Doing the most with Dillon Mendes: Lessons from a Young Entrepreneur


Entrepreneurship has become the buzzword in recent years, as it seems that an increasing number of young adults are becoming disillusioned with the job market. Countless news articles suggest that young adults are looking for satisfaction from their jobs beyond something that a stable 9-5 offers. As a result, more and more young adults are diverting their time and energy towards entrepreneurial ventures as they invest in finding their calling through exploring their interests outside of the conventional workforce that provides a sense of purpose.

Dillon Mendes sets a great example of what the entrepreneurial spirit in this new age looks like.

Giving Back to the Community

At 19, Mendes’ CV is already quite impressive. Currently enrolled in the University of Waterloo’s Accounting and Financial Management Program, Mendes will soon be starting an internship with Deloitte. That will certainly not stop him from prioritizing the growth of PickWaste as its co-founder.

Founded in 2017, PickWaste is a social entrepreneurship venture aimed at promoting environmental sustainability through hosting volunteer clean-ups in different cities, as well as holding speaking engagements and corporate events to further promote the cause. To date, PickWaste has conducted over 70 clean-ups, filled 793 bags of garbage, and picked up an impressive 21,502 cigarette butts. As PickWaste grows, Mendes has advice to offer for those at the beginning of the entrepreneurial road.

“Start with a small, consistent action” is the mantra of the 19-year old founder of PickWaste and recent TEDx speaker.

The story of PickWaste’s humble beginnings is proof of this – Mendes, along with Sam Demma, the co-founder of PickWaste, started out by picking up trash in Pickering, Ontario every Saturday morning. Their social entrepreneurship venture grew from two people doing clean-ups to four people, to over fifteen people showing up to help clean up waste in different cities.

Some Advice On Being a Young Entrepreneur

The essential idea here is that entrepreneurship and giving back to a cause is about commitment. It’s a great twist on that tired cliché of having to turn a great idea into a grand action. It’s quite the opposite, according to Mendes, who notes that it is not about doing things all at once but staying true to doing one thing that contributes to growth.

Mendes also stresses the importance of the “grain of salt approach” when it comes to taking advice. Really think about who is giving you advice and if their advice is productive or warranted. Some people will offer advice, even when you aren’t looking for it and it may not be super helpful to your goals or your vision. Be mindful of genuine advice and find the balance between keeping a focus on your goals, but also hearing what others have to say.

“It also helps to have an I don’t know, rather than an I know everything approach”, says Mendes.

Be okay with not knowing everything or having all the answers. It’s important to trust that you have the drive to find out,  grow, and learn as part of the journey. Learning how to be resilient and being able to take criticism and judgement is valuable skill in entrepreneurship. It also helps to build your “curiosity muscle”.

Just Start! Tips On Making An Impact

There is really no secret recipe to mobilizing from idea to action. “Just start” is the simple yet effective advice that Mendes can give when it comes to entrepreneurship and making a difference.

Mendes breaks some tried and true steps he took in order to make an impact. These include:

  • Turning your passion into an action
  • Taking small actions, which means staying consistent. Recall his story of picking up trash at 10am every Saturday morning, consistently.
  • Getting people involved, including allowing people to help you in the process of getting started
  • Creating social media – this means informing people and using the tools you have to your advantage.

Use this as a source of inspiration. Whatever it is, you have the ability and the resources to turn your interests and drive into something that is meaningful!

About the author

Aakanksha Sharma Aakanksha is a 4th-year student at the University of Waterloo, studying Political Science and Economics. Outside of writing, she is passionate about a range of things — politics, philosophy, reading, eating, hip-hop, and travel. She loves to talk about anything with anyone, and is fundamentally interested in human experiences and perspectives. You can ask her anything, if she’s allowed to ask you anything in return.