Reaching for the bigger payoff

Reach’s co-founders Brent Hussey and Sarah Main didn’t like having to use Facebook to connect with other students in their university classes, only to go through awkward ‘unfriending’ at the end of the term. On the other hand, the online learning management systems provided by their universities were outdated and poorly designed. This frustration pushed them to create their own platform called Reach which facilitates the short-term connections inherent in university life. We spoke with Brent and Sarah about their TNBT experience.

On idea validation, setbacks, and moving forward

BH. There was this entrepreneur competition at McGill called the Dobson Cup. So we were like, oh we’re obviously going to enter this. We spent weeks and weeks preparing our summary, and doing our pitch deck, made it through the first round. Then for the second round, there were 200 different ventures, and we ended up placing 13 out of the 12 finalists. But the problem – the reason we didn’t place is because we bombed it.

SM. I forgot every single word possible. I didn’t say anything. I literally froze up. Everything was so memorized… I was traumatized. And then after that happened, we got our feedback form, and it was 5/5 investment potential, 5/5 marketing potential, 5/5 for all of these things… even though the presentation was so bad, they said, “You guys, we understand this is your first try, but you have to keep going.” So I think it was after that, everything changed for us and we started going full speed ahead.

On deciding to join TNBT

BH. We’d gotten into this other accelerator called DC Ventures. It was a lot more structured, you had to pay, everyone was a lot older than us. And then we came here, and realized that everyone was our age, everyone was going through the same problems as us, we were kind of in similar stages of our businesses, and the offices were a lot cooler (laughs) so yeah, this was definitely a much better fit for us.

SM. I think for us, our lack of resources, and the sense of community that TNBT brought with people our age was probably the most appealing to us, because again, it’s so nice coming into a place where everyone is like-minded, has the same challenges but they’re all doing it together. All of that was super appealing to want to start a business. It was basically like going back to high school – like, not high school, but university – it felt like you were going back to class to learn how to do real world things.

On your biggest misconception about entrepreneurship

SM. Everything takes twice as long and twice as much money. And time flies. Ooooh my god.

On authenticity

SM. 9 out of 10 startups fail. So you’re actually going into the riskiest market to make money. But you do it because you believe in your idea. In tech, regardless of what anyone’s product is, or industry or venture or anything they do, they believe 110% that their product will change the world, or will be the next big thing. And that is so motivating, seeing so many people so passionate about everything they do.

The thing is that I know so many people that I graduated with that are in investment banking who hate their lives who are like, “Oh but the payoff”, “Oh but I’m gonna’ make money.” But for all of us here, regardless of what the payoff’s gonna’ be, you have to live and breath what you’re doing, and you have to believe in it, because if you don’t, no one else will.

On the next steps for Reach

SM. Turn this into a billion dollar company.

LAUGHS

BH. Definitely no slowing down from here. The sky’s the limit.

SM. Yeah, the sky’s the limit.

 

Innovating Smart Choices

Tara Bosch grew up struggling with an unhealthy relationship with food. Then one spring, after having a conversation with her grandmother about the negative impacts a high sugar diet had had on her life, Tara decided that she needed to take action. She wanted to find a way for people to enjoy the foods that they loved, without worrying about detrimental health effects. SmartSweets was born. She spent one summer testing recipes in her kitchen, and searching for accelerator programs that could support her in growing SmartSweets. In Summer 2015 Tara with SmartSweets was accepted into The Next Big Thing, she hit the ground running, and hasn’t slowed down since. 

On the benefits of being a young founder

Being young is such a great advantage to have, because you’re really not held back by a mortgage, kids, that sort of thing that you have to prioritize that might cause added stress to you as you’re moving forward. There are a lot of people that are older that are really willing to help you, they think “Oh darn, maybe I should have started when I was younger”, and so they admire that you’re trekking into the unknown, and they’ll help you because of that. I think it’s a huge asset to be a young entrepreneur, especially with the impact that you can make with the years that you still have ahead of you.

On advice for other entrepreneurs

For me growing up, because of the unhealthy relationship that I had with food - it impacted my self-perception and self-esteem, and I didn’t have the confidence to act on my ideas. I religiously watched Shark Tank, and Dragon’s Den and had all of these great ideas, but I never actually acted on them.

What I realized was that the world’s most successful entrepreneurs didn’t have a special quality about them, they just dropped themselves in a bucket and learned along the way. Realizing that was crucial for me and made me ok with the fact that you don’t know, and you don’t have it all figured out, but no one really does when they are just starting out. I learned to drop down and conquer, and used my fear as an asset rather than as a barrier.

That is a massive takeaway. “Oh sh*t, well, they didn’t know what they were doing, and they did it anyways. It works, so I can too.”

