For 22-year-old Braeden Peterson, it isn’t enough to be the first member of his family to go to university.
Currently studying business in marketing and entrepreneurship at Simon Fraser University — with a minor in political science — Peterson runs two businesses through his program at the Beedie School of Business: LOCUS and SmartParks. He also works as the sales and marketing coordinator for his father’s company, Calico Jewellers.
But it’s not all about the money. Peterson volunteers for the Royal Lifesaving Society, the governing body for Canadian lifeguards, and the Royal Commonwealth Society, a network of organizations dedicated to improving the lives of youth in commonwealth nations. He started the humanitarian groups Actions Worth Taking and Students for Humanity at SFU, and mentors youth at his church.
In April of 2017, he was chosen as one of the Surrey Board of Trade’s Top 25 Under 25. Most recently, Peterson was involved in the International Student Energy Summit, a conference in Mexico from June 13 to 16 that brought together 600 students from 80 countries to discuss sustainable development and clean energy. Afterwards, he joined a community contribution program to build clean burning stoves for an indigenous community in Mexico.
Even this brief summary leaves out a litany of other business and social endeavours Peterson has dabbled in since leaving high school.
“For myself, I enjoy a broad range of interests,” he said.
“I enjoy being a part of a lot of different activities because it really creates that interest for me.”
Peterson has a history of volunteerism and business accumen that predates his university years.
He started by getting involved with the Thanks For Giving campaign during his time at North Delta’s Delview Secondary, an annual food drive with the goal of collecting 10,000 cans of food in one night.
“I loved what it stood for,” he said. “I enjoyed the aspect that we got to make a tangible difference in people’s lives, and that’s what really made an interest for me to continue working forward.”
After helping chair the committee that organized the campaign and getting to hear about the difference the school’s contribution made to the Surrey Food Bank and Deltassist, it really “sparked that interest for me to continue and try to look for other things to do,” he said.
That spark is what ultimately led Peterson to attend the International Student Energy Summit.
The conference “really solidified that I wanted to go towards something in sustainable development or social innovation,” Peterson said. “Business doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive from that.”
After the conference, Peterson got a chance to see that in a tangible form by making clean burning stoves for residents of Zavala, a rural town between Merida and Cancun.
The first day there, Peterson said, the volunteers were greeted by the community and brought into their houses. Most of the residents cook outdoors or in a separate hut, he said. The team built 56 stoves to deal with the issues of housing fires, lung disease and high carbon dioxide emissions.
“That was something that was very eye opening, realizing people that have a certain way of cooking,” Peterson said. “No matter how good we think [an energy efficient stove] is, they won’t appreciate it unless it fits with what they know.”
“With this style of stove, it was still able to cut down on the CO2 emissions by the wood. It actually cut down about 60 per cent of the wood that they used, so it’s much more efficient.”
Peterson finished his time in Mexico on June 21, and he’s not sure what he’s going to do next. But inexperience won’t be what dictates his path.
“I didn’t know how to do a lot of the activities that I currently am doing. But that didn’t stop me from doing them,” he said. “If you take that step forward in engaging what you’re passionate about and what you actually want to accomplish, things will line up.”