Afzal Suleiman is a high achiever with a strong sense of community spirit. In 2015, he received the Social Entrepreneurship Award as well as the CANJAC Award, and in 2014, he received awards for the local and national Company of the Year as well as for Social Entrepreneurship. As icing on the cake, Afzal was thrilled to be one of five achievers selected to attend the Next Generation Leaders Forum held in Peterborough, Ontario from August 10-14, 2015. He viewed this exciting trip as a wonderful opportunity to attend an international conference and to network with people from all over the world.
When Afzal moved to Edmonton from Kenya six years ago, he was keen to find ways to become involved with his community. A friend at his local mosque recommended the Junior Achievement Company Program, and Afzal signed up in his Grade 10 year at Lillian Osborne High School.
In 2015, Afzal was VP Finance for his company Beau-Ties. Company members decided to make matching bow ties and pocket squares using fabric of assorted colours and patterns. During the weekly meetings, they set up a cutting-and-sewing production line. Although sales for the bow ties and pocket squares were slow to start with, demand gradually increased, and, by the sixteenth week, orders were coming in fast and furious. Wedding planners contacted them on Facebook, a catering company expressed interest in their product, and students also bought bow ties and pocket squares for graduation. Although extra production days were scheduled, some orders had to be turned down when time started to run out.
Afzal believes strongly in giving back to the community, and, no matter what company he is involved in, he is a driving force behind charitable donation. Beau-Ties chose the Edmonton Food Bank as its charity of choice and agreed to donate 25 per cent of their proceeds to it. However, team members wanted to go one step further and raise awareness for this charity, so they decided to initiate a food drive and to model it on the very successful Ice Bucket Challenge.
Members began their own Food Bucket Challenge. They encouraged people to take a picture of themselves with three nonperishable food items, drop them off at the Food Bank and then challenge three friends to do likewise. Company members made effective use of social media with the hashtags #foodbucketchallenge and #beauties4yegFB, and the food challenge began trending on Facebook and Instagram. The challenge gained even more momentum when Edmonton councillor Andrew Knack and members of the Edmonton Police Service pitched in. The company got another big boost when Afzal and his company president, Aly Ladha, appeared on CTV News to talk about their fundraising drive and their product.
Besides staying on top of his Grade 12 coursework and putting in extra time in the JA Company Program, Afzal is also a sports enthusiast. He enjoys playing hockey and soccer, and he also coaches midget hockey. He took part in the 2015 Canadian Ismaili Games competing in the hockey and track and field events. Last summer, Afzal spent some action-packed days as a camp councillor organizing activities for four- and five-year-old children.
Afzal is currently registered at the University of Alberta. He is interested in psychology and in studying the reasons that make people act the way they do. Eventually Afzal hopes to study dentistry or psychiatry. With his keen mind, personable manner, and JA business experience, Afzal is sure to succeed in whatever field he chooses.