Faces of Entrepreneurship: Rusul Alrubail, Parkdale Centre for Innovation

2022-02-03T17:58:07-08:00 February 3rd, 2022|Support/Mentor Networks|
  • Rusul Alrubail sitting in a chair in an open space.

Rusul Alrubail is the Executive Director of Parkdale Centre for Innovation, a non-profit incubator and accelerator that seeks to fill the accessibility and inclusivity gap to innovation, tech, and entrepreneurship, especially for underrepresented groups: women, newcomers, and people from low-income backgrounds. Rusul recently launched CanadaInnovates, the Parkdale Centre’s national online platform that bridges the digital landscape in entrepreneurship for inclusive innovation economies. Rusul was recently named as one of WXN’s 2020 Top 100 Most Powerful Women in the Science and Technology sector. She is also a published author, keynote speaker, and mom of two.


What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
Rusul Alrubail: Entrepreneurship is about creating opportunities for oneself to build something that has the power to change the lives of people and communities for better.

How did your company come to be?
RA: We launched Parkdale Centre, an incubator and accelerator for early-stage entrepreneurs, after experiencing a gap in entrepreneurship and the innovation economy as an entrepreneur. We noticed that startups and businesses who are traditionally underestimated by the ecosystem do not have an inclusive ecosystem to turn to when it comes to starting a business at a very early stage. Our mission was to make entrepreneurship and innovation accessible and inclusive for our communities: women of colour, Black, Indigenous peoples, and newcomers.

In 2018, we were one of the first incubators in Toronto that focused solely on supporting underestimated founders and startups, who are at the early stage of their business.

How has your business changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
RA: As a result of COVID, we launched a platform called CanadaInnovates. CanadaInnovates.org is an online national incubator platform bridging the digital landscape in entrepreneurship for inclusive innovation economies.

The platform supports entrepreneurs, enterprises, and organizations with programming and technical skills to make innovation and entrepreneurship accessible and inclusive for underestimated communities.

Working with partners like the RBC Foundation and Tory’s LLP to help us shape the future of CanadaInnovates.org as a technology driven organization is an important milestone. We’ll be able to do a lot more as we scale our mandate.

What is your proudest and darkest moment so far?
RA: One of the hardest moments I had was at the beginning of our launch, about six months in I got advice to close down our incubator from someone who thought they were a mentor. What gets you through these moments is sticking with your mission, your goal, and staying focused.

The early phases of launching a business are always very challenging times, and as a visible Muslim woman, I was one of the few doing this work in entrepreneurship and innovation sector. What kept me going were the people who were looking to belong to an ecosystem that’s truly inclusive and feel connected to be a part of. Ultimately, I believed in our mission, and I didn’t want anyone to take away our opportunity of making it a reality.

How is your company changing the landscape?
RA: CanadaInnovates is changing the landscape in the innovation ecosystem in that we’re focusing on supporting businesses from a local level and really zoning in on priority neighbourhoods that need the support the most.

Our mandate on inclusion and equity makes this mission a lot more specific, and what we’re really aiming to accomplish is to democratize access to entrepreneurship, capital, and the innovation economy for traditionally underestimated entrepreneurs, like us, who have been told for far too long that we’re not good enough.

Diversity is our reality, and what we’re doing is creating an ecosystem that provides not only inclusive access to programming, technical skills, and support, but one that creates a sense of belonging for those starting a business to ensure their success in the economy.

What advice/credo do you live by as you grow the business / what is your professional and personal mission statement?
RA: Entrepreneurship is not easy, and it puts you at a completely different mindset from your 9-5 career counterparts. Work on not comparing yourself to others, everyone has a different journey and you’re paving the path for your own, it might not be straight but you will get there. Don’t focus on the voices that are trying to pull you down, instead listen to the ones that are trying to build you up, empower you and support you throughout your journey.

What keeps you motivated during this time?
RA: What keeps me motivated is that we’re building something great that is having and will continue to have a positive impact on the lives of many entrepreneurs throughout their entrepreneurial journey.

This organization is built by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, and what’s really exciting is that throughout our journey as a startup incubator, we’re able to share our learnings, and experience with the entrepreneurs in our ecosystem.

Have you experienced mentorship in your career? Do you feel it was easily available to you?
RA: I haven’t been exposed to many great mentors throughout my career. Someone who doesn’t create extra barriers and provides resources is not a mentor, and that’s usually what I’ve experienced in terms of positive support. It’s one of the reasons we launched Parkdale Centre for Innovation. Many mentors try to put entrepreneurs in a box and limit the scope of their mission. They also underestimate women founders, and it’s important to recognize this bias and the power dynamic in a mentor relationship.

Instead, I leaned heavily on building relationships with our partners and advocates. People who I meet, and truly end up believing in the mission and vision of what we’re doing have been the most supportive.

If you’re an entrepreneur and notice you have only several folks in your life who are supportive of your work, make sure you continue to build that relationship with them. Update them on your work, and work to build authentic and real relationships with them. Those relationships often lead to building a strong network of folks you can count on when things get tough.

Do you have someone you’d like to nominate to be profiled in our Faces of Entrepreneurship series? Please let us know by emailing media@thecenter.nasdaq.org or submit your nomination using this form.

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