The ELO Forum in Toronto maintained its track record of being the “must-attend” annual event for committed Christian marketplace and entrepreneurial leaders. As one attendee put it, the Forum was “Inspiring, encouraging and challenging. I was reminded that we are called to make disciples in whatever we do.”
What were some takeaways? “Create something magnificent.” “Embrace the call to boldly engage in the public sphere.” The realization that “opportunity abounds in our place of work to be a witness for God and to seize the opportunity for businesspeople to affect positive change.”
There was the “Reminder that God has a purpose for me and also that I am to be bold in my faith and not keep it secret.” The event helped, “reignite my entrepreneurial focus.” One attendee noted a greater understanding that “We think that being a Christian means to ‘believe in Jesus’ but as Richard Blackaby explained is that what it really means is ‘to follow Jesus’.”
With a few last-minute registrations, the Grand Ballroom at the Toronto Airport Marriott Hotel was completely sold out. The ELO Forum succeeds due to the collective effort of ELO advisory board members, sponsors, table hosts, supporting organizations, volunteers and ELO staff.
The assembled community had much opportunity to interact with speakers through Q & A with presenters and with one another. There were four networking sessions spread throughout the day. As one attendee put it, “I am encouraged that I am not alone in my journey as an entrepreneur to advance God’s kingdom.”
The afternoon and evening sessions featured eight different presenters, all addressing different aspects of how marketplace leaders can be more effective difference-makers. Michael Lloyd, Principal, Wycliffe Hall, University of Oxford and instructor in the ELO Oxford Programme, spoke about the nine essential qualities of biblical leadership.
Eva Lau, Co-Founder, Two Small Fish Ventures, Toronto, talked about her faith and entrepreneurial journey. She delved into her venture capital activities and spoke about her role in Wattpad, which gets 80 million visitors per month.
Ben Burmaster, Founder & CEO, Snuggle Bugz, Toronto, with locations across Canada, spoke about the how and why of mentoring. He highlighted the vital role of mentoring in the spiritual growth of marketplace leaders.
Shant Mardirosian, Founder, The Burger’s Priest, talked about growing his burger chain from zero to 14 locations over a seven-year period and then and selling out. As one attendee said, “Shant’s Integrated and real approach to life, business and impact was a major take-away.” Shant also talked about The Fourth Man in the Fire Pizzeria, his recently-launched venture.
Ray Pennings, Co-Founder, Cardus, Ottawa, spoke in a compelling and authoritative manner about “Private Business, Public Faith.” Armed with a slew of research, he elucidated upon the important role and presence of faith in society, despite misreporting in media.
Richard Blackaby, Blackaby Ministries International, Atlanta, Ga, shared tales from marketplace leaders and addressed the issue of the spiritual disciplines of leadership. One attendee noted that “I loved the personal human stories that Richard shared. I learn most through real-life examples of ordinary people doing amazing things.”
During the evening session, the Entrepreneurial Leaders Award was presented to Paul Henderson. He is, of course, a sports legend in Canada, having scored “the goal” in the 1972 Canada-USSR Summit Series. At the same time, he has spent over 30 years in ministry, impacting 1,000s of people. He received a spontaneous standing ovation. He engaged in a Q & A and with characteristic vigour and enthusiasm talked about his faith. For one attendee a highlight of the evening was “Paul Henderson’s powerful life testimony!”
Jordan Raynor, Tampa, FL delivered a compelling evening keynote on “Called to Create: A Biblical Invitation to Create, Innovate & Risk.” He shared important truths about the role of creativity in the call of believers. Attendees learned about being “called to create” and to “be creative and above all entrepreneurial.” Another attendee liked the emphasis that “God is the first entrepreneur” and that, “the gospel alone frees us to create boldly.”
In short, the ELO Forum in Toronto continues to be the most important event for Christian marketplace and entrepreneurial leaders each year in Toronto and is a vital opportunity to be connected with peers, to be equipped and inspired for difference-making and to celebrate examples in the marketplace.