Sheridan EDGE – Hub for innovation and entrepreneurship, located at Hazel McCallion Campus in Mississauga. It provides training, mentorship and support to access funding for early-stage entrepreneurs.
Karen Swyszcz 0:00
I’m Karen Swyszcz and you’re listening to The Bacon Bits ‘n’ Bytes Podcast. This is the podcast where a bit of business and a byte of technology come together.
Hi everyone and welcome to another episode of The Bacon Bits ‘n’ Bytes Podcast. Today with me I have Shauna Kay Jones, the founder of Motify. Motify aims to connect the right people to the right opportunities including mentorship, jobs, and scholarships. This is done by helping students create personalized networks with both their schools and potential employers they’re interested in while supporting their journey to success. Welcome to the show, Shauna.
Shauna Jones 0:53
Oh, thanks for having me.
Karen Swyszcz 0:55
Oh, thanks for being on the show. So I’m curious to know the name itself Motify. How did you come up with that?
Shauna Jones 1:03
Well, during my journey, it was kind of what should the name be? And, you know, going back and forth with the great team I had. And what we decided to do was what were we trying to do? We’re trying to motivate students in any way we can and making sure that by not only motivating them but simplifying the world around them with something wanting to do so we said, let’s use the words motivate and simplify. And that’s how we came up with Motify.
Karen Swyszcz 1:32
Oh, I love it. Wouldn’t be cool how if Motify ended up being like a verb that people would use in reference to your company.
Shauna Jones 1:42
I can’t pretend that was not a little bit of incentive as well.
Karen Swyszcz 1:46
You got to Motify that.
Shauna Jones 1:48
Exactly. Going to a coffee shop and hear people using it. I can’t pretend that a little of that was a part of that decision.
Karen Swyszcz 1:56
Yeah, so the start of this company. There’s a personal story to it. Do you mind sharing the journey?
Shauna Jones 2:04
Absolutely. So, I, when I developed this company, I was in my last year of school and trying to figure out what my final project was going to be. And at the same time, I have a younger brother. At the time, I was helping him choose schools and decide where he’s going to go in his career. And I remember when choosing schools for me was, I want to make sure I’m close enough to home so that I don’t have to do my own laundry. But my brother is on the autism spectrum. And I just recognized that so much more care had to go into that decision around not only is it the right program for him, how larger the class sizes, will he have the support he needs?
And that’s really that’s what started this journey of Motify is, how can I help support you know, people like my brother who, you know, the answers may not come simply. How do we use data? How do we use technology to do that? And then how do we build a technology that is flexible enough to support them at different stages? So those are really what inspired us to do this.
Karen Swyszcz 3:14
It’s funny that you mentioned that you were looking for places that were close to home so that you didn’t have to do laundry. For me, it was actually the opposite. I was looking at places the further the better.
I was okay with the idea of doing my own laundry.
Shauna Jones 3:30
No, I wanted it just enough. Just enough where it wasn’t surprised visits, but enough where I want some home-cooked food or I need to do laundry. I could get on a bus. So that was what made the decision for me.
Karen Swyszcz 3:43
Yeah, so just a little background to how I found that about Shauna and Motify. I’m also an instructor part-time at Sheridan College. And I had found out about Sheridan EDGE’s Pitch Competition called Amplifund and I thought this concept was really cool in that attendees were given this amount of play money. So you would go around, you had a chance to talk to all the different startups. And then you can decide which or how much of the money you wanted to invest in.
So yes, I did actually invest quite a bit of money in your startup. Just because I thought the concept was really interesting and, and I recall like so clearly, like my first year of university, how much I struggled with trying to juggle a heavy workload, being away from home for the first time and trying to make friends. I wish this was something that had existed when I was in university.
Shauna Jones 4:37
Now I appreciate you throwing money. Fake money as it may, to this venture because the more we spoke to you know, other students and understood their journey in you know, really making sure that whatever we were building captures things that not only you and I struggled but students today struggle with. So it means a lot to hear that really does.
