Founder of the Elephant Space
Milan Seki founded Elephant Space in June of 2016. She took inspiration from her experiences of being bullied in middle school.
In a class she took at George Brown called Child Witness to Violence, she discovered the benefits and therapeutic aspect of board games. Milan learned therapeutic board games were sometimes used in shelters with children and youth to provide them with tools for healthy relationships, positive thinking and self disclosure while having fun in a relaxed and safe environment.
Milan imagined these types of board games to to be in a space similar to a board game cafe with a therapeutic model and facilitated by mentors. The mentors could speak with youth who wished to discuss their experiences.
This program has since been modified to provide tools to youth directly through our trained mentors who will build rapport with the youth week after week learning similar skills, she imagined the games would provide. Covering a span of 12 weeks where youth are able to use a set of skills that would provide a sense of autonomy and safety from learning boundaries, coping strategies, goal setting and suicide awareness. All from an anti oppressive, harm reduction framework.
Elephant Space’s name is inspired by a park in Milan’s home town Minamiurawa, Japan, where she she would escape to mentally and physically during the time of her parent’s divorce. The play ground is a abstract structure of a elephant. This was a place to feel safe and dream.
Milan is currently in her first year of the Social Service Worker Program at George Brown College.
We had the opportunity to ask Milan a few questions!
What’s your educational background?
So I did the makeup and aesthetics program at George Brown first when I was around eighteen. And then I took a break. And then I went back to school in 2015 for the Assaulted Women and Children Counselling Advocacy program. I left the program halfway through and this year I started the social service worker program.
What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
Well, it wasn’t really a conscious choice. My ex-boyfriend was also an entrepreneur who also went to George Brown in the IT program, and so he started something and got a grant where he was able to hire people to work alongside him on his projects. So I thought, “that was very cool.” And my first pitch was the Social Innovation Pitch at George Brown, and from then, I posted on Bunz [a trading app], employment in entrepreneurialism, and I got over 50 responses from the community, and that’s how we started Elephant Space.
Why did you create the Elephant Space?
Initially, I was in my speaking with confidence class and we had to create a pitch that was socially conscious. So I came up with Elephant Space as a pitch idea for the class. But then I took it a step further and pitched it for the Social Innovation challenge, and then took it further and try to get other people involved.
How successful is the Elephant Space? (Tell us some of your successes.)
Well, this year we took a break because we’re actually going to relaunch with a new program in the fall of 2019. Before that, our success came from, I would say, our most important service user who was a teen boy who stayed with us for about two years for the entire duration of the program. He came every Thursday and he even had a secret handshake with one of our volunteers. And so we were able to foster a relationship with him and I guess our program was interesting enough for him to keep coming back and receive mentorship from volunteers.
What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
I would say always stay humble and grounded and always remember that it’s not about you – it’s about the project, it’s about the program, and it’s about the people that you’re serving, specifically in the non-profit sector.