Edited by Ann Marie Elpa
Zulu Echo. A name which embodies the message the movement seeks to convey. Although at first glance the name may appear to be a random assortment of letters, the words are drenched in passion to the creator of the movement, Zain Elwakil.
With small business week taking place in October, I sought ways to help connect this concept to students at the University of Toronto. I wanted to identify an ambitious student who had kick-started their own business and would be able to share his/her experiences to help inspire fellow students. I hoped that through this, I would eliminate the misconception that creating anything had to start later; that you could start now. The best way to do this would be through a relatable example, so I reached out to an old high-school friend.
Following his social media, I initially thought Zain was running his own business, however, upon conducting an interview with him, it became apparent that he was running something of more significant meaning. Elwakil is a third-year Architecture student at Syracuse University who has committed himself to influencing a revolution of the mind.
Zain Edeen Elwakil was born and raised in New York and is of Egyptian heritage. Zain attended high school in Qatar, at the American School of Doha, allowing him to acquire a global experience of life. The full name of his movement is the Zulu Echo Lifestyle initiative.
Starting this movement, Zain knew it was more than merely a brand, it was to represent a template for approaching and thinking about life; a mentality. The idea was born within his first few weeks at University. He had begun to observe the people who had surrounded him throughout his formative years at university, investing their energy into what they were passionate about. These energies which abruptly overtook his classmates were absent in high school as they operated solely out of routine; demonstrating close to no interest in their work.
As Elwakil became exposed to this changing social environment, he was inspired to dig deep and find what he loves about architecture, design, and fashion. He found that when he focusses on his passions, he creates greater things, and widens his horizons. Through the Zulu Echo initiative, he “propagates the opportunity, determination, and passion” which immersed him in his first year of university.
Zain is a prime example of an individual who practices what he preaches. While urging others to “not sit on their confidence,” he ensures that he too does the same. For starters, the name Zulu Echo represents Zain’s initials in the language of aviation, a concept which has been of great fascination to him. When asked about how he balances both his business and school he stated that he simply embodied the initiative. Whether it be through staying up late working on a project or tweeting one of his thoughts, Elwakil actively represents his vision by investing in his passion.
As students, we can be driven away from our passions through fear of failure. Since childhood, our success was quantified through letter grades and percentages, cultivating the illusion that there are clear-cut definitions of right and wrong. Yet, as we continue to become exposed to real life, we begin to understand that failure is a fact of life. So, how does being an entrepreneur aid in dealing with this concept of failure?
“Lina, Zulu Echo has been underway for about two years now, and let me tell you, I’ve failed hundreds and hundreds of times.”
According to Zain, being an entrepreneur has given him the ability to stop failure from phasing him. Instead, Zain counts his shortcomings as a measure of his success. “When I fail, it means I’ve grown, and through growth comes greater learning.” With this understanding, he is able to operate with a growth mindset allowing his failures and pushbacks to empower him to become more productive and creative.
Zain uses criticisms to strengthen the construction of his initiative. He noted that when he first started the business, people presented to him their knee-jerk reactions. With some helping him, others simply offered fruitless criticism. Elwakil emphasizes the importance of remaining true to your movement. He cited an example where a friend informed him that his content seemed incoherent with his slogan to “believe in the power of your dream.” They argued that his clothing line seemed to offer little relevancy to vocalizing passions. Thus with this in mind, Zain placed increased effort in highlighting the connection between his clothing line and mission, turning the criticism into motivation. He is a strong proponent of ensuring all advice and critiques should be taken and compared to why you established the initiative in the first place.
Zain’s entrepreneurial career is propelled by his desire to empower and instill passion in others rather than operate by his obligations to them. He is convinced the world we live in is “propagated by routine, and self-doubt”. To fix this problem, he dedicates himself to eradicating the misconception that we can use our passions to help us… later. Elwakil urges you to believe in yourself NOW.
So, what does this all mean for you? Zain’s initiative exists to inspire others to start.
Whether it be a business project or a sheet of music, you need to start immediately to open your eyes to the realities of your potential.