Valerie Song: The Role Model
“Sometimes all people are looking for is that one conversation that could trigger their imagination, their inspiration—that one conversation could really change the trajectory they go in their life.”
As a young woman, Valerie Song knew she wanted to start a business one day. “It just ended up starting sooner than I thought,” she says.
Just six years after earning her BCom from the Sauder School of Business, Valerie is the CEO of Ava, a company that makes smart low-waste gardens for the indoors. But she recognizes her early success as a female entrepreneur is still too rare. “It’s very important to me is that there’s representation, no matter in what field,” she says. “Women need to be able to see role models in their industry that are relatively successful.”
Valerie is energized by the thought of being that role model for young female business students, something that’s driven her to volunteer since she graduated in 2015. She is a coach for JDC-West, a prestigious undergraduate business competition (which she participated in herself as a student), and regularly offers her time as a panelist at events hosted by entrepreneurship@UBC and HATCH, UBC’s start-up accelerator.
Most recently, she’s become a one-on-one mentor through Blossom, the mentorship program run by UBC’s Young Women in Business club (YWiB) that connects students and professionals to help build relationships and foster personal and professional growth.
Third-year Commerce student Jessica Wong is the vice-president of member development at YWiB-UBC and organized this year’s Blossom program. Strong, ambitious, and intelligent women mentors like Valerie, she says, have given her the courage to take chances she wouldn’t normally take.
“It is encouraging to see women who were once in my position forge their own paths and find success. They remind me that I am not alone when dealing with challenges or facing uncertainty,” she says. “UBC alumnae have helped me develop confidence, build leadership skills and grow, by supporting me in acquiring new skills and setting a great example.”
Valerie knows the importance of having great examples. For her, volunteering is an expression of gratitude for the alumnae who invested in her when she was a student, as well as an acknowledgement that women entering the start-up world will need courage and confidence to succeed in an entrepreneurial world that still harbours unconscious bias against women.
Mentoring students also provides a welcome change of pace from the grind of leading a young start-up. “[It’s] a way to get out of my own head and apply what I’ve learned toward helping others. If I can help young entrepreneurs avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made in the past, it feels really rewarding,” she says. “It’s also great to work with students who are super keen, willing to listen, and willing to improve,” she adds. “They bring so much energy and vibrance to my day to day. It’s been really fun.”
Published May 3, 2021.