Karen Swyszcz 5:01
Oh yeah, of course. And just it’s funny because before we started recording this episode, I had mentioned to Shauna that I do a lot of research or slashes like to say strategic stalking, so looking at people’s Instagram and LinkedIn profile, so you really should put things on or put out the things that you’re doing on your social media, because people will look at it and it can help create great conversation. So actually, Yes, speaking of Instagram, I know that you were an exhibitor at the Collision Conference. And then not only that, you took the stage at the same company who does those conferences, the Rise Conference in Hong Kong, so I was wondering what was that like? Were you nervous at all?
Shauna Jones 5:42
Oh, I was sweating bullets. I was pretending like I wasn’t. It was extremely nerve-wracking. What was cool was somebody had heard about the work we were doing and recommended us for the RISE competition in Hong Kong. And it was just really interesting to get that opportunity. To go there and to really talk about what we do and why it’s important, and just to see the different context, that education is on the other side of the world where so many things are different, but yet, so many things are the same in terms of problems solution and how we can really push for it.
But being on that stage in front of that crowd was both exhilarating and, and nerve-wracking. But I would never have traded that experience because the people we met, the connections we made, are invaluable. And then through those connections, we heard that they were coming to Toronto and I had my hand up first and foremost, to say we need to be there. And I definitely feel like Collision, RISE, they really put a platform for you to not only show yourself to potential investors and customers but to other companies in your space and in different spaces where you can really create a strong ecosystem to move forward.
Karen Swyszcz 6:58
So being the founder and director you’re expected to be on center stage for the most part. I’m just curious, you know, is it something that you get less nervous over time just because you can do it more or it’s like each and every time it’s still like, Oh my gosh, oh my gosh.
Shauna Jones 7:14
Each and every time before I go on the stage, I go, what have I done?
Karen Swyszcz 7:18
Shauna Jones 7:18
How did I get myself into this situation? I was like, I went into tech for a reason. I thought I was going to be behind a computer screen shielded from the world. And I went, I ended up now speaking more than if I turned into, you know, probably public speaking. So it honestly does not get less nerve-wracking. What I think gets clear though, is your message and the passion about why you do it and why it’s important. That is definitely something that I had to learn and figuring out how to be quick on your feet was another thing that it never gets old because you know, things go wrong and learning how to deal with that. Doing it over, you know, a period of time has really, really helped. But though it gets it doesn’t get less nerve-wracking, but you become more at ease with difficult situations because of it.
Karen Swyszcz 8:12
As a kid, were you always interested in the areas of STEM science, technology, engineering and math? Or was it something that you know, you didn’t feel you had a passion for until later on in life.
Shauna Jones 8:24
So to be honest, that for a long time, I thought business was going to be my area. Technology was something whereas a kid, I would just break things and fix them. But I never truly saw that as something that I could use a career for. Even when I was in university, just to make ends meet. I was fixing computers. I was building small websites. But for me, it was just I figured out how to do it through tinkering and trial and error and teaching myself and I thought it was just something to get me through difficult money situations but I didn’t, I never thought it was going to be something I do full time. And when it came to that difficult decision of where I want my path to lead, and where do I find my passion lies, sitting down really thinking about it, I, I realized tech was my heart and soul. So didn’t come to me at the very beginning, but I think there were always signs. Then, as I grow older, it became clear that this is what I wanted to do.
Karen Swyszcz 9:26
Awesome. So I just want to circle back to Motify the venture itself. So it helps solve the problems having to do with students who are struggling, gap between goals and performance, student retention, unused resources and lack of insights towards student engagement. Um, do you feel that you know, given the fact that students nowadays they’re really immersed in technology has the problems remained the same? Have they changed at all as to what students are struggling with? Do you feel like they’re struggling with additional issues today?
Shauna Jones 10:05
It’s interesting you say that I think it’s not only many of the issues I struggled with, when I was in school, I think there is an added complexity of technology. And that’s where it coming from the girl who’s selling the technology. Oh, beware of the thing I’m selling. But what I mean by that is, Tech has become such an integral part of what we do. It’s made so many things around school much simpler around how we take notes, how we learn, how we’re able to really communicate with each other. But one of the big things like through this process and kind of learning something that I don’t think we struggled with as much when we were growing up is direct interaction is one of probably the biggest things that I found now is something where it’s not as natural as a skill as it was for when I was in school, because we’re so glued to the screen, then communicating in a way that’s not one to one communication in person.
