Women Entrepreneur Icons: Theresa Laurico
“My business creations have evolved over the years—as I have—but the constant is my commitment to positive impact.”
In partnership with the Coca-Cola Foundation’s 10,000 Women Entrepreneurs Initiative, Startup Canada is celebrating and spotlighting leading Canadian Women Entrepreneurs. Startup Canada was pleased to sit down with Theresa Laurico, Founder of SociaLIGHT Conference to learn about their journey and the impact of their work.
Theresa Corazon Laurico is an award-winning social entrepreneur, creator, leader, speaker, and producer of the “Miracle Morning” movie. SociaLIGHT has impacted thousands and has been featured in Forbes. Past contributors include Sir Richard Branson, Tony Hsieh, Seth Godin, Robin Sharma, Tonya Surman, and more. She is also a seasoned media producer with over 10 years of television experience and a Broadcast Journalism degree from Ryerson University and an Executive Media Leadership MPP from Schulich School of Business.
SC: In one sentence, what does being an entrepreneur mean to you?
TL: Entrepreneurship is an incredible opportunity to tap into and develop our greatest potential; to innovate and create solutions for a thriving future for ourselves and our world.
SC: Tell us about your entrepreneurial ventures and what role they play and have played in your life.
TL: I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was a teenager—before I knew what the term meant.
I was supposed to be a pediatrician and got into pre-med, however, at 17, I won a national speaking contest and it began my new life path. I decided not to become a doctor and went to Ryerson for Journalism.
One of my early entrepreneurial ventures was organizing large frosh parties. I remember being in absolute awe of the money I was able to generate creating something from scratch. I realized how I could use my creativity to make money.
After University, I worked in the television and media industry for more than 10 years. During that time, I had a company called e11en Productions. I also started a non-profit called Love in Action which contributed funds to Me To We, eye surgeries in Tibet, homelessness in Canada, Planeterra, community work in Peru, the Philippines, and more. Today, Love in Action is an accredited leadership program for youth in New York.
SociaLIGHT was my first real venture. I made several mistakes at the beginning, but they helped me build my resiliency and persistence. I learned financial literacy and felt empowered when I joined groups like One More Woman and F.I.R.E. Last year, I trained under the Flourishing Leadership Institute in Appreciative Inquiry and I became a member of the Evolutionary Leadership Council.
My journey of entrepreneurship has given me incredible opportunities. I’ve met thought leaders like Oprah Winfrey and travelled around the world. My business creations have evolved over the years—as I have—but the constant is my commitment to positive impact.
SC: What motivated or propelled you to become an entrepreneur?
TL: I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My grandfather and grandmother influenced my core values growing up. My grandfather was a lawyer, statesman, journalist, and represented the Philippines at the United Nations. My grandmother was a dentist, mother of seven, and a philanthropist. They were married for 65 years and owned real estate and businesses together.
SC: What are you most proud of related to your ventures?
TL: In 2011, SociaLIGHT was one of the first events in Toronto to emphasize business as a force of good. Since we started, people have launched many conferences with similar goals, and I’m proud that SociaLIGHT was a trailblazer for these types of events.
We focused on a triple bottom line—people; planet; profit. Sir Richard Branson gave the opening remarks to a gathering of over 1,000 startups and entrepreneurs at the launch. The community was very siloed at the time, and we stood for a more collaborative approach. We brought together over 60 community groups to support the success of the startup and entrepreneurship community.
SC: What inspires you to keep going?
TL: I am inspired to actualize my potential while I’m alive. My family worked very hard to give me opportunities. Being born and raised in Canada, I’ve been given so much opportunity. I love creating, growing and innovating, and I’m moved by the hearts that my work touches.
SC: What’s the next mountain you’re climbing and what’s still left undone?
TL: On Easter Sunday of 2017, I was hit by a bus in Toronto and almost died. I had 8 broken ribs, frontal lobe brain trauma, my right hand crushed, and more. The recovery process for the physical and emotional trauma of the accident has been ongoing, but I’m so deeply grateful to be alive.
My life’s work will always be around media, entrepreneurship, impact, and a thriving collective future. Right now, I’m focused on female entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and mental health awareness. I have to fulfill my commitment to make media and content that moves humanity forward.
SC: What has been your biggest learning along the way?
TL: After my accident, I developed a deeper appreciation for my health and well being. As a startup, all I knew was; wake up, work hard, go to bed. No one ever taught me about burnout. I never developed healthy habits around nutrition, sleep, meditation, exercise, or properly balancing my schedule. I now value my health and my life reflects this priority.
When I started, I didn’t have any financial literacy. I remember CSI Founder, Tonya Surman, once asked me if I was in the black yet and I asked, “Black dress?” I bought and built my first condo in my twenties, and sold it to fund my startup without telling my family. I’ve since learned, and now I’m committed to educating other entrepreneurs on the importance of financial literacy.
SC: Have you identified or confronted any systemic barriers through your journey? How do you persevere through them?
TL: As a young Canadian-born Filipino, Catholic female—yes, I’ve experienced systemic barriers. I overcome them by having a strong sense of self; I’m proud of my heritage, sex, and uniqueness. I’m often the youngest, the only woman, and the only visible minority in the room. If ever I’m in a scenario where I feel judged based on this, I let my creativity, track record, and results speak for themselves.
SC: What advice do you have for those just beginning to embark on their entrepreneurial journey?
TL: Strengthen your ability to achieve personal and business success by creating and implementing a commitment to healthy habits. Try to eat as healthy as possible. Sleep well and make time for things like self-care, fun, learning, connection to your soul, family, friends, animals and nature.
Learn about the fundamentals of business and get a good lawyer, accountant, and bookkeeper. There are many free resources and organizations that can help you. Join other startup communities so that you don’t feel alone and can ask for help.
Get a mentor and be committed to learning. What took them 10 years can take you 1 if you learn from them. Read daily and invest in courses and experiences that help grow your leadership. Travel too—it gives you a global perspective.
SC: Where can people go to learn more about your journey and organization?
SC: What’s your big vision for Canada and the World over the next 20 years?
TL: I envision a thriving and flourishing future for Canada and our economy, rich in diversity and opportunity. My vision is that Canada continues to be a global leader in environmental sustainability, inclusion, and innovation. I’m so proud to be Canadian and part of the fabric that makes our country one of the best in the world.
Are you ready to change the world? Join the Startup Canada Women Entrepreneurs Network to gain access to resources, community events, and more!