Almost every entrepreneurial story includes a chapter on struggle, with business founders facing self-doubt, financial hardship and personal sacrifice. Waterloo alumni Nirbhay Singh (BASc ’17), who goes by the nickname Harry Sahi, and his business partner Zaham Mustaq (BMath ’17) are passionate about rewriting that chapter to make it a little more serene.

“As an entrepreneur, there are days when you’re really positive, but other days when you don’t make a sale, or your investor’s not getting back to your last email,” says Harry. “It’s during these moments that you start to question if it’s really worth it, and most people just quit.”

Harry and Zaham know these struggles well. Harry founded the social enterprise Engineers for Hope, and Zaham has worked with multiple startups in Toronto, as well as larger companies such as Royal Bank of Canada. Her perspective on entrepreneurship was also informed by her youth in Kenya, where she witnessed the struggles of female entrepreneurs and the lack of resources to help founders launch a successful business.

To help entrepreneurs navigate the ups and downs of starting a venture, the Waterloo alumni are launching The Founders Camp: a seven-day retreat that combines professional development with tools for maintaining emotional health. The camp is open to entrepreneurs and young professionals who want to advance their career.

Zaham and Harry got the idea for the retreat shortly after their graduation, while they were on a vacation with friends and fellow entrepreneurs. From their villa on a beach in Mauritius, they practiced yoga and meditation, explored their surroundings and shared ideas about their future endeavours.

“We weren’t even thinking about the trip as a model for a business,” says Harry, “but while we were away, we worked on our ventures together and motivated each other. When we came back, we all agreed that the trip was not only refreshing, it also gave us a new perspective. Shortly after, two members of our group launched their businesses successfully.”   

Harry and Zaham asked themselves how they could recreate this experience for other entrepreneurs, giving founders the chance to learn new skills, enhance their mindfulness and connect with like-minded individuals from around the world. The two friends conducted market research for nearly a year, at the same time tapping people in their networks to join them as guest speakers, workshop leaders and mentors. Last winter, tech entrepreneur and angel investor Evan Luthra also signed on as their strategic advisor.

The Founders Camp is scheduled to start this August in Panama City. The itinerary includes daily entrepreneurship workshops and virtual guest lectures, complemented by meditation, yoga, guided outdoor adventures and free time to rest and explore.

“Within a month of launching, we received over 500 applications from Europe, the United States, Africa and Central America. The response was overwhelming,” says Harry.

“We’re super excited, and we’re looking forward to getting to know the selected participants,” says Zaham. “It’s going to be one epic experience.”