Releasing Your (Green) Rockstar at IMPACT!

The story behind Rockstar Café is one that coincides with releasing my inner Rockstar.

Your undergraduate experience is about discovering what kind of person you are. It’s about identifying your unique gifts, amalgamating your passions, and meeting as many amazing people as you can. These things will lead to you having a more concrete idea of the kind of person you are leaving school, and what you want your life to be about.

Every student enters university or college as just a number. You can post good grades, get a solid internship if you’re opportunistic, and graduate with honours and a significant other. My path wasn’t that straightforward.

I started Rockstar Café because I was frustrated with a lot of things. I was frustrated at being just a number and seeing other amazing people not have their awesome community work promoted. I was frustrated with a lack of space for me to meet other students interested in entrepreneurship, outside the traditional streams of software and hardware. I kept meeting other people who wanted a place to come together and be apart of something bigger than themselves. At this point, I applied to IMPACT! Sustainability Champions Guelph 2013, to see if I could narrow my passion down to a concrete idea.

When I first started Rockstar, I had no idea what on earth I was doing. I posted to Facebook asking who would be interested in working on this vague idea of a sustainable coffeehouse where people could come together and co-create. To this point, over twenty-two people have passed through the organization at one point in time. Although only one of the original five team members is still on board, she is one of our most valuable. Together we failed pitch competitions, stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, and built an amazing team of eight individuals. We ran pilot events and started building a portfolio of customers in order to prove our concept, even without a physical space. We built a website and an online community promoting the student Rockstars of Kitchener-Waterloo. We wrote a comprehensive business plan –our first over 90 pages long. Social and environmental innovation is not easy. By grinding and working extremely hard for a year and a half, we finally got results. A funny thing happens when you pay it forward and bring people together – the community gets behind you.

On a personal level, I have grown by leaps and bounds by leading Rockstar. It’s taught me to create a vision, think three steps ahead, and articulate that vision clearly to stakeholders. It’s forced me to adopt a hustler mentality –expanding my network faster than I would have in a typical office environment. I have learned the importance of investing in your team and building a unifying culture. Finally, I have learned that with great power comes great responsibility. As the Frontman, there really are no nights off. You have to be willing to be on call 24/7 and be there for those who stand behind you, be it teammates, partners, customers, or investors.

I came into university with an uncertain idea of who I was. I’m leaving with a company that I love waking up to every day and going to bat for the amazing people that I’m privileged enough to work with. You can build a similar story for yourself, too, if you have a little bit of Heart, Soul, Brains, and Courage.

Your three-day experience at IMPACT! Sustainability Champions Training will be the first step in releasing your inner Rockstar. Over the weekend you will meet amazing people, many of whom you’ll go on to have relationships with on both a personal and professional level. I met one of my closest friends, Hannah, at IMPACT!, and though we initially had incredibly different ideas, she now works with me on Rockstar Café. The relationships you invest in today will pay dividends tomorrow. My last word of advice –even if you don’t have a concrete idea or business, you’re in the right place. This is an incredibly supportive community that will have your back when you need it. The opportunities for environmental and social innovation truly are endless.

Rock on!


Written by Mark Kryshtalskyj