Business Startups

8 Quotes for Young Entrepreneurs from HXOUSE Co-Founders, La Mar Taylor and Ahmed Ismail

HXOUSE Co-Founders La Mar Taylor Ahmed Ismail Sitting on Microsoft Panel
Photography: @Notoriouslenses

Being a creative entrepreneur can be difficult. Being a young creative with no resources or guidance can feel like treading water in the middle of a hurricane.

At a time when nothing of its kind existed, Toronto natives La Mar Taylor and Ahmed Ismail founded HXOUSE; a cross-disciplinary think-tank created to support, inspire, and teach Toronto creatives and young entrepreneurs how to become giants in their field.

HXOUSE rejects traditional teaching styles by emphasizing mentorship. The program actively challenges its students by throwing them into multiple creative fields and putting them face to face with the best of the best. 

In the case of the most recent In-HXOUSE Conversations with Microsoft (which has previously featured the likes of Bella Hadid, Halsey, Daniel Arsham, and Jen Rubio), participants were invited to dive into the minds of the creative founders and encouraged to network with one another to launch new opportunities.

The message was clear: Seize opportunities, create them for others, and lead with integrity. 

Here are the 8 most powerful quotes from the evening.

Embrace launchpad thinking 

“I feel like planes and ideas are the same thing because sometimes these concepts, you just launch and then they land. Then, you’ve got to find another plane. I don’t want to own a plane. I want to own an airport. I felt like this concept that we were building was an airport, where if we want to do stuff in the creative community, we can. If we want to do stuff in the fashion industry, we can. If we want to help people blow up in tech, we can.” 

– Ahmed Ismail 

Ask questions and seize opportunities

“Ask a lot of questions. Be in rooms that you shouldn’t be in. Surround yourself with people that do different things than what you do. Be a sponge. As cliche as it sounds, absorb as much knowledge as you can, constantly. It’s about knowing that information is abundant and going out there and seeking it. That’s how I get my success.”

– La Mar Taylor

Plant the seed

“The best thing in the world is to see somebody you mentored outshine you. I think a lot of people are selfish and don’t want to see that. [I] want to focus on [cultivating] my community. Toronto is hot, so we need to start learning to plant a thousand seeds. You [the audience] are our thousand seeds. All these opportunities that we’re trying to build are bridges to a Canadian legacy. The Canadian mandate, globally, must be great or we’ll perish like Zellers and Biway.”

– Ahmed Ismail

Find your motivation

“Some days I don’t want to get out of bed. Sometimes, I’ll want to talk to anyone and other times, I don’t want to reply back to texts or answer e-mails. At the end of the day, there’s so much at stake. The world still moves whether you want it to or not. Time goes on and waits for no man or woman. So, no matter what you have going on in your life, you have to push that to the side and just focus on the vision at hand. [You have to] focus on what you have in front of you and just get it done. Ultimately, you’re the only driver in the seat and if you don’t push through, no one else will. [You have to] find your motivation, whether [it’s] religious or spiritual, or whatever it is that gives you inspiration. Hone in on what that is and focus.”

-La Mar Taylor

Support your tribe

“Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity isn’t… They always say, if you want to go, go. If you want to go far, go together. With HXOUSE, [we’re] a tribe. It’s not really for me and La Mar; we built this platform and we’re continuing to grow it based on things that we see people wanting to do… If you want to make yourself rich, make other people rich. The world’s waiting on us to lead, so we can’t be selfish and think we’re going to get on by ourselves. It didn’t cost me nothing to support La Mar. It didn’t cost him nothing to support me. We just did it.”

– Ahmed Ismail 

“It costs nothing to put on your friends. It costs you nothing to put on your neighbour. We’ve got to support each other.”

– La Mar Taylor

Protect your integrity

“You have to say no more than you’re going to say yes, especially if you have a brand with integrity that you want to upkeep. You’ve got to make sure that when you partner with a corporate sponsor, their initiatives won’t dilute what you’ve built up. It’s super important to stay intact with your vision and brand identity that you have with whatever sort of discipline that you’re in and stay in line. Stay true to it, don’t pivot.”

– La Mar Taylor

“You can’t compromise your integrity and give crap. But you’ve got to also enjoy the opportunity that [partners] have given you and make a moment out of that. Make it your moment. Make sure that you don’t regret it later or dilute yourself in the process, but make sure that at the opportunity for you to sit at that boardroom table, they’re so enlightened by working with you (like in our partnership with Microsoft) that they’re advocating for plays that were not in our agreement. In an ideal situation, you want to find a brand that loves you more than your own product.”

– Ahmed Ismail