Student Innovator Spotlight: Ghalia Aamer

The founder of TalkMaze shares some resources and advice for student entrepreneurs.


Tell us about your startup!

At TalkMaze, we work with schools and organizations to help them implement and sustain virtual public speaking and debate programs. We also offer expert one-on-one coaching for ambitious speakers and debaters to get to the next level on our web platform,

The goal is to be a global hub for public speaking and debate training connecting coaches, speakers, debaters, students, and educators around a shared love for communication. 

What inspired you to start TalkMaze?

I started TalkMaze because I struggled to speak up when I was younger. Joining the debate team in seventh grade helped me a lot, but I realized that a lot of students don’t have access to programs like public speaking and debate to build those skills. I wanted to make public speaking and debate programs more accessible, so that students who were struggling like I did would have access to the tools that help them build communications skills and confidence. I volunteered as head coach of the debate team at my former junior high, and I saw that group grow from 20 students to more than 80. It got to the point where we had to start saying no to some kids and essentially denying them this life-changing program due to lack of resources. That inspired me to start TalkMaze, so that we could provide students and schools with the resources to run those programs, so that we don’t have to say no to anyone that is wanting to join a public speaking or debate program.

Why did you apply to Innovate Edmonton’s ERIN-funded Business Development Support (BDS) program?

We are currently working on growing our outreach to schools, because now that we have our curriculum, our coaches, and all of the foundational aspects of the company in place, we are ready to move forward and get into more schools and get schools onboard with the TalkMaze program.  

We were looking for someone with more experience in the sales area, especially since the education system can be difficult to navigate. The expert that we were matched with (Aaron Cruikshank/CTRS Marketing Solutions) is experienced in sales, and they actually have experience directly dealing with schools and the school boards. The Business Development Support program can really help fill the knowledge gap and help us accelerate our sales. 

What kind of support will you be receiving from Innovate Edmonton?

The goal is to work with Aaron and his team to develop a clear sales process and develop a sales pipeline. 

What support does the BDS Executive-in-Residence at U of A provide you with?

Luke Butterworth has been very helpful and has connected me with a number of other resources. He’s always been super supportive since the early days of TalkMaze in 2020. 

Why should other students apply to the BDS program, or any other programs through Innovate Edmonton?

It’s an awesome opportunity to bridge any knowledge gap you might have, especially if you’re working on a startup in its early stage. You’re never going to know everything! I’m really looking forward to working with Aaron and his team—they have decades of experience in marketing and sales, which I don’t have. Working with an expert can really help accelerate a startup’s success, and it’s all free of charge—which is incredible if you’re a startup with limited funding. 

Why is innovation and entrepreneurship important to you?

To me it’s about doing good at scale. Through innovation and entrepreneurship we can change the world for the better. I really believe in mission-aligned startups. It’s a unique opportunity to make a difference at a scalable level. 

Why is the University of Alberta a great place to learn and innovate?

It’s really about the leaders in the community. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with so many mentors—faculty and people across the U of A network—to grow my business and my personal and professional network. University is so much more than the classes you take, it’s about meeting and talking to people. I’ve met with MBA professors who haven’t even taught me a class, but they’ve been so supportive with TalkMaze. It’s a community, and that’s what’s been so valuable to me. Connecting with people who are genuinely there to grow their knowledge and make a difference, whether it’s faculty or peers, it’s an opportunity to find a network of support. I’m excited to have another year and a half here to keep learning and growing!

Do you have an idea or startup that would benefit from free, expert advice? Apply to the Edmonton Regional Innovation Network (ERIN) Business Development Support program by October 15, 2021. 

Innovator Spotlight is a series that introduces you to students whose big ideas are making a big difference.

Do you know someone who’s breaking boundaries at the U of A? (Maybe it’s you!) We’re interested in hearing from students who are creating new solutions to make our world better, no matter their discipline or year of study.

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Ghalia AamerAbout Ghalia

Ghalia is a third-year student in the Alberta School of Business. Ghalia realized her passion for entrepreneurship when she set out to become a tutor at the age of 13. In 2019, Ghalia decided to merge her passion for business with her love for public speaking and debate by launching TalkMaze, a virtual coaching platform. Beyond business, Ghalia is passionate about advocating for important causes in her community.