So figuring out, not only to build tools and build tools that people use, but building tools around, how do we not only put them in front of more screens but in front of each other, how do we communicate because where we’re seeing that getting is really hitting people hard is when they’re transitioning out of school into the workforce, right, where you now have to communicate across business lines. And even if you’re the most tech of tech person, there’s the likelihood that you’re at some point you’re going to have to communicate with other areas of the business. So that is something I find is a relevantly newer issue. And it just comes to how do we find creative ways to support all this great technology we’re doing but also encourage others that you know, some times it’s good to talk to somebody in person. Put the phone down. So that’s been something I’ve found.
Karen Swyszcz 12:06
It’s funny that you mentioned the phone because I feel nowadays the only people I talk to on the phone are my sister, and my parents, pretty much everyone else. I’ll communicate via email or social media messaging.
Shauna Jones 12:21
Yeah, absolutely. And, and that’s how we communicate. That’s now how we speak. That’s it’s so ingrained in our essence, right? So it’s, how do we not see it as something that is negative, but use it in a positive way? But remember that in-person is also quite important.
Karen Swyszcz 12:41
Mm-hmm. Definitely. So one of the things that I’d also like to talk about is the issue of only starting to build a professional network after graduation and I can totally relate to this because, to be honest, when I was in university and even during my last couple of years, networking, didn’t even really cross my mind. I had always associated networking with something Oh, it’s when I have a job when I’m professional in the working world. But when you think about it networking, you know, in your younger years in your university or college years, it makes so much more sense because you’re being proactive and it’ll increase like the opportunities increase the amount of connections for when you graduate.
Shauna Jones 13:21
Exactly. Yeah, as somebody who has been, who has learned through, you know, gone through where I hadn’t networked in school and then started to learn to professionally network. I saw the huge differences, right, where when I wasn’t professionally, networking, it was difficult for me to go I’m having a problem. What are the other career choices out there? What is out there? Right but as soon as I started to professionally network, I started to figure out is this the right career path for me? What our options where I can do tech and still be with people, so I got that to really get viewpoints and vantage points into things that would never have occurred to me without a professional network.
So a big reason why that’s a part of what we’re building is that we recognize that, yes, success in school is amazing. And we want to provide tools to support that. But we also have to start to encourage, how can we start building the foundations of connectivity, through mentorship? Through events, just figuring out not only Yes, this is the path I want, but what does it truly like to work in this area? Or, you know, what I’m not sure. I’m not certain great we’ll help you connect with people who are on a different path. And I think it’s so ingrained in the success of you and the potential that you can get that you’re doing those elements while you’re in school, while you’re still learning, while you’re still developing.
Karen Swyszcz 14:56
So as the CEO, not only you know, having to do being in front of the crowd, you’re also responsible for building a team and then leading a team. So what has that experience been like? And what advice would you give to people who are looking to build their own team?
Shauna Jones 15:16
Yeah, again, it’s a very interesting thing I, I would never say it was something that came natural to say, How am I going to figure out the right people for the right thing? I’m gonna, I’m going to be in charge of people. I can’t even be in charge of myself. But one of the things that became very apparent to me was what, what is the foundational aspect of making a good team and heart was a big piece of that.
So what I started before I had a team, I just started to network with people and just letting them know what the heart and soul of what I’m building is going to be. And with just the element, I was just bombarded with amazing people who said, I want to help. And I think that is such a key element in building a good team is that it’s not only I can be as passionate as I want, but finding people who also not see the passion, see the drive and want to be a part of it is so instrumental.
