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Faaiza Ramji, '05 BCom
Uniting through a common purpose

As an entrepreneur and a marketer, the concept of community is something I spend a lot of time thinking about—what it means, how you nurture one and how it helps you thrive.

Faaiza Ramji, '05 BCom
Uniting through a common purpose


When it comes to brands and business, ‘community’ is a term that is used quite liberally these days, without always having a full appreciation for its weight. A friend of mine recently shared a Tweet with me from a marketer who defined community in the following way:

Community = frequency of touch X commonality of purpose

This is the definition that resonates most with me because it holds true regardless of the type of community, and it expresses community as a value, rather than a commodity.

Community isn’t something we’re all entitled to—it’s something you have to build and maintain. Something you work to keep strong, and fight to defend. A community also implies that there's no hierarchy; anyone can belong as long as they contribute. A community is a group of people who value each other and their ideas, actively participate in a way that is mutually beneficial, and use their commonality of purpose to create a sense of belonging.

In Edmonton, I'm lucky to be part of many communities. It’s one of the reasons I love this city and choose to live and build my career here. I’ve always found this place to be one that values community, and where everyone gets involved takes part. People are always less than two degrees of separation apart, and are happy to accept an invitation for a coffee to lend their ear or offer advice. I've lost track of the number of people I've reached out to who have generously given me their time and their counsel, simply because I’ve asked for it.

I’ve recently become a member of the VMS community. Before I joined, I didn’t refer to it as a community; in my mind it was an organization. I’ve come to realize that this is a huge short sell. There's definitely an organization to the community that keeps it operational, reinforces its purpose, and ensures it's operating within its constraints, but at its core it’s a community of like-minded, passionate individuals working together to make a difference for entrepreneurship in the city.

it is a group of people who value each other and their ideas

Drilling down into what makes the VMS community so special, I would have to say it’s three things:

  • A common purpose
    The intention of VMS is to build successful entrepreneurs. There is a key distinction in that purpose–successful entrepreneurs, not successful businesses. When you consider VMS’ commitment to helping people build the skills and confidence they need to make tough decisions, rather than giving Mentors the responsibility of advising entrepreneurs on how to make those decisions, you get the opportunity to connect meaningfully with each other, and to have a richer discussion. The coaching approach takes away the pressure of knowing the right answer, and rather encourages us to share our experiences with each other in hopes that someone will draw value from someone else’s experience. This inherently creates space for vulnerability, trust, and empathy.
  • Mutual respect
    As a Mentor, I was initially quite intimidated by the prospect of coaching an entrepreneur in a group setting, with other entrepreneurs who come from pedigrees much grander than mine. But there is so much mutual respect for everyone’s experiences and feelings and so little focus on the scale and size of those experiences, that I feel valued and respected for my contributions. There is a mutual respect among the group that everyone’s experience has shaped what we bring to this community, and that makes us all equals.
  • Intentional participation
    The common purpose and mutual respect drives people to participate in this community in so many ways. Even during a pandemic when people’s businesses are taking unexpected turns and we're all doing our best to stay home, we're given so many opportunities to participate in VMS on our own terms. My motivation to participate comes from the reward of the interactions. I learn so much from everyone in my groups and from the community at large, that it makes me want to be an active participant.

Looking back on my experience with VMS so far, I can honestly say it’s a privilege that benefits me just as much as it benefits our entrepreneurs. To me, that is the legacy of this community. And it’s what makes ThresholdImpact VMS a community others should aspire to build.

Faaiza Ramji
VMS Mentor since 2019