Last night I met a young woman who inspired me. I also had dinner with the new Magnum heir. As luck would have it, they were one and the same. Twenty-one year old Shawna Howson, a self-professed content creator for the web was impressively strategic about winning this online contest.
Last spring, to introduce the extremely rich and decadent Magnum Ice Cream bars to Canada, the confectionary company invited anyone so inclined to make a compelling video about why they should be the new Magnum heir for a chance to win the $250,000 grand prize.
There were close to 400 entries. The final ten were whittled down by the judges lead by uber wealthy Ivanka Trump. Finally, it was up to the fans to vote for their fave from the ten finalists.
While slurping her spaghetti, Shawna told me she was in it to win it. This wasn't just a random sweepstakes contest for her. She was very calculating about the whole process. First, she built up her YouTube Nanalew channel and created a huge network amongst "YouTubers." Facebook was next, developing a big fan base on that social network, making sure to engage with "her fans" to create a real personal relationship. Only then did she submit her video.
Once her video was posted, her fans supported her and she blew the competition away.
After spending her first day as Magnum Heir shopping putting a serious dent in Holt Renfrew, gift card, she and I ate an elegant dinner at the trendy Thompson Hotel. She was sparkling in her Dolce and Gabbana $1,400 sequined cocktail dress, but had already given up on her uncomfortable Jimmy Choo's.
Here's why Shawna inspired me. Instead of being impressed by all the fancy trappings being thrown her way, she couldn't stop talking about new media and how it allows her to do what she wants, when she wants. She's self-employed, creating content for YouTube and living off the royalties. She told me proudly that she writes, acts, edits, produces and manages herself. She has also self-published a book of poetry with another one in the works. The money she's won will let her do all the big things she's set her mind on, like buying new equipment. "The sky's the limit in new media," she tells me.
And then she goes on to talk about how important it is to her to be true to herself. She and her fellow gal pal "YouTubers" expect to be judged on their expertise, humour and passion - not on the way they look. They represent a new wave of kids who are tired of emulating clichéd, fabricated stars. "Make something rather than look like something" is her mantra. She's a breath of fresh air.
Finally, I ask her if she's made any plans to share her new wealth. Without hesitation, she tells me how she has set aside ten percent of her cash winnings to help other young content creators like herself. She looks forward to being able to help her peers by buying them equipment and funding some of their projects.
Are you inspired yet? Hopefully Shawna is a reflection of a generation who are turning off the tv, creating their own relevant content, celebrating the power of girls and being proud of making a difference with their unique voices.
So the next time you take a bite of a decadent Magnum Ice Cream bar, think of Shawna Howson, a young woman on a path to get rich in more ways than one.
There is a huge chasm between having a great idea and actually making it happen. As an entrepreneur, I understand how incredibly hard it is to take a thought and turn it into something concrete. There are a ton of obstacles along the way to prevent you from achieving your goal. There's the money needed to fund it, the business plan you need to map it and the team you need to help you build it. Getting all three pieces to align can be the difference between dream and reality.
This is why I am loving the Room For Thought program launched by American Express Canada. On their Facebook page they invited anyone with an idea related to community, travel or music to submit their dream. Today, nine shortlisted ideas were announced!
To get a sense of the kinds of entries received, here's an overview of the winners in the Travel category.
Preserving Time submitted by Robert Postma: My idea is to photograph remote parts of Canada to document climate change. Living in Northern Canada, I’m surrounded by mighty mountains, clear rivers and broad expanses of untouched boreal forest, all of which are threatened by climate change. I propose to travel to remote areas, photograph what may be lost for future generations, and raise awareness of what’s at stake if climate change continues.
Canadian Road Trip submitted by Carl Fortier: My idea is to take the underprivileged on a cross-Canada road trip. I propose a travel group for the underprivileged: a chance to see Canada in its awesome entirety through a good ol' fashion road trip. With the high price of gas, road trips are becoming a thing of the past. I’d like to create a contest for people to win seats on a cross-Canada adventure to show people what they are missing.
The Second Chance Travel Co-op submitted by Evan Malach: My idea is to give underprivileged youth the chance to travel the world. This idea gives the opportunity to travel the world to underprivileged youths who have experienced a survival quest. Helping those who have overcome abuse, disease, or a near death experience, The Second Chance Travel Co-Op offers the adventure of a lifetime to those whose lives were almost lost.
Here's where you come in! Go to the Room For Thought Facebook page, and vote for your favourite program. This stage will last for two weeks. At the end of the voting period, one finalist from each category will have the amazing opportunity to work with a mentor and bring their idea to life.
For the winner in the travel area, Les Stroud, aka Survivorman, will be mentoring the winner through the program. The music finalist will work with musician Emily Haines, and Craig Keilburger - Founder of Me to We, will mentor the community winner. You can vote for one winner in each category!
If you're someone who has an idea but doesn't know how to turn it into something concrete, here's a real smart video with an overview on how to make your concept a reality, so you can realize your potential!
This blog is proudly sponsored by our friends at
American Express Canada
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