On being a solo founder

Being a solo founder is a bit like a two-edged sword. The beneficial thing is you have complete control over your business, what that means from an equity standpoint you own 100% of your business from the get-go. On the other hand, there’s only one of you! If you have a co-founder or two, then there’s double or triple the amount of man or lady power on your team to move forward and quickly.

It is really important as a solo founder, to surround yourself with people who might not be on your team, but who are as invested in you and your business idea. They can come in many shapes and forms, and they can be there for that pillar of support that is so important during the ups and downs of building a business.

On being a female founder

As female entrepreneurs we immediately question ourselves, and we’re often a bit more conservative about our accomplishments and what we’re achieving – the milestones we’ve made and what we can create. Harnessing down your- not assertiveness – but confidence and knowing its ok to share your milestones. And realizing that it is not bragging, it’s just getting you to where you need to go. I believe that type of thinking stops us from taking action faster than we could have, and sometimes by that time the opportunity has passed. So [we need to] stop questioning ourselves and seize the opportunity when it is presented.

On the most valuable parts of the TNBT program

Being part of the entire TNBT environment and network was a huge value to my business and to me personally. Being a solo founder, it really helps to have people around when sh*t hits the fan. 

On next steps

A big dream of is to start an accelerator for young female founders in the Consumer Packaged Goods world! But for the immediate term, I want to build SmartSweets into a multi-million dollar company that is impact driven and makes a difference in thousands – millions of people’s lives. 

Make sure to grab your SmartSweets this summer! 

Bright Idea: Not Your Typical Summer (Boot) Camp

YOUNG INVENTORS, CREATORS, CHANGEMAKERS & PROBLEM SOLVERS. ENTREPRENEURSHIP FUNDAMENTALS IN 4 DAYS. 

We just announced our Bright Idea Summer (Boot) Camp for young go getters between the ages of 13-18 years of age! What is this you may ask? Well its an amazing experience for a young individuals curious about entrepreneurship and self discovery! 

Over 4 days, students will be encouraged to explore their individual skill sets and passions, to identify real opportunities within their interest areas and design products that speak to them. Students are mentored throughout the process and develop stronger confidence in themselves as creative problem solvers. This four-day event hosts 35 youth, grouped by age, to participate in exploring their skills, talent and interests that can inform their career trajectory, build skills and highlight individual strengths. Youth will explore the themes of Purpose, Curiosity, Impact, Problem & Solution and Growth. Mindfulness and movement will be incorporated through activities such as yoga, mediations, fun workouts and healthy meals. Lunch is provided each day.

DAILY SCHEDULE/

9:00am      Start and Welcome: Introduction of daily theme / Snack
9:30am      Wellness: Fitness and Mindfulness including yoga, meditation, fun workouts
10:30am    Break
10:45am    Themed Activity: Purpose, Curiosity, Impact, Problem
12:15pm    Lunch
1:00pm      Startup Skool Workshop
2:30pm      Speaker or Alumni Mentor Led Activity
3:30pm      Day End

TAKE-AWAYS/

Deep dive into entrepreneurship, meet industry leaders, young CEO's, mentorship, a peer network of like-minded youth and fun!

APPLICATION/ 

Participation is free thanks to our wonderful partners, RBC & Hootsuite. To complete the application and gain acceptance into the program. Once you have ordered a ticket, please email info@wearetnbt.com with a 1-3 minute video answering the question "what Sparks your curiosity?" 

REGISTER HERE

Young Entrepreneurs are key to future Success

This piece was originally featured in the BC Business Peer to Peer column on December 15, 2015. 

If you want to have anything to do with the future, yes, you should support youth entrepreneurship.

As youth entrepreneurial resources and programs expand on the Internet and on post-secondary campuses, the next generation’s ability to pursue entrepreneurship successfully is increasing dramatically. In North America alone, generation Z (25.9%) and the millennials (24.5%) represent approximately half of the total population – numbers that cannot be ignored by government or businesses.

It is young entrepreneurs who have driven successful innovations in business and technology in our recent past. Steve Jobs was only 21 when he started Apple Inc.; Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook at 20 and Marc Kielburger started Free the Children at the mere age of 12. Businesses need to see and realize the true value in youth entrepreneurship because it is a matter of when, not if, the next generation will lead economic activity, business ecosystems, employment growth and civic engagement.

It has been proven that youth engagement in entrepreneurship – as entrepreneurs or as employees in startups – has a significant multiplier effect. It resonates across the economy, from business growth and investment activity to valuable connections between generations and sectors. Young disruptors, doers and innovators are our future leaders. Supporting them is a good business practice to ensure our next generation of leaders is set up for success.