The next thing was, I know very well, a few things that I’m good at. Most things I’m not. So finding people who not only agreed to everything I said, because there’s many things I say they’re terrible. But look at the world and look at problems in a different view than I do and bring different skill sets. So that was I found one of the big things I did early was I wrote down the things I knew I was good at. And the things I struggled with. That list of struggle was much longer. And sometimes that list can be quite depressing when you start. But the great thing that comes from that is you get to really highlight what things am I missing the most and I need to find people to help me meet those things that I need. And that’s really the foundations how I built the teams I got to and for me, building a team is almost like dating in many ways, right?
Karen Swyszcz 17:29
Shauna Jones 17:29
Where at the beginning you’re saying all the right things and great, but it’s really about let’s work on this day in day out? Do we fit? Do we not? And then how do we work through when we disagree and when we don’t? And when we agree, how do we move it forward? So those are really key to me being able to do this.
Karen Swyszcz 17:52
Mmm-hmmm. Yeah, I guess you could say you know, like telling people because you said building a business is like dating and then I guess you’re searching people who you can essentially like be married to or have like a long term serious relationship with.
Shauna Jones 18:04
Oh, absolutely. So you have to look at it, choose your business partner like you would think about having to deal with somebody date. And that’s what I tell people all the time, you have to remember the person that you deal with in business, you’re gonna see them as much or more than your own family. So you want to like them as much as you like your family, right? So that’s a key element in making those calls.
Karen Swyszcz 18:33
Okay, so talking about motivation. We know that you know, starting your own business, writing your own business, just trying to keep going it can be really tough whether you’re by yourself or you’re with a team, like what motivates you to keep moving forward on your journey and how like, Do you find it easier and more to motivate yourself or easier to motivate your team?
Shauna Jones 18:53
(laughs) I find it easier to- Well, it’s a combination of a few things. I feel the passion that the A lot of times when I feel low, or it’s really difficult to push me forward, I usually go back to the same question, why am I doing this? And then my second question is, is the job done? Right? Why am I doing this? I want to make an impact.
For students, and especially students like my brother, I want to ensure that they have the tools to equip them to not only be successful while they’re in school, but to really support their transition and support the building of what they need in terms of skill sets and people to move on to the next stage.
And is that work done? Absolutely not. So that’s always something that really gets me back motivated and really looking at it. Around my team, it’s, it’s really about, I think it starts a lot with you what you put out to the world, right? So when I’m down, you know, that mood can really fester among everybody. So making sure that I am putting in that work and I’m putting in that commitment and I’m putting that drive, that usually really helps to bring the team together to do the same. And identifying why your team is struggling to stay motivated is also key. Right? We, we have our good days and bad, and really taking the time to say, you know what this might be burnout.
Take a few days, come back and let’s and let’s talk about it. And being aware that you have to think about your personal health as well as your team’s health and figuring out how we can keep each other motivated and really push forward. But yeah, it’s a lot of it’s difficult when you’re working lots of hours and you’re working. But those brief moments when somebody comes up to you and says this is helping me for this or this is going to really support me in this, that really is a great motivator.
Karen Swyszcz 21:02
It’s crazy how the term entrepreneur burnout is so real because we think well I can do this. I’m an entrepreneur, I can do anything and like, I can do everything, but I think it’s it’s really one of those things more, you can do anything, but you can’t do everything.
Shauna Jones 21:20
Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. And sometimes I think we, as entrepreneurs are afraid to talk about it, right? It’s not a popular thing to talk about the things that are difficult. We talk about the things that are, you know, went well, and the times is, it’s going well, but I believe in talking about Yes, it is a very hard and you’re creating something out of nothing, and you’re gonna have those days, but it’s Yeah, you should feel comfortable expressing that and working with others to see how to move forward, but it’s a real thing. Absolutely.
Karen Swyszcz 21:58
It’s funny because as we’re talking about this in conversation I’m already like having a light bulb, you know, light up in my head and like, if you ever were to consider, you know, having a version of this for entrepreneurs because there is such thing of, you know, needing to be aware of, are you taking care of yourself as an entrepreneur, like how are you feeling right now?
Shauna Jones 22:22
Don’t tell people where we’re going next. (laughs)
Karen Swyszcz 22:24
It’s like telling the future.
