How BETA Camp Helped Ashley Find Her Voice

Ashley Qian is a high-school senior at Donald A Wilson Secondary School in Ontario, Canada. She’s involved in her school’s environment club, stage production team and was a photographer for her school’s newspaper. Outside of school, Ashley can be found playing countless hours of the Sims 4, watching British TV shows, and learning new recipes to cook.

She participated in BETA Camp in Summer 2021. Amidst strict lockdowns, Ashley found a community of driven and ambitious students that made her braver, and more ambitious.

Ashley is now working on a project that helps dementia patients through virtual reality, alongside a new role as chapter development officer for Ontario DECA. 



How did you hear about BETA Camp?

I heard about BETA Camp through DECA, a non-profit organization that encourages entrepreneurship among high school students. I saw a DECA newsletter, sponsored by BETA Camp, that talked about learning more about entrepreneurship and startups, and it sounded really interesting. 

So I went to a few information sessions and was attracted to the idea of building my own startups. Then, after I had paid, you ghosted me! Not really - but I did not check my spam folder (our email deliverability improved since then), and thought you had disappeared on me. 

Eventually I tracked you down, and just in time for the fourth BETA Camp cohort. 

What was life like during BETA Camp?

I think it was probably one of the most fun and intense six weeks of my life. I really enjoyed it. It was super energetic and one of the better experiences that I’ve had in terms of extracurricular activities. In the beginning I felt a bit out of my depth because everybody was talking about things that I did not know that much about, but as soon as I found a team and the startup process began, it all changed.

The startup we built (we called it PearPals) was aimed at helping foreign students coming to Canada connect with current students. Two guys on the team were really good at coding and took care of that aspect, while my job was based around recruiting students to use the tool. That included reaching out to students through Discord, Facebook and Instagram.

I was brainstorming ways to get more foreign students to become part of the community and decided to use some foreign shows as a magnet. I jumped on a Money Heist discord and started DMing members of the community - this style of innovative, scrappy marketing stuck with me.

How did the BETA Camp experience shape you?

BETA Camp gave me the opportunity to interact with and learn from many highly driven and ambitious people, and am thankful for it. The opportunities I got from BETA Camp gave me so much pride in myself - even in the way that I walk around and present myself. I think it's made me so much more confident in who I am as a speaker and presenter. 

I also think it made me braver. If I think back to some of the tactics that I used to find customers it would have been incredibly embarrassing if it was not for the fact that there was BETA Camp  backing me, so I did it.

What role did BETA Camp play in post-camp life?

After BETA camp I reached out to my startup mentor and began helping out with different kinds of projects. One of them is a startup project using virtual reality headsets to help dementia patients. They have a whole bunch of doctors and researchers working on it, and it’s incredibly exciting to be part of the project. 

All these things helped me to gain a lot of experience, and I think the fact that I could put all of that on my resume helped me to get the job at Ontario DECA.

Amazing! Tell us about this role at DECA?

I am the chapter development officer, which is insanely cool, because I can help a lot of students in regions that are similar to mine.

DECA is a high school programme, almost like a club, that kids from grade 9 to 12 can join. DECA runs a business competition - around 15 000 kids enter every year and you get to compete in different clusters, like entrepreneurship, finance or marketing.

As a chapter development officer, my job is to help individual chapters at each school - training them and helping them grow. I also work with the rest of the team to plan all the events and the training.

You’re towards the end of your high school career. What comes next?

At this stage I think the best plan is just to apply for a bunch of things and see what sticks. After BETA camp and DECA, business is definitely in my thoughts - I love sitting in meetings, and taking notes! And I like doing the type of projects that you do in business - trying to build something and create different projects. 

I would also like doing something in healthcare, my intern boss is going into med-school, so I think that could be a fascinating path for me to take. I might also try something in engineering. I've always liked building things. Let’s see what the future holds.

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