity among the populous, all cards sent, contain a positive message to anyone of your choice, written and shipped to the person of your choice on your behalf. You can fill out your form of who you want to send your card to followed by typing the message about how you want your card to be written.
The Positivity Project not only sends positivity through the letters sent but donates all profits to a variety of charities written about on 'The Positivity Project' website.
Where did you begin the construction of your company?
Aaliyan Khan: The actual idea came to me when I was trying to write a handwritten card to my friend and I found it really difficult. The issues I had, such as finding the resources nearby to actually make the card, the actual cost of making the card was so expensive, and just how time-consuming it was for me to make it happen all together, and not having much time to focus on the positivity of the card which I found important.
So right then and there I came up with the idea and listed all the things I needed to start the actual business. And I think it was just getting everything approved by the Government of Canada; and in about a year and a half, once that was rolling, everything came forward.
So would you say that this difficulty acted as the inspiration for 'The Positivity Project'?
Aaliyan Khan: Definitely, I just found it hard to send positive letters. It just felt like a strenuous process, and I knew many people that struggled with the same issue as well. So I thought, why not make it easier for people to send positivity around the world.
One might say that sending cards are old-fashioned in today's technological society.
Aaliayn Khan: I’d like to say so. But surprisingly enough, a lot of studies show today, the relevancy of cards are still important. They may necessarily not be through postage stamps. However, every gift you give, there is an attempt to try to give a handwritten note or something with the gift to give a more intimate touch.
What struggles did you face in the creating 'The Positivity Project'?
Aaliyan Khan: Finding resources and people to talk to. It’s not something that is taught much in class, for teenagers to start their own business.
At the same time when I came up with the idea, a lot of people held back from the idea saying that it's too much, that kids shouldn’t start businesses because they’re really risky. But the more I persevered, the more people I found that supported my idea, whether it was people directly at home or outside of my social circle.
Finding knowledge to start my company was definitely my main struggle for sure.
What would you say to people who suggest that teenagers should not be starting their own business?
Aaliyan Khan: I tell them that they are wrong. I think the issue today in society is not so much the adversity and issues you’ll face when trying to do something, I think the main issue is the support systems.
For people with great ideas, sometimes they might have a weak support system that may hinder them from actually wanting to do something that they’re really passionate about.
How is 'The Positivity Project' beneficial to the people?
Aaliyan Khan: My business offers three main solutions. One, it offers affordability. So if you were to send a handwritten card on your own, rather than with my company, it would probably cost you twice if not three times as much to do the entire process. So using my company is cheaper and all profits do end up going to different charities. This means that 100 percent of the order is going towards a positive impact.
The second solution offers is accessibility. About one in five North Americans live in rural areas where grocery stores, let alone card stores are so inaccessible, so having a website where people can access, there is a lot of accessibility, and best of all, a quick order process.
The third solution is instead of focusing all your time worrying about getting the card, you can now worry what the card will consist of and the actual message.
Because at the end of the day, whether you give a card or you’re talking to someone, it’s how you make them feel at the end of the day. And if I can offer more people the time to focus on that rather then all the other steps that hinder this, then I think that’s what makes it important.
Do you believe you are making a difference with 'The Positivity Project'?
Aaliyan Khan: I definitely think so. I’m lucky that on my website I’ve had many testimonies from people who have actually used my business and been affected by it.
Best of all, I’ve been able to get traction by not only local news outlets such as The Brampton Guardian but I’ve been able to get my name into The Globe and Mail. I do definitely feel like I make a billion dollars or ten dollars a month, as long as there are people being impacted, that goes a long way.
Where do you see 'The Positivity Project' in the future?
Aaliyan Khan: My goal is to get more resources and get more funding to make the positivity project more stable in the sense that it can offer more variety in my store with the cards to offer more customization to make it more personal.
Right now on my website, there is one universal card that we have, but we want to open it up more. For example, if you wanted to send a card to your friend and you have a picture with that friend, you can upload that picture to our site and we can print that card for you. This will add more variety for people to make a deeper, more positive impact.
How has this company impacted your life?
Aaliyan Khan: I think it’s shown me that if you have an idea that you really believe in and put the right steps forward and make sure that you’re accountable and reflective, that what you believe in can actually happen.
It can be difficult whether it’s finding funding or certain resources. But if you believe in your idea, you can really push forward. That’s definitely one thing I’ve learned.
Another thing I’ve learned is the importance of time management and self-reflection. As a student in high school, you have to balance so many things and for me, I became really busy. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced.
This business has taught me what things are more important and at the same time how well I can manage them. I think that’s an important lesson that I think we should all learn.
What does this company mean to you?
Aaliyan Khan: To me, it’s kind of like my stepping stone. When I originally came up with the idea it was about making an impact, it was not about how much money I make.
Getting these fundamental ideas of how do I really start a business, how to become an entrepreneur, so if I really pushed towards starting something in the future, maybe a bigger idea, then at least I’ll have the stepping stones of knowing how to start it.
I think I really want to use that as a way to encourage others and show them that if they have ideas that they can actually make it happen as long as they believe in themselves and find resources out there.
Is 'The Positivity Project' the tip of the iceberg for you?
Aaliyan Khan: I’d like to think so, I have a lot of years ahead of me and I’m only 17 and will be 18 next month. Having something like a business at a young age teaches you how it’s like in the real world because I know there’s going to be so much more adversity and ideas that I might have.
It’s what I’m learning right now that’s going to help me hopefully throughout the rest of my life.
How have you developed yourself as a person with the evolution of your company?
Aaliyan Khan: I think the main thing that I’ve learned about myself and from my experiences is the idea of reflection. I find that often in life a lot of people get caught up in doing an assignment or issues in their personal life, or relationships or whatever, but don’t take the time to step back and reflect on what’s going on.
From a business standpoint, you always have to be sure what’s going on in your company just so it doesn’t break down to bankruptcy.
From a personal level, you have to take those moments to take a step back and reflect on all that’s going on in your life. Whether these moments are good or bad, it acts as a way for you to not only appreciate life but also to see what you're doing wrong and how you can make yourself a better person.
Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs?
Aaliayn Khan: I think the best advice I'd give is that, if you have an idea and you believe in it, just go for it. The worst thing that can happen is that you having regret in the end.
Regret is one of the worst things you can have in your life and that’s much worse than having a business idea that doesn’t work out because if you have at least tried, you learned. Learning is one of the best things that can happen to a person, and you learn best when you make mistakes.
Finally, want tp let the audience know what you are doing with your life?
Aaliyan Khan: I am working on making my social media a bit more engaging and more meaningful for people. Right now I’m looking towards expanding my operations, so finding more resources and making my business a bit more impactful as well as more convenient for more individuals.
I’ll be heading out to Queens University in September, so I will hopefully continue my entrepreneur ambitions there while studying commerce.
I am currently on standby to hear back from WE Charity, so if I do get selected I’ll get to speak about my business in front of 50,000 kids in September at WE Day, so that’s pretty exciting.
Hopefully, this summer, to gain more experience in the business world, I might be working with the Sick Kids Foundation for July and August in their headquarters in Toronto, working with their marketing team to look at solutions of how to get people involved with things such as the Sick Kids Foundation.
Aaliyan Khan/Positivity Project social media handles:
Website: Positivity Project