Shauna Jones 22:27
I completely agree. I don’t think the job ends through, you know, connectivity. I think the job is we learn as we’re in school, what works, what doesn’t we change we grow? How do we identify signs of, you know, burnout, how do we develop strategies? How do you communicate with others about how you’re feeling and what you’re going through? How do you get support from people who have been there so I completely agree.
Sheridan has been and continues to be one of the greatest supports I’ve ever had. While I was in school, I never felt as just a student. They’ve opened doors and pathways like no other, and just developing relationships with people like our amazing president, Janet and just powerhouses like Renee from the EDGE and, you know, our great Co-Op department that all I can say about Sheridan is they’ve been a great support in many ways. And I’m very, I’m very, very proud to be a part of the Sheridan family.
Karen Swyszcz 23:40
Mm-hmm. And I think talking about like EDGE. For those of you who don’t know, the acronym itself is also pretty cool. It stands for entrepreneurship, discovery and growth engine. Like when I read that I was like, Oh, that sounds so cool.
Shauna Jones 23:54
Yes, yes. I remember I was actually there when they were trying to come up with the name and It was, I won’t pretend. It was a whole thing is like we want to make sure that this name fits what we’re trying to do and try to work at. And they were the one thing with the EDGE from the very beginning, they’ve been so passionate about it and everything they live and breathe is about that. Right? So I, I’m so happy and it just makes me feel so proud to be a part of EDGE and all they do and I like to call them you know, they’re like the rising star within the incubator community because they really are about us, the startups and figuring out how to support us to success.
Karen Swyszcz 24:40
One of your LinkedIn articles mentioned that you met the CEO of Apple Tim Cook. Was that through Sheridan as well?
Shauna Jones 24:48
Yes, that was a whole thing actually. So they, I got like a brief email saying, Hey, are you free Tuesday? And I go Yeah, I can be free. Sheridan asked so I was like, yeah. And they’re like, yeah, you may be meeting somebody. So just be there. And I go, should I prepare? And they’re like, yeah, bring your tool and, you know, make sure you have a presence there like, oh, try to be there on time.
Karen Swyszcz 25:21
And they didn’t tell you anything about it.
Shauna Jones 25:24
Nothing else. The first sign that I was sweating for is when I got into a room, it was a few of us. Everybody else had a Mac. And I had a Windows laptop.
Karen Swyszcz 25:35
Shauna Jones 25:37
And I went, Oh, no, I didn’t get the memo. And then he walks in, and then I really went Oh, no. But what was really cool, was it wasn’t just, oh, yeah, I got to meet him and it was awesome. I got to really talk to him about the work they’re doing. The work we’re doing. And how to best support this student ecosystem, how to ensure that we’re working on tools and products that support any students, and being able to be flexible enough to work throughout their life as a student. And what was really exciting was he took that time and we got to really work through things that they were doing and things that we were doing. And it was an amazing once in a lifetime experience. Absolutely.
Karen Swyszcz 26:32
Oh, I can imagine.
Shauna Jones 26:34
So we’re relaunching two pilots because you know, we don’t like sleep (laughs).
Karen Swyszcz 26:40
Shauna Jones 26:42
So we’re launching, launching our student success pilots. It’s really about how do we support you while you’re in school, you’re at risk. Because you’re not meeting or exceeding these, these grade limits. What are the things you need to start doing? One of the big reasons we wanted to do it was grades is one element of success. While you’re in school, right? We want to get an idea of how you’re feeling. We want to understand what are the challenges, we want to give you suggestions on how to improve those grades, how to get help, if you are not feeling up to going to classes, and this is not working for you. So really figuring out early alerts and prompts to support that.
For Motify network, we’re taking a very different approach I like to say, with Motify network, our whole thing is we’re calling it Motify network because we want to connect you and connect the right people to opportunities be we think about network and we’re thinking about we’re looking for a job and that’s not what this is about. This is about let’s understand who you are, what’s passionate, what you’re passionate about, what you’re interested in, and let’s find ways to connect you to potential mentors and companies. And we do that through our data. And we do that through really getting a sense of who you are. And an article is why don’t we have the community help us build that. So we’re bringing just the bare bones, and then working with a group of pilot students, pilot mentors, pilot companies. And they’re going to tell us what they love, what they don’t. And that’s how we’re going to do it. It’s going to be super interactive. And it’s all about building what we want the community we want to build. So that’s how we’re going to be launching Motify network as well.
