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  • Apr15Wed

    Surviving the Den

    As a Dragons' Den graduate and successful entrepreneur, Desmond Choi fuses passion for business with his faith. April 15, 2015 by Joyce Starr Macias
    Filed Under:
    Faith & Friends
    Watching Desmond Choi smoothly pitch one of his business ideas on Dragons' Den last year, it would be difficult to guess the origins of his entrepreneurial spirit. The answer: Pokémon.

    “As a young child, I had a passion for drawing and was obsessed with the Pokémon video game,” the 22-year-old says now. “My classmates liked my drawings of the characters and actually bought them. If I can get money by selling one drawing, I thought, what if I sell 10?”

    Bright Lights, Big Idea
    That business-oriented attitude has led Desmond to create seven companies to date, including MappedIn, an indoor-navigation company that helps shoppers locate specific products and businesses.

    MappedIn is the company Desmond pitched on Dragons' Den, the popular Canadian reality show where budding entrepreneurs try to convince a panel of investors to fund their businesses in exchange for a percentage of the company.

    “It was a great opportunity to audition on live TV,” says Desmond, recalling the incredible brightness of the studio lights shining on him the whole time. “It was my first time on television and my first time pitching an idea to investors. I was pleased they liked MappedIn's potential.”

    Sharing the News
    Another of Desmond's companies is the United International Entrepreneurship Group, a not-for-profit organization designed to raise awareness about the social impact of everyday business decisions. Members include top students and entrepreneurs in Canada, Zimbabwe, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong.

    Two more organizations he's started are United Social Entrepreneurship Conference and Undivided, both focused on ways to live the Christian model of business.

    To Desmond, business is more than selling a product and making money. It's also about finding ways to share the good news of the Bible, and this can range from treating customers and employees with respect to donating money and time to those in need.

    Valuable Tool
    When reading about Desmond or talking to him, words that commonly surface are “commitment,” “passion” and “social responsibility.” They all relate to his determination to allow Christian principles to guide both his business practices and his life.

    Desmond sees nothing wrong with a Christian businessperson making money and achieving success, but he is adamant that those things should not become a person's passion.

    “Money in itself is not evil,” he explains. “The main thing is how you use money. If you are only seeking financial success, that's wrong. But money can be a tool for advancing causes you are passionate about.”

    Focus on Helping
    In Desmond's case, he was inspired a few years ago while in New York City working on another of his startups. There, the University of Waterloo graduate spent time at The Salvation Army's headquarters and museum and read about founder William Booth's passion to do good and to resolve local and world problems.

    “Returning to Canada, I saw The Salvation Army North Toronto Community Church had that same desire to help those in need,” says Desmond, who recently became an official member. His volunteer work at North Toronto includes helping with children's activities on Wednesdays and Sundays.

    As both a Salvation Army soldier and a savvy businessman, Desmond keeps his focus on his commitment to Christianity and his desire to spend time, money and energy on serving those in need.

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