Yorkville Media Centre – a social enterprise profile


Alkarim (Alex) Nasser is just one of Toronto’s many young digital media entreprenuers.  However, he is not just a regular techie.

Alex’s’ career started with the Bell ExpressVu organization where he focused on e-learning modules.  With his sights set on getting into Flash development, Alex started Bogaroo Designs.  His goal at the time was simple – purchase Template Monster websites, customize and then sell them. The problem was his clients kept coming back with revisions and changes. With no real technical training he decided to seek further education in digital media. He went on to study this at Seneca College. 

Today, Alex is the proud founder of BNOTIONS, a web technology agency in the heart of downtown Toronto.

When Alex is not at work, he is speaking to students at Seneca College, instructing at Yorkville Media Centre workshops and sharing experiences with his fellow Flash enthusiasts at Flash in Toronto.

Hi Alex! 

Thanks for taking the time to do this.  I’m really interested in talking about the Yorkville Media Centre.  But before we go there, tell us a little bit about your role with BNOTIONS.


Since the inception of BNOTIONS in 2006, I’ve worn many hats. Originally a designer/developer, my role slowly started shifting more towards business strategy, account management and project management.


The Yorkville Media Centre is a very interesting concept.  Can you tell our readers what it is all about?


The Yorkville Media Centre is a launch pad for people who want to discover and embrace digital media. We cover a variety of topics designed to help participants decipher between the different opportunities in the biz. These topics include web development, interface design, project management, account management, and multimedia amongst others. Beyond this material being generally good to know these days, knowledge in these areas can lead to careers as developers, designers, project managers, account managers and copywriters, to name a few. It is important for us to keep all the material current in such a dynamic industry, so we often find ourselves making changes from session to session. We also invite professionals in various aspects of the industry not covered in the core curriculum to share their experiences with participants and help fill the overall picture.


Why did you and the folks at BNOTIONS decide that the Yorkville Media Centre was something that was needed?

In response to the wide-spread fears and eventual recession in late 2008, Mark Reale (Partner, BNOTIONS) and I began developing a curriculum to instill hope for those that were facing job loss.  Our switch into this industry was quite unconventional. Mark and I both came from a career in the business world. Our ability to get geared up, learn the ropes and begin to profit from the digital media business gave us the confidence and ability to begin teaching others how they can make a similar switch. We were able to relate closely to those who felt they were in a dead-end job and lacked opportunity. Surrounded with other developers and designers who worked at BNOTIONS and wanted to freely share their knowledge and experiences, we had just the right resources to kick things off in February 2009.
Did you have anyone tell you that you were crazy for offering your services for free when you could have charged a fee?  What do you say to those people on why you wanted to pursue this?
Of course some people said we were crazy. A lot of times, the first thing people ask us about the YMC is: “Is it still free?”. The first session of each season at the YMC is always kind of interesting because a lot of people come in wondering what the ‘catch’ is.  Once they realize that there is no catch – that’s when they start asking us if we are nuts.

Although we didn’t really know what to expect when we started this whole thing, the benefit for us has become unquestionnable. It all has to do with the people who take part in these events. The crowd that comes out to the YMC is a really diverse group – we have had participants who are still studying at University or College all the way up to people who have already had a career and retired – and the one thing that they all seem to have in common is a progressive state of mind. It is a wonderful thing to be able to spend a Saturday afternoon with positive people who are looking to learn more about technology and develop their abilities.


By training people to do what you do, are you afraid of creating your next competition?


We are always asked this question. The truth is, the world is changing and with so many industries looking at online for cost-effective ways of promoting, operating and sharing – there comes an abundance of opportunity. Can BNOTIONS satisfy the needs of all these businesses? The answer is no. Creating competition in this field force people to become more innovative, efficient and all around better at what they do. This friendly competition has a positive impact on our economy. The truth is, if a former YMC participant does not adhere to top quality processes, then their client will eventually look to another shop in the future who demonstrates consistency. That’s where we come in. It is also important to note that the YMC covers a more basic understanding of what we do. I can imagine, however, if a former participant finds themselves in an over their head project – we’d be the first they would come to. That is enough to offset any paranoia 🙂

Many people have suggested that Toronto’s digital, social media and business community shares less so than their Vancouver counterparts. What do you say to this?
Part of the inspiration behind the YMC was a response to the openness and willingness of others who had shared with us. We were fortunate to surround ourselves with people who were driven to establish community in digital Toronto. Leaders like Shawn Pucknell (founder of FITC), Tim Willison (visionary behind the Interactive Fall Tours event) and Peter DeSouza (Seneca College professor) had taken time to help sculpt the foundation of our knowledge, that allowed us to continue to build upon over the years. With that being said, it may or may not be true that communities share more in Vancouver. I can confidently say that the Toronto response to this is overwhelming and something that, even though it may have taken more time to be noticed, will make a great impact in due time.


Do you have any tips for people looking to create their own social enterprise?

1. If you feel you are doing good and can justify it, but still face a lot of criticism, you are on the right track.
2. Spend little time planning and more time interacting. Social Enterprise is all about the people. Look to them to help shape your cause.
3. Touching the life of one person can have a collateral affect that can reach many. Sometimes it is best to start small and scale naturally, than to have too high aspirations that they become unmanageable.
4. Find like-minded people that believe in your cause. If you are consistent, slowly more and more people will be drawn to your initiative.


What do you see ahead for the Toronto digital community in 2010?

Growth. People in general, including digital media professionals, are becoming more aware of the pockets of digital media communities throughout Toronto. They are getting more involved and the industry is expanding quickly. With growth, often comes instability and people unfamiliar with the biz often seek to exploit the generosity of these communities.

With a lot more initiatives in place to help people develop good practices and establish strong foundations, there is going to be more and more pressure being put on individuals and groups that employ questionnable practices to clean up their act.

As this community grows, it is becoming clear that honesty, diligence, thoroughness and integrity are what the community is aspiring toward. This well help Toronto carry-on towards being one of the world renowned centers for digital media.

Thank you for this, Alex! 

What do you think about technology and social media social enterprises?  Are there other companies like Yorkville Media Centre that you know about that are “giving back” to their community?  We’d love to hear about them and feature them in an upcoming Techvibes feature.