For one of the big reasons is we want as diverse a pool of people as possible because one of the things we have to remember about technology is we want to ensure that we’re not just building for what we think and what we like. So I’m a very big believer in a diverse profile set of what we’re building and ensuring that we’re looking at as many different metrics for looking at as many different scenarios as possible. So, so having a diverse pool will definitely help that. So bring them all. Let’s go.
Karen Swyszcz 29:18
There’s a couple of pilots. So it’s the Student Success pilot and the Motify Network pilot.
Shauna Jones 29:23
Karen Swyszcz 29:23
I was just thinking about the diverse pool. Do you think it’s something that sometimes entrepreneurs when they’re building their apps and their tools, do you think it’s something that they may overlook?
Shauna Jones 29:36
Yes, absolutely. Because I like to say we know what we know. And when we sometimes don’t know what we don’t know. So we sometimes as entrepreneurs go we have the solution to this major problem, and that’s the best solution of all time. And that’s kind of sometimes the thought we go in and we build with that thought and we build with what we understand. And that to me is the wrong way to do it. Right? We may have an idea of this is a problem and it goes, let’s research to truly determine if this is a problem. If the answer is yes, we may have an idea of the solution. But again, you should be researching, you should be talking to the people who are going to use this we should be talking to the people who are impacted to ensure that solution is comprehensive. And we have to ensure that not only from functionality, but how are people going to use it, what devices are going to be used in it? Are we making those assumptions? Without data without supportive people to really test the back? It can be a very dangerous thing.
Karen Swyszcz 30:50
So before we sign off, I want to ask you what is one thing you wish you had known or wish you had done when you first started on your journey?
Shauna Jones 31:02
Where to start. All the things. I think the biggest one was exactly what we’re talking about with network. I wished I had a professional network of entrepreneurs before I went on this journey, because there were so many things just from the baseline. I didn’t know or understand or had to take months sometimes to figure out, which could have been a simple conversation with people who had done it before. So really understanding and developing that while I was a student is probably one of the biggest regrets I had because there’s so many things now that if I was equipped with that, while I was a student would have made this transition so much easier. So that to me is that is one of the big ones is that networking especially that professional networking is so huge.
Karen Swyszcz 31:59
It’s like say, Your network is your net worth.
Shauna Jones 32:02
Exactly. It’s 100% true. And that’s regardless of if you’re an entrepreneur if you’re working in whatever field or sector, your network is your capital, that is truly what’s important. Because that can determine a lot. Success or no success. And really having that as early as possible, I think is a huge part and a huge key to it.
Karen Swyszcz 32:30
Mm-hmm. So if people wanted to get in touch with you, or if they want to sign up for either of your pilots, where can they reach you?
Shauna Jones 32:37
Yes. So we are on you know, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, I’m sure we probably have a carrier pigeon somewhere.
Karen Swyszcz 32:49
Shauna Jones 32:51
Absolutely. All through @motifylearn. You can get us through there. Through our website at www.motify.ca you can sign up for all our pilots, you can reach out to us. All the things you need is there. And we would love, love, love to hear from you whether it’s to sign up for a pilot, to give us information about what you think we should be doing, what things you’d be interested in. We just love to hear from people. And it’s all about learning and growing. And we want to do this together. So please, please reach out.
Karen Swyszcz 33:31
Amazing. Thanks again for being on the show.
Shauna Jones 33:34
Thank you so much for having me. I’m really, really excited to be a part of this. I’ve heard from a few people about your show, and
Karen Swyszcz 33:43
Oh, really? Wow. And I’m so new.
Shauna Jones 33:46
And I fangirled a little bit. Yeah, so thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.
Karen Swyszcz 33:52
Oh, you’re welcome. And thank you all to our listeners for tuning in. Stay tuned for more episodes and Ciao for now.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai