Hackademy is a social innovation venture teaching coding and technology literacy via face-to-face learning and community mentorship. We are committed to providing an open and welcoming environment for all, particularly those groups who have traditionally faced barriers in entering technical fields. We believe that knowledge of coding and other technologies is the new literacy for the digital age. However, certain demographic groups are cut off from this new literacy and face issues with access to building and maintaining a career in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). We believe experiential learning is the best way to develop excitement and skills that promote success in STEM for all, and are committed to supporting these groups through targeted workshops in addition to our regular curriculum.
How did you hear about the Kick-StartKW contest?
I’m not 100% sure how I heard about it; it was kind of by osmosis. I think likely social media (Facebook and Twitter) were the main sources of information about the contest.
Tell us a little about your experiences over the duration of the contest. For example, if you attended any of our events we’d love to hear about the experience you had at them.
As I didn’t really become aware of the contest until quite late in the game (two days before it closed!) I didn’t attend any of the events that you had. I did see people sharing information about the pitch night that happened the evening before I entered, and it seemed like it was a well-attended and engaging event.
Hackademy chose to engage solely over Twitter, one of the official channels, as well as Facebook, since this is where our community tends to hang out. I was amazed and encouraged by the wellspring of support that came up for us during those three days. It shouldn’t really be a surprise, though, as the Waterloo Region has a fantastic and supportive business community. A great recent example of this was that I learned, 12 hours before a class the day after the contest closed, that our projector wasn’t available to us. We can’t teach our classes without one, as they’re computer-based, so I reached out on Facebook for help. By the morning I’d had four offers for projector loans, and in the end Alan Quarry (of local marketing firm Quarry Communications), drove up to his office at eight in the morning to pick one up for us – and this is just one example of how this community comes through for each other. Of course, if we win the Kick-StartKW competition, we’ll be able to buy our own projector (and lend it to others in need)!
I also noticed how all the teams were engaging with each other and supporting each other’s bids. I know several of the other teams personally (Chrysalides House, Meal in a Jar – who has supplied 95% of the catering for our courses since we started in September, and whose food has been very well received by our students!) and it’s been good to learn more about some of the other new businesses out there.
Since entering Kick-StartKW did you have the opportunity to meet other small business / start-up owners in the region? If so, how did you make these new connections and do you intend on keeping in touch and building additional new relationships with others?
I think I’ve spoken to this a bit in the previous question, but yes, absolutely. I’m always keen to engage with others, and see how we can help each other out. Since I began working for myself (with my first small business, AvocadoDog Marketing) in 2011, engaging with the local community has been key for me. I’ve never approached networking as a means to an end; I’m fortunate in that I genuinely enjoy meeting new people and learning what makes them tick, and then being able to support them in whatever way I can, whether that’s introductions, or helping them find jobs – it’s never really work for me. I’ve got a large personal network, which is part of what’s enabled me to be successful with Hackademy as we’re getting started. I don’t know exactly how these new relationships will grow and change, but the Kick-StartKW contest has been a great way to raise awareness of our small biz community and I know if I run into someone needing video solutions, or fantastic artisan chocolate, or awesome suggestions for music, I’ll have some solid recommendations for them.
There are also many, many events in our community, and it really is a small world in Waterloo Region. You always run into someone you know, and now I have that many more people I share something with. It’s like going to a party at a new friend’s house where the only person you know is the host: initially it feels a bit formal or uncomfortable as you meet new people, but when you run into someone on the street later you have some shared context, some way of removing that social barrier that initially existed, and you can interact on another level with them. This contest has been a great initial icebreaker to act as that first step in starting more supportive relationships in our business community.
What single piece of advice would you give to others in your situation as they move forward building their business?
To be honest, I’d give this advice to anyone in any situation in life: Build, maintain and nurture your relationships. I believe that anything we do in life – whether it’s running a business, creating art, teaching, building something new… – is valuable and meaningful because of how it touches other human beings.
We are nothing without those around us, who we support and who support us. You will always run into some people again in life, and you never know how they could help you. We’re not meant